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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: “Oh, we spend our days like bright and shiny new dimes/If we’re ever puzzled by the changing times/There’s a plate of homemade wishes, on the kitchen windowsill.” – Lee Holdridge/Molly-Ann Leikin

LABR Mixed

Enrique Hernandez $4. Player released: None
Jackie Bradley Jr. $4. Other bids: $3, $1. Player released: Tanner Roark.

Before we get started, let’s take a look at the FAAB picture in LABR Mixed.

Table 1: LABR Mixed FAAB: Sunday, August 16, 2015

Team

FAAB Left

Points

Baseball Prospectus

$0

126.0

MLB.com

$8

113.5

Razzball

$27

102.5

FantasyScore

$16

89.0

USA Today Sports

$17

86.0

BSports

$16

85.5

FNTSY

$3

84.0

Baseball HQ

$15

84.0

Rotowire – Erickson

$1

83.5

Fangraphs

$1

74.0

Fangraphs – Sleeper & Bust

$0

67.5

ESPN.com

$26

60.0

Mastersball

$11

57.5

Rotowire – Colton

$25

46.0

RotoExperts

$0

41.0

The LABR experts had $1,500 in FAAB to spend at the beginning of the year. With seven weeks remaining in the season, they now have $166 left to spend, or slightly over $11 per team. As Table 1 shows, this is not linear. Bret and I, Fangraphs Sleeper & Bust, and RotoExperts are completely tapped out, while Jeff Erickson and Fangraphs’ other entry have only $1 left to spend. Meanwhile, three teams had $25 or more to spend coming into Sunday night’s bidding. Nor is there a direct correlation between success year-to-date and aggressive FAAB spending. Bret and I have spent all of our FAAB and are doing quite well, but RotoExperts also spent all of their FAAB and are in the basement. ESPN and Bobby Colton’s Rotowire entries have held onto their FAAB (relatively speaking) and are toward the bottom of the standings, but Razzball has also been judicious with their FAAB and is make a hard charge toward the top of the standings.

What does any of this have to do with Jackie Bradley Jr.?

Not much. Bradley had a ridiculous game on Saturday and could steal some additional time in the outfield if Hanley Ramirez’s injury requires a DL stint and/or if the Red Sox decide to shuffle their defensive alignment so that either Hanley plays first base or Hanley plays third and Pablo Sandoval shifts to first. But even in this best case playing time scenario for Bradley, he is an okay hitter who had a ridiculously great game that isn’t repeatable. The LABR experts know this; no one is bidding Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, or Miguel Sano money to ensure that Bradley is a member of their teams for the last seven weeks.

Should someone have, though?

Putting aside individual team roster composition, it is a worthwhile question. With no $0 bids in LABR, it is worth hanging on to a few dollars of FAAB to protect your team against injuries and/or to stream starting pitchers or “safe relievers” on to your active roster. So while I don’t believe that someone should have spent $20+ on Bradley, I am slightly surprised that someone didn’t bid $10-12. Yes, Bradley could turn back into a pumpkin, but the talent has always been there. To trot out a tired bromide, stranger things have happened.

Raisel Iglesias $3. Other bids: $2, $1. Player released: Mike Montgomery.
Steve Gardner of USA Today Sports was busy this week, purchasing both Bradley and Iglesias. While recent acquisitions John Lamb and Brandon Finnegan have received more attention, Iglesias has a better chance to put up fantasy value the rest of the way in deeper mixed leagues. He’s a solid play if you need whiffs, but pitching in Great American for a team out of the running won’t help the ERA or wins very much. Iglesias has a two-start week on tap, but with the Royals and Diamondbacks on the schedule he isn’t a gimme in deeper mixed.

Martin Perez $2. Player released: None.
Derek Dietrich $2. Player released: None
Keyvius Sampson $1. Player released: None.
Danny Valencia $1. Player released: None.
Edward Mujica $1. Player released: Matt Cain.

Edward Mujica is closing again? It is hard to tell given the Athletics’ seven-game losing streak amidst the detritus of their season, but Mujica does have the A’s only save Post All-Star Break. Presuming that the A’s don’t lose all of their games the rest of the way, this was a savvy pickup by Keith Hernandez of Fantasy Score. One reason I hate paying for saves in mixed leagues is that pitchers like these are typically available for cheap on the waiver wire as the season draws to its inexorable conclusion. This doesn’t mean that you should dump saves entirely, but it should give you pause about paying full ticket price in trade for a closer, particularly if you’re not obtaining a frontline guy.

Tout Wars NL

Charlie Morton $27 ($35), Other bids: $26, $14, $13, $2. Player reserved: Joakim Soria.
In last week’s column, I noted that I was surprised that Morton was cut, since he had the Mets coming up at Citi Field and generally speaking Morton was a solid play. At least four owners in NL Tout agreed with me, with Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN putting down the most aggressive bid, plunking down $27 of his $52 remaining FAAB to grab the Pirates hurler. It is a solid buy for Cockcroft that wouldn’t have been a good purhcase for me, so I passed entirely and focused on a different group of pitchers (I will get into this below).

