Welcome back to The FAAB Review, the weekly series that looks at FAAB bidding in expert leagues to help you, the Baseball Prospectus reader, with your fantasy baseball bidding needs. Every week, I closely scrutinize the expert free agent bids in LABR Mixed, Tout Wars NL, and LABR AL.
As a reminder, LABR uses a $100 budget with $1 minimum bids, while Tout Wars uses a $1,000 budget with $0 minimum bids. LABR and Tout Wars use a bidding deadline of Sunday at midnight ET for all FAAB claims. Any statistics mentioned in this article are through the previous Sunday’s games.
Jeimer Candelario $13. Tout Auction: $4. Tout Draft: $20.
I have been obsessed with Candelario this year, picking him up in both Tout NL and then in LABR AL after his trade to Detroit. The mixed leaguers waited nearly two weeks after his call up before adding him. Most of this was likely due to cynicism that he would play enough, before it was clear that Nick Castellanos would be playing in the outfield full time. Part of it, though, likely had to do with Candelario’s lack of a “wow” factor as a prospect. Candelario was viewed as a solid enough real-life hitter by some but not as a hitter who would necessarily hit 30+ home runs or reach a .300 AVG. While this may still be true on both counts, Candelario has looked very good in his trial run with Detroit. He is chasing breaking balls out of the zone a little too much, but his overall approach at the dish is strong. Even if he never morphs into a big-time power hitter, Candelario will have value in every format. With Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo ensconced in Chicago this isn’t anything like highway robbery for Detroit but it was a solid acquisition for the rebuilding franchise.
Luiz Gohara $4. Other bid: $2. Tout Auction: $0. (WAS, PHI)
If you’re grabbing Gohara you care about the strikeouts and don’t care very much about anything else. It was a rapid ascent through the minors for the former Mariners farmhand who Jerry Dipoto traded for (*fumbles through pages of coffee-stained notes*) Shae Simmons and Mallex Smith. Gohara jumped across three minor-league levels in 2017, racing to Atlanta faster than anyone has since Burt Reynolds hopped into a magical Trans Am and eluded “Smokey” (you kids call him the “po-po” or “five-o”) 40 years ago in Smokey and The Bandit (chuckles to self). In two starts, Gohara has fit the scouting profile, whiffing 12 batters in 10 innings but with an ugly 6.30 ERA. If there is a silver lining it is that the walk rate has not been catastrophic and a poor strand rate suggests some bad luck. The volume play is acceptable at this late juncture in the season, when fantasy mangers know their teams—and needs—far better than I do.
The most surprising aspect of late-season expert league pickups is seeing which injured players were dropped earlier in the year. Matt Holliday was dropped in LABR, while in Tout Auction Adrian Beltre ($0) was picked up after being cut. In Tout Draft, Yoan Moncada ($57) was acquired this week. There isn’t a right or wrong answer about when to cut bait with a player, and in Tout Wars this is complicated because of their liberal FAAB reclaim rules. However, there is no DL limit so being “stuck” having to cut a player is never a consideration in either LABR or Tout.
Willie Calhoun $4. Other bids: $1, $1. Tout AL: $89
Calhoun is off to a poor start with Texas, but his power potential makes him an interesting speculative grab in AL-only. He is a free swinger but good contact rates from the minors have not followed Calhoun to Arlington just yet. The Rangers are five games back in the loss column in the wild-card race with two weeks to play so it is possible that they will roll Calhoun out there for the next two weeks regardless of the results. Larry Schechter of Winning Fantasy Baseball had the winning bid and Calhoun fits in nicely with Larry’s dump batting average strategy.
Standing pat this week, with $3 to spend and no $0 bidding, I decided to save my money for the final transaction period and address any possible needs next week. I am fading badly on offense and my best bet to gain there is in stolen bases. Most of my gains would come in either ERA or WHIP. I also must play defense in wins, so I might need to pick up a starting pitcher or two. The reality is the same as it has been for nearly a month. I probably cannot win and will need a big week—and almost definitely two big weeks—to pull off an upset. Dylan Bundy’s implosion last night may have been the final nail.
Steve Gardner of USA Today remains 5 ½ points up on Greg Ambrosius and Shawn Childs of NFBC, although he opened a double-digit lead in the middle of the week. Wins is where Gardner is in the most danger, which is why he picked up Montgomery for a start this weekend at Toronto. I thought about trying to block but did not do so. While Gardner’s victory is not assured, I’d put it at about a 90 percent chance. He needs to have at least one awful week, and time is running out for everyone else. It does not help that the wild-card race could be anticlimactic, leaving a significant number of starters on the pine in the final week of the regular season. Well… it helps Steve.
Tout Wars NL
Luiz Gohara $87. Other bids: $0, $0, $0. (WAS, PHI)
Gohara is profiled above in the mixed-league section. The risk in NL-only is mitigated by the strikeouts even more than it is in mixed.
Jameson Taillon $77. Other bid: $0. [MIL (yesterday)]
Taillon’s 2017 has been a case of all-or-nothing-at-all. He has had four starts where allowed six earned runs or more, and 13 starts where he allowed two earned runs or fewer. This suggests hope for the future but does little if anything for Taillon’s fantasy managers in 2017, and does not make him a great bet going forward. The Pirates are rolling with a six-person rotation, which does not help Taillon’s case, and make it probable that he only has two more starts left. He is 25 years old and has good raw stuff so it is way too early to write him off, but, for 2017 only, I pass. I bid $0 on Gohara.
Steve Brault $57. Other bid: $0. (MIL)
Brault was my first choice in Tout, to replace the faltering Edwin Jackson. He picked up his first career win against the Brewers this past Monday and will try to beat them again this week. Brault’s somehow keeping the ball in the park despite a low ground-ball rate. He has relied on his change more than usual in his two starts this season, but his overall stuff doesn’t paint Brault as much more than a back-end starter.
I picked up Lyles because I need innings. With two weeks left in the season, I am 71 innings short of the league requirement. I should get there, but with starting pitchers often limited in their innings or starts at the end of the season, I do not want to take any chances. Tout leagues have a penalty for finishing under an overall point threshold. I already am going to lose points because of the lousy year I am having; there is no need to lose even more points because my team missed the innings requirement.
The shame of Tout Wars (for me, at least) is that ever since Rhys Hoskins was promoted my team has been fun. Since Aug. 10, only Derek Carty of ESPN has more points on offense than my team does. While a large part of this is due to Hoskins, it also helps that my team has been entirely healthy since that time, which hasn’t been the case since way back in April. The pitching still leaves a lot to be desired, but at least I have been able to shoot up the standings in the power categories and runs and give the contenders for second place a headache. Even better, while my plan failed in 2017, I do believe I will be able to use this template from a process perspective going forward.