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Depending on how long you have been a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, welcome or welcome back to the Expert FAAB Review. Every week, I’m going to take a look at the players and the process behind the expert bidding in LABR mixed, Tout Wars NL, and Tout Wars AL. Bret Sayre and I participate in LABR mixed while I have a team in Tout Wars NL, so I will provide insights behind the reasoning on some the bids. Budgets in all three leagues start at $100 at the beginning of the season.

Tout Wars uses a Vickrey Auction system. A basic description of the Vickrey bidding system can be found here.

Random Quote of the Week: “That damn bar.” – Lilith Sternin Crane, Cheers

LABR Mixed

Cody Anderson $7. Player released: Lonnie Chisenhall.
Alex Rios $5.
Other bid: $4
Rios was cut last week in LABR because he has not produced all year, but a large portion of his year was lost to injury. He hasn’t done much, but entering Monday’s action had quietly put together a six-game hitting streak. The issue with Rios is that he showed almost no power last year, has shown little speed this year, and even if healthy he runs the risk of being a marginal addition in mixed. Jeff Erickson of Rotowire is taking a low-level risk that Rios will be the 2013 or earlier version of Rios, or failing that at least has a dead cat bounce for the Royals post-injury. It’s a very good gamble at this price.

Brock Holt $5. Other bids: $4, $3, $1. Player released: None
Holt may seem like a low-end fantasy option in deeper mixed because of the lack of power or significant speed, but he stole 12 bases in 2014, could easily reach double-digits in the category again this year, and is eligible at every non-catcher position in leagues with five-game, in-season eligibility. His strong batting average means he plays in mixed.

The best thing about having Holt on your fantasy team though has to be his splendiferously beautiful hair. I mean, look at that mane! My God, it is…beautiful!!!

Wait, what was I doing again?

Oh yes, writing this week’s FAAB Review. Sorry about that, I got distracted. I slipped into a fantasy realm there for a good 15-20 minutes where Brock Holt and I were riding bareback (horses obviously; what did you think I meant, you sickos) on the beach, a gusting wind whipping through Brock’s hair, nature’s hair dryer tousling it back and forth as The Kinks’ Strangers inexplicably played in the background. Brock started asking me about my work at Baseball Prospectus, but I pushed the conversation toward hair products. We got off of the horses and retired to a roaring campfire, where we roasted s’mores and discussed all of Brock’s hair care secrets. I asked if I could touch his hair, but Brock laughed heartily, reminding me what happened when Icarus failed to heed his father Daedalus warning not to fly too close to the sun. I told Brock that we are sitting on a beach, not flying in the air with wings made of wax attached to our bodies, and he explained to me that this is an analogy, not a literal warning. I told him that his analogy was poor, and Brock got mad. He abruptly went back to his horse and galloped away, scaring off my horse in the process. I didn’t know where I was, and despite the light from the campfire, it was dark and I was suddenly scared that I would be abandoned here on this strange beach forever.

This reverie went on for a few more minutes (eventually, a kindly elf named Gompers rescued me from the beach and brought me back to our corporeal world, which is a long story I’ll save for a future edition of The FAAB Review), but the point is that Brock Holt has the kind of hair that can make men lose their grip on reality and go skidding into a fantasy realm of horses, campfires, and extremely odd discussions about hair product. Let’s hope that Keith Hernandez of Fantasy Score understands that he didn’t just spend $5 of FAAB on a random assemblage of statistics. He purchased a responsibility to honor, cherish, and respect the hair, and to live in a dream world that I apparently cannot inhabit without getting into a make-believe argument, despite the fact that it was my fantasy in the first place. Idiot.

Matt Wisler $3. Other bids: $2, $1. Player released: Jason Motte
Wisler looked solid against the Mets in his major league debut this past weekend, but looking solid against the Mets’ offense those days mostly entails simply showing up to the park on time and stepping on the hill. Wisler’s low strikeout rate in the minors doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence that he is going to be much of an asset in mixed leagues, and I would keep him on the bench for his non-NL East starts. The NL East advantage is a thing this year, and if Wisler sticks he is going to be an intriguing stash down the stretch, when the Braves get a healthy diet of NL East teams. I know some like Wisler better than I do, but in the short-term at least I am not buying.

