My Tout Wars Recap: That Time Votto Angered More than Just Reds Announcers

My Tout Wars evening almost went a very different way on Tuesday night. We had 15 of us gathered for the Tout Wars Mixed Draft and I had the 11th overall pick. This is an OBP league which severely changes the value of some players, so keep that in mind when you’re looking at the draft board. We had to run the draft on RTSports through one of their mock drafts even though the league will be hosted on OnRoto in-season. This caused some issues right out of the gate and nearly set my night down a vastly different path.

On my end, the draft didn’t start at 7:00 PM central as scheduled. There were no sounders and nothing was moving. At about 7:04, it jumped live to the 14th pick and I had been auto’d with Adam Jones. He is an unquestionably great player, but I wouldn’t necessarily take him there in a standard league with AVG and I certainly wouldn’t take him there in an OBP league. He experiences one of the biggest value shifts going from AVG to OBP. He has hit a composite .284 over the last five seasons, ranging from .280 to .287, but an unspectacular 3.9% walk rate leaves him with just a .321 OBP in that same span (.334 high, .311 low). I was pretty livid.

I had no idea what happened and knew that getting stuck with Jones was really going to hamper me. I was just going to eat it, but the delay with the 14th pick (Wiegert was having some computer issues) left some time open and as we were discussing things, it seemed Wiegert and I weren’t the only ones who experienced some early issues. I was thrilled when someone suggested rolling back to me. I wasn’t going to take Edwin Encarnacion or Robinson Cano – the two guys taken after me who would be rolled back. No one objected and I was free to make my actual selection: Joey Votto. Honestly, that pick seems to have drawn more ire than I would’ve seen had I been stuck with Jones.

For those of you certain that I could’ve gotten him rounds later: you’re wrong. First off, Rudy Gamble from Razzball already said he’d have taken him if I go Encarnacion. Even if you think Gamble is fibbing to make me feel better (and I don’t think he is at all), then I maybe could’ve gotten him in the second round, but no later than that. His ADP is 100% irrelevant because this is an OBP league. He is the best guy in OBP with a .417 career mark. His bad year last year saw him post a .390 OBP.

I’m well aware of the fact that he played 62 games last year, but he played 162 the year before with an obscene .435 OBP. I think the dissent against this pick focuses entirely too much on both ADP and 2014. I paid full price, but I’m fine with that. I’m obviously betting on his health. He was my guy and I had the opportunity to get him so I took it. He sets such an incredible base for my OBP.

I realize Encarnacion laps him in power while also posting a solid OBP, but there could legitimately be upwards of a 100-point difference between the two in that category, plus if we are going to talk about Votto’s health, we can’t just gloss over Encarnacion’s lengthy injury record which features seven DL stints, including a month-plus lost last year. But I’m not trying to denigrate EE here. I think he’s fantastic and a completely viable first-rounder in either format. I’m just saying he’s no slam dunk over Votto in this format.

The pick wasn’t popular. Apparently some of the morning guys on SiriusXM slammed it and there were several tweets sharing similar opinions. That’s totally fine. I don’t need everyone to agree with my picks, what fun is that? But suggesting I made the pick for attention is silly and as wrong as telling me how much later I could’ve gotten him. I’m trying to win the league. No one cares who finishes second, let alone fifth or sixth. A full season of Votto sets me on a tremendous path toward winning because he is such a huge asset in OBP and affords me great flexibility in-season, especially when it comes to addressing some speed needs as most speedsters are OBP-deficient.

Reasonable minds can disagree, but don’t project some horsecrap about attention-seeking on me and don’t hide behind the nebulous and impossible-to-prove notion that he would’ve lasted well beyond where I took him. I’m betting on something close to the Fans projection (.427 OBP in 625 PA) and he lands 10th among batters in the auction calculator based on that set of numbers. He falls to 23rd with the Steamer numbers (.405 in 588), but that still means I really only could’ve maybe gotten him in the second and I got what I believe to be a rising star with my second pick so I wouldn’t have changed a thing. On the non-Fangraphs side of things, he is 12th overall in the Rotowire OBP rankings (.430 OBP in 488 AB – they don’t have PA listed).

And finally, you don’t win or lose with one pick. Even if you lose your first rounder to injury to severe underperformance, that alone won’t cost you the league. That’s just an easy excuse for a bad team. I had 28 other picks plus countless in-season moves upcoming, so if I don’t do well, it’s because I had a bad team, not because I took Votto at 11. So how about the rest of the squad?

