Welcome back to The FAAB Review, the series that looks at FAAB bidding in expert leagues to try and help you, the Baseball Prospectus reader, with your fantasy baseball bidding needs.
2018 brings a new contributor to The FAAB Review, 2016 Tout Wars Mixed Auction league champion Zach Steinhorn. Zach will be covering the Tout Wars mixed auction league and LABR NL while I’ll be tackling Tout Wars NL and LABR AL. While I did review the bidding in Tout mixed last season, it wasn’t from the perspective of a participant in the league. Zach will be able to bring his insights to the bidding as a league member.
As a reminder, LABR uses a $100 budget with one-dollar minimum bids while Tout Wars uses a $1,000 budget with zero-dollar minimum bids.
For 2018, Tout Wars moved their bidding from Sunday at midnight ET to 1 pm ET, while LABR kept their deadline at midnight.
Tout Wars Mixed Auction (Zach)
Eduardo Escobar $46 (Other bid: $11)
Jorge Polanco’s suspension has opened the door for Escobar to assume starting shortstop duties for the Twins. The 29-year-old belted 21 homers in just 457 at-bats last season, so he makes for a fine cheap source of power. Escobar’s dual eligibility at shortstop and third base adds to his fantasy appeal.
Sal Romano $42
Coming off a solid spring in which he posted a 3.00 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in five starts while racking up 18 strikeouts across 15 innings, Romano has earned a spot in Cincinnati’s rotation to open the 2018 campaign. The concern here is that he struggled in his first taste of the big leagues last season (4.45 ERA, 1.47 WHIP in 16 starts). On the bright side, Romano is only 24 years old, so there’s still time for him to become a more consistent pitcher. But his career minor league numbers, which include a 4.31 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP over parts of six seasons, don’t inspire much confidence. He seems like more of an NL-only play for the time being.
Jed Lowrie $37 (Other bid: $3)
Although Lowrie was not on my radar this year, I’m sort of regretting passing on him in the reserve rounds. While the veteran is surely due for regression following a 2017 season in which he hit 14 homers while tallying 86 runs and, most surprisingly, getting on base at a .360 clip, he deserves a spot on most 15-team mixed league rosters. BP’s own Bret Sayre made sure to scoop him up.
Dan Vogelbach $27
Yoshihisa Hirano $26
Ever since I joined this league in 2012, most of the FAAB dollars have been spent on closers, or in this case speculative closers. Arizona’s ninth inning situation remains unsettled with Archie Bradley being the logical choice but perhaps more valuable as a multi-inning, situation-based option. Brad Boxberger might be the favorite right now but Hirano does have extensive closing experience in Japan. This could prove to be a wise purchase for Tim Heaney, who came out of the auction with Brad Brach as his second stopper. While we’re on the closer topic, the A.J. Ramos buy (listed below) is a bet against Jeurys Familia’s chances of staying healthy.
Nate Karns $22 (Other bid: $13). LABR Mixed: $3
My only purchase of the week was Karns, and I was convinced that my league mates might overlook him. Still, lacking rotation depth and with an open roster spot once Jimmy Nelson is officially placed on the DL, I made what I considered to be an aggressive bid. As it turned out, I didn’t waste much FAAB, and I’m happy about that. Karns missed most of the 2017 season as he underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, but he’s made a full recovery and has pitched well this spring. The owner of a career 9.3 K/9 rate, Karns could be a solid contributor to my squad if he can stay healthy. There is performance risk, as he hasn’t exactly been the model of consistency, but his 2015 season (3.67 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.9 K/9) is tantalizing.
LABR AL (Mike)
Jon Jay $17 (Other bids: $16, $13, $6, $6, $5, $1)
When the LABR AL auction took place on March 3, a few significant names had not been signed by a major league team. Nearly all these players were either purchased at auction or taken on reserve. Jay was one of the few who slipped through the cracks. Signed by the Royals to a one-year, $3M deal on March 6. Jay is penciled in to lead off for Kansas City. Jay hasn’t reached double-digits in home runs or steals since 2013 and his value comes primarily because of volume in mono formats, which is an odd thing to say about a player who hasn’t cleared 468 plate appearances since 2013. Jay does have a career .288 batting average, so he is likely to help in that category.
