On Saturday, fantasy baseball nerds across the land gathered inside the clubhouse at Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island, for our first in-stadium Tout Wars extravaganza. It was a cool experience, and four auctions were completed in one day! As usual, I participated in the AL-Only league, but this time, I was returning as the defending champion. Now if only my leaguemates would have allowed me to win Aaron Judge for $3 again.
The AL-Only Tout Wars league is a standard 12-teamer composed of 23-man starting rosters, with the only wrinkle coming from the usage of OBP instead of AVG in the 5×5 categories. Oh, and we only have four starting outfield slots instead of five, instead switching one of them to a Swingman role. That could be filled by either a hitter or a pitcher and can be changed each week. But because hitters contribute in four counting stats and pitchers only three (starting pitchers only two!), I play a hitter there like 99% of the time.
As usual, I had no particular strategy, aside from amassing as much value as possible. I had my Pod Projections in hand with those forecasts converted into dollar values, and the goal was to simply bid on players below my value and hope to win as many as possible.
If you have followed my teams throughout the years, you would know that I typically leave a draft or auction with at least one pretty good catcher. Some owners like to dump the position, but I don’t. So this might be the least I have ever spent on my catching duo in my entire fantasy baseball career! I like that John Hicks is one of those catchers that should get time at other positions, like first base when Miguel Cabrera hits the DL or perhaps DH when Victor Martinez gets hurt. No one is actually a fan of Martin Maldonado, but he should earn the lion’s share of Angels catcher playing time and I’ll take a first string catcher with some power for a buck all day long.
It’s clear that I’m a bit more bullish than, like, everyone on Joey Gallo, which I really had no idea until draft season began and I compared my rankings. His value skyrockets in an OBP format and the Rangers are now considering batting him second. That won’t matter all that much to my fantasy team though, because that simply drops Shin-Soo Choo to Gallo’s spot and I own both! Gallo is probably better off a little lower in the order so he could boost his RBI total with all those dingers.
I never would have imagined I’d get easily the top third baseman in the AL for below my value, so I was delighted to pencil Josh Donaldson’s name onto my roster for a reasonable price. The same goes for Jose Altuve, but at second base. The bizarre thing is that I seemed to project him for worse and value him less than nearly the entire fantasy community. He was not my number two behind Mike Trout in a 12-team mixed leagues, so I it was a shock when the bidding ended below $40. Everyone has a price, and this was about the limit of what I was willing to pay here.
Fingers crossed Miguel Sano doesn’t face any disciplinary action, because his power and OBP are gold in this format.
So shortstop and MI is a funny story (at least to me). It was deep into the auction and I had money to spend, of course, so Simmons gets nominated and he’s the best shortstop still available with pretty weak alternatives. I know I have to get him, so I overpaid by $2 according to my values. I turn to Rotowire’s Jeff Erickson who was sitting next to me and said that I had to get Simmons because I didn’t want to get stuck with Jose Iglesias. Guess who ended up on my team not too long after!
Towards the end of the auction, the middle infield options were slim and even though I had Iglesias valued at $6, no one actually wants him on their roster. Including me. But then I remembered something — the Tigers have been inexplicably batting him second all spring! Their odd decision is my advantage, so I happily nominated him at the end and won him for a buck.
I’ve gotten more into buying injured guys at a discount, knowing I could replace them when they are hurt and add to my counting stats. This is what led me to buying Michael Brantley, and I would draft an outfielder to cover for him in the reserve round. Carlos Gomez is going to hit cleanup in Tampa?! Ooooookay, welcome to team Pod with your power and speed combination. Denard Span is as boring as it gets, but in an OBP league, he’s stealthily valuable.
Obviously I bought Gregory Bird. I spent more than I expected to, unfortunately, but still got him just below my value. He’s also much more valuable in OBP.
Boy how the mighty have fallen. Not that Alex Gordon was ever so mighty, but man, he has truly collapsed offensively. That said, he still gets on base (okay, he did not in 2017, but he owns a .340 career OBP), and possesses some power and speed. He almost went 10/10 last year! Perhaps this news on his page will lead to something, “Gordon has worked to retool his plate approach this offseason, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports.” He sure as heck can’t get any worse and has nothing to lose in his attempt to get back on track.
Did you vomit a little after looking at my pitching staff? That’s a Pod staff if there ever was one! There were no discounts on any of the like top 15 starters, which meant none of them were going to join my roster. Rick Porcello was no bargain, but at some point I needed to buy someone. Sonny Gray will probably outearn Porcello, so I was pleased with him as my second pitcher purchase. Then I had to get one of my favorite sleepers in Sean Manaea and come closer to owning him in all my leagues.
If CC Sabathia could reinvent himself with diminished velocity, then surely Felix Hernandez can, right?! I bought Felix last year too for $16, so $7 this year was more than enough of a discount to take the gamble that he rebounds some.
And then….pray for rain. I don’t love Ian Kennedy, but I do love him for a buck. It was kind of hilarious searching for cheap pitchers in the end game, because the options were really bad. Like seriously, how badly do I want wins and strikeouts at the expense of torpedoing my ratios? In my mind, Kennedy at least has the potential to turn in solid ratios, whereas many others are essentially a lock for a mid-4.00 ERA. I felt the same way about Matt Andriese.
I really couldn’t believe I got Michael Kopech for a buck during dollar days. Top prospects who are close to the Majors almost always go during the auction (rather than the reserve round) and could go for a couple of bucks. I don’t even love Kopech, as his control is terrible and his home park is extremely hitter friendly. But at least he has the potential to be good.
I heard a groan when I got Joe Biagini for a buck during dollar days. It was unexpected and took me a bit of perusing my values to decide who I wanted. Even if he doesn’t open the season in the Blue Jays rotation, he should earn positive value in either middle relief or shuffling back and forth between the rotation and bullpen.
Remember how I acknowledged the need to buy a reserve outfielder to replace Brantley early on? Yeah, so I ended up buying three. I had first pick in the reserve round and was ecstatic to find a full-time outfielder still available in Ben Gamel. I had to scoop him up, but, he’s injured too! So I still needed an injury replacement. I found that in Paulo Orlando, who regained a starting job when Jorge Bonifacio was busted for PEDs and suspended for half the season. And just to make sure, I also picked up Adam Engel for his potential power and speed contributions, with the hope that his OBP wasn’t bad enough to offset the positives. The plan is for when Brantley returns, to hopefully have some depth from which to upgrade.
Yonny Chirinos?! Yeah, I didn’t even project him until last week. Yet, after participating in another AL-Only league auction yesterday, I ended up buying him in two auctions in a row! Brent Honeywell’s injury opens up innings for some other guys in the Rays system, and I’m betting that Chirinos and his elite control will be one of the big beneficiaries.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.