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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 – “Gunter Glieben Glausen Globen” –Def Leppard

Tout Wars NL

Thomas Pham $8. Other bids: $7, $5, $5, $1, $0. Player reserved: Daniel Hudson.
At first glance, Pham looks like an old-for-the-minors player who will be overmatched in the majors as a starter. However, Pham has missed a lot of time over the years due to a variety of injuries and as a result has had an even longer learning curve than toolsy players typically do. Pham has an impressive 327/398/518 slash line going back to 2014 at Triple-A, including 15 home runs and 26 steals. With Randal Grichuk struggling, Peter Bourjos not getting on track, and Jon Jay not playing well even when he has been on the field, Pham has an outside chance of sticking and grabbing a regular gig if the Cardinals don’t trade for an outfielder. This is a nice high-upside/low-cost move by Phil Hertz of Baseball HQ.

Darin Ruf $3 ($11). Other bids: $2, $1, $0. Player reserved: Jason Rogers
With Ben Revere’s name being floated in trade rumors, it is possible that Ruf could get a fair amount of playing time down the stretch for the Phillies. He is a replacement level player in real life (at best), but if he gets regular playing time in fantasy, he could be a $5-10, slow and steady earner in NL-only formats. The bids all came from teams in sixth place and lower, which makes some sense; the more holes you have in your lineup, the more Ruf goes from being an afterthought to a necessity.

I saw Darin Ruf’s name come up in this week’s transactions and my instinct was to go into a long rant about the fact that this is Ruf’s fourth year with the Phillies and I can’t believe that I have to write about him again. However, recently my wife has been leading our family in a series of guided meditations that have given me a whole new perspective and a sense of positivity I did not have before.

Yes, it is rough if you are a Phillies fan right now. But your success wasn’t that long ago. In a cosmic sense, four years without the playoffs is hardly a long time at all. And while the team you have now isn’t that good, perhaps it is best to enjoy what you have rather than complain about the things that you do not. Enjoy Cole Hamels while he is still here, perhaps for what is his last month in Philadelphia. Ben Revere is putting up the best two-month stretch of his life; think of what he brings to the table, rather than the fact that he isn’t going to be a frontline player on a championship team. Take the scenic drive through upper Bucks County and go see Aaron Nola pitch at Lehigh Valley before he is promoted to the Phillies. Cesar Hernandez. My lord, savor the wonder that is Cesar Hernandez before the national media starts noticing him and he becomes a celebrity.

Before you know it, the Phillies will be good again and you will look back and laugh at these hard times. Sometimes things are ahead, and sometimes things are behind. Sometimes things are up, and sometimes they are down. There will be smiles once again in the City of Brotherly Love, and while Darin Ruf won’t be a part of those smiles, he is merely a short-term stop gap while things are remedied in the short-term. As the narrator of my wife’s guided meditations says, put a “smile in your mind”. Did you do that? Is there a “smile in your mind” now, Philadelphia? Good. Good. See? Aren’t those deep breaths and those positive words already making you feel better? Great! I knew that they would! We really made a big breakthrough here today, haven’t we readers?

(please send help)

Hernan Perez $3 ($4). Other bids: $2, $1. Player reserved: Yimi Garcia.
Perez is a good glove middle infielder who isn’t much of a hitter, but the stolen base potential makes him fantasy relevant in NL-only. He has stolen base potential (he stole 20+ bases in the minors in four consecutive seasons), but it has not translated to the majors yet, in part because he has not received much playing time to date. Perez will platoon with Scooter Gennett, but could also get more playing time if Aramis Ramirez is traded at the deadline.

Jordany Valdespin $2 ($7). Other bid: $1. Player reserved: Shelby Miller.
Valdespin is very similar to Ruf in that both were considered non-prospects but put up big counting stats in the minors in 2011 that put them on the fantasy radar for a time. Valdespin seemed either further removed from the majors than Ruf, but a combination of injuries and Marcell Ozuna’s ineffectiveness led to Valdespin’s promotion. Valdespin theoretically could be a good source of power/speed if he plays, but he is slated for the bench at the moment and hasn’t done much this year at Triple-A.

Hertz reserving Miller to avoid Miller’s start in Colorado is the interesting part of this move. It’s tough to sit a mid-tier starter like Miller in an NL-only, but Miller has struggled of late and Coors is a dangerous venue for nearly any pitcher.

