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 expert 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 will provide insights behind the reasoning on some the bids. Budgets in all three leagues start at $100 at the beginning of the season.
Tout Wars uses a Vickrey Auction system. A basic description of the Vickrey bidding system can be found here.
Random Quote of the Week: “One cannot even begin to post figure out a statuesquo ante as to how slow in reality the excommunicated Drumcondriac, nate Hamis, really was.” – James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake
ooooh, look at me! I own a copy of Finnegan’s Wake that I have read five pages of in the 20 years I have owned it and am now randomly quoting it to impress people! I’m so special!
To answer the question that all six of you who faithfully read this column every week are surely are going to ask, no, Carlos Correa was not eligible to be bid on this week. Even though his call up was announced on Sunday, he was not formally activated until Monday. So he will be available next week. I am guessing you will be reading my measured analysis of the bidding on Correa in Week 11 of the Expert FAAB Review here at Baseball Prospectus.
Joey Gallo $45. Other bids: $21, $20, $15, $11, $9, $6, $5, $4. Player dropped: None.
Finally, after weeks of tepid bidding on marginal players, here was a bidding war filled with sex appeal that got the LABR mixed experts all lathered up and hot and bothered with their bids. Even better, I don’t have to sit here trying to come up with 300 or so words of text masquerading as a joke that in reality is just a long rant covering the fact that the punchline to said joke isn’t particularly funny.
Bret and I focused this week on adding an offensive player to our lineup who we could stream in for Aaron Hill in the short term and for additional bench depth once Wil Myers is activated off of the DL. We put a $6 bid on Gallo. Bret is more optimistic about Gallo sticking than I am, but we both believe that he will be a batting average drain and that his upside in a 15-team, non-keeper mixed league isn’t super high. James Quintong of ESPN.com made the big splash. He was in last place entering Monday’s action and—as I have mentioned in this space before—although it is early June, the time to make a splash with a big impact free agent is now, particularly if your team is struggling. If I’m wrong and Gallo sticks and hits 20 home runs the rest of the way, this is a big boost for Quintong. Baseball Prospectus’ second place squad doesn’t need to take risks like this. Teams at or near the bottom of the standings should.
Joey Butler $13. Other bids: $1, $1, $1. Player Dropped: Yangervis Solarte.
We had one of the three one dollar bids on Butler, but he went for $13 to Keith Hernandez of Fantasy Score. I keep thinking that Butler is going to fade because his super high BABIP is as illusory as the idea of a truly clean and renewable energy fuel source ever replacing oil completely, but even if/when the .452 BABIP drops, Butler should do enough in home runs and stolen bases to be a viable play in deeper mixed formats. He has earned at least a portion of a starting job for the Rays, and Butler will play even when the Rays are once again the complete and utter picture of good health.
Pedro Strop $9. Other bids: $4, $4, $3, $3, $1. Player dropped: None.
Lately, the Cubs bullpen has been as confusing as the early stages of adolescence. Their bodies are changing, their voices are getting deeper, hair is growing in strange and mysterious places, and they are growing from boys into men. Wait a minute. First of all, this doesn’t even closely resemble what is happening at the back end of the Cubs bullpen (see what I did there? Gross, I know!). Secondly, this joke is extremely weird and strange, even for my typically off-kilter sensibilities. Let’s back up to what really happened in the Chicago bullpen, instead of turning the typically straightlaced, no nonsense FAAB Review into an overly smutty version of Our Bodies, Ourselves that would mortify you if your mother found it in your room.