C Grandal (11) P1 Hughes (9)
C Norris (13) P2 Cashner (10)
1B Votto (1) P3 Hutchison (16)
2B Rendon (2) P4 Peralta (17)
SS Castro (7) P5 Greene (20)
3B Zimmerman (8) P6 Pomeranz (21)
CI Machado (11) P7 Miller (19)
MI Miller (23) P8 Betances (5)
OF J.Upton (3) P9 Allen (6)
OF Heyward (4)
OF Fowler (14) B1 S.Smith (24)
OF Eaton (15) B2 E.Cabrera (25)
OF Taylor (22) B3 Worley (26)
UT Mauer (18) B4 Happ (27)
B5 Van Slyke (28)
B6 J.Gray (29)

CATCHER: Yasmani Grandal & Derek Norris

I didn’t want to get shutout on viable backstops. In a league this deep, we’re really digging into the pool and multiple teams are going to have some rough C2s. I wouldn’t be that guy. I wanted two of Russell Martin, Grandal, Norris, John Jaso, and Chris Iannetta – in that order, too. I was thrilled to get two of my top three, especially after 10 catchers were off the board, including Jaso early in round 11 during a catcher run of sorts (Brian McCann, Jaso, and Matt Wieters were three of the round’s first four picks).

My plan with backstops was to get two OBP-heavy guys with some power upside. That eliminated guys like Evan Gattis, Salvador Perez, and Yadier Molina from consideration since I knew they would still be relatively expensive even in this format. They went in the sixth, ninth, and ninth rounds, respectively, with Perez and Molina going just two picks apart. Norris was fifth in OBP among catchers with a .361 mark. Grandal was just 12th, but gets a boost in the format thanks to a career 13.8% walk rate.

INFIELD/UTILITY: Votto, Anthony Rendon, Starlin Castro, Ryan Zimmerman, Manny Machado, Brad Miller and Joe Mauer

I love my infield. I consider Rendon a viable first rounder in 15-team leagues (even with OBP) so I was absolutely thrilled to pull him in the second. I think I have a nice mix of proven talent and upside. It’s a little slow as a crew, but I have no problem coming out of a draft with that deficiency as it is the easiest category to attack in-season. The power potential is solid, though not overwhelming and the OBP potential of this group is fantastic.

Castro is a sneaky OBP asset. He was second among shortstops with 500+ PA last year and only drops to fifth if you expand out to 375+ PA to include Tulowitzki’s huge .432 mark. Machado and Miller have breakout potential, albeit at different levels. Of course, with a 12-round price difference, Miller needn’t carry a ceiling as high as Machado’s to be worthwhile. And if Miller just completely flames out, then Everth Cabrera jumps in and helps address the speed issue.

I have some flexibility here, too. Rendon has 2B and 3B and Zimmerman has 3B and OF. Cabrera will likely add 2B in season to go with his SS eligibility. And Mauer covers 1B, though I obviously need Votto to soak up the overwhelming majority of my 1B playing time. Speaking of Mauer, I’m surprised I was able to get the OBP stalwart in the 18th round. I realize his shortcomings, especially as a 1B-only, but he shouldn’t have been available at that point, even with his meager HR output.

OUTFIELD: Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler, Adam Eaton, and Michael Taylor

I have a grab-bag of talent here in the outfield. Upton is my power base. I expect him to drop another mid-20s homer season, even in Petco Park. Heyward is a wildcard. The OBP is excellent, but I can’t be certain about whether I’ll get power, speed, or both. Ideally, I want both like 2012, but I can take another 11-homer season if it comes with 20 SBs like we saw in 2014.

Fowler is a major OBP stud. His value jumps substantially in this league format. He has a career .366 OBP and hasn’t been below .369 in any of the last three seasons. All of the focus is on the youth movement in Chicago, but if they are going to excel, Fowler is going to be the prime beneficiary atop that lineup. Health has been a concern throughout his career, but it’s not like he’s got a ton of 300-400 PA seasons. He’s never been below 492. On the other end, he’s never been higher than 563, so I’m probably going to need a fill-in for 15-20 games.

Eaton and Taylor could greatly alter my SB fortunes. I mentioned that I’m light there with the infield, but these two could render that moot. I’m not trying to win the category, but I don’t want to flounder in last or second-to-last, either. Eaton needs to be better with his SB decisions (just 22-for-36 in 918 PA), but the upside is there. He stole 41 bases per 600 PA in the minors, including 38 in 119 games at Triple-A in 2012. Eaton has the playing time secured, so it’s all on him. Taylor is more at the mercy of his surroundings, though a trio of injuries has cleared a path for him to get a legitimate audition.

Jayson Werth injured his shoulder this offseason and left the door open for Taylor to at least make the club out of camp. Now the core surgery for Denard Span all but guarantees Taylor an Opening Day spot. Throw in the fact that Nate McLouth is recovering from a labrum surgery and Taylor could definitely stick around even as Werth and Span return. The 24-year old outfielder had an excellent two-level season last year with a .304/.390/.526 triple slash that included 23 HRs and 37 SBs in just 110 games. Only 12 of those came in Triple-A, so he might need some more seasoning, but I found him to be a worthy gamble in the 22nd round in case he proves ready to become a quality speed asset right away.

STARTERS: Phil Hughes, Andrew Cashner, Drew Hutchison, Wily Peralta, Shane Greene, and Drew Pomeranz

I waited on starters, opting to swim in the middle of the pool over the shallow end littered with aces. I planned to get two stud closers to build my base of ratios and strikeouts and then load up on quality arms capable of taking a step or two forward. The league allows moves freely (whereas you need a guy to get injured or demoted to change them out in LABR) so if some of these guys bust, I can make up for it via activity in the free agent market and stream with a six-man bench.

