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 (I will alternate every week). 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.
Random Quote of the Week – “You don’t know how I feel.” – Karen Hill, Goodfellas
Delino DeShields Jr. $13. Other bids: $8, $2, $1, $1, $1
The Rangers haven’t had a lot of luck in left field thus far this season, but for the last couple of weeks DeShields has taken the job and run with it. He doesn’t offer any kind of power, but he has been stealing bases at a prolific pace. Even in deeper mixed, there is no reason to trade for a player like Anthony Gose when someone like DeShields is simply sitting on the wire. DeShields could disappear, but the BB:K ratio is an encouraging sign that DeShields could hold his value all year long, assuming he can find the at bats after Josh Hamilton returns.
Brad Ziegler $12. Other bids: $7, $1, $1.
Addison Reed’s recent struggles led to a shake-up in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, and while Arizona has hinted at a committee, it’s likely that Ziegler will get the saves while Reed fixes whatever it is that ails him. The tepid bids indicate that many in LABR believe what I do: that Reed is Arizona’s first choice to keep the job, and it is unlikely that Ziegler will hold the job all season long. The winning bidder—Mike Podhorzer of Fangraphs—owns Reed, so his aggressive bid makes sense.
Yunel Escobar $9. Other bid: $1.
Escobar won’t keep up his blistering batting average pace, but he is a solid enough regular in 15-team mixed that he is a worthy pickup. Steve Gardner of USA Today grabbed Escobar to replace the injured Jean Segura, so this was an obvious case where a fantasy manager had a clear and immediate need.
Shawn Tolleson $7. Other bids: $6, $2, $1, $1.
With Neftali Feliz bumped from the closer role, Tolleson stands a chance of picking up a few saves, despite the assertion that the Rangers are going to go with a committee. Tolleson’s raw stuff isn’t particularly impressive, but he has pitched well thus far this year and is likely to get the first call over the more hyped Keone Kela. Craig Glaser of BSports was the winning bidder. Glaser traded for Trevor Rosenthal over the weekend, so he is pushing hard to make a big jump in saves.
Drew Stubbs $4
If Corey Dickerson lands on the DL due to his plantar fasciitis, Stubbs has an excellent chance to swoop in and pick up a significant number of at bats. He hasn’t done much yet, but the Rockies are home all week, giving Stubbs a strong chance to pick up short-term value, at a minimum.
Cory Spangenberg $4. Other bid: $1.
Jedd Gyorko was the putative starter at second base for the Padres to open the season, but his poor performance combined with Spangenberg’s hot start has opened up the door for Spangenberg to take over the good half of a platoon with Gyorko. Spangenberg has mostly seemed like a steals play, but he is reaching the point on the age curve where he could pick up a little more power as he gets stronger and progresses toward his peak. Spangenberg could be a solid deep mixed option all year long, although he’s mostly a speed play until we have more MLB data to prove that his power is legitimate.
I wrote about some of these guys in yesterday’s free agent report, so there is no particular need to rehash my thoughts and feelings on Galvis, Estrada, and Colabello. $3 for Wright seems a little high, until you look at the free agent pool and realize the starting pitching pickings are slim. Kela is the other half of the Feliz/Tolleson spec play. I like Tucker, although he’ll have to perform very well in order to stick once the Astros are back to full health.
Bret and I didn’t put any bids in this week. Our primary focus has still been attempting to push for a third closer. Razzball’s Rudy Gamble flipped one of his three closers to another squad, making our efforts that much more difficult.
Tout Wars NL
Todd Cunningham $7 ($27). Other bids: $6, $6, $0
I really want to make a Happy Days joke here – like something about how Todd was yet another missing Cunningham brother – but I didn’t bother constructing it because it occurred to me that Happy Days hasn’t been on prime time television in over 30 years. A show that was once a seminal staple for afternoon reruns after I came home from school is barely remembered if it is even remembered at all. Henry Winkler is known now much more for his affable-yet-eccentric Barry Zuckerkorn on Arrested Development and affable-yet-eccentric Sy Mittleman on Children’s Hospital than for his turn as iconic 1950s “greaser” Arthur Fonzarelli. Do kids today even know what a “greaser” is? Man, where does the time go? Everything that we once cherish as universal and beloved eventually goes down the drain of time and faded memories as we march inexorably toward the grave. What a bummer. Do the kids even say “bummer” anymore? Or do they just lazily throw a bunch of emojis around and call it a day? Those darned kids and their emojis. They are ruining everything.