Hector Rondon was pulled from a save opportunity on Saturday and replaced by Strop, who picked up the save. Then Rondon was used in the eighth inning on Sunday, but it was Jason Motte – not Strop – who came into the game in the ninth and picked up the save. I will save you the suspense and excitement of reading through the rest of the mixed league FAAB portion of the article and tell you that Motte was not picked up in LABR mixed. The winning bidder for Strop—Ray Murphy of Baseball HQ—is not the owner of Rondon; this particular misfortune belongs to Todd Zola of Mastersball. Bret and I passed on Strop because with the demotion of Fernando Rodney in Seattle, we now have four closers and already have one of those closers sitting on our bench this week. We need to make a trade, and bidding on what is likely to be a partial share of a job didn’t appeal to us. Joe Maddon has a reputation as someone who isn’t afraid to use a committee, but if you look back at his track record in Tampa, Maddon wasn’t afraid to change horses but generally stuck with one reliever if that reliever was doing well. My guess is that if a change is made that Strop is the guy who will get the first shot, but it is also possible that Rondon gets the job back. In other words, your guess is as good as mine, and I hate bidding piles of FAAB in ambiguous situations where I have no real need to push in the category.
Will Middlebrooks $3. Other bids: $2, $1. Player Dropped: None.
We narrowly missed on Middlebrooks, bidding $2 to Quintong’s $3 winning bid. Middlebrooks could very well out-produce Quintong’s big ticket acquisition Gallo the rest of the season, even though Gallo has the higher ceiling. Middlebrooks has hit well after struggling in May. Middlebrooks has always been a streaky hitter, although the improved Padres lineup should afford Middlebrooks a fair amount of RBI/run opportunities. He will be a contributor in deep mixed leagues all year long.
Michael Taylor $3. Other bid: $1. Player released: Steve Cishek
Yep, you guessed it, we had the $1 bid on Taylor. Fangraphs’ Sleeper and The Bust bid three of their remaining eight dollars. Taylor has struggled at times this year, but with Jayson Werth on the shelf for a significant time and Denard Span dealing with yet another nagging injury, Taylor will get full time at bats. The power and speed both play in deeper mixed, but there will be weeks where Taylor hits .150 or worse and is a statistical sinkhole.
Welington Castillo $3. Other bid: $1. Player released: Andrew Susac.
This is our second go-round with the now-Diamondbacks catcher; we drafted him as our second catcher in February, cut him a few weeks ago when he was buried with the Cubs, and now had to plunk down another $3 of FAAB in the hopes that Castillo gets most of the at bats behind the plate in Arizona over Jarrod Saltalamacchia. At the very least, he is better than our Beef substitute Andrew Susac was during Susac’s brief time on our roster.
Jeremy Hellickson $2. Player released: Josh Collmenter.
Whoa. I have reaped the benefits of Hellickson’s moderate resurgence since picking him up three weeks ago in Tout Wars NL, but in a mixed league Hellickson is a risky proposition, and even if he is good the rest of the way, he has a rough matchup in LA against the Dodgers this week. Our good friend but bitter rival Steve Gardner of USA Today/Sports Weekly was the lone bidder, and given the fact that Gardner is in first place now and won last year, I am not going to waste time questioning his motives. Hellickson joins Jhonny Peralta on the short list of “players I am rooting against in LABR because they are on Gardner’s team in LABR but I am rooting for because I have also them in Tout Wars.” Being a fantasy baseball player expert sure is doggoned confusing sometimes.
Carlos Perez $1. Player released: Tyler Flowers
Aaron Hicks $1. Player released. Cody Martin
Hicks was at the bottom of our list of free agent bids, but he was the player who we purchased, since no one else bid on him this week. He has been stealing bases at a prodigious clip, and offers some additional speed while we wait for Wil Myers to return to our offense and make our team relatively whole again. Hicks is likely to sit on our bench as outfield insurance once Myers is healthy and ready to go.
Tout Wars NL
Junior Lake $10 ($11). Other bids: $9, $6, $4, $2, $1. Player reserved: Jeff Baker.
