Welcome back to The FAAB Review, the weekly series that looks at FAAB bidding in expert leagues to help you, the Baseball Prospectus reader, with your fantasy baseball bidding needs. Every week, I closely scrutinize the expert free agent bids in LABR Mixed, Tout Wars NL, and LABR AL.
As a reminder, LABR uses a $100 budget with $1 minimum bids, while Tout Wars uses a $1,000 budget with $0 minimum bids. LABR and Tout Wars use a bidding deadline of Sunday at midnight ET for all FAAB claims. Any statistics mentioned in this article are through the previous Sunday’s games.
LABR Mixed Tyler Austin $18. Tout Auction: $0. Tout Draft: $16.
Except for Stephania Bell of ESPN’s $18 bid in LABR, the bidding on Austin was lukewarm in all three mixed expert circuits. In both Tout leagues, multiple hitters cost more than Austin.
Is Austin a bargain in the Tout leagues? Or is Bell out to lunch?
The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. Eighteen dollars strikes me as a lot to spend for a 25-year-old who never was regarded as a top prospect and whose power hasn’t led to significant home-run totals in the minors. On the other hand, multiple scouts have praised Austin’s hit tool and the improvements he has made throughout his minor-league career. The combination of Yankee Stadium and a strong lineup could boost Austin’s value. He also has a clear path to playing time in the short term. I would have bid $30-50 in the Tout leagues and $5-7 in LABR assuming I had a need. With the exceptions of Grichuk and Barreto, none of the names above jumps out at me as significantly better than Austin, although you could make a good case for Goodwin based on performance year-to-date.
Franklin Barreto $18. Other bids: $17, $8, $6. Tout Draft: $217.
Barreto was taken in the reserve round of the Tout Auction league by Ron Shandler and was not available as a free agent.
Two hundred and seventeen dollars is an aggressive bid by Scott White of CBS in Tout Wars Mixed Draft, and I emphatically approve. The rest of the bids for Barreto in the Tout Draft league: $113, $112, $103, $69, $52, $18, $13. I would have bid in the $175-200 range. The drop-off in stolen bases this year concerns me, but this is a case where I would gamble on the talent and worry about the stats later. Is it possible that Barreto gets demoted when Marcus Semien returns? Certainly, but it also is possible that the Athletics find a place for Barreto and he sticks with the team for the rest of the season. I prefer betting on the talent as opposed to the playing time in some cases.
On June 6, Gennett Scooted into our hearts with a four-home-run night against the Cardinals, but it took some time for the hard-hearted skeptics in LABR Mixed to buy in. Initially, the skeptics appeared to be correct, as Scooter hit a paltry .217 in 23 plate appearances with no walks and one extra base hit from June 7 to June 17. But then Scooter exploded, bashing his way into our chest cavities for good in his next seven games, with four home runs, a .400 batting average, and a .900 SLG in 34 plate appearances. Small samples piled upon small samples don’t prove anything, but the reality is that Gennett now has 11 home runs in 179 plate appearances and the highest ISO among any second baseman with 175 or more PAs. Even if he fades as we all expect he will, the power should be treated like it is legitimate.
Nick Pivetta $7. Other bid: $3. [@ARI (yesterday), NYM]
I wrote about Pivetta in the Baseball Prospectus Annual in 2017 and gave him the ol’ “probably a future reliever but the Phillies will keep trying him as a starter” treatment. Thus far, Pivetta has been better than I expected he would be. The fastball velocity has mostly held through multiple trips through major-league lineups, and the slider has been a plus pitch at times. Pivetta remains inconsistent with the slider and other secondary offerings, and still lives and dies too much from the fastball. This is all well and good for Pivetta’s long-term prospects. The problem is he had a 5.55 DRA this year entering yesterday’s bad start against the Diamondbacks, and potential isn’t a category in fantasy leagues. Pair this with the difficulty that Pivetta will have getting wins and I would recommend avoiding him most weeks. Even with a two-start week on tap, Pivetta was a fringy choice in LABR.
