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 – “Have mercy!” – Jesse Katsopolis, Full House
Sharp readers may have noticed that this is Week 16 of the Expert FAAB Review and the last edition was Week 14. This is because Tout Wars ran their FAAB bids for Week 15 on Thursday at midnight, not on Sunday at midnight, as per usual. While the mental picture of me frantically trying to write a FAAB column at 3 a.m. on a Friday morning may seem amusing to you, it most certainly does not to me, so management decided to scrap last week’s FAAB Review and start up fresh this week. If something pertinent happened during Week 15, I will include it below.
Kyle Schwarber $6. Player released: Aaron Barrett
Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting this. Bret and I decided to bid our remaining $6 of FAAB on Schwarber, thinking that there was no way we would possibly get him. Even if Schwarber only plays 60% of the time (which is the way the Cubs seem to be leaning at the moment, with Schwarber sitting for Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester’s starts), he offers plenty of short-term value in any two-catcher league. While the physical and mental toll of catching could take a toll on Schwarber’s bat, it’s also possible that it won’t and that he will rake when he plays.
The more complicated question with Schwarber is what happens when Miguel Montero is deemed healthy and returns to the fold sometime in late August/early September? Left field was bandied about as an option, though I’m skeptical that the Cubs would simply throw Schwarber out there without him getting some defensive reps in the minors. It is possible if Schwarber is hitting well enough that he keeps getting some starts behind the dish anyway, with a smattering of pinch hitting appearances giving him enough playing time in September to make him valuable. If you’re looking for future DH opportunities, the Cubs only have one series remaining in an AL park, against the White Sox on August 14-16.
LABR doesn’t allow $0 bids, so Bret and I are cashed out the rest of the way. With a late trade deadline in LABR, we will be using the trade market to address our needs, which at this point will mostly involve fine-tuning a squad that is currently in first place and doesn’t have any glaring holes. Injuries could change this, of course, but if our team suddenly went through a rash of injuries, $6 in our imaginary pockets wouldn’t have filled all of the holes anyway. This combined with the lack of talent left in the high minors to bid on doesn’t make me feel badly about blowing through all of our FAAB with 11 weeks remaining in the regular season.
Taylor Jungmann $2. Other bids: $2, $1. Player released: Jose Ramirez.
As is often the case when a non-elite pitching prospect gets the call, there is usually a period of trepidation before mixed league owners jump in with a bid or a claim. This is what happened with Jungmann in LABR, but with a hot stretch of starts right out of the gate for Milwaukee, he earned the trust of at least three LABR experts, with the winning bid coming from Jeff Erickson of Rotowire. Over at BP Milwaukee, J.P. Breen provided a nice write-up about Jungmann that offers a similar perspective to mine. Jungmann has been pounding the zone and getting a good amount of groundballs, but J.P. wonders (as I do) if this is sustainable in the long term.
For fantasy purposes, the whiff rate has dropped from the minors to the majors (as it often does), which doesn’t give Jungmann all that much room for error. I could see him surviving in the majors as a back end guy, but even in the rosiest of scenarios, a 3.50 ERA the rest of the way is probably a more realistic ceiling than what he has done to date. One thing to keep in mind is that since his name isn’t Freudmann, you can’t go blaming your mother if this one doesn’t work out.
Odrisamer Despaigne $2. Player released Nick Franklin
Cole Gillespie $2. Player released: None
Zach McAllister $1. Player released: Arodys Vizcaino
Wade Miley $1. Player released: Pedro Strop
Eugenio Suarez $1. Other bid: $1. Player released: Steve Pearce
Chris Tillman $1. Other bid: $1. Player released: Bartolo Colon
Tyler Saladino $1. Player released: None
At this time of year, some of the players who are dropped are more interesting than the ones who are picked up. Some of us (including me) had high hopes for Nick Franklin, but that didn’t exactly work out. Pearce was another player who many thought would carry over his successes from 2014 but, again, not exactly the best play there. I’m mostly surprised by the Vizcaino drop; he was likely picked up as a closer flier in case Jim Johnson gets traded. While I’m not as enthusiastic about the Jim Johnson market as others are, I’m surprised that Vizcaino was dumped so quickly.
