Depending on how long you have been a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, welcome or welcome back to the Expert FAAB Review. Every week, I’m going to take a look at the players and the process behind the bidding in LABR mixed, Tout Wars NL, and Tout Wars AL. Bret Sayre and I participate in LABR mixed while I have a team in Tout Wars NL, so I can provide some insights behind the reasoning on the bids. Budgets in all three leagues start at $100 at the beginning of the season.
Blake Swihart $37. Other bids: $13, $4, $4, $1.
This one is a genuine head scratcher. I agree with Ben Carsley’s fantasy assessment. There isn’t much upside to be had—particularly in the short term—and while Swihart is certainly worth owning in a 15-team, two catcher mixed format, the $37 bid was incredibly aggressive. Bret and I had Ryan Hanigan as our second catcher and decided to pass.
Ray Murphy of Baseball HQ was the winning bidder. It appears that he is stockpiling catchers. He now has A.J. Pierzynski, Welington Castillo, Devin Mesoraco, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and now Swihart. Given some of the deficiencies some teams have behind the plate, Murphy could be angling for a trade. His team is currently sitting in 14th place and could use help across nearly every category.
I asked Murphy for his own assessment of the move via email:
This was a need-driven move. My catchers coming out of the draft were Mesoraco and Saltalamacchia. I managed to grab Pierzynski to fill in for Mesoraco a few weeks back, and he's been very helpful. But when I went to find a replacement for Saltalamacchia last week, I was picking through part-timers and ended up with Wellington Castillo. When a top prospect like Swihart gets called up and appears to have a clear path to playing time, I felt it was time to open the FAAB wallet. Hopefully Mesoraco will avoid the worst-case scenario and get back in my lineup soon, and Salty may even still have value if he latches on somewhere. But Swihart gives me a nice hedge against both of those situations.
Tout Wars Mixed Auction: $21 ($23), $20, $17, $16, $6
Tout Wars Mixed Draft: $20 ($31), $19, $5, $4 (Murphy was the winning bidder in Tout Wars mixed as well)
Alex Colome $6. Other bid: $1
The Fangraphs Sleeper and the Bust team continued to push aggressively for arms, nabbing Colome for six dollars. The ceiling is great with Colome if he can get his four-pitch arsenal to work with any kind of consistency but the profile screams future bullpen arm. The strikeout profile makes him worth the risk in deep mixed; I don’t like his next two matchups at Fenway and home against the Yankees.
Tout Wars Mixed Auction $12 ($21), $11, $10, $5.
Kelly Johnson $6. Other bids: $3, $1.
He obviously won’t keep up his 32 home run pace, but it’s not like we didn’t know that Kelly Johnson could hit for power, particularly against right-handed pitching. His ISO going backwards from 2014: .147, .175, .140, .191, .212. He is a serious candidate to hit another 10-12 home runs the rest of the way if he gets the playing time, and with third base eligibility in his pocket, that’s not a bad deal in 15-team mixed.
Tout Wars Mixed Auction: $4, $3, $2, $1.
Tout Wars Mixed Draft: $6 ($7), $5, $2, $1.
Zack Cozart $5. Other bids: $2, $2, $1, $1, $1.
As I wrote in yesterday’s Free Agent Watch, I believe enough in Cozart to think that a 12-15 home run season is well within reach for the Reds shortstop. The batting average regression could be bad, but since LABR is AVG and not OBP Cozart isn’t quite the drag that he would be in Tout Wars.
Michael Foltynewicz $4.
Folty has a tasty matchup against the Phillies this week, but oh those bases on balls. He is a fun and exciting project for Roger McDowell, but I’d rather not have him in non-only formats at the moment.
Tout Wars Mixed Auction: $13 ($15), $12, $6, $2.
Tout Wars Mixed Draft: $1 ($5).
David Phelps $4. Other bids: $1, $1.
So far the results have been good for Phelps, but he also seems to be living and dying off of the fastball. His whiff rate isn’t particularly impressive and it seems unlikely Phelps is going to go through an entire season giving up no home runs. All of this is a nice way of saying that some slippage is probably coming and he is a matchup play in deep mixed leagues.
