When to Breakout the Wallet with FAAB Bids?

While it might be better to focus on FAAB usage right before the season starts, I wanted to have an idea on how to focus my draft resources. Also, FAAB management was one of my major faults after I picked over my 2019 teams. It was an issue and I need to address it. Now is the time. I took the 50 players with the highest average FAAB bids in the 2019 NFBC Main Event ($1000 in FAAB) and found which players were the best and worse deals and did the best deals have similar actionable traits.

Note: One unintended side effect was that the minimum average value was $51, so all players with a bid of over $50.

To rank the player’s usefulness, I pair them up against each other and let my Twitter followers which of the two players were a better deal last year. While not ideal or the only method I could have used (I could create from value to EOS), it was the quickest and the rankings pass the idiot check (me, myself, and I).

Then I went through and indicated which traits may indicate why a player may have succeeded or failed. I divided up the players into three groups, hitters, starters, and closers. Here are their stories.


Top-50 2019 NFBC Hitter FAAB Bids
Name Week Cost Score Projected OPS True rookie Bref Best Rank 1-2 years in league MLB vet breakout Out of nowhere talent Unknown Role Full-time role Hot start Positive Muncy/Voit
Danny Santana 5 $48 87 .686 x x
Oscar Mercado 9 $89 85 .633 x x x
Hunter Dozier 4 $63 84 .682 95 x x
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. 10 $73 83 .730 73 x x
Yordan Alvarez 13 $397 81 .720 x 34 x x
Kolten Wong 2 $95 77 .745 x x
Keston Hiura 9 $247 73 .697 x 6 x
Mike Tauchman 5 $58 69 NA x x x x
Cavan Biggio 10 $131 65 .696 x x x
Daniel Vogelbach 3 $55 59 .774 x x x x
Michael Chavis 5 $106 57 .739 x 79 x
Jason Heyward 3 $67 53 .750 x x
Matt Adams 6 $52 50 .773 x x x
Willie Calhoun 9 $193 45 .753 36 x x x
Derek Dietrich 7 $77 44 .741 x x x
Austin Riley 9 $348 40 .729 x 22 x x x
Raimel Tapia 6 $53 38 .743 42 x x
Kevin Cron 10 $69 33 .708 x x x x
Ronny Rodriguez 8 $54 31 .701 x x x
Nate Lowe 7 $163 30 NA x 97 x
Clint Frazier 3 $165 28 .746 16 x x
Brendan Rodgers 9 $170 19 .774 x 10 x
Nicky Lopez 9 $156 18 .687 x x x
Cole Tucker 5 $186 13 .633 x x x
Carter Kieboom 6 $223 13 .709 x 16 x

It’d be easy to say don’t spend over $150 on any hitter since the last six had an average price tag of $177. And Austin Riley was still seen as a bust with a near $350 tag. If owners set a high limit, they would have taken themselves out of the conversation for Alvarez, Hiura, and Biggio.

I cut and diced the data in several ways and found two variables to focus on. First, a clear cut major league job. Not a job where someone could replace them when healthy.

The second factor, which I didn’t initially included, was being on the Voit-Muncy list. It looks to see if the hitter has above-average power and plate discipline in AAA. By removing the age requirement (normally I’m looking for older breakouts), all the top rookies, expect Keston Hiura, made the cut. And he only missed it because his strikeout rate was 1.3% points too high for my criteria.

For these hitters, the two benchmarks are a better indicator of immediate help than projected OPS or prospect rank. Some of the biggest busts had some of the best prospect ranks (Rodgers, Frazier, and Kieboom).

Now following the guidelines, Austin Riley would have been the biggest bust who wasn’t a complete waste of money.


