There are two parts to every season that really drive fantasy success.  First off, we have the draft that sets your path for the beginning of the season.  Coming out of the draft, I believe you should always feel like a winner.  Otherwise, your preparation was not as thorough as it could have been.  Anytime I leave the draft feeling disappointed, I know I have a long season ahead as the second part of the season gets underway.  That second phase is simply free agency where hidden gems are there for the taking if you employ the right aggressive strategy.  This week we discuss Free Agency Acquisition Budget (FAAB) strategy and where that money should be spent as we come up to the end of May.

To spend or not to spend is the question with our FAAB budgets.  As they say, you cannot take it to the grave.  Every season I see fantasy owners sitting with 80% of their budget in September looking for lightning in a bottle.  However, even at that point in time catching the right player has diminishing returns.  Because of that, I strongly prescribe an aggressive strategy with FAAB bidding with the goal of finding contributors early in the season that can pay dividends throughout the year.  Let us look at an example:

  • A FAAB bid of 15% spent two months into the season on a player that returns $12 of value over the season is a gain of $8.  So with a $100 FAAB budget, your bid returned just over $0.50 on the dollar
  • A FAAB bid of 15% spent with only a month to go on the same player returns only $2 in value and therefore not even $0.15 on the dollar as the season closes out

As you can see, It pays to be aggressive.  If you find yourself in the running come August, there is a good chance you found a few gems while your league mates were sitting idle.  With that, you should have used about half your FAAB budget by the time the calendar turns to June at a minimum.  My suggested FAAB spending targets are below:

  • April 35%
  • May 25%
  • June 20%
  • July 15%
  • August/September 5%

Now that we have the strategy out of the way, we can take a look at a few popular names as of late and where you should be investing:

  • Paul DeJong (3% of FAAB budget) – Over the last three weeks, DeJong has belted six homers and has a combined 31 runs and runs batted in.  At first glance, his BABIP over that period is surprisingly low which could hint there is even more to come.  However, when we look closer we see exit velocities in the mid-80s and HR/FB rates of nearly 30%.  DeJong has been an All-Star before and he has the potential to go on a heater.  That said, take away a few homers and the playing time can easily slip and we are left with an average infielder.  There is enough here to hope for a continuation of the hot streak, but not much more.
  • Rougned Odor (0% of FAAB budget) – Sometimes there are players you should stay away from no matter what.  Then when that player breaks out, you should be proud you did the right thing and looked the other way as that breakout was a 1% chance meaning 99 out of 100 times was a disaster waiting to happen.  I am out on Odor like a teenager is to wearing deodorant.  Sure, he is sporting a career-best line-drive and walk rates with his best batting average in five seasons.  But Odor has had hot streaks before and then bigger cold streaks.  Steer far away and let someone else take that gamble.
  • Matt McLain (15% of FAAB budget) – One of my favorite call-ups so far this season, he should be owned in many more leagues than he already is.  If he is unowned in your league, stop reading and make sure you have a healthy bid submitted.  After hitting nearly .350 and producing a 10/10 season on the farm in only 38 games, McLain finds himself batting second in one of the best parks in baseball.  The sample size in the MLB is small, but strong hard hit and barrel rates in the limited sample are promising.  I think McLain wins some leagues this year as owners were busy waiting for Elly to show up in Cincinnati.
  • Jake McCarthy (7% of FAAB budget) – McCarthy was a valuable player at the end of last season driving up the draft prices this preseason.  With the cost, Jake rewarded owners with an average well below the Mendoza Line (.143) and a single homer prior to being sent back to the minors in late April.  He was called back up two days ago after a reset where he hit over .300 with a handful of homers and steals and plenty of counting stats in just 22 AAA games.  Back in the majors, we have to acknowledge his paltry .157 BABIP and improved plate discipline down on the farm as hints that more may be on the way.  A young struggling hitter with previous success is a decent gamble.
  • Mickey Moniak (1% of FAAB budget) – In just 10 games this season, Moniak has four homers and two thefts with a .400+ average.  His barrel rates, sweet spot approach, and launch angle are appealing in that small sample.  However, we do not have to look too hard to see a BABIP over .500 and a strikeout rate approaching an unhealthy 35%.  While the Angels seem to be giving him leadoff duties, he may be splitting time with Taylor Ward hinting that even the Angels know better than to believe in this jump start.  Toss a dollar or two, but don’t spend much more time or resources here with Mickey.