Kevin Siegrist $3. Player released: None
Trevor Rosenthal appears to be back on track health-wise, but it appears that Siegrist is next in line based on Mike Matheny’s reliever usage while Rosenthal was out. Steve Gardner of USA Today Sports – our dear friend in real life but our bitter, hated enemy in LABR – grabbed Siegrist. He has no closers at the moment, but the move makes sense since Gardner has been running eight starting pitchers out there, and some of them are ERA/WHIP risks. He has a cushion in the categories at the moment, but it isn’t difficult to fall quickly if your back end starters are below average, even if Max Scherzer is your ace.

Justin Nicolino $2. Player released: None
See Wisler. Yes, I get the long-term upside, but I scratch my head at how excited some of the prospect guys get over these pitchers who can’t even manage to cobble together a 6.0 K/9 in the minors. The last time Nicolino pulled off this feat was in 2012…in A-ball when he was still in the Blue Jays’ system. The strikeouts could come down the line—and I am certainly not questioning the long-term talent—but sometimes we do not see the forest for the trees when it comes to prospects and what they will do in fantasy now, not two or three years from now.

Derek Dietrich $1. Other bid: $1. Player released: None
Dietrich has some decent pop and flashed this pop in a two home run game against the Reds on Saturday. He is a batting average risk, but could be good for a 10-15 home run pace while Martin Prado is on the DL. Dietrich is almost 26, so there isn’t much growth left in the profile, but he is a useful back-end middle infielder in deep mixed if he sticks.

Travis Snider $1. Player released: None.
Steve Delabar $1. Player released: Yusmerio Petit
Johnny Giavotella $1. Player released: None.

Brett Cecil is at risk in Toronto, but Delabar isn’t the first guy in line to take over if Cecil loses the job. Giavotella is a starter, and that is useful in 15-team mixed, even if it is marginal fantasy profile.

Bret Sayre and I didn’t place any bids this week. We are sticking with our four closer strategy with the hopes that we keep rapidly moving up in the category. With the Diamondbacks getting three games in Colorado this week, we stuck Aaron Hill into our lineup instead of pushing for another hitter on the wire. With a couple of open roster spots due to injury, we will likely push harder for a hitter to replace Hill in our lineup next week.

Tout Wars NL

Derek Dietrich $18 ($19). Other bids: $17, $16, $16, $11, $6, $0. Player released: Darin Ruf.
I wrote about Dietrich above. I will add that in NL-only leagues his value is obviously greater, so the aggressive bids make a good deal more sense in this format. Gene McCaffrey of Wise Guy Baseball was the winning bidder. McCaffrey’s team has struggled on offense all year and needs all of the help it can get. McCaffrey’s FAAB budget drops from $57 to $39 with the move. He isn’t going to be a player on any of the American Leaguers who might get traded into the NL next month, so he might as well try to bring in imports like Dietrich to help.

Now that we are closing in on July, it is worth looking at the impact free agent hitters had last year in Tout Wars and how they were acquired.

Table 1: Top 10 Free Agents, NL Tout Wars, 2014

Rank

Player

Date

FAAB Bid

Earned

Owner

Finish

1

Josh Harrison

4/28

$1

$28

Scott Wilderman

11th

2

Hector Rondon

4/14

$9

$17

Mike Gianella

5th

3

Jacob deGrom

5/19

$14

$16

Phil Hertz

3rd

4

Pat Neshek

4/21

$0

$16

Gene McCaffrey

12th

5

Tony Watson

4/21

$0

$16

Mike Gianella

5th

6

Ender Inciarte

5/5

$12

$15

Lenny Melnick

7th

7

Alfredo Simon

4/7

$3

$15

Peter Kreutzer

10th

8

Chris Coghlan

5/5

$0

$14

Todd Zola

8th

9

Mike Fiers

4/21

$1

$13

Peter Kreutzer

10th

10

David Peralta

6/9

$14

$12

Seth Trachtman

4th

The biggest takeaway from Table 1 is that if you haven’t made a big splash on an NL-only free agent by now, you probably will not do so. Peralta is the only player on this list who was purchased after May 19 last year, and the majority of players were purchased in April. It stands to reason that players who were purchased earlier in the season are more likely to earn more of our funny money. For a player traded over from the “other” league to earn $12 or more, he would have to earn at a $33 pace for the rest of the season. This a pretty strong argument against hanging on to your FAAB waiting for a big fish to cross over into the pool, which is exactly what I have done so far this year.

