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Welcome to The FAAB Review, the series that looks at the expert bidding in LABR mixed, Tout Wars NL, and Tout Wars AL every week in an effort to try and help you, the Baseball Prospectus reader, with your fantasy baseball bidding needs. Bret Sayre and I participate in LABR mixed while I have a team in Tout Wars NL, so I can provide some insight on the bids and the reasoning behind them. LABR uses a $100 budget with one-dollar minimum bids, while the Tout Wars leagues use a $1,000 budget with zero-dollar minimum bids. I will also be including Bret’s winning bids in Tout Wars mixed auction league where applicable.

LABR and Tout Wars both use a bidding deadline of Sunday at midnight ET.

All 2016 statistics in this article were as of Sunday, April 24.

LABR Mixed

Kendall Graveman $7. Other bids: $3, $2, $2, $2. Tout Wars Draft: $11
The early results thus far have been impressive for Graveman, although it is hard to pinpoint if his approach is leading to this or if there has been some luck involved. Graveman has thrown fewer fastballs in favor of more sliders and cutters, but this surely cannot entirely explain a BABIP of .170 and a 91 percent strand rate. On the other hand, Graveman has the sort of profile (high groundball rate, favorable home venue) that could allow him to surpass expectations and his 3.89 FIP. In LABR, I like him as a back-end streaming option who could eventually be a fifth or sixth starter. He did get tattooed last night by the Tigers.

Jordy Mercer $5. Other bid: $4. Tout Wars Auction: $1.
I was ready to malign Mercer as a near-useless option in 15-team mixed, but a quick look back at his numbers shows that he was a positive contributor in this format as recently as 2014, earning six dollars (according to the PFM) with a 12 home run, 55 RBI, 56 run, four steal, .255 batting average campaign in 555 plate appearances. This doesn’t mean that Mercer will duplicate this modest success in 2016. He was subpar in 2015 and additionally he runs the risk of losing a healthy chunk of playing time when Jung-Ho Kang returns in May. But the Pirates do get a series in Coors this week, so Mercer is a nice play this week in most formats.

The Mercer pick up is more indicative of how difficult it is to find quality hitting early in anything larger than a 12-team mixed. The pitching pickups thus far have been intriguing; beyond Trevor Story, there has not been much to get in the way of hitting value. This is a large part of the reason why hitting is drafted earlier/costs more in fantasy than pitching, despite the fact that the categories are weighted equally in traditional Roto standings. Mercer isn’t much. But at this juncture of the season, he is one of the stronger pickups you can make.

Bret grabbed Mercer for a dollar in Tout Wars Mixed Auction. His offense is somewhat thin on the bottom, and Bret is hoping to play the Coors matchup to his advantage.

David Phelps $4

David Freese $3. Tout Wars Auction: $18
Freese fits into the same bucket as Mercer. The deep league mixed potential is present albeit limited and he gets a tasty series at Coors this week. He also runs the risk of losing playing time after Kang returns. I do wonder if Josh Harrison slides into a super-utility role and preserves some of Mercer and Freese’s at bats, although the way Harrison has hit thus far moving him around the diamond and taking his playing time away doesn’t seem like the greatest idea.

Adam Duvall $3. Tout Wars Auction: $81.

The results on the surface have been fine for Duvall, but an extremely high strikeout rate does not speak to excellent future results. Duvall should get a fair amount of at bats as long as he is hitting, and the power potential does make him worth a roster slot in LABR.

The dynamics between the three expert mixed leagues are worth noting here. The lack of zero dollar FAAB bids led to conservatism in LABR, where Mike Podhorzer of Fangraphs was the lone bidder. In Tout Wars Mixed Auction, there were five bidders for Duvall’s services in the $33-81 range. This seems fairly aggressive, but the $1,000 bid cap combined with the zero dollar FAAB rule allows for more liberal bidding early. Meanwhile, in Tout Wars Mixed Draft, Ray Murphy of Baseball HQ snuck Duvall in for a two-dollar winning bid a week earlier on April 17th. A two home run week contributed to the more aggressive bids in Tout Auction, but Duvall was hitting well even without the home runs.

Steven Wright $3. Other bids: $2, $2. Tout Wars Auction: $6.
Wright is one of our buys this week. We bid just what we needed to, as we would have lost the tiebreaker at two dollars to both of the other bidders.

So far, our LABR team looks good. We entered the week in second place, 2.5 points out of first. The early results matter less to me in terms of the overall point total and more in terms in what they tell me about our team. Steals are a surprising disappointment, although given that we hitched our wagon to high risk/high reward Billy Hamilton and Byron Buxton’s stars, it is not a shocker. Otherwise, for the most part we have avoided the injury bug, our hitters are hitting, and while our non-Jake Arrieta pitchers haven’t been tremendous, they have been good enough.

What we are lacking is pitching depth, thanks to injuries to C.J. Wilson (not surprising) and Andrew Heaney (surprising, as far as pitchers go). We have had R.A. Dickey on our bench most of the year and Trevor Bauer’s demotion to the bullpen has left us running five starters out there for the past two weeks. We don’t need Wright to be a savior. We’re looking for a viable streamer to rotate in for favorable matchups, and a game this week against the Braves checks off those boxes. Carlos Carrasco’s injury makes it likely that Trevor Bauer will get a favorable start this week in Philadelphia, but this isn’t guaranteed and I preferred grabbing the definite play for Week Four.

Aaron Blair $3. Tout Wars Auction $157.
For more on Blair, see the Tout Wars NL section below. Blair is borderline for me in mixed, and gets a rough matchup this week against the Cubs. I wouldn’t start him in 15-team for this specific matchup.

Caleb Cotham $2. Tout Wars Auction $51.
Anthony Cingrani $2. Tout Wars Auction $77.

J.J. Hoover was pulled from the closer’s role in Cincinnati, so there were a few bids in the mixed leagues to attempt and nab his replacement. However, there were only multiple bids in one of the leagues for any of these pitchers (for Cingrani, in Tout Wars Auction). The expert market understands that chasing saves—even in a deeper league—is a dubious proposition. Cotham was the sexy expert choice at the beginning of the week, but the Reds’ usage of Cotham and Cingrani last week did nothing to persuade me to invest heavily in either arm. The market apparently agreed. Additionally, there were reports that Hoover discovered a mechanical flaw in his delivery that he believes he fixed in side sessions. This guarantees nothing, but it is possible that Hoover takes the job back sooner rather than later. The bottom line is that there is far too much uncertainly in Cincinnati to bid with confidence.

Desmond Jennings $1
Jon Jay $1
Hector Neris $1
Mark Reynolds $1. Tout Wars Auction: $73.
Tucker Barnhart $1

Reynolds was our other addition this week. Alex Rodriguez could land on the DL with an oblique injury and even before Charlie Blackmon went on the DL for the Rockies, Reynolds had been picking up a significant amount of playing time at first base over Ben Paulsen. Will this last? I don’t know, but playing time plus Coors Field generally equals profit.

Bret bid $0 on Reynolds in Tout but had to settle for Aaron Hill (also at zero dollars), who he had just dropped last week.

Tout Wars NL

Aaron Blair $130
Blair was a reserve pick in LABR NL; this explains the lack of bids in that league. There were a number of secondary bids for Blair in Tout, but Ray Guilfoyle of Fake Teams was the only one who had Blair as his primary choice, and nabbed him at $130. Wilson Karaman’s fantasy write-up in The Call Up was prescient; the raw results from Blair’s initial major league outing against the Mets were fine, but the whiffs weren’t there and it’s difficult to see much of a fantasy ceiling without strikeouts. Feel free to start Blair in NL-only this week, but the Cubs are a poor matchup for almost any pitcher, let alone a rookie without a big time punch out pitch. The lack of wins on the Braves also hampers Blair’s potential fantasy value. I see an $8-10 earnings ceiling this year, even if Blair sticks in the rotation.

Daniel Castro $87. Other bids: $60, $54. LABR NL: $7
Castro has wrested the starting job at second base from Jace Peterson in Atlanta (technically, Castro is getting regular at-bats while Peterson, Drew Stubbs, Jeff Francouer, and Kelly Johnson share time in a bizarre job-sharing arrangement in left field due to Hector Olivera’s administrative leave). Most of Castro’s value comes from his glove, which doesn’t help much in fantasy save for the fact that it may keep Castro in the line-up and give you that sweet, sweet NL-only plate appearance swag. Castro doesn’t hit for any appreciable power and the speed isn’t enough of a carrying tool, so his value depends entirely upon whether or not he sticks as a regular. The profile is more utility infield glove, but Castro is one of those players I could be looking back at in October going “wow, this guy earned $9 in NL-only, oh wow playing time is really valuable in this format, this is a great lesson for everyone who plays NL-only and already knows this!”

Caleb Cotham $83. Other bids: $33, $17, $11 $5. LABR NL: $3
I thought about putting in an aggressive bid on Cotham, but my idea of aggressive was $40-50, which would have lost out anyway. With two closers in tow, a big bid on a “maybe” closer didn’t fit. If you’re only reading the NL-only comments, please see above for my take on the Reds’ bullpen going forward.

I’m hoping Cotham makes it just so we can see some Cotham City promotions. The Reds could throw a Bat Signal into the air, and have Cotham come into the game in a bullpen car that looks like the Batmobile, and the scoreboard could use the zany sound and visual effects from the 1960s Batman TV show. Yes, Matt Harvey currently has The Dark Knight moniker, but this makes no sense based on Harvey’s name. Don’t @ me.

Jemile Weeks $42. Other bid: $11.
Way back in 2011, Weeks put up a solid two-thirds of a season for the Athletics and suddenly piqued interest in fantasy circles. This wasn’t because he was any kind of top-flight prospect but rather because he stole 22 bases in the majors with a .303 batting average and looked like he could be an everyday second sacker with three category deliciousness. I won’t bore you to tears with 2,000 words on The Jemile Weeks Story, but suffice it to say it didn’t work out that way. The wheels came off in 2012 and Weeks has bounced around between the majors and minors since then without ever showing very much with the bat. The batting eye remains solid but the contact rate has never been good and the stolen bases mostly disappeared, putting Weeks outside the cusp of fantasy relevance. He gets a shot now with the Padres, but with Cory Spangenberg and Yangervis Solarte’s injuries of the relatively minor variety, the window is extremely narrow for Weeks to do much of anything in NL-only.

David Phelps $37. Other bid: $12. LABR NL: $1.
Phelps has been terrific out of the Marlins bullpen this season, and while A.J. Ramos has also been lights out, Carter Capps’ injury combined with Phelps’ awesome performance puts Phelps next-in-line in Florida at the moment. This is an aggressive bid, but given my feelings about NL-only relief value, I don’t mind it.

David Lough $27. LABR NL $2.
With Ben Paulsen likely to miss most of his Coors games this week, I decided to take advantage and add one of the few every day hitters in the National League. Lough is on the good side of a platoon with Tyler Goeddel, and while Lough offers very little in fantasy, this is NL-only. I’ll likely rotate him in there in weeks when the Phillies face all righties and one of my other platoon outfielders is sitting 2-3 days a week.

Adam Rosales $23. Other bid: $14, $13, $8. NL LABR: $3.
Jon grounds out weakly, Wil singles to left
Matt strikes out on four pitches, Melvin pops up again
Derek fouls out to third base, Alexei’s on the team?
I thought Jemile was out of baseball, is this a fever dream?
(whistling) This is a nightmare, can’t believe this is baseball
(whistling) This is a nightmare, don’t want to watch these games at all
Please knock me out.
If outs could kill, they probably will
In games without runs, innings with no fun.
Games without runs, innings with no fun.

Jeux sans pointes

Adam has a brown bat, Jose’s bat is black
If I have to watch the Walrus hit, gonna have a heart attack
Jabari’s a cool name, but he doesn’t play
Brett is on the team this year, what more can I say?
(whistling) This is a nightmare, can’t believe this is baseball
(whistling) This is a nightmare, don’t want to watch these games at all
Please knock me out.
If outs could kill, they probably will
In games without runs, innings with no fun.
Games without runs, innings with no fun.

Jeux sans pointes

Tyler Thornburg $22
Phil Gosselin $13
Ross Ohlendorf $11
Neftali Feliz $5
Felipe Rivero $2
Willson Contreras $1
Yadiel Rivera $0

The bottom-of-the-barrel in NL-only is the part of the ice cream carton that’s just all frozen crystals months after you bought the ice cream. The crystals don’t resemble anything close to ice cream or food for that matter, but you know you’re going to eat them, most likely at one in the morning after a long night of watching your NL-only players compete again.

Hypothetically. I have never done anything like this. Ew, gross.

This week saw a number of relievers brought into the fold. Ohlendorf is a long-shot to get saves in Cincinnati, but he did get saves for the Rangers last year and managers do love Proven ClosersTM. Thornburg has moved behind Jeremy Jeffress as second in line for saves in Milwaukee. I grabbed Feliz, less for the saves play and more for the high strikeouts and as a streaming option when I don’t feel like getting stuck with an unfavorable starting pitcher matchup.

Contreras at a buck is a nice stash. He probably won’t come up this year until late August or early September, but in NL-only, getting zero at bats from your second catcher is harmless.

Tout Wars AL

Ezequiel Carrera $78. Other bids: $52, $32, $11, $3. LABR AL: $5.
Michael Saunders is hurt. These words are sitting in my clipboard, waiting to be pasted into every FAAB article I ever write. The beneficiary over the weekend was Carrera, a decent enough fourth outfielder who can steal a few bases and not hurt your batting average when pushed into service. Any hitter lucky enough to make his way into the Toronto lineup on a regular basis should be considered even in deep mixed due to the high run scoring environment. Saunders’ hamstring malady seems minor (he played last night), so it is likely that Carrera goes back to the bench this week, but he could find himself stealing a few more at bats here and there if Saunders needs additional rest.

Rafael Ortega $55. Other bid: $12. LABR AL: $2
The sharps in Tout were all over Carrera, but in terms of a shot at regular playing time the rest of the season, Ortega may very well have been the better play. This has less to do with Ortega and more with the soft competition he has for playing time in Anaheim’s outfield. Daniel Nava isn’t guaranteed a job after he comes off of the DL while Craig Gentry hasn’t hit his own weight thus far. Ortega offers virtually no power and only a little speed, but if he can get a full slate of at bats, he plays in AL-only. He’s a little more valuable in OBP leagues like Tout.

Steve Clevenger $27. Other bid: $5.
Unfortunately, Clevenger will likely always be known as one of the guys who was traded away for Jake Arrieta before Jake became one of the best pitchers in baseball. That’s not fair to Clevenger, who has been a reliable enough major-league backup catcher for years, first with the Orioles and now with the Mariners. Clevenger is splitting time behind the dish with Chris Iannetta in Seattle. He’s borderline AL-only worthy, but is okay as your no. 2 option as long as he plays 2-3 days a week.

Yoan Moncada $21
I doubt Moncada will be up this season. But he is tearing it up at High-A and it is difficult to envision him spending much time in Salem. The timetable is unclear but my educated guess is an ETA at some point in 2017. I’m fine with this kind of speculation, but Chris Liss of Rotowire now has Andrew Benintendi, Byron Buxton, Joey Gallo, and Moncada on his team. Even in AL-only, I’d prefer to leave my bench spots for relievers or starting pitcher streamers than use them on this many minor leaguers.

Mike Zunino $18
Here’s another speculative add, this time by Ron Shandler of ESPN. Zunino is tearing the you-know-what off of the ball (hint, it rhymes with “lover”) at Triple-A, and while Tacoma is Tacoma, the results are making many wonder if Zunino and his fantasmagorical framing skills will find their way to way to Seattle in short order. It’s not a bad gamble for the reason I laid out above (under Contreras), but the Mariners aren’t looking to rush Zunino and barring a complete collapse by Iannetta, July is the realistic ETA. The power if Zunino can put it all together is impressive, but we’ve been down this road before with Zunino.

Zach McAllister $11. Other bid: $3.
McAllister is a fine setup option for the Tribe, but Cody Allen’s job looks very safe.

Kevan Smith $11. Other bid: $1.
Backup catchers often seem like the equivalent of clerks, and it’s the kind of job that can seem worse than working at a mall. Rats seem to get less respect than these guys, but in fantasy there’s a lot of chasing, amy-liorated by the odd home run. Fantasy dogma suggests not even wasting a buck on anyone who wears the jersey. To me this is a cop out. Bad advice like this makes me angry, putting me in a red state. I refuse to stay silent, and plan to strike back at fantasy experts (like my friends Jay and Bob) who say this kind of thing. It’s making use all look poor…no, it’s even worse than that.

Jerry Sands $2
Andrew Romine $1
Nick Vincent $0
Erik Kratz $0

You might say that the bottom of the AL-only player pool isn’t what it’s Kratz up to be.

But I wouldn’t.