Tout Table: 2019 Takeaways

This week’s question: What are some of the takeaways from the 2019 season and how will they alter your approach to 2020?

Ian Kahn (Rotowire, @IanKahn4): The ball changes everything. The power is going to be there, but you still gotta get enough. It’s speed that will be in sharp demand. I’m looking for power and speed with my early picks next season. I expect that I will be passing on making sure that I get an ace. Scherzer’s struggles with health is a reminder that there really is no such thing as a guarantee as far as arms are concerned. I’m looking to start grabbing pitchers in the 3rd or even 4th round in 2020. Targets will be Trea Turner, Mondesi and Tatis from the jump. Gotta get those Stolen Bases or you will be playing from behind.

Brent Hershey (Baseball HQ, @BrentHQ): I’m going to pay more attention batted ball outcomes for pitchers, especially those with several years of MLB data to look at, when evaluating pitchers for 2020. Given the ball and our HR era, I think a viable “tie-breaker” when looking at similar pitchers could be: who can I trust more to NOT give up home runs? Might mean that pitchers with elevated GB rates (and/or hr/9 rates better than league average) get a small bump for me in 2020. It’s not a cure-all by any means, but it IS something I will look at more closely as a way to combat the damage that the crazy HR numbers have on pitchers’ outcomes.

Lenny Melnick (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @LennyMelnick): Pitching Wins …Unlimited DL moves needed

Alex Chamberlain (Rotofraphs, @DolphHauldhagen): The juiced ball is here to stay at least through 2020 (as long as we take MLB/Rawlings at their word). Because hitting runs so deep now (these early mock drafts have been illuminating in this regard), I will either go very heavy on pitching early and rely on the absurd depth of power to keep me afloat, or lean away from pitching completely and wing it, loading up on the surefire bats to ensure my offense is competitive. I’m definitely better at drafting hitters than pitchers, so personally I’ll lean toward the former approach.

Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): This is hardly an epiphany , but once again I’m reminded that paying big for closers is not a good idea. Remember when Treinen and Diaz were must have relievers.

Andrea Lamont (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @RotoLady): Don’t expect the fully juiced ball in 2020

Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): Paying for stolen bases in mid rounds … that is over-paying for stolen bases in mid rounds is turning into a poor investment. Ensuring that you get the power/speed combo players are quite important, and it is wise to come away with steals in the first three rounds of drafts. Also, streaming catchers was a fantastic proposition this year – there were so many #2 catchers or undrafted catchers that were viable and worthwhile at various times throughout the course of the season. You need not invest heavily in catching, you can stream effectively.

Steve Gardner (USAToday Fantasy Sports, @SteveAGardner): Ian and Ariel hit on my big takeaway. With stolen bases on the decline, I’m putting even more emphasis on getting at least one power/speed guy early. You just can’t afford to go fishing for one-category steals specialists when you need so much power to compete in the HR/RBI categories. As a result, I’ll bet former first-round “locks” who don’t run (Nolan Arenado, J.D. Martinez, Aaron Judge) are going to see their ADPs fall and the guys who offer a little bit of everything (Trevor Story, Fernando Tatis Jr., Starling Marte) are going to move up.

Ryan Hallam (Fighting Chance Fantasy, @FightingChance): Positional flexibility doesn’t equal production. This year I was in the draft and hold league so we couldn’t make in season transactions, so I purposely took players eligible at multiple positions. Some of them turned into a mistake. Guys like Jurickson Profar, Marwin Gonzalez, and Ian Desmond were able to play more than one place, but if they didn’t provide stats, what good is the position flexibility. I also agree with guys above me, multiple tool players at the top are the way to go. I tried with Jose Altuve and the average was a disappointment for him and there were no stolen bases. Next year will be better!

Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman, Fantasy Baseball Guide, @kroyte): We look for sure things, like get an ace or pick power/speed, and these ideas can work and they can not work, and there’s no way in any individual instance to know whether they will or not. The big thing, if you’re going after homers (for instance) is you find the guys you’re not paying for every homer they produce. Pete Alonso this year was a find, but if you’re paying first round money for him next year, probably not so much. He may not kill you, but the only way it works out is if you find next year’s Pete Alonso, too. The point is you have to keep shooting at the long shots, bought at a fair price (okay, or maybe a skooch more), and hope you land a few, which might put you over the top. That’s what it takes. Paying top dollar for top dollar talent, sure, but making the right picks on the breakout players is winning. Sorry, but this is the takeaway for every year, isn’t it?