Kevin Gausman $5. (@TOR, TB)
Normally I don’t write about players only one team bid on, but this was Bret Sayre’s pickup and Bret’s name is on the masthead. Bret’s LABR team is in 14th and fighting with Bell to stay out of last place, so he is trying to catch lightning in a receptacle.
Here are how all three mixed expert leagues treated Gausman this year:
LABR: Drafted in the 10th round by Dr. Roto (Scout Fantasy). Benched on April 24. Activated on May 8. Benched on May 22. Started on May 29. Benched on June 12. Released on June 19. Eleven starts, three wins, 55 2/3 IP, 42 strikeouts, 6.79 ERA, 2.03 WHIP.
Tout Auction: Purchased for $9 by Zach Steinhorn of MLB.com. Reserved on April 24. Activated on May 8. Reserved on June 12. Twelve starts, three wins, 62 1/3 IP, 44 strikeouts, 6.35 ERA, 1.94 WHIP,
Tout Draft: Drafted in 12th round by Adam Ronis (Scout Fantasy). Reserved on April 17. Released on June 19. Three starts, one win, 16 IP, 11 strikeouts, 3.94 ERA, 1.69 WHIP.
For all of the time the fantasy community spends blathering about how “it’s early” and “he’ll turn things around, sometimes it isn’t early and sometimes he won’t turn things around. Ronis did miss out on Gausman’s strong outing May 8 against the Nationals, but since Tout and LABR are both weekly lineup leagues, it didn’t matter much, because Gausman stunk against the Royals later that week. I don’t know if there is a lesson here. I wasn’t as high on Gausman as many experts were, but I thought he could repeat his 2016 performance quite easily. I didn’t foresee him turning into Jered Weaver with a fastball.
Phil Maton $4. Tout Draft: $5.
Maton was not a heralded prospect, but all he has done since being drafted in the 20th round out of Louisiana Tech is pitch his freaking butt off. Maton doesn’t throw particularly hard, but is deceptive and has been described by Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs as having a high spin rate. The league might eventually catch up to Maton, but as a reliever there is more room for error despite a lack of strong secondary pitches. Opportunity also is a factor for Maton. Brandon Maurer has been terrible as the Padres’ closer, and while Brad Hand is the logical next-in-line for ninth-inning duties, Maton could sneak in a few saves as well.
Paul DeJong $4. Tout Draft: $0.
DeJong has been a below-average real-life hitter thanks to a terrible walk rate, but five home runs in 81 plate appearances for an infielder plays in fantasy in nearly any format. DeJong has a combined 18 home runs in 271 plate appearances between the minors and the majors this season, and while he could get bumped for Kolten Wong once Wong returns, DeJong has earned himself a shot at a utility role at a minimum.
Brian Goodwin $3. Other bids: $3, $3, $1. Tout Auction: $37. Tout Draft: $22.
Outside of their bullpen, the Nationals can do no wrong. After losing Jayson Werth to a foot contusion after already losing Adam Eaton for the season the Nationals outfield appeared to be a big problem, but Goodwin and Michael Taylor have been the Nats best hitters the past two weeks. Goodwin isn’t running like he did in the minors, but it is difficult to complain about six home runs in 102 plate appearances. He won’t keep this up, but the jump in walk rate and decline in strikeouts are both encouraging omens.
Luis Castillo $3 Tout Auction: $244. Tout Draft: $35 (MIL)
Castillo’s future trajectory hinges almost entirely on his control. If he can throw strikes—like he did in Triple A this year—the stuff is good enough that Castillo could be a mid-rotation starter, at a minimum. If he struggles with it—like he did in a brief stint in Double A in 2016—Castillo is going to have difficulty sticking in the rotation and might have a future in relief. The idea of a closer pumping triple digit gas is enticing, but the Reds are committed to using Castillo in the rotation for now. I’m not recommending him this week for that home start against the Brewers.
Keone Kela $2. Tout Auction: $34.
This was Bret’s buy in Tout Wars Mixed Auction. Kela has been the best reliever in the Rangers’ pen this year, and while Matt Bush was solid on Sunday against the Yankees, Texas’ bullpen is still worth monitoring for a potential change in ninth inning duties. Since May 1, Bush has a 3.79 ERA and is striking out fewer than a batter an inning while allowing nearly two home runs per nine.
