By Perry Van Hook, FantasyBaseball.com
This story originally ran at FantasyBaseball.com. Used with permission.
As Big Dawg and I compared sheets before the TOUT WARS mixed league auction was set to start in the Times Square Residence Inn in NYC last Saturday, we opined that the top players (Pujols, Hanley, Wright, and Reyes) who are all projected to earn $37-40 in a fifteen team, mixed, 5X5 format, would likely go in the low to mid forties. Several of the thirty something players (Howard, Teixeira, Kinsler, Sizemore, and Braun) would also get pushed up to high thirties or even low forties in a free spending auction for an admittedly shallow league.
But just before the introductory comments were to be made, we found out that two more teams had been added to make it a seventeen team league. I used to play in a redraft, mixed league of that size when I lived in LALAland, but I wondered whether the other writers would continue to view this as shallow – thus spending more for the top players or whether those inclined to a “Stars & Scrubs” strategy would continue with that bent. There would be plenty of pitchers and outfielders if they spent their money on their infield and top starting pitchers and closers.
Undeterred from their free spending tendencies, many of those at the table began the afternoon spending their $260 like sailors on a shore leave after months at sea.
David Wright for $50…..and Jose Reyes for $55 (look I like Reyes as much as the next guy and I don’t mind drafting him with any top pick or spending slightly more than he is projected to earn, but when a Great season from him would still leave you left with at least a ten dollar loss, it will mean some serious holes somewhere on your roster. Actually Doug Dennis, an analyst with BaseballHQ, and a friend of mine from the XFL chose for the hole not to be in his offense continuing to buy heavy there even after Wright AND Reyes, but instead opted to start the season with an $11 dollar pitching staff – almost a full Labadini. True he did get much more value than the eleven dollars would suggest, and there IS trading in this league so perhaps some teams can manage to rebalance their roster or find some free agents to patch the holes in their lineup, but only four reserve roster spots and 359 players drafted it may be tougher than they expect.
Okay, back to MY draft plan. I had started with a two budget plan – one if I could get a few of the top hitters, and one if I adopted the more balanced – go for value with no holes option. Both plans would attempt to roster a competitive pitching staff for less money than 170/90 or even 180/80 splits, but not to the extreme of a 200+ offense either. Plan A was a 195/65 approach where the pitchers would be one $20 anchor and one $15-20 closer and a lot of endgame value plays – hopefully with both the skills and upside to earn $10-12 over the course of the season.
Plan B would be a 185/75 budget which would allow me to find two good pitchers in the $9-11 range to add to the SP anchor and closer – whether starters or secondary closers. The more balanced approach must get you more AB than the S&S teams so you can compete in the counting stats
Fortunately the tables early overspending continued for quite a while which allowed my pitching staff to be of much higher quality (especially for a seventeen team league) than you might expect.
My first buy (after what seemed like quite a while) was Reds 1B Joey Votto for $24 – just about Big Dawg’s projected value ($23), but with some upside if he improves as last year might suggest.
Next on my roster was Houston ace Roy Oswalt for $21 – a happy twenty one for me as I like Oswalt and considering that Hamels (with some at least slight risk) had gone for $25 and Halladay and Webb had gone for $28, and the top three starters had all fetched $31+.
My strategy for nominating players was fairly simple early – players who I thought would be overvalued by the rest of the league, including two Angel pitchers – John Lackey and Ervin Santana who I have some real concerns about health wise and thus did not want to assume that risk in this type of league. Lackey went for only $13 and Santana $6, so the rest of the table obviously felt the same way. If they only miss April’s games they could be good value for their owners, or………..
My third purchase was Rangers RF Nelson Cruz at $16 (a $15 projection), hoping that he can build on the numbers he generated last year after being recalled from AAA where he was absolutely hammering pitchers in that league. Should he deliver on his potential for a full season he would give me the much needed power that is usually absent from “red chip plans.” Third baseman Garrett Atkins was next at $18 – just at projected value, but again with some upside if he can avoid any minor injuries in Colorado.
There was an early attempt by the table to get money spent on closers (probably common in many of your drafts as well). This is a dual edged sword in a larger league as while it does get other teams to overspend – especially on the top save producers it does make it harder for everyone to get specific ones they might want, much less two good ones. But the top down approach of nominating those hopes to establish a market precedent so the later ones will be cheaper although bidding wars amongst teams with too much money can endanger that.
