This weekend I had the honor and pleasure of once again competing in AL Tout Wars. This will be my twenty-third season and the first time we were able to draft in person since 2019, the year I finally took home a Tout title. It was wonderful not having to chance to hit that “+1 button” again and the wonders that would bring (hint, never use the +1 button, but I digress!).
Fantastic to see everyone at Tout Wars, old friends, and plenty of new people given the four-year in-person hiatus. It’s a bit strange as I came into Tout in 2001 as a 25-year-old, one of the youngest competitors in the league, and now I find myself at 48, my first Tout Wars having to wear reading glasses the entire time. But I digress again, if you’re reading this, you wanted to read about my thoughts on the courageous crew I have assembled.
The Budget: The object, of course, is $260 for 13 hitters, 9 pitchers, and a swing. I set my grid at $200 on the hitting side with little to no intention of using my swing for a pitcher and $60 for pitching. I rarely go over $30 on a single player, preferring to spread the risk, especially since others were pursuing aggressive stars and scrubs this year and preferred to stay out of those bidding wars. My budgets and roster slot budgeting are always flexible, moving as the market adjusts. In recent years I have found Tout Wars to behave much more like a local league’s draft with the ebb and flow of player pricing whereas, in some of my earlier years, it seemed like there was a little bit more stability with players going close to expected prices with greater frequency and fewer surprises. In other words, patience and looking for the times to buy and hold your money times is as important as always. You never want to be fighting with too much money on the table for the last good guy at a position.
Catcher: The duo of Danny Jansen ($13) and Logan O’Hoppe ($10). My original plan here was targeting the latter at the $9 to $11 price point and perhaps a second catcher in the same range. Catcher pricing went through the roof and Jansen, by comparison, was reasonably priced. Happy with my duo even if O’Hoppe may go down to AAA for a little while. Both offer OBP and power skills with upside. Jansen is the better defender between him and Kirk while O’Hoppe only faces journeyman types to claim the starting job.
Corners: Yandy Diaz ($18), Josh Jung ($11), Matt Chapman ($21).
Diaz’s plate appearances and OBP skills are worth every penning even with a slight regression in that category and even has some power upside from his 9 homers last year. Chapman was only my earliest buy, albeit at about full value. The steady, mid-prime player who like Diaz is much more exciting in an OBP league. This is good as buying Jung, even at a bargain at $11, may create a bit of an OBP hit. He was a patient hitter in his minor league career, but was far more aggressive in AAA and the majors over short samples last year.
Middle: Jose Altuve ($28), Christian Arroyo ($5), Andres Gimenez ($22).
Less than 12 hours later, this middle does not look as great as it once did with Altuve out until June. Wrist injuries can sap power for much longer than mere recovery and return to the Major’s time. He’s worthwhile enough to ride out than to redeem as FAAB, which will remain an option should I need it. Gimenez and Altuve were a specific focus on players with some pop and speed. Gimenez is more likely to have a slight bump in the road in his age 24-season than have another season of great strides but may have some steals upside even if his power regresses. For Arroyo, it is all about staying healthy and in the lineup. There’s a good double, low-teens HR power, .270 hitter in that skill set, waiting to come out. Room for profit here at $5.
Outfield/UT: George Springer ($26), Eugenio Suarez ($17), Hunter Dozier ($3), Joey Gallo ($13), AJ Pollock ($3), Alex Reyes ($1)
My outfield ended up a bit strange but in the context of combining it with my UT slots makes more sense as I used a $17 slot to grab Suarez at a bargain. Like others, I drafted a much more exciting OBP league player than a normal 5×5 layer with durability, OBP skills, and even some power upside beyond his 31 homers each of the last two years. I had a range of players in the mid to high twenties with Springer on the list and he came out later, after a good amount of money was off the table, chasing players above value. Another of my power/speed focus though there is more injury risk with him than with the other players I purchased. Gallo is another potential bargain who came out late in the auction and fell short of the projected price which I certainly wouldn’t have gone to myself, but feel more comfortable at this risk point hoping that he is one of the primary beneficiaries of the change in shift rules and perhaps get his batting over the Mendoza mark which in turn would make his OBP rosterable. This is a player who has batted under the Mendoza line and still produced well over .300 OBPs. Dozier, Pollock, and Reyes were all end-gamers to fill out my roster. Pollock and Reyes both have profit potential tied directly to their playing time. It is difficult to project Pollock for many at-bats, but since he’s favored to be the everyday DH and is coming off of a 527 plate appearance season last year, there’s some cause for optimism, especially in the BA/OBP department. Any SBs above 5 are gravy. Reyes was reassigned to minor league camp but given his latent speed potential and that his competition in the Majors is Akil Baddoo, he could work his way back, so he’s at least a decent reserve roster stash for now. Dozier was grabbed mostly because he qualifies at 1B/3B/OF this year in Tout (15 game minimum) and is still slated to be the Royals’ opening day 3B, a position the organization does not have ready depth from which to supplant him. Offensive expectations are not high, but worth $3.
Pitching: Alek Manoah ($22), Jordan Romano ($22), Pablo Lopez ($11), Brady Singer ($7) Martin Perez ($2), Marco Gonzales ($1), Ken Waldichuk ($2), Zack Greinke ($1), Dylan Coleman ($1)
I went into the draft with my preference for anchors at closer and starter and unintentionally it appears I’ll be rooting for the Jays this year. Knowing closers were going to go above value, I focused on landing one of the two (it’s always theoretical with closers) to give me a good starting point in saves and to use the free agent market or mid-season trades to acquire more. Both Romano and Manoah could regress a bit from last year but are still good foundational pieces. As noted, I went in with the $200/$60 split but like last year the pitching prices started dropping and there was simply more value to be found there in the hitting market at the same time, so I pushed over an extra $10, excited to grab Lopez and Singer potentially as bargains. This is a pitching staff designed to be streamed, not to be static, using Greinke, Singer, Perez, Gonzales, and Waldichuk on a rotating basis as I add more arms to the staff.
Reserve Round: John Means, David Fletcher, Sam Haggerty, Jordan Westburg
I’m treating John Means like a mid-season trade deadline pickup, hoping he comes back strong after the All-Star break, but costs me nothing, and will spend most of the year on the DL creating another open reserve spot for me to shuffle pitchers between my active and reserve roster. Fletcher, while he may no longer be starting and has difficulty staying healthy himself, at least fills Altuve’s spot, and provides some BA/OBP skills and a bit of speed until I can find a better option. Haggerty provides some speed and someone to rotate in if there are injuries at the MLB level that get him playing time. Adam Frazier is a one-year placeholder for the Orioles’ overflowing array of minor league middle infield prospects of which Westburg is at the top, so this is just an opportunity move in case Fraizer (or other infielders) is either injured or they move on from him sooner than expected.
Final Thoughts: Despite the loss of Altuve, I feel fairly comfortable with my offense’s foundation that it will be among the lead leaguers, though I’ll likely have to go hunting for more steals than originally thought. The pitching staff, like any other year, will be a constant work in progress though I’ve filled it with starters and should not hurt for wins and strikeouts and not having to crawl my way out of the bottom of the saves piles.