MLB Barometer: Managing Your FAAB Budget

MLB Barometer: Managing Your FAAB Budget

This article is part of our MLB Barometer series.

We're getting close to the halfway point of the season and it's important for us to be careful with our FAAB budget and be wise with spending it the right way. We want to leave about 10 percent for the final six weeks of the season when rosters expand, teams start resting stars and pitchers get gassed or injured. We'll have a firm grasp on what categories we need to gain, and if those categories are wins and strikeouts, then we have to take our chances on risky two-start pitchers.

Being careful with our FAAB budget means having a good grasp on your league's spending habits. Almost every league has one or two people that have kept most of their money. Once in a while, these are teams that have just had incredible luck with health, but with that being so rare in fantasy baseball it most likely means they are teams near the bottom of the standings (that have likely given up). Or, they could be waiting for a big-name drop just to really stick it to the managers higher up in the standings who can't afford them.

By spending habits, I am also referring to identifying specific trends in the bidding of your competition. Is a manager in your league bidding around the same amount for players every week or every other week? Do all of bids end in a "5" or an "8"? If so, that person is mistakenly telegraphing their next move, so if Hunter Renfroe

We're getting close to the halfway point of the season and it's important for us to be careful with our FAAB budget and be wise with spending it the right way. We want to leave about 10 percent for the final six weeks of the season when rosters expand, teams start resting stars and pitchers get gassed or injured. We'll have a firm grasp on what categories we need to gain, and if those categories are wins and strikeouts, then we have to take our chances on risky two-start pitchers.

Being careful with our FAAB budget means having a good grasp on your league's spending habits. Almost every league has one or two people that have kept most of their money. Once in a while, these are teams that have just had incredible luck with health, but with that being so rare in fantasy baseball it most likely means they are teams near the bottom of the standings (that have likely given up). Or, they could be waiting for a big-name drop just to really stick it to the managers higher up in the standings who can't afford them.

By spending habits, I am also referring to identifying specific trends in the bidding of your competition. Is a manager in your league bidding around the same amount for players every week or every other week? Do all of bids end in a "5" or an "8"? If so, that person is mistakenly telegraphing their next move, so if Hunter Renfroe gets dropped in a league where you're good in BA but need power and the manager has been dropping $25 on similar bids, just bid $26. It's sounds simple and it doesn't always work that way, but I think it's important to review your league's bid history before making yours.

Some leagues are more competitive while others have almost no contingency (backup) bids, meaning you sometimes could have had your player for single digits. Then of course, there's my boy Gildz, a Mets diehard who I've been in NFBC leagues with for the past two years. In fact, he dropped Trea Turner last season in one of our leagues just one week before Turner was promoted. I scooped Turner up for a fair $45 bid, and you can only imagine what happened from there (he was winning the league, I got Trea and finished first). Gildz is in a league with me now where he got off to a rocky start ratio-wise and is now punting ERA/WHIP and is spending a buck on every two-step starting pitcher on each new week's schedule. He's actually climbed up around my point range in that league and it's a strategy I certainly respect, but unfortunately he's going to be short on FAAB bucks soon and I'll be able to snag his targets for a buck more (as long as I like his targets).

So, be sure to go back and review the total FAAB dollars each team in your league has left, see where they are in the standings and then drill down on their teams to hypothesize what player they plan on bidding on this week. As an example, let's say someone two points behind you just lost Gary Sanchez for the year and someone dropped Matt Wieters the previous week and he's the only bid-worthy catcher. Go back and review their bidding habits since the beginning of the season, their dollar amounts and any trends in their bidding. If you want to upgrade your Manny Pina to Wieters (as you should), Sherlocking the situation can assist you win the Wieters bid that week.