What was I talking about? Oh yes, fantasy baseball and the Tout Wars NL-only bids.
Cunningham is kind of a tweener (not enough power for a corner, not enough defense for center field), but on a thin Braves team he is currently on the good side of a platoon with Jonny Gomes. The Braves get a steady diet of right-handed pitchers this week, so Cunningham will probably play almost exclusively. He is realistically an 8-10 home run, 15 steal guy on the high end, though that is generous. However, for mono formats he’s a solid pickup. Gene McCaffrey of Wise Guy Baseball was the Vickrey-aided, aggressive bidder, plunking down $27 but getting Cunningham for only $7. McCaffrey’s moribund offense needs a big boost, and he doesn’t have enough of a pitching surplus to push aggressively for a trade, so the strong bid makes sense for his team. I’m sure McCaffrey hopes that his team has some ”Happy Days” with this move but it’s entirely possible that he’s going to jump the sha…
I’m sorry, I can’t do this anymore. This is extremely terrible and you, the reader, deserve oh so much more. I’ll be better next time.
A.J. Cole $6 ($56). Other bids: $5, $4.
Cole may not start this week (the Nationals have a five-game week and could skip a starter easily) but Cole will eventually slide into the rotation at some point. I see the same potential that my Baseball Prospectus colleague Al Skorupa sees: a no. 4 starter and solid contributor but not a future star. Maybe Cole will be a mid-tier, no. 3 guy if everything breaks right.
Brian Walton of Mastersball plunked down an aggressive $56, which was brought all the way down to six dollars by Vickrey. Walton is in the opposite position that McCaffrey is: his offense has been strong but his pitching has struggled mightily. Walton has had trouble obtaining depth behind his front three of Gio Gonzalez, Julio Teheran, and Francisco Liriano (he lost Homer Bailey to injury). Cole might not light the world on fire, but in mono formats he could be the best thing to come along in weeks, particularly when high quality arms like Noah Syndergaard are long gone. Walton probably has enough offensive ammunition to make a trade, but it is better to push hard via FAAB than merely assume that a trade is a fait accompli.
Elian Herrera $5 ($13). Other bids: $4, $3, $2, $1, $0.
Luis Sardinas $2 ($5). Other bid: $1.
Herrera was purchased before the news broke yesterday that Scooter Gennett was demoted to Triple-A, so this was a big win for Todd Zola of Mastersball. Herrera should at least share some of the second base job with Hector Gomez, but if he keeps hitting home runs, he should win that job outright. Whether or not he will keep hitting home runs is more than an open question, but Gomez is most certainly not an obstacle. Sardinas will start at shortstop for the Brewers with Jean Segura on the DL, so the tepid bidding for him in an NL-only is a mystery to me. ESPN’s Tristan Cockcroft bid five, and I was the only other bidder at a dollar. Sardinas is nothing but a speed asset, but offers enough stolen base potential that someone with a pressing need should have bid more.
Williams Perez $4 ($12). Other bid: $3.
Perez profiles more as a Future Generic Middle RelieverTM than a back-end starting pitcher but the Braves lack of organizational depth will push him into a starting role for the time being. His groundball tendencies will help – and in an infield including Andrelton Simmons this will always be a big plus – but Perez’s lack of a big strikeout pitch dampens his value. He is slated to pitch at home against the Rays and at the Dodgers in a two-start week.
I was the “lucky” winner of the Hellickson non-sweepstakes, grabbing him for a dollar with my tepid two dollar bid. He has been awful this year, but I’m hoping his start in Miami suppresses the homer tendencies enough to make his second start against the Cubs later in the week palatable. I lost Doug Fister to the DL and Travis Wood to ineptitude and general malaise, so if Hellickson is just Wood 2.0 I won’t complain. Theoretically, a staff with Clayton Kershaw on the front end can roll the dice on crummy pitchers like this and absorb the bad ERA/WHIP and gamble on cheap wins. If vintage Kershaw doesn’t show up soon, it won’t matter who I roll out there, as all will be lost. I’ll be done, and you’ll be able to find me crying in a corner somewhere in the fetal position.
