Category Archives: Tout Wars

AL Tout Wars 2017, A Draft Day Recap

Tout Wars 2017 – American League Recap

This past weekend I participated once again, alongside friends and industry colleagues, in Tout Wars, the AL version. I’ve been participating in Tout since 2001. This year marks my seventh time competing for the AL. The question is, of course, “will I finally take home the prize this year?” My initial take is, it’s going to be an interesting ride if I do.

Pre-draft strategy: In years past, I’ve gone heavier hitting with a budget of roughly $190 to $205 allocated with anywhere between $70 and $55 left for pitching. I’ve swung to a slightly more conservative allocation lately ($180/$80 at the start of draft day) and may be glad I did with multiple teams this year seeking to push the $190 mark on hitting. Every year I budget my players by slot and shift it on the fly on my spreadsheet as what is on my roster and what is in the player pool varies.

Player wise, I considered Justin Verlander as an anchor option in the mid-twenties, but then opted for a more spread-the-risk focus given the number of pitchers available in the teens range, with Kevin Gausman and Michael Fulmer amongst others drawing my attention. I also decided I would focus on one anchor-closer in the $16 to $19 range, a third starter or a second closer in the lower teens and fill in from there with innings.

On the general hitters’ front, I wanted to make sure I focused more on blending in speed. In years past I’ve loaded up on 4 out of the 5 categories, coming away from drafts well short in the stolen base categories.

Catchers
No one is all that enthused, well ever, at the catcher draft pool. (Maybe say: No one is ever enthused about the catcher draft pool.) I decided from the get-go I’d focus on Gattis and others in the mid-teens range and then fill in my second slot with an end-gamer. I had and continue to have little interest in going above value chasing catchers for the sake of having one.

The Rest of the Hitters
I was Very focused on Carlos Santana.  I had him budgeted for $25 in an OBP-based league as well as other members of the lower-twenties 1B class as possible candidates. For second base, third base, and short I plugged in low to mid-twenties for each of those slots. I then plugged in single digit to low teens figures for my middle infield and corner. For my outfield, I focused on one two outfielders in the twenties, one in the teens and the last in high single digits with a $1 or two left over for my UT and swing as hitters.

The Results
So here’s what I bought:

Catcher: Evan Gattis $16, Roberto Perez $2
I’ll admit I probably purchased Gattis a bit above where I wanted him, but on the same token, despite draft day values with respect to the possession, these players get chased above value in general as teams attempt to land someone viable and I was not willing to chase the likes of Mike Zunino, Yan Gomes, and son on. The fact that Gattis will spend extensive time not behind the plate is actually a plus given the wear and tear of the position. He’s not a tremendous OBP candidate but is one of the more reliable hitters at the position with four straight seasons of achieving 21 or more home runs. A more productive season in 2017 could even be in the cards as Gattis will not spend significant time in the minors getting ready to catch again and instead will spend the entirety of 2017, health-permitting, in the majors.

First Base: C.J. Cron $12
So things did not go according to plans here. Other first basemen went earlier and at higher prices than I desired and many other owners were hot on his tracks when he was finally nominated, eventually going a $1 above my budget. I couldn’t bring myself to say “$27”. As a result, there was not really anything left in the $20 range on the board. So I focused on Cron who I had in the mid-teens, shifted more money to my outfield budget, and was pleased to get Angel’s first basemen below my projected value especially since he may be in line for a greater number of plate appearance this year.

Second Base: Jason Kipnis $16
The Pricing of players I targeted like Jean Segura, Jose Ramirez, etc.  was more competitive and higher than I budgeted. We went to a break and I looked at what was left to spend money on. I had amongst the most, if not the most dollars to work with at the time and focused on several players. I weighted Kipnis’ start on the DL alongside the still fairly solid value I had him at given what else remained, put him on my list. (Last sentence is confusing in terms of grammar) Because I valued him in the low-twenties and he might only miss the first few weeks of the season, I felt $16 was a possible bargain as a power/modest speed threat still.

