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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: “And I say that England’s greatest Prime Minister was Lord Palmerston!” – Barney Gumble

LABR Mixed

Carlos Correa $51. Other bids: $50, $41, $37, $32, $27, $22, $22. Player released: None
Byron Buxton $41. Other bids: $41, $32, $24, $20, $16, $14, $5. Player released: None
In Tout Wars, you can stash players in the minors all season long; the only caveat is you have to carry the player on your active roster for a full week. In LABR, while you can draft minor leaguers before the season starts, once the season is underway you cannot employ this strategy. As you can see, this creates significant bidding wars for players like Correa and Buxton, who in a 15-team mixed league are going to potentially be the best acquisitions you can make at any point during the season. Wilson Karaman covered the fantasy impact of Correa on June 8 in The Call Up, while I examined Buxton’s fantasy potential on Sunday. In LABR, Fred Zinkie of MLB.com narrowly beat out Steve Gardner of USA Today Sports for Correa $51 to $50, while Bobby Colton of Rotowire beat Gardner on a tiebreak for Buxton with multiple $41 bids.

RT Sports doesn’t allow me to see anything but the winning bids and the Baseball Prospectus bid(s), but I can see how much FAAB each team does have left.

Table 1: Remaining FAAB, LABR Mixed, June 14, 2015

Rank

Team

FAAB

Points

1

USA Today Sports

$56

120.0

2

Baseball Prospectus

$36

118.0

3

MLB.com

$69

103.5

4

BSports

$49

101.5

5

Fantasy Score

$30

96.5

6

Baseball HQ

$30

88.0

7

Mastersball

$35

76.0

8

Rotowire – Erickson

$28

75.5

9

Razzball

$56

71.0

10

Fangraphs

$46

68.0

10

Fangraphs – Sleeper & Bust

$5

68.0

12

FNTSY

$16

61.5

13

RotoExperts

$0

57.0

14

Rotowire – Colton

$82

51.0

15

ESPN.com

$41

44.5

It isn’t particularly surprising that the winners of the Correa and Buxton sweepstakes were first and second in FAAB heading into the week. I doubt that Zinkie and Colton were specifically waiting on Correa and Buxton, but once players of this caliber come into the pool, you have to pounce if you have the money. Buxton probably isn’t going to do enough to push Colton to first, but in a league where each category is worth a maximum of 15 points, there is more ground to be gained than in a 12-team league. Zinkie’s team is the one that makes me nervous with the Correa acquisition. 14.5 points isn’t a lot of ground to gain at all, and Zinkie is a trading Rumpelstiltskin. He has the most pitching points in the league and offense is where he stands to make up the most ground.

I suspect the bidding on Buxton was slightly less aggressive than the bidding on Correa for a couple of reasons.

1. Shortstop/middle infield is a weaker position in fantasy than outfield is. It is more likely that Correa will fill a bigger gap at shortstop or middle infield for a team than Buxton will.

2. Even though Buxton is older than Correa, some believe that he is a less refined player with more holes in his game, primarily due to all of the time that Buxton has missed due to injury in the minors. This theoretically puts Buxton at greater risk of being sent down at some point this year. The reality is that any rookie could be sent down at any time; this is merely a perception I am speaking to, not a reality.

Bret and I bid $32 on both players, with Correa being our first priority. This would have all but broken the bank for us, but we figured we were not going to obtain either player with these bids. If we did get one of them, the game for us was to build depth to protect from injury and/or to facilitate a trade. One of the “disadvantages” of our relatively low-risk draft strategy is that with the exception of our second catcher and fifth and sixth starting pitchers, our team is deep. Gardner’s stars are better than ours, but he has a few more low-end hitters in his starting lineup who Buxton and Correa would have been solid upgrades for. Another intriguing wrinkle surrounding Gardner’s bids is that he currently doesn’t have a closer, having lost Fernando Rodney to ineffectiveness and Andrew Miller to injury in the last two weeks. Rather than save money for a potential saves grab, Gardner went all in on Correa and Buxton. I would have done the same thing in his shoes.

