Category Archives: Expert League

AL Tout Wars ’23 Recap

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.

TGFBI 2020 – Day Two

TGFBI 2020We hope you enjoyed our first day of TGFBI coverage and analysis and that you’ll stay with us as we continue our trek into the thirty-round wilderness of this league! Kevin and I both appear to be in some of the slower leagues, but that means more time for us to take a close look at a few players as opposed to many at once every day!

Rob’s Day Two PicksLeague 16 Live Draft Board

3:44 – Charlie Blackmon – Colorado – OF
4:47 – Jose Altuve – Houston – 2B

Tales of my deviation towards risk and away from boring reliability were overblown. In fact, if I had not taken Altuve, I might have gone with another aging hurler in Zack Greinke. Yawn, boring, old. Get used to it, its how I draft.

Anyway, I’d been focusing upon the possibility that Blackmon would slip to me about nine or so picks in advance. Blackmon no longer can be counted upon to steal, but even without that aspect of his game (10 stolen bases would be bonus value at this point) his other skills still make him worthy of this pick. Like Arenado, Blackmon is a power hitter who does not have to sell out in order to get it, continuing to be an above-average contact hitter presenting continued .300+ batting average potential who has hit no fewer than 29 homers the last four seasons and has not fallen below 648 plate appearances since 2013. Again, building that foundation.

Clayton Kershaw and Manny Machado were the next two picks leaving the player still at the top of my board, Joss Altuve, available. I already own two Astros, so you can see I’m not letting the scandal color my choices especially since the home/road splits didn’t appear to have a significant impact on Altuve in 2019. That said, some homerun regression is to be expected, possibly to the mid to lower-twenties. His speed scores indicate he still has a motor and while he may not be a twenty-plus stolen-base threat anymore, he’s still able to leg out plenty of groundballs. At this price point/draft pick, I’m paying for about 10 or fewer steals, so again like Blackmon, any unexpected return to form in the speed game will be a bonus.

Kevin’s Day Two PicksLeague 26 Live Draft Board

Pick 3.43 – OF Charlie Blackmon – COL
Pick 4.48 – 2B Whit Merrifield –  KC

Continuing my early theme of predictable and consistent, I went with Blackmon with my third-round pick.  Heading into the pick, I had narrowed my choices down to Blackman, Meadows, Springer or Villar. With Altuve, Villar, and Merrifield still possibly available to give me some speed at my next pick just 5 picks away, I decided to grab my first outfielder here. I love what the kid Meadows can bring across the board and Springer’s power explosion had my attention if he can stay on the field. But in the end, Blackmon was my selection. Yes, his speed is gone but that simply makes him a four-category contributor instead – a proven veteran one at that. His expected .310+ batting average goes well alongside my second-round pick Freeman. Blackmon’s 3-year average of 33 HR, 87 RBI, and 123 run numbers check a lot of fantasy boxes this early in the draft. If Blackmon were to get moved to another team, this pick will most likely be devalued some, but I am thinking he will remain at Coors all season, where he batted an insane .379-22-51 with 66 runs last season. Just like my pick of Freeman, Blackmon is a “set it and forget it” type player within my roster foundation build. I just need to convince GM Jeff Bridich to keep both Blackmon and Arenado at home in the Rockies for the entire 2020 season.

Ever have one of those fantasy moments where you have everything lined up perfectly and then, in the blink of an eye, your draft queue is blank? I had that moment times four when my fourth-round pick rolled around. As stated within my Blackmon writeup, I was targeting one of Villar, Altuve or Merrifield for my fourth-round pick. If Meadows or Springer fell to me, I would consider them as well. I had those five names on my queue for my pick five picks away – cruise control autodraft if you will. By the time my next pick rolled around, four of the five players in my queue were gone, leaving Merrifield as the lone member of my queue. A tip of the cap to the two owners after me with two great picks each at the turn. Ah, fantasy baseball… I love and hate you all at once. I used my pick on Merrifield, which is not a consolation prize to me at all. In keeping with the high BA theme of my draft, Merrifield hopefully brings yet another potential .300+ BA to my team.  And if he were to approach the level of steals from two years ago, he’s a steal at this point (Dad joke type pun intended and no I am not drinking). But realistically, If Merrifield can give me .290-20-60-25 numbers, I’m good. I’ve never been a fan of the SB category, but it is what it is, and Merrifield is my first stab of slowly accumulating SBs, while also helping across the board as well. Good solid pick and my second base slot are now filled.