Top-50 2019 NFBC Starter FAAB Bids
Name Week Cost Score true rookie Bref Best Rank 1-2 years in league SP Projected ERA MLB vet breakout Out of nowhere talent Hot start
Zac Gallen 14 $117 88 x x 4.40
Zach Plesac 11 $55 60 x x 5.30 x
Chris Bassitt 6 $55 59 x 4.57 x
Griffin Canning 7 $151 56 x 56 x 4.43
Sandy Alcantara 2 $73 53 46 x x 4.62
Trent Thornton 3 $51 39 x x 4.03
Dylan Cease 16 $67 29 x 21 x na
Brendan McKay 15 $155 29 x 25 x na
Jerad Eickhoff 5 $64 28 x 4.76 x
Erik Swanson 5 $64 27 x x 4.51 x x
Touki Toussaint 4 $155 20 x 50 x 4.37 x
Corbin Martin 9 $157 19 x 78 x 4.69 x

What a complete waste of FAAB dollars. And all but Zac Gallen were OK at best and several were complete wastes of FAAB. With just this information, I’d set a limit of $60 (6%) on a starting pitcher. And if I do bid on a pitcher, it’ll be one who has been making some changes.

In an article from this offseason, I found the following about the pitchers who the industry missed on and provided a ton of surplus value:

The holy grail of increase projection can be seen by a higher strikeout rate caused by a higher fastball velocity and/or a change in their pitch mix. Twenty-two experienced a repertoire change while 14 saw their fastball velocity jump by about 1.5 mph. These changes can be spotted quickly and should be the focus of any early season analysis.

Finding the Frankie Montas‘s and Lucas Giolito’s were more important than hitting on the rookie call-ups.


Top-50 2019 NFBC Closer FAAB Bids
Name Week Cost Closer Score Projected ERA Other closer clearly lost job
Hansel Robles 6 $55 x 80 4.34 x
Hector Neris 3 $104 x 77 3.61 x
Liam Hendriks 14 $64 x 77 3.62 x
Ian Kennedy 2 $65 x 76 4.09 x
Taylor Rogers 2 $187 x 72 3.63
Emilio Pagan 6 $100 x 63 4.10 x
Scott Oberg 10 $55 x 54 3.95 x
Luke Jackson 6 $57 x 52 4.08 x
Anthony Swarzak 2 $67 x 39 3.95 x
Steve Cishek 8 $49 x 38 3.90
Roenis Elias 5 $121 x 36 4.39 x
Lou Trivino 7 $62 32 3.65 x
Chris Martin 8 $51 x 29 3.95

No common thread exists on why a closer hit or missed making spending FAAB dollar on them efficient. While it may not be obvious from this list but these were basically all of the pop-up closers from this past season. I noticed this trend while writing The Process.

The research shows that any pitcher looking like they will get Saves, even only a small amount or ones that have a low chance of retaining the job, will go for a $50 minimum regardless of when during the year the role change occurs. The bid amounts only go up from that baseline, especially earlier in the season (sometimes extremely so).

If anyone wants to jump into a closer bidding war, they needed to bring at least $50 of FAAB. And know they may need to get into another one when the first one falters.

With the minimum FAAB bid need for closers, I may spend my late-round draft picks on potential closers. I’ll keep the hits and dump the misses for pitchers with early-season changes.


First, there is a decent chance I’ll go and examine the 2018 player list and so see how it compares. This one just drained me. With this sample, I’ve come up with some simple rules to help with FAAB bidding from the analysis.


  1. For rookie hitters, make sure they have a full-time major-league role and have above-average AAA results.
  2. Don’t chase hot rookie staters at all. Focus on pitchers already in the league.
  3. Closer bidding is an expensive gamble on a limited resource. Spend late-round draft resources on closers instead of starters.

I’m sure these rules will change over time as the game evolves, but if I would have followed them, my teams would have performed better. Now, I just need to hope they hold up for next season.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Skin Blues
Skin Blues

Great work, Jeff. The lack of good pitchers coming via FAAB was a bit of a surprise, but it makes sense. I really appreciate all of the attention you give to optimizing FAAB strategy, it’s such and under-rated aspect of fantasy baseball.

Another FAAB trend that I find helpful this time of year (before drafts have happened) is taking note of the types of hitters that are available via FAAB. They tend to be sluggers, with about 20% of a team’s end-of-season HR/R/RBI coming via FAAB, but only 15% of a team’s SB total (numbers are from, I believe, an old Todd Zola Mastersball study). Meaning, “over-drafting” SB is a good approach since you can’t really find them via FAAB. I always like to get a dozen or so extra steals on top of what my target balance would be coming out of a draft.