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Welcome to The FAAB Review, the series that looks at the expert bidding in LABR mixed, Tout Wars NL, and Tout Wars AL every week in an effort to try and help you, the Baseball Prospectus reader, with your fantasy baseball bidding needs. Bret Sayre and I participate in LABR mixed while I have a team in Tout Wars NL, so I can provide some insight on the bids and the reasoning behind them. LABR uses a $100 budget with one-dollar minimum bids, while the Tout Wars leagues use a $1,000 budget with zero-dollar minimum bids. I will also be including Bret’s winning bids in Tout Wars mixed auction league where applicable.

LABR and Tout Wars both use a bidding deadline of Sunday at midnight ET.

LABR Mixed

Aledmys Diaz $13. Other bid: $2. Tout Mixed Auction: $94. Tout Mixed Draft: $55.
As often happens, a week after a player was purchased in the only leagues the mixed leagues took a shot. You don’t need me to tell you that Diaz won’t keep up his blistering 406/441/813 pace, but as long as the bat stays hot, Diaz is going to get fairly regular at bats and push beyond starting primarily against lefties. Kolten Wong is off to a slow start, which benefits Diaz’s short-term hopes as well. I prefer the conservative bids in Tout for a player who may struggle for playing time down the line when Jhonny Peralta returns.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia $12. Other bids: $6, $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $58. Tout Mixed Draft: $19.
Darn.
Every winter, I contribute to something called “Picks and Pans” for The Fantasy Baseball Guide, Professional Edition. A number of fantasy experts are asked to “pick” or “pan” players that they like (these are the picks) or dislike (these would be the pans) for the upcoming season. One of the challenges of this exercise is that we are submitting our picks in the dead of winter and trying to focus on a baseball season that is over four months away. Saltalamacchia was one of my “picks” (can I stop using these annoying quotation marks? They don’t add anything useful and seem rather pretentious). Here is what I wrote about him in the Guide.

Over the last two months of the 2015 season, Salty very quietly put up a 286/353/571 slash line over his last 117 plate appearances with seven home runs. He’s going to be a cheap play next year in only leagues and a stealth option in two catcher formats if he lands as a starter somewhere. For all of his real-life shortcomings, power behind the plate always plays in fantasy.

I was despondent when Salty signed with the Tigers to backup James McCann, but with McCann on the shelf with a Grade 2 ankle sprain, Salty will get at least a month of at-bats as a starter. The hitting shoes Salty donned at the end of last season haven’t come off, as Salty has four home runs in 28 plate appearances in 2016 with a sizzling 269/321/808 slash. The 36 percent strikeout rate shows that Salty will get exposed in regular at-bats, but the power is legit. People often move too far in the negative direction on failed prospects, but that’s what Saltalamacchia once was; Baseball Prospectus had him ranked as the 23rd-best prospect in 2006. This was a long time ago, but the power that excited scouts a decade ago never went away. He’s not going to wrest the job away from McCann, but a 10-14 home run season in limited at bats as a backup/partial starter while McCann heals isn’t a pipe dream. That’s great if you can get those numbers from your second catcher.

Mallex Smith $9. Other bid: $2.
I covered Smith’s fantasy potential in a Call-Up article. The super-speedy outfielder is off to a poor start, and while 26 plate appearances isn’t anything you want to hang your hat on, the high whiff rate is a concern for a player who needs plenty of contact to produce fantasy value. Mike Podhorzer of Fangraphs got Smith. He already has Dee Gordon and Jarrod Dyson, so this comes across as overkill. On the other hand, Podhorzer is way down in the second half of the standings in stolen bases, tied for 10th place with a grand total of seven. This pales in comparison to your charismatic and dashing heroes Bret and Mike, who have a grand total of four, despite having Billy Hamilton and Byron Buxton on their roster. Steal-oriented players sometimes start out slowly in cold weather, so if you have any of these players it isn’t worth panicking just yet. Unless you like panicking. In this case, by all means, panic.