Michael Conforto $2 ($15). Other bid: $1. Player reserved: Jonny Gomes.
Sometimes, the fantasy experts have their finger on the pulse more than the prospect experts do. Trevor Story was a new addition to this week’s Stash List, but given the Mets and Rockies’ respective needs and position in the standings, I believe there is a slightly better chance that Conforto gets the call in 2015 than Story. Conforto only has 500+ plate appearances as a professional, but he has hit at every level and is a polished player relative to other minor leaguers. There are two drawbacks, however. First, the Mets have been adamant that a Conforto call-up is not on the radar in 2015. Second, even if he is called up, there is more real life upside than fantasy upside. The bat doesn’t profile as a big power stick right away, and while a .270-.280 batting average in a regular job would be useful, it wouldn’t be a tremendous fantasy asset.

I like Brian Walton of Mastersball’s thinking, though. He entered the week in ninth place, and isn’t holding the FAAB hammer. He needs pitching more than he needs hitting, but free agent pitchers tend to come out of nowhere more often than free agent hitters. Vickrey allowed Walton to bid aggressively and still have a pretty significant cushion beneath the bid.

Clayton Richard $1 ($16). Played reserved: Aaron Harang
Tom Kahnle $1 ($3). Player reserved: Jaime Garcia
Michael Blazek $1 ($3). Player reserved: Travis Wood
Cole Gillespie $0.
Other bid: $0. Player reserved: Skip Schumaker
Jonathan Herrera $0. Player reserved: Cory Spangenberg
Chris Stewart $0. Player released: Austin Hedges

Walton grabbed Kahnle, who has been mentioned as a possibility for saves if John Axford gets traded. I did the same with Blazek, even though I believe he is a long shot. Gillespie is probably the best pick up here because he looks like a good bet for regular at bats, but Herrera might get a short term look at second if Addison Russell continues to struggle and gets demoted for a spell.

Lenny Melnick of Roto Experts was willing to plunk down $16 for Richard, but got him for a dollar. Richard will be skipped this week, and may not have a slot waiting for him if Tsuyoshi Wada is healthy post-All-Star break. In any event, Richard isn’t a savior—for either the Cubs or your fantasy team. The Cubs move from the moribund Mets and the Stanton-less Marlins to the Cardinals and…oh, they do get the White Sox at the end of the week. Still, if you thought that Richard was the answer in the no. 5 slot for the Cubs.

Tout AL

Grady Sizemore $6 ($10). Other bid: $5. Player reserved: Rusney Castillo.
Chris Liss of Rotowire was in first place in Tout Wars entering the week. That sounds great, but he also has lost Miguel Cabrera, George Springer, and Byron Buxton in short order. So he’s got to go out there and grab whatever everyday replacements he can find. At the moment, Sizemore fits the bill. He looked like toast on the Phillies, but he is doing the dead cat bounce thing with the Rays. In Sizemore’s case, it’s probably going to be less of a bounce and more of an air bubble, but in AL-only you have to take what you can get. He could stick if he produces.

Alex Presley $6 ($12). Other bid: $5. Player released: JR Murphy.
Presley is likely to be a bat off of the bench for the Astros, although he could sneak some regular playing time in for Houston. Jason Collette of Fangraphs plunked down $12 and put Presley ahead of Sizemore in his pecking order of bids. Collette is a close Rays watcher, so there’s a good chance that he doesn’t like what he sees in Sizemore, or he believes that the Rays won’t stick with Grady for very long in a starting role.

Matt Harrison $4 ($9). Other bid $3. Player reserved: Drew Pomeranz.
Harrison is another Liss acquisition. He would be a risky buy for most squads, but Liss is first in ERA and WHIP and is middle of the pack in strikeouts and wins. Liss is in a better position to take on the potential risk of Harrison’s starts—particularly his home starts—than most of the teams in Tout AL would be.

Jefry Marte $2 ($4). Other bid: $1. Player reserved: Jose Pirela.
With the bad news on Cabrera, Marte gets the call to the Tigers. He is most likely to back up first and third base for Detroit, although he could get some starts at first when James McCann needs a day off, since Alex Avila has been shifted to first and is the only catcher on the roster. Marte would be pressed as a corner infield starter, but could pop the odd home run and won’t kill your batting average off of the bench.

Dusty Coleman $1 ($12). Player released: Jake Elmore
Nick Rumbelow $1 ($4). Player reserved: Brad Brach
Dan Straily $1. Player reserved: Matt Boyd
Josh Wilson $1. Player reserved: Brendan Ryan
Pat Neshek $0. Player reserved: Matt Shoemaker
Ramon Flores $0. Player reserved: Efren Navarro
Edward Mujica $0. Player reserved: Adam Warren
Franklin Gutierrez $0. Player reserved: Jose Ramirez

Straily at a dollar is a fairly decent play given the guaranteed start in Cleveland. Mike Podherzer of Fangraphs tabbed Mujica since Adam Warren was out of commission.