The bottom of the barrel has a pair of quality middle relievers in Phelps and Harris and a pair of reclamation projects in Napoli and Joyce. Joyce’s numbers are better than they look at first glance, particularly in an OBP format like Tout uses.
Tout Wars NL
Stephen Vogt $172. Other bid: $15.
Vogt was picked up by the Brewers on Sunday but was showing up in the stat service’s system as an Oakland Athletic. I bid $15, figuring I’d sneak him on to my team, but Phil Hertz of Baseball HQ had other ideas. Vogt is a great pick-up if he becomes the starter and can duplicate his 2015 form, but it is more likely that he is a backup catcher who gets the odd start in the outfield or at first base. I am slightly disappointed that I did not get him, but not so disappointed that I feel bad for not bidding $174.
I did not bid on Perkins. He started six games for the Phillies this past week and could be their regular center fielder, but he isn’t considered much of a prospect. He had very good numbers at Lehigh Valley but 2017 was his third time through the circuit. Hopefully, Perkins didn’t eat at Perkins, even though it is his namesake, and opted instead for Blue Sky or The People’s Kitchen when he went out for breakfast in the greater Lehigh Valley area. Perkins’ upside is as a fourth outfielder so while he is fine as a low-end NL-only flier I would not sink 12.5 percent of my budget on him the way Lenny Melnick of Roto Experts did this week.
Luis Castillo $120. Other bids: $77, $1. LABR NL: $29.
That’s a very aggressive bid by Greg Ambrosius and Shawn Childs of NFBC/Stats Inc., but keep in mind that you cannot speculate on minor leaguers in LABR. In NL-only, Castillo is worth starting against the Brewers for the strikeout potential alone.
Ryder Jones $67. Other bids: $63, $57, $14. LABR NL: $9.
I bid $14 on Jones. I did not come close to getting him. He turned things around in the minors after two rough seasons but I’m not confident in him as anything more than an injury replacement in NL-only, especially since Eduardo Nuñez could be back this weekend.
Ryan Raburn $61. Other bid: $13.
I didn’t bid on Raburn either. He could be a useful lefty masher off the bench and get some starts over Goodwin in left. The 2013 and 2015 lines are the best-case scenarios while 2014 and 2016 offer a harrowing look at what Raburn might do if he somehow stuck with the Nationals—or any major-league squad—all season long. The power makes him acceptable as a fifth outfielder, or in Tout Wars as a swing player.
The topping on my excrement sundae this week was bidding $10 on Maton and losing him to Hertz by one lousy dollar.
A few weeks after I cut Familia, Grey Albright of Razzball stashed him as a speculative add.
LABR AL Adam Engel $9. Other bids: $3, $1. Tout AL: $11.
Engel could be what Charlie Tilson was supposed to be: a fourth of fifth outfielder who is stretched as a starter yet somehow manages to steal a lot of bases for the White Sox and his fantasy teams. He already has four steals in 14 games for Chicago and while it seems extremely improbable that Engel will continue to hit .308, a .250 batting average with his speed plays in AL-only.
Luis Cessa $5. Other bid: $4. (@CHW)
Cessa could survive in most rotations as a fifth starter but if he is your fifth starter it means that there has been an injury or someone was very ineffective. In the Yankees case, Cessa replaced the injured CC Sabathia. The strikeout rate is fine but the 2.2 home runs per nine innings are not. While Cessa is an OK AL-only option in Chicago there is plenty of bust potential here as well.
Tyler Austin $4. Other bid: $4. Tout AL: $113.
I had the losing bid. I profiled Austin above. I probably should have been somewhat more aggressive in an AL-only league if I really wanted Austin.
Bridwell is the best name in the $1 bargain bin on a very weak list. The fact that Dwight Smith’s son is playing in the majors doesn’t make me feel old. The fact that no one remembers that the elder Smith was the runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1989 to teammate Jerome Walton does.