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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 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

Nick Kingham $212 (SF) (Other bids: $169, $114, $97, $48, $47, $46, $33)

Starting pitchers garnered the highest level of interest in this week’s bidding with Kingham heading the class. Following his near-perfect big league debut, the Pirates righty was so-so in his second outing, allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings. He did whiff seven, bringing his season total to an impressive 16 strikeouts through 12 1/3 frames. The strange thing is that Kingham hasn’t really been a high-end strikeout guy over the course of his extensive minor league career (7.7 K/9), so it’s possible that his big league strikeout rate will drop significantly as opposing hitters get more familiar with him. Considering that as of Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t even guaranteed that Kingham would make a start this week and also factoring in his solid but not elite minor league resume, I’m a bit surprised by these bid numbers. But I’m also a proponent of not being stingy with FAAB bids early in the season if you think the player can make an immediate impact. Kingham has already proven that he can do just that.

Caleb Smith $188 (ATL) (Other bids: $114, $81, $68, $56, $49, $44)

Smith has been on my waiver wire watch list for about a month now, especially since strikeouts is my weakest category so far and Smith is pretty good in that department (12.6 K/9 through seven starts). But every week when the time came to enter in my bids, I just couldn’t take the plunge, scared off by his sky-high walk rate. Well, it seems like the Marlins southpaw is getting his control under control, as he’s issued a combined two free passes over his last three starts, spanning 18 2/3 innings. So finally, I tried for Smith this week, but my $68 bid wasn’t even close. And I could have gotten him for free last week. It will be interesting to see if Smith can continue to limit the walks going forward. If he succeeds in doing so, I think it’s safe to say that he will be remembered as more than just one of the guys who was sent to Miami as part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade.

Matt Adams $99 (Other bids: $52, $41, $37, $26, $20, $13, $7)

Fresh off a monster week in which he slugged five homers while collecting eight RBIs to bring his season totals to eight home runs and 18 RBIs through 71 at-bats, Adams was destined to land on a roster in this league, and his $99 price tag is reasonable. There’s uncertainty about his long-term playing time status once the Nationals are back at full strength health-wise, but it will be tough for the team to pull him from the lineup if he continues to perform at a level anywhere close to his current level. Adams did launch 20 homers as mostly a part-time player last year (339 at-bats), so the power is legit.

Fernando Romero $81 (@STL, @LAA) (Other bids: $54, $53, $17, $17)

Romero was impressive in his big league debut on Wednesday, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings versus the Blue Jays, and his minor league track record is stellar, including a 2.83 ERA and a strikeout rate of nearly a batter per inning. Control can be an issue at times, however. You can read much more about Romero in his Call-Up Profile, and despite my need for strikeouts, it was this good but not great report that convinced me to not go overboard with my bid, which was the runner-up bid of $54. I might regret not being more aggressive on Romero, especially since he’s a two-start pitcher this week.

Domingo German $56 (OAK) (Other bids: $53, $2)

Another missed try for starting pitching as Al Melchior topped my bid on German by only three bucks. Note that the FAAB deadline came before German’s dominant outing yesterday, so his price likely would have reached the triple-digits if the midnight ET deadline was still in effect. With Jordan Montgomery sidelined for up to two months, German has an opportunity to claim a rotation spot in the Bronx, and the 25-year-old certainly made a strong first impression.

Jose Bautista $46 (Other bids: $28, $25, $0)

Ah, remember him? Joey Bats made his long-awaited Braves debut on Friday, and he’s 3-for-10 with a double and a pair of walks so far. Keep in mind that Tout Wars is an OBP league, so thanks to his consistently high walk rates, Bautista is more appealing in this format than he would be in a standard league.

Justin Anderson $36 (Other bid: $0)

Keynan Middleton is expected to return from the DL when first eligible, which explains the lack of interest in Anderson. But even if Tim Heaney can get a save or two from Anderson, who is viewed as the favorite to handle ninth inning duties over the next few days, this will be a worthwhile move.

