2022 Tout Wars AL Only Auction Recap

For the 10th year, I had the honor of being part of the Tout Wars family of auctions and drafts this past Saturday morning. To ensure the safety and health of all members, we held our auction online for the third straight year. Here’s to hoping that we’re finally all back together in person in 2023! Last year, you might recall that I totally screwed up, making an error during a sudden bout of confusion because of the workaround we needed to create in the auction room to accommodate the “Swingman” role. Thankfully, I did not make such an error this time and I won’t have a stupid regret for the rest of the year!

Before I share my team, let’s review my auction philosophy and the league rules. For every league, whether an auction or snake draft, I calculate dollar values based on my Pod Projections. I don’t generally come in with a “strategy”, as I simply want to maximize the value I buy by the time my last player is rostered, while being cognizant of statistical balance and risk. The only way to do that is to buy as many discounted players to my calculated values as possible, all the while ensuring I spend my entire budget (obviously it does you no good to buy 23 $1 players, even if they are actually all worth $5 each!). Therefore, it makes no sense to target players (“get your guys”) or allocate a budget to each position. That increases the likelihood you end up buying $260 worth of value for your $260, or worse, less than $260 worth of value.

How are you going to win your league if you merely bought the projected value you paid for?! You’ll need a great amount of good fortune and savvy in-season pickups and trades to turn that roster into a winner…unless of course every other team did the exact same thing, and then it’s just an in-season battle between similar teams. But that never happens, as every auction and draft ends with some teams closing in on $300 (or more) of value, with others falling well short of $260 in value.

As a reminder, the Tout Wars AL-Only league is a standard 12-teamer composed of 23-player starting rosters, with the only wrinkle coming from the usage of OBP instead of AVG in the 5×5 categories. This is a massively important distinction, as the switch could dramatically alter a hitter’s value (think Adam Dunn, who recorded a weak .237 career AVG, but strong .364 OBP). So keep that in mind when reviewing the team. In addition, we only require four starting outfield slots instead of five, switching one of those slots to a “Swingman” role. That spot could be filled by either a hitter or a pitcher and can be changed each week. 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.

With the background out of the way, let’s check out my roster:

AL-Only Tout Wars Team
Position Player $$
C Mitch Garver 16
C Martin Maldonado 1
1B Anthony Rizzo 22
3B Adalberto Mondesi 21
CI Alex Bregman 22
2B Whit Merrifield 28
SS Ramon Urias 3
MI Jose Miranda 1
OF Jesse Winker 18
OF Manuel Margot 8
OF Seth Brown 7
OF Gavin Sheets 1
UT Nathaniel Lowe 15
Swing Miguel Sano 14
P Justin Verlander 20
P Noah Syndergaard 9
P Luis Severino 7
P Lance McCullers Jr. 5
P Drew Rasmussen 4
P Matt Brash 1
P George Kirby 1
P Aroldis Chapman 23
P Taylor Rogers 13
Reserve Nolan Jones
Reserve Daulton Jefferies
Reserve Michael Lorenzen
Reserve Stephen Piscotty

Since I’m far less creative than I want to be, I’ll run down the players by position groups and provide any relevant commentary.

I’m typically a “pay for catchers” guy, but only because in most leagues, money spent on catchers is significantly less than their projected values. So that means the best buys will always be the top tier. In Tout Wars, catchers actually go for value (which shouldn’t be surprising considering it’s an industry league!), so I’ll simply end up rostering whoever comes at a discount first. When the bidding stopped for Mitch Garver, I bid the extra buck and was pleased to roster him for several bucks cheaper than my value. He owns a strong .341 career OBP, which is highly valuable coming from a catcher, and should hit in the middle of an improved Rangers batting order. He also has far less competition for playing time and could potentially earn additional DH PAs on days when he’s not catching.

After the top three catchers, there’s a massive drop to the next tier. I kicked myself for not bidding the extra buck on Danny Jansen and letting him go cheaper than I valued him at, but looking back, I’m happy I didn’t spend over $20 on my catcher duo. While Martin Maldonado is going to kill my OBP, he figures to serve as the Astros’ regular starting catcher, so his counting stats should contribute above replacement level value.

