ottoneu Hot Right Now: Opening Day Auctions

Another year has begun and, as always, ottoneu players are actively working the free agent pool, searching for that missing piece that can put them over the top. Or maybe we are all just busy trying to find replacements for those guys we really didn’t want but got stuck with at the auction.

With the auction-wire red hot right now, I thought I’d take a look at the six players who are in the most active auctions at the moment.

There are basically three pairs of players atop the auctions list at the moment: The Opening Day Heros, the Late Additions, and the Guys Who I Just Can’t Explain.

Opening Day Heros: Justin Maxwell and Collin Cowgill
When the year starts and everyone is looking for the next big star – who is the Jose Bautista for 2013? And one way you can get yourself on the shortlist is by putting up a big opening day. Under the bright lights of a nationally televised opener, Justin Maxwell smacked a couple triples, scored a pair of runs, and drove in two more. And sure enough, he is in more than twice as many auctions as any other player right now. Maxwell is actually a guy I have plugged before (although under the radar, in the comment thread here). Maxwell is an ideal candidate for an ottoneu bench spot because of his heavy platoon splits. Last year against lefties he was a stud, putting up a .385 wOBA, compared to an anemic .299 vs. righties. Sure enough, he faced a southpaw on opening day and battered Matt Harrison all over the park. The key with Maxwell is that you have to know what you are getting – the small side of a platoon. If you save him for those days he faces left-handers, you will get elite stats out of him in those PA. Just keep him on the bench otherwise.

Cowgill didn’t get the first HR of the year, but he did hit 2013’s first grand slam, and tagged on a double and a second run scored for good measure. Suddenly he finds himself as one of the most popular adds in ottoneu. David Wiers looks particularly prescient today after giving Cowgill some love in the Opening Day Roto Riteup and his advice there is spot on. Don’t let the big power day fool you, Cowgill is not a threat to go Brady Anderson on us, but if he can get playing time, he can provide decent numbers as an end-of-the-OF option.

Late Additions: Patrick Corbin and Brandon Maurer
As Spring Training winds down, every team makes their final cuts and decisions, and often one of those decisions is who has won the fifth starter designation. Often this is not a player you want to run out and grab, but Corbin and Maurer are a bit different. They are both prospects who beat out a combination of other youngsters and grizzled vets to grab those last slots. Because neither is considered a top tier prospect, they were unlikely to garner much attention in the auction, even as their Minor-League-bound teammates Tyler Skaggs, Taijuan Walker, and Danny Hultzen were gobbled up by pitching-hungry owners in all formats.

But opportunity is everything and these two have opportunity. Maurer’s big question marks have always been around health, and so as long as he stays in the rotation and gets to pitch in the not-so-cozy Safeco Field, he is worth a look. His minor league numbers are quite good – but all come at or below Double-A, so they are to be taken with a larger-than-normal grain of salt.

Corbin, meanwhile, put up a 4.00 FIP in just over 100 innings of MLB work last year, and outpitched the more highly-touted Skaggs to snag the last spot in the Diamondbacks rotation. If he can bring up his K% (and his Minor League numbers say that could happen) and bring down his HR/9, he could prove to be a solid option at the back end of a fantasy rotation.

Guys Who I Just Can’t Explain: Paul Maholm and Will Venable
It isn’t that I can’t see why an owner would want Maholm or Venable, it’s just that I can’t see what has spiked their popularity to Cowgillian levels right now. Maholm’s name has been written in ink in the Braves rotation for quite a while now, and that whole time we have been well aware of what the uber-steady Maholm (FIP between 3.78 and 4.15 five years running, including 4.00 last year) brings to the table – namely few K’s, fewer BB’s, a lot of ground balls, a likely solid ERA and a likely mediocre WHIP. We’ve also know that whole time that he would likely get plenty of wins with a solid lineup behind him.

So why did he suddenly jump up? My best guess is that consistency has more value as we get closer to opening day. All off season we dream on the upside, but now that the season is here, we need production – Maholm doesn’t provide much to dream on, but you know what you are getting every fifth day.

Venable seems to be a guy who should have already been owned. Guys who provide 20+ steals with double digit HR potential and solid rate stats typically don’t wait around until the season starts. Unlike Maholm, I don’t think Venable got a sudden boost from newly-risk-averse owners. Actually, I don’t have a good explanation. If you need speed with a bit of pop from a 4th or 5th outfielder, bid away on Venable. And if you have a good explanation for his sudden popularity – let me know!

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Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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maholm jumped because olney had him on a “guys to target in fantasy baseball” list