Carson Fulmer $11
J.D. Davis $11
Ryan Rua $8 (Other bids: $5, $2). Tout Wars: $0
The Rangers decided that Willie Calhoun needed to go back to Triple-A to work on his defense so Rua gets the nod in left field for Opening Day. The upside is limited even if he does manage to keep the job all season; think 10-15 home runs with a .240-.250 batting average in this unlikely scenario. I’d be more likely to bid $1-2 on Drew Robinson’s modest upside and hope he steals at least some of the at-bats away from Rua against righties.
Dan Vogelbach $8 (Other bids: $4, $3, $3)
It is slightly surprising that Vogelbach wasn’t taken in the reserve phase of LABR AL, but he did look like the odd man out after the Mariners acquired Ryon Healy this winter from the Athletics. A strong spring and a more aggressive approach by Vogey in the Cactus League has elevated his stock to the point that some believe he could emerge as the good half of a platoon with Healy. Vogelbach was the only player I bid on this week, although my $3 bid fell short. Pitching will be my FAAB priority this season and I decided to be conservative instead of pushing aggressively for the possibility of at-bats in Seattle.
Dixon Machado $5 (Other bids: $3, $2)
Penciled in as the Tigers’ starting second baseman, Machado could get 550 plate appearances this season, which counts for something in AL-only. Unless he can run the way he did at Triple-A (32 steals combined in 2015 and 2016), it won’t count for very much.
Ehire Adrianza $3 (Other bid: $1). Tout Wars: $19
Jorge Polanco’s suspension gives Adrianza an outside opportunity to play shortstop, but it is far more likely he slots into a super utility role. The eight steals in 186 plate appearances in 2017 entice in mono formats. Beyond that, there is not much to see here.
Jorge Leclerc $2
Mark Canha $2
Trevor Cahill $2 Tout Wars $37
Cahill posted a 3.38 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings in the first half of 2017, prompting some (coughs awkwardly, stares into the mirror I have lying around for some weird reason) to believe that Cahill was on the verge of some sort of breakout. It all came crashing down Post All-Star, to the tune of a 7.29 ERA and a .645 SLG against. Injuries were to blame, but durability has always been a concern for Cahill, which is part of the problem. A $2 FAAB throw is a great gamble on a pitcher like this. If Cahill doesn’t work out, it is easy to quickly discard him and move onto the next fifth starter in the free agent pool.
Boog Powell $2 (Other bid: $1)
Dustin Fowler is the Oakland center fielder on everyone’s radar but there is a chance Powell gets more at-bats in center, particularly in the early going if the A’s decide to ease Fowler into action. Powell is often viewed as a fantasy afterthought, but he offers a sneaky power/speed combination and could hit 10 home runs and steal 15 bases if he plays full-time. This is solid AL-only speculation, in other words.
The bids in LABR AL were dominated by hitters. Many of these hitters are not projected to start. The shrinking of major league benches makes it more difficult to obtain any kind of free agent replacement in a mono format, which explains why so many fantasy managers in LABR felt compelled to bid actively. We shall see if my laissez faire attitude toward the free agent pool this weekend will cost me later this season. I doubt it will.
LABR NL (Zach)
Brian Goodwin $9 (Other bids: $1, $1)
Needing an infielder to fill in for the injured Daniel Murphy, I preferred Rio Ruiz (I was the one who bid $4), believing that he has a little more upside. But I did make sure to add the Rojas claim as a contingency request, as he is also likely to begin the season in a starting role. Rojas performed well in 272 at-bats last season, at least with respect to batting average (.290) and OBP (.361). Hopefully, he can provide me with a bit of middle infield production until Murphy returns.
Madison Bumgarner’s injury has potentially opened up a spot for Holland in San Francisco’s rotation. The former mixed-league asset has been decent but not great this spring. He does offer some NL-only appeal, as his tendency to serve up home runs at a high rate could be mitigated by pitching his home games at spacious AT&T Park.