A.J. Ramos $2
This was one of our two plays this week. I remain skeptical that Steve Cishek’s diminished stuff will enable him to hold on to the closer role all year long, and with only Jason Grilli in tow, we needed to speculate on future saves.
Delmon Young $1
Andrew Susac $1
Susac was our other bid, to replace the injured Hanigan. He isn’t much, but he could be relatively productive with two or three starts a week and is a good injury hedge if either Buster Posey or Brandon Belt go down.
Tout Wars NL
Scott Baker $12 ($16). Other bids: $11, $8, $0
Despite a lackluster performance last week, four teams placed bids on Baker in Tout Wars. He was designated for assignment yesterday, so these $12 are likely to go to waste. If there is even the tiniest silver lining, it is that he can be kept and used in Tout NL even if he latches on with an American League team.
Carlos Frias $12. Other bids: $12, $7, $3, $2.
Frias fared better than Baker did and gets another crack at starting for the Dodgers as a result. He is probably a future reliever, but at this point in NL-only you have to take what you can get if you’re trolling for starts and wins. Frias gets the Brewers in Milwaukee this week.
LABR NL: $6, $2, $1
Michael Lorenzen $11 ($14). Other bid: $10
It was all-or-nothing-at-all in Tout for Lorenzen, as two teams bid $10 or more and everyone else sat out. He would be a better pick-up in a league where you could pick and chose on a start-by-start basis. I like him in Pittsburgh at the beginning of the week but am wary of Lorenzen at The Cell in his second start. He has some potential, but the scouting reports still peg him as a work-in-progress so this is a risky play, even in NL-only.
Carlos Villanueva $3. Other bids: $3, $3, $0.
Three was the magic number on Villanueva. At the moment, it appears that Tyler Lyons and not Villanueva will slide into the rotation for St. Louis, but Villanueva certainly could take a turn at some point down the line if Lyons falters or if the Cardinals have another need.
LABR NL: $2
Junior Lake $3. Other bid: $2.
Lake is a poor man’s Justin Ruggiano. He offers a little bit of pop and speed with a poor batting average and eventually plays himself out of a major league lineup with long stretches of little to no contact. He isn’t even due to get regular at bats for the Cubs at the moment, so Lake can be left in the free agent pool even in NL-only.
Tyler Lyons $2 ($11). Other bid: $1
On a second division team, Lyons might very well be a fourth or fifth starter. On the Cardinals, he is a nice Triple-A insurance policy for the team to have. I don’t love Lyons, but he is a better option in NL-only Roto than any of the starters who were taken ahead of him above, particularly with a two-start week coming up with scheduled outings at home against the Cubs and at PNC Park against the Pirates. His career rates as a starting pitcher (7.26 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, and a 0.96 HR/9) are realistic expectations and his NL-only ceiling is as a #4 SP, with a #5 SP a more realistic baseline.
After losing out on Frias, I wound up nabbing Martin for $1. Teams frequently chase starting pitchers like the ones mentioned above, but middle relievers with high strikeout profiles typically have a better chance of sustained success (and double digit earnings) in mono formats.
Tout Wars AL
Kyle Blanks $16. Other bids: $15, $12, $9, $5, $0.
For the second week in a row, there was only one significant bid in Tout Wars AL. Last week it was Jimmy Paredes garnering a huge bid from Jeff Erickson of Rotowire; this week Andy Behrens of Yahoo nabbed Blanks for $16. With Mitch Moreland on the shelf after bone chips were removed from his elbow, Blanks will get an opportunity to be a full-time DH. The batting average will be power, but there is 15-20 home run potential in the bat if Blanks can make enough contact (something that has been a struggle for him in the past). Tout’s OBP rules mitigate some of the damage that Blanks’ poor contact rates will do.
Once again, the power of Vickrey allows Behrens (Carrera) and Jason Collette (Villar) to bid aggressively on the players they want and get rewarded with only having to spend a dollar since there was no market for their preferred players. The $46 bid for Villar was rather fascinating. Marwin Gonzalez isn’t much of an obstacle with Jed Lowrie on the shelf for a prolonged period of time, and it’s entirely possible that Villar pushes him aside and picks up a significant number of stolen bases. In a non-Vickrey league, $46 would have been way too much for my blood, but in Tout Wars aggressive bids pay off thanks to the unique bidding rule.