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 Mixed, while Mike Gianella tackles Tout Wars AL and LABR NL. This week, Mike will also be taking a look at 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 agent deadline is at 8 pm ET on Sunday while LABR’s deadline is Sunday at midnight ET.
TOUT WARS MIXED AUCTION
Nate Lowe $247 (Other bids: $139, $121, $69, $69, $33)
Called up to make his major league debut last Monday, Lowe is off to a slow start, batting just .217 with no homers, one RBI and two runs scored through six games. But that didn’t stop Derek Van Riper of The Athletic from shelling out nearly one-quarter of a full season’s FAAB budget to acquire the 23-year-old top prospect. Prior to the call-up, Lowe was hitting .300 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 21 games at Triple-A Durham, and he batted .330 with 27 homers and 102 RBIs across three minor league levels last season, so the enthusiasm is certainly understandable. The risk here is that we don’t know whether Lowe is in the majors to stay or if a return trip to the minors is in his future. His performance in the coming weeks should determine the answer.
Derek Dietrich $89 (Other bids: $50, $27, $19, $19, $14, $5)
Brent Hershey of BaseballHQ came in third in the Lowe sweepstakes but his consolation prize was Dietrich, who is already halfway towards matching last year’s single-season high of 16 home runs. Who knows how long he can keep up this power surge but 89 bucks is a reasonable price to pay and Dietrich’s eligibility at the outfield and first base positions in addition to second base adds to his appeal.
Trent Thornton $37 (MIN) (Other bids: $32, $19)
Even after spending $247 for Nate Lowe, Derek Van Riper wasn’t done as he also bought Thornton, who is fresh off a dominant outing on the road against the Rangers in which he tossed seven shutout innings. The rookie righty has been solid more times than not through his first seven major league starts, though he does face a tough matchup this week versus a Twins team that ranks in the top-5 in the majors in both home runs and OPS. I was interested enough in Thornton to bid $32 but fell just a bit short.
Brandon Drury $36 (Other bids: $23, $9)
It seems like we have been expecting big things from Drury for about a decade now but it’s only been a few years. Last year was a total disaster as he missed nearly the entire season due to injury and looked lost at the plate when he was able to play. Well, let’s just say that this season is going a little better, as he’s already launched five homers while tallying 13 runs through 30 games. However, the .216 batting average and 44-to-5 K/BB ratio leave a lot to be desired. The arrival of Vladito has knocked Drury off the hot corner and while he has since been splitting time between second base and the outfield, he will need to improve his overall offensive game to avoid a reduction in at-bats.
Felix Hernandez $34 (@NYY, @BOS) (Other bid: $13)
Very quietly, King Felix has been mostly effective this season, and he’s certainly usable in deeper mixed leagues. But there’s plenty of risk in adding him in Tout Wars this week, as Tout rules require that all players added in FAAB remain in active lineups for at least one week, and Hernandez faces two daunting matchups this week. I was the $13 bidder, as I was willing to take on the ERA/WHIP risk to a degree, but I’m not overly disappointed after losing out on him.
Ronny Rodriguez $33 (Other bids: $27, $19, $4)
Gio Gonzalez $32 (@CHC) (Other bid: $11)
Kelvin Gutierrez $29 (Other bids: $9, $2)
Jeimer Candelario $27 (Other bid: $5)
Joakim Soria $24
Josh Phegley $23 (Other bid: $3)
My lone Tout Wars purchase of the week, Phegley was picked up by Al Melchior for $42 a couple weeks ago following a red-hot stint before his bat went ice cold. Al proceeded to drop him, so naturally, Phegley proceeded to hit again, most of last week’s production coming in Friday’s eight-RBI game. Through 27 games this season, Phegley has already launched four home runs to go along with 21 RBIs and 16 runs. His track record does not at all support his current level of production, but he’s getting regular at-bats right now, so I’ll bench the struggling Welington Castillo for this week and hope to at least catch the tail end of Phegley’s latest hot streak. The way my season is going so far, this week will surely be the best week of Castillo’s career.