Anthony Rizzo playing his home games in a top four park for left-handed home runs all season and potentially hitting leadoff in front of a frightening offense for opposing pitchers? Yes, please! His value also gets a significant boost in OBP leagues. He’s a serious darkhorse to lead the league in runs scored. Welp, it appears I’ll be sweeping up all the Adalberto Mondesi shares, as I drafted him in LABR mixed as well. I was actually shocked that I won him for $21, but it won’t matter if he gets hurt again and spends a significant amount of time on the IL. Right now, he only qualifies at 3B, but is expected to open the year as the team’s regular shortstop, so he’ll earn that eligibility quickly. It will give me some nice roster flexibility to move him over to MI if Jose Miranda opens the year in the minors or is seeing only sporadic playing time. Mondesi’s OBP does stink, which is why I made sure to focus on high OBP guys with power for most of the rest of the auction.

I’m not sure if I was more shocked at Mondesi’s price or Alex Bregman’s. Of course, Bregman was unimpressive last season, but he still sports a career .377 OBP, hits in the middle of a strong lineup, and makes such excellent contact that it won’t take that much of a HR/FB rate rebound to get back up into the 20 home run range.

How do I always end up with Whit Merrifield in Tout Wars?! Wow, so I went and discovered that this is now the fourth straight season I’ve rostered him, holy cow! Beginning in 2019, I paid $30, then $28, then $27, and now $28. He’s never been a bargain at those prices, but I always felt he was the best value among the top middle infielders. Typically the top middle infielders and those valued around Merrifield go for at or above value, whereas I always feel that Merrifield ends up slightly undervalued. I’m happy to scoop up who I believe is a relative bargain since I expect to save more money on cheaper players. I think one of the reasons I’m so much more bullish on Merrifield is his home run projection. He underperformed his xHR/FB rate last year, so I’m guessing I’m projecting a slightly higher mark than the other systems. However, that is offset by being more pessimistic on his steals than the majority of the systems.

So remember in the intro how I said that I didn’t make any error this time? Well, I kind of lied. We were in the last third of the auction and I still needed both a shortstop and a middle infielder. Of the weak crop still left, I wanted Jeremy Pena. At the time of the auction, Carlos Correa had already signed, but Trevor Story was still a possibility for the Astros, which would push Pena back to the minors. With so little money on the table though, I didn’t expect Pena to cost much, so I was willing to take the risk that Story signs elsewhere. My max bid was $3 when he was nominated for a buck by another team, but I stupidly bid $2 (instead of jumping to my max $3 bid), just to get outbid at $3 and be unable to bid again. That said, I ended up winning Ramon Urias instead, who was my second choice, for the same price I should have bid on Pena.

Later, a surprising thing happened. Because of our swingman rule, we added an extra roster slot to the auction room. When an owner has finishing filling his starting roster of 23 players, he’ll nominate and buy a scrub for a buck to fill the fake 24th position slot. Oddly, someone nominated Jose Miranda as their scrub and everyone demanded to undo the nomination since he was not a scrub and another team might want to roster him. I figured for sure he would be nominated by another team shortly after and won for a couple of bucks, but he wasn’t. When it was my nomination and I was in dollar days, I nominated him myself and I think only one, maybe two, teams had the ability to outbid me, but did not. There is definitely a potential path to playing time at either third base or DH.

I usually have a much stronger outfield than this! But since there are so many outfielders, it’s easier to find one on free agency. So it’s not such a bad thing to have a hole there out of all positions. Obviously, Jesse Winker is going to be hurt by the move to a less friendly home park. But he’s an OBP monster with power, and that’s a perfect complement to Mondesi. It was pure timing that I ended up with Seth Brown. It was near the end of the auction and there were a number of outfielders worth $10 or else still available. I wanted as much power as possible and couldn’t let him go for just $6. At the moment, he figures to open the season as the Athletics’ starting first baseman, while hitting in the middle of the order.

I don’t care much for Manuel Margot, but I thought he was a serious bargain at just $8. He was also that third real source of steals behind Mondesi and Merrifield that I desperately wanted. Finally, while I don’t think he was a steal at a buck compared to my projected value, I’m still surprised that Gavin Sheets lasted until dollar days where I was able to grab him for just a buck. With Adam Engel’s return up in the air, Sheets and Vaughn should rotate between right field and DH, given Sheets an opportunity to play near every day early on. His underlying skills supported last year’s breakout, but it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll be able to maintain those skills.