Ron Shandler (RonShandler.com, @RonShandler): What Peter wrote. 2019 was no different than any other year. Some things we got right. Some things we got wrong. Those who rostered more overachievers than underachievers won. I typically don’t try to come up with takeaways from a single season because one season is one data point. Just because Max Scherzer didn’t earn back his draft slot in 2019 doesn’t mean that anchor starters are not a good first round/$30+ investment. There are some things that never change but odds are someone will still draft Kirby Yates as the first closer off the board next March. You just have to be smart by recognizing the fact that we aren’t all that smart.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): While in general I agree with Peter and Ron, I do think there are actionable trends influencing draft strategy. That said, I don’t believe the ball in the number one factor, even though it’s here to stay another year (at least). The trend I see involves saves. There are similar saves as previous seasons, but spread out among more relievers. I sense this will continue. The repercussion is there are fewer saves accrued in our fantasy standings. This is especially apropos in mixed leagues where two and a half closers are generally needed to compete. You can get away with one solid closer and mix and match for the second spot, availing more assets to funnel to hitting or starting pitching.

Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, The Process, @jeffwzimmerman): All discussion starts with the juiced ball. Most preseason profiles will have either have a juiced ball outcome or a non-juiced ball outcome (see Freddy Galvis). The ball could be less juiced, the same, or even more happy. How players are evaluated on these outcomes are key.

Tim McLeod (Prospect361.com, @RunTMc59006473): You can never have enough starting pitching. Leave the draft/auction with at least 3/4 potential starters stashed in your reserves. The days of the one dimensional speed types being an asset are over. They simply don’t run enough to compensate for the lack of power. Leave the Mallex Smith/Dee Gordon types on the board and let their owners figure out come July why they’re bottom three in the HR/RBI cats.

AJ Mass (ESPN, @AJMass): I don’t think I would change anything, to be honest. Look, at one point this season I had 12 players on the IL. Injuries are going to happen, and there’s no way to predict when they will. So, I’ll “trust the process” and cross my fingers that my bumps and bruises are a little bit more spread out over time in 2020.

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): Step One, as some have implied, is not to overreact to 2019 when strategizing for 2020. I think I’m likelier to focus my top bids/picks on the studly power-speed hitters, and try to use a skills approach to aim for SPs with upside later and/or cheaper. And remember that there are lots of “second-tier” power-speed guys, whose total HR+SB aren’t in the high-50s or higher like Yelich/Acuna/Trout/Bellinger, but useful contributors like Ozzie Albies (21-15, .289), Whit Merrifield, Austin Meadows (27-10, .287), Tommy Pham (20-20, .280), Kolten Wong (10-20, .288), Amed Rosario (12-16, .284) … And many of these guys will offer playable Runs and RBI tallies as well.

Tristan H. Cockcroft (ESPN, @SultanofStat): I know everyone still clings dearly to the “don’t play for closers” mantra — and I get it, with the Edwin Diaz, Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen seasons — but I don’t think it’s quite as easy to piece saves together in the lower tiers than it was in seasons past, particularly with the rise in closers-by-committee and the increasing rate of roster churn across MLB. One effect: It was more difficult to get those “proven closers,” guys who are solo finishers for their team with strong current-year skills, on the trade market in-season, unless you were willing to pay the rising premium. I’m not saying that you MUST get a premium closer at your draft. What I’m saying is that you can’t waltz in with a lazy, “oh, I’ll just fill that later” saves strategy, because I think you’re going to find it a bit more difficult to execute than you think.

Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman, Fantasy Baseball Guide, @kroyte): Good points by Todd and Tristan about saves. Not getting the guy who has the job in spring training doesn’t mean you might get the guy who gets the job after the first guy fails, because he may be replaced by two or three guys.

Ryan Bloomfield (BaseballHQ, @RyanBHQ): Echoing the “don’t overreact” crowd — your 2019 takeaways might be vastly different depending on who you picked in your leagues. If you took Cole or Verlander early, you’re happier with the “draft aces early” strategy than those who took Snell or Bauer. Ditto the “don’t pay for saves” axiom with Diaz/Treinen owners… are the Kirby Yates, Josh Hader, and Felipe Vazquez owners singing the same tune? Probably not. Sure, the obvious juiced ball/low SB/low IP trends are important, but remember to remove your personal biases/experiences before you plan for 2020. And while few like to hear this, picking the right players always trumps macro-level draft strategy.

Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): Don’t worry about the hitter you got stuck with projected for just 10 homers…he’ll most certainly break out to hit 40 dongs, like half the MLB player population. Since everyone is homering now and steals are way down, each steal is now worth significantly more than ever before, and exceeds each homer in value.

Zach Steinhorn (Baseball Prospectus, @zachsteinhorn): With steals becoming harder and harder to find, the natural reaction would be to place a premium on speed in drafts. But while each steal might be worth more than each homer, the home run spike also means that more homers are required to compete in the category. I agree with some of the above comments about the increased value of reliable power/speed guys but don’t undervalue the proven 30 HR/100 RBI players. You will need more of them than ever before.

Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): In hindsight the “livelier” ball should have led to less of a premium being paid for top Hitters (at least those whose name doesn’t rhyme with Strike Out). Of course, it’s impossible to say at this point what, if any, adjustments will be made to the baseball going in to the 2020 season. However, I’ll be keeping an eye on home run rates in Spring Training (in aggregate, not for particular players) for initial clues re whether any auction strategy adjustments appear warranted.

Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus, @MikeGianella): My biggest takeaway is to make sure to pay attention/keep paying attention to the categories we’re not talking about nearly as much as. Batting average still matters, and putting together a strong AVG (or, in Tout, OBP) squad is still important. The second takeaway is tanking isn’t going anywhere and paying a little extra for players on first division teams with better defenses/pitching staffs/opportunities for wins, runs and RBI matters even more than it used to.

Derek VanRiper (Rotowire, @DerekVanRiper): I think Mike’s point about the elite teams being a wide margin above the pack, and the bottom-end teams being awful will hold true again in 2020. Paying slightly more for the players on the elite teams could pay off in a big way with the extra counting stats they’ll pile up. I think the players whose value comes overwhelmingly from steals will rarely end up on my rosters next year, as the premiums paid for those particular bags will be even more dangerous at the inflated price. I’ll be looking for steals from players who do a lot of other things as well, meaning I’m a lot more likely to pay top dollar for Christian Yelich than to pay $4-5 less for Nolan Arenado…even though Arenado is a great player in his own right.

Michael Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): My first year in Tout Wars Draft & Hold League definitely made me realize that I need to put a higher priority on pitching depth. I had several pitchers go down with lengthy injuries and just could never make up any ground in the categories because I was forced to start less than average options. I also did not focus much on stolen bases so that is one category that needs greater attention, even if there are fewer and fewer optimal speedsters to choose from each year.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Lots of talk about the ball. For those who may have missed it, this piece suggests there won’t be any changes until 2021 at the earliest:

Juiced Ball

Tout Wars Free Agency Bidding Recap – Sunday, September 8

Several Tout Wars leagues are coming down to the wire so while the bidding has slowed, the picks are as important as the first week of the season. Below is a summary of the top free agent bids in each of the five Tout Wars leagues, with links to the detailed bidding action following our 8 p.m. ET deadline each Sunday evening. All prices are on a $1000 base.

After you scan the detail below, please join our live chat, starting at 9 p.m. ET Sunday evening, to discuss these results with Todd Zola of Mastersball and other Touts.

American League

There were only eight acquisitions this week, five arms and three bats. Leading the bidding was Larry Schechter, spending 32 units on Jesus Luzardo. Luzardo was finally calle dup Sunday, with the expectation of debuting mid-week against the daunting Houston Astros.

Colton and the Wolfman invested 6 FAAB units in Mariners starter Justus Sheffield who lines up for an intriguing home two-step against the Reds and White Sox.

Jason Collette hopes the Baltimore Orioles can provide him with a boost, grabbing Mark Trumbo and Austin Hays. Trumbo spent most of the season on the IL before debuting last week while Hays was called up over the weekend. Hays is reportedly heading to the Arizona Fall League but will see a little action at the MLB level first.

Review all 9/8 AL bids here.

National League

The NL Touts opened their FAAB wallets this week. After tonight there’s only two weeks and hey, you can’t take it with you. Eleven players were picked up seven different combatants.

The top bid came courtesy of Lenny Melnick, looking to replace the unfortunate loss of Javier Baez with a $75 Cole Tucker.

Phil Hertz was busy, adding Ross Stripling for 51, Cory Spangenberg for 25 and Michael Lorenzen for 0. Stripling has entered the Dodgers rotation while Spangenberg is filling the voids left by Keston Hiura and Mike Moustakas.

Brian Walton was equally diligent, snagging a trio of his own. Julio Urias was the high bid at $30 while also adding Fernandez Abad for a buck and Nick Martini for a couple bones.

Review all 9/8 NL bids here.

Mixed Auction

Eight of the 15 Warriors were active this week, giving a dozen players new homes. Jeff Zimmerman must have a thing for Baskin Robbins, scooping three pitchers for $31 each. Tyler Mahle, Spencer Turnbull and Asher
Wojciechowski look to sweeten Zimmerman’s staff.

Brent Hershey is bullish on Alexander Toro, offering a $26 try on the Astros third baseman. Several other batters drew double digit bids with league leader Scott Swanay bidding 16 on Matt Joyce and Al Melchior spending 14 on Seattle’s Dylan Moore and Cincinnati’s Phil Ervin.

Review all 9/8 Mixed Auction bids here.

Mixed Draft

Tout Draft was the busiest league with 14 winnings bids shared by seven Touts. Rudy Gamble was the big spender, dropping a league high 38 units on Patrick Sandoval along with 3 on Asher Wojciechowski.

Adam Ronis spent the most on a batter, investing $34 on Alberto Mondesi. Despite being advised not to dive, Mondesi is running wild, stealing six in the week he’s been back.

Tim McLeod bought a pair of hitters, hoping a $27 try on Garrett Cooper and $7 on Sean Murphy reinforces his batting ledger.

Review all 9/8 Mixed Draft bids here.