Tout Wars NL
Tim Cooney $23 ($37). Other bids: $22, $4, $0. Player reserved: Chris Rusin
Cooney was the only player in Tout Wars NL who cost more than $1 this week, with Todd Zola of Mastersball and Steve Gardner of USA Today getting all hot and heavy with the bidding and Zola coming out on top. Despite his stellar outing against the Mets, it is difficult for me to get too excited about Cooney. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter whose future will come in middle relief if there is even the slightest amount of slippage. That being said, pitchers like Cooney show us how even the “worst” guy in the majors can put together a lights out start against a major league lineup (insert your Mets joke HERE!) and perhaps even put together a string of capable starts before he regresses. The bid is aggressive, but as I have pointed out nearly every week I write this piece, the cupboard is bare in NL-only. The only non-Cooney starters available this week in Tout Wars were Raisel Iglesias, two Rockies and three Phillies.
We are also getting to the point of the season where the teams in the second division need to take some risks. Zola entered the week in last place, while Gardner found himself in eighth. In most redraft leagues, it doesn’t matter how badly you finish, but Tout Wars has a penalty for teams that finish below a 60-point threshold. It is worth it for the teams at the bottom to keep plugging away.
Adam Morgan $1 ($27). Player reserved: Hector Rondon
Raisel Iglesias $1 ($5). Player reserved: Eury Perez
Miguel Rojas $1. Player reserved: Jordy Mercer
Dan Uggla $0. Player released: Darrell Ceciliani
Antonio Bastardo $0. Player reserved: Carlos Frias
Ryan Lavarnway $0. Player reserved: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Jeff Francoeur $0. Player reserved: Peter Bourjos
Zola placed the $27 bid for Morgan; it is clear that he was going all-in on pitching this week. Iglesias is kind of a sneaky play for a dollar; he has a two-start week but more importantly could play a bigger role for the Reds down the stretch if/when Johnny Cueto is traded.
Francouer was my move this week; after a couple of weeks on Gardner’s team, he was thrown back into the pool so I decided to add Frenchy as my 14th hitter. This comes on the heels of a two home run week that Gardner’s team missed. I had Francouer mostly as a reserve when I did have him on my team, and missed a grand slam against Madison Bumgarner during that time. This is the pain and pleasure of an NL-only league, but it is mostly the pain, as in a 12-team mixed league, you do not entertain thoughts of Jeff Francouer unless you have had too much laudanum, which would make you a character in a 19th Century period piece and would mean you didn’t play fantasy baseball in any event.
I made a trio of moves during the abbreviated All-Star week that are worth noting, picking up Jennry Mejia, Austin Hedges, and David Wright. I bid five dollars on Wright thinking that I wouldn’t get him but no one else bid and I got him for $1. You have to carry pickups on your active roster for a full transaction period, but I only had to have Wright on my roster for three days. My assumption is he won’t make it back this year, but at a dollar it was a low-level risk on my part.
Chris Bassit $1 ($7). Player reserved: Chad Qualls
Aaron Judge $1 ($4). Player reserved: Matt Joyce
Jake Smolinski $1 ($3). Player reserved: Ryan Goins
Marc Krauss $0. Player reserved: Alex Gordon.
Drew Pomeranz $0. Player reserved: Conor Gillaspie
Felix Doubront $0. Player reserved: Trevor May
Coco Crisp $0. Player reserved: Steve Pearce
If the National League was quiet, the American League was the eternal nothingness of a black hole. Bassit has gotten the job done thus far for Oakland despite a low whiff rate, and could stick in the rotation if Scott Kazmir is traded. The Judge pickup is interesting. He doesn’t seem in line for a promotion unless there is an injury, but this is the year of talent trumping roles on major-league teams, so don’t be surprised if Judge is up in the Bronx at some point next month. Crisp looks like a longshot to contribute in 2015, but at $0, Mike Podhorzer of Fangraphs has absolutely nothing to lose.