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$1 Auction Draft Targets (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

Fantasy sports keep growing in popularity, and we continue to see fantasy leagues expanding into different formats. While fantasy baseball leagues were dominated by your standard redraft rotisserie format years ago, there are now many different formats with an endless amount of scoring settings. And in addition to how we are scoring and scheduling these leagues, fantasy sports enthusiasts are also changing the way in which the teams themselves are drafted or created.

I grew up with standard formats, but I have fallen in love with other formats in recent years. One of my favorites is the Auction Draft because of how much more strategy it involves and incorporates. With auctions, you aren’t tied to your draft position and luck. You can determine your prices for players and then go head-to-head with your league-mates during the auction to get your guys, find your bargains, and even drive up the prices of players you might not necessarily want. The auction format is where fantasy baseball goes from checkers to chess.

But anyone can spend $50 on Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto. The real beauty of auctions is finding value in the bargain bin, especially the “free” $1 players. In this space, we’ll take a look at some of the best $1 auction draft targets for 2021.

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Jesus Aguilar (1B/DH – MIA)
In 2018, Aguilar broke out with 35 home runs, 108 RBI, and a .274 batting average in 149 games. In 2019, he came back down to Earth with 12 home runs and a .236 average through 131 games. But in 2020, Aguilar looked more like the 2018 version than the 2019 one, batting .277 with eight home runs in 51 games. You wouldn’t want to gamble on Aguilar too early in standard redraft leagues, but for $1 in an auction? With first base particularly thin in 2021, Aguilar is the kind of gamble that has little risk. If you get him for a dollar and he flops, you have lost nothing. But if he bounces back with 25 home runs and a .260 average, then you have yourself a valuable role player that you got for nothing.

Austin Nola (C/1B/2B – SD)
I don’t really care about the eligibility here because I have no interest in playing Nola anywhere but catcher. But the $1 bargain bin is where you are going to find me looking for catchers every year. I don’t like to pay for this position, and I rarely regret it. Nola should be the full-time starter in a deep lineup, and he could easily play 100 games, hit 10 home runs, bat .250, and combine to score and drive in 100 runs. That’s all I really need out of my catcher. And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll move on and find a replacement(s) on the waiver wire.

Cesar Hernandez (2B – CLE)
Cesar Hernandez has been a favorite of mine for a few years now, especially in deeper leagues. He won’t light things up across the board, and his days of stealing 15+ bases are probably in the past, but he is the kind of “safe” bat that I like to have as an option at the bottom of my roster. Hernandez is penciled in as the leadoff hitter in Cleveland again this season, and he should bat around .270, hit 10 home runs, steal five or more bases, and could score 75 runs and drive in 50 more. None of that is particularly sexy, but he’s my safety net for some of my bigger swings that may not work out.

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Robbie Ray (SP – TOR)
Did that dark blue in the chart above jump out at you when you looked at it? Those strikeouts are the upside with Robbie Ray. The downside has always been a high WHIP and a volatile ERA, especially in 2020. But strikeouts are more important than ever in fantasy, and they can be hard to come by in later rounds or for lower dollar amounts. If Ray didn’t come with some risk, he wouldn’t be a dollar. But when it comes to rolling the dice on $1 players, Ray is the kind of boom-or-bust gamble that I am willing to take.

Elieser Hernandez (SP – MIA)
After two largely unimpressive cameos in the big leagues in 2018 and 2019, Hernandez looked much better in 25 2/3 innings in 2020. Granted, it’s obviously a small sample size, but he continued to display his swing-and-miss stuff while cutting down on the walks. He isn’t going to post an 11.92 K/9 over a full season, but he could easily flirt with 10.0 if he stays healthy. The projections for his innings are all over the place, which helps explain the discount. But if he can make it to 150 innings, he has the potential to put up 175 strikeouts. Getting to those innings could be the hard part, but that’s why he’s in the dollar bin.

Amir Garrett (RP – CIN)
Garrett is in line to close in Cincinnati, though that isn’t a lock right now. If it was, he wouldn’t be only $1. And even as things stand right now, he’ll probably go for more than $1 in many mixed league formats. But with so many closer situations murky around the league, it pays to project and grab guys early if your draft allows for it. Garrett was his best self in the shortened 2020 season, striking out 12.76 batters per nine innings and cutting his WHIP down to 0.93 from his career number that was above 1.40. Is that sustainable over a full year? No, probably not. But Garrett offers strikeouts and saves, and shouldn’t kill you on ERA. If your league drafts before some of his closer situations become clearer, take Garrett for a dollar and don’t think twice about it.

Seth Lugo (SP/RP – NYM)
Lugo is eligible at both SP and RP, which is valuable in some formats. He doesn’t have a clear role with the Mets right now, and he won’t even start throwing until the end of March after having a loose body removed from his elbow. He appeared in 16 games in 2020, starting six of them, and his ERA was 5.15. That all sounds great, right? It’s messy, I know. The Mets, in my opinion, have botched their handling of Lugo. He was excellent as their closer, but they invested in Edwin Diaz and essentially forced the job back to him. Lugo has been effective as both a starter and a swingman in the past, but the bullpen is where he has thrived. And if Diaz falters again, Lugo could once again be in line for some ninth-inning work. And for $1, I’m willing to grab him and stash him and find out.

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If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.

Mike Maher is an editor and featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive, follow him on Twitter @MikeMaherand visit his Philadelphia Eagles blogThe Birds Blitz.

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