Welcome 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. Zach Steinhorn covers the Tout Wars mixed auction league and LABR NL, while Mike Gianella tackles Tout Wars NL and LABR AL. LABR uses a $100 FAAB with one-dollar minimum bids, while Tout Wars uses a $1,000 budget with zero-dollar minimum bids.
Tout Wars’ free agents are awarded at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday while LABR’s are awarded on Sunday at midnight ET.
Tout Wars Mixed Auction
I guess you can say that the theme of this week was sticker shock, as every player who was purchased at a price of 40-plus dollars went for more than I expected, and in some cases, much more than I expected. This was especially true with pitchers.
Jordan Zimmermann $262 (Other bid: $13). LABR Mixed: $18. Tout Mixed Draft: $23. (@CHW)
Wow. There was a time when Zimmermann was a surefire top-30 fantasy starting pitcher, but after posting a combined 5.60 ERA and 1.48 WHIP over the past two seasons, he went undrafted in this 15-team mixed league. So, after one decent outing in which he allowed four runs on six hits over six innings while striking out eight, he’s all of a sudden worth more than a quarter of a full season’s FAAB budget? Zimmermann did manage to keep the ball in the yard on Friday (29 HR allowed in 29 starts last season) and the eight strikeouts were nice, and the improved strikeout rate in spring training was encouraging, and he does have a track record. even though he has not been a reliable fantasy option for awhile now. Oh, and I was the one who bid $13, which was, um, not quite enough. Both Zimmermann and Ian Kennedy (listed below) were purchased by Joe Pisapia, who had two open roster spots after placing Ervin Santana and Danny Salazar on the DL. Like Zimmermann, Kennedy is also looking to bounce back from a rough 2017 campaign and is coming off a quality debut outing. He could certainly deliver a profit on the $46 investment while Zimmermann will need to be a rotation mainstay to earn his $262 price tag.
Matt Duffy $101
Tyler Austin $98 (Other bid: $10). Tout Mixed Draft: $12.
Duffy missed the entire 2017 season as he recovered from surgery on his Achilles’ heel, but he’s off to a strong start in 2018, recording six hits, including one double, over his first 16 at-bats. While Duffy could be a useful batting average asset, his big league numbers don’t exactly jump off the page. Double-digit homers and steals in a healthy season should cost less than 101 FAAB bucks, but maybe Duffy will take a significant step forward in his age-27 season. With Greg Bird sidelined for an extended period of time, Austin will get a chance to show what he can do with consistent playing time, and his two-home run game on Saturday was enticing. But if Austin’s bat goes cold, the Yankees could shift Neil Walker to first base and start Tyler Wade at second, so $98 seems a bit high for Austin’s services.
Robert Gsellman $85 (Other bid: $0)
Coming off a highly disappointing 2017 campaign, Gsellman has been impressive through two relief outings this season, so this $85 investment is a bet that the Mets eventually insert him back into the starting rotation and he pitches more like the guy who emerged onto the mixed league radar in late-2016.
Jason Heyward $62 (Other bid: $17)
Ian Kennedy $46 (Other bids: $46, $21, $12). LABR Mixed: $3 (@CLE)
Seth Lugo $46 (PHI)
Nick Markakis $38 (Other bids: $12, $12). LABR Mixed: $5.
Needing an outfielder to replace the injured Delino DeShields, my decision came down to Heyward or Markakis, and it’s an interesting comparison. Markakis is the safe but boring option while Heyward is the former top prospect whose star has fallen dramatically over the last few years. Ultimately, I opted for Markakis, figuring that his playing time was more secure and recognizing his added value in OBP leagues. So after entering in a $38 bid for Markakis, I threw a $17 contingency bid at Heyward. Strangely enough, the owner who won Heyward for $62 made a $12 contingency bid on Markakis. Two Touts, two totally different valuations of this outfielder pair.
