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 September 11.
With the action winding down in fantasy leagues and in major league baseball, I thought I’d take a look at all three mixed expert leagues. Yeah I’m going there!
Jose De Leon $3.
LABR Mixed is the last high-profile expert league where De Leon hadn’t been nabbed yet. After a promising start on September 4 against the Padres, De Leon faced a tougher test last night with a start against the Yankees (and acquitted himself quite well in a five inning effort). It could be a two-start week for De Leon, but it is also possible that L.A. opts to use Brock Stewart or Ross Stripling against the Diamondbacks this weekend instead. De Leon’s strikeout potential makes him a must start in any format. Chances are excellent that he is already gone in any mixed league with 14 or more teams.
Albert Suarez $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $2
Like De Leon, Suarez is a solid streaming option in deeper mixed leagues. Fred Zinkie of MLB.com grabbed him both in LABR – where he is in third place and almost definitely cannot win because his ERA, WHIP, and wins are all dead last – and in Tout Mixed Auction, where he enters the week in first place by 2.5 points over fellow MLB.com fantasy guru Zach Steinhorn.
Tout Wars Mixed Auction
Jung-ho Kang $94. Other bids: $60, $12, $10.
Kang disappeared in July, but otherwise has had a spectacular season, offering a great deal of power for a middle infielder. He has four home runs in 23 at bats in September and should get regular plate appearances down the stretch for the Pirates, particularly with Josh Harrison ruled out for the season.
Dansby Swanson $60. Other bids: $11, $10.
Swanson has looked a little raw in the field and doesn’t display a lot of raw power but overall has impressed with his quick hands at the plate. He doesn’t look overmatched by any means and should accrue regular at bats for the Braves down the stretch. My earlier prediction in this column that Swanson would not have much of an impact in power or speed was prescient, but a .300 batting average with a fair number of runs and RBI plays in deep mixed. Swanson is now injured although as I write this it appears to be a day-to-day deal.
Jharel Cotton $16. Other bids: $11, $5. Tout Mixed Draft: $25.
Entering 2016, the big question regarding Cotton was whether or not his curve would develop enough to make him a viable major league starting pitcher. He sidestepped the issue by turning to a cutter and using that as a third pitch instead. The results in his debut against the Angels were strong, but his FIP/DRA/whatever batted-ball metric tickles your fancy this week tells us that Cotton isn’t likely to succeed against tougher offenses or on the road. His start at the Royals tonight is worth the add; a potential start at the Rangers later in the week is not. It is possible that the Athletics use a six-man rotation and that Cotton misses the Rangers entirely. As I have said before in this column, we are at the point in the season where your categorical needs matter far more than a pitcher’s ability and stats across the board.
Andrew Bailey $10. Tout Mixed Draft: $22.
More than any other fantasy baseball cliché, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” annoys me like no other. I cannot completely explain why. Part of it, perhaps, is that I have run marathons and the two activities do not compare in the slightest. A marathon is a grind but it is a predictable one. You are performing the same activity for 26.2 miles and while the surrounding scenery varies and changes from mile to mile, the activity itself is monotonous. Some might say this about fantasy baseball, but then those jerks aren’t my audience. If you hate fantasy baseball and you’re reading this, hi Mom.
Fantasy baseball reminds me more of an offbeat novel where the plot and characters can both inexplicably shift and sometimes make no sense whatsoever. Andrew Bailey is an example of one of those characters. He went from non-entity to potential closer with the Phillies to a minor league afterthought to a middle relief call-up to a DFA by the Phillies (who aren’t exactly a great team this year) to a minor league deal with the Angels to a call-up by the Angels to Angels’ closer. Even accounting for the wacky trajectory of relievers, Bailey’s path this year has been particularly wacky.
In “real” baseball, Bailey’s failure or success won’t matter much. Oh sure, the Angels will have the opportunity to play spoiler, and Bailey could pick up some saves against the Astros, Mariners, or Blue Jays and impact the pennant race. But even fans of those teams will likely have a dismissive or knee-jerk reaction to Bailey as some kind of scrub or has been.
We don’t have time for those kind of value judgments in fantasy leagues. Andrew Bailey is getting saves? In that case, he’s the man. All other considerations – past or future – are moot. If Bailey holds on to the job in Anaheim for the rest of the month, he will have an impact on more than a few fantasy races. An Andrew Bailey save might even be the deciding factor in a league somewhere, somehow. Bailey’s entire past and history will be forgiven and forgotten, as one person in a league curses his name forever while another person sings his praises and bores his relatives with the story of the 2016 version of Andrew Bailey until the end of time. Do you know why I love fantasy baseball? It’s because Andrew Bailey – or the Andrew Baileys of the world – could decide the outcome of my fantasy baseball league. If that isn’t the definition of dramatic and exciting, then I don’t know what is. Many non-fantasy players don’t believe this, which is their prerogative. When I stop believing it, that is the day I’ll stop playing.