I wasn’t planning on getting two, but I did want one who would strikeout more batters than most AND have more save opportunities. That appeared for me in the person of Jonathan Broxton. While we have yet to see BroxtonÂ be successful for a full season, I like his chances this season while Big Dawg is not as high on him, I bought him for $19 (nice because some I don’t like as much had gone higher and the next step down would not be as likely an anchor). I preferred that to Fuentes at $17 with a slight health risk or even Hanrahan at $12 because even if he gets the saves he won’t have the accompanying strikeouts.
There were still two players I wanted for this developing team that hadn’t been brought up, assuming I could roster them for the right prices. Fortunately Jacoby Ellsbury ($31 buy vs $27 PE) and 2B (soon to be SS eligible) Alexei Ramirez ($25, right at PE) were added to the steam and gave me a solid foundation in stolen bases while not being a drag on home runs.
I bought two other players before the first break – Jayson Werth (a Big Dawg favorite at $20 vs $22 PE) and Leo Nunez, a pitcher I had seen quite a bit last year with the Royals whom I think will have the first shot to close for Florida if Matt Lindstrom is not ready by opening day or is troubled again later in the year ($5 vs $4 projected).
That was $134 spent on six hitters and $45 for Oswalt, Broxton and Nunez, and I would go back to the table waiting for more value for my remaining $81. Remember that patience can be a virtue under the right auction conditions and at many different points of the auction. I did have my CI pair and stud pitchers and while I didn’t get both MI, the “Cuban Missile” would have shortstop eligibility after the first two weeks of the season allowing me to “cheat” on a lesser priced shortstop late in the draft if necessary.
The bargain hunting was a slow process, but I was confident they would appear…. I just had to hope they would be enough. I got Hong Chih Kuo for $2 not only useful for his strikeouts and as a play when some starters might have bad matchups for the week, but at least some measure of Broxton insurance. I also won Yadier Molina for $8. With the top catchers going for far more (Martin $24, McCann $25…even Mauer and Wieters for $15) I just wanted two reliable backstops that wouldn’t be a drag on batting average and would hopefully contribute something else. And with YMo’s batting average it would allow some more productive catchers who might be averaged with him for BAvg. In fact it was my nomination after buying him so I immediately put up brother Bengie and watched him go for $15 – what I wanted to pay for both catchers.
The early overspending really helped with the starting pitchers, as did some being late to the nomination order. I went an extra dollar or two on Chris Carpenter (won at $12) because of his strong spring and my conversation with a Cardinal scout who said that Carpenter continues to say that he feels good and doesn’t have anything holding him back. There was one other starter I really wanted and hoped wasn’t a target for someone else. At that point I had nine dollars budgeted for my third SP, but was glad to go a few extra and get a nice bargain with Derek Lowe at $11 who has been excellent this spring. I hope the Braves can score enough runs for him to get a few extra wins.
Lots more waiting – being careful to bid a lot of times, even if a low advance so the table could not really discern which players were targets and which were just stabs at bargains or pushes to higher prices.
This pre-end game is tough. You may have enough total dollars to appear in control, but never know when the player you want to take a run at is the only remaining target of another player. You also need to be very aware of what is available at each position and the amount you are willing to spend may shift positions. I wanted a solid third corner as well as a shortstop (where the prices were higher and the choices slimmer) and that second reasonably priced catcher. I also wanted to eventually get to $2 per player and dominate the end game with the Power of Two.
Adrian Beltre was still on the board – you know if you have participated in several auctions that point in the draft where the player is nominated is key, and not something you can control. So I hoped I could roster him – clearly the most productive 1B or 3B available now………and things finally ground to a halt on my $15 bid. Next came a slight profit on my $10 winning bid for Jose Lopez whom we project to earn $13. I would not have believed that another player projected to earn double digits would get landed for a two dollar reaction bid, but there I was, glad at that point to fill my UT slot with Melvin Mora.
At this point, I had $21 left to buy seven players, but I still didn’t have that second catcher. There would be lots of cheap outfielders for my remaining two slots and I would buy three $2 pitchers to complete the staff. While there were several catchers that would go cheap later that I could stomach, I again pushed a little to get predictably solid production from A.J. Pierzynski, and I didn’t mind spending the $10 to get him – although that was the most I could likely have afforded as I was now at $11 for 6 players – just below the targeted two dollars per player.