Darren O’Day $36 (Other bids: $2, $1). LABR Mixed: $1.
Marco Gonzales $28 (Other bid: $0). (@SF, @MIN)
For more on Gonzales, check out today’s article by Scott Delp.
Homer Bailey $26 (Other bids: $22, $17, $11) (@PIT)
Jaime Garcia $21. LABR Mixed: $2. (CHW, @TEX)
Clayton Richard $17. Tout Mixed Draft: $7. (COL)
Matt Boyd $17 (Other bids: $11, $7, $2) (KC)
Maybe only one out of this quartet of shaky starting pitchers will prove to be mixed-league material this year, but all are reasonable investments at these prices, and there was plenty of competition in the cases of Bailey and Boyd.
Chance Sisco $10 (Other bid: $5)
Kevin Jepsen $7 (Other bid: $7)
Kevin Plawecki $5. LABR Mixed: $1. Tout Mixed Draft: $42.
Andrew Knapp $5. Tout Mixed Draft: $38.
Brad Miller $4
Yup, that’s the same Brad Miller as the guy who hit 30 homers in 2016. Last year was a disastrous season for Miller, but he has now started in each of Tampa Bay’s last three games. Can he rebound in 2018? For $4, it’s worth finding out.
Miguel Rojas $3
Jake McGee $3
Jacob Barnes $2
Amir Garrett $2 (Other bid: $0)
Tommy Kahnle $1
Preston Tucker $0. Tout Mixed Draft: $2.
Tyler Mahle $0 (Other bid: $0) (CHC, @PIT)
Ben Lively $0 (@NYM, MIA)
Ryan Rua $0
Tout Wars NL
Ryan Flaherty $75 (Other bid: $4)
The long-time former Orioles’ backup infielder had a career week in his first three games for Atlanta, slashing .538/.571/.769 in 14 plate appearances with five runs. Flaherty’s career line is .219/.288/.359 in 1,284 plate appearances, so it is quite possible that this is small sample size noise and not a harbinger for the first .500 batting average in baseball history. Flaherty does have a little home run pop and more importantly a short-term opportunity at third base for Atlanta. I bid $4 but Lenny Melnick of Rotoexperts was far more aggressive. I have a few holes on offense but prefer to wait for someone with more of a ceiling rather than hope that Flaherty will get me somewhere.
Gregor Blanco $46 (Other bid: $0)
Blanco looks like the odd man out in the Giants’ outfield, but Austin Jackson is one of the weaker starting outfielders in the majors while Hunter Pence is on the older side and frequently injured. Even if Blanco is nothing more than a fourth outfielder, he offers the potential for 10-15 steals in a part-time role and his decent walk rate makes him more palatable in Tout Wars’ OBP format.
Joey Lucchesi $42 (Other bids: $21, $11) (COL)
Lucchesi made his major league debut on Friday, allowing three runs on seven hits with one strikeout against the Brewers. He’s a starting pitcher with a pulse (I haven’t checked, so perhaps I am being presumptuous), so he is worth considering in NL-only. While Lucchesi’s funky delivery and on-the-field mannerisms allow his stuff to play up, the ceiling in fantasy is quite limited thanks to the lack of a third pitch that limits his strikeout ceiling to six or seven batters per nine innings. You can read Bret Sayre’s fantasy take here. Lucchesi gets another home start this week; if you must stream him, do it when he’s at Petco.
Derek Holland $31 (LAD)
Jordan Hicks $29 (Other bids: $16, $3, $2)
Hicks is a 21-year-old fireballing reliever who had not pitched in the high minors. Conventional wisdom had Hicks spending most if not all of 2018 in the high minors, but the Cardinals decided to be aggressive, adding him to their Opening Day roster. Hicks hit 101 miles-per-hour on the gun this weekend at Citi Field, but he also has a decent curve he can throw for strikes and a history of generating ground balls in the minors. The strikeout rates were unimpressive prior to Hicks’ eight-game stint in High-A ball last year but young, talented relievers have a way of bringing it all together quickly. Greg Holland makes it unlikely that Hicks gets saves in 2018 but if he does stick with the Cardinals, he has oodles of strikeout potential.