Third Base: Alex Bregman $20
Bregman was my true target after the break. I dislike targeting rookies and their inherent volatility, but he has strong fundamental skills with a quick/contact-making bat and 20-plus homerun potential. The $20 I spent is technically “under projected value”, but this is definitely a purchase well into his risk above minimum expectations. Much of my success is going to bank on his sophomore season.

Shortstop: Didi Gregorius $6
My other target after that break was Brad Miller and would’ve gone as high as $18.  I lost out to Lawr a second time who was willing to hit $19. After losing out, I shifted yet more money to my outfield and decided to take a chance on Didi Gregorius. Whether or not he’ll have a job when he returns from the DL remains to be seen, but for now, the Yankees are filling in with utility types and not top prospect Gleyber Torres. Prior to the injury, Gregorius was valued into the mid-teens, if not higher and I still had him in the low-teens despite the injury. Taking him at all is a risk, but at $6, with a return as soon as late April or early May, I thought I had him at a price that could ultimately be an easy return on investment, shoulder permitting.

Middle Infield: Jef Lowrie $1
End-game. It was him or J.J. Hardy. This made me instantly put Franklin Barreto at the top of my list for the reserve round draft.

Corner Infield: Pablo Sandoval $7
I was prepared to go higher and happy to land him at this price. The thinner version of the Panda is having a great spring and has the job locked in. At 30 years of age, a rebound to his pre-2015 levels I feel is extremely reasonable. I have been targeting him in all my leagues this year since he’s going below my projected values. He’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Outfielders & Swing: Jose Bautista $26, Jarrod Dyson $17, Carlos Gomez $19, Steven Souza $9, Lorenzo Cain $20

Bautista has been going under value in many leagues, but his power remains as is his value as an OBP player. I had a slot slated for $26 and had him valued at $27. As for Jarrod Dyson, I was noticing that the bidding on speed-merchants was Luke-warm. I wanted to avoid my under-purchasing of speed in previous years, so I went in at $17 to nab him. In theory this is below value given the steals, but I’ve never been a fan of the other skills. I’ll just cross my fingers and hope he still achieves a career high in plate appearances (369 is that high to date). I went after Gomez on similar precedent (what does this mean?) of the Luke-warm/risk adverse bidding when he came up. Again, he is another player I had valued at over $20, but a high risk $20. A healthy Gomez can still get to the mid-teens HRs and the 20-steal range to earn $19. He is still only 31-years old. In theory, he might still have a rebound or two left. Lorenzo Cain is coming off of an injury, but I feel far more confident in his skill set which has stabilized in recent years and thought he was a bargain at $20. Again, he was among the players I targeted for my budget coming off of that break. If nothing else, I have leverage in speed now to trade for other needs. Souza is yet another player with some power/speed skills and dealt with injuries last year. He is an OBP risk given his titanic strikeout rates, but again a possible bargain at $9.

Utility: Kennys Vargas $3
I should have nominated him at $1 and let someone else grab him. He may not make the opening day roster and is dealing with an ill-timed spring injury.

Pitchers: Carlos Carrasco $20, Michael Fulmer $15, Joe Musgrove $7, Carlos Rodon $6, Steven Wright $4, Lucas Giolito $2, Sam Dyson $11, Mychal Givens $2, Kelvin Herrera $19.

Jeff Erickson nominated Herrera as the second nomination at $17. I had him at around $19 and bid $18 when it seemed he might get crickets on it. This is a budget slot filled at  $1 less than I had budgeted, letting me use those funds elsewhere. My first starting pitching grab of Fulmer at $15 was right on target with my plan. Going after Carlos Carrasco, coming off an injury, was off plan when I really was focused on guys like Gausman, Porcello, Hamels, and Sanchez in the mid-teens. If healthy, Carrasco has the skills to earn that value, but we’re talking about a pitcher who has made 30 starts just once and has never thrown more than 183.2 innings. I’m probably buying into too much risk here. For my low-teens slot, I had Musgrove as one my favorite options and was pleased to land him at $7. His stuff, command and bat-missing abilities will have him in the earlier group in the mid-teens or higher next year. The budget savings let me go grab Sam Dyson as a second closer for $11. I know he has other pitchers breathing down his neck for the closer job. His value could very well come down to his management’s patience if he has a bad outing in a row or three.