The end game is fun if you think you did really well, but frustrating if you can’t land guys you really like, but the key is discipline. Sure you could go to three or four dollars and be better than the dollar per player that many would get to, but I would rather have several players I was happy with than that one and getting players for a dollar is truly capricious as once it turns to a draft (dollar per player so the nomination is automatically won) you are dealing with the order you are in and the positions that your opponents need versus what you need. I would rather have the control and you won’t have that if you stray.
What happens is that several times a player will be nominated for a dollar and I will say Two right away on any player that fits a position need. Some will get a $3 bid and some will be mine. When I nominate a player there, it is for $1 if there are lots of equal OF or P – I won’t be going to $3, or nominate them for $2 locking out all the bidders who have only a dollar or two to bid.
So Jordan Zimmerman, the rookie SP for Washington was nominated for $1 and I won at $2. I also raised a dollar nomination to $2 and won the Angels Joe Saunders for $2. I still needed two outfielders, so I nominated Luke Scott for a dollar and bought him. There was now one team that could bid up to $3 but he needed a different player, so my next turn I bought what should be one of the steals of the draft getting Ryan Spilborghs for $2 when he was clearly the highest rated hitter on the boards – $14 on our projections. I also won the bid at $2 for Atlanta’s Tommy Hanson. I don’t know how many innings he will pitch for the Braves – I think it should be half the season, but I think they will be very useful innings which the reason to tie up one of my reserve spots until he is called up. I still needed a shortstop but there was only one that would likely give me an immediate profit, so I welcomed my $2 Clint Barmes aboard.
We had a break following the auction to get ready for the four round reserve draft, and I was not thrilled to draw #17……..but delighted fifteen minutes later to get Juan Rivera and Kyle Lohse with my first two picks. For the second pair, I took David Aardsma (before the news they were moving Morrow to the bullpen in Seattle) and finally, hoping he makes the Phillies rotation as the fifth starter – Chan Ho Park who has been excellent this spring. Yes, I thought about Stephen Strasburg who will likely be the first pick of this year’s draft by the Washington Nationals and who several scouts have said could pitch in the major leagues this year, but he Does have Scott Boras as an agent and with only four reserve slots and Hanson already there, I couldn’t see blocking another one – so of course Karabell takes him right after me.
Here is the whole team by position (prices in parentheses)
C – Y. Molina (8) and Pierzynski (10)
CI – Votto (24), Atkins (18), and Beltre (15)
MI – A. Ramirez (25), Barmes, and J. Lopez (10)
OF – Ellsbury (31), Werth (20), N. Cruz (16), L. Scott (1), and Spilborghs (2)
UT – Mora (2)
SP – Oswalt (21), Carpenter (12), D. Lowe (11), J. Zimmerman (2), Saunders (2), and T. Hanson (2) [to be replaced by a reserve pitcher]
RP – Broxton (19), L. Nunez (5), and Kuo (2)
Reserves – Rivera, Lohse, Aardsma, and Park
To use the poker analogy – a red chip team. Not one first or second round player if this was a draft. BUT all the hitters are starters with job stability (at least for now and assuming Barmes gets off to a good start – not great, just good enough for them not to have to try one of their many other players off the bench). The key is the full time status which will generate more AB than a stars and scrubs team and even if their rate of production is not as high, should thus generate more R and RBI and for those who can steal a base more SBO. In fact, if you view the many articles at www.toutwars.com, you will see one set of projections that has my team with 7400 at bats, just barely third four behind another balanced team of Larry Schechter and not quite a hundred behind the leader – another balanced team of Eric Karabell, but 100 more than the highest dollar offense and several hundred more than the next few teams.
I took a different third party to project my counting stats for the hitters and looked at 1072 Runs; 270 Home Runs; 1095 RBIs; and 172 Stolen Bases. Those are equal to or just slightly higher than what Scott Swanay of FantasyBaseballSherpa had projected for me along with a .284 BA giving me 63 points in hitting (third to Schechter’s 66 and Dennis’ 65).
With Sherpas pitching projections added in, he has me second by one half a point to Schechter at 117.5, but with both of us eighteen points ahead of the next best teams.
Projections are just that. Now let’s see what the players do on the field. Still I like the team.