Head to Head

It’s playoff time with Ian Kahn defeating Ryan Bloomfield and Alex Chamberlain besting Dan Strafford. In the semis, Kahn squares off with Jake Ciely while Chamberlain draws regular-season leader Clay Link.

There were seven bids this week with Kahn’s $37 on Carlos Martinez the only non-zero offering.

Ciely was busiest, supplementing his squad with Joc Pederson, Kolten Wong and Nathan Eovaldi.

Review all 9/8 Head to Head bids here.

Tout Table: Help for the Final Month

This week’s question: There have been several callups in August. Who is most likely to be a contributor down the stretch?

Derek VanRiper (Rotowire, @DerekVanRiper): Aristides Aquino might have already locked up the actual most valuable player called up in August, but I think Josh Rojas has a chance to be one of the most impactful callups down the stretch. The early returns through 13 games are nothing to write home about (.194/.275/.222 entering play Tuesday), but his combination of plate skills, and path to regular playing time (at least against right-handed pitching) for the D-backs should be enough for him to secure a place in the team’s 2020 plans as well. On the pitching side, I’m beginning to buy into Logan Webb as the most valuable starter added to a rotation in the past month. Innings-wise, he doesn’t appear to have a hard cap that will shut him down early, and pitching half of his games in San Francisco alone makes him a home streamer in most mixed-league situations.

Seth Trachtman (Rotoworld, @sethroto): Beyond Aristides Aquino, Nick Solak looks like he will have the opportunity to be a major offensive contributor. He’s become an everyday player since Texas promoted him, getting most of his playing time at DH, and has been in a relatively favorable spot hitting mostly fifth and sixth in the Rangers batting order. Arlington is obviously a nice backdrop for hitters, and Solak has consistently hit as a pro at every stop. He hasn’t flashed the steals this year that he did last season (21 stolen bases in 126 games at Double-A in 2018) but has already started to produce for Texas. He’s consistently shown batting average and power ability, and could be a nice source for offense at the relatively thin second base spot as the Rangers try to see if he’s worthy of a regular spot to open 2020.

Tim McLeod (Prospect361.com, @RunTMc59006473): The news today that David Peralta is looking at shoulder surgery, creates an opportunity for Tim Locastro and he can fly. He could very easily prove to be a difference maker if one is chasing stolen bases. Now that the playing time concerns have been cleared up in San Francisco, Mauricio Dubon is an intriguing option.

Andrea LaMont (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @RotoLady): Sept Callup Intl Lg MVP Ryan Mountcastle Balt

Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman, Fantasy Baseball Guide, @kroyte): As an owner of Dubon in a keeper league I’m hoping Tim is right, but the bigger point is that right or wrong, the issue at this point in the season is playing time. Aquino’s massive start may well prove the most valuable, even if he doesn’t do another thing, that’s in the bank, but for the guys who are just getting the call now the issue isn’t so much talent as it is opportunity and who gets hot. Plus who gets the most at bats against the Triple-A caliber pitchers they’ve already shown they can hit. These are guys you plug into your weakest situations after spending whatever FAAB you have for the guy/s who’s/’re the best fit position-wise and cross your fingers. You might get this year’s Luke Voit. You might not.

Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): Aristides Aquino seems like the obvious choice among those who’ve made their MLB debuts this month. If we expand the set of players being considered to include guys who’ve recently returned to the majors and might impact your fantasy team’s fortunes in September, I would include Mike Foltynewicz, David Bote, Greg Allen, and Aaron Civale.

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): Agree with Peter that Aquino is the obvious choice for PT reasons, one of few reasons CIN fans will have to buy tickets down the stretch. I’m hoping CHW calls up Luis Robert, who ripped through three levels of the minors and slashed .331/.381/.625, including .302/.350/.637 at AAA. Free swinger, with 4.5-5.0 K/bb ratios. 14 HR/36 RBI/7 SB (2 CS) in 147 AB in AAA as well.

Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): You always take notice of a Rockies hitter Sam Hilliard who hit 35 hr’s at triple A got the call and homered in his first big league game. The Rockies have good reason to play him a lot in September to see what they’ve got, so 5-10 HR’s is possible !

Glenn Colton (Fantasy Alarm, @GlennColton1): I know this is chalk but Aquino is just so locked in. With time left in August, he already has hit more dingers in his first 100 AB than any other player in history. Oh and hitting in Cincy in the summer will not hurt!

Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): Aristides Aquino. 13 HRs in 102 at bats with a acceptable 22.5% K rate. A wRC+ of 186 makes him a must play and game changer down the stretch.