Chad Pinder $31 

John Hicks $29 (Other bids: $26, $16, $9, $0)

Alex Gordon $28 (Other bids: $26, $22, $2, $0)

Rajai Davis $27

While Davis’ playing time has been inconsistent, one thing he’s doing consistently is running (seven steals). If you haven’t heard by now, stolen bases are scarce these days.

Tyler Lyons $16

Ty Blach $15 (@PHI) 

Yolmer Sanchez $14 (Other bid: $1)

Blake Parker $7 (Other bid: $3)

Mitch Garver $7 (Other bid: $0)

Carson Kelly $7 (Other bid: $4)

Kolby Allard $3

Jeremy Hellickson $3 (@SD, @ARI) (Other bid: $2)

Leury Garcia $2

Zach Eflin $2 (SF, NYM)

Before I officially whiffed on all four of my starting pitching targets, I considered bidding on Eflin, and my bid would have definitely exceeded $2. Ultimately, I just didn’t trust the guy. His season debut was solid and he’s in line to make two starts this week with decent matchups. But his 5.66 career ERA is scary indeed. Let’s see a few more starts before declaring that this Zach Eflin is a different Zach Eflin.

Tyler Clippard $1

Johan Camargo $0

Daniel Descalso Ari $0

Nick Delmonico $0

TOUT WARS NL

Andrew Suarez $113 (@PIT) (Other bids: $113, $55, $0)

Suarez was buried on the Giants’ depth chart coming into the season but multiple injuries in the rotation opened a slot. Suarez has the ability to throw four pitches for strikes but without a dominant out pitch, he projects as a back-end major league starter, at best. He’s a solid option in NL-only, but I’d hold off in any other format for now, even with a good matchup on tap against the Pirates this week.

Carson Kelly $79 (Other bid: $52)

Yadier Molina went on the disabled list with a groin injury and is expected to miss at least a month. Kelly was summoned from Triple-A and should get most of the starts while Molina is sidelined. Kelly doesn’t profile as a power hitter but could maintain a 10-15 home run seasonal pace with an OK batting average. He’s a no-brainer in NL-only and while I’m surprised there weren’t more bidders, late breaking news and the 1 pm ET Tout FAAB deadline is probably what led in part to the relative inertia on Kelly.

Travis Jankowski $37 (Other bid: $35)

Once upon a time, Jankowski was a hot fantasy commodity, but a poor start in 2017 combined with a glut of young, promising outfielders on the San Diego depth chart pushed Jankowski to the bench and then to Triple-A. An early rash of injuries have given Jankowski a short-term opportunity once again for the Friars. His game is speed, so the hope is for a handful of steals before Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe come off the DL. I thought about bidding in the low to mid-$20s but opted to carry 10 pitchers this week instead.

Greg Garcia $33 (Other bid: $2)

I dropped Garcia on Saturday morning to insert Jose Bautista into my lineup and Todd Zola of Mastersball took advantage, grabbing the Cardinals’ bench piece. Garcia had a two-home run game for me against the Reds but did little else and the addition last week of Hernan Perez to my roster gave me the flexibility to jettison Garcia and upgrade with Bautista. A case could be made that Garcia would be a superior starter at second base for St. Louis as opposed to Kolten Wong, but this seems unlikely to happen.

Luiz Gohara $32

Rafael Lopez $23 (Other bid: $17)

Austin Hedges is on the DL and Lopez and A.J. Ellis should split time evenly behind the dish for the Padres. Lopez is the better fantasy option, although he’s best used as NL-only, two-catcher league fodder. The over-the-fence power Lopez has displayed the last two years at Triple-A makes him slightly more intriguing than your garden-variety journeyman catcher.

Jacob Barnes $17 (Other bid: $6)

I bid $6 on Barnes but Zola outbid me on the Milwaukee middle reliever. Barnes has two saves but hasn’t been given an opportunity to close in a couple of weeks. Corey Knebel is two games into a rehab assignment so what little window Barnes did have for saves is almost closed.

