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March 1, 2013

Fantasy Freestyle

CBS AL-Only Expert Auction Results

by Mike Gianella

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Yesterday afternoon, I participated in the CBS AL-only Analysts (read: experts) league auction, which marked the beginning of the league’s 10th year. This was also my 10th year in the league, but it was my first time playing under the Baseball Prospectus banner.

For readers who followed me over from my old blog, I need not explain my approach. However, for my new readers at Baseball Prospectus, it is worth a brief explanation of how I go about my auction—especially since it is markedly different from how some experts approach theirs.

Some experts approach auctions using a strategy-based model, basing their purchases on certain categories or players. This isn’t what I do. I enter every auction as a pure agnostic and a strict price-enforcer. I walk in with my bid limits (the same bid limits that have been featured here at Baseball Prospectus the last two Mondays) and try to buy as many players as I can at prices below those bid limits.

In an ideal scenario, I can go through an entire auction adhering to this philosophy. In reality, this almost never happens … particularly not in expert auctions. Pricing is typically too tight and I have to either buy certain players at par prices or adjust my strategy to emphasize certain categories over others.

Every player purchased can possibly change or challenge my directive to get bargains. Below is a recap of the CBS auction, including the players I purchased, when I purchased them in the auction, and my thinking at the time.

(CBS is a 12-team AL-only league with a “standard” $260 cap for 14 hitters and nine pitchers. Each “round” is 12 players long.)

Round 1, Player 1: Mike Trout $40 (raw bid $43)

In the past, CBS has featured a freewheeling bid philosophy among its owners that has seen multiple $40+ prices for the top players. This stopped in 2011, when not a single player cracked the $40 barrier. I was glad to see Trout come up right away; I was either going to buy him for $40 or less, or see him sail past that and target different players during the auction. An expert who was thinking along similar lines called out Trout for $38: He’d either buy Trout at this price or let someone else pay more. I was happy to buy him and see where the rest of the auction would take me.

Round 2, Player 13: Alex Rios $21 ($25)

Outfielders tend to be deeper bargains in CBS than they are in other leagues I’ve played in, so I wanted to be careful not to push them too close to my bid limits. At $4 below my price, Rios definitely fit the profile of someone I was willing to purchase this early. The average might slip, but I’m fairly certain that Rios is good for another 20/20 season with some solid RBI and runs contributions as well.

Round 2, Player 17: Felix Hernandez $27 ($30)

I’m not as concerned about Hernandez’s elbow as some are, so I forged ahead and made Felix my ace. Justin Verlander ($34) and David Price ($30) both went for more money earlier, and I have Felix ranked ahead of Price and just a couple of notches behind Verlander. Given where the rest of the top tier fell, I was very satisfied with this price.

Round 2, Player 20: Joe Mauer $21 ($24)

I seem to own Mauer nearly every year I’m on the A.L. side of this league. Part of the reason for this is that Mauer comes up fairly early every year and owners seem reluctant to spend money on a catcher at this stage of the auction. Twenty-one dollars isn’t an absolute steal, but for a near-mortal lock for a .300 average behind the dish, along with plenty of RBI, Mauer is as reliable as they come. Some of the later catching prices (Salvador Perez for $20, for example) justified my decision.

Round 2, Player 24: Adrian Beltre $28 ($31)

By my valuation, you can see why I just kept spending and spending and spending. I had already blown through $137 of my $260 budget, but as long as I adhered to my prices, I believed I would do fine later. Just like with Mauer, some of the later third-base spending (Will Middlebrooks $18, Mike Moustakas $21) made Beltre look even better in hindsight.

Round 3, Player 28: Brandon Morrow $18 ($22)

I’m probably higher on Morrow than most and this price is admittedly a reach if Morrow doesn’t finally put up a 200-inning season. Nevertheless, I liked Morrow here as a complement to Felix and as my number-two starter.

Round 4, Player 41: James Shields $19 ($22)

Shields is another pitcher I assume I’m higher on than the rest of the market, but he was money down the stretch for the Rays in 2012. I didn’t like the Shields trade in real life from the Royals standpoint, but for fantasy, I think Shields will be fine.

Here is where I had to make my first strategy decision. Already, I had spent $174, leaving me with a scant $86 to spend on 16 players. With $65 locked up on three pitchers already, I decided to avoid buying anything more than $1 starters, unless an obvious bargain came along. This meant tossing saves overboard. I dislike dumping categories in a non-carryover league, but I didn’t want to wind up spending $90-100 on my pitching and walking out of CBS with a soft offense.

