Welcome to The FAAB Review, the series that looks at FAAB bidding in expert leagues to 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 budget 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
Mac Williamson $94 (Other bids: $57, $43, $13). Tout Draft: $34. LABR: $5
Williamson has yet to accomplish much at the big league level, but he has yet to be given an extended opportunity. Well, the Giants called him up on Friday to replace the injured Hunter Pence on the active roster, and he should see regular at-bats at least in the short-term. If he continues to hit like he has in Triple-A this season (6 HR, 16 RBI in 11 games), Williamson could earn himself regular at-bats for the long-term. With his $94 winning bid, Fred Zinkie is banking on that scenario, and there was legitimate competition for Williamson’s services.
Trevor Cahill $54 (Other bids: $37, $11, $6). Tout Draft: $17
Fresh off a dominant season debut in which he tossed seven shutout innings while fanning eight (though the opponent was the White Sox), Cahill carries some appeal heading into a two-start week. However, the matchups (@TEX, @HOU) are far from ideal. After pitching fairly well for the Padres last season, the veteran righty really struggled following his trade to the Royals. But it’s worth noting that Kansas City used him mostly as a reliever, so maybe he will get back on track now that he is once again in a starting role.
Mark Canha $54 (Other bids: $37, $0). LABR: $3
Jeff Zimmerman must like the Oakland A’s and the number 54, as he’s the new owner of both Cahill and Canha. Despite a strong spring training, Canha did not make Oakland’s Opening Day roster. But Boog Powell‘s injury led to Canha’s promotion, and he’s producing at the plate, batting .333 with two homers, seven RBIs and seven runs scored in 10 games. His price of $54 seems a bit high, but as it turned out, Jeff needed most of that $54 to land Canha.
JaCoby Jones $47 (Other bids: $16, $13, $1). Tout Draft: $36
Chad Bettis $43 (Other bids: $15, $1, $0). Tout Draft: $12. LABR: $2
Quite the start to 2018 for Bettis, who boasts a 3-0 record with a 1.44 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP through four outings. But the 10 walks in 25 innings is a little scary, and he’s not a strikeout pitcher. Let’s just say that I’m skeptical.
Denard Span $43 (Other bid: $16). Tout Draft: $7
Mitch Moreland $43
Yup, I’m the proud new owner of Moreland. I didn’t really need him, and he’s not playing everyday, so maybe this will prove to be a waste of FAAB. But he’s playing enough to offer some mixed league value and is swinging a hot bat right now. Tout Wars rules require that all players added via FAAB remain in active lineups for at least one week, so I’ll try to capitalize on this hot streak and when Moreland cools off, I can always just use him as bench depth. I’ve actually been looking for an insurance policy for Lucas Duda ever since the draft ended, so Moreland might be the answer to fill that role.
Jason Vargas $41 (Other bid: $23)
Bartolo Colon $31 (Other bid: $3)
Lourdes Gurriel $27. LABR: $6
Although the length of Gurriel’s big league stay has yet to be determined, there’s plenty of profit potential at $27. Gurriel’s defensive versatility is a huge plus when it comes to his longer term playing time outlook.
Adam Frazier $17. LABR: $2
Andrew Cashner $15
Matt Wisler $11 (Other bid: $0). Tout Draft: $23. LABR: $1
Summoned to make a spot start against the Mets last week, Wisler was outstanding, allowing just one run on two hits over seven innings while racking up eight strikeouts. A former top prospect who has so far fallen well short of expectations, Wisler will get another start this week, on the road against the Reds. But his future beyond this week is unknown. Still, he’s certainly worth the flier for $11.
Albert Almora $11 (Other bid: $1)
Tommy Hunter $8. LABR: $3.
Adam Wainwright $6 (Other bid: $0). Tout Draft: $10
Unfortunately for BP colleague Bret Sayre, Wainwright was placed on the DL right around the time that FAAB bids were processed. Such is the downside of the earlier FAAB deadline. The good news is that Wainwright won’t be locked into Bret’s lineup for the week, as mid-week DL moves are allowed.
Jett Bandy $0
Tout Wars NL
Jeremy Jeffress $77 (Other bids: $22, $1)
With the uncertainty at the back end of the Brewers’ bullpen following Corey Knebel’s injury, Jeffress could get some saves while Knebel is out. Could is the operative word here, as Jeffress doesn’t have any saves to date, compared to Josh Hader (3), Jacob Barnes (2) and Matt Albers (1). Jeffress’ fastball velocity has dipped considerably since he was averaging in the upper-90s for the 2013 Blue Jays, but he continues to generate a prodigious number of ground balls. He’s a fine spec play in NL-only for saves, but he isn’t worth your time in mixers. Jeffress was great in yesterday’s game against the Marlins in a key situation, but Hader was the one who locked down the save.