I bid $16. I liked the idea of adding a higher strikeout reliever than Brandon Kintzler to the back end of my staff. Oh well.
Eddie Butler $19
Tommy La Stella $9 (Other bid: $0)
Kyle Freeland $7 (@SD, ATL)
Pedro Strop $3 (Other bid: $0)
Jacob Barnes $2 (Other bids: $1, $0)
Jared Hughes $2
Chad Wallach $1
Dillon Peters $0 (Other bid: $0) (@PHI)
Scott Alexander $0 (Other bid: $0)
Josh Fields $0
Despite the slim pickings in NL-only, 22 players were purchased in Tout Wars NL this week. This is probably because last week’s bids occurred when major league rosters and disabled lists had not been finalized and fantasy teams did not want to pick up a marginal player only to have to cut someone who did not wind up on the disabled list. There was also slight risk in assuming a player would make a major league roster. I bid $10 on Rio Ruiz last week, believing he would be Atlanta’s Opening Day third baseman. That didn’t work out.
The players in the NL-only bargain bin are dominated by relief pitchers. This makes sense; a good reliever in an -only format is better than most fourth or fifth starting pitchers, especially if those starters are low-strikeout arms. Freeland gives Todd Zola of Mastersball volume with a two-start week but with one of those starts coming at Coors, there is certainly risk.
I picked up Villanueva and Peters. Villanueva replaces Ruiz. The Padres play three games at Houston, and while Hunter Renfroe is the logical choice at DH, Villanueva could get a start. Peters is scheduled to face the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. He struggled with command in his six starts with the Marlins last year but looked fine on Sunday against the Cubs. The strikeout rate will never be dominant, but Peters’ groundball tendencies should keep his ERA reasonable. I decided that Peters against the Phillies was a better play than Jose Urena against the Red Sox in Week 2.
It was a rather quiet week on the LABR NL FAAB front with only seven total purchases and three multi-dollar buys.
Ryan Flaherty $6 (Other bids: $5, $2, $1)
Flaherty turned out to be the only contested player, and the interest in the Braves’ utilityman isn’t surprising. He’s getting regular at-bats right now and playing time is king in -only leagues. He’s also batting .538 (7-for-13) with three doubles and five runs scored through three games. On the other hand, Flaherty is a career .219 hitter through 455 big league games. Sample size alert!
Chad Wallach $1
This one is simple. Tyler Flowers is on the DL, which might not seem like a big deal for fantasy purposes. But in a 12-team NL-only league, it’s kind of a big deal. OK, maybe not that much of a big deal but I did need a healthy catcher replacement. Perhaps Wallach can contribute a handful of counting stats while he’s getting playing time in the absence of J.T. Realmuto.
Tony Wolters $1
Let’s just say that I really like the Kintzler buy, despite his pedestrian strikeout rate. Quality relievers who offer ratio help are often overlooked in non-mixed leagues, and this is a fine example.
Tyler Austin $13 (Other bids: $8, $5, $5, $1). Tout Wars AL: $125.
The All-City team:
C: Tyler Houston
1B: Tyler Austin
2B: Ray Durham
SS: Amed Rosario
3B: Kelly Paris
OF: Daryl Boston
OF: Clyde Milan
OF: Claudell Washington
Bench: Paulo Orlando
SP: Dallas Keuchel
RP: Roger Los Angeles
I’m not sure if Austin’s two-home run day on Saturday led to more aggressive bids. I bid $5 and would have bid this even if Austin had put up a goose egg. The Yankee first baseman certainly has pop, with 23 home runs in 424 Triple-A plate appearances since 2016 but has not had the opportunity to show whether it will translate to the majors. Austin could serve in a quasi-platoon with Tyler Wade with Neil Walker shifting between first and second until Greg Bird is ready to return.