Ryan O’Hearn $16 (Other bid: $1)
Junior Guerra $12
Chris Davis $6
Aaron Brooks $5 (CLE)
Jose Iglesias $4 (Other bid: $0)
Hunter Pence $2
Joe Panik $1
Brandon Crawford $0 (Other bid: $0)
TOUT WARS NL
Josh Van Meter $273, $57, $50, $43, $18, $7
Mike Gerber $111, $71, $57, $35, $22, $13, $13
I nabbed Gerber in LABR NL with an uncontested $1 bid. There was far more fervor for Gerber in Tout Wars, where seven teams posted a bid and Andy Behrens of Yahoo! invested 11 percent of his budget. A one-time Tigers prospect, Gerber projected in the past as a fourth outfielder who does a little bit of everything well but not enough to move the needle as a starter. In a world where multiple teams are tanking and not bothering to sign free agents, these buzzwords tend to have fluidity and lose their meaning, so Gerber has a shot to stick in San Francisco as a corner outfielder. Unfortunately, he’s looked extremely overmatched in a minuscule big-league sample size, with a 46 percent whiff rate in 59 career plate appearances. Gerber could be a solid 15-home run, five-steal player but could also wash out in short order.
Jason Vargas $68 (MIA)
Jonathon Berti $34, $25
Berti was an organizational soldier in the Blue Jays system who mustered out and finally found his way to the majors at the age of 29 with the Marlins. He’s been classified as a scrappy hard worker; this description is almost always tied to a player with a poor bat and Berti is no exception to the rule. His speed is what makes him intriguing. He stole 30 bases between three levels in 2018 and while that’s not going to happen in the majors, he could find his way to 10-15 swipes if he gets the playing time.
Jacob Webb $27
Peter O’Brien $24, $5
O’Brien spent April riding the Miami-to-New Orleans shuttle. This wouldn’t matter so much if he were playing for a first division squad, but it’s not a good sign when you’re the 26th man for the Marlins. O’Brien has 11 home runs in 187 major league plate appearances, which sounds impressive until you glance at his .206/.273/.441 career slash line and his 37 percent career whiff rate. Even in this era of high strikeout rates, that’s going to be too much for him to overcome.
Pedro Baez $21
Cal Quantrill $18, $11 (NYM)
Jake Noll $17
Alex Dickerson $12, $8
Kyle Barraclough $7, $1
Stephen Vogt $4, $0
Isan Diaz $1
Robert Gsellman $1
Tim Locastro $0
TOUT WARS AL
Nate Lowe $411, $373, $373, $177, $137, $51
I won Lowe, sinking slightly over 41 percent of my $1,000 budget into the high-risk, high-reward Rays first baseman. Injuries have left my offense a little thinner than it was during the first month of the season and I was willing to bet aggressively on Lowe’s upside because 1) it’s a mono league, and there are few shots at high-upside hitting prospects and 2) Tout’s $1,000 budget and $0 minimum gives me plenty of bidding opportunities even if I don’t have a ton of cash on hand in the second half. Go for broke moves like this make a lot more sense in mono than they do in mixed.
Conventional wisdom suggested Chance Sisco would be up sooner rather than later. Instead, Sisco languishes in the minors while Severino socks home runs in the majors. It’s a pretty empty line (Severino’s 84 DRC+ isn’t good) but four home runs in 55 plate appearances shows power potential that wasn’t there for Sevy in the past. He’s worth a moderate bid in AL-only, full well knowing this could be a small sample size fluke and he could disappear as quickly as he emerged.
Nate Lowe $18 (Other bids: $13, $13, $13, $6, $5, $5, $5, $2)
Unsurprisingly, Lowe was the most expensive buy in LABR Mixed as well, and there was even more interest in him in LABR than there was in Tout Wars. Note that when comparing the bids as a percentage of the season FAAB budget, the distribution looks similar, the main exception being the winning bid, which was 18 percent as opposed to 24.7 percent. I didn’t place a bid on Lowe as I was reluctant to shell out a sizable amount of FAAB to address a position that isn’t an area of need.
Ian Kennedy $13 (Other bids: $1, $1, $1)
Kennedy earned his second save of the season last Wednesday but then entered Sunday’s game in the 10th inning with the score tied and promptly allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning. But even after yesterday’s outing, Kennedy’s season ERA is still an impressive 2.76, and he’s whiffed 22 batters in just 16 1/3 innings. Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated, who is tied for first place in the overall standings but ranks next-to-last in saves, valued Kennedy the most, and it wasn’t even close.
Jake Odorizzi $8 (DET) (Other bids: $6, $6, $5, $4, $4, $3, $1, $1, $1)
Despite the fact that Odorizzi frustrated me to no end in Tout Wars last season, I went ahead and bid on the Twins righty this week, as I was feeling very uneasy about pitching Felix Hernandez and would welcome a high-strikeout lineup replacement. But my $3 offering wasn’t nearly enough in a competition that actually involved two-thirds of the league. Odorizzi has been outstanding so far this season, boasting a 2.78 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP through seven starts while striking out more than a batter per inning, and he has a favorable matchup this week. But deep down, I just don’t trust the guy. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong this season.