As I noted above, I made a trade this week, swapping Hechavarria to Ray Guilfoyle of Fake Teams for Jason Grilli. With Kenley Jansen returning from injury, Guilfoyle had three closers and could swap out Grilli for the offensive boost. With Reed losing his job, I was down to one closer in A.J. Ramos and didn’t want to simply let the category go. In the short-term, I can only gain three points in saves but it is May 19, not July 19. Roles can and do change, and it is entirely possible that some of the fantasy teams with an ironclad lock on two closers could lose a closer and allow for further opportunities to gain points. The loss of Hechavarria is well worth the risk that Grilli loses the job, particularly since I already have Braves relievers Jim Johnson and Cody Martin on my squad.
Guilfoyle kindly provided his take on the deal via email:
With Jansen activated from the DL, I had three closers. Winning the saves category by 20 wouldn't help my team stay in contention so I decided to let the league know I was open to trading one of them. I decided I wanted to keep Jansen as he is one of the best closers in the game, and Papelbon is still saving games for a bad, but recently hot, Phillies team. Maybe I could have asked for a better hitter, like Wilin Rosario, but his lineup status is uncertain once Justin Morneau returns, and he is a really bad first baseman to boot. Hechevarria is in no danger of losing at bats, and is currently getting on base at a .338 rate, which is helpful in an OBP league. The league waiver wire of hitters is pretty thin, so I was happy to grab an everyday player to replace Tyler Moore on my roster.
Tout Wars AL
Thomas Field $19 ($28). Other bids: $18, $9, $3, $0
If you had asked me in March if Thomas Field was a person or a place, I would have had no idea.
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Through diligent research, I discovered that Thomas Field is a person (not a place) and a career minor leaguer who has had a few cups of coffee in the majors. He has always been described as a scrappy, David Eckstein-type, but Field has shown some pretty decent power given this profile and already has seven home runs this year in 142 plate appearances between Triple-A and the majors. This is unlikely to last, but even if Field only lives up to the Eckstein/Nick Punto profile, it is worth remembering that this level of production can produce $10-14 in AL earnings if everything breaks right. I thought this bid was too high when I first glanced at the bid lists yesterday, but the more I look at this move the more I like it. There is no reason to rush Rougned Odor back, so even if Field’s power is a short-term mirage, there is mono-league value in his profile.
Mike Wright $14. Other bids: $13, $3, $1.
Wright has always been viewed as a future reliever due to a lack of repeatability and the inability to develop a decent breaking pitch, but he made strides this year in both areas and the result was a rapid promotion to the majors and an extremely successful 2015 debut. Wright’s repertoire still seems to rely mostly on fastball/change, so it will be interesting to see how long he can fool the opposition if the slider isn’t more than a show me pitch. Ron Shandler and Lawr Michaels were the two biggest bidders in Tout, with Shandler grabbing Wright for 2014. There is certainly a chance that Wright could crash and burn, but the upside made Shandler feel that Wright was worth the risk.
Lance McCullers $9. Other bids: $8, $4
As J.P. Breen pointed out yesterday, while the idea of McCullers is exciting, the fantasy proposition is filled with perils, particularly in the short term. The strikeouts should be there, but with them will likely come a significant number of walks along with some performance risk across the board. He is a must buy in AL-only, but even in Tout Wars you could see how hesitant most owners were to take the plunge. The PECOTA projection strikes me as somewhat negative, but even if McCullers hits, say, the 70th percentile, he is still only going to be a single-digit earner in AL formats.
Steven Wright $1 ($11). Other bid: $0
Garrett Jones $1 ($4)
Justin Ruggiano $1 ($4)
Tommy Hunter $1 ($2)
Eddie Rosario $1 ($2)
Ryan Goins $1
Shaun Marcum $1
Brian Johnson $1
Will Harris $0
Carson Smith $0
Andrew Romine $0
The American League always seems thinner than the National League at the very bottom of the pool, and this week is no exception. Starting pitching in particular seems to be scarce; Wright and Marcum are the only starting pitchers or potential starting pitchers available in the bargain bin. The offensive players are no better. The best players are guys like Jones and Ruggiano: Guys on the wrong side of a platoon at best who aren’t likely to do much. Rosario is an intriguing option, but it is entirely possible he simply isn’t ready yet.