2015 Fantasy Baseball Auctions: Players to Target and Avoid

Who should you be targeting and avoiding in fantasy auction drafts this year?

If you have children, you know the game "Red Light, Green Light."

Every time you say "green light!" your kids sprint in your direction, and when you yell "red light!" they are supposed to stop in their tracks. I say "supposed to" because, when it comes to little kids, rules are pretty much non-existent.

But we can use the game's rules to help focus on which players to target in fantasy auctions this season. Personally, I love fantasy auctions for baseball. It allows you to pick the team you want, and you can determine the price at which you want to pay to get your man. If you really want Mike Trout, you can get him. Of course, it's gonna cost you a year's college tuition, but he can be yours, no matter where you pick in your fantasy draft.

However, auction drafts also requires budgeting skills, skills that most Americans lack. For every player, you need to set a limit on high you're willing to go and resist going over that limit unless it's for a very special player.

With that in mind, I took a look at some of the auction totals for 5x5, 12-team mixed leagues on ESPN, and determined the players and prices for whom you should sprint towards ("green light!") and players at prices that should make you stop dead in your tracks ("red light!").

Mike Trout, Angels ($47) - Green Light

As you'll see, I'm not usually one for the big ticket items. But on every fantasy team, you have to have at least a couple guys making the big bucks. As long as you have a plan for the later rounds when you have less cash with which to operate, you can afford to go big on Trout. I'd take it all the way up to $50 for him, because this guy is simply playing on another level. Our projections see him hitting .315 with a .986 OPS, 33 home runs, 101 RBI, and 110 runs scored, along with 19 stolen bases, and I'm worried they might be a bit conservative! Go get him, and make sure you have a plan in place for the rest of the draft.

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers ($40) - Red Light

Major League Baseball is loaded with elite starting pitching right now. So, as good as Kershaw is, why would you want to break the bank for him? It's possible Kershaw could replicate his unreal season last year in which he posted a 1.77 ERA and struck out 10.85 batters per nine innings, tallying 21 wins in 27 starts. But remember, even if he does, auction drafts are about allocation of funds. Why not save $12 and make Max Scherzer your ace? Or save $13 and get Chris Sale or Stephen Strasburg to front your rotation?

Paying Kershaw $40 feels like paying for past performance in a market loaded with top-line starting pitching.

Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays ($38) - Red Light

I love Encarnacion a lot, but I'm not so sure I'd take him ahead of Jose Abreu, who is valued at $34 dollars, or Anthony Rizzo at $30. For one thing, Encarnacion hit just 8 home runs in 167 plate appearances in the second half last year, after hitting 26 in 328 first half plate appearances. Much of that was because of injury in the second half, but at a position as deep as first base, you can afford to be picky and probably get more bang for your buck elsewhere.

Jose Altuve, Astros ($28) - Red Light

Listen, Altuve is a very good player, and after Robinson Cano comes into the season as the second-best second baseman in baseball. And Altuve can do a lot, leading the league in batting average last year at .341 with 56 stolen bases. He will certainly help in those two categories.

That being said, you pay people based on what they project for next year, and our metrics have Altuve dropping to a batting average of .298 with 41 stolen bases. That's still a lot of steals, but if you're going to spend $28 on someone, you want to get more than single-digit homers and a batting average at or below .300. If I can get Altuve for $10 cheaper, I take a shot. But I don't like him at $28.

Buster Posey, Giants ($24) - Green Light

Posey, the top catcher on the board and perennial MVP candidate, has the 28th-highest auction value on ESPN, $2 cheaper than Ryan Braun. We project Posey to hit .303 with 22 homers and 90 RBI this year, which at the catcher position is ridiculous. The next catcher on the board is Jonathan Lucroy, who has the 77th-highest auction value at $15. And while $15 for Lucroy is also a good number, Posey is so much better than anyone else that he's absolutely worth the $24. In fact, I'd spend close to $30 on him in a pinch.

Aroldis Chapman, Reds ($19) - Red Light
Craig Kimbrel, Braves ($18) - Red Light

These two chaps are largely considered the best closers in the game, and they are. But there is also a resounding truth about relief pitchers, and that is they are very unpredictable. Now, one could argue that very volatility makes two seemingly stable presences such as Chapman and Kimbrel worth the price it would take to get them. But relievers really only help out in one major category: saves. It's usually a better idea to try and find some cheaper alternatives, sacrifice the save category, and use that cash on other, more important positions.

Chapman and Kimbrel are both great, but I just can't recommend spending that kind of money on a closer.

Chris Davis, Orioles ($15) - Green Light

I know Davis did not handle the shift well last year, and he saw it more than any other player -- in 95.2% of his at-bats. He hit .121 against it, which helps account for a scarily-bad .196 batting average last year. However, rated as the 12th-most expensive first baseman by ESPN, I'm intrigued by an on-base percentage that was more than 100 points higher than his batting average (.300) as well as those 26 homers in 525 plate appearances. He strikes out a ton, for sure, but also knows how to work a walk and have good at-bats. Our projections see Davis hitting .233 this year with 29 homers, and I have a hunch that average could approach .250. He could be a good source of cheap power.

Matt Harvey, Mets ($15) - Green Light

How is Harvey only going for $15? Are people scared off by the fact he's returning from injury? You shouldn't be. Harvey is throwing in the triple-digits this spring and could be a leading Cy Young candidate this season, yet at $15, he is going for $25 cheaper than Kershaw. Sign me up for a heaping helping of Harvey, please.

Jorge Soler, Cubs ($9) - Green Light

Soler has all the makings of a star, and at $9 could be an absolute steal this season. We see him hitting .263 with 19 homers and 70 RBI in 530 plate appearances, but honestly, those numbers could wind up on the low side of what he could produce this season if he reaches his fullest potential. In fact, I'd be shocked if you were able to get him for $9 at your fantasy auction. With Jay Bruce, Matt Holliday, and Alex Gordon all going for $14, I'd rather spend that money on Soler, who has a chance to surpass all three of those players.