Hughes doesn’t have a ton of upside after last year’s breakout, but his ERA (3.52) and FIP (2.65) were nearly a run apart and even though I don’t expect a repeat of his 1.9% walk rate, I still think he will be a strong WHIP asset. Cashner was incredible last year, but only for 123.3 innings. I’d be fine with his 2.55 ERA jumping a half run if I got 190 innings of it. Even if Cashner doesn’t increase his 18.4% strikeout rate (I think he legitimately has 23-25% potential with his stuff), the closers have strikeout surplus to offset the fact that neither Cashner nor Hughes were among the 21 guys who average about a strikeout-per-inning last year (150+ IP). Plus, I got strikeout upside in the backend of the rotation.

Hutchison returned from Tommy John surgery to deliver a 23.4% rate. His struggles against lefties need to tighten up (those struggles also fueled his 1.1 HR/9), but we saw the slider become a devastating weapon in-season and it looks like his key to stifling southpaws more frequently. Peralta has quietly put together two full seasons of major league work at 24 and 25 years old. He wasn’t great last year, but he still showed big improvements with his strikeout, walk, and groundball rates all got better. Like Hutch, Peralta’s key to another jump is taming lefties. Even a repeat would work as a 17th rounder, though.

Greene’s stock is on the rise this offseason, though he is still affordable. I took him in an NFBC 50 round draft-and-hold league at the Arizona Fall league back in November in round 24 (maybe it was 23 or 25, but it was definitely in that area). Since then he has been traded to the Tigers and tabbed as a sleeper in several spots so I was comfortable jumping up and paying a 20th rounder. If the strikeout rate we saw in 78.7 innings last year is real (23.5%), then that lessens the burden on Cashner to jump forward with his punchouts.

Pomeranz is a former blue-chip prospect who temporarily had his life ruined by a trade to Colorado before Oakland saved him. He was sharp in 69 innings, but showed some foolishness when he punched a chair and cost himself time after Texas cleaned his clock to the tune of seven earned in just three and two-thirds innings in mid-June. He was able to squeeze in three starts after returning and didn’t allow a run in 13.3 innings with 16 strikeouts and just three walks. Jesse Hahn is getting most of the Oakland late-round love, but Pomeranz deserves at least much, if not more.

RELIEVERS: Dellin Betances, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller

Without being on an elbow, I knew I had little chance of getting Betances and Aroldis Chapman because once Chapman goes, the floodgates usually open. I definitely wanted one of Chapman or Betances if I couldn’t get both and then pair the one I got with one of Allen, Mark Melancon, or David Robertson. I am thrilled with the Betances/Allen combo. I think Allen is poised to join the elite level of closers this year. His strikeout rate and ratios have already been there for two years and now the saves should follow as he will have the job all year and Cleveland should be pretty good.

Y’all might not believe me since I took Miller, but I don’t have any real concerns about Betances being the closer. I think he will get the job out of spring and hold it all year with relative ease en route to becoming one of the top two closers in the game, but since Miller is an elite handcuff, it just made sense to take him in the round where I was considering a spec pick. Ken Giles and Brett Cecil went a couple rounds earlier and they were my only other considerations.

Miller could be this year’s Betances and log 90 innings of high quality work so I might be using him in spots even without regular save opportunities. Maybe one of my backend starters has a trip to Coors in a one-start week, so I’ll throw Miller in and get some clean innings and strikeouts. He had a ridiculous 103 strikeouts in just 62.3 innings last year. And yeah, I’m also protected in case Betances does falter, but if Betances’ backup was more an 8.5-9.0 K/9 guy with usable, but unspectacular ratios, I would’ve definitely gone elsewhere for my third reliever.

BENCH: Seth Smith, Cabrera, Vance Worley, J.A. Happ, Scott Van Slyke, and Jon Gray

  • Smith is a long-side platoon bat with OBP goodness: .277/.358/.481 career line v. RHP in 2349 PA
  • Cabrera could end up as my starting MI right out of the gate even if Miller wins the job in Seattle just because I’m a bit slow as a club.
  • In Searage I Trust when it comes to Worley: 2.28 ERA and 1.06 WHIP at home (he wasn’t bad on the road, either, but I can definitely stream him at home).
  • Happ quietly dominated at home (3.15 ERA, 1.16 WHIP w/85 Ks in 91.3 IP) despite pitching in Toronto and now he gets to move to Seattle so he’s another stream option.
  • SVS had an unreal season last year and though he’s seen as a short-side platoon bat (.892 OPS v. LHP), his .755 OPS against righties is more than capable so I could reasonably have a full-timer on my hands at some point with Joc Pederson and Carl Crawford both carrying question marks in center and left.
  • Gray is my lottery ticket. There is tons of daylight in the Colorado rotation and the 23-year old has a tremendous arm. He might even go crazy enough to win a spot out of Spring Training, though I’m not banking on that. I’ll hold him as long as I can in-season.

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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After the charger incident and with you and Eno targeting the same pitchers a couple of slots apart, I am hoping the podcast will survive.