Eric Karabell (ESPN, @karabelleric): The Rockies still have a nine-game homestand left and finish with 3 games at home, so we cannot ignore outfielder Sam Hilliard, a lefty slugger that hit 35 home runs and stole 22 bases at Triple-A. Perhaps he is not really a prospect, but those numbers were not a fluke. Oakland’s Seth Brown is another non-prospect type with swing-and-miss in his game but he bashed 37 homers at Las Vegas and should be more productive than Khris Davis, if the team lets him prove it.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): EK for the win – love those calls. As an aside, why do second division teams call up promising prospects only to sit them when they initially struggle? Isn’t that the point of looking at young players, to allow them to get over the hump with little pressure? Sigh. Anyway, hopefully the Seattle Mariners just let Jake Fraley play despite looking overmatched early. I’m also interested in shortstop Willi Castro and hope the Detroit Tigers give him a long leash.

Rob Leibowitz (Rotoheaven, @rob_leibowitz): I am taking a gamble (picked him up last week in AL Tout) that Sean Murphy of the A’s gets some significant playing time this September. He’s missed a lot of time due to a knee injury earlier this season, but adding his bat and glove behind the plate would be a nice addition to their team. He’s currently raking in Triple-A at a high level (.310/.390/.638) (not one I expect to continue), but certainly an improvement over anyone else Oakland is putting out there behind the plate. Hoping he’ll be the next Terry Steinbach, possibly with a little more punch and patience.

Clay Link (Rotowire, @claywlink): Nick Solak should be owned in all competitive leagues; he’s now batting cleanup for Texas. I’m kicking myself for having Solak as a lower priority than Willi Castro in AL LABR last weekend. I could have had Solak. Castro caught my eye with his .360 wOBA, 113 wRC+, 11 homers and 17 steals at Triple-A, but it’s been a tough go for him this week. At least his playing time appears safe. Sam Hilliard is really interesting. The Rockies are baffling in how they handle prospects, but Hilliard is off to a nice start, and David Dahl is still not even jogging on his injured ankle. Hilliard will likely be a top add this week, and I think for good reason. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Sheldon Neuse can do, and I’m getting a sense that Bobby Dalbec is increasingly likely to get the call. Dalbec could get his feet wet with Mitch Moreland set to become a free agent this offseason.

Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): Besides the obvious Aquino pick, I like Hilliard next.

Justin Mason (Friends with Fantasy Benefits, Fangraphs, Fantasy Alarm, @JustinMasonFWFB): Kyle Tucker is reportedly going to be up September 2nd. He should have a huge impact the rest of the way.

Al Melchior (FNTSY Radio, @almelchiorbb): Aristides Aquino, Nick Solak and Sam Hilliard have all been mentioned, and they would be my top three in that order. This is far more speculative, but there’s a chance that Paul Sewald could enter the Mets’ saves picture. Of course, Sewald isn’t a rookie, and he had even been up earlier this year, but since getting called up in mid-August, he’s been an entirely different and better pitcher. He has 13 Ks in 7 IP with a 15 percent SwStr% and a 22% called strike rate. His velocity is up considerably, so he may sustain this, and there could be an opportunity to replace Edwin Díaz and allow Seth Lugo to set up.

Brent Hershey (Baseball HQ, @BrentHQ): Good names throughout here, as I’m a late-season fan of Solak, Hilliard and Bobby Dalbec (AB-dependent of course; but has the raw power to go on an Aquino-lite Sept HR run). But how about a pitcher? This one is a deep leaguer, for sure, but Hunter Harvey seems like he’s carving out a late-innings role for BAL; they’re certainly pre-disposed to trying stuff in Sept. Harvey started at Bowie, but I don’t think his RP numbers at AAA have quite gotten the attention they deserve: 22K / 5 BB in 16 IP. Similar results in MLB, and we all know that BAL bullpen has been in flux all year. Could be as good a choice as any to grab a save or four over the next several weeks.

Perry Van Hook (Mastersball, @): well IF he gets the call, I would bet on Gavin Lux who would be playing second base for the Dodgers. Max Muncy is on the IL with a crack in his right wrist but the Dodger brass hasn’t made a decision yet on whether they will bring Lux up next week as they’re hoping Muncy won’t be out long

.

Todd Zola: Agreed Perry, but that’s usually earlier in the season with high profile prospects. When you call up someone in August, there’s really no time to send them back down. With guys emerging this season and not gifted with prospect pedigree, may as well let them learn under fire. One last general point, some second division teams may wait until the minor league playoffs are over (if they’re involved) before advancing prospects. The example Rob offered, Sean Murphy is a good example as Las Vegas has teh best record in the PCL. And TZ – sometimes when young players struggle the club doesn’t want them to go through a prolonged period that might affect them mentally so they send them back down before (they think) that will happen

Who’s Winning Tout Wars H2H?

Just three days remain in the final weekly contest of the Tout H2H regular season, and while Clay Link sits safely atop the standings, earning a first-week bye, there is plenty of other action as teams scramble toward the playoffs.

The battles for second and sixth are close.

Ian Kahn and Jake Ciely are locked in a duel for second place, which earns the second place team a first week playoff bye. These standings reflect the current state of this week’s games (remember that each week a team can win 2 points for winning hitting, 2 points for winning pitching and 2 points for winning the overall points, or lose 2 points in each for losing hitting, pitching and overall).

