I wanted to not write too many draft recaps this preseason. I didn’t want draft recaps to simply stand in for analysis. Turns out we might not have baseball until June or July or maybe ever. Draft recaps might be all we have in this pandemic hellscape. (I’m being dramatic, I know. But, also, maybe I’m not!)
I did recap my first-ever Tout Wars draft last year. Honestly, it went poorly. I didn’t click through the link to read what I wrote, but if I try to make it seem like I did well… I promise you, I didn’t. I ended the SiriusXM stream chastising myself for drafting so poorly. It’s true!
I did, however, recover nicely in-season once I finally learned how to use OnRoto and I got a handle on what seemed to me like the optimal roster-building strategy. My year-end roster looked nothing like my drafted roster, and I was able to navigate FAAB effectively enough to wiggle my way into a semi-finals matchup. (I was a benched Kole Calhoun home run away from beating Clay Link and heading to the finals to face Ian Kahn, where he would have annihilated me unceremoniously.)
This year, I’d like to think I fared much better. I actually calculated projecwhatevted points this time! I’m sad we all couldn’t draft in person, but I’m more than happy to draft online at Fantrax in the name of social distancing.
Recapping an auction can be difficult because (1) talent is not acquired linearly and (2) draft capital is frequently leveraged disproportionately to talent. No auction is the same; each has its own dynamic that constantly evolves. The astute drafter monitors this evolution and adjusts his strategy accordingly.
I can’t say I resolved to adhere to a single strategy. My auction strategy revolves around Stars and Scrubs (spend big on a few stars, buy several lower-priced and $1 players who either generate a huge return on investment or are easy to replace via the waiver wire churn), but how many stars and scrubs apiece — I let the draft’s evolution dictate that.
Normally, I’d expect to acquire five stars, probably. I don’t try to put a number on it, as it depends on the total spend. Here, I’ll end up with four, largely because I expect to have to bid up a couple of middling bats and arms I expect to be much better than middling. This, rather than going star-heavy and waiting hours to collect nearly two dozen dollar players.
Ultimately, it may be best to recount the auction chronologically and chronicle my thought process for both my picks and certain key junctures that steered the trajectory of my strategy.
Before we get started, though, the weird point system:
Hitting: 1B 1, 2B 2, 3B 3, HR 5, BB 1, SB 2, CS -0.5, K -0.5, R 1, RBI 1
Pitching: W 8, L -3, QS 5, SV 5, BS -5, BB -1, ER -1, HD 3, K 0.5, Out 1
Each head-to-head matchup is separated into hitting, pitching, and overall points. If you win hitting and pitching, you win overall, too, thus collecting three points. If you win hitting but not pitching (or vice versa), whoever has more total points scored points wins the third point. Six teams with the most points make the playoffs, with the top two teams earning a bye.
Active Roster Draft (Auction)
#2 Jacob deGrom, NYM SP — $44
$216 left; $9.82 average bid; $195 max bid
While pitchers are undervalued in this format, the aces are so much better than the 2nd- and 3rd-tier arms that they, per my calculations (proprietary projections and the assumption of a 65/35 split, which, for the most part, held true), should cost more at auction than the Mike Trouts and Christian Yeliches.
Ian nominated Gerrit Cole to lead off the draft, and Clay secured him with a $42 winning bid. I knew I liked deGrom more and, prior to any dynamic changes in prices, had him valued at roughly $45. I was excited to acquire deGrom at $44 sans severe inflation.
Like clockwork, Ronald Acuña Jr. (#3, $47), Mike Trout (#6, $48), and Christian Yelich (#18, $47) went for more.
As soon as the bidding slowed for Alex Bregman (#4, $33), I knew he would be a bargain. Elite plate discipline plays up in points formats. These kinds of players slip through the cracks sometimes; when it’s too early to discern the exact trajectory of the draft, it can be difficult to assess where there is or isn’t value. Bregman was obvious at the time and especially obvious in hindsight.
#9 Aaron Judge, NYY OF — $20
$196 left; $9.33 average bid; $176 max bid
I had no intention of drafting Judge, but once I saw the pace of bidding slow in the mid-teens, I knew I had to jump in. There’s no moral objections to drafting injury players at this point. We all know the coronavirus will delay the season. The big question was, prior to the draft, how much. My best guess was, and still is, we won’t have baseball before June.
