This past weekend I made my 19th annual pilgrimage to Tout Wars.
For the second straight year, it was a bittersweet event
after Steve Moyer’s passing last we lost my friend and former colleague back in
my Mastersball.com days, Lawr Michaels. I met Lawr at the Arizona Fall League
in 2000 and in 2001 we both participated in our first Tout Wars event in Steve
Moyer’s basement, in Bethlehem, PA. I always looked forward to seeing him and
catching up with him at events and certainly drafting against him, talking
about our families, discussing our Strat league and music. His presence was
missed even more so after having sat next to him at last year’s auction as we
chatted throughout it.
Ok, you came here for what, why, and the how of what I did. Overall, I am
reasonably pleased with the results.
Pre-Draft Strategy: After finishing last season, I am keen to
redeem myself. To that end I budgeted $180 to $190 on hitting with the
remainder on pitching with the idea that I would anchor my staff with an ace
and closer and to draft a corps of hitters that were balanced in categories
across the board. Mostly I just wanted to be patient and strike wherever I felt
bargains were to be found. I’ve found in recent years that prices on players
have been going higher than bid price more frequently and that even more
discipline is required to stay true to your game plan. I also, per usual, but
budgeted out my roster slots with the expectation that they would change and
vary depending on where I could unearth value.
Draft Day Results:
(Full Draft Day rosters can be found here.)
C: Mike Zunino $8
C: Jonathan LuCroy $7
1B: Edwin Encarnacion $24
2B: Dee Gordon $21
3B: Carlos Santana $25
SS: Jonathan Schoop $15
CI: Albert Pujols $5
MI: D.J. LeMahieu $9
OF: Aaron Hicks $23, Brett Gardner $15, Jacoby Jones $2, Willie Calhoun $1
UT: Nelson Cruz $25
Swing: Steve Pearce $3
Starters: Justin Verlander $36, Tyler Skaggs $9, CC.
Sabathia $3, Mike Minor $7, Jamie Barria $2, Gio Gonazalez $1, Adam Ottavino
$2, Blaine Hardy $3.
I didn’t purchase any players until the 21st player – Justin Verlander
was nominated, rostering him at $36 which I felt was right around value. In
retrospect, I could be have been more aggressive with my bids on Cole or Kluber
who went for $35 and $34 respectively earlier and saved myself a $1 or two if I
got to those numbers first, but on the other hand pitchers below this tier
ended up being pushed higher than expected with both Ian Snell and Trevor Bauer
hitting $30 and Jose Berrios hitting $25.
upshot of spending $36 on Verlander backed me off a bit on going over $20 on a
closer, though, spending $14 on Cody Allen. No closer is what I would define “a
rock of stability” and Allen heads into the season as the Angel’s closer though
I regret not having then highlighted $3 or so to target Buttrey later to lock
down the save situation there. Allen, at least, has saved no fewer than 24
games the last five seasons and is still posting strikeouts well more than 10
per nine innings pitched. His walk rates, however, were well out of context
with the rest of his career. Provided there is no hidden injury, I am banking
on him rebounding to his career norms and mid 3’s walk-rates. If that happens,
30 to 35 saves is very attainable. The only other reliever I selected was Adam
Ottavino who could have been a closer had he chosen to sign with a team looking
for one, but instead opted to join the Yankees to win and is now quite some
ways down on the pecking order despite his talents. He could still get a few
saves, but I am mostly here for the extra strikeouts and good ratios. Blaine
Hardy meanwhile will start the year in relief but was effective as a starter
and I selected him with the potential to pick up innings in a swing capacity.
came in to this draft budgeting $5 and $3 for my two catchers., but once the
early push for catchers and spending was over, they started to fall at
reasonable prices, and I rerouted $8 to Grab Mike Zunino who I would’ve gone as
high as $10 at the time on and Jonathan LuCroy at $8. While it is difficult to
get excited about either player, I do not have two empty roster slots thought
I’d be nice if either of these two gentlemen would make more consistent contact
or draw a few more walks.