As I approached the later rounds, I still had only three starters. After last years’ experience of quickly losing two of my five starting pitchers drafted, which in turn quickly sabotaged my season, I wanted to add some more innings. Carlos Rodon was possibly above value especially given that he may begin 2017 on the DL and has some talented arms coming up through the system behind him. Still, he has filthy stuff and his command is improving. Failure or a breakout are both potential outcomes here. Knuckleballer Steven Wright pitched well until injury and then proceeded to get hit hard. The Red Sox added to their depth with the Chris Sale addition, so it remains to be seen how long or how many starts Wright will receive. He could return a profit on his price especially if Price’s injury is more severe or Drew Pomeranz scuffles. I purchased Givens early on as a roster filler as a possible Zach Britton backup and a high-strikeout arm when he was nominated by Glen Colton and Rick Wolf. He’s worth more than $2 to be sure. My final grab, given a dearth of talent at the Major League level, was a speculative play in advance of the reserve round in the form of Lucas Giolito. Reynaldo Lopez may have been a better selection here given his greater experience and the possibility he may get recalled from the minors more quickly, but Giolito is the higher rated prospect with more upside and will get his chance too.

Reserve Roster: Franklin Barreto, Matt Davidson, Yovani Gallardo, Ronald Torreyes
Barreto, especially given Lowrie’s injury history, has a very good chance at a mid-season call-up. A quick adjustment to the majors could make him a game-changer for my season with his blend of tools and skills. Davidson, if he makes the roster for the White Sox, could be an option for my lineup if Vargas fails to make the Twins. Gallardo could fill in some innings for Rodon. If his shoulder is healthy, a rebound is possible, but on the other hand, I would not mind in the least if he didn’t have to touch my roster unless he showed some signs of life first. With Gregorius out, Torreyes was nabbed to bridge the gap.

Wrapping Up
Things ended up going quite a bit differently than I planned and I even ended up moving more dollars towards the pitching side with a final 175/85 split. I often focus on making sure I get the at-bats and eschew risk-taking, but this year I embraced it instead. I think I have built a team that could certainly compete at a high level or implodes in spectacular fashion. Given the lack of trading in Tout, however, the risks you take that pan out may be the ones that win you the league. I’ll take the risk.

 

 

 

Travis Shaw, Red Sox Starting Third Basemen

It was announced today that Travis Shaw will enter the season as the Boston Red Sox’s starting third basemen sending Pablo Sandoval to back-up 3B/1B/pinch-hitting role. So what, you may ask, are the odds of this move actually sticking? Is Shaw a legitimate starter and can he prevail against major league pitching? What is the opportunity cost of not playing Sandoval?

Well, first and foremost, the number one reason Shaw was selected over Sandoval was for his defensive skills. Shaw came up as a first basemen and was considered plus for the position. Shaw played third base in college and has a good glove and throwing arm, but a somewhat limited range which was of course the reason he moved to first base as a professional. Be that as it may, he still has the greater range compared to Sandoval who has ranked as one of the worst defensive third basemen in baseball.

Offensively, Sandoval at only 29 years of age already appears to be post peak. The switch-hitter remains an aggressive, contact-oriented hitter who has struck out around 13% of the time over his career, but who has also swung well above the league average on balls outside the strike zone throughout his career. Of concern, last year was Sandoval’s increasing tendency towards becoming a ground ball hitter which may place a cap on his power production and ability to hit for average. The groundball rate of nearly 50% represents a substantial jump from the previous season and so could be an outlier, but it remains to be seen whether or not it is the beginning of an unwelcome trend. In other words, despite his substantial contract, having the Red Sox play a sub-par defensive 3B with limited power and on-base skills that may be more of a detriment to the team than a positive seems reason enough to at least give another player a chance.