Right now Jake Ciely is 2-4 on the week, while Ian Kahn is 6-0.

Coincidentally, Ciely and Kahn are playing the teams with the worst records going into this final week, but while Kahn has so far done what’s necessary, Ciely’s pitching has struggled. He has a bunch of starters with tough matchups this weekend, while Joe Pisapia is throwing mostly relievers. The bottom line is Ciely needs to hold onto his hitting Ws while also winning either the pitching or overall points to secure second place on his own. He otherwise needs Kahn to falter.

In the battle for sixth place, which is existential when it comes to playoff chances, Ryan Bloomfield is up 4-2 on the week over Alex Chamberlain, who is in fifth place on the season, while Paul Sporer is down 0-6 to Dan Strafford, who is overall fourth. This promises to be a fraught weekend for Bloomfield and Sporer, with Bloomfield having the bigger margin of error (if he takes the hitting points, too, from Chamberlain he should find himself in fifth place).

A reminder about the playoff format: The first week, teams 1 and 2 have a bye. 3 plays 6 and 4 plays 5.

The next week 1 plays the lower seeded remaining team, while 2 plays the higher seeded remaining team.

Weeks 3 and 4, the two remaining teams face off for two weeks. The winner is Tout Wars H2H champion.

Tout Table: Down the Stretch

This week’s questions: We’re just past the quarter pole. What are some of your favorite tactics down the stretch?

Rick Wolf (Fantasy Alarm, @RickWolf1): My absolute favorite late season strategy is “addition by subtraction”. Let’s say you have a lead in home runs/RBI or wins/Ks. Look to unload the pitchers with high ratios who get wins since you don’t need them. Trade them for any small upgrade. If you need to move up in ratios…dropping or trading starters with high ERA/WHIP and using strong middle relief pitchers is the way to protect and win! It is also useful with batting average for home run hitters. When you have a low average home run hitter, you can often trade him for a high average hitter who is not a slugger. This corrects your batting average or OBP while not hurting you in the category that you do not need. Another winner.

Gene McCaffrey (The Athletic, @WiseGuyGene): Pay extra-special attention to the September call-ups on bad teams. Many of them will play fulltime or close to it. Watch for what their managers say about their playing time – sometimes they actually tell the truth!

Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): 1) In roto, trade to turn your surplus in one category into incremental points in another category. 2) If you are in keeper or dynasty, made the deal if it gets you the win; make the deal if you are out and it gets you the keeper you need for next year, but for god’s sake–don’t lose focus because it’s football season–pull the trigger! 3) Preserve your ratio categories (ERA/WHIP/OBP) as it gets a little crazy late in the year and you don’t want to accidentally drop points there; 4) Sept call-ups are very often a cheap place to buy steals, fwiw.

Lenny Melnick (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @LennyMelnick): Trade LOW % Hitters and Pitchers Addition by Subtraction Thank You Rick Wolf

Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus, @MikeGianella): This is the time of year to stream and sit starting pitchers aggressively. In keeper leagues in particular, I’ve seen too many leagues won or lost because someone held onto a freeze for next year who isn’t performing. If you’re in a tight ace, you can’t have any loyalty to “your player” or to a stale projection from five months ago. This is also when I start looking at ROS schedule very closely. The Phillies (for example) have a soft week and a half coming up. I’m looking to maximize matchups and pick up starters of theirs in shallower leagues where they were dropped. The tanking culture (in the AL in particular) leads to far more favorable matchup opportunities than I have seen since the beginning of the last expansion era in the late 90s/early 00s.

Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): In addition to the ideas above, I try to pay attention to the moves coming up from the minors. Paying attention can get you players, not necessarily highly touted, who are going to have a nice two or three week period and that can make the difference in a couple of close categories. The corollary is to pay attention to your own players. Someone who may have been productive all year, can get benched for a prospect, or go into a major funk. The time for rebounding is short and it may be necessary to move on from that player.

Ryan Bloomfield (BaseballHQ, @RyanBHQ): To echo Phil’s point, I like to take advantage of September playing time experiments on teams that are just playing out the string. Guys like Jon Berti, Isan Diaz, and maybe Austin Dean on the Marlins; Josh Rojas in Arizona; etc. are good examples of hitters who might get a long look. Rojas and Berti are great SB sources, and we all need bags. It’s also a good time to look at September IP limits and shutdown candidates (looking at you, Chris Paddack owners). Start looking at Plan Bs for those guys.

Jeff Erickson (Rotowire, @Jeff_Erickson): If you still are allowed to trade, one fun tactic is to not just trade for categories that you need, but to force your opponents to protect their weaker categories. If you’re in second place and the team in first is vulnerable to losing 2-3 points in saves, if it’s possible to trade with one of those teams chasing the first place team in saves, by all means, do so.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Start your best nine pitchers, regardless of need through the month, maybe even into September. Good starting pitcher matchups will be hard to find. Even if you’re close in saves, take advantage of matchups now, get those whiffs and wins, even if it costs saves. If you need saves, overload with closers in September. There’s a finite number of good starting pitcher matchups, don’t waste them for balance when you can even it out later.