I might have a full-strength Judge by then.
This will affect my late-draft strategy, but I wager the net gain of gambling on a cheap Judge in the face of uncertainty will outweigh my solid, but not optimal, endgame.
José Ramírez (#16, $32) is a Bregman type who, I think, may be more valuable in 2020, should we ever play it out. I actually had to pee during this pick (sorry, TMI), so I thought I’d have enough to time to run to the restroom and back prior to the end of bidding. Turns out, bidding didn’t last all that long, to my detriment.
The scoring rules have changed since last year, but I think relievers, especially dudes in setup roles (and, thus, could earn holds but also poach saves and wins), will be underrated.
#14 Justin Verlander, HOU SP — $32
$164 left; $8.20 average bid; $145 max bid
A Judge-esque bidding situation, I gambled again on uncertain health versus uncertain scheduling. Shane Bieber (#33, $35) went for more and was the cheapest of the big-5 aces, with Max Scherzer (#8, $34) and Walker Buehler (#10, $42) rounding them out. Obviously, the discount is health-related, but I love the idea of snagging a steep discount on an elite arm who will stand head-and-shoulders above a typical replacement-level arm. (Granted good health, of course.)
#40 J.D. Martinez, BOS OF — $40
$124 left; $6.52 average bid; $106 max bid
I waffled on Nolan Arenado (#23, $39), Trevor Story (#27, $37), and Francisco Lindor (#34, $36), allowing the market to establish itself but ultimately leaving JDM as the last elite roster cornerstone (in my eyes). I had him ranked highly — a top-5 or -6 bat, if I recall correctly — so I was prepared to bid as much as $40 on him.
I bid $40 on him.
Truth be told, I thought I could get away with less. Much of the draft had mirrored classic ADP (average draft position) data, which values power and speed differently than it does in our league. I thought I might escape with a “2nd-round” price on a “1st-round” bat in our format. I was wrong, and I got virtually no discount, but I couldn’t feel better about my building block.
When Bieber went for more several dollars more than Stephen Strasburg (#24, $32), and when German Marquez (#39, $15) went for $15, I knew middle-tier pitching would get pushed up even more than hitting. Marcus Stroman (#45, $15) further underscored the point. I opted to generally wait a long time on both. I loved several middling targets and knew I wanted to retain some leverage for bidding them up once everyone’s wallets began to dry up.
After my next selection, I wait nearly 40 picks to make another despite liking several players who were nominated in order to allow other owners to get money off the table. Let off the gas a bit. I have my four stars at the price of three-and-a-half, allowing me some flexibility to pursue those aforementioned middling bats and arms on whom I’m bullish this year.
#49 Kirby Yates, SDP RP — $14
$110 left; $6.11 average bid; $93 max bid
With Josh Hader (#22, $19), Aroldis Chapman (#25, $14), and Roberto Osuna (#37, $10) off the board, a market for closers was already fairly well-established. Yates could wind up returning top-25 value among all pitchers (hence, my point about folks underrating relievers).
We’ll see if that comes to fruition, but, regardless, I’d rather take a chance on Yates at $14 than Marquez or Stroman at $15. Not taking jabs at their owners; they’re just the first of many mid-range starters to be auctioned off well above their price tags, helping establish what I assess to be a lopsided market.
I bid tepidly on several players over the next 40 picks — mostly guys I like but on whom I don’t want to make too big a splash, given I’m already strapped for cash. I would have liked a legitimate shortstop in Xander Bogaerts (#55, $27), Manny Machado (#57, $24), or Marcus Semien (#84, $20) or many closers whose final bids were in the single digits. I waded in on Anthony Rizzo (#72, $29) and Chris Paddack (#79, $26) but got priced out. I knew I had to be extremely disciplined here, despite missing on a few other bona fide values.
#90 Josh Donaldson, MIN 3B — $21
$89 left; $5.24 average bid; $73 max bid
Yes! OK, we’re cooking with gas, now. The dust has settled — 31% of the money on the table has been spent on the previous 49 picks, averaging $19.55 apiece — so it’s time to pursue my guys. I probably could’ve waited long, but, hey, I’m gettin’ antsy.