James McCann $7
McCann’s strong start to 2019 has caused me a lot of stress, as he has taken away a significant number of at-bats from Welington Castillo, who I own in both Tout Wars and LABR. There’s something about owning two catchers on the same team that doesn’t sit well with me, as each backstop takes away value from the other, so I passed on adding McCann in both leagues. Hopefully, that decision doesn’t come back to haunt me.
Griffin Canning $7 (@DET, @BAL) (Other bids: $6, $6, $6, $6, $5, $5, $4, $3, $3)
Canning was purchased in Tout Wars last weekend but wasn’t eligible to be bought in LABR as minor leaguers aren’t allowed to be added in FAAB and Canning wasn’t called up until Tuesday. The 22-year-old was decent but far from dominant in his major league debut against the Blue Jays. Don’t be surprised if the results are much better this week, thanks in large part to a pair of very favorable matchups.
Kelvin Gutierrez $6 (Other bid: $1)
Gutierrez, who the Royals acquired from the Nationals last season in the Kelvin Herrera trade, has made quite an impression through his first nine big league games, batting .333 with a homer, 10 RBIs and a steal. He was hitting the ball well at Triple-A Omaha prior to his call-up and put together a fine minor league campaign last year in which he swatted 11 homers while recording 20 steals. If he continues to produce, playing time shouldn’t be too hard to come by on a rebuilding Royals squad.
Jarrod Dyson $4
Wade Miley $2 (TEX) (Other bid: $1)
Nick Delmonico $1
Tyler Wade $1
Pedro Baez $1
Skye Bolt $1
John Gant $1
Jalen Beeks $1
Tyler Austin $8, $6
I wrote about Austin a few weeks ago in the Tout NL section of this article. I figured Austin would be picked up sooner rather than later in LABR, but he was only 1B/CI eligible until last Wednesday, limiting the number of potential suitors. The Giants were initially reluctant to use Austin in the outfield because he hadn’t played there in spring training for the Twins, but he has seen a few more reps there of late. Deep league fantasy managers all have their pet players, and one of mine is Austin, a hitter who belongs in an era when lefty masher meant more than just an esoteric dish from a dusty British cookbook. The power potential is great, but Austin needs a steady diet of southpaws to have any value and is more valuable in a league like Tout Wars where you can reserve him during weeks the Giants are primarily or exclusively facing right-handed pitching.
Always seen as a fringy prospect and written off by many after seemingly stalling out at Double-A in 2016-2017, VanMeter has absolutely torn the cover off the ball since the start of 2018, including 13 home runs and a .736 slugging percentage in 131 Triple-A plate appearances this season. That kind of hitting will earn you a call-up regardless of what the scouts had to say, and while VanMeter might be nothing more than a bench bat who doesn’t have enough defensive versatility to stick long term, the potential improvement with the bat is worth noting. He was never much of a power prospect before this season and I’m unclear whether the change is due to the juiced Triple-A ball, a swing change, a sample size fluke or all of the above.
Cal Quantrill $4, $2, $1 (NYM)
Quantrill is one of those minor league arms constantly tabbed with the “underwhelming” label, which is somewhat unfair. He can still get to the mid-90s on the gun and throws four pitches for strikes. The problems Quantrill has experienced stem from inconsistency and not enough movement on those four pitches. He’s likely to carve out a career as a quality mid-tier or #4 starter, but the strikeout rates project poorly and he could be one of those better in real life than fantasy options. He’s fringy in mixed formats this week but a matchup at home against the Mets plays in NL-only.
Kyle Farmer $3
Adeiny Hechavarria $2
Mark Melancon $2
Alex Dickerson $2
Pedro Baez $1
Adam Morgan $1
Mike Gerber $1
Stevie Wilkerson $7, $2, $1
Depending on which source you use, Wilkerson profiles as a “utility player” or a “warm body” but if you are on the Baltimore Orioles and have a discernable pulse, you can find your way to at-bats. Wilkerson had a solid week mostly playing the outfield (with one game at second) but looking at his career line doesn’t give me a case of the warm and fuzzies. There is a little power and a little speed and there are worse options for your last middle infield or outfield slot in AL-only.
Skye Bolt $5
You’d expect a player with the name Skye Bolt to have 100 steals in a single season in the minors but instead, Bolt has more of a solid, all-around profile, with 19 home runs and 19 steals between two minor league levels last year. Bolt is yet another fourth outfielder based on the scouting reports, but the A’s have a way of turning these projected backups into solid everyday or platoon players, so I’d keep an eye on Bolt even in mixed formats.
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