Table 2: Remaining FAAB, NL Tout Wars: June 22, 2015

Standings

Owner

FAAB Spent

FAAB
Remaining

Gain From Auction

1

Mike Gianella

$20

$111

+13.5

2

Lenny Melnick

$33

$85

0

3

Derek Carty

$32

$78

-4

4

Ray Guilfoyle

$20

$75

+4

5

Tristan Cockcroft

$28

$72

+3

6

Phil Hertz

$101

$21

-1.5

7

Steve Gardner

$25

$77

+0.5

8

Gene McCaffrey

$47

$39

0

9

Brian Walton

$24

$81

-6

10

Scott Wilderman

$25

$67

-7

11

Todd Zola

$31

$63

-1.5

12

Peter Kreutzer

$74

$26

-1

Table 2 shows the amount of FAAB that the participants in NL Tout Wars have spent so far and the amount of FAAB they still have left to spend. The amounts do not add up to $100 in many cases since the Tout participants can trade FAAB or claim FAAB for disabled players.

However, thus far there is a fairly close corollary between how little FAAB a team has spent and how well that team is doing in the standings. It makes some sense; the teams at the top of the heap are less likely to take big risks on marginal free agents than the teams at the bottom of the standings are. With a few rare exceptions (a change in closers mid-week where the closer isn’t on anyone’s fantasy team), most of the players we grab in only leagues are fringy. Tout even allows us to speculate on minor leaguers, so we are not bidding big dollars on the minor league studs when they are promoted to the majors; in most cases, these players are already taken in Tout Wars by the time they are called up by their major league clubs.

The other factor in only leagues is that a successful FAAB play and a high-end FAAB bid don’t have a particularly high correlation. No one in 2014’s top 10 cost more than $14 in FAAB, and this year will likely have a similar pattern. Hertz, McCaffrey and Kreutzer have spent a lot thus far, but the success of their FAAB purchases are far from guaranteed. Additionally, the impact of even the most successful picks doesn’t have much of an impact on the standings. Hertz has spent all of his FAAB and then some and is spinning his wheels, gaining only half a point from the draft standings.

My two big in-season FAAB buys—Jorge De La Rosa ($7) and Jim Johnson ($5)—haven’t done much. Most of my gains have come from reserve pick Addison Russell, Jeremy Hellickson (I have had him for his entire good run for $1), A.J. Ramos ($1 free agent) and Jason Grilli (trade). It’s nice to have a big chunk of FAAB in July, but even if a big free agent comes over from the other league, you had better make sure that you have laid the foundation for a winning team well before that.

Eury Perez $6 ($8). Other bid: $5. Player reserved: Matt Reynolds.
This is an interesting play by Phil Hertz of Baseball HQ. Even if Perez doesn’t start for the Braves, he should provide some sneaky speed at the back end of an NL-only roster. The upside play is the hope that Chris Johnson gets released, Kelly Johnson gets shifted to third base and Perez nabs a starting job in the outfield. This doesn’t seem like a particularly sure thing, but at $6 for Hertz, the gamble is certainly worth taking.

Tyler Moore $3 ($11). Other bids: $2, $2, $2. Player reserved: Hector Gomez
Moore has hit well of late, but appears to be the odd man out at the moment with Clint Robinson hitting well and in manager Matt Williams’ favor. Moore will thump the occasional homer when he plays. He has NL-only value and can be streamed in deeper mixed when the Nationals are on the road and need a DH.

Wil Myers $2 ($8). Other bid $1. Player reserved: Tyler Lyons
Ah, nuts. Hertz released Myers on Friday in order to reclaim FAAB and I somehow missed it. I do not know what I would have bid on Myers, but I probably would have bid more than $2 and would have had least pushed Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN a few dollars higher on price. Myers is not likely to be back until mid-August, but six weeks of Myers could be a difference maker if he is 100%. I dislike the rule that allows for players who are cut to be purchased the very same week, but I was well aware of the rule and it is my fault for not looking more carefully at the free agent pool. Dagnabit!

