The 2021 NFBC Unauctioned — Building an Offense

On Monday, I built a $14 offense using only $1 players from the NFBC average auction values starting Feb 1. My player pool to choose from for that exercise was 59 players. But what about those that weren’t purchased at all? Surely they could have been had for a buck, too! That group is now my pool to choose from for this thrilling offense. As a reminder, there were seven auctions run since Feb 1, so this 14-player offense will be solely composed of hitters who failed to be bought in any of them.

I now present to you…the best of the worst. Just make sure your actual offense handily exceeds these projected team totals!

The Unauctioned Offense
Position Player HR* R* RBI* SB* Avg*
C Tucker Barnhart 11 37 40 1 0.229
C Chance Sisco 9 29 27 0 0.222
1B Colin Moran 19 61 69 1 0.259
3B Carter Kieboom 10 58 52 2 0.244
CI Yandy Diaz 13 56 45 1 0.273
2B Rougned Odor 23 55 65 5 0.214
SS Willy Adames 19 66 60 6 0.250
MI Orlando Arcia 14 55 56 7 0.248
OF Tyler O’Neill 20 56 57 6 0.222
OF Gregory Polanco 18 49 57 8 0.217
OF Nomar Mazara 14 48 51 1 0.249
OF D.J. Stewart 16 48 48 3 0.232
OF Edward Olivares 7 33 32 6 0.252
Util Austin Slater 9 38 30 13 0.258
Total 202 689 689 60 0.241
*ATC Projections

As a reminder, while I am displaying ATC projections above, I actually used my own Pod Projections to make my selections. I haven’t compared the projections from each source for each player, but assume that I’m a bit more bullish on these guys than ATC, especially on the playing time side. That said, these are some ugly totals! Luckily, your actual team should far exceed what I’ll now dub as baselines.

Similarly to my $14 offense, I was all about gambling on upside. I wasn’t interested in the undervalued veteran who projects to earn $5, but I could grab for a buck. Instead, I generally opted for the super young guys who could earn $15…or stink up the joint en route to my (imaginary) league’s free agent pool. However, there needed some semblance of balance with the promise of playing time or a strong route toward it. I wasn’t just going to load my squad with prospects projected for 100 PAs apiece, as that’s not realistic.

As you could imagine, it was hard enough selecting two catchers for $1 each, so it was even more challenging to find two that weren’t even bought in any auction. Do I opt for less playing time and a decent average or ignore batting average and go for power and potential upside? I kind of went with the latter. Tucker Barnhart’s power has surged in recent years, as his strikeout rate has risen. The ideal situation is his strikeout rate rebounds without giving up power, but that’s probably a difficult thing to do. I also remain a Chance Sisco fan as he’s shown excellent home run power now in about a half’s season worth of at-bats the last two seasons, but his strikeout rate remains on the wrong side of 30%. His playing time outlook is cloudier than Barnhart, but he has the potential to hit his way into more of it.

So I guess absolutely no one believes in Colin Moran’s 2020 power breakout? Not only does my xHR/FB rate equation validate the surge, it actually suggests he deserved a slightly higher mark! Now that doesn’t mean I’m going into 2021 expecting a repeat. Far from it. But it’s pretty shocking to see that in seven leagues, not one owner chose to buy him. Carter Kieboom is looking to win a starting job this year after a disappointing 2020. But remember, his entire MLB career spans just 165 plate appearances, so it’s far, far too early to call him a bust and give up on him. He has shown some solid skills in the minors, including mid-teen HR/FB rates, double digit walk rates, and strikeout rates hovering around 20%. My corner slot was a tough one to choose as none of the remaining unauctioned hitters really stood out to me. I went with Yandy Diaz solely on the hopes his FB% rebounds and he hits more like the 2019 version than the rest of his career.

Should I be embarrassed for giving Rougned Odor yet another chance? This might be his last opportunity to avoid becoming a bench player. With excellent power and speed (which he failed to show in 2020), he’ll continue to be worth gambling on in the hopes he fixes his swing (more liners, fewer pop-ups). How was Willy Adames unauctioned?! Sure, his strikeout rate skyrocketed in 2020, but his power spiked for a second straight season, and he’s only 25. I definitely assumed Orlando Arcia was older than 26 by now, but he remains firmly in the “young with upside” camp and has already posted double digits homers and steals in a season. His improved SwStk% is encouraging, which if maintained, will ensure his mediocre BABIP won’t kill your batting average.

Tyler O’Neill hasn’t solidified a starting job yet, but his power potential makes him worth gambling on. He has posted double digit HR/FB rates during every minor league stint going back to 2014, which is an impressive string. He also makes the most of his home run power with an above average FB%. Strikeouts have always been a problem, but we’ve seen this type of hitter make sudden improvements, so it’s not unprecedented. I drafted Gregory Polanco in LABR Mixed with the hopes he’s healthier than he’s been in a while. Really, you’re just betting on health here, as we know he’s capable of double digit homers and steals. After failing to grow since his debut, Nomar Mazara was traded to the White Sox, who then surprisingly DFA’d him, before getting picked up by the Tigers. There’s no reason for the Tigers to give him a short leash and my xHR/FB rate suggests that his home run power was actually just fine last year. I would bet on a rebound, and at age 25, there’s always the possibility that growth finally comes.

Remember when D.J. Stewart was a sleeper heading into 2019? That didn’t pan out, but he finished 2020 with a bang after being demoted. His HR/FB rate was nearly fully supported by his xHR/FB rate. Sure, his strikeout rate spiked, but we saw that with a lot of hitters during this shortened season. He’s shown speed in the minors as well, so assuming he wins at least the strong side of a platoon job, he should be back on radars.

For my last outfield and utility slot, it got real difficult. Do I just go with the best projection that you can typically find for free all season on free agency? Or the upside from a job win and if it doesn’t happen, you make the drop and pick up the safe guy that had the best projection you passed over? I went with the upside in Edward Olivares and Austin Slater. Right now, the presumed start in center field for the Royals is Michael A. Taylor. The same guy who hasn’t posted a wOBA over .290 since 2017 and has rarely been a full-time player. Olivares came over from the Padres last year and while he didn’t show much offensively over his 101 plate appearances, he’s shown some power and excellent speed in the minors. After trading for him, you would think the Royals would want to see if Olivares will be a big part of their future, and with only Taylor potentially blocking him, he’s got a real chance to open the season as the starter.

An awesome 104 plate appearances wasn’t enough to make Austin Slater a full-timer after returning from injury. Although most of that performance was buoyed by ridiculous results against lefties, he was perfectly decent against right-handers. With power, speed, and a willingness to walk, he has an intriguing skill set for fantasy production. The Giants figure to start Alex Dickerson and Mauricio Dubon, to go along with Mike Yastrzemski whose job should be safe, in the outfield, but those two are unlikely to be locked into starting jobs.

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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Buhners Rocket Arm
Buhners Rocket Arm

I’m definitely taking a shot on Colin Moran this year. Second straight season with a significant jump in Max EV and corresponding jump in ISO represents an approach change that looks like it’s sticking. Certainly worthy of at least a bench role who can stopgap. If he is legitimately a .225 ISO player then he’s going to provide a nice profit as a power source.