Vincent Velasquez $8. Other bids: $3, $1, $1, $1, $1, $1. Player released: Joaquin Benoit
I covered the fantasy angle of Velasquez in this edition of The Call Up. His first start against the White Sox was strong, although the White Sox offense has been terrible this year and wasn’t a particularly tough test. Velasquez looks like a streamer to me in 15-team mixed, and is a solid two-start option this week with the Rockies at home and the weak-against-RHP Mariners in Safeco. My short-term concerns about Velasquez remain, but $8 isn’t a radical bid. On the other hand, I can see why only two teams bid over $1. Velasquez could work out, but he could also walk the park and see a quick demotion. Mmmmmm, this waffle I am eating right now is delicious, why do you ask?

Giovanny Urshela $7. Player released: None
Kevin Correia $5. Player released: None
Mike Montgomery $5.
Other bids: $4, $1, $1. Player released: Everth Cabrera
Montgomery is helped out significantly by Safeco (when he pitches at home, at least), but he still feels like a marginal option, even in deeper mixed formats. The low strikeout totals in the minors are likely to translate to even lower totals in the majors, so even if Montgomery dances through the raindrops, he will be below replacement level in a fairly significant category. Gardner grabbed Montgomery for $5. His pitching has some short-term holes, and he likely has a higher opinion of Montgomery than I do.

Joe Ross $4. Other bid: $1. Player released: Shane Greene
I was fairly positive about Brian Walton’s pickup of Ross in Tout Wars NL last week, but I’m a little less optimistic about Todd Zola’s (also of Mastersball) grab of Ross this week in LABR. With Doug Fister looking strong in his rehab start over the weekend, Ross could get pushed to the pen as soon as this week. It is possible that Tanner Roark is moved to the pen in the short term instead, since he has more experience there, but Ross is eventually going to lose his slot when the Nationals finally get the band back together. The issue isn’t the money—$4 isn’t cost prohibitive—but rather the allocation of reserve slots. I’d prefer to use a reserve slot on someone you can stream in any given week.

Randal Grichuk $3. Other bid: $2. Player released: Ryan Raburn
Matt Holliday’s trip to the DL made Grichuk an obvious pickup this week. Grichuk is playing over Peter Bourjos, and there doesn’t seem to be an imperative to bring Stash List favorite Stephen Piscotty up to the majors. Grichuk offers decent power for a back-end outfielder in a deep mixed league lineup.

Mark Buehrle $2. Other bids: $1, $1, $1. Player released: Tony Watson
For many years now, Buehrle has defied the hard science of FIP, SIERA, xFIP, dERA, DRA, and all of the other metrics that I can’t think of right now and am too lazy to look up. But it’s hard not to wonder if the end isn’t nigh for Buehrle. Even for him, his strikeout rate is paltry and offers virtually no value; even in AL-only he’s kind of borderline. This combined with the imbalanced schedule against a high octane AL East in a bunch of hitters’ ballparks make me say no. I had some great times with Buehrle in my AL home league back in 2002, when he and Barry Zito pushed my team to a pennant, but memories don’t win fantasy titles. Statistics win fantasy titles. There are tears in both of our eyes, Mark, as I fondly and forlornly wave goodbye.

Colby Lewis $1. Player released: None
Jason Motte $1: Player released: None
A.J. Pierzynski $1. Player released: Chris Iannetta
Mason Williams $1. Player released: Caleb Joseph
Ruben Tejada $1. Player released: None
Tommy Milone $1. Player released: Wade Miley
Christopher Rusin $1. Player released: Alex Rios
Shaun Marcum $1. Player released: None

It’s easy to criticize some of the picks above (and I certainly did in a few instances), but the $1 bargain bin shows why some teams went the extra buck on players like Buehrle and Ross. Of the plays here, I like Motte as cheap saves speculation, and Williams in the hopes that he can stick even after Jacoby Ellsbury comes back and cobble together some back-of-the-lineup deep mixed value. The $1 starting pitchers in particular are all fraught with risk; I take back a lot of what I said about the starting pitchers above. Except the stuff about waffles. I love waffles, and you can’t take that away from me, dear Expert FAAB Review readers.

Tout Wars NL

Eugenio Suarez $17 ($28). Other bids: $16, $16, $13, $11, $1. Player reserved: Ryan Zimmerman
Zack Cozart’s season-ending injury created a rare NL-only bidding opportunity: a chance to bid on someone who is extremely likely to have a full-time job for the rest of the season. Suarez is one of those players who is often profiles as a fringy offensive player with good defensive skills, but he has a surprising modicum of power. He profiles slightly better with the Reds than he did with the Tigers due to the park, and could provide value at an $8-10 pace in NL-only.