Ty Blach $67 (WSH, LAD)
Alex Blandino $40 (Other bid: $12)
If he can get the playing time for the Reds, Blandino is intriguing in a bargain basement sort of way. A stance adjustment in 2017 allowed for Blandino to tap into his power potential and now he has the potential for a 20-25 home run season if he gets a full-time opportunity. The problem is that Eugenio Suarez will return eventually, and Nick Senzel will be up in the majors in short order. In the short-term, Blandino makes for a fun spec play, although his poor performance thus far in the majors (small sample caveat) gives him even less of a margin for error.
Adam Cimber $37 (Other bids: $1, $0)
A 27-year-old career minor league reliever, Cimber has somehow managed to strike out 19 batters in his first 15 major league innings. He’s a two-pitch hurler and neither the 87-mile-per-hour sinking fastball nor the upper 70s slider are what anyone would describe as overpowering. Cimber’s value comes in his high ground ball rate and the ability to limit damage by keeping hitters in the yard. He’s OK for NL-only, but it is difficult to envision this high strikeout rate continuing.
Matt Wisler $34 (@CIN, @PHI)
Tyler O’Neill $33 (Other bids: $12, $1)
O’Neill’s major league ceiling isn’t elite because of a combination of contact issues and a bulky frame that limits his defensive utility, but his power potential gives him a path to a viable major league future and makes him a tantalizing target in fantasy. The bids were tepid because the Cardinals’ outfield is jammed, and some believe O’Neill is only with St. Louis as insurance in case Tommy Pham’s groin injury worsens and requires a DL stint. At $33, this is a savvy stash for Todd Zola of Mastersball, who gets the added benefit of an active player as part of his “stash”. Zola purchased Jeffress, Cimber, O’Neill and Jacob Nottingham this week and while none of these players appeal to me, I like the idea of spending your FAAB and exhibiting your preferences early.
Max Muncy $30
Jacob Nottingham $27
Jose Bautista $22
With Hunter Pence on the DL, I decided to speculate on a stash for my reserve list. I initially considered bidding $25-30 on O’Neill but decided to go for Bautista instead. In a keeper league, O’Neill would clearly be my first choice but in a one-and-done league like Tout, I prefer the high risk and moderate reward of Bautista. Tout moved its bidding up from midnight to 1 pm ET this season which has already altered the FAAB landscape. In this case, it was reported after our transaction deadline that Bautista could be promoted to the Braves during their April 23-May 3 road trip; I suspect more teams would have been in on the bidding had they seen this report. Bautista could be finished but at $22, I loved the gamble even before this news broke. Tout uses OBP, so Bautista won’t be a complete sinkhole like he could be in LABR.
I bid $13 on O’Neill as my contingency plan. Had I missed on both hitters, I would have moved Seth Lugo into my swing slot and carried 10 active pitchers this week.
Elias Diaz $13
Eric Lauer $9 (Other bids: $5, $3) (@COL)
David Bote $8
Noel Cuevas $5
Kelby Tomlinson $4 (Other bid: $0)
Jeremy Hellickson $3 (ARI)
Jose Lobaton $1
Kyle Crick $0
Even as a fantasy “expert”, I will freely admit I know little or nothing about some of the mono league claims in any given week. That’s true this week for Lauer, Bote and Cuevas. Working backward, Cuevas was never considered much of a prospect as a Dodgers farmhand, but his speed is enticing in fantasy and now he is a Rockie, which makes him even more intriguing, even as a bench player. Bote is a great story and is a late bloomer with the bat. The profile still speaks to more of a bench role, but with Ben Zobrist on the DL, the multi-positional Bote could slide into Zobrist’s super utility slot in the short-term. Lauer is a low ceiling/high floor prospect. He won’t light up the radar guns but can throw four pitches for strikes and has a clean, repeatable delivery. That speaks to a #4 starter at best but in San Diego that can play up in matchups at home. He’s starting in Colorado this week, and three fantasy managers in Tout NL, Craig Mish had the guts to bid anyway.
Mac Williamson $18 (Other bids: $10, $6, $4, $4)
Heading into the midnight ET deadline, it was clear that Williamson would be the most expensive LABR NL purchase this week. The only question was how much he would cost. The answer is a bit less than I expected, $18, paid by Fantasy Alarm’s Howard Bender, who just so happens to enjoy a sizable lead in the league standings at this early juncture. As I mentioned in the Tout Wars Mixed Auction section, Williamson has a real opportunity to make a fantasy impact. LABR roster rules are very restrictive but players in the minors are allowed to be stashed on reserve lists, so even if Williamson eventually gets sent back down, Howard will not need to drop him.
