Building a 2022 $9 NFBC Pitching Staff

Yesterday, I built a $14 NFBC offense using their average auction values, limiting myself to an entire squad of $1 hitters. Today, let’s now build a $9 pitching staff. I only had 58 pitchers to choose from, but I can guarantee that you will be so jealous of the squad I assembled, you will wish you had done the same in your 15-team league.

The $9 Pitching Staff
Brady Singer 145 8 0 134 4.24 1.35 143 52 68
Drew Rasmussen 120 7 0 121 3.77 1.24 103 46 50
Zach Plesac 160 9 0 125 4.48 1.25 160 40 80
Andrew Heaney 127 8 0 136 4.35 1.23 119 37 62
Corey Kluber 132 8 0 129 4.06 1.29 124 46 60
Elieser Hernandez 126 5 0 124 4.38 1.22 118 36 61
Hunter Greene 75 5 0 77 4.51 1.33 70 30 38
Diego Castillo 60 4 6 69 3.40 1.17 49 21 23
Kyle Finnegan 64 4 14 65 4.17 1.40 61 29 30
Totals 1009 58 20 980 4.21 1.27 947 337 472
*ATC projections

Thrilling, huh? This actually is a halfway decent staff. The ratio projections are significantly better than my team’s aggregate for last season’s exercise too. What’s important to note here is that I used my Pod Projections when deciding who would earn a place on this staff, and my forecasts don’t necessarily agree with those shown in the table. But even by ATC standards, this isn’t as terrible as I expected.

For the starting pitchers, I leaned toward the high strikeout rate youngsters as they have the most ratio breakout potential. One of the biggest challenges when trying to build the cheapest possible pitching staff is buying enough saves or potential for saves. As you could imagine, there were no locked in closers going for a buck. Duh. However, there were a number of relievers with either a strong chances at saves, or a reasonable chance at earning a couple. That still won’t be enough to show well in a projected standings, so speculating is really the best that can be done. I opted for two relievers with chances for saves, rather than the three I included last year. I felt like speculating on another potential breakout starter was better than a current setup guy.

After a respectable 2020 debut, Brady Singer’s ERA skyrocketed, even though his underlying skills barely budged. His SIERA was nearly identical both years, so his luck should neutralize this season. He either needs to massively improve his changeup or just stop throwing it, as a career 2.1% SwStk% on the pitch is embarrassing. He has a good slider as a foundation, and might need to find a third pitch if the changeup doesn’t get any better.

After lucking into Drew Rasmussen, starting pitcher, last year in my AL-Only keeper league after picking him up solely as a good strikeout relief pitcher who might save a game or two for the Rays, I figured I would hate him this year. That has not been the case as I surprisingly now own several shares. His high 90s fastball suggests better strikeout rates, and he’s been a big strikeout pitcher during his short minor league career. So there’s hope for significantly better.

I’m not necessarily a big Zach Plesac fan, but his slider/changeup combo was dominant during his short 2020 breakout stretch. Can he get that back? It’s hard to fake that even over just 55.1 innings. He still owns sterling control, so even splitting the difference between his 2020 and 2021 strikeout rate would be good enough to yield some profit on your dollar purchase.

Although I finally have quit Andrew Heaney this year (surprisingly I own 0 shares after initially being excited about his new home), I’m still cautiously optimistic. I probably will continue to be until he retires, thinking every following year will finally be the year he posts a sub-4.00 ERA over a full season. Heck, or even stays healthy a full season. His career SIERA sits just below 4.00, so it’s not due to a lack of underlying skills. Instead, he just can’t keep the ball in the park as he sports a 15.9% HR/FB rate and allowed 1.62 HR/9. It’s still only been 718 fly balls throughout his career, which is above the minimum required for the metric to stabilize, but not significantly above. So we probably can say his true talent is worse than league average, but I’m sure some bad fortune has been involved. Maybe the move to an awesome Dodgers team will cure what has ailed him.

Even with diminishing velocity, Corey Kluber was respectable last year, and I like any pitcher in Tampa given their home park and always solid defense. The Kluber of old is definitely not coming back, but he’ll most certainly earn your buck.

Has everyone lost interest in Elieser Hernandez after he was a prime sleeper heading into 2021? Yes, he was hurt, but he still posted a decent 4.18 ERA/4.07 SIERA and has an improved Marlins offense behind him to kick in those wins. He was also a 2021 strikeout rate underperformer, so while I’m not projecting a jump to anywhere near his 2020 mark, I am projecting better than 2021 and higher than any of the projection systems.

Hunter Greene was my last minute dart throw. The remaining options were boring – likely bad veterans (Madison Bumgarner), young guys who are what they are (JT Brubaker), and guys like Greene. I figured I’d use this spot for Greene and his 100 MPH fastball. Our 31st overall prospect has a chance to win a rotation spot with the Reds and I’m sure his 80 grade fastball has been turning heads. His minor league record hasn’t been as impressive as his velocity though, but when you’re blessed with such velocity, the strikeouts could come overnight. For those confused, yes a 28.6% strikeout rate is good, but it only came with an underwhelming 11.8% SwStk%, and 28.6% in the upper minors is far from elite. It’s good, not great, especially for a top prospect with an 80 grade fastball. I’ll take a shot in a deeper league, but that’s it.

Finally, we move on to my two save lottery tickets. It seems the Mariners might have a massive committee earning saves, but teams usually don’t stick with the committee plan all year, even if they say they will early on. Only the Rays end up following through. I think Diego Castillo owns the best skills in that pen, even if the projections call for Drew Steckenrider to record the most saves. That projection is a complete guess though, so I’m just betting on the best pitcher of the group. Ken Giles could eventually become a threat, but let’s wait until he gets back into regular season games first before welcoming him back into the role.

Last, I’m shocked that Kyle Finnegan has gone for just a buck, as he’s the favorite to close for the Nationals, even though he doesn’t figure to be very good. The thing is, no one else in that bullpen is projected to be any good either, so he’ll be the reason, and him alone, that he loses his job.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Joe Wilkeymember
7 months ago

In looking at Kyle Finnegan’s 2021, something jumped out at me that I had to dig into a bit. Since the introduction of the DH at the start of the 1973 season, there have been 12,165 pitcher seasons with at least 60 IP. Finnegan’s unearned run average of 1.77 in 2021 is the ninth highest in that set, and the highest since Bartolo Colon’s 2009 season. He had 39 runs with only 26 of them earned last year, in 66 innings. Furthermore, unearned runs have been on a slow but steady decline over that time, so his UERA+ is fifth highest over that time.

For whatever it’s worth, I found that interesting. It’s not particularly useful for people who play in savvy leagues with other managers who are deep (or even shallow) in the weeds in this kind of stuff, but for managers in leagues with more casual fans, it may cause others to somewhat overvalue Finnegan if they’re taking last year’s numbers into account.

Jason Bmember
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe Wilkey

What will be left in Finnegan’s wake…

Joe Wilkeymember
7 months ago
Reply to  Jason B

Is that like seam-shifted wake?