“Studs and Duds” or “Stars and Scrubs” is becoming a more popular methodology for attacking auction drafts. The concept behind this is pretty simple – overspend to get the best players because there will be quality $1 options at the end of the draft. There will also be usable players on waivers at any given time, so it becomes worth it to overpay for the talent that can actually separate you from your competition.
This is an especially viable strategy when you are in a league that is on the shallower side. It can also work in standard 12 team leagues, but I do not recommend it in anything deeper. As you start getting to larger rosters and more league members, having a useful player at every position starts to become more important than having a couple of major studs.
Since you will be spending a lot of your money on a few studs, it helps to identify some players later in the draft that you believe can outperform their auction value. Additionally, since you already have a half-dozen or so studs, I believe in taking risks with the dollars that you have left to spend. Again, there will be solid players available from week to week on waivers, so don’t saddle yourself with one of those guys right from the jump.
In one of my first drafts of the year, Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, and Denard Span went undrafted. Guys like Jorge Soler, Hernan Perez, and some others were drafted, though, and I believe this is the right approach. With that said, here are some players that could make for potentially good, cheap, targets for those taking a “stars and scrubs” approach. I’ll also name a few that are format dependent.
Tyson Ross – This guy had the dirtiest slider in the league and was a top 20-ish pitcher for two consecutive years. He is working his way back from an injury, but he is set to start throwing soon. If you have a DL spot to stash him, this might turn out being a really cheap buy.
Joe Ross – May as well talk about the other Ross. Brother Joe essentially did break out last year before running into injury problems. He plays in the NL East on a team that figures to give him great run and defensive support. He’s barely getting drafted in most shallow leagues, and he sports a similarly vicious slider as brother Tyson.
Taijuan Walker – If you load up on high-end talent early, you might not be able to afford some of the sexier breakout picks like McCullers, Rodon, Gaussman, Duffy, and Paxton. Taijuan might be a cheaper alternative with similar upside. He is being drafted lower and cheaper than any of the other aforementioned upside arms.
I imagine there’s some prospect fatigue since he was projected to be Felix 2.0 but has been largely a disappointment. Throw in a trade to the irrelevant D-Backs and their very pitcher unfriendly Chase Field and he drops even more. Walker is still at the point where I think pedigree matters and he was an elite prospect.
A change of scenery, a pitcher at the plate to strike out every three innings or so, and widespread reports that he might have finally added a pitch to pair with his excellent fastball makes me think he’s just as likely a breakout option as some of his more expensive contemporaries.
Dylan Bundy – Another prospect that people got sick of waiting for. I wrote a bit about him in my SP/RP article for points leagues so I won’t go into too much detail here. The guy is a former top pitching prospect on a good team with good stuff. He was long considered a better prospect than Gaussman.
Jharel Cotton – There’s starting to be some hype in the fantasy industry with Cotton, but I think he’ll still go well below value in most leagues. This guy was a strikeout savant in the minors and showed nothing but excellence in his first stint in the majors. Pitching in spacious Oakland, I expect Cotton to be a solid contributor that shouldn’t cost much at all.
Michael Wacha – Pretty much every underlying statistic suggests that Wacha was almost the exact same pitcher in 2016 that he was in 2015. His velocity sat around where it has his entire career, and his FIP for each year is separated by a mere .04. This guy went from being overrated to being undrafted. Wacha was a top 25 pitcher just a year ago, and all signs point to the fact that he was just really unlucky. You can gain a lot of value here without spending much at all.
Francisco Liriano – For all the credit that the Pirates and their pitching coach, Ray Searage, get for fixing troubled arms… Francisco Liriano was quite a bit better after being traded; he had an ERA under 3.00 in his brief stint with the Jays and looked like vintage Liriano. He’s another former mainstay that is essentially going undrafted. The Jays have had a good track record with fixing other people’s broken toys as well (J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista).
Yasiel Puig – It wasn’t so long ago that we were talking about Puig as having a ceiling as high as anyone in the league not named Trout or Harper. He should be cheap and still possesses all the upside. I would still love for him to get a scenery change, but maybe this is the year he finally puts it together, or at least gets back to being a top-100 player. Even that would be a steal at the price you’d expect to pay.