Parting Thoughts
Kevin and I were playing in the same league last time around in the TGFBI and it is now coming back to me that Kevin was distinctly calling me out (and vice versa) for liking the same guys and that continues to be the case . We’re both pretty pleased to have Blackmon in the late third round and believe it to potentially be a slightly discounted value.

TGFBI 2020 – Day One

The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational League Draft (or TGFBI) has begun. It consists of about 380 participants in 26 15-team, NFBC-style, mixed leagues. This is my third season of participation and after doing reasonably well my first go around, it’s time to bounce back from my disappointing 2019 TGFBI finish.

Given the popularity of this style of the league, we will be providing daily updates on the progress of this draft and analysis of our picks. And I do mean “we” and “ours” in more than the “royal we” way as Kevin Daly will be joining me. Kevin’s been writing fantasy baseball for over twenty years for a variety of sites in a freelance capacity and was part of my team in the late nineteen nineties/early 2000s before there was such a thing as apps, the NFBC, and smartphones.

I am participating in TGFBI League 16 and Kevin is in League 26 as seen below with our draft slots.

The two of us have very similar picks at the 14:2 slot and 13:3 slots respectively so it will be interesting to see contrast and compare how we handle our draft positions.

Live Public Draft Board Links – League 16 (Rob) and League 26 (Kevin). (Links to the other twenty-four leagues can be found here @

Rob’s Day One Picks

My league went pretty much as expected until pick eleven where I was not expecting any of those first ten players to fall to the fourteenth pick. After many pre-draft mocks, I envisioned scenarios where Nolan Arenado, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Jose Ramirez would all be available. After drafting Ramirez in the first round last year, even though I strongly believe all the skills and talent are there for a strong rebound, it would have been difficult for me to pass on him. That decision was taken out of my hands as Arenado, who had valued a tad higher regardless fell and made my choice simple.

Pick 1:14 – 3B Nolan Arenado – COL
Despite the rumors, Arenado is remaining in Colorado at least for now and is signed through 2026 with an out-clause after next season. This and my second pick were based on laying a solid foundation for my team. So no shock, no surprises. Arenado has received close to 700 plate appearances four-seasons running with a homerun production track-record in the high-thirties ot low-forties over that time. The righty is a highly-disciplined hitter with a quick bat and line-drive/fly-ball skills that remain consistent. A dip in fly-ball percentage in 2018 gave a minor scare, but now stands out as an outlier in the context of his career. If a deal does happen this year, there are some career home/road splits that creep up, but only do so in the batting average department though not in his righty/lefty split.

Pick 2:17 SP Justin Verlander – HOU
I was rather tempted here to go with a two-hitter starting to my draft, particularly Starling Marte for his broad base of power/speed/batting average. Other considerations were Freddy Freeman and J.D. Martinez. However, after not locking down an ace early on last season and seeing Verlander slip out of the first round and was the highest value player on my board at the time, I decided to set my pitching foundation. The biggest concern here is age as Verlander will be playing at age 37, albeit a year removed from a three-hundred strikeout performance and it has now been five seasons since Verlander’s 2014 season when we thought the end was at hand. Verlander has now raised his game to not just have above average, but elite control with sub 2.0 BB/9 the past two seasons. While I am not expecting another .218 his 2019 16% HR/FB was also an outlier to a skill set that does not point to his imminent decline. I’m banking on at least one more year in the sun.

Kevin’s Day One Picks

Pick 1.13 – SP Max Scherzer – WAS
Trout, Acuna, Yelich, Bellinger, Betts, Lindor, Cole

One by one, the usual suspects went off our TGFBI draft board in the first round as though we as a league had practiced such. The top 5 position players all in a row to start us off, followed by arguably the best pitcher in Cole. Like clockwork, leaving me waiting patiently for my pick number 13 overall.