Enter Travis Shaw. As I have mentioned, while he is an adequate defender at third, he still represents a substantial upgrade at the position. On the hitting side of things, Shaw has demonstrated greater power with 18 home runs combined between Triple-A and the Majors. The lefty is a fly-ball hitter who has consistently demonstrated average power, hitting 19 homers in 2012 followed by two straight seasons of twenty-one home run campaigns in 2013 and 2014. Shaw’s power production has been considered average and not the outstanding variety typically coveted for starting first basemen in the majors, but if he can handle third base over the course of the season, his power would profile far better there.

Earlier in his career, Shaw demonstrated above-average control of the strike zone but since reaching AAA has become less passive with walk rates dropping from around 14% to the 8% mark and just 7.3% of his time in the majors last year. Not surprisingly his strikeout rates have gone up correspondingly though they translated well to the majors and have not spiked upwards further though it remains to be seen what they do over a larger sample.

The overall combination of power and plate discipline skill suggests Shaw could be an average regular, capable of hitting in the .250s to .270s with upper-teens to low-twenties homerun power. In other words, if he can achieve that level while playing superior defense to Sandoval he should, in theory, be able to hold off the competition. Any ability on Shaw’s part to reassert some control of the strike zone would only help to further entrench him and reduce the chances of him being a streak hitter. At the moment, Shaw’s skill set does suggest he could endure some peaks and valleys which could potentially reopen the door for the well-paid Sandoval. Fortunately, in most leagues, up until this announcement Shaw was available at a discount or in reserve rounds, making the risk of investment low while providing plenty a good amount of room for possible profit. Considering I selected him as  my first pick in the reserve round of AL Tout Wars as a result of purchasing A.J. Reed at auction, I certainly hope so!

2016 AL Tout Wars Recap

This past weekend I enjoyed my annual tradition of participating in two AL-only auctions in two days in NY, NY. While I may love my local league, if you’ve surfed over here, you’ve come to hear more about my AL Tout Wars team. This was my sixteenth Tout Wars draft, my sixth in the American League after 10 years in the National League.

AL Tout Wars
AL Tout Wars – The Fish Bowl

For the full results, you can go here: http://tinyurl.com/j6xst2p.

Pre-Draft: My pre-draft focus was on full-time at-bats. In particular, I targeted at bats those from players with well-established baselines with the idea that I would probably spend between 75% and 80% of my budget on hitting. my pitching would involve purchasing an anchor starter and an established closer closer and filling in my staff around that. I also decided that I’d prefer not to go above $29 for any single player and spread the risk a bit.

So how’d that go, Rob? Well, I spent 67% on hitting and ended up with a pretty traditional team. I am not sure if I recall a Tout draft where there was this aggressive, some might call unrestrained, bidding on hitting.  So, I changed things up as I often do mid-draft, readjusting my individual roster slot goals on the fly on my spreadsheet.  To be honest, this was nudged a bit when I nominated Shawn Tolleson at a price of $14 and received crickets. I’m perfectly fine with this price considering I had him valued a few dollars higher, but with Chad Allen already rostered at $20, this forced my hand away from my pre-draft budget targets.

The Players: Catchers: James McCann ($8) and Kurt Suzuki ($2) – The catching market being slim, I decided to go with two who at least would not hurt me.

First Base: Albert Pujols ($19) – Despite being in the decline phase of his career, Pujols is still durable and coming off of a 40 home run campaign. I purchased him at that price with the idea that he provide at least 25 home runs and that his batting average on balls in play wouldshift back towards his career norms and provide a slightly better OBP.

Second Base: Brian Dozier ($24) – While I can’t expect much more than .315 to .320 OBP, I drafted him for legitimate mid-twenties home run power. His speed skills indicate that his decline in stolen bases was more the result of a decline in opportunities rather than the decline of his raw speed.  Maintaining double-digit steals should at least not be an issue and a return to a slightly higher level might even be reasonable.

Third Base: Kyle Seager ($22) – If you are looking for consistent, boring production from a player amidst his peak, Seager is a clear target. I was pleased to get both Dozier and Seager right at about at value.

Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons ($5) – Not much upside here unless he reverses the ground-ball trend, but his glove ensures consistent at-bats.

