2015 Fantasy Baseball Auctions: The Dollar Bin
There's nothing wrong with shopping at The Dollar Store.
Sometimes there are some real good buys there. I mean, where else can you get a package of 50 kazoos for under a buck? The same holds true in fantasy auctions, especially if you're planning to spend a big portion of your budget on a few of the more costly players available.
Fortunately, there are some good buys in the dollar bin this year, players who you can probably get for next to nothing at the start of the season but could actually be productive fantasy options. The players below were all rated as $1 players by ESPN in a 5x5, 12-team league.
Steven Souza, Tampa Bay Rays
With many of these $1 guys, you're trying to target young players with upside and playing opportunity. Souza isn't on many people's short lists for Rookie of the Year, but he is slated to be the Rays' starting right fielder in 2015, and there is definitely reason to believe that he could break out at the plate in 2015.
He had a phenomenal 2014 in Triple-A with a slash line of .350/.432/.590 with 18 home runs in 407 plate appearances. Of course, minor league stats are often not the best way to judge what a hitter will do in the Majors, but one good sign is he has traditionally had a walk rate around 12 to 15% in the minor leagues. Our projections this year have him hitting .268/.342/.424 in 447 plate appearances with 13 home runs and 15 stolen bases, and Steamer is even more bullish on his power, projecting him for 18 homers.
Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners
Zunino was also featured as one of my breakout hitters for this year, although admittedly, he isn't going to win any batting titles. His plate discipline was pretty bad last season, walking in just 3.6% of his 476 plate appearances last year while striking out in a whopping 33.2% of them. That helped contribute to a .199 batting average and .254 on-base percentage.
However, Zunino did slug .404 last year with an isolated power of .205, along with 22 home runs and 60 RBI, tied for third among all catchers in longballs (the same number as Evan Gattis and Buster Posey).
While I would certainly have a primary catcher who wasn't as big a black hole in the batting average category, Zunino could be a very cheap power source from an unexpected position, and certainly worth one measly little dollar. And if he does happen to improve his plate discipline even a little bit this year, you could have an absolute steal at that price.
Yasmany Tomas, Arizona Diamondbacks
I wrote about Yasmany Tomas and his fantasy value, suggesting that, while you shouldn't rush to draft him ahead of such players as Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval, he does have some power upside. In an auction format, Tomas has gone as high as $16 in some places, but ESPN has him listed at $1, which seems pretty crazy to me.
Chances are you won't be able to get him for $1, but if you can, absolutely grab him at anything under $5. No one knows exactly what he's going to do this year, and opinions on him are mixed. But he's likely to start the majority of games in left field, and plays in a park that is a well known homer haven. ZiPS has projected him to hit 21 homers in 2015 with a .267/.302/.464 slash line, while Steamer has him a bit lower, with 14 homers and a .255 batting average.
Brandon McCarthy, Los Angeles Dodgers
McCarthy is a veteran arm that, if he can avoid the disabled list, can provide some stability as your first starter off the bench. Last year he went 10-15 with an ERA of 4.05 but saw a dramatic increase in his strikeout rate, up from 13.2% in 2013 to 20.9% in '14, easily the highest of his career.
Our projections see a slight regression for McCarthy this year, with a 4.06 ERA, 127 strikeouts and a strikeout rate of 16.9%, more in line with his career norms. While you don't want to pay for last year's success, at $1, McCarthy provides a decent veteran security blanket with some potential upside as well.
Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners
Walker fits perfectly into my "young pitchers with upside" philosophy. He's just 22 years old and has had a terrific spring as he battles for a spot in the Seattle rotation. In 12 innings, he hasn't given up a run and has allowed only four hits and three walks while striking out 13. Of course, these are spring training numbers in an extremely small sample size, and Walker did not have a very good year in Triple-A last season with a 4.81 ERA in 14 starts.
But remember, he was just 21 years old in '14, and still managed to strike out 23.5% of all hitters he faced in Triple-A while walking 7.9%. That'll do nicely. Our projections see Walker with a 4.11 ERA in 94 innings and a strikeout rate of 18%. I think he'll make the Mariners' rotation with enough upside that you should probably snag him even if his price rises above $1.
Henderson Alvarez, Miami Marlins
Alvarez is not going to do much for your strikeout totals, but he is a guy that should put up a decent ERA and win you some games in 2015. He's a young arm too, just 25 years old, and is coming off a season in which he went 12-7 with a 2.65 ERA in 187 innings, including a league-leading three shutouts. He only struck out 14.4% of all batters he faced, but that certainly didn't hurt his other numbers.
Our projections see Alvarez' ERA ticking up slightly to 3.61 in 188 innings, but that ain't too shabby, especially at $1. He's probably not going to break out and be a Cy Young candidate or anything, but he is an All-Star pitcher who can likely be gotten on the cheap.
Marlon Byrd, Cincinnati Reds
I know I said to target young guys, and Marlon Byrd is the antithesis of that. But the 37-year-old is coming off a season in which he hit 25 home runs, which actually was tied for seventh among all Major League outfielders last year. He's a cheap source of power, something that is still in short supply nowadays.
Our projections have Byrd hitting another 22 bombs this year with 74 RBI, and that number could be light given he's playing in Great American Ball Park, one of the easiest parks in which to hit the ball out. If you find yourself short of power near the end of your draft, and you can get Byrd for $1, you gotta do it.
Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals
Martinez has one of the best arms in the National League and, at 24 years old, could be one of the next big things. He's been a Baseball America top-40 prospect each of the last three years, and he could get a spot in the St. Louis starting rotation as the number-five starter. While that might mean he doesn't pitch much in the first month of the season, he could become a huge arm for the Cardinals as the summer wears on.
We project Martinez to pitch 114 innings this year and put up a 3.69 ERA with a strikeout rate of 23.0%. He's a strikeout pitcher who dominated every level of the minors he played and fared quite well for himself mostly out of the bullpen last season with a 4.03 ERA and a FIP of 3.18. Take Martinez for $1, hope he gets in the starting rotation, and get in on the ground floor now before his value shoots through the roof later.
Listen, when you're talking about $1 guys, you're dealing with some flawed players. But each of these guys does at least one thing that can help fill in the gaps that every fantasy team is going to have. And obviously, not all of these guys are going to go for $1 in your fantasy auctions. That's the beauty of the auction format.
But this should at least help you to have some keeper guys in mind for later as you're bidding madly for Andrew McCutchen.