Finally, be careful with the actual dollar amounts that you are bidding. Kyle Schwarber was dropped in one of my NFBC 12-teamers last week and though I wouldn't have been sad if I didn't get him, he is still a top-100 overall pick who plays on a great offense and has crazy pop. I had $450 left and decided I'd spend no more than $50, though I expected to see bids come in over $100. I originally threw a keep-it-honest bid of $34 on Schwarber then bumped it up to $46 and got him. The next highest bid was $15. I don't consider that as wasted money if Schwarber can improve on his first half, but it was interesting to see the overall lack of intrigue of my competition for the man they once called "Babe Schwarbs". In another league where I wanted to add an outfielder, I noticed almost a dozen bid-worthy OF options like Hunter Pence, Joc Pederson, Melky Cabrera and Josh Reddick. I ended up putting in cheap $6 dollar bids on them since no one from the group stuck out to me as someone I could bring into my lineup this week. This was the league where Schwarber, Aledmys Diaz (needed someone for Asdrubal Cabrera) and Whit Merrifield were dropped, so I saved my double-digit bids for them given that they were bigger priorities.

It's that time of year where we can snag hitters with upcoming strong matchups or handedness splits that we could use for a half-week (or week) — for less money. If you're on top of your league's bidding tendencies, you could put yourself in a good position to both save on each bid and get the player you want.

RISERS

Trey Mancini, 1B/OF, BAL

If your corner infielders aren't currently a treasure trove, Mancini deserves some consideration for your 12-team leagues. So far this month, Mancini is slashing .350/.381/.717 with five homers, 15 RBI and 12 runs scored. Mancini batted just .216 in April as a part-time player, but has raised that average up to .306 and should be in the lineup daily while Chris Davis spends some time on the disabled list. He had a nine-game hitting streak heading into Monday's game and has been settling in lately as the Orioles' number-five hitter. The former eighth-round pick of the 2013 draft with less than eye-popping numbers in the minors but is a big dude (6'4'', 215) with a sweet swing. Mancini has a near-40 percent hard hit rate against southpaws, but has done the majority of his damage against right-handers — eight of his 12 homers have come against righties and his wOBA against them is .432, compared to .324 against lefties.

I have no problem riding the hot hand at CI. For example, dropping Yonder Alonso, or Lucas Duda with four southpaws this week, to get some Mancini action while he's hot and Davis is out. Obviously, those who took that approach and dropped guys like Justin Bour, Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak are probably regretting it, but that's the nature of the beast with corner infielders, specifically this season. These undrafted first basemen have been saving graces for our squads but they are streaky, carry high strikeout rates and it would be hard to imagine them all maintaining these paces through the second half. I would easily bet against Smoak hitting.300 this year or Morrison crushing 40 bombs. The 2017 season has been a wild ride, especially when you realize that there are about 25 eligible first basemen who are putting up better numbers than Miguel Cabrera (Mancini included). The Orioles will have to find a way to keep Mancini's bat in the lineup when Davis returns. He would be playing full-time almost anywhere else and with a starting gig, Mancini has 30 HR — 100 RBI upside.

Dexter Fowler, OF, STL

It was just one month ago when I was fielding questions from a couple of impatient owners about Fowler and the idea of dropping him. Of course, that's an extreme thought for a perennial fantasy producer who is just two years removed from a 17 HR, 20 SB, 102 R season, but these ideas do float in our minds when someone is deep in the doldrums of their league standings. Fast forward to today, and Fowler has raised his batting average about 30 points and over the weekend, matched last season's home run total of 13. Last week, only Lonnie Chisenhall drove in more runs (11) than Fowler's 10 as Fowler has been one of baseball's hottest hitters, slamming four dingers with a .435 average.

He doesn't appear to be running much — just three stolen bases on five attempts — but we already saw a decrease in bags from 2015 (20) to 2016 (13) and stolen bases is not our primary attraction with Fowler anymore. It's the whole package. Most importantly, he has a great spot in the lineup – hitting second behind walk-machine Matt Carpenter and is on pace to easily smash his career-high in RBI (53 in 2012, already 35 this season). That 2012 season was the only time Fowler has ever hit .300. As a 31-year-old, Fowler has shifted his approach at the plate to be more aggressive and has increased his power at the plate. A 37.6% hard-hit rate is by far his best effort as is his .246 ISO (career .159 ISO). I do believe we'll continue to see him hit bombs and end up with career highs in HR and RBI at the expense of the other three categories. At the end of the day, Fowler is earning every dollar of his preseason value, but with a different stat line than we're accustomed to.