Give me more power! With the crop of big power guys dwindling, I was hoping to score either Miguel Sano or Jorge Soler for one of my Util slots. Sano was called and the bidding stopped several bucks cheaper than my value, so I was thrilled to go the extra buck and roster him. While he’s not a big asset in OBP, he’s worth significantly more than in batting average leagues. On the other hand, Nathaniel Lowe hasn’t quite shown the power he has at times in the minors just yet, but he’s another OBP league gainer, and will enjoy his place in the middle of that revamped Rangers lineup.

Overall, I think the offense is extremely balanced with lots of room for upside (Mondesi stays healthy all season!), but downside risk as well (Mondesi gets injured again and records just 100 PAs!).

Let’s now move on to the pitching side. Oops, I did it again. Remember my risk-filled LABR team populated with injury-prone players and guys returning from major surgery? Three of those starting pitchers also found their way onto my Tout Wars team. It’s not that I’m a glutton for misery during the season, but I just find their risk/reward ratio is far better than the alternatives in the same price range. I would much rather gamble on a former elite-skilled pitcher than buy a pitcher I’m projecting for a low-to-mid 4.00 ERA. I could find that on free agency or opt for a middle reliever who won’t hurt my ratios.

I did not expect to roster Drew Rasmussen, but no one outbid me, so I was quite happy given the price. The skills are decent enough, but nothing to write him about. What intrigues me though is a fastball that averaged over 97 MPH for two years running. Pair that velocity with his historical strikeout rates, and there’s clearly a good reason to hope for a strikeout rate spike. I immediately regretted going the extra buck on Lance McCullers Jr. Seriously, I don’t know what happened. He was nominated and the bid at $4 was winding down. Something inside me caused a knee-jerk reaction to see his name and think it was a bargain, so I went the extra buck. Sure, it was a pretty good price, but I already have enough guys coming off injury, I certainly didn’t need one who was already injured with no timeline for a return! After my bid, I was actually hoping someone would outbid me, but it didn’t happen. Everyone was probably too busy laughing at the pitching staff I was putting together.

We were in dollar days and the available starting pitcher population was looking uuuuuuuugly. I still had two spots left and all the closers and middle relievers I projected were gone, so I needed to find a starting pitcher who wasn’t guaranteed to torpedo my ratios. I settled on gambling on the Mariners fifth starter slot by drafting two prospects in George Kirby and Matt Brash. The hope here is that one of them wins the job and is a nice buy at a buck.

Closers all generally matched my projected value, so I ended up with Aroldis Chapman when no discounts materialized and he was the last good and locked in closer still available. I then bought Taylor Rogers at what I believed to be an excellent price as I think he’s easily the most highly skilled reliever in that bullpen. Don’t forget, he posted a 2.20 SIERA last year, but a ridiculous .358 BABIP raised his ERA and made him appear shakier than he should have been.

While the upside is clear on the pitching side if everyone stays healthy, there’s far more downside risk than on the hitting side. I like it that way though as pitching stats are inherently more volatile and I could always choose to start a middle reliever to protect my ratios, whereas there’s no such equivalent option on the hitting side.

After an interesting auction, it was reserve draft time. I was really surprised no one nominated Triston Casas during the auction, so he fell to the reserve round, but sadly was selected before my first pick. I pivoted to another top prospect in Nolan Jones, who could get an opportunity with the Guardians when he is healthy. I then knew I needed some more pitchers to cover McCullers’ IL stint and the loser of the Mariners rotation battle (hopefully they don’t both lose!). Again, I didn’t want to bother with middle relievers because I could pick anyone up during the season. So I went with former top prospect Daulton Jefferies and Michael Lorenzen, who is transitioning from a relief role to the starting rotation. Lorenzen’s strikeout rate hasn’t matched his velocity, so the gamble here is that the Angels will figure out how to optimize his repertoire and that will significantly boost his strikeout ability.

Lastly, with the available hitters filled with part-timers and no prospects worth taking a chance on, I went with Stephen Piscotty, who our RosterResource page indicates is atop the right field depth chart and potentially the team’s cleanup hitter. It’s a sad state of affairs in Oakland when Piscotty is the team’s cleanup guy, but it means for as long as he plays regularly and hits in the bottom of the order, it would be difficult for him not to earn some fantasy value. He’ll slot in to the Swing slot if Miranda starts in the minors or barely plays early on.

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.

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4 months ago

My 11 team AL league, Sevy went for $18, Rasmussen for $12. Verlander was a keeper but would have easily went for $27+. Your league seems to have depressed SP values.