After a relatively slow start, Cockcroft is pushing for his fourth NL Tout Wars title in a row. I have been in first place since July 5, and haven’t been more than two points out of first at the end of a scoring period since May 17. But after a period where my team did nothing but rise, the last two weeks have been rough, and Cockcroft is charging hard as we head toward the homestretch. A 10-point lead from three weeks ago has shrunk to a mere five points, and it’s pretty likely that the race goes down to the last week of the season.

Here is how the league shakes out in terms of our relative strengths and weaknesses.

Table 2: Gianella versus Cockcroft: Tale of the Tape

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

SO

Total

Gianella

10.0

12.0

12.0

7.5

10.0

6.0

7.0

7.0

9.0

9.0

89.5

Cockcroft

6.0

10.0

10.0

4.0

3.0

7.5

11.0

11.0

12.0

10.0

84.0

If you really are interested in a detailed breakdown of our respective chances, head to the Tout Wars NL standings page and dive right in! I didn’t bring this up to go into a categorical blow-by-blow of our respective chances or, even worse, to offer a lame humblebrag, but rather to dive into a strong expert manager’s thought process and why he bid so heavily on Morton.

Cockcroft is in a strong position in ERA and WHIP. Morton is certainly volatile, but with Max Scherzer and Johnny Cueto fronting his staff, Cockcroft can afford to take some chances in his effort to chase wins. Besides this strong front two, the rest of Cockcroft’s rotation is Anthony DeSclafani, Jimmy Nelson, Robbie Ray, Matt Wisler, and Morton. Wins are random, but if there is a chink in Cockcroft’s proverbial pitching armor, it is that DeSclafani, Nelson, Ray, and Wisler all are on non-elite teams that don’t offer great opportunities for wins. Morton is arguably weaker than the rest of those pitchers, but since he pitches for the Pirates he theoretically has better opportunities for wins than Cockcroft’s non-elite pitchers.

I considered Morton, but with fewer points in ERA and WHIP I have less margin for error than Cockcroft does. It would have been moot in any event, as I have less FAAB than Cockcroft did. Aggressive bids make sense at this point in the season, as you can’t carry your FAAB with you into 2016, so Cockcroft went for the pitcher he felt had the best chance to deliver him wins down the stretch. Morton wouldn’t have fit my team well, but he fits Cockcroft’s team—and his strategy—perfectly.

John Lamb $7 ($15). Other bids: $6, $2. Player reserved: Michael Lorenzen.
It is perhaps somewhat surprising that more teams didn’t bid on Lamb or that there weren’t more aggressive bids on Lamb, but with the potential of an innings limit looming, Lamb’s value isn’t as potentially high as Morton’s is the rest of the way. Peter Kreutzer (Rotoman) put the aggressive $15 bid on Lamb. Kreutzer is drawing dead in every non-saves pitching category in Tout, so he will probably try to flip Lamb for some offense in the next two weeks. It is telling that most of the first division teams didn’t bid on Lamb. Morton is an acceptable risk for most contenders. Lamb is not.

Pedro Baez $4 ($7). Other bid: $3. Player reserved: Tanner Roark.
Justin Grimm $4 ($6).
Other bid: $3. Player reserved: Jon Niese.
Continuing with the thought process under the Morton comment…

Grimm and Baez were my first and second choices to add to my pitching staff this week. Besides Morton, the other starting pitchers available via free agency were Adam Conley, Yohan Flande, David Hale, Lamb, and Chris Rusin. Putting aside Rusin’s amazing performance against the Padres on Sunday, these aren’t the kind of pitchers I’m interested in taking a chance on in my effort to push for wins. Instead, I decided to look for arms that fit the following criteria:

1) Relief arms on strong National League teams

2) Relief arms that have been pitching multiple innings of late, or at the very least have been in line for wins

3) Relief arms that will not harm my ERA/WHIP

With this in mind, I missed out on Grimm and Baez but landed Carlos Villanueva and Clayton Richard. There is some risk, but the hope is that I can squeeze a garbage win or two out of the duo without blasting my ERA to smithereens. All four pitchers have pitched well of late, and while none of them are sure things, any non-elite reliever is prone to a bad outing. It’s a shame that two other fantasy experts had the same mindset as I did this week, but with $26 of FAAB left, I should have been more aggressive to push for the pitchers I wanted.

Andres Blanco $2. Other bids: $2, $0. Player reserved: Ehire Adrianza.
If you think pitching is difficult to fill in NL-only, the multiple bids on Blanco paint an even more sobering portrait on the hitting side. Blanco could turn into a strong investment if Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco misses additional playing time, but chances are good that Blanco is merely a bench bat, with marginal value even in mono formats.