Then selections of deGrom, Turner, Story, Soto, Verlander. Our first round was rather textbook, which was expected given the talented TGFBI owners in the draft room. No stunners, no reaches, no drama.

With my two picks (1.13 and 2.18) upcoming in the next six slots, I had a few different routes on where I could go with them. I had been waiting on Verlander to drop to me at pick 13 but he got selected one pick before me. Scherzer and Buehler were on the board still, as were Bregman, Arenado, Freeman and Tatis Jr. Realizing I would have a better bet to get one of the hitters in the second round, I went with Scherzer. Glad I did, as Buehler and Flaherty both got picked before the draft circled back to me. Pitchers were going early.

With Scherzer, I know what I am getting, albeit with some injury risk with him being 36 years old. He missed some starts due to injury in 2019 leading to his lowest IP total (172.1) since 2010 but did have a career-high 12.1 K/9 and his usual top tier ERA and WHIP.

I am a firm believer in having an ace on my staff and I now have one of the most consistent. Even with the dip in some of his numbers last season, I’m confident Mad max builds for me a solid foundation on which to build out my pitching staff. On to round two.

Pick 2.18 – 1B Freddie Freeman ATL
When I got to my second pick, there were some great hitters still available. Bregman and Arenado went in the picks before mine, thus eliminating my hopes for an early draft steal at 2.18. But there was still plenty of value to pluck from.

With Scherzer in my pocket, drafting another pitcher here at 2.18 was never once considered. Grabbing a bat here would mean that I would be heading towards the third and fourth rounds with several options on which way to go. Having a solid pitcher-hitter start to the draft was important to me, given the league competition.

I had narrowed it down to J.D. Martinez or Freeman. Tatis Jr was on the board but I was looking for a proven veteran bat. That may make me look foolish at the end of the season but adding a young guy on top of an old guy just didn’t calculate for me. Jose Ramirez was also still available but, again, I wanted minimum risk here.

With J.D. Martinez hitting behind Benny, Devers, and Bogaerts this season, he has the opportunity to move back towards his numbers from the World Series run in 2018. I couldn’t go wrong taking Martinez here.

But I went with Freeman because I love his consistency (not that J.D. isn’t consistent). Drop him in the lineup and watch him go. Since 2016, Freeman has averaged .303-31-95, rock-solid numbers in fantasy. Also, last season, he had a career-high 38 home runs and 121 RBI. Although I do expect the HRs to come back to reality some, his solid numbers provide me with a great hitter to start my journey with. He also is a top performer at a scarce position, whereas JD qualifies in the outfield. The ability for me to find some power elsewhere in the outfield in the later rounds sealed the decision for me.

Accuse me of playing it safe so far – I’m guilty as charged. I’ve come a long way from trying to be the owner who drafts the “next big thing” simply for bragging rights and bypassing solid veterans while doing so. When I get to my next pick (3.43), I will simply look at who’s left and go from there. I may be showing my age but nothing fancy. Safe and steady.

Parting Thoughts

Kevin and I both played it rather safe on day one selecting established veteran ace pitchers and consistent hitters still in their respective primes. We’ll see if day two brings more risk-taking and daring-do. As we know, establishing a foundation gets you 2/3 of the way towards a winning team, but it is the players who breakout that take you the rest of the way home. Look for our day two analysis tomorrow morning.

Six Degrees of Fantasy Baseball Victory

*Note this article first appeared in The Fantasy Baseball Guide Professional Edition 2020 available on a newsstand near you now and online at

My victory this year in AL Tout Wars, like any fantasy baseball win, was the product of draft day strategy, free agency and trade savvy, and a fair share of luck.

Mitigating Risk
For years I’ve been a proponent of “boring is best” or risk mitigation. To that end, I went with a budget of 180 to 190 on hitters, rostering stalwarts in the power/OBP categories like Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Santana, and Nelson Cruz all while without going over $25 and budgeting between $180-$190 hitting. In the same vain I targeted an established ace and went with Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Corey Kluber being my other primary targets. The reason was those three, plus Kluber, were the only amongst a bunch of pitchers being purchased at ace-level prices, had the baseline of throwing the amount and quality of innings at a high level for the last three or more years. As we can see, anchoring your staff especially at the above normal prices of 2019 is a risky move, but some options, at least theoretically speaking, were safer options than others based on track record.