Mat Latos $8. Other bids: $3, $1, $1.
Always a solid if not spectacular pitcher, the wheels came off for Latos in 2015, as he posted a 4.53 DRA across three major league stops. The early results in 2016 appear encouraging on the surface, but a significant dip in velocity combined with Latos’ new residence at The Cell don’t make me want to run out and place a hefty bid. The low strikeout and high flyball rates scream fluke, and while two starts in 2016 aren’t enough to cast judgment, combined with the bad results in 2015 they say to stay away for now.

Jhouyls Chacin $7. Tout Mixed Auction: $8. Tout Mixed Draft: $69.
Oh grow up, people reacting to the winning Tout Mixed Draft bid.

Christian Vazquez $5. Other bids: $5, $3. Tout Mixed Auction: $26. Tout Mixed Draft: $27.
Two catcher leagues are funny, and not ha ha Broad City funny. 30 catchers can get every day at-bats in the major leagues and—lo and behold—LABR mixed has 15 teams and 30 catching slots total. The 30th catcher in a 15-team mixed league need not produce nearly as much in the way of stats as the 210th best hitter.

Player

$$$

AB

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Wilin Rosario

$1.00

231

22

6

29

2

0.268

Brandon Guyer

$1.00

332

51

8

28

10

0.265

C.J. Cron

$1.00

378

37

16

51

3

0.262

This table shows the three hitters in 15-team, 5×5 mixed leagues who earned exactly one dollar in 2015, according to the PFM. In a vacuum, you’d rather have Guyer or Cron’s statistics easily. Taking positional differences into account, these three hitters had the same exact value in 5×5 last year.

Bringing this back to Vazquez, while a five-dollar FAAB bid for a defensive-first, framing wizard catcher seems foolhardy, volume behind the dish plays as long as it isn’t attached to a .220 batting average. The Red Sox seem committed to moving Blake Swihart out from behind home plate, so unless Vazquez completely tanks with the bat, he is going to play. This isn’t an exciting bid, but it is acceptable. Baseball HQ has Swihart, but the winning bid belonged to Rudy Gamble of Razzball, who purchased Vazquez to replace Nick Hundley. Ray Murphy of HQ picked up Tony Wolters to replace Swihart. The Wheel in The Sky does indeed keep on turnin’.

Eduardo Nunez $4
Enrique Hernandez $3. Tout Mixed Auction: $77.

Hernandez continues to build on his strong half-of-a-season in 2015 with a strong start to the 2016 campaign. Four of his six starts for the Dodgers have come in left field, and even though Carl Crawford is on the verge of a rehab assignment and is getting paid scads of money, the Dodgers will keep Hernandez’s bat in the lineup as long as he continues to rake. Hernandez now has 12 home runs and a 295/345/484 slash in 384 major league plate appearances. In a worst-case scenario, the Dodgers continue to play him mostly regularly as a super-sub.

Jose Ramirez $3
John Jaso $3
Ross Stripling $2
Adonis Garcia $2
Matt Wisler $1. Tout Mixed Draft: $22
Brandon Maurer $1
Tony Wolters $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $72. Tout Mixed Draft: $0.
J.J. Hardy $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $11.
Preston Tucker $1
Chad Bettis $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $11.

I am primarily an only-league player, so I am always impressed by the quantity of everyday players available in a 15-team mixed free agent pools. These are the kind of players who give 10 or 12-team mixed league players the sads, but Jaso, Garcia, and Hardy are nice luxuries to have sitting around in a free agent pool if you have an injury or if you don’t like one of the 14 hitters on your active roster. The pitching side appears to be a little thinner based on the players purchased, but this is almost always the case in April before any of the big arms are called up to the majors.

The big news in LABR Mixed was Jake Ciely of Roto Experts flipping Trevor Story and Curtis Granderson to Doug Anderson of FNTSY for Patrick Corbin and Randall Grichuk. I like Anderson’s side of the deal a little better. Even though I anticipate Story will slip (and this has already happened, despite a home run last night) the power is legitimate and Coors Field plays for nearly any hitter. On the other hand, Ciely had a lot of hitting and parlaying his big FAAB bid on Story into a pitcher via trade sooner rather than later was the sound play.