Continuing on the theme above, how many of these players purchased on Sunday would have been considered as potential pick-ups in March? Austin and Merrifield can be discounted; young hitters like this always emerge and don’t come from as far out of nowhere as it would seem. But how many people would have guessed that Clayton Richard or Dillon Gee would have been viable pick-ups in a fantasy pennant race in mid-September? Who would have predicted that Young would have been coming off of a hot week for the first place Red Sox and would have been a strong acquisition? The wheels turn and turn in the most unexpected ways. If this all sounds hokey to you, so be it. It isn’t to me.
Tout Mixed Draft
Colby Rasmus $27
Cotton (profiled above in the Tout Mixed Auction section of this article) was the only player in Tout Mixed Draft to have a contested, losing bid. Everyone else was an uncontested purchase. This is often the byproduct of a blowout, but the race is still afoot in Tout Mixed Draft; Adam Ronis of Roto Experts holds a slim, 4.5-point lead over Rudy Gamble of Razzball. Compared to the other expert circuits, I find myself wondering how much this league is paying attention at this late juncture. Ten hitters in the free agent pool had 20 or more at-bats in the last reporting period, and while none of them is a fantasy stud, at bats are at bats in this format. The pitching free agent pool is much thinner the than hitting one; an alternate theory is that the Tout Mixed Draft experts allocate their dollars more toward arms than toward bats. We may never know the answer, particularly since most experts don’t look back at their leagues and write about them.
Tout Wars NL
Jon Jay $57. Other bid: $8.
I purchased Jay at auction but then dropped him when it seemed likely he was out for the season in order to reclaim some FAAB. Jay is back for the next couple of weeks and getting regular at bats down the stretch for San Diego. He won’t do much in power or speed but in NL-only 20-25 at-bats per week are a big boost for any fantasy squad.
Jake Esch $55
Esch was my purchase for the week. With Santiago Casilla out as Giants’ closer, I am using nine starting pitchers in Tout in an effort to at least maintain in strikeouts and possibly gain a point or two in the category. I am playing for pride, of which I have none. I know I won’t win, but the game is still fun.
Peter O’Brien $17. Other bid: $1
O’Brien and Jensen could see at bats down the stretch for the Diamondbacks now that the team is out of the race, although neither player has a clear or obvious path to regular playing time. A.J. Pollock could be out for the season, but the idea of O’Brien in center field is milk-gushing-out-of-the-nose amusing.
Phillies dominated the low-end bids in Tout NL this past week. Asher looked decent in his major league debut against the Nationals, although the lack of strikeouts didn’t help anyone in fantasy. This fits Asher’s minor league profile as well, so he’ll have to pick up a lot of wins and not walk anyone in order to maintain fantasy value. The idea of Joe Nathan closing in 2016 seems funny, but it could happen.
Tout Wars AL
Joey Wendle $127. Other bids: $51, $1.
I must say something like “every day at bats are a must add in only leagues” about 50-100 times in this column over the course of the regular season. That seems like a mild exaggeration, but I do say it a lot. In an admittedly small sample size of nine games, Wendle has challenged that notion, with a seven hits in 27 at-bats and zero extra-base hits. He does have five runs batted in. Wendle is starting at second base against right-handers but unless he can carry over some of the power and speed he displayed at Triple-this year (12 home runs and 14 steals) he will be a marginal play in AL-only.
Jharel Cotton $75. Other bids: $6, $0.
Cotton was profiled above in the mixed section of this article. In AL-only he is a must add regardless of opponent.
Bryan Mitchell $18. Other bid: $11.
Mitchell was not considered a prospect this offseason, and then had the misfortune of missing a good portion of 2016 with turf toe and a fractured foot bone. Mitchell had all of six (abbreviated) outings in the minor leagues before the Yankees started him against the Blue Jays last week. Mitchell twirled five shutout innings and picked up the win. This earned him more starts. It is a brutal slate, however, with a start last night against the Dodgers (that went very badly) and then one at Fenway against David Price. If you have no concern about your ERA and WHIP whatsoever and are willing to gamble on wins, Mitchell is your guy. He isn’t your safe or reliable guy, though, so I’d pass unless you are 100 percent sure that those categories are out of play for your team.
I thought Ramirez might go for more FAAB. Then again, the 12 AL experts in Tout have certainly seen and experienced their fair share of Ramirez.
Thank you for reading
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