Draft Day Bargains
I was certain Mike Minor ($7), D.J. LeMahieu ($9), and Mark Canha (RES) were all going to earn profits for me, but more of the $15 to $20 combined range. I didn’t predict LeMahieu improving on his Coors Field experience or for Minor to throw over 200 innings and perform at that high a level. Minor was grabbed after pitching budgets had emptied out while LeMahieu and Canha’s uncertain playing time muted the room’s enthusiasm to acquire them.

Knowing Your League Rules
Tout Wars has a fifteen-game minimum rule as opposed to the normal twenty and often in the heat of the auction, it can fall by the wayside and lead to opportunities which I found for Carlos Santana at 3B and Jonathan Schoop to fit nicely at shortstop. At the very least, targeting the secondary position of players for later in the auction or draft for when their primary positions have been filled on other league mate’s roster is a good way to bargain hunt.

Lemons into Lemonade
While I aimed to snag an ace of the three I mentioned above, I also wanted to similarly focus on anchoring my pen with a closer with a fair track record and failed miserably to say “$20” on Aroldis Chapman and ended up with Cody Allen at $14. Allen at the time had the saves track record, but every other bit of his skills and talents were trending downwards and he may now be out of baseball, let alone no longer a closer. Having a failed closer early in the season though helps focus one’s efforts on his likely successor and everything pointed to the Angel’s favoring Hansel Robles over second-year player Ty Buttrey and I pounced with a risky $300+ bid. Robles is known for his strikeouts and the home runs he’s let up, particularly with my hometown Mets, so a few of those early on could have sunk them, but a closer role and non-high leverage situation suited him. Liam Hendriks meanwhile had similarly established himself as the number two guy while Blake Treinen was struggling and managed to pick him up before he was potentially prohibitively expensive. I originally projected myself to finish in the lower to the middle of the pack in saves with Allen, but the duo along with the occasional save from Adam Ottavino, whose value in innings and strikeouts cannot be understated in the environment of the post-200 inning starter era, landed me third place in saves. The addition of a second closer in single-league only formats remains one of the easiest and best ways to vault up the standings if you can acquire them via trade or FAAB.

Minor League Monitoring
Another of Tout Wars’ somewhat unique rules is the ability to pick up players still in the minors and add them to your roster provided you’re willing to earn 0 points in that roster slot for the upcoming week. When you’re replacing an injured or unproductive player, that’s an easy call. Yordan Alvarez was mauling Triple-A pitching and Houston was playing with a platoon outfield, an injury to Springer, and a revolving door at DH made him a very targeted grab in late April at $9. The luck/lesson here is being lucky enough where no one else was ready to pull the trigger yet and to be thinking several weeks in advance. There were several other good examples of this year with Orlando Mercado and Cavan Biggio being other examples of good grabs in that regard. It helps though to focus on contending teams not afraid of service time. The White Sox have had Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert destroy the minors two years in a row, tantalizing fantasy owners as potential call-ups. I had drafted and then re-FAABed Oakland catcher Sean Murphy just shy of September call-ups knowing he’d get a chance to play and though used part-time, played well.

Down the stretch especially I targeted the categories I could make ground in and categories I could try to block others. With several late injuries on the hitting side, my best bets were to focus on steals, wins, and strikeouts. For the first part, I moved Aaron Hicks for Mallex Smith. Neither player was particularly good, but all I wanted were steals and the 19 I received were ideal. Though out of contention for Greinke on FAAB day, I used my depth on offense to acquire him the day after the MLB trade deadline who acc9ounted for 7 wins, a 3.02 ERA, and 50 strikeouts.

The Final Week
The standings were tight with me a nervous mess from August on. The last two weeks were all about filling in gaps with callups (Murphy and Ryan McBroom) and maximizing opportunities to obtain wins and strikeouts given enough breathing room in ERA/WHIP categories to throw Dillon Peters, Trent Thornton, and Gio Gonzalez into action. It didn’t hurt that Justin Verlander was chasing 3,000 career K’s and 300 season strikeouts as milestones that week either.