Mixing Fantasy & Reality: Tout Wars, Miller, & Brantley

Tout Wars Weekend

This past weekend, I participated in the 15-team Tout Wars mixed auction. Participated is a misleading term. Survived is probably more accurate. The auctioneer, Jeff Erickson of Rotowire, keeps the auction moving along at a pace which barely allows a person to find a player’s bid value yet alone perform any in auction calculations. Most of the breaks aren’t breaks. They are used to catch up with your team and assess the rest of the league.

Additionally, the location added difficulty. We bid in an open New York City bar on a Saturday afternoon into the evening. It was not a quiet venue. Since I am about 3/4 deaf, it made hearing everything hard at times. Additionally, as the auction went from afternoon to evening, our location lost its window lighting and morphed into the bar’s dimly lit romantic location. It might be great for singles hoping to score but it forced me to read my printed rankings from my laptop’s light. Even with the challenging conditions, the auction process was great.

I came with a plan of taking Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw and then filling in my team with $10 options and four $1 plays. With Trout and Kershaw, I found over the past three seasons, no owner has spent over $38 on Kershaw and $48 on Trout. My valuation had both valued more than those top values. These two were the only two top players who went close to their perceived values with heavy inflation for the top 30 or so stars. I devised a predraft plan on allocating the rest of my money on the other 21 players after dropping closing to $90 on just the two players. My backup plan was to just to go with my normal value centered approach. Within four nominations, the auction dictated I switch to the alternate plan.

I pushed Trout to $50 but he went for $51. It was the same with Kershaw who went $44. The inflation was even higher for the rest of the top players with Paul Goldschmidt going for $50. I knew the money would eventually run out, so I backed off the crazy bidding and went looking for values. Here is my team (full results from the weekend).

Name Pos Cost OBP HR SB
Buster Posey C $28 0.365 16 3
Stephen Vogt C $6 0.318 14 1
Chris Davis 1B $27 0.334 38 2
Jake Lamb 3B $14 0.327 21 5
Eric Hosmer CI $13 0.340 21 6
Logan Forsythe 2B $6 0.332 18 8
Elvis Andrus SS $13 0.333 7 25
Eduardo Nunez MI $6 0.316 11 29
Kevin Kiermaier OF $12 0.319 15 21
Jose Ramirez OF $19 0.341 11 23
Kole Calhoun OF $8 0.328 21 4
Randal Grichuk OF $2 0.296 25 6
Carlos Beltran OF $1 0.319 23 1
Anthony Rendon UT $15 0.348 18 10
Totals $170 259 144


Name Pos Cost Ks
Corey Kluber P $26 232
Rick Porcello P $12 162
Danny Duffy P $12 171
Jeff Samardzija P $7 167
Robbie Ray P $4 192
Collin McHugh P $1 165
Adam Wainwright P $1 134
A.J. Ramos P $10 73
Ken Giles P $17 87
Total $90 1383


Jayson Werth
Charlie Morton
Cody Bellinger
Steven Souza
Shelby Miller
Rubby De La Rosa

It’s not surprising to those who follow me but it ended up fairly boring with no “upside” plays. The main reason is from using averaged projection values. High upside plays have high variance projections but once averaged, they fall below well below the peaks. I bought good values across the board and only overpaid $4 for Ken Giles. Most closers were going for $3 to $6 more than my projections and I didn’t want to punt-and-hunt for saves, so I bucked up.

Here are my initial thoughts.