LABR Mixed

Miguel Sano $26. Other bids: $20, $20, $19, $18, $5 Player released: Jarred Cosart
So after a couple of weeks of bobbing and weaving, Bret Sayre and I finally landed our big fish, nabbing Sano for $26. This bid puts us in a position where we have spent nearly all of our FAAB, but we are of the belief that Sano is a big enough talent that it does not make a significant difference that we are almost bankrupt, unless we have multiple injuries, in which case having $32 to spend the rest of the season wouldn’t matter much in any event. Sano replaces Scooter Gennett on our active roster. While Gennett is playable in 15-team mixed, Sano is the kind of player who could become a standard mixed league staple if he produces, particularly in the power department.

This wasn’t our first experience with Sano. That came in 2013 at the Futures Game at Citi Field. Bret and I had only been with Baseball Prospectus for a few months, and were the greenhorns attending the big baseball event du jour. There was magic in the air that day, and the sights and sounds of nearby Citi Field only added to that experience. When the random local screamed, “Can I hammer the dent out of your car?” as I rolled off of the highway, I knew it was going to be a special day. When I got to our lower level seats, Bret shook my hand so hard I thought he might rip my arm right out of the socket. I had heard that the dynasty guys like prospects, but Bret looked like a kid at Christmas if Christmas involved a weekend bender with a kilo of cocaine. I tried to talk shop with Bret, but he kept pulling on my arm and excitedly naming the prospect who was batting or fielding. “Sano! Bogaerts! Franco! Yelich!” he kept screaming, pulling on my shirt and nearly tearing off the sleeve.

In the past in these situations, I became withdrawn and simply tried to ride out someone else’s mania. On this day, I decided to turn over a new leaf and go with my new compatriot’s mania. From that point forward, the day was fun. It wasn’t just a Shake Shack, it was a Shake Palace in our eyes. Craft beer wasn’t merely a moniker, but something we imagined an artisan cobbling together by hand in a magical beer workshop somewhere. Everything and everyone around us was a reason to celebrate, and by the time we got the end of the game, our arms were linked like long-lost brothers and we were singing a lively duet of “99 Luftballoons.” I had never felt so alive—not at my own wedding, not at the birth of either one of my children, not ever.

Bret had taught me something that day, and not just that Brets with one “t” in their name can be decent people, too. He taught me how to live. For years, I had been reluctant to be open and gregarious, but now I had to let that go. Bret’s sterling example opened me up on social media, allowing me to let it all hang out on Twitter without worrying about what “people” might think. Everyone who follows me on Twitter owes Bret a debt of gratitude for what he did that day. He didn’t tell me that we’d wind up owning Miguel Sano two years later in a fantasy baseball league that we weren’t even in yet, but looking into Bret’s steely eyes, I just knew that this was a possibility someday. Thank you, Bret, for making Miguel Sano on a fantasy team that we own together a reality. Thank you also, Bret, for granting me my emotional freedom on that day at Citi Field.

You know what, random street vendor? I will get that non-existent dent fixed in my car!

Kevin Gausman $4. Other bids: $3, $3. Player released: Matt Boyd.
There is no questioning Gausman’s raw ability, but the Orioles have been extra cautious with the young hurler and this could tamp down his ceiling in redraft leagues. It has been announced he will stick in the rotation, and Gausman gets the Twins this week in Minnesota. Gausman is likely a streamer in standard mixed, so here in LABR he is a must-add. I like the play at $4 by Fred Zinkie of MLB.com.

Nick Ahmed $3. Player released: Brett Cecil.
Clint Robinson $2. Player releaed: Nick Martinez.
Garrett Jones $1. Player released: None.
Tyler Flowers $1. Player released: None.
Will Smith $1: Player released: Derek Dietrich.
Eddie Rosario $1. Player released: Will Venable.

It was an extremely quiet week in LABR Mixed, with only two players—Sano and Gausman—commanding bids from multiple owners. ‘Tis the season to be searching for offense wherever one can find it. Ahmed has been on a hot streak—and is serviceable as a third middle infielder in a 15-team mixer—but it is unlikely he will keep it up. The rest of these players are ugly options, even in the deeper waters of 15-team mixed. Robinson and Jones are unlikely to get regular playing time for a sustained period, and even if Flowers plays, the AVG is a big drag. Smith is the alternate to Blazek as a Francisco Rodriguez will-get-traded play. I believe Smith is the better short-term bet, but trying to predict who the closer-in-waiting is in a weak bullpen is folly.