Jeremy Hellickson $6 (Other bid: $3)
Hellickson is nothing special. That said, in mono formats, innings have value, and the Nationals righty has a secure (for now at least) rotation spot, pitching for a team that should provide him with ample run support.
Moises Sierra $4 (Other bids: $1, $1, $1)
Tyler O’Neill $4 (Other bids: $3, $3, $2, $2)
Matt Wisler $3 (Other bid: $1)
I liked the Wisler buy in Tout Wars Mixed Auction and I like it even more in this deep 12-team NL-only league. The price was very reasonable and the aforementioned LABR roster rule for minor leaguers makes him a more appealing option than he would be otherwise.
Jordan Hicks $2
Mark Canha $23 (Other bids: $6, $1, $1, $1)
Lourdes Gurriel $22 (Other bids: $9, $4, $1, $1). Tout AL: $159.
Last week in Tout NL, I bid aggressively on Adam Ottavino, spending 16 percent of my budget on the Rockies middle reliever. This week, LABR AL featured two aggressive bids on Canha and Gurriel. While these bids generally seem absurd out of context, in a mono league with six player reserves and unlimited DL slots, there is precious little hitting talent to purchase via FAAB. Andrea Lamont (aka Roto Lady) and Eno Sarris (Fangraphs) nabbed Canha and Gurriel. It is too early to say their teams are “in trouble” on offense but Sarris has 10 out of a possible 60 points while Lamont has 15.5. Canha and Gurriel aren’t the types of players who are going to save a fantasy team’s season, but in -only formats, playing time always trumps, um, nothing.
I did not realize Canha is 29 years old. I assumed he was 26 or 27 and didn’t realize he was a late bloomer, relatively speaking. The Oakland outfielder made his major league debut in 2015 but has not had a significant big-league role since that time. Canha could reach 20-25 home runs if he gets the playing time and with Boog Powell on the DL and Dustin Fowler off to a slow start in the minors, Canha will get most of the starts in center field. I was prepared to write Canha off but the more I look at his profile, the more I believe it could play as a back-end fantasy starting outfielder.
I wrote about Gurriel a couple of days ago. He could run with the job at second base for Toronto, but the fantasy profile isn’t optimal because of the low power and speed ceilings. I bid $9 on Gurriel in my weekly effort to replace Jose Iglesias in my lineup. As surprised as I was by the aggressive bids on Canha and Gurriel, I was even more surprised that most teams either sat out or only bid $1.
Renato Nunez $7. Tout AL: $9
Nunez has the kind of power potential that scouts dream on, which means he could hit a ton of home runs if he gets the opportunity. The rest of his offensive game has flaws and his defensive utility is probably limited to first base and DH in the long term, which is why you didn’t hear people breathlessly reacting to Nunez when the Rangers nabbed him on waivers from Oakland. Nunez has been playing left field for Texas and has a limited window to stick while the Rangers offense recovers from multiple injuries. He is out of options, which could increase his chances of remaining with the big club.
Jaime Barria $7. Tout AL: $1
The Angels have been using Barria as a fill-in/emergency starting pitcher, liberally moving him from the majors to the minors between starts. He doesn’t throw hard, but his arm slot makes it difficult for hitters to pick up his pitches and the command is a plus. This profile puts Barria in the low strikeout/low end fantasy bargain bin with several other arms, even if he manages to make a permanent home in Anaheim in 2018.
Trayce Thompson $2 (Other bid: $1). Tout AL: $1
Thompson was the third choice of both the winning and losing bidders, so this wasn’t exactly a target anyone was trying to hit. Thompson profiles as a fourth outfielder but on a team like the White Sox could find his way into semi-regular at-bats and has displayed major league power in the past (20 home runs in 464 plate appearances).
I considered bidding on some middle relievers to replace different middle relievers on my roster, but this felt like rearranging the deck chairs, so instead I stood pat on pitching. My rotation is thin but I’m still on pace to exceed LABR’s 950-inning requirement. Part 1 of my cheap pitching strategy was to try and FAAB starting pitchers during the season. Thus far, I have been unable to do so, mostly because there have been almost no starting pitchers available via free agency. Part 2 of the strategy is to trade excess hitting for pitching. While my offense has been solid, a slow start by Francisco Lindor and a combined total of one home run and steal by Jose Altuve has not created the excess I need to make a trade. It is too early to be nervous about my pitching staff, but I am slightly disappointed that this year’s version of Jordan Montgomery has not arrived in the majors yet.
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