Round 4, Player 45: Nick Markakis $19 ($22)

Markakis might seem pricey at $19, but my pricing shows him earning $16 in AL-only last year in an injury-shortened season. I’m hoping that the power boost he showed in 2012 wasn’t a fluke and that the batting average stays strong. Again, the potential for greater outfield bargains later scared me, but I decided to plow ahead with Markakis.

Round 7, Player 81: Asdrubal Cabrera $18 ($21)

I might not have purchased Cabrera before joining Paul Sporer on Baseball Prospectus’ fantasy podcast a couple of weeks ago, but talking with Paul about shortstops convinced me to push Cabrera’s price up just a little bit. He earned $19 in a down year and a little more power could push Cabrera back into the $20s. However, shortstop is the first position on the diamond where I might have been better served waiting. Alcides Escobar ($20), Jhonny Peralta ($7), and Yunel Escobar ($5) were all better bargains in my estimation.

Round 8, Player 92: Coco Crisp $17 ($20)

Yet again, I might be higher on Crisp than the rest of the market. But Crisp is more than merely a significant speed asset; he also provides a little pop (he hit eight, eight, and 11 home runs in 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively) to go with that those wheels. Staying on the field is a concern, but that’s why I had Crisp priced at $20, not $30.

Round 8, Player 93: J.J. Hardy $12 ($14)

Despite the “bargain” here, this may have been my least-favorite buy of the day. Sometimes I assign a price to a player and even when I get that player below my price I still don’t feel good about it. This was how I felt after I pushed Hardy up to $12 and no one saved me by going to $13. Hardy offers nice power for a shortstop; hopefully he won’t prove to be a significant batting-average drain.

Round 11, Player 130: Adam Lind $7 ($11)

This price was also okay, but might have been one of my two mistakes. A handful of players that I had valued between $8-10 went for $3-5 later on in the auction. My thought process at the time was that there was too much money on the table, and I didn’t want to assume that there would be some bargains later. From this standpoint, I did okay, but in hindsight, this wasn’t the best use of my money.

Lind also pushed me into the endgame far sooner than I would have liked. I was left with $13 to spend for 11 players (for a maximum bid of two dollars). There was a 100-player gap from when I bought Lind to when I bought my next player. But instead of panicking or getting upset about having to wait to buy half of my team at the end of the auction, I continued to diligently track the auction, watched where the money and slots were falling, and maintained my faith in my values. Rather than go through the endgame player-by-player, here is what my team looked like at the end of the day.

POS

Player

Salary

My Value

C

Joe Mauer

21

24

C

David Ross

1

2

1B

Adam Lind

7

11

2B

Chris Getz

1

4

SS

Asdrubal Cabrera

18

21

3B

Adrian Beltre

28

31

CO

Scott Sizemore

2

6

MI

J.J. Hardy

12

14

OF

Mike Trout

40

43

OF

Alex Rios

21

25

OF

Nick Markakis

19

22

OF

Coco Crisp

17

20

OF

Franklin Gutierrez

2

6

DH

Luke Scott

1

4

P

Felix Hernandez

27

30

P

James Shields

19

22

P

Brandon Morrow

18

22

P

Erik Bedard

1

3

P

Phil Coke

1

3

P

Jake McGee

1

3

P

David Robertson

1

3

P

Joe Saunders

1

3

P

Koji Uehara

1

2

 

TOTALS

260

324

To go with those starters, my reserves ​were: Rick Porcello (P), Matt Thornton (P), Sean Burnett (P), DeWayne Wise (OF), Kelly Shoppach (C), Blake Beavan (P), Scott Downs (P)

On the offensive side of my endgame, I feel like I hit the ball out of the park. Of my five $1-2 players, it’s possible that I bought four everyday players. Getz, Gutierrez, Scott, and Sizemore obviously aren’t superstars, but with all of the offense I purchased, they don’t have to be. I only need 400-500 at-bats from each of them to have a powerful offense.

Pitching is where I’m going to need to grind. I like the pitchers I bought in the endgame, but I’ll readily admit that I need more. Saunders is a solid number-four option in Safeco, but I’m not sure if Bedard will hold up. I’m hoping McGee, Robertson, and Uehara provide enough quality innings so that I can stream Bedard, Porcello and/or Beavan with confidence.

My goal is always to go where the value takes me. Yesterday, the value took me to a team with a strong offense and a pitching staff that leaves me hopeful. This team is a contender; that’s all you can ask for in an expert league when you’re swimming with the sharks.

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

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