Phil Hertz of Baseball HQ made the aggressive $28 bid (pushed down to $17 with Vickrey). In fact, Hertz bid all of his remaining FAAB on Suarez. Vickrey makes it extremely unlikely that Hertz would have been pushed to $0, but the headline here is that Hertz was willing to take this risk. Hertz’s strategy is particularly intriguing based on his modus operandi in past years of using FAAB as a trade chip. Hertz is in sixth place, but only 7.5 points out of first place at the bottom of a tight clump of teams. He can potentially reclaim FAAB on big-ticket players like David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman, though, so his situation isn’t as dire as it would seem at a glance.

Ivan De Jesus $12 ($17). Other bids: $11, $1, $0. Player released: Anthony Recker
The bidding was more tepid on De Jesus than it was on Suarez, but unlike his Reds’ counterpart, De Jesus doesn’t have a clear path to playing time, even if his fantasy upside does seem higher on an at bat by at bat basis. He could push his way into the left field job if Skip Schumaker and Brennan Boesch don’t seize the position, but it is more likely that De Jesus is used as an all-around utility guy. He has shown a little pop thus far, and in NL-only isn’t a bad play even if he isn’t starting.

I bid one on Suarez and zero on De Jesus. We have reached the portion of the program where I have the most FAAB in Tout Wars NL and unless someone particularly great sneaks into the free agent pool, I am going to hold my money and wait for a big AL import. Yes, this isn’t always the greatest strategy, but my offense is deep enough that I don’t want to lose production or playing time to stream someone who isn’t guaranteed to produce for me now. If no one big comes over from the AL at the deadline, it won’t hurt my team significantly, but if someone significant does get traded to the NL, it could make all the difference for my team.

Tyler Lyons $8 ($11). Other bids: $7, $6, $5. Player reserved: Vance Worley
Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN keeps pushing hard for back-of-the-rotation staring pitching, grabbing Lyons for $8. With the positive news on Lance Lynn, it is probable that Lyons will only get one-start this week in Philadelphia. It’s a good matchup, although the Phillies are only somewhat below average against left-handed pitching.

Cockcroft’s strategy is interesting because he is dominating in ERA/WHIP/strikeouts and needs hitting much more than he needs pitching. He does need wins, though, and I am guessing that the Lyons play is an attempt to try and sneak a cheap win against the Phillies. Cockcroft is also trying to grab additional pitching so he can make a trade for a hitter. As Suarez and De Jesus’s FAAB prices above show, it is a little easier to get lucky and grab a quality starter off of the free agent pool than it is to grab an everyday position player. Cockcroft isn’t the most active trader, but he also isn’t a passive wallflower, and will likely get aggressive in the market in the next few weeks.

Taylor Jungmann $5 ($17). Other bids: $4, $3, $2, $1. Player released: Juan Nicasio
Most of the market was fairly tepid on Jungmann, with the exception of Gene McCaffrey of Wise Guy Baseball, who got aggressive with a $17 bid and nabbed Jungmann for $5. Jungmann wasn’t doing particularly well at Triple-A, but has had two decent starts for Milwaukee and is likely to hold down this slot for a little while. The control wasn’t there in the minors, and Jungmann has moderate reward in NL-only but significant risk. He gets the Rockies in Colorado this week, so if you don’t have the option of stashing Jungmann on your bench right away you might want to hold off.

The five bottom teams were the squads that placed bids on Jungmann. Teams in the second division are more likely to push for riskier players, and Jungmann fits this model perfectly, even in NL-only.

Jeff Francouer $5. Other bids: $4, $1, $0. Player reserved: Hunter Pence
Tout Wars used weekly moves but has a wrinkle where you can activate a player in the middle of the week if he is activated by his major league team. The twist is that you cannot reserve an active major league player if you do this. I had Francouer on my active roster but wanted to insert Kelly Johnson back into my lineup. I could have waited until the end of the week, but decided to dump Francouer. He was one of those frustrating players insofar as he was awful when he was in my lineup and amazing when he was sitting on my bench. He had an OBP of 264 and an SLG of 354 when he was in my lineup and an OBP of 340 and a SLG of 574 when I had him on my reserve list. Johnson will cool off, but is more likely to produce rest-of-season value in NL-only so I wanted to activate him right away. Gardner grabbed Francouer and will hopefully have better luck than I did when he has Frenchy in his lineup.