Corner: A.J. Reed ($3) – I like to take at least one risk of this nature each time in Tout. He’ll start the year in AAA and could push his way into a starting job by mid-season, depending on the success of others on the depth charts. Given his skill set, I believe he’ll exceed the value drafted, provided the Astros give him the opportunity. Needless to say, finding a back-up for him in the reserve round quickly became my top priority there.

Middle Infield: Chris Coghlan ($5) – I had Coghlan as one of my pre-draft targets. Tout Wars rules allow for 15 games to be the minimum position qualifier rather than the standard twenty, so his power/speed/OBP combination along with his aforementioned versatility and the A’s intent to get him in the lineup regularly, I’m hoping this is a solid bargain.

Outfielders: Nelson Cruz ($26), Kevin Pillar ($18), Melky Cabrera ($12), Carlos Beltran ($12), Seth Smith ($5)

I admit to going slightly overboard on Cruz and Pillar, though I still believe in both players’ ability to produce this season. Cruz’s salary may have been better spent on a speed source or someone with a broader base of skills. The Pillar purchase came as a direct result of me chasing for speed when he was one of the few remaining starters with that talent. The Jays will be using him as a leadoff hitter which in theory could push him towards 30 steals this season, but it remains to be seen how long they’ll keep him there considering his tendency towards poor walk rates. His combination of gap power, speed, and contact skills, at least, gives hope that he is capable of at least repeating last year’s output. The days of Beltran and Cabrera supplying much in the way of stolen bases is long gone, but both again fit my fairly low-risk, get at-bats strategy at reasonable purchase prices as did Seth Smith and Victor Martinez.

In review, this is a roster full of players I am hoping will have one last hurrah. Pujols, Beltran, Martinez, and Cruz are all near the end of their respective careers but continue to display competitive skills. This team will sink or swim depending on whether or not these players decide to show their age.

Starters: Felix Hernandez ($22), Masahiro Tanaka ($17), Andrew Heaney ($3), Chris Bassitt ($3), Anibal Sanchez ($1), Eduardo Rodriguez ($2), Derek Holland ($2)

When targeting my anchor, I did not have Felix Hernandez in mind, having him valued perhaps a bit higher than I intended to spend. I was pleasantly surprised to have him at $22. Yes, the thirty-year-old showed some signs of decline with a drop off to an  8.5 K/9, his highest walk rate since 2011, and his highest ERA since 2008. The right-hander stilll has an otherwise strong skill set going forward and there is hope for improvement given the anomaly that was his home run rate on fly balls from last season. I saved some of my risk for the pitching side, obtaining upside pitchers like Heaney and Rodriguez for a combined $5. Their health and emergence as rotation members will be critical components of my team, but on the same token at just $5 they are both easy to move on from if they fail instead.

Relievers: Cody Allen ($20), Shawn Tolleson ($14) – It is possible I could lead the league in saves this year,. It is, however, more likely that I’ll try to get off to an early lead here and then trade one of the two for other needs, content to tread water in the saves category thereafter.

Bench: Travis Shaw, Aaron Judge, Richie Shaffer, Joakim Soria
Shaw and Judge are both insurance policies. Shaw will go into my lineup immediately to replace A.J. Reed. Should he somehow beat Pablo Sandoval out for the Red Sox’s third base job that will be gravy. He still looks likely to eclipse 300 plate appearances as a super-sub. Judge will be 2016 in AAA and his power bat could push his way into the Yankee’s lineup later this season. In theory, he offers additional trade leverage, plugging his power into my lineup while allowing for me to trade a veteran power bat for another need. Shaffer offers similar potential to Shaw, but perhaps less opportunity at the moment. Soria will go immediately into my active roster to replace an injured Rodriguez or Sanchez.

Kiss of Death?
So the rosters have just been entered into our stats service at onroto.com which has a “toy box” feature that includes two separate projection systems that project the final standings. Apparently these systems like what I did, positioning me at either first or second place.  Is this a kiss of death or are my chances this good? My sense is it’s a bit of both. My team is so veteran-hitting deep, that most projection systems are comfortable regressing and/or hedging projections for these players to a certain level without expecting failure. We’ll find out if they and my own assessments were correct. What do you think?