Drew Butera $6 (Other bid: $3). Tout Wars AL: $15.
At-bats are at-bats, but Butera’s .203 career average makes him a tough add, even in AL-only. The 34-year-old catcher will play almost every day while Salvador Perez is out. Perhaps the version of Butera who hit .285 with four home runs in 133 plate appearances in 2016 will show up instead of the guy who will rip your AVG to shreds. This is a rough injury for the Royals and not how they…Drew it up.
(balloons fall from ceiling, music starts playing)
What’s this? The 100th pun I have ever made in a Baseball Prospectus article? And look, it’s Aaron Gleeman, handing me a giant novelty check paid to the order of Mike Gia-smella. Ha ha Aaron, I see what you did there, fighting fire with fire. Well this certainly is an honor and I cannot believe I have been given the opportunity to make terrible puns at a website as amazing as Baseball Prospectus. I’d like to thank the…hey, why did you pull me off the stage? Is there something waiting for me outside? Do I also get a prize? Maybe it’s a sports car! Ooooh, I’m willing to bet it’s a sports car! (door slams, leading to alley strewn with garbage). Oh, I see. It’s weird that you rented a ballroom downtown and are all wearing fancy tuxedos and ball gowns just to lead me out to a dark alley because you hate my puns, but I appreciate your commitment to the bit.
Kevin Jepsen $3. Tout Wars AL: $17.
After spending 2017 at Triple-A for the Nationals, Jepsen not only made the Rangers’ Opening Day roster but could find himself closing for Texas at some point in 2018. Keone Kela has been tabbed as the closer but Levi Weaver of The Athletic reports Jepsen is next in line. Jepsen’s low strikeout rate makes him a risky closer if he does supplant Kela, but saves are saves, particularly in AL-only.
Ichiro Suzuki $2 (Other bid: $2)
Even in -only leagues, Suzuki had not been fantasy relevant as anything more than a fifth outfielder and a low-end source of steals since 2013. But now he is starting in left field for the injury-depleted Mariners. The marginal speed is probably gone, but at-bats are at-bats and Suzuki should score and drive in a few runs until Ben Gamel returns from the DL.
Tyler Naquin $2 (Other bid: $1). Tout Wars AL: $50.
After a promising 2016, Naquin disappeared entirely in 2017, picking up a smattering of at-bats for Cleveland but spending most of the year at Triple-A. Naquin will get most of the starts in left field until Michael Brantley returns from the disabled list. He has some pop and his value is boosted somewhat by a strong lineup, particularly in RBI.
Doug Fister $2 (@OAK)
Jake Smolinski $2. Tout Wars AL: $25.
The Athletics’ demotion of prospect Dustin Fowler was good news for Smolinski, who will face most lefties in a platoon with Boog Powell. The A’s get two southpaws this week, so Smolinski should pick up 6-10 at-bats. The 29-year-old outfielder has a little pop but is more of a fifth outfielder than a potential starter.
Justin Grimm $1
Rob Refsnyder $1 (Other bid: $1)
Brian Johnson $1 (@MIA). Tout Wars AL: $0.
Ryan Tepera $1
Carlos Tocci $1. Tout Wars AL: $37.
Johnson is a competent fill-in starter who is nice depth for a team to have at Triple-A but not someone you would want to depend on for 30-32 starts. He has a good matchup at Miami this week. Tocci was a Rule 5 selection from Philadelphia who has good contact skills but offers little else; he does not even run as much as you might expect given his slender frame. Tocci could get a fair amount of starts with Delino DeShields on the shelf but even if he plays regularly, the ceiling is very low.
For the second consecutive week, I did not add a player. I could use a starting pitcher but the thin gruel of an AL-only is dangerous to my team’s rate stats.
Thank you for reading
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