Donaldson’s power plays up, and his relative abundance of strikeouts doesn’t play down, in this format, making him potentially a top-15 bat. I mentioned before I thought snake draft ADP would have a small effect on prices; here is an explicit example of that. I suspected it might be the case with Donaldson and thus made him one of my few Must Gets. (I’ll highlight the others as we go.)
At this point, I didn’t quite have The Hammer (e.g., the largest max bid and, thus, the most leverage) — it’s too early in the draft to have The Hammer anyway — but the concept of The Hammer still matters in the “middle rounds” because player salaries will inevitably become capped.
With a cheapened Semien preceding George Springer (#86, $29), the last big-ticket item off the board, then followed by a string of low-price assets (Drew Pomeranz (#87, $4), Trey Mancini (#88, $2), Buster Posey (#89, $3)), I suspected it would be a reasonable time to nominate and pounce on the Bringer of Rain.
The trends continued; Eugenio Suárez (#92, $19) and Giancarlo Stanton (#93, $16) were prime targets for me — not Must Gets, but probably high-ROI guys. Charlie Morton (#95, $25) would have been a lock for my roster had I not unexpectedly picked up Verlander earlier.
I still have some weight to swing around in this auction, so if and when I do, it will occur more on the hitting side of things. From where I’m sitting, what I mentioned 50 picks ago (circa JDM) has held true in spades: mid-tier pitching is getting pushed up substantially. Meanwhile, the roll has slowed with respect to hitting, as owners shift focus.
Marcell Ozuna (#100, $15) and Eddie Rosario (#103, $15) is up there with Suarez and Stanton in terms of Almost-but-Not-Quite Must Gets at price points that make me kick myself a little later. I know, at a point, I became a little too inflexible, forcing me to absolutely get my Must Gets. Guess that’s why they’re called that. I did, by the way. It worked out. But I wasn’t necessarily firing on all cylinders.
By the way, some starting pitcher prices, in chronological draft order:
I will continue to watch bidding from a distance, waiting patiently for others to nominate my Must Gets. This approach ends up being slightly too passive, but I’m generally satisfied with how it worked out (spoiler alert).
#114 Max Muncy, LAD 1B/2B/3B — $19
$70 left; $4.38 average bid; $55 max bid
Copy-paste Donaldson’s blurb here. Must Get #2, Muncy (and his multipositional eligibility!) might also be a top-15 bat, although potential playing time limitations could suppress his outlook. Still, at less than $20 — as much as I expected to spend, but, admittedly, more than I hoped I’d spend — he should be extremely solid.
#118 Nelson Cruz, MIN DH — $16
$54 left; $3.60 average bid; $40 max bid
Must Get #3, the linchpin of all my rosters. If you know anything about me, this should not surprise you. At $16, this is an absolute heist (which, in fairness, is always my opinion about Cruz, so let me biases be known).
From pick 114 (Muncy) onward, I bought the three most expensive players (Muncy, Cruz, and the next guy). This hearkens back to The Hammer; while there’s no true hammer here, I could throw my weight around more than just about anyone (and really only had to worry about battling with, if I remember correctly, Frank Stampfl and Andrea LaMont, who also had fairly healthy budgets).
An aside: I am now suddenly extremely pissed off that the pandemic is cutting into the twilight of Cruz’s career. We only have so much time left with him, you selfish coward!!!
Another aside: as I pore over the draft results, it’s hard for me not to think Ian won’t win this whole thing again. Good lord.
#126 Kyle Schwarber, CHC OF — $17
$37 left; $2.64 average bid; $24 max bid
I backed myself into this corner, but Schwarber was Must Get #4 and, like those who came before him, bears a profile that plays up in this scoring system. After failing to live up to high expectations early on, he has improved year over year and figures to play full-time, if not close to it. Growth is rarely linear, and the glut of top prospects who have broken out early has made us greedy and impatient with respect to those who haven’t.
