Image credit: Benny Sieu – USA TODAY Sports
Welcome back to the FAAB Review, the column that examines what been going on in multiple analyst leagues. The hope is that we can help you with your own FAAB bidding process and habits. This year, our primary focus is on The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI), a contest that contains 29 leagues of 15 teams each and crowns an overall champion. We’ll look at the 10 most popular FAAB buys in those leagues every week. We’ll also mention some of the highlights from Tout Wars AL and LABR NL, two deeper leagues in which I also compete.
TGBFI and Tout Wars use a $1,000 FAAB budget, while LABR uses $100. Tout Wars also allows teams to place $0 bids. All three leagues run their FAAB weekly on Sundays. For TGFBI. I’ll list the average winning bid, followed by the highest and lowest winning bids. LABR and Tout will show the winning bid followed by all losing bids.
All stats and matchup listings for pitchers are through Sunday’s games.
Keston Hiura $62 ($195, $3)
I could make this entire column, and then some, about Hiura if I wanted to. I’ve got feelings about this guy, and there’s all sorts of process stuff that his name dredges up for me. I was high on Hiura, got him in both my NL-only leagues, and was disappointed when I didn’t get him in the sixth round of my TGFBI bracket. He’s back for a third go-round in the majors, and people are getting excited once again, thanks to another clean opportunity at playing time and two home runs over the weekend. There are plenty of theories about why Hiura might stick and finally be the fantasy force many were expecting in 2021. Some of these theories are solid (he’s a talented player, the power is legitimate) and some that are just theories (pitching is getting thinner due to injuries, the enforcement against illegal solvents helps Hiura). I agree about the power, but where I’ve seen Hiura getting exposed is the high strike. Unless the umpires go back to a late-90s strike zone, Hiura will still have trouble against major-league pitchers who know this. He’s worth a modest gamble (I bid $37 in my TGFBI and lost), but the risk profile for 2021 hasn’t changed because of silly good minor-league numbers. It remains significant.
Zach Thompson $41 ($152, $2)
Sometimes it’s ok to say “I don’t know,” and with Thompson my lack of knowledge is on full display. He was an organizational soldier with the White Sox, who didn’t even use him as a starter in the minors since 2017, and Thompson looked more like a future bullpen piece than a starter. The Marlins claimed him off waivers this winter, also used him in the bullpen at Triple-A, but then pushed him into the big-league rotation due to necessity. The numbers have been excellent. What I don’t know is if the addition if a third pitch makes Thompson a mainstay, or if hitters will eventually catch up and the prospect watchers’ prophecy about bullpen work is correct. The most significant detriment I can see is the lack of depth in Thompson’s starts. It limits his wins potential and makes it somewhat more likely that Miami will move him to the bullpen when everyone is healthy.
José Alvarado $40 ($105, $4)
It’s not impossible to hold onto the closer’s role with a super-high walk rate, but it’s nearly impossible. Since 1969, only nine pitchers have saved at least 20 games with a 15-plus percent walk rate. It hasn’t happened since 2012, when Carlos Marmol turned the trick with the Cubs. In a different era, I’d gape at Alvarado’s strikeout rate and take the plunge, but his 31 percent mark is only good for 40th among qualified relievers. The biggest thing going for Alvarado is that the Phillies bullpen is a bigger mess than the geographic inconsistencies in Mare of Easttown, so he could get hot and reel off a few saves at a somewhat modest cost. If you’re hoping for a long-term solution, I’d save my FAAB for someone else.
Amir Garrett $27 ($76, $3)
Like Alvarado, Garrett’s command profile also looks bad, but in Garrett’s case a closer look reveals that he has a modest five percent walk rate and awesome strikeout-to-walk rate in June. Garrett also has fewer roadblocks for saves than Alvarado, thanks to Lucas Sims’ injury and Sean Doolittle’s ineffectiveness. Brad Brach isn’t the answer, unless the question is “name the pitcher drafted out of Monmouth University with the most games pitched in the majors” (he eclipsed Ed Halicki’s record back in 2015). I could be wrong about Brach, but if I’m making a bet in this bullpen, I’d rather bet on Garrett’s talent than Brach’s.
Joe Ross $20 ($55, $5)
There isn’t much middle ground for Ross of late. He either hurls a bunch of shutout innings or is rather pedestrian, allowing 4-5 runs in a five- or six-inning start. Overall, the results have been great in the last month and change, so if you’re planning on adding Ross, he’s less of a streamer and more of an option where you just set it, forget it, and don’t overreact to the occasional clunker. Two home starts against the Rays and Dodgers could be rough, if you’re looking for reasons to hold off for one more week.
Kyle Muller $20 ($38, $1)
The one sentence scouting summary on Muller is “stuff during his time in the minors greatly improved while his command worsened.” This led to a consensus on Muller entering the season as “potential elite reliever who won’t be able to start,” but Atlanta’s multiple rotation injuries and lack of options led them to put Muller into the rotation earlier this month. He looked damn impressive against the Mets in his first major-league start and continued rolling on Saturday in Cincinnati. Most importantly, he has kept the walks down. If he keeps doing that, he’ll prove the naysayers wrong and make a lot of us fantasy folks plenty happy. He’s home against Miami this week. I’d stash him in deep mixed but hold off activating him.
Daz Cameron $19 ($52, $1)
I’m kind of surprised that Cameron wasn’t more expensive. If he had been more expensive, though, I’d probably be clucking my tongue at people overpaying for 46 strong major-league plate appearances. There’s no winning with me. The power and speed potential are alluring and the strikeout rate, while high, is acceptable in today’s game at 28 percent. A 20/20 season isn’t out of the question, and unless the AVG tanks, Cameron will be a sweet bargain at this price.