The Sweet Spot: At
some point in every auction I tend to find a spot that seems me throw down
quite a bit of cash in a short period of time. It comes as I start to find some
bargains and players I have been waiting to be nominated finally come up. This
happened between nomination 73 and 78 4 of the six players nominated. By this
point I had decided that Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana would be my 1B/3B
combination and got them within moments of each other. Encarnacion I felt was a
several dollar bargain, so it let me go a $1 or so over what I thought I wanted
on Santana to secure the duo which I believe at the time were the last of the
$20+ rated corner players available at the time. I chased John Hicks within
that spot but couldn’t bring myself to go $7 on a part time player. I also
grabbed Tyler Skaggs at $9 (valued around $11) and Aaron Hicks at $23 (valued
around at $25). Both are players who enjoyed breakout seasons last year with
Skaggs having an elevated BABIP despite superior strikeout and control skills
and improvement to make him a $15 or more pitcher next year could be in the
works. Meanwhile, always blessed with good OBP skills, stayed healthy and
showed off his five-tools even though the 20-20 season once projected of him is
no longer going to happen.
Thoughts on Dee
I went on air on SXM Fantasy Sports Radio while on break from the draft and
thankfully I did as the draft board said I bought Justin Verlander at $38 and I
got that corrected before running into issues in the end game. I also got
heavily quizzed about Dee Gordon who I had just bought at $21 despite his OBP
struggles the previous season. I put my faith once again in career context in
this case. Gordon is still an elite base runner who puts the ball in play
frequently, but his 1.5% walk rate was less than half his career average and
he’s typically in the mid three-percent range. When he is healthy, his BABIP
which was .304 last year, is typically in the .340 to .350 range. If he does
indeed bat ninth, he’ll see fewer plate appearances, but 30-plus stolen bases
are still within his capabilities.
Tout Wars rules allow players to qualify at positions if they play at 15 or
more games. I had roughly around $15 to budget for my shortstop slot with
having taken D.J. LeMahieu for my middle infield spot already at $9, so I was
pleased to include Jonathan Schoop in my shortstop hunt and hopefully a fourth
year straight of 20-plus runs and another player whose BABIP was suppressed
compared to his career norms (.261 compared to .296 career) who could bounce
back given no other significant changes in hitting skills/stats from his
previous seasons. Willie Calhoun and JacCoby Jones were both low-cost options
on players with some upside. While Calhoun has no spot to play and will star
the year in Triple-A, he’s just an injury away form a starting job. Jones, meanwhile,
will be the Tiger’s opening day centerfielder. The 26-year old lacks plate
discipline, but power/speed skills that should justify the price tag alone, but
also remains fungible given the investment.
Pitching Bargains Begin
After the initial high-pricing of the pitching market, the prices on some pitchers began to come back to earth as I was particularly pleased to purchase Minor at $7 and Jamie Barria at $2 who I had pre-draft values of $12 and $6 on. Minor will once again be in the Rangers rotation showing swing and miss skills as well as above average control. His fly-ball ways in Arlington, however, hold him back from getting to the next level. Barria will be a full-season member of Angel’s rotation this year. Some regression will happen given his 82% left-on-base rate, but he still has inning eater potential.
Mark Canha – He’ll be in a backup role for the A’s. Drafted to serve as a
short-term Willie Calhoun replacement until someone better comes along though
to be fair Canha performed quite adequate in a part-time role with 17 homers
and a .328 OBP for the A’s last year and has the skills for a repeat or better
if called into service again.
Speaking of something better, I am hoping that Alex
Kirilloff is one of those things. One of the top outfield prospects in baseball,
Kirilloff is a left-handed hitter who can already hit for power and for average
at just 21 years of age. He’ll begin the year in Double-A. He’s the type of
talent that could move to the Majors if he does his part and his team is
contending and looking for some extra fire power.
I got by far the most grumbles for my drafting of Clay
Buchholz. He’ll start the season in extended spring training and is with an
organization in need of his talents. I am not expecting last year’s results,
but someone I can swap into the rotation to that could allow me to play whoever
is the hot hand.
My final selection was Sean Murphy. Perhaps the best
upper-level catching prospect now with Danny Jansen in a full-time job, I
thought it was wise to grab Murphy given the state of catching in the American
League. His plus glove and arm will get him to the big leauges, but he also
features good contact making skills and 15 to 20+ raw homerun power potential.
Not expecting that this season, but a good start at AAA could have him push
Nick Hundley out of the job.
To wrap things up I think I have a very competitive,
solid core of players. My lineup mostly consists of proven veterans and my
pitching is likewise similarly anchored that should keep me anchored. Last
year’s squad was not nearly as balanced statistically and incorporated a much
higher level of risk. This year, my odds of being competitive and challenging
for a possible title I believe are much better.