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Auction Draft Pitching Targets Under $10

The strategy necessary to participate in an auction draft dwarfs that needed for a standard snake draft. While the difficulty level is ramped up, so too are the options and flexibility available to each owner.

If someone wants to break the bank for the top three players in baseball, go crazy. No matter someone's plan at the top, though, everyone is on the search for value late. It is those low-budget picks made in the later rounds that could wind up winning you a fantasy league in 2020.

Here are the pitchers to target that will cost fewer than $10 to acquire (according to NFBC ADP projections).

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:


Triumphant Return

All of Carlos MartinezSean Manaea, and Lance McCullers Jr. are returning to a spot in a starting rotation after varying absences. They all offer tremendous upside and great value near the tail-end of auction drafts.

Martinez took a sabbatical in the bullpen for St. Louis. Prior to that, he had four consecutive seasons of starting (or mostly starting) where he never had an ERA+ worse than 116.

Manaea missed most of '19 after shoulder surgery. He was coming off his own 116-ERA+ season in 2018 and went on to allow just 25 base runners in his 29.2-inning return last year.

McCullers missed the entirety of 2019 after needing Tommy John surgery. In 80 career starts, he averages 10.1 strikeouts per nine and has a career 110 ERA+. If he had enough innings to qualify, that strikeout mark would be the eighth-best in the history of the sport, neck and neck with Gerrit Cole and Pedro Martinez.


Unlucky One

According to research put together by Ben Lindbergh, Mitch Keller in 2019 was arguably the unluckiest pitcher in the Statcast era of baseball. If you believe in positive regression and the underlying belief that Keller was much, much better than his traditional stats indicate, the $3 auction price tag is mere peanuts for one of the premiere young talents in baseball.


IL Slot Hold

James Paxton going for $8 (on average) is only happening in a season where he is set to start the year on IL. The dude is too good to be that cheap if owners expect six months out of him. Except, when do we ever get six months out of Paxton? He's never made 30 starts in a season. Never. He's never thrown more than 160.1 innings in a season either. His injury is a bummer, but at least one IL stint is always expected of him anyway. Ariel Cohen has already shown us how Paxton's value (and others) has increased based on adjusted projections. Think of it this way - we're just getting his annual injury out of the way and saving dollars in the auction in the process.


No Belief

At a cost of $7, people are clearly not believers in what Mike Minor just did a season ago. He set career-highs in wins, innings, and strikeouts. But this wasn't out of nowhere exactly. Minor has been a very good pitcher each of the last three seasons, since missing all of 2015 and 2016 after shoulder surgery and recovery. The production wasn't in the face of his batted-ball data either. Instead, it supported it. Minor was an upper-echelon pitcher in terms of the contact he allowed in '19. He was even better in a shortened '17 as he came back from the lengthy absence.


Track Record

What more do Masahiro Tanaka and Marcus Stroman have to do to be graced with standard-league ownership higher than $4 auction prices would seem to foreshadow? These guys aren't Cy Young contenders, but they are pitchers a fantasy player should feel comfortable putting in a lineup each time they take the mound. The lowish strikeout totals are buoyed by good inning eating and expected double-digit wins.

Tanaka's been good for a league-average or better performance pretty much since the day he joined the Major Leagues. He doesn't walk batters, pitches to contact, and yet allows barrels less often than the average pitcher. In fact, he's the active leader in fewest walks per nine given up. Stroman isn't as thrifty with his base runners, but he was stellar in '19. It may be risky pitching to contact, but it helps when you give up ground balls 60.4 percent of the time for your career and ranked in the 94th percentile of barrels allowed this past season. As much as any pitcher can, Stroman knows how to allow the contact he wants.


Potential Closers

Paying up for closers is never worth it. The turnover at the position is too high. Even the best closers can perform poorly or lose the job outright. Last year, 37 pitchers recorded double-digit saves. The year before, it was 43 pitchers. In 2017, 40 men did so. Also worth pointing out, in the past three years, only seven guys topped 40 saves, and just one - 2018 Edwin Diaz - broke the 50-save plateau. We saw how last year played out for Diaz.

As the role of bullpens expands, the dispersion of saves grows. Fewer guys record the bulk of saves, and more guys in total collect them. That's a long way of saying that there will be a number of players drafted for a few bucks who collect useful save totals. Even more important, there will be players that go undrafted who end up saving a lot of games.



As with any set of projections, especially for an auction draft, there is no guarantee that these specific players will go for fewer than $10 in your real-life draft. Who knows if another owner loves 2020 Sean Manaea and is willing to pay through the nose to grab him. If that's the case, move on. Players at this level are not worth a bidding war. Their value is tied up entirely in their low price to acquire. The worst thing an owner can do prior to a draft is set a player or group of players that they can't live without.

More 2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice


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