Jorge Soler – He was billed as “the next Yasiel Puig”, but with more power. So far the only part that’s been true is the high level of disappointment. I don’t love the park shift to cavernous Kauffman, but the Royals are going to let him play. That’s got to be helpful to a guy who literally had trouble getting on the field with a stack Cubs squad. I like Soler as a dark horse to get 30 bombs, and the Royals are another team that generally seems to get more out of players.
David Peralta – This guy was a trendy pick last year, and he’s still the same guy; just ignore the stench of disappointment from all the injuries. He is going to be the D-Backs right fielder and is, at worst, in the strong side of the platoon. Chase is a launching pad, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Peralta crack into the top 25-30 outfielders if a few things break right.
Michael Conforto – The hype was out of control on this guy last year and he flopped terribly. I’d argue quite a bit of the blame goes to one of the worst managers in the league, Terry Collins. That said, Conforto is still a baby at 24 years old, and he still possesses elite contact skills combined with pop and plus defense. The fact that the Mets are playing Bruce at first base makes me think there’s still a chance that Conforto can still break out this year.
Mitch Haniger – He has become a bit of a sexy name this spring since the Seattle brass can’t stop gushing over him. Still, he could be a steal in a home league. He is a young talent that has a job on a good team and claims to want to steal some bases.
Wilson Ramos – The injury has made many forget about the fact that Ramos was arguably the best backstop last year. Having an elite catcher can really separate you from the competition, and this holds especially true in points leagues. I don’t love the shift to Tampa park, but he will be able to DH.
Ramos is definitely worth buying and stashing in a shallow league, and because of the injury I’d be shocked if he costs more than 1-2 bucks. I buy the LASIK narrative as well, so you could end up having an elite catcher by the middle of the season for your stretch and playoff runs.
Tom Murphy – He’s hurt right now but Murphy is another guy worth stashing since the catcher position sucks so bad. He has great power potential, and Coors Field has even made guys like Nick Hundley fantasy relevant. Unless Wolters runs away with the job, I think it’s worth stashing Murphy since he’s got the skill to be a stud.
Roto/Category Format Helpers
Corey Dickerson – Remember when he was more sought after in drafts than Charlie Blackmon? Times have changed, but he did hit 24 homers last year in 510 at bats. That, and no one else wants to draft him anymore. His current ADP on ESPN is 225 – that should translate into cheap as hell in auction.
Travis Shaw – Arguably the best nickname in baseball, “The Mayor of Ding Dong City.” He showed a lot of promise in the early part of last season with Boston before completely cratering. Still, Miller Park is an amazing place to go when you have his nickname. They should also play him every day since they aren’t likely to compete for much of anything this year. Shaw could be a nice cheap boon to your homer totals.
Joe Panik – Most of the underlying stats suggest 2016 was an unlucky year. He is a really cheap option to bring up your batting average in leagues where this matters. The Giants should be decent as well, so the counting stats shouldn’t be bad in a way where they hurt you.
Ben Revere – Another guy who had an unlucky, low BABIP year in 2016. It’s not clear if he will definitely win a starting job out of the spring, but worst case scenario – Cameron Maybin loves the DL; enough to leave his wife for it each year. Revere, on the other hand, was basically a lock for a .300 average and 30 swipes on an annual basis. If he can win a job, I love the late value here. He should score a lot too with Trout and Pujols behind him.
Jarrod Dyson – No one ever wants this guy because he is a flawed player. Still, he stole 30 bags last year in a mere 299 ABs. The Mariners seem committed to this defense first idea in the outfield. This means that Dyson is a legit threat to lead the league in steals. He has an ADP of 211 in ESPN leagues, so again… real stinking cheap in auction.
Travis Jankowski – You can basically take everything said about Dyson and apply it to Jankowski. He’s young and figures to be atop the lineup with fellow speedster, Manuel Margot. San Diego is likely to be the worst team in the league, so Jankowski should play barring injury. His ADP on ESPN is close to 300.
Brandon Moss – He is old and boring, just moved to another pitcher’s park, and I’d rather not own him. On the other hand, if you spent all your money on Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, etc.., it might be worth it to sneak a guy that hit 28 bombs last year onto your roster at practically no cost.
You should definitely give “Stars and Scrubs” a try if you never have before. It’s a lot of fun for shallow leagues. You don’t often get to build a roster with 3 or even 4 first round type talents on your team, so why not have some fun and give it a go. There’s plenty of value to be had later in the draft – not to mention waivers and prospect call ups during the season. Worst case scenario, you make some deals to round out your team. A few of the above players will likely help some folks win titles this year.
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