Playing in Tout Wars is a rewarding experience because of the exposure the league gets. It, alongside LABR (League of Alternative Baseball Reality), is one of the two best gauges fantasy players have to see how the “experts” apply their knowledge at the draft table. It is one thing to read the work each participant publishes online, but it is another to see what they do with their own imaginary money, or in the case of playing in high-stakes leagues such as the ones in the NFBC leagues, real money.

Last week, we looked at the Tout Wars AL-only league, how Larry Schechter and Jeff Erickson have turned their profits into the top spots in the standings, and how others have suffered some serious losses from the prices they paid at the draft table either due to bad valuations or bad luck related to injuries. This week, we look at the NL-only league that was won by ESPN’s Nate Ravitz last season.

Here are the current standings for the 13 team NL-only League:

1.       Brian Walton – 103 points

2.       Chris Liss – 80 points

3.       Steve Gardner – 79 points

4.       Tristan Cockcroft – 78 points

5.       Rob Leibowitz – 74.5 points

6.       Mike Gianella – 69.5 points

7.       Peter Kreutzer – 66.5 points

8.       Scott Pianowski – 63.5 points

9.       Cory Schwartz – 62.5 points

10.   Lenny Melnick & Paul Greco – 62.5 points

11.   Phil Hertz – 59 points

12.   Scott Wilderman – 57.5 points

13.   Nate Ravitz 54.5 points

In 2009, Lawr Michaels won the AL league and finished 2010 in the basement, and Ravitz is in danger of repeating that unfortunate feat this season. Walton is out to a commanding lead this season over defending mixed-league champion Liss, but there are four teams within ten points of his second place spot in the standings. Earlier this month, I covered the new rule in Tout Wars related to standings and FAAB for the following season, and for the NL, the threshold is 65 points. Currently, six of the teams are below that point, so they will have to find ways to make up those points so that their FAAB budgets do not take a hit next season. Based on current player values, here are each team’s profit/loss totals based on the prices paid at the draft table.

·         Liss: -9

·         Walton: -12

·         Wilderman: -31

·         Cockcroft: -36

·         Gardner: -36

·         Ravitz: -46

·         Gianella: -47

·         Melnick & Greco: -56

·         Schwartz: -57

·         Pianowksi: -64

·         Leibowitz: -69

·         Kreutzer: -70

·         Hertz: -77

Shockingly, not one team has turned a profit so far this season compared to two teams doing so in the AL League. Walton has his huge league despite the double-digit negative returns from Albert Pujols, Ike Davis, and Brad Lidge so far this season but getting $40 in value from the combined $12 spent on Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Madson on draft day has really helped, once again giving fodder to those who refuse to pay heavily for saves at the draft table. Liss was the only other owner to come close to turning an overall profit, and he may have if he wasn’t saddled with the $13 in lost value due to Buster Posey’s season-ending injury. His only other big loss was also at catcher as Geovany Soto has underwhelmed this season. Liss also got double-digit positive returns on Danny Espinosa and J.J. Putz this season, but everything else has been single digits.

Compare that to Ravitz, who has four different players who have lost more than $12 this season: Cory Hart (-$13), Hanley Ramirez (-$20), David Wright (-$21), and Ryan Franklin (-$21). The Franklin one is a tough pill to swallow, but not as tough as his two biggest draft day investments combining to lose $41 in value so far. Wilderman is another interesting case because his overall loss has been minimal, but he finds himself 12th in the standings. Ian Stewart and Ted Lilly have combined to cost him $42 in lost value, and he has had just two double-digit surprises in Drew Stubbs and Jon Jay. Little lost but little gained for Wilderman, and he has only had two players not lose value on his pitching staff this season.

Overall, here are the ten most profitable players in NL Tout Wars so far this season:

1.       Craig Kimbrel: +$24

2.       Michael Bourn:  $+22

3.       Matt Kemp: +$20

4.       Jose Reyes: +$19

5.       Lance Berkman: +$18

6.       Drew Storen: +$17

7.       Ryan Madson: +$16

8.       Daniel Murphy: +$15

9.       Jair Jurrjens: +$14

10.   Carlos Beltran: +$14

Three closers find their way onto this list; their owners combined to spend $23 on these pitchers and they have brought back $57 in profit this season, and this is why saves drive many fantasy players crazy. Kemp cost $35 at the draft table, yet he’s still returned a huge profit with his MVP-like season while the clear draft-day injury risks of Reyes, Berkman, and Beltran have been very profitable. Walton owns both Kimbrel and Madson, so the money he saved at the draft table on saves allowed him to invest more heavily in other parts of his team, and the fact that he struck gold with both relievers is a big reason why he has the lead in this league.

On the flipside, here are the ten players that are driving owners crazy in the league this season:

1.       Ryan Zimmerman: -$29

2.       Ted Lilly: -$22

3.       David Wright: -$21

4.       Ryan Franklin: -$21

5.       Hanley Ramirez: -$20

6.       Pedro Alvarez: -$20

7.       Ubaldo Jimenez: -$20

8.       Ian Stewart: -$20

9.       Casey McGehee: -$19

10.   Adam LaRoche: -$19

Injuries have made it tough on some of those players, but the fact that Nate Ravitz has players three through five on that list is the largest reason why he is in last place this season. An owner can overcome one stud doing poorly on his team, maybe even two, but not three. The fact that four different third baseman made the list speaks to just how crazy the hot corner is in the National League this season.

The scatterplot below shows the trends for the profit/loss figures for the 299 players that were drafted back in late March.

In all, 108 of the 299 players (36 percent) have turned a profit so far in 2011, which is a four percentage point increase from the AL league. Conversely, 60 percent of the players have lost value, but that is seven percentage points better than the AL league. Chris Liss leads the league with 13 players showing profit to Brian Walton’s ten players, but the bragging rights are all Walton’s so far this season. If Walton holds onto the lead, he will have bookend titles around a second place finish to Ravitz in 2010 (a run of first, second, and first place finishes) on the heels of finishing dead last in the league in 2008. Fantasy baseball is funny like that.