Pitching is starting to slow down, and we are seeing values on both sides of the ball. Some more pitching results, chronologically:
Julio Urías (#123, $7)
Carlos Martínez (#127, $6)
Corey Kluber (#128, $10)
Matthew Boyd (#133, $8)
Aaron Civale (#135, $5)
Mike Soroka (#136, $13)
Carlos Carrasco (#139, $6)
Max Fried (#142, $8)
Frankie Montas (#145, $6)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (#151, $6)
Joe Musgrove (#152, $4)
Now, recall some of the earlier guys — Stroman at $15, Lamet at $12, etc.? Wouldn’t you rather have bought stars and waited to buy similarly valued scrubs for cheaper? Again, not an indictment of those owners — the entire room fell into this trap.
#150 Mike Moustakas, CIN 2B/3B — $12
$25 left; $1.92 average bid; $13 max bid
Must Get #5. You might be asking yourself, How many Must Gets can a guy have? Let me tell ya, pal: a whole heck of a lot. I knew I wanted either Moustakas or Nick Castellanos (#164, $13), depending on who came off the board first. Having made a few splashes recently, I’d been trying to avoid nominating guys I still wanted in order to bleed other owners’ wallets dry as much as possible.
I will continue this pattern of behavior for the remainder of the draft, lest I signal who I’m interested in and invite price enforcement.
#154 Kyle Hendricks, CHC SP — $6
$19 left; $1.58 average bid; $8 max bid
During Ryu’s bidding, I clammed up. If I had to spend $6 again, I think I’d rather have Ryu. I’d probably spend that extra dollar to make sure he was mine. Hendricks at $6 is fine, though — frankly, he’s more than fine. In fact, he’s Must Get #6. Hendricks is precisely the type of pitcher who would’ve sold for $12 if someone nominated him 50 to 75 picks ago. Now, he’s a relative bargain. (Recall that Soroka went for $13.)
At a certain point, it’s not worth mentioning each and every value pick, because now they’re all value picks. Khris Davis (#155, $3)! Michael Brantley (#156, $7)! Mike Minor (#165, $2)! David Price (#167, $5)!
I will highlight one pick I really liked: Diego Castillo (#159, $1), drafted by Paul Sporer. Nick Anderson (#75, $13) is not a lock to close, but even if he were, relievers still earn points for holds in this league. I think we may end up seeing a paradigm shift mid-season that signals a strategic move toward rostering high-quality middle relievers who pitch 65, 70, 75 innings. It may not happen, of course, but at $1, I think Castillo is among the best of these types of low-risk, moderate-upside gambles.
One misstep: if you want a Dollar Days guy you suspect someone else might want, and you have the budget to do it, simply bid him up to $2. I made this mistake with Christian Vázquez (#174, $2), who I threw out for $1 and Ryan Hallam bid up to $2. I had other catcher targets I liked, and I may already be overexposed to Vázquez in terms of my overall portfolio of teams, so maybe this is OK in the long run. But, still, somewhat of a rookie move on my part.
#180 Kenta Maeda, MIN SP — $4
$15 left; $1.36 average bid; $5 max bid
Must. Get. #7. (That’s seven straight.) It’s much easier to get your guys in an auction, where the draft flows non-linearly, but it’s still easier said than done. As I’ve alluded to several times, timing is critical. If Maeda was nominated 100 picks ago, his salary would have been triple or maybe even quadruple what it ended up being.
With $25 left prior to acquiring Hendricks, I set aside $12 for my next two pitchers, meaning I allotted $6 for a Maeda purchase. Getting him at $4, honestly, was thrilling. That’s two extra bucks to come over the top of the minimum $1 bid during dollar days, giving me the coveted leverage I desire — a couple of Mini Hammers, if you will.
Ah, for the Must Gets I did not actually get: Elvis Andrus (#185, $2), Edwin Encarnación ($186, $3), Shin-Soo Choo (#194, $3). Other Almost-but-Not-Quite Must Gets I didn’t get: Justin Upton (#181, $3), Andrew McCutchen (#183, $2), J.D. Davis (#189, $1). In a matter of 10 or 15 picks, I proverbially wet the bed, although, thankfully, not in a way that jeopardized my draft.