I feel like an idiot. One week ago, I cut Junior Lake to stash Stephen Piscotty on my team in the hopes that Piscotty would help in the near future. All Lake did this past week was put up a 250/286/500 slash line with a home run, four RBIs, a steal, and a run in 21 plate appearances, grabbing full-time at bats for the Cubs that really would have helped my NL-only fantasy team. The $11 bid by Scott Wilderman of On Roto buys Wilderman at least one more week of regular playing time from Lake (it helps that the Cubs get the benefit of the DH for two games this week in Detroit), but it is possible that even when Jorge Soler comes back from his injury in the next two weeks or so that Lake will take at least some of the at bats in left field from Chris Coghlan. With Javier Baez’s injury over the weekend, it is far less likely that Kris Bryant shifts to left field in the short term, leaving an opportunity for Lake that goes beyond the next week or two.
While I bear some of the responsibility for this fantasy faux pas, I got to say: where the heck where you on this one, BP Wrigleyville? I have come to expect this kind of behavior from the cads and scoundrels who unfortunately seem to be all too common within the ranks of BP Boston and BP Bronx, but I thought we had something special, BP Wrigleyville. It was just a month ago that I visited your beautiful city and developed what I believed was a genuine connection with many of you. Harry Pavlidis, you told me we were going to a bar for drinks before a baseball game; instead, it turns out that you secretly planned a “Scared Straight” event at a local bar where a once famous golfer served drinks and gave us all a glimpse into the deepest and darkest corners of our souls. Sahadev Sharma, you won me over five seconds after we met by handing me a beer from a cooler (it’s the simple gestures) and later escorted me away from an extremely unhinged gentleman in the Miller Park parking lot and back to the safety of Chicago, possibly saving my life. Cat Garcia, you took me and Brett Taylor out for the best Mexican food I have ever eaten this side of the Mississippi. Thanks to your late night foray, not a night goes by that I don’t wake up in a cold sweat at 3 a.m. hearing the word “taco” whispered in the wind by a desolate, creaky spirit voice that rustles through the leaves and shakes me to my very core. Rian Watt, you are in London so you probably shouldn’t be part of this conceit, but you have hit the fav button on more than a few of my tweets and I like to think that makes us honorary Chicago buddies. Brett, instead of going home to spend Mother’s Day with my family, I blew off my flight, snuck into your house the following night while you were sleeping and softly serenaded you for four hours nonstop with Death Cab for Cutie’s I Will Possess Your Heart while stroking your beautiful, beautiful hair. OK, I made that last one up (“made it up”, right).
I’m a reasonable person, BP Wrigleyville. I’m not expecting you to grant me access to 7-8 hours of the Junior Lake conference calls you surely hold every week in your downtown Chicago offices. Nor am I expecting you to email me all 1,568 pages of your privileged and confidential files on the mystical and magical fantasy baseball force that is Junior Lake. That would be unrealistic and—quite frankly—impractical for all of us. All I’m asking for is an annotated version of your staff meeting minutes on Lake and a one or two-page bulleted summary of what you discuss when it comes to the unheralded outfielder who was a fantasy force, at least for one majestic week in early June of 2015.
Perhaps it is too late to mend the fences that you damaged this past week when you neglected to forewarn me that dropping Lake was the wrong move, but hopefully we can patch the holes going forward and make the relationship between the fantasy team at Baseball Prospectus and the writing team at BP Wrigleyville a fruitful and harmonious one going forward. No, not those fences by the big oak tree. Those are broken beyond repair and I’ll need to hire a contractor to put in a new fence entirely. Be realistic, BP Wrigleyville. No, the ones over there, by the southern end of the property line, and that small koi pond that I thought was a great idea when I bought this house but now is just a never ending pain to maintain. Those fences I think we can fix. Those fences I believe we can mend… together.
