In last year’s abbreviated season, 20 teams averaged more runs per game than the Miami Marlins. So perhaps securing the key parts to this offense in the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) NL-only fantasy baseball auction this past weekend was a bad idea. Guilty as charged! I went in with a plan to avoid spending big money on any individual players, going with a balanced approach heavy on volume, and, well, it just happened to include several overlooked Marlins. We shall see if it works.
Outfielder Starling Marte was a key to this plan since I would be more comfortable with his sub-$30 price (got him for $27), but also because I wanted to secure his stolen bases. There are not many of them out there, you know, and I wanted no part of either Jonathan Villar or Jon Berti (despite his residence in Miami). I started my offense with Marte and San Diego Padres outfielder Trent Grisham, and then I built the rest of it around those capable of hitting 20 home runs. Hello, Brian Anderson and Jesus Aguilar!
In any event, constructing a squad in a 12-team, NL-only format might have nothing to do with your particular league setup, but ultimately this comes down to what a given fantasy manager deems proper or reasonable value and player evaluation. Here is my evaluation on the players I invested in, noting up front I might not have wanted all of them — either in general or at that particular price point. However, there are 11 other teams bidding. As such, sometimes we simply get what we get.
Eric Karabell’s Team
Catchers: There’s nothing special here, but I certainly wanted to avoid the $1 backstops that do not play. Carson Kelly struggled in 2020 but there is every indication that he will get 350-plus plate appearances. There’s no reason to believe his 2019 stats are out of reach. Yadier Molina should also play, and hit enough for this format. This strategy fits alongside my narrative of waiting until the end of 10-team mixed formats for catching. Volume is key in an AL- or NL-only format.
Infielders: ESPN Fantasy projects 99 home runs for the group of Colin Moran, Dansby Swanson, Anderson, Aguilar and Nick Ahmed, so I hope those projections are right! Twenty home runs per player — and for $71 — was my aim. Moran smacked 10 home runs in 200 PA in 2020, so there could be upside for more. Swanson was costly, but if he hits in the No. 2 lineup spot, a real breakout seems possible. Donovan Solano has hit .328 over the last two seasons, though that is all he offers. Jazz Chisholm is the temporary utility option and not my first choice, but the likes of Asdrubal Cabrera, Brendan Rodgers and Scott Kingery were simply too expensive, for some reason. We do project Chisholm for 14 home runs and 14 steals. That would sure be nice but, if not, I can move Dustin Fowler or Jake Lamb to the utility spot. Fowler is a bit intriguing, with strong minor-league numbers but no big-league opportunity as of yet. It is coming.
Outfielders: Marte and Grisham were key to the plan, and perhaps the $51 spent there will net me a cool 51 stolen bases. Marcell Ozuna was also important because nobody else on this team looks capable of 30 home runs or 100 RBI. Ozuna is not my favorite slugger, but defense is not a thing in fantasy and the bidding stopped reasonably. I like it. It was the same price as Nick Castellanos, one dollar more than Michael Conforto. If I could, I would go back and get Dominic Smith, too. Jesse Winker was pricy, but if he really can hit lefties a bit, which he did in 2020, then I could see a 25 HR/.290 BA breakout season. Maybe. Jackie Bradley Jr. is better than most think, too, and the ballpark switch is not a problem. He runs some, too. I tried to get the somewhat forgotten Corey Dickerson and Adam Duvall, never realizing how Marlins-heavy the lineup already was, but someone else spent more.
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Starting pitchers: You’ll find no aces here, but Sonny Gray and Patrick Corbin are two of 12 National League hurlers we project for 200 strikeouts, and obviously I believe each is safe enough. They offer a competitive base in ERA and WHIP, in theory, which is important because Caleb Smith might not. He does miss bats, though. Marcus Stroman and Zach Davies are not big strikeout options, but both seem a bit underrated to me. They are veterans with records for success, and I was not investing in unproven prospects. Stroman is healthy and, in two of his last three seasons, he recorded ERAs of 3.22 and 3.09. We do not talk about the other season. Davies is fine for the price. Adam Wainwright is absolutely going to replicate his 2020 season, it says here. I might not win strikeouts and perhaps not ERA/WHIP, but it is a modest rotation. Matt Moore (my lone Phillies arm, thankfully), Tyler Anderson and Brent Suter offer spot-start reinforcement.
Relief pitchers: There could easily be 75 saves here — or just seven. It’s impossible to know which is why I was not spending big dollars on saves. It is rather easy to trade for them. I think Mark Melancon is San Diego’s closer, though. Time will tell. I think Giovanny Gallegos and Lucas Sims can help this fantasy team even without saves. Jason Adam is my sleeper pick with the Cubs for when they finally move on from Craig Kimbrel, because that time has to be coming.
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