Clayton Richard $17 (WSH, STL)

Tayron Guerrero $7 (Other bid: $1)

Jared Hughes $7

Andrew Stevenson $4

Matt Albers $3

Zach Eflin $3 (SF, NYM)

Shane Carle $2

Yimi Garcia $1

Tyler Lyons $1

Chase Headley $0

Braden Shipley $0

Seven days after trading him, I took another shot on Richard, in part because he has two home starts in pitcher-friendly San Diego. I placed this bid before Clayton Kershaw went on the DL. I bought Kershaw in March knowing the risks of an abbreviated season for the Dodgers’ ace. If he misses a few weeks, it won’t sink my team but if the injury turns out to be serious, I’m obviously done in Tout barring a miracle. I also grabbed Albers and moved Jhoulys Chacin (at Colorado) and Jason Vargas (bad) to my reserve list.

Relievers dominated the bargain bin. Guerrero is the most intriguing name of the bunch, a high-strikeout pitcher who could be the next Josh Hader or Adam Ottavino if he can keep it up for the Marlins. Eflin is a moderate upside pitcher who is a rough option this week with two home starts against the hot Giants and the cold Mets. I like Headley as a $0 gamble/stash in NL-only. If he doesn’t work out/reemerge as a starter in San Diego or somewhere else, it doesn’t matter at $0.

LABR NL

Andrew Suarez $27 (@PIT) (Other bids: $12, $4)

Although the price is a little surprising, I’m not at all surprised that there was strong interest in Suarez, who sports a 3.06 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP with better than a strikeout per inning through his first three big league starts. With Johnny Cueto sidelined indefinitely, Suarez could stick around in San Francisco’s rotation for awhile. Add in a quality minor league resume and Suarez could eventually work himself into the mixed league conversation.

Rafael Lopez $4

At 30 years of age, Lopez has played in only 43 major league games, batting .198 along the way, so we’re not talking about anything special here from a fantasy perspective. But he did hit a home run over the weekend and should see a decent amount of playing time sharing catching duties with A.J. Ellis while Austin Hedges is on the DL. In a deep NL-only league, playing time is more than half the battle.

Zach Eflin $4

Deven Marrero $1

Tony Wolters $1

Max Muncy $1 (Other bid: $1)

As it turned out, Suarez and Muncy were the only two contested players in NL LABR bidding this week. Muncy hasn’t accomplished much in his occasional big league opportunities, though he does have two homers in 15 games played this season. But Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe are both expected back within the next couple weeks, so Muncy’s time period of being a player even worth thinking about for fantasy purposes has a firm expiration date.

Tayron Guerrero $1

Phillip Ervin $1

LABR AL

Alex Cobb $45 (Other bids: $13, $5, $2, $1) (TB)

I was a little surprised that Lawr Michaels of Creativesports released Cobb last week, but only a little. You can’t reserve players acquired at auction and Cobb had been toxic for Michaels, posting a 15.43 ERA and a 3.14 WHIP in seven awful innings. I knew someone would take the risk on Cobb but was surprised that Larry Schechter of Winning Fantasy Baseball plunked down 45 percent of his budget. Cobb had two decent starts after Michaels dropped him (isn’t this always the way?) but even if the early struggles were simply a case of rust, Cobb is a low upside play thanks to his historically mediocre whiff totals and the fact that he pitches in a bad pitchers’ park in a rough division. I didn’t bid. I need starting pitching but tried – and failed – to add a pair of more promising young, upside arms to my staff.

Domingo German $21 (Other bids: $17, $4, $4, $4, $3) (OAK)

German was one of the pitchers I did try to get, falling well short with a $4 bid. Greg Ambrosius of NFBC, who had been conservative with his FAAB all season, was aggressive and got his guy for $21, beating out Michaels’ $17. German has looked terrific thus far in 2018, and his outing against Cleveland yesterday was ridiculously good. I love the stuff, but German’s checkered injury history and questions about his ability to hold up over a full season made me wary of bidding more than a few dollars. German is hitting in the mid-90s on the gun with the heater and his secondaries have looked fine, so this certainly could work out well for Ambrosius.