Matt Adams $1 ($25). Player reserved: Steve Cishek.
Hernan Perez $1 ($11).
Other bid: $0, $0. Player reserved: Joe Panik.
Jumbo Diaz $1 ($3). Player released: Michael Foltynewicz.
Carlos Villanueva $1 ($3). Player released: LaTroy Hawkins.
Clayton Richard $1 ($3). Player released: Zach Davies.

Adam Conley $1 ($2). Player reserved: Kyle Lohse.
Jose Lobaton $1 ($2).
Other bid: $0. Player released: Martin Maldonado.
Matt McBride $1. Player reserved: Christian Yelich.
Adam Wainwright $1. Player reserved: Arquimedes Caminero.
Yimi Garcia $0. Player reserved: John Axford.
Pedro Ciriaco $0. Player reserved: Howie Kendrick.
Jamie Romak $0. Player reserved: Ryan Vogelsong.
Skip Schumaker $0. Player reserved: Pete Kozma.
Travis Ishikawa $0. Player reserved: Cliff Pennington.
Corey Knebel $0. Player reserved: Daniel Hudson.

On a long list of uninspiring players, Adams and Wainwright leap off of the page. Brian Walton of Mastersball grabbed both players, and while he will have to take a week of zeroes, there is at least a chance that both players do something between now and the end of the regular season.

There were a lot of speculative plays on hitters in the $0-1 bucket. Lobaton is a slick play as he is likely to get a start in Colorado this week. McBride plays for Colorado, and any Rockies hitter is worth rostering in only league formats.

Tout AL
Henry Urrutia $6 ($9).
Other bids: $5, $2. Player released: Garrett Jones.
Urrutia was hitting at Triple-A Norfolk prior to his promotion to Baltimore, but then you’d expect a 28-year-old at Triple-A to be having a solid year. Urrutia is unlikely to live up to the somewhat high expectations people had two years ago when he was in the Futures Game, but with a moderate amount of pop, a great hitters’ park, and a strong lineup surrounding him, Urrutia has solid AL-only value and could hold onto a regular job for the rest of the season if the Orioles don’t make a waiver acquisition this month.

Chris Johnson $6 ($16). Other bids: $5, $4. Player released: Jefry Marte.
Johnson is the kind of player who makes everyone and his sabermetrically-minded aunt groan in real life, but in AL-only fantasy baseball as long as Johnson is getting regular at bats he will have value. The shift from Atlanta’s anemic lineup to Cleveland’s meh lineup helps Johnson out somewhat, as most of his value comes from his potential for runs and RBI, since Johnson is neither a power hitter nor a stolen base threat. It isn’t certain if Johnson gets every day at bats, which does make him a marginal play, and he could go on the DL due to the after effects of a spider bite. No, I am not making this up.

Nick Tropeano $6 ($9). Other bid: $5. Player reserved: Jesse Chavez.
With Matt Shoemaker headed to Triple-A and seemingly out of the rotation for good, Tropeano finally gets an opportunity to show off his stuff for the Angels. His upside is limited, but the floor is high and Tropeano’s arsenal will play up in Anaheim. Despite the Angels’ recent slump, there should be some win opportunities for Tropeano and his fantasy owners. I’d hold off in deep mixed, but in AL-only he is a definite must add.

Franklin Gutierrez $4. Other bids: $3, $2. Player reserved: Grady Sizemore.
Gutierrez had completely fallen off of the fantasy radar entering 2015, but he has not only reemerged but has put on an absurd power show for the Mariners thus far, with seven home runs in 89 plate appearances and an absurd .337 ISO entering Monday’s action. The sample size is incredibly limited – and there is no possible way Guti keeps up this level of production – but if he continues to hit like this, there is a good chance he gets additional opportunities in the outfield against right-handers as well as southpaws. He’s an AL-only play for now, but keep an eye on him in deeper mixed formats.

Josh Tomlin $2 ($3). Other bid: $1. Player reserved: Alex Colome.
After missing three months after surgery to repair his right shoulder’s AC joint, Tomlin made it back to the majors on Saturday with an impressive debut against the Twins. Tomlin’s velocity looked about the same as it did pre-injury, but he was never a big time velocity guy to begin with. Tomlin’s next assignment at Yankee Stadium is much tougher, so he should only be used in AL-only. Tomlin is fringy in deep mixed formats even in favorable matchups, but a $2 FAAB bid in AL-only is fine.

Tyler Duffey $1 ($5). Other bid: $0. Player released: Tyler Wilson.
Steve Clevenger $1 ($2). Player released: Curt Casali.
Felix Doubront $1 ($2). Player released: Steven Geltz.
Fernando Salas $0. Player reserved: Chris Young

Clevinger hit a three-run home run DHing last night for the Orioles, and is worth watching if Matt Wieters has to miss additional time due to injury.

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lvhawk
8/18
Guessing you meant floor is high on Tropeano? Just an FYI. Cheers.
MikeGianella
8/18
Yep. It was late and I was tired.