Jorge de la Rosa $7 ($8). Other bid: $6. Player Reserved: Jeremy Hellickson
de la Rosa was cut by Gardner last week. I put in the $8 bid. The start this week at home in St. Louis could be very bad, but I decided that the overall profile for de la Rosa is solid so I was willing to take the risk. I am not a FIP disciple, but the differential between de la Rosa’s ERA and FIP is so significant that the high ERA is clearly an anomaly. The strong groundball profile helps him in Coors (and has kept the home run total down this year). de la Rosa isn’t going to light the world on fire, but he is a candidate for improvement, and at a minimum I plan on streaming him for his road starts after this week.
Chris Rusin $4 ($7). Other bid: $3. Player reserved: Mat Latos.
Rusin was one of my contingency bids for de la Rosa. Todd Zola of Mastersball beat out fellow Mastersball writer Brian Walton with a $7 bid. Rusin gets a nice matchup this week in Miami against the Marlins, and has put together some very nice numbers in his first three outings (two starts). He isn’t likely to keep it up, but in NL-only he is a good road streamer as long as he is getting the job done.
Joe Ross $2. Other bids: $2, $1. Player reserved: Sam Dyson.
After writing effusively about Ross this past weekend, I thought he would get more play in Tout Wars from fantasy owners looking for mid-tier SP3 upside. Instead, the market was extremely tepid, with only three owners bidding and Walton obtaining Ross’s services for two bucks. As A.J. Cole’s owner, Walton’s bid made perfect sense. Even with the Nationals being somewhat clandestine about their plans about who is going to start on Friday, it is extremely likely that either Cole or Ross gets the assignment this week. I did not bid on Cole and have to admit that I am having a little non-buyer’s remorse. Even if the window seems limited for him to contribute this year, injuries always have a way of cropping up and playing a factor. It would not surprise me in the least to see Ross pick up 10 or more starts the rest of the way.
Manny Banuelos $2 ($3). Other bid: $1. Player released: Eric Stults
Very quietly, the former Yankees prospect is tearing it up at the Braves Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett, posting a 2.11 ERA in 11 starts across 59 2/3 innings. The strikeouts are down—and there is a good possibility that Banuelos is never going to get all the way back to where he was velocity-wise—but he has a chance to get a promotion at some point this year and will have the advantage of pitching in the hitting-poor NL East if he does. This was a nice stash by Lenny Melnick of Roto Experts.
Brennan Boesch $1 ($16). Player reserved: Michael Morse
Daniel Descalso $1 ($6). Other bids: $0, $0. Player reserved: Daniel Murphy.
Brad Hand $1 ($2). Player reserved: J.J. Hoover
Shane Peterson $1 ($2). Player reserved: Elian Herrera.
David Hernandez $1 ($2). Other bid: $0. Player reserved: Hunter Strickland
Daniel Hudson $1. Other bids: $0, $0. Player reserved: Carter Capps
Randall Delgado $0. Player reserved: Rafael Ynoa
Cliff Pennington $0. Player released: Jonathan Herrera.
Scott Oberg $0. Player reserved: A.J. Cole
Hand was clobbered last night in Toronto; he seemed like an OK risk as a two-start starter in NL-only, but that risk didn’t work out for Rotoman (Peter Kreutzer). When Marlon Byrd went down with a wrist injury, I thought that Boesch would at least get some of the at bats in left field for the Reds, but Cincinnati has been going with Skip Schumaker almost exclusively in left field. With the news that Devin Mesoraco could be back late this week on the big league club as an outfielder, Boesch and Schumaker’s value will return to zero shortly.
Tout Wars AL
Mark Trumbo $83 ($89). Other bids: $82, $68, $61, $54, $45, $38, $23, $19. Player Reserved: Dustin Ackley
There are a significant number of statistical considerations that come into play when you are considering whether you should bid big on a player like Trumbo or not, but the most basic question that comes into play is are you better off waiting another few weeks for a better player to come over from the other league at or close to the trade deadline or should you simply push most or all of your chips into the center of the table and hope that the extra 5-6 weeks of stats from an early June acquisition will make a difference.