Eric Karabell (ESPN, @karabelleric): Because so many non-contenders give up early, it can be easier to find new and perhaps inexperienced free agents with playing time coming their way. Make a 2-for-1 trade. Or add players you might not need to keep away from other contenders. Strengthen your bench. And never stop trying to improve.

Ray Flowers (Fantasy Guru Elite, @BaseballGuys): Please look at the standings. I continue to get questions – who should I add? – with one being an infielder the other an outfielder. One being a power hitter, the other being a batting average lifter. The time to take the best player is gone. It’s time to play the categories.

Larry Schechter (Winning Fantasy Baseball, @LarrySchechter): I agree with most everything already written. I’ll add a tid-bit that in Tout Wars I had Joe Jimenez, who just became the closer after the Shane Greene trade. My position in the saves category is such that even if Jimenez gets 10 saves or so, it does me no good. So I looked to trade him, and started by identifying teams that if they got more saves, would also hurt the top teams in the league in the saves category. My slight chance of coming from 5th to win means I need every possible point possible for me to gain and the top 4 to lose. And I did trade him to Nando who is competing with all four of the top teams for saves.

Brent Hershey (Baseball HQ, @BrentHQ): Some great ideas here so far that I’ll echo to some extent: I also think it’s important to pay attention to late-season roster openings for the out-of-the-race MLB clubs. Sometimes those fringe guys are playing for a shot at the MLB roster next season, and can provide fantasy help in the short-term. I’m also more willing to ride out hot streaks for a historically lesser-skilled player, hoping that the eventual regression comes next spring rather than over the last six weeks. In deeper leagues where I have pitcher ratios established, I’m also more likely to replace any injured SP with a quality-ratioed reliever. These can often be easier to find. But also would heed what others have said … know your context as far as categories and as well as the weak links on your roster. Sometimes those small upgrades can make a difference even at this point in the season.

Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, The Process, @jeffwzimmerman): Lineups, lineups, lineups. The “big” change is rosters expanding and those extra players are going to take away playing time from regulars. This applies to the rookie callups like Gavin Lux and Kyle Tucker. The Astros and Dodgers are trying to continue to win. Both prospects could help their parent club but they may play every other day, at most.

Vlad Sedler (Fantasy Guru Elite, @rotogut): Avoid zeroes at all costs and have backups at all positions (or at least, multi-position eligible guys). A league championship could come down to an RBI, strikeout or WHIP point on the final day. Be fully prepared when roster expansion takes place in September and pay attention to teams that may have run away with divisions who might rest their stud players more often those final two weeks. Every at-bat and pitch counts!

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): Everything above is great advice. An expert seminar on late-season tactics. The least appreciated idea is tactically trading to move your surplus onto the roster of another team who can gain points at the expense of the teams you’re chasing in the overall (or who are chasing you). A point lost by your overall opponent is as good as a point gained by you, and if it so happens that you can “place” your stats onto a team that will pass two or three overall opponents, you can realize an important “gain” without getting any actual points for your own team.

Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): Paying more attention than I would earlier in the season to pitcher matchups and the number of games a hitter’s team has in a week if I’m deciding among several options.

Ian Kahn (Rotowire, @IanKahn4): Trying to take advantage of all of the football focus that is going on, especially in Dynasty Leagues. Now is a great time to find those guys who are just getting called up to the majors and are showing signs that they could have real value this offseason and going into 2020. A little extra attention in these final weeks can pay major dividends in the future.

Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): Pay close attention to playing time changes as teams out of the playoff hunt are going to be looking toward the future and giving their youngsters a shot with every day at-bats. Some of these guys may not have been top 100 prospects, but a quick look at their minor league results could reveal a potentially rewarding pickup.

Scott Pianowski (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @Scott_Pianowski): It’s a stretch to call this a tactic, but just showing up is gigantically important. Do your diligence, set your bids, pour over the box scores like you did in April. And remember you’re trying to solve the category puzzle and win the league – or move up – not necessarily make moves that will make sense in a vacuum. It’s all contextual. Tastes will vary, but if it’s a league with a high percentage of retained owners, I like built-in incentives that give everyone a good reason to compete, full throttle, for the complete season.

D.J. Short (Rotoworld, @djshort): A bunch of things, really. As Scott said, you need to just keep being diligent about making sure your roster spots are filled and lineups set for each day. It gets easy to lose sight of that down the stretch, especially in a daily league. The season is looooooong. On a related note. I like to have multi-position eligible players on my roster for the stretch run, as there are a variety of things that pop up in September which cause fantasy owners to have to switch their lineup on a dime. It’s exceedingly valuable.