I genuinely don’t know what happened here — draft fatigue, perhaps. This is where simply having an extra dollar or two would have given me a little more confidence to bid on at least one of these guys. Instead, I got cold feet. I don’t have a good excuse here. Again, not quite firing on all cylinders.
No more commentary for the remaining acquisitions, which mostly constitute $1 and $2 selections.
#198 Will Smith, LAD C — $2
$13 left; $1.30 average bid; $4 max bid
The catcher version of Rhys Hoskins for $2? Sure, why not. A top-6 catcher by traditional ADP in a league where power plays up and K’s don’t kill you? Sure, why not.
#204 Tom Murphy, SEA C — $2
$11 left; $1.22 average bid; $3 max bid
I mean, hey. When all but, like, four catchers sell for more than $2, you can take a chance on pretty much anyone. Why not a hitter with a career .250 average and career .243 ISO who hit 18 home runs and was worth 3.2 WAR in just 281 plate appearances last year? Yeah, why not.
#210 Didi Gregorius, PHI SS — $1
$10 left; $1.25 average bid; $3 max bid
Gregorius averaged 24 home runs, seven stolen bases, and a .277/.319/.472 line (109 wRC+) from 2016 through 2018, prior to an injury-shortened final Yankee campaign. He figures to be the full-time shortstop in Philadelphia and, shoot, he may end up being better than Andrus. Not that Andrus is all that great, but his plate discipline at $2 plays up in a points format. Gregorius’ power might play up more!
#222 Giovanny Gallegos, STL RP — $2
$8 left; $1.14 average bid; $2 max bid
This is the Diego Castillo approach. Gallegos could be an elite closer if he lands the job, or he could be an elite high-leverage guy who earns 20 holds. I imagine he’ll be a fixture in my starting lineup unless we find out 2019 was a mirage. (I learned from my mistake and started the bidding at $2.)
#227 Jose Urquidy, HOU SP — $2
$6 left; $1.00 average bid; $1 max bid
There are quite a few fantastic $1 and $2 drafted throughout this auction, such that Urquidy at $2 is not necessarily a massive steal. I like the upside, but I do have concerns about “hittability” and a potential lack of contact management skills. That said, Urquidy is one of those quintessential dirt-cheap end-of-draft gambles of whom I can dispense if he does not pan out — or else reap the benefits of a potential breakout.
#232 Mike Tauchman, NYY OF — $1
$5 left; $1.00 average bid; $1 max bid
This was my obligatory on-brand pick, but the longer the season is delayed, the more likely it becomes the Yankees won’t need to rely on Tauchman as much, if at all, because Judge, Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and whomever else will have more time to heal up. Oh well.
#240 Adam Eaton, WAS OF — $1
$4 left; $1.00 average bid; $1 max bid
Good-enough plate discipline with a little bit of everything should make Eaton one of those solid-floor, lower-ceiling hitters who contribute consistently.
#248 Alex Wood, LAD SP — $1
$3 left; $1.00 average bid; $1 max bid
Wood sports a career 3.40 ERA, has never posted an ERA worse than 3.84 in a “full” season (for him, that means 24+ starts), and showed increased velocity during spring training. I’m extremely unconcerned about 2019’s wet fart of a performance and have been gobbling up cheap shares of Wood in every draft. Wood boasts injury risk downside, which is why I’ve tried to pair, and often succeeded in pairing, him up with Ross Stripling, Wood’s most-obvious successor, whenever I can.
#256 Will Smith, ATL RP — $1
$2 left; $1.00 average bid; $1 max bid
Because I am extremely awesome, I know have a team with two Will Smiths on it.
#262 Renato Núñez, BAL 1B — $1
$1 left; $1.00 average bid; $1 max bid
Not quite Encarnación, but not entirely dissimilar, either. I think E5’s power is a little more bankable, but Núñez should be more durable. I’ve been grabbing Núñez shares left and right, too.
#266 Luis Arraez, MIN 2B/3B/OF — $1
Excellent plate discipline and contact skills with a high average but modest counting stats — basically a higher-floor, lower-ceiling version of Eaton. I love excellent plate discipline types in points formats, although, again, strikeouts are not as damaging as they might normally be in a typically points league.