  • I spent 65% on hitting versus pitching. I planned on spending closer to 68% but picking up A.J. Ramos for $10 gave me two decent closers. It opened up some FAAB dollars to concentrate on some hitting.
  • In the tables above, I added the home run and stolen base totals. I was aiming for a 2:1 home run to stolen base ratio but ended up at 1.8:1. My home run total puts me at 13th overall and the stolen bases at 4th compared to last season stats. I didn’t want to be hunting for stolen bases but I wasn’t able to track my projected totals in the fast-paced late game. I am going to need 30 additional home runs to push past the middle of the pack. Home runs will be an early focus and if the home run surge continues, I should be able to find some help. Hopefully.
  • As for pitching, I only wanted to try to average 171 strikeouts from my seven starters. I’m projected at 174. This total puts me in the top three from last year, By using two-start weeks from my bench players, I should not have to worry about strikeouts and then manage the other stats.
  • I got crickets on two of my nominations. All the starters around Kluber were going for $3 to $6 over my values so I nominated him at my $26 value and it stuck. This pick up was great. The other was Vogt. No big deal there.
  • After comparing my values to previous 15-team auction values this season, I was not surprised I ended up with Porcello, Samardzija, and McHugh. I had each valued at least $7 over their going auction rates.
  • For the reserves, I added some possible power with Werth, Souza, and hopefully Bellinger. Besides possibly Moncada, I think Bellinger has the best chances of adding game-changing stats as a prospect.
  • I am not sold on de la Rosa contributing anything but I can DL stash him and open up a bench spot with our unlimited DL spots.
  • In the $1 end game, I wished I had spent $2 per player. I had several targets taken from me with no way to go higher. I wished I had not spent $8 on Calhoun and spread out the $8. I am pretty sure I would have gotten more value.

Overall, I am happy with the team but know I have work to do over the entire season and need some health luck.

Quick look: Shelby Miller

Even though I reserved Miller in Tout Wars, I wasn’t targeting him. He was just the next up on my reserve list. I knew his fastball velocity jumped ~2.5 mph this spring and I was wondering if I should dive in head first. After watching a start, I can’t see any useable improvements. Here are my takeaways.

  • His fastball averaged 97 mph. It’s a plus pitch. It always has been good according to my pERA values. Hitters can’t seem to pick it up and it generates a ton of flyballs.
  • The curveball was a swing-and-miss only pitch. He put a few in the dirt.
  • His change and cutter were sort of OK but uninviting.
  • His defense saved him from a 2B and HR in the first inning. His pitches were getting crushed.
  • He has no out pitch. For reference, here are his 2016 swinging strike rates on his pitches.

Four-seam: 7.2%
Change: 7.1%
Cutter: 7.7%
Curve: 7.4%

When a pitcher’s four-seamer is nearly his best, it’s not a good sign for the pitcher’s breaking balls. I wonder if he should go all Bartolo Colon and just throw at least 80% fastballs and then hopefully his breaking pitches take the batter by surprise.

In Tout Wars, I should have waited and taken a chance on another arm but the pickings were slim. For now, I will watch him closely and if I need to, quickly pick up another arm.

Quick Look: Michael Brantley

I was encouraged to see him in the starting lineup and not playing minor league games (which allows the team to backdate DL days). I was even more interested after finding out he hit a home run (16 sec mark):

Not impressed with it barely getting to 350 feet. I watch as many of his other at bats as possible and came to just one conclusion, teams are going to challenge him away and see if he has the strength to drive those pitches. Every pitch seemed to be on the outer third of the plate. He dinked some over the infield’s left side but the plan generally work by generating weak contact

I can’t say for sure with the limited looks how he will perform but I have reserved optimism right now. I would not count on his production but will gladly bench him to see if the past 2nd round production comes back.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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7 years ago

Jeff: thanks for the write up about your Tout Wars weekend.
But I was wondering about Felix Hernandez. I have an AL-only draft on Friday night and he’s one of the top pitchers available in a keeper league. (Along with Archer, Price and Quintana.)
Didn’t you say his velocity had jumped earlier in the spring? I used the link you provided with your assessment of Miller and all I see is that his velocity with his four seam FB is essentially the same as it was in 2016.
Since I need some more starters (I kept Gausman, Stroman, Cotton and Smyly) and I have the most cash to spend ($140)in that 10 team league, I thought I might pass on Price b/c of his arm problems and go after Archer and King Felix and probably punt saves (it’s a 7 x 7 cats league).
Does this sound like a reasonable strategy to you? I hate to ask but I have a terrible head cold and I’m in a fog.