The 2021 NFBC Unauctioned — Building a Pitching Staff

Yesterday, I assembled a 14-player offense from the hitters who weren’t bought in NFBC auctions since Feb 1. Today, let’s flip over to the pitching side.

The Unauctioned Pitching
Player W* SV* SO* ERA* WHIP*
Carlos Martinez 7 2 107 4.46 1.41
Luke Weaver 8 0 143 4.66 1.34
Anthony DeSclafani 7 0 123 4.66 1.34
David Peterson 7 0 92 4.21 1.39
Alex Wood 7 0 104 4.11 1.28
Keegan Akin 6 0 130 4.95 1.46
Emilio Pagan 3 7 69 3.84 1.10
Tyler Rogers 4 8 53 4.14 1.38
Tanner Scott 2 4 72 3.54 1.33
Total 51 21 893 4.40 1.35
*ATC Projections

As you could imagine, this was not an easy task. But at least now you know what projected ratio levels you should aim to beat! Typically my strategy here would be buying strikeout rate and hoping the ratios follow. Unfortunately, the strikeouts weren’t very plentiful in the unauctioned pool and more often than not, came with forecasts of awful ratios. So I didn’t completely follow the strategy, but did put the most emphasis on K% versus the actual 5×5 categories. In addition, given that no locked in closer would go unauctioned, I reserved three slots for saves speculation. Last, remember that I used my Pod Projections to make my picks, even though the ATC projections are what’s displayed. Obviously, I’m more bullish than ATC on a lot of these pitchers.

Carlos Martinez was one of many Cardinals players to miss time due to a positive COVID-19 test and his awful 20 innings should probably be totally ignored. The glaring issue here was a huge drop in fastball velocity, so the assumption is we’ll just chalk it up to the short season and the positive diagnosis. But it’s a key indicator to watch in spring training. If his velocity returns, he’ll be a bargain. If not, drop him right away. Those are the types of pitchers to take a chance on with your last buck or a bench spot.

Luke Weaver has alternated horrible ERAs with solid to strong ERAs, and yet, his underlying skills haven’t changed all that much from season to season. In 2020, he underperformed his SIERA by more than two full runs, so that’s not going to happen again. His SwStk% rose for the third straight season to a career best, but a career high FB% resulted in major gopheritis. Assuming his BABIP comes back down and LOB% rises, things should be back to normal in 2021. That could make an ERA just over 4.00, or perhaps better depending on where his strikeout rate and FB% land.

I drafted Anthony DeSclafani in my LABR Mixed league, as I perk up when a pitcher moves from a hitting friendly home park to a pitcher friendly one. There aren’t that many home park switches better than the one DeSclafani is making. His skills were awful in 2020 over 33.2 innings, but his fastball velocity not only held onto its 2019 gains, but gained even more speed, setting another new career high. In fact, his fastball velocity has improved every single season he has been in the league since his 2014 debut! A rebound to his 2019 level isn’t asking a whole lot and would yield a nice profit at his current price is zilch.

David Peterson is another LABR rosteree, as I like my ground ball pitchers, and now he’ll have Francisco Lindor behind him to help his BABIP. His GB% dropped during his first taste of MLB action, but I’m betting on some rebound toward his minor league days. He’s not guaranteed a rotation spot, especially given that he skipped Triple-A, so he makes an easy drop if he opens the year in the minors.

Alex Wood was a strong consideration as one of my last LABR picks, but I ended up leaving him in the free agent pool. Like DeSclafani, he’s another that should benefit from the move to the Giants. He has been injured and bad since 2019, but his sinker’s velocity was the highest its been since 2017, so I’m less concerned about his surface results. I think there’s real bounceback potential here.

I’m no huge Keegan Akin fan, but he was the best of the “speculate on the highest projected strikeout rate of the unauctioned pool and hope for the best” guy. Akin has posted solid strikeout rates in the minors, but with double digit walk rates and a high FB%. That combo doesn’t mix well when you call a hitter friendly park your home. However, a high FB% typically leads to a lower BABIP, so all those fly balls aren’t entirely bad. In addition, his SwStk% has risen at each higher level, which isn’t something you typically see. He doesn’t throw particularly hard, but his four-seamer generated a double digit SwStk% during his cup of coffee, while his changeup was fantastic. He’s going to have to stop throwing that slider though if it can’t generate better than a measly 3.7% SwStk%.

I used three spots to speculate on saves. Only nine of the unauctioned pitchers are projected for at least one save, so that was my pool to choose from. I could swear I read a tidbit a couple of months ago suggesting that Emilio Pagan would get first crack at the Padres closer job. Obviously, the team has several solid options, including Drew Pomeranz, Mark Melancon, and even Keone Kela. But I think it would be silly to pigeonhole Pomeranz into the role, while Melancon is going to be 36 and his skills slipped considerably last season over a small sample. Pagan’s did too, of course, but he’s younger and has a better chance to rebound. I think there’s a good chance Pagan ends up with double digit saves.

Who closes for the Giants? Beats me if I know. But I could take an educated guess. I speculated on Reyes Moronta in LABR, but he went in some auctions so wasn’t available for this exercise. Tyler Rogers posted strong skills again 2020, but his BABIP failed to cooperate, pushing his ERA well over 4.00. He’s as decent a candidate as any in this unsettled bullpen.

Last, is that ghastly Orioles bullpen. Let’s see Hunter Harvey record just 10 MLB innings first before assuming he’s locked in as the team’s closer. Oh, and even if he’s healthy enough to get there, is he actually any good? His SwStk% suggests he isn’t good enough to hold the job all season. Tanner Scott might be the team’s next best option, even if he has his warts. Control still remains a major issue, but he has the potential to be a strikeout machine with his high velocity fastball and elite slider.

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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Jolly Good Show
3 years ago

There are some good dart throws there. Akin strikes me as someone who would really benefit from moving to a pitcher’s park, like Oakland.