Supplemental Bench Draft (Snake)
(I pick 4th of 12 here. I made it to last year’s semifinals but lost, and there was no consolation match for 3rd place. I must have lost the invisible coin flip that would have netted me the 3rd pick. Alas, 4th, with Ian leading off.)
24.280 Jesse Winker, CIN OF
To be honest, I’m not totally sure why I went Winker here. Is his shoulder healthy? Do the Reds see him as anything more than a platoon bat? Is it insane that the Reds are judging Winker’s effectiveness against lefties on a 147-PA sample that features a 16.3% strikeout rate (K%) and 12.9% walk rate (BB%) but also a lowly .202 batting average on balls in play (BABIP)? Does Winker boast a exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (EV FB/LD) of 94.1 mph against righties and 93.6 mph against lefties? All of these have good answers, very probably.
The most likely scenario is Winker becomes one of my first roster cuts. But maybe, just maybe, the Reds see the value in the heir apparent to Joey Votto and, instead, turn Shogo Akiyama into a full-time platoon with Nick Senzel or Phillip Ervin or whomever. Unlikely, but possible.
Incidentally, this decision came down to Jesse Winker and Ian Happ, the latter of whom Paul pleaded with me not to take. Almost did! Almost sniped Paul. Would’ve been wild and made for a significantly better story. Instead, I get to write about a guy I’ll likely drop the first week of the season, if there’s a season.
25.297 Ross Stripling, LAD SP/RP
Paired him up with Wood, just like I said I
wood would. There’s an excellent 200-inning pitcher between the two of them.
26.304 Josh Rojas, ARI OF
Let’s get this guy some full-time PAs, y’all. (You can read one of my many hype posts here.)
27.321 Rich Hill, MIN SP
Old man Dick Mountain wasn’t supposed to ready until June. Now, the season may not start until June! Or later! Truthfully, I have no idea why I waited so long to snatch him up. The 16 picks that elapsed between Rojas and Hill brought me great agony as I held my breath, ready to beat myself up for my own stupidity. I’ll have plenty of time to do that during the season, but for now, I escaped scot-free.
28.328 David Fletcher, LAA 2B/SS/3B/OF
A sorta poor man’s Arraez with more multipositional flexibility. Another perfectly cromulent, modest-floor, low-ceiling, steadily contributing points league guy.
29.345 Cameron Maybin, DET OF
Allegedly, he changed his swing last year and had a wild late-career half-season breakout in New York. I’m making a very weak bet on (1) those skills sticking in 2020 and (2) Maybin seeing full-time reps in a depleted Detroit lineup. Either he pays off huge or he’s an easy cut — exactly the kind of guy I want to build out my bench.
|C||Will Smith, LAD||$2|
|2B||Max Muncy (1B/3B)||$19|
|MI||Luis Arraez (2B/3B/OF)||$1|
|CI||Mike Moustakas (2B/3B)||$12|
|P||Will Smith, ATL||$1|
|b||Jesse Winker (OF)|
|b||Ross Stripling (P)|
|b||Josh Rojas (OF)|
|b||Rich Hill (P)|
|b||David Fletcher (2B/SS/3B/OF)|
|b||Cameron Maybin (OF)|
* * *
I think I would have preferred one more pitcher and fewer outfielder on my bench, which is why I anticipate I’ll cut someone in short order come Opening Day, whenever that is.
That said, I like my team. A lot! Which is more than I can say about my squad last year. Some quick number-crunching (using Depth Charts projections for a full season — not particularly helpful at this point, but the best we’ve got) suggests my active roster (excluding my bench) will not fare well.
However, my team is one of two (alongside Paul’s) that projects to have top-5 hitting and pitching on a prorated basis.
|Owner Name||Pts/IP||Pit Rank||Pts/PA||Hit Rank|
That’s what I’m more concerned about (in light of the pandemic, throw out any expectations you once had about playing time and the trajectory of this season), given I deliberately grabbed injured guys like Verlander, Judge, and Hill (although Hill is not included in these projections).
Then again, never trust any projection system that sells Ian or Clay short.
So, what do you think?
Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Two-time FSWA award winner, including 2018 Baseball Writer of the Year, and 5-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's Sports' Fantasy Baseball magazine (2018, 2019). Tout Wars competitor. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant.