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, June 19.
Jameson Taillon $33. Other bids: $18, $18, $14, $11, $9, $7, $3
Shawn Kelley $14. Other bids: $7, $7, $7, $7, $6, $1. Tout Mixed Draft: $123.
After a few weeks of sitting back and not making any big plays with our FAAB, Bret and I took the plunge, sinking $47 of our remaining $71 on the combination of Taillon and Kelley. We both love Taillon (poor starts against the ridiculous Chicago Cubs offense notwithstanding) and while we are aware that there is probably an innings cap looming, we believe we can milk plenty of quality innings out of him before the Pirates shut him down. Kelley is the closer while Jonathan Papelbon is out with an intercostal strain. It could be a short absence, but intercostal injuries often lead to longer absences. As Matt Collins pointed in a recent Closer Report, Papelbon has struggled this year, with a career low in strikeouts per nine and a DRA and a cFIP that don’t inspire confidence. Papelbon should be the closer the rest of the way when he comes back, but our bid indicates a lack of confidence in Paps.
You might wonder1 why we are bidding so much on pitching when our offense has 37.5 points and our pitching has 53.5 points (out of a possible 75 each). The rookie talent that may potentially make it to the majors this summer doesn’t come close to matching the talent that was promoted in 2015. Alex Bregman will be a great baseball player, but we are not convinced that he will have a significant fantasy impact in 2016. As a result, we are far more likely to pick up the pitching talent where we can and try to make trades (which admittedly is something Bret and I have been somewhat passive about in the last two-and-a-half years). Fred Zinkie of MLB.com and Keith Hernandez of USA Today Fantasy had the $18 bids for Taillon; I will be emailing both of them this week.
Taillon was taken as a stash in both Tout Wars leagues last month.
Whit Merrifield $7. Other bids: $5, $1, $1.
Since his promotion to Kansas City, Merrifield has performed, putting up a .333 batting average, two home runs, 21 runs, 12 RBI, and four steals. He will fade in batting average but should do enough everywhere else—and particularly in stolen bases—to make him worth the price of admission in 15-team mixed.
Ichiro Suzuki $4. Tout Mixed Auction: $19
I wonder if Hernandez and Nando DiFino read my article last week about how batting average is undervalued in fantasy leagues. Ichiro has to keep hitting well over .300 to be worth it in 15-team mixed, but I have no problem with riding the hot hand for as long as you can.
Tom Koehler $4
I thought about bidding a buck on Koehler last week as a match-up play against the Padres. I don’t like him this week against the Cubs. I have Koehler in my non-Tout Wars NL-only this season and have barely used him.
Cody Reed $4. Other bid: $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $356. Tout Mixed Draft: $222.
The aggressive bids in the Tout leagues offer a little more insight into why Bret and I bid $33 for Taillon. Still, it is aggravating that we could have bid a combined $33 and won Taillon, Kelley and Reed. I know Bret really likes Reed (he bid $156 in Tout Mixed Auction, which was the second highest bid by a good amount) and while we are not worried about our pitching staff, having Reed and Taillon would have offered us plenty of volume along with a good deal of insurance on our other pitchers. Reed looked very good against the Astros in his debut, and while the park won’t help him and the wins likely won’t be there, he makes for a strong play in deep mixed.
Ezequiel Carrera $3. Tout Mixed Auction: $5. Tout Mixed Draft: $27.
Carrera will get a healthy diet of at bats in Toronto while Jose Bautista is on the DL. To offer some context, Carrera is replacing Jarrett Parker, Gregor Blanco, and Michael Bourn in the three expert leagues. It is watery out there.
Doug Fister $3. Other bids: $1, $1
Fister’s 3.26 ERA looks great, but his 5.02 DRA tells us that there is nothing to see here. This is not even a case of Fister’s defense improving his results; the Astros’ PADE is 25th overall in the league. There is a correction coming and it is not going to be pretty. I would not even recommend playing the matchups in anything but AL-only.
Daniel Mengden $2. Other bid: $1.
Mengden is the kind of pitcher who could get knocked around eventually, but his deceptive delivery and cavernous home park could lead to some decent results for him in the short term. I had an opportunity to see some of his last start and you could see that hitters were having a hard time picking up the ball as it left his hand. The hitters will adjust (they almost always do) but Mengden is worth starting until he gets pounded.
Ryan Raburn $2. Tout Mixed Draft: $4
Gerardo Parra’s injury opens the door for Raburn to get at least some of the starts for the Rockies. The power potential plus the Coors factor makes Raburn an instant add almost anywhere, but be aware that his career numbers against right-handed pitching aren’t anything special. On the positive side, the Rockies called up another right-handed batter—Brandon Barnes—to replace Parra, so Raburn won’t automatically sit against righties unless Colorado makes another move.
Willson Contreras $2. Tout Mixed Auction: $101. Tout Mixed Draft: $34.
Even as a part-timer, Contreras is worth the risk in almost any two-catcher format. He is replacing Cameron Rupp, Dioner Navarro, and Sandy Leon. The Cubs offense looks crowded, but Joe Maddon has a way of using all of his assets well. I will take three to four starts a week of Contreras over six starts a week from a low level starter, and if Contreras doesn’t pan out, these bids are nominal.
Clay Buchholz $2. Tout Mixed Auction: $29
We know the drill with Buchholz. He can be extremely effective when he is on, but there is no guarantee he will be on for any appreciable amount of time. In deep mixed formats, Buchholz is best when you can absorb the bad ERA and WHIP and play for the wins behind Boston’s strong offense. I would pass on Buchholz unless you can stash him and wait for him to get back on track.
Steven Moya $2. Tout Mixed Auction: $15. Tout Mixed Draft: $37
With J.D. Martinez’s injury, Moya gets another opportunity in Detroit. Despite the lack of home runs in the majors, the ISO is there (small sample size alert) and there is the possibility that Moya provides a healthy amount of power for his fantasy owners.
Ryan Rua $1
Tyler Thornburg $1
Tim Lincecum $1. Tout Mixed Auction $20. Tout Mixed Draft: $21
Paulo Orlando $1
John Lamb $1
Tommy Milone $1
Bud Norris $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $12. Tout Mixed Draft: $38
The bottom of the FAAB barrel is where the cheap streaming starting pitchers reside. Lincecum and Norris were the most popular options in the expert circuits this week. I prefer Norris because he is in the National League and is in a soft offensive division (particularly with the Mets’ recent problems at the plate) but despite diminished velocity Lincecum can be used at home.
Tout Wars NL
Willson Contreras $295. Other bids: $71, $51, $45, $41, $31, $22. LABR
“Wow! That’s a really high bid!” – Steve Gardner, USA Today
“You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! But mostly you’ll cry!” – Phil Hertz, Baseball HQ
“Mike, what the heck are you doing?” – Tristan Cockcroft, ESPN
“(a) bid in a fantasy baseball expert league.” – Todd Zola, Mastersball
It is me, the guy who bid nearly 30 percent of his FAAB budget on a rookie catcher who probably won’t play every day, at least not at the outset. I initially thought about bidding $80 but decided to be extremely aggressive and make sure that I got Contreras. This was not in reaction to his home run on Sunday night. I placed this bid on Friday afternoon, went to the FanGraphs meet up in New York City on Saturday (that was fun, although Meg Rowley and I did not have a pun-off as some of you might have expected based on our social media reputations), and spent a relaxing Father’s Day on Sunday with my family. I was so busy this past weekend that I almost forgot I put such an aggressive bid on Contreras.
Why would I do this?
Besides the fact that NL-only leagues don’t have a lot of free agent depth, the primary reason is because my team is in 10th place and floundering. My offense is mediocre on the whole, but I am weak in power and need to take risks. With Miguel Montero already on my team, either Montero improves with the bat and I at least get production from one of the Chicago catchers or Montero falls off the table and I have his replacement.
Beyond this, the trade market has not been that robust in Tout Wars and there have been very limited opportunities beyond the free agent pool. This move may not work out, but I am in the unfortunate position where I do not have time to wait 5-6 weeks for a significant player to cross over from the American League. If Contreras crashes and burns, I am left where I was before the move: in the second division, going nowhere. It is worth the shot.
Bud Norris $61. Other bid: $46.
Norris has been surprisingly good as a mid-season rotation fill-in for the Braves, posting a 2.65 ERA in his last three starts. It seems extremely unlikely that the good times will continue, but Norris has a great two-start week on tap with games at Miami and against the floundering Mets at home. I bid $46. With my ERA and WHIP in poor shape, I am using seven starting pitchers most weeks and trying to maximize volume in wins and strikeouts. I am sure this will go swimmingly.
John Gant $41. Other bid: $14. LABR NL: $1
I also had the second highest bid on Gant, losing out to Gardner. Gant looked solid in his last outing against the Mets. The high strikeout rate from the minors has carried over to the majors thus far, which makes Gant a no-brainer in 14-team mixed or deeper leagues. Gant gets a rematch against the Mets, and while New York’s offensive struggles won’t last forever, fantasy teams have to capitalize and stream starters against New York for as long as this lasts.
Ryan Schimpf $36. Other bid: $17. LABR NL: $1
Wait, who the heck if Ryan Schimpf (fumbles through notes). Oh, he’s a Padre (clicks through old FAAB reviews, sees that a bunch of jokes about the Padres’ moribund offense have already been made, grumbles about the fact that he has to write a serious comment because it is poor form to use the same joke construction multiple times for one team).
Schimpf is a former Blue Jays farmhand whose claim to fame was as a star on LSU’s 2009 College World Series team. Since then, Schimpf has hit for very poor batting averages in the minors but has accompanied this with a lot of home runs. For the first time in his professional career, Schimpf has put together a good batting average to go with these home runs, albeit in the Pacific Coast League. Schimpf is the latest second base/third base option the Padres have tried with Cory Spangenberg on the shelf. In NL-only, you have nothing to lose by rolling the dice on Schimpf at or around this price. It probably won’t work out, but most NL-only moves don’t work out for their teams. I miss making Padres jokes.
Yulieski Gourriel $14
Brandon Nimmo $14
Here is an interesting pair of stashes by Phil Hertz of Baseball HQ. Nimmo is hitting well at Triple-A Las Vegas and could get a short-term call up to aid a sagging Met offense, but the extremely intriguing stash is Gourriel. He could play in the majors this year, and while we have heard this about a few mid-season international signings in the past that have amounted to nothing, Gourriel’s talent eclipses that of a player like Hector Olivera. The risk in Hertz’s case is that his offense is mediocre (31.5 points out of a possible 60) and carrying two dead spots for a week won’t help Hertz’s cause. He is replacing yet another pair of stashes from last week in Manuel Margot and Adam Ottavino. The strategy could work, but the risk in carrying zeroes on your roster week in and week out is significant. As Gourriel hasn’t even signed yet, there is also the risk that he signs with an AL team and Hertz is left holding the bag.
After missing out on Norris and Gant, I settled for Perdomo. Even with a two-start week he is kind of sketchy for NL-only, especially because both starts are on the road. Given the likelihood that I am going to toss Perdomo back after this week, I probably should have bid zero or one.
Tout Wars AL
Eduardo Escobar $177. Other bids: $110, $55, $2.
After picking up four starts in a row at shortstop, it looks like Escobar will get regular at bats for the Twins. He hasn’t done much with the opportunity as of yet, but if Escobar can duplicate what he did last year (12 home runs in 446 plate appearances) he can be of some service in AL-only. He earned $12 in 2015 in AL-only.
Tommy Milone $14. Other bid: $1.
Milone has been horrific in 2016, but he gets an incredible matchup this week against the Phillies, whose numbers against left-handed pitching have been awful. This start is about as good as it is going to get for Milone as a matchup play.
The market on players like Boxberger gives you a fairly strong idea of where opinions rest in terms of a comeback. It is extremely likely that Alex Colome will be the closer the rest of the way in Tampa. Fringe starters like Wilson and Nolasco getting play over a reliever like Brach is generally questionable in only leagues. Gourriel gets a slight amount of spec in AL-only; in this case it is Rick Wolf and Glenn Colton with the winning bid.
1 If you are spending your free time wondering about our LABR team, I am more than a little concerned about you.