Carter Capps $2 ($12). Other bids: $1, $0, $0. Player released: Manny Banuelos.
Capps has looked absolutely terrific since the Marlins recalled him from the minors earlier this year. He seems to be next in line should A.J. Ramos fail, but assuming that Ramos is going to falter is silly; the Marlins’ closer has been excellent and the Fish won’t simply flip roles because Capps is dealing. If you pick Capps up as a cheap speculation, that’s fine, but don’t grab him assuming that a job switch is automatic. Lenny Melnick of Roto Experts’ bid is fine in a Vickrey league; in a league where you have to pay the full freight, I would not go double-digits for Capps.

Shane Peterson $1 ($6). Other bid: $0. Player released: Jarrett Parker.
Chris Dominguez $1 ($6). Player released: Brennan Boesch.
Aaron Nola $1 ($6). Player reserved: Peter Bourjos.
Austin Hedges $0.
Other bid: $0. Player reserved: Kyle Schwarber.
David Ross $0. Player reserved: Christian Bethancourt.
Danny Dorn $0. Player reserved: Allen Webster.
Carlos Torres $0. Player reserved: Michael Bolsinger

The Nola bid was mine. I also bid zero on Hedges, and lost out on the tiebreak to Cockcroft. My educated guess is that Nola will be up around August 1, and while he obviously won’t dominate like he did in Double-A, he should be a solid option for the Phillies, and August and September are right around when the NL East-heavy schedule will kick in for Philadelphia.

By now, my FAAB strategy should be evident if you have been following this column faithfully throughout the year (counterpoint: WHY?!?!?!?!?!?!?). I have been hoarding my FAAB for a big AL import for some time now, and with Devin Mesoraco out for the year, I am going all in. Last year this didn’t work out for me, but as noted above this is a success-oriented strategy. If I can hold on at the top or near the top of the standings, the player I bring in – no matter who it is – should provide enough of an impact to be significant.

Tout AL

Chris Parmelee $10 ($19). Other bids: $9, $8, $6, $6, $1. Player reserved: Jake Marisnick
I don’t know what to say here. Sure, Parmelee could hit 15 home runs the rest of the way, lead the Orioles to the playoffs, and become a folk hero who wins the World Series for them with three home runs in a pivotal Game Seven that fans remember forever (or least until the inevitable heat death of the universe that I keep hearing about on Wikipedia dot com). But it is far more likely that Parmelee just had the best week that he’ll have all year and that he’ll hit the odd home run, put up a bad batting average, fade into oblivion, and get demoted back to AAA. There’s nothing wrong with the speculative bids, but you can see by the price points above that the AL Tout experts believe what I believe, see what I see, and eat what I eat, just like Genghis Khan in The Simpsons episode I’m referencing that I’m sure no one under the age of 30 remembers (see, universe, heat death, above).

Domingo Santana $6. Other bids: $6, $4, $1. Player reserved: Emilio Bonifacio.
Santana has more upside than Parmelee, and while he certainly is a risk to be demoted when the Astros are completely healthy, the current regime has had no problems rewarding performance over tenure. The strikeout profile for Santana is terrible, but he is a potential fantasy force if he sticks due to the prodigious power and decent 10-15 SB potential. I would go higher than this in an only and hope that he sticks.

Cody Anderson $2 ($16). Other bid: $1. Player released: Jacob Lindgren
Anderson broke through in a big way this year at AAA after struggling in Double-A in 2014. Anderson profiles as a back-end starter in mono formats. The potential for more is certainly there under the guidance of Mickey Callaway, although it is more likely that Anderson faces an adjustment period before taking any significant steps forward in 2015.

Chris Young $2 ($5). Other bids: $1, $0, $0. Player reserved: Adam Rosales
Young will get some more playing time again for the Yankees with Mason Williams on the DL. Young has turned back into a pumpkin this year, but with the benefit of Yankee Stadium and playing time it is possible he turns it around.

Kyle Ryan $1 ($7)
Liam Hendriks $1 ($5)
John Danks $1
Steve Geltz $0
Travis Shaw $0

Someone added John Danks. Welcome to AL-only, where anyone can get picked up. Where dreams can come true, but usually don’t. Where the happiness of a savvy pick off of the waiver wire is quickly replaced by the sadness that there just isn’t anything out there that is going to rescue you from tenth place. There is no escape from your despair. There is no way out of this reality, except for the inevitable end of the season that puts all of us just a little bit closer to the end of our association with this, the mortal coil. This is really a variant on the heat death joke. You’re probably thinking I’m better than this, but the harsh reality is that I am most definitely not.

I like Ryan in the short term.