Brad Brach $17 ($57, $1)
It’s extremely rare for two relievers from the same bullpen to be among the top-10 FAAB additions in a single week. This gives you some idea as to the uncertainty of the Reds’ bullpen, but the modest bids on Brach recall Homer Simpson’s wise words: “Marge, with today’s gasoline prices, we can’t afford not to buy a pony.” For all my gentle admonishing of Brach buyers in the Garrett blurb above, putting a modest $10-15 bid on Brach when you’ve got $1000 of funny money to play with is fine, even if you’re a Stony Brook grad who is still deeply bitter about your alma mater’s shootout loss to Monmouth University in the first round of the 2011 NCAA men’s soccer tournament. I kind of dig Ray Murphy of Baseball HQ’s play in his TGFBI bracket, where he grabbed both Garrett and Brach for a combined $26. For that cheap cost, if they both don’t work out who cares, but if one of them runs with the job, it’s a great play.
LaMonte Wade, Jr. $9 ($26, $1)
I don’t expect Wade to maintain a pace of five home runs per 100 plate appearances, but he’s a solid hitter and yet another in a long list of players where the Giants deserve credit for finding something where other teams (in this case the Twins) couldn’t make it work. Wade has been strictly limited to the good side of a platoon, which doesn’t matter nearly as much as you might think (there are only five NL teams with at least two lefties in their projected 10-day rotations: Atlanta, Los Angeles, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Washington). This isn’t a static reality but is something to keep in mind if you’re hesitant to roster Wade because of his role and the splits. This applies to quite a few Giants, particularly Alex Dickerson and Steven Duggar (yay!) and Darin Ruf and Austin Slater (nay).
Garrett Cooper $9 ($22, $1)
Cooper is a case where if you only looked at his full-season numbers and the logjam on the Marlins offense, you’d wonder why anyone would bid even $1. But Coop was red hot for a two-week stretch before going on the IL with a lumbar strain, so it makes sense that the Marlins would try to see whether he can prolong the magic. His success is likely predicated on Jesús Sánchez’s failure, as the latter’s stumbles would open an outfield spot for Cooper. This could all change if the Marlins start cleaning house next month and ship Starling Marte and Adam Duvall out of town, but for now Cooper is more of a speculative playing-time hope than a definitive one.
Tout Wars AL
Jake Odorizzi $314 ($252, $176, $137, $100, $96, $68, $27)
Ryan O’Hearn $87 ($33, $21, $17, $6)
Andy Ibáñez $78 ($33)
Nomar Mazara $78 ($54, $50, $33, $21, $18)
Ryan McKenna $57
Hanser Alberto $29 ($6)
Jason Martin $18
Jordan Lyles $17 ($2)
Connor Wong $14 ($3)
Paul Sewald $13 ($3)
Garrett Crochet $13
Michael King $13 ($3, $0)
Riley Adams $2
Luis González $2
Tyler Wells $0
Drew Rasmussen $0
José Suarez $0
Lucas Luetge $0
Kelvin Gutierrez $0
Zack Short $0
Kean Wong $0
This is one of the busiest weeks that Tout AL has seen in some time. Doug Dennis of Baseball HQ is trying the no starting pitcher strategy that I employed in 2020, but he backed into the gambit after our salary cap draft and Odorizzi was the last starting pitcher he had left. Dennis couldn’t find any takers, so he dropped Odorizzi last week. I bid $137 but didn’t go higher only because I’m rolling eight capable arms out there already and strikeout volume is the lone place where I don’t have a problem. Odorizzi is a strong get via FAAB in a mono league.
I had O’Hearn briefly, dropped him when he was optioned to the minors, and my $17 bid didn’t come close. He’s batting cleanup for the Royals at 1B/DH and is on a nice power run that I don’t expect to last. He’s an OBP liability, but then so are most of the hitters available in Tout. Mazara was dropped, and my $33 bid was a little closer than my O’Hearn bid but also missed. I’m really rooting for Mazara, but it isn’t working out for him in Detroit any better than it did in Chicago.
Still, these are some of the more promising offensive options that have been available this year.
I wound up with Gutierrez, Short, and Kean Wong, who are replacing Christian Arroyo, Isaac Paredes, and Freddy Galvis. In Galvis’ case I could only bid on a second baseman, so my choices were Alberto and Wong. Have I mentioned recently what a blast AL-only leagues are in an era when major-league teams carry 12 hitters?
After I wrote this, Gutierrez was not only optioned but removed from the 40-player roster while Wong was sent to the minors. Expletive expletive expletive.
Lars Nootbaar $3 ($2, $1, $1)
Paolo Espino $2
Kyle Muller $2 ($1)
Tylor Megill $2
Brad Brach $1 ($1, $1)
Travis Jankowski $1
Génesis Cabrera $1 ($1)
Tony Santillan $1
Ehire Adrianza $1
Michael Perez $1
Richard Bleier $1
I made my first trade in LABR this year, shipping Johnny Cueto and Adrian Houser to Brian Walton of Creative Sports for Will Smith (the pitcher). I need saves, and there’s a great opportunity to jump 3-5 points in the category. I have enough starting-pitching volume on reserve to make up for Cueto/Houser, but the play is likely to be a four starter/five reliever gambit with two-start, low-cost streamers to maintain in strikeouts. This week’s streamer is Santillan, who is projected to face the Padres and Cubs at home.
I had an opportunity to trade for even more saves by flipping Hiura for either Yimi García or Jake McGee but turned it down. It was a fair offer—and I’m still skeptical about Hiura, as noted above—but I’m going to need him to do something down the stretch if I’m going to have any kind of chance of winning. Finishing with 11 points in saves won’t help me if I can’t make up ground in home runs and runs.
I bid $1 on Nootbaar but lost out to Derek Van Riper of The Athletic.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.