Jose Osuna $1
Despite a stellar spring, Osuna was optioned to Triple-A on Monday, the day after this waiver claim was made. But since LABR rules allow teams to stash players sent to the minors on their six-man reserve list, Osuna could still provide his new owner, Rotowire’s Jeff Erickson, with value later in the season.
Yairo Munoz $1
Tout Wars NL (Mike)
Van Slyke and Ervin are lumped together because they were purchased by the same Tout Warrior, Onroto.com’s Scott Wilderman, who blew through nearly 21 percent of his budget on two players who are projected to start the season in reserve roles for their respective major league teams. Van Slyke could find his way to playing time on a Marlins team that looks more like a strong Triple-A squad than a big league team, but if either Van Slyke or Ervin get over 300 plate appearances, it would be a significant upset. So why would Wilderman take this approach?
One possible reason is he purchased both Ronald Acuna ($20) and Victor Robles ($7) at auction. There is profit potential in the duo, but neither prospect will start 2018 in the majors. Getting at-bats, even if they are merely part-time at-bats, matters in a non-mixed league. I wouldn’t have spent this much on either hitter, and the lack of aggressive bids on both shows that Wilderman did not need to either but given the composition of his team and the future upside he purchased at auction, his approach makes sense.
Brandon Finnegan $86 (Other bid: $13)
Finnegan’s ceiling and raw stuff entices but multiple shoulder injuries in 2017 kept everyone out on him at the NL auction. As a free agent pick-up, Finnegan is well worth the gamble, particularly if you can stash him on your DL while waiting for his return, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.
Preston Tucker $77 (Other bids: $46, $12, $11)
NL-only plays will always fly under the radar but even so, the fact that Tucker wasn’t even taken as a reserve pick in Tout Wars NL a mere 10 days ago surprises me. Tucker is projected to get most of the at-bats in left field for the Braves while Acuna puts the finishing touches on his game, so he is ready for the maj— sorry, I couldn’t finish that sentence without laughing. A one-time prospect for the Astros, Tucker held his own in 2015 but was pushed aside in 2016 by a wave of top-shelf talent in Houston. Tucker could provide some useful pop for Todd Zola of Mastersball but unless Acuna gets hurt, this is more of a short-term acquisition than a long-term solution.
Yairo Munoz $67 (Other bids: $31, $25)
Acquired from the Athletics this winter as part of the Stephen Piscotty deal, Munoz cracked the Cardinals roster with a strong spring. He split time between shortstop, third base and center field in the minors last year and is likely to fill a similar utility role for St. Louis. His bat has a little pop but what jumps out from a fantasy perspective are the 22 steals between Double-A and Triple-A. Munoz is unlikely to supplant anyone for a starting role in the Cardinals lineup barring an injury.
Chase Utley $42 (Other bids: $12, $2)
Utley was understandably not drafted, but Justin Turner’s broken wrist has pushed him into at least a platoon role at second base for the Dodgers. Tout Wars is an OBP format, so Utley’s .324 OBP (2017 stats) plays somewhat better than his .236 batting average does in LABR. His power and speed last season were better than I would have expected (eight home runs and six steals in 353 plate appearances) and while I’m not suggesting he’s mixed-league material, in NL-only, that’ll play.
A.J. Cole $25
Ty Blach $14 (@LAD)
Tony Cingrani $12
Daniel Descalso $11
Rio Ruiz $10 (Other bids: $9, $5)
Jarrett Parker $5
Miguel Rojas $4 (Other bid: $2)
Wilmer Font $3
Kazuhita Makita $2
Tony Wolters $1
Jerry Blevins $0
Kelby Tomlinson $0
I came out of the gate conservatively, winning Ruiz for $10 and grabbing Tomlinson for $0 after missing on Rojas ($2) and Utley ($2). I slightly regret not bidding $5 on Rojas but none of these players is likely to significantly impact my team’s chances of winning or losing this season. I entered 2018 with $965 in FAAB, not $1,000, as I was penalized $35 for finishing with 56.5 overall points in 2017, or $10 for every point under 60. Every expert has a different philosophy regarding FAAB, but I didn’t feel like blowing through a significant portion of my budget on the chaff that 12 experts passed on a mere 10 days ago at auction.
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