Matt Strahm, SP, KC

The 25-year-old fireballer was the sneaky add to 15-team rosters this week and may soon come onto the radar in 12-team leagues. He shot his way up last season straight from Double-A and impressed in the Royals' bullpen as a rookie, posting a 34.1% strikeout rate and a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings. Strahm did not make the starting rotation in spring training and got off to a bad start in middle relief, allowing seven earned runs in his first three appearances. It's helpful for those of us who do our homework or know who Strahm is because some may see an ERA above 5.00 and simply gloss over him.

Strahm has a nice arsenal of offerings including a plus curveball and a 94-mph fastball. With one of the best defenses in baseball behind him and a solid home park for about half of his starts, Strahm has a good chance at sticking in the rotation. Strahm was not a big prospect coming up. He was a 21st-rounder from a community college in Kansas who weighed just 150 pounds (he's 6-foot-3!) and threw 80 mph. Strahm has filled out his frame (185 pounds) and now throws wicked heat. Try to watch his start against the Red Sox to see if he's worthy of consideration for your 12-team squad. A rough start may allow him to fly under the radar for Sunday's FAAB bidding. We're not tossing a solid starter back into the player pool for him, but if your team is forced to start the likes of Ian Kennedy, Jaime Garcia or you had to force the services of Buck Farmer onto your team last week, then Strahm may just be up your alley.

Jacob Faria, SP, TB

Faria is all the rage and rightly so given his first three starts in the majors (22:5 K:BB, 3 ER in 19.2 IP). Unfortunately, I was one week late to the party assuming the youngster would head back down to Triple-A Durham as I secured just one NFBC share for $26 as he went for triple-digits in most other places available. Faria is just 23 but has been moving his way up the Rays' farm system since 2011. His control has always been the biggest question mark, but there's no denying his whiff-ability. He maintained a 34.9% strikeout rate over 11 Triple-A starts and has posted an impressive 14 percent swinging-strike rate over those first three major league starts. Rays' management prides themselves on developing strong arms, and between Faria, ace Chris Archer and offseason addition Jose De Leon, the staff looks promising over the near future. With off-days and a series in the National League this week, there is a good chance Faria's start gets skipped and he gets optioned back down for a Triple-A start until his next start so those who started him this week may have caught a bad break. If that causes a fellow owner to drop him, pounce if you have the roster spot.

Honorable Mentions

Carlos Gomez, OF, TEX – Welcome back Carlos! An incredible weekend after missing a month of action (two HR, eight RBI in three games against the Mariners). Gomez has now missed at least 25 games in three consecutive season and is a shell of the player he once was (a first-round pick just four years ago). Gomez will easily top last season's 13 home runs and could approach 20, but he's a 30% strikeout guy now who could sting one's batting average.

Alex Meyer, SP, LAA – The former first-rounder of the Nationals who spent most of his developing years with the Twins and is now the Angels' liveliest arm as he chucks a fastball that tops out at 98. He is quite the enigma given his strikeout-ability (27%) despite having one of the league's highest walk rates (14.8%). We need to keep Meyer on the bench over the next two weeks since he faces the walk-happy Red Sox in Fenway and then lines up for a start against the red-hot Dodgers for the regular season freeway series.

Brandon McCarthy, SP, LA – You know what they say about McCarthy — ride him while he's healthy. B-Mac doesn't offer much in terms of whiffs (20% rate), but has a solid 6.8% walk rate and has allowed just four home runs in 11 starts. Mr. Consistency has allowed two earned runs or less in nine of those.