Fernando Romero $17 (@STL, @LAA) (Other bids: $12, $12, $11, $10, $3) Tout AL: $269

Romero was the guy I really wanted but my $12 bid fell short to Michaels’ $17. The raw numbers from Romero’s major league debut against the Blue Jays last week don’t look impressive outside of the lack of longballs, but the stuff – a mid-to-upper-90s heater with lots of late movement and a few nasty breaking pitches thrown in for good measure – will play. I have more faith in Romero sticking in the Twins’ front five than I do in German sticking in the Yankees’ rotation. The only advantage for me to missing out on both big-ticket items is I now hold the FAAB hammer; my $89 is more than any other LABR AL expert has in his pocket. We’ll see if this works out to my advantage later this season.

Brett Anderson $9 (HOU, @NYY) (Other bids: $3, $2)

The fantasy numbers from Anderson’s 2018 debut look OK but his DRA screams “actively flee,” even in AL-only, and even with a two-start week on tap. It doesn’t help that Anderson’s two projected starts are against the Astros and at the Yankees. Since 2016, Anderson has a 5.98 DRA scattered across 73 innings. Despite my need for another arm, I took my own advice and did not bid.

Ryan Yarbrough $4  (ATL) (Other bid: $1) Tout AL: $44

Yonny Chirinos’ elbow injury opened the door for Yarbrough to start regularly for the Rays. Yarbrough’s stuff isn’t overpowering but he could be a decent play his first time through the league thanks to a four-pitch arsenal and a different look for hitters who are generally more accustomed to facing harder throwers. Yarbrough’s matchup this week is a rough one; the Braves lead the majors by a wide margin with an .831 OPS against southpaws.

John Hicks $4 (Other bids: $4, $1)

With Miguel Cabrera on the DL, Hicks will get most of the starts at first base for the Tigers. He recently gained catcher eligibility in leagues with a five-game in-season requirement. Hicks is a source of moderate power and catcher eligibility makes him a must-own in two-catcher formats.

Mitch Garver $4 (Other bids: $3, $1)

I purchased Garver at auction back in March and I’m disappointed in myself that I dropped him a couple of weeks ago and failed to anticipate Jason Castro’s injury. Garver will start for the Twins and his power potential makes him an intriguing add in two-catcher formats.

Justin Anderson $4 (Other bids: $2, $1)

I also missed out on Anderson, as my $2 bid fell short. Anderson has been mentioned as a potential closer candidate for the Angels, although save opportunities have been hard to come by since Keynan Middleton went down. Anderson throws hard, doesn’t often know where the ball is going and had a 5.52 K/9 for the Angels in Double-A last season. Pop up guys like Anderson can often turn into good closers, but Mike Scioscia’s track record of not trusting rookies in the ninth would make me wary of bidding more than a dollar or two on Anderson.

Doug Fister $2 (@HOU)

Anthony Alford $2

Craig Gentry $1

Caleb Joseph $1

Ehire Adrianza $1

Will Harris $1

Josh Tomlin $1. Tout AL: $1 (KC)

My inability to bid more aggressively on some of the bigger names above led me to a combination of Fister, Gentry and Joseph. Fister has a tough matchup against the Astros this coming weekend but I liked him better than any of the other available cheap pitchers going forward. With Randal Grichuk on the DL, I needed an OF and the outfielders available in the free agent pool in LABR stink. Gentry at $1 will hopefully steal me a few bases; his five steals thus far put him in the Top 10 in the American League. Joseph has been splitting time behind the plate in Baltimore with prospect Chance Sisco. Both backstops have been bad with the bat but Sisco has been far worse the past two weeks, sporting a dreadful 2-for-20 line that includes a 44 percent strikeout rate. Joseph certainly hasn’t been good, but my minimal bet is speculating on the idea that Joseph either gets sent to Triple-A to refine his offense or gets buried on the bench for the O’s if he can’t turn it around.

Thank you for reading

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Evan Carter
5/10
Caleb Smith was not traded to the Marlins in the Stanton deal. Castro, Jorge Guzman and Devers (no, not THAT Devers; his cousin).
Smith and Garrett Cooper came over to the Marlins in exchange for pitching prospect Mike King and some international bonus slot money. If Smith continues to pitch well, credit goes to Gary Denbo, almost surely.