The trade market is never a static, predictable thing, but it appears that this is more of a decision in the American League than it is in the National League this year. The Athletics are the only team that seems likely to be in sell mode as the second worst team in the AL—the Seattle Mariners—is only five back in the loss column for the second wild card slot, and just made a buy low move for Trumbo. The dynamic certainly can and will change between now and July 31st, but at the moment it is hard to envision who else is definitely bailing on the 2015 pennant race.
On the other side of the fence, the Brewers and Phillies seem extremely likely to clean house, with the Reds and Marlins also possible candidates to sell at the deadline. Alluring names like Carlos Gomez, Cole Hamels, and Johnny Cueto could find their way to the Junior Circuit, and if they do will make for appetite whetting targets in AL-only fantasy leagues all across this great land of ours (and other lands that play fantasy baseball as well).
Lawr Michaels of Mastersball won the bidding for Trumbo with an aggressive $89 bid that was tamped down to $83 by Vickrey. He is currently in dead last in Tout Wars AL, and is flailing in the power categories. Trumbo might not cure what ails his team, but in his position Michaels has to try to do what he can to get out of the basement and worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Waiting 4-5 weeks for Gomez isn’t a sensible strategy for Michaels.
This isn’t necessarily a universal precept. Two of the bottom four teams in AL Tout did not bid at all on Trumbo. Andy Behrens of Yahoo and Steve Moyer of Inside Edge didn’t bid on Trumbo at all. In Behrens’ case, this was likely driven by a lack of FAAB, but Moyer had $81 to spend and didn’t even place a bid. The argument against bidding on Trumbo if you are at or near the bottom of the standings is that one player isn’t going to save your entire season, and it is probably better to bid strategically on select players throughout the year.
I tend to lean toward Michaels’ side philosophically speaking. I bid big when a player like Trumbo comes into the league, and worry about what might happen later when the time comes. In 2012 in NL Tout, there was an expectation that big free agents would get shipped to the National League, but the biggest name to come over at the deadline was then-backup Travis Snider. This usually isn’t what happens, but if I’m in a position where have the FAAB and have the need, pushing most of my chips in for a player like Trumbo is the play that I am going to make 99 times out of 100.
Hanser Alberto $19 ($21). Other bids: $18, $11, $7, $0. Player Reserved: Jose Ramirez
For many of the owners in AL Tout, Alberto was viewed as a consolation prize, listed as a contingency behind Trumbo in nearly every instance. He is off to a nice start for the Rangers, but offers little with the bat, posting below average numbers in the minors at nearly every stop on the chain. Alberto’s defense should keep him in the lineup, but I am not a big fan of his in anything but AL-only, and $19 seems rather steep for Alberto.
Tommy Milone $3 ($4). Other bid: $2. Player Reserved: Delmon Young
Milone is back with the big club and is slated to get a start for the Twins at home against the Royals this week. He was striking out batters with regularity in the minors, but typically Milone has never put up big strikeout numbers in the majors and I would expect this trend to continue going forward. The Twins sudden strong performance makes every pitcher on their staff a potential wins play, but Milone is kind of fringy even for AL-only. He is fine to use, though, if you have the need.
Steve Delabar $1 ($2). Player Reserved: Ricky Nolasco.
David Lough $1 ($2). Player Released: Paulo Orlando
Chris Young $1. Other bid: $0. Player Reserved: Josh Hamilton
Jose Berrios $1. Player Reserved: Danny Duffy.
Zack Walters $1. Player Reserved: Ryan Raburn
Blaine Boyer $1. Player Released: Christian Colon
Justin Wilson $0. Player Reserved: Chris Capuano
As I have noted in weeks prior, the $0-1 bids in Tout Wars AL don’t seem to be prolific as they are in Tout Wars NL. Walters could get some playing time with the infield shake up in Cleveland, but Berrios is the player who jumps out here as a later-in-the-season spec play if he can crack the Twins rotation after the All-Star break.