Allan Webster $4 ($10). Other bids: $3, $3. Player released: Scott Oberg
Webster pitched decently against the Giants in his 2015 debut, and it appears that he will have an opportunity to replace Josh Collmenter in the Snakes rotation at least in the near term. Webster certainly is capable of holding down the spot, but his ceiling isn’t particularly high, and some caution should be exercised if you can’t afford to take the ERA/WHIP hit. He gets the Angels at home this week, which is a fair matchup in NL-only.

Jarrett Parker $1 ($10). Player reserved: Matt Holliday
Kyle Schwarber $1. Player released: Austin Hedges
Matt Reynolds $1. Player reserved: Hunter Strickland
Cory Luebke $1. Player reserved: Daniel Hudson
Kevin Correia $0. Player released: Brad Hand
David Hale $0. Player released: Sean O’Sullivan
Justin DeFratus $0. Player reserved: George Kontos
Mike Baxter $0. Player reserved: Tony Cingrani

The story now is clearly Schwaber, who was called up by the Cubs yesterday and will be up for at least a week and will likely serve as the Cubs’ DH in all five of their interleague games this week. The bat is major-league ready even if the defense isn’t, and if you have a dead spot at catcher and can make daily moves, you should run out and pick him up immediately. No, not after your child’s high school graduation. Now!

Tout AL

Francisco Lindor $38 ($42). Other bids: $37, $19, $13, $11, $10, $1. Player reserved: Lonnie Chisenhall.
In mixed formats Lindor is a low-level option, but even in AL-only it is possible that Lindor will not contribute much in 2015 outside of some stolen bases. Lindor’s power as it currently stands is gap-to-gap at best, and his minor league batting averages don’t seem like they will translate to above .250 or .260. All that leaves you with in Lindor is a shortstop who will steal bases. So why the big bids? Why would Larry Schechter of Winning Fantasy Baseball invest so heavily on a one-trick pony?

First and foremost, in mono league formats a big splash in one category is worth a big investment. It is not certain that Lindor will make that splash, but he might. Secondly, the paucity of decent shortstops in AL-only make it possible that Lindor could be a middle-of-the-pack option even if he is pedestrian out of the gate. Lindor is in the AL what Suarez is in the NL: a player who could start the rest of the way. Lindor has a much higher ceiling than Suarez, which is why the bid is more aggressive.

Vincent Velasquez $24 ($36). Other bids: $23, $22, $21, $16, $8, $7, $4. Player reserved: Blake Snell.
Velasquez gets double duty this week, as he was picked up mixed LABR as well as in AL Tout. You can see the difference between the quality of replacements in mixed and AL-only illustrated by these two sets of radically different bids. Three teams plunked down over $20, but Jeff Erickson of Rotowire was the biggest player, throwing down $36 on Velasquez and getting him for $24. Erickson was in third place entering Monday’s action, and so close to first he could taste it with a spoon. He has some more pressing needs on the hitting side, but like Cockcroft in the NL, Erickson is no stranger to trades and certainly could try to push for an upgrade on the trade front.

Giovanny Urshela $19 ($23). Other bids: $18, $13, $9, $9, $6, $5. Player reserved: Gordon Beckham.
As with Velasquez, you can see the difference mixed versus mono makes in terms of format and the bids. Urshela’s offensive ceiling in the short-term looks like that of the hitter he’s replacing, Lonnie Chisenhall (and this may be generous), but in AL-only this is still a productive starter.

Nolan Reimold $6 ($27). Other bids: $5, $2. Player reserved: Rickie Weeks.
Reimold is an old friend. His calling card is decent power and little else and the risk that he will eventually get hurt or slump and lose playing time. There is an opportunity right now with Travis Snider, Delmon Young, and Jimmy Paredes not performing. Reimold is a solid enough gamble in AL-only, and Vickrey pushes the price down quite a bit for Inside Edge’s Steve Moyer.

Mason Williams $2 ($3). Other bid: $1. Player reserved: Adam Warren.
Given all of the other high-end bids in AL Tout, I really dig Mike Podherzer of Fangraphs’ cheap little play here. He’ll probably get playing time while Ellsbury is out, and if you’re going to play the upside game, why play it for greater than $10 if you can play it for $2.

Brendan Ryan $1 ($3)
Brandon Finnegan $1 ($2)
Joe Blanton $1
Drew Smyly $0

Smyly as a speculative stash is interesting, even if nothing comes of it. After a week on the active roster, you can stick him on your disabled list and it does not count against your four-man reserves.

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