Tout Daily Picks: May Day

It’s the final week of the Tout Daily regular season. The final three Golden Tickets are on the line. Here are some of the players the Touts are banking on to get it done.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola)

Pitcher: Eric Lauer – Cheap, in a decent spot

Hitter: Jake Lamb – Not stacking Snakes, they’re slithery and hard to keep in one place, but like some exposure to Hoffman.

Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis)

Pitcher: Chris Sale – I originally planned on starting Clayton Kershaw, but his start was pushed back to tomorrow. Starting Chris Sale tonight in his place. Sale’s disappointing season has depressed his salary to $10,700 tonight. He is coming off his last start with 46.8 fantasy points and 13 Ks. Hoping for a repeat performance tonight.

Hitter: Vlad Guerrero Jr. – I’m still amazed at his salary being below $4,000, but I’ll take it at $3,800. Tough matchup against Lance Lynn might explain his salary, but I’m willing to take a chance on Vlad tonight.

Derek Carty (RotoGrinders, @DerekCarty)

Pitcher: Matt Boyd – Boyd may be popular, but it’s for good reason. He’s the top pitcher on the slate and is cheaper than some of the other strong aces like Chris Sale and Lance Lynn. He faces a weak Mariners lineup with a proclivity to strike out, has a good pitch-framer in Jake Rogers, and an elite pitchers’ umpire

Hitter: Kris Bryant – Jason Vargas is bad, and the depths of how bad he is have been masked for years by Citi Field. A contact prone, flyball pitcher will not fare well in homer-friendly Citizens Bank Park, especially while lacking the platoon advantage against some of the best right-handed hitters in the game. Bryant, Baez, and Castellanos are all underpriced tonight.

Steve Gardner (USAToday Fantasy Sports, @SteveAGardner)

Pitcher: Dustin May – The Dodgers haven’t been shy about letting their top pitching prospect pitch as far as he can into games. With a great matchup vs. Miami, he could last into the 7th and get 7-8 K’s.

Hitter: Franmil Reyes – Yes, he’s facing Chris Sale. But at only $3,300, he has to be one of the better values out there after homering yesterday off another lefty starter.

Clay Link (Rotowire, @claywlink)

Pitcher: Jack Flaherty – Still way underpriced on account of his lackluster first half. Since the All-Star break, Flaherty has a 0.86 ERA and 43:9 K:BB.

Hitter: Aristides Aquino – Pricey now, but I’m drinking the Kool-Aid.

Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy)

Pitcher: Dustin May – A K per inning and faces the Marlins. Too good to pass up

Hitter: Bryce Harper – He leads a Phillies stack versus Quintana at $4500

Tout Daily: Zack Attack

It’s the third week of the fifth period, chances to claim a Golden Ticket are running out. Here are some players the Touts are clicking in.

Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports)

Pitcher: Zack Plesac – Part of my Tribe double dose, he’ll get the win and 7+ K’s

Hitter: Franmil Reyes – Going deep tonight, makes by his trade from Padres looking good!

Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy)

Pitcher: Zach Wheeler – The Mets are rolling and so is he with 21 Ks in his last 17.1 IP. He faces the Marlins tonight who strikeout out 9 times per game on average.

Hitter: Matt Chapman – He’s hitting 13 points higher versus lefties this season and averages a home run every 11 at bats versus lefties. He faces Jon Lester tonight.

Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50)

Pitcher: Zach Wheeler – He’s been doing some of his best pitching of the year.

Hitter: Victor Robles – Price is right.

Ray Murphy (BaseballHQ, @RayHQ)

Pitcher: Mike Leake – He’s been sneaky good of late, PHI bats haven’t traveled well, and the ARI humidor is in full effect

Hitter: Jordy Mercer – He’s dirt cheap at 2600, has always hit lefties well, and there’s no more attractive lefty than Hector Santiago. Just hope he gets more than 1 AB against him. 🙂

Steve Gardner (USAToday Fantasy Sports, @SteveAGardner)

Pitcher: German Marquez – Going against the grain as Zack Greinke makes his Astros debut. Marquez gets a ton of strikeouts and pitches much better away from Coors. Can he tame the Astros lineup?

Hitter: Aristides Aquino – The rookie has a 50% hard-hit rate in his brief MLB career. He’s hitting cleanup at home in Cincinnati and is only $3700.

Gene McCaffrey (The Athletic, @WiseGuyGene)

Pitcher: Zack Greinke – Continuing the Zack theme, let’s see that Astros’ magic one more time. Home start, weak Rockies on the road, Zack goes a little deeper than most SP’s these days

Hitter: Miguel Cabrera – Showing signs lately and if he can’t crush Hector Santiago it really is over. And Miggy is cheap. I know, he deserves to be.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola)

Pitcher: Zack Cashner – I lost a bet. Either that or I need to make up a gazillion points and in this climate, that’s done with bats

Hitter: Miguel Cabrera – +1 on what Gene said, plus he’s hitting southpaws well.