FALLERS

Michael Conforto, OF, NYM

There weren't many players who had a better first two months of the season than Conforto. With management wisely letting the kid face southpaws as well, Conforto started and led off almost every day, hitting .317 with 13 HR and 34 RBI over April and May. June has been another story altogether as Conforto has last gone yard 13 games ago and is hitting .196 with a .326 SLG despite an impressive .393 OBP (12 walks to 15 strikeouts). He does have 10 hits (three homers) in 44 plate appearances against southpaws this season after managing just five hits in 53 PA against them last season. Conforto should continue to lead off most days, but we'll undoubtedly start to see that .394 wOBA against lefties start to wither its way downward. The 24-year-old should continue to mature as an all-around player and has 40 home run upside. For this season, expect him finish with a batting average around .265 — .275 with around 28 homers and 75 RBI.

Stephen Vogt, C, OAK

I'm honestly surprised that Vogt hasn't been dropped in any of my five NFBC 12-teamers. People have dropped Matt Wieters and Russell Martin in my leagues, yet Vogt remains on folks' rosters (they must be A's fans!) Those who own him continue to take on substandard production from a guy who looks like he is toast. Vogt has been taking a seat on the bench more often against right-handed starters this season (he sits against lefties already) and has managed to hit just .218 with four homers and 19 RBI. His hard-hit rate sits around 27%, which isn't far off from his career rate of 28%. Vogt is nothing special defensively and the A's often sub in his backup Josh Phegley for defensive purposes. The A's would be better off with top backstopper prospect Bruce Maxwell (.293 BA) platooning with Phegley if they are able to deal Vogt before the deadline. If someone like Manny Pina is still available, snag him for Vogt and you won't regret it. At least you get a better home park and a hitter with some upside.

Yu Darvish, SP, TEX

There really isn't much reason to complain about a 3.34 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 99 strikeouts through 15 starts but I feel like owners want more out of him, especially those who took him as their SP1. He's a tough dude to time correctly in DFS, just like fellow ace Stephen Strasburg. Darvish's 26 percent strikeout rate is the lowest we've seen since his rookie season (2012) and he's hovering around the 10 percent walk mark, walking at least three batters in seven of those 15 starts. Darvish serves up just under one home run per start, allowing nine of those 13 home runs at home. He's coming off his worst performance of the season against a team he's had trouble against in the past – five earned runs and a season-high eight hits allowed against Mariners last week. His next two starts are doozies (@ NYY, @ CLE) but we never, ever consider benching the guy. The hot Arlington summer will continue to take a toll on him with the longballs, but he looks healthy, and if he makes it through the season, we're talking another 200+ strikeout season and slightly better ratios than the ones he has now.

James Paxton, SP, SEA

Well, Paxton isn't going to win the AL Cy Young like a few bold writers predicted, but he isn't going to fall on his face either, health permitting. After compiling six of seven phenomenal starts to begin the season (one earned run or less in six of them, five earned in the other), Paxton hit the DL with a forearm strain and has struggled in his three starts since (14 earned runs, six walks). The last start was in tough conditions — high humidity and 100- degree Texas heat — but it certainly shouldn't be an excuse. Paxton claims to be fine health-wise and says his timing is off and coaches mentioned him looking out of rhythm. His velocity has been down just a tick, but otherwise we shouldn't really have many concerns about him bouncing back. He does have a tough start on paper against the Tigers this week, though it's at home and one that I'm using him for. Paxton has a 26.4% strikeout rate and has allowed just three home runs in 55.2 innings. I contend that the spring helium was warranted but that the concern was always about him staying healthy. If the forearm is bothering Paxton, hopefully he'll do the right thing like a good Canadian boy would and be transparent about it with management.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vlad Sedler
Vlad Sedler covers baseball and football for RotoWire. He is a veteran NFBC player and CDM Hall of Famer, winning the Football Super Challenge in 2013. A native Angeleno, Vlad loves the Dodgers and Kings and is quite possibly the world's only Packers/Raiders fan. You can follow him @RotoGut.
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