Bret and I stood pat. We discussed a couple of pitchers, but no one appealed to us enough to place a bid. We would have been outbid on Latos and Chacin.

In Tout Wars mixed, Bret picked up Hardy and plunked down an aggressive $167 bid on Chase Anderson. He also made a small trade, moving $25 in FAAB for Jesse Winker. Here is Bret on the rationale behind his Tout Wars moves this week:

I won't lie. I can get a little itchy when I'm sitting on FAAB in a mixed league with zero dollar bids. But my bid on Anderson wasn't about that—it was about trying to add a starter I can throw in there sometimes and trying to keep from getting behind the eight-ball in strikeouts. It hasn't been a great start for me in the category, and I'm sitting dead last right now. Of course, it's mid-April, but strikeouts are a category you can't mess with for too long in a mixed. Anderson may have gotten hit around by the Twins a bit tonight, but I still like him to stick in the Brewers rotation for the full season and be a great option when I don't have any great options to fill out my staff for the week. Beyond that, I added Hardy (via free agency) and Winker (via trade) for a combined $36 FAAB. The former gives me a reason to put Chris Owings on my bench and Aaron Hill back to the waiver wire where he deserves to live for now; and the latter gives me an additional stash with both Pablo Sandoval and Andre Ethier on the shelf for a while. Don't be surprised if we see Winker before Memorial Day—he's off to a fast start in Triple-A and the Reds' outfield is a mess.

Tout Wars NL

Jhoulys Chacin $104. Other bids: $32, $21. LABR NL: $2
Darn it. I overbid, pushing $72 more onto the table than I needed to in order to purchase Chacin. My initial instinct was to bid around $50. I don’t feel too bad about this for a number of reasons.

For one, this is the first non-zero-dollar winning bid I have had all season. I don’t necessarily love Chacin, but he is striking batters out, not walking anyone, and keeping the ball in the park. He posted a 3.47 ERA for the Rockies as recently as 2013, and for his career has a 3.22 ERA in 335 2/3 innings outside of Coors Field. Chacin is unlikely to replicate this, but pitching a big chunk of games in the NL East will help his cause in 2016.

Part of the reason my bid was so aggressive is that my pitching has been pounded early. I didn’t buy an ace at the auction, and my most expensive pitcher—Adam Wainwright—has destroyed me thus far. It is far too early to panic, but I like the idea of going with volume early. If Wainwright bounces back, I will have plenty of pitchers to stream on the back end of my staff. If he doesn’t, I am in a position where I do not have to be afraid to cut him.

I had a busy week. In addition to this pick up, I completed two trades, sending Jeurys Familia to Phil Hertz of Baseball HQ for Jay Bruce and flipping Yasmani Grandal to Scott Wilderman of On Roto for James Shields. One of my goals post-auction was to get down to two closers and two catchers early. The Familia trade completes my goal on the pitching side while Grandal leaves me with three catchers. I am rarely this active this early, but I saw opportunity and decided to pull the trigger in both cases. There is a difference between panicking and making strategic moves. In this case, I believe I am doing the latter. Despite my ERA and WHIP being torpedoed by two weeks of bad results, there is still plenty of season left.

Tony Wolters $88. Other bids: $32, $15, $11. LABR NL: $1
Wolters is a middle infielder turned catcher, which somewhat explains his three steals for the Rockies thus far. He isn’t your typical, lumbering backstop, although the speed didn’t appear in his minor league numbers, so who knows if this will carry over. Nick Hundley is on the concussion DL, so he could be back in a week, but the Rockies could also play it safe and leave Hundley on the DL for a longer period of time. Wolters hit very little in the minors, but this is not uncommon with catchers, and particularly with catchers converted from other positions.

Logan Verrett $35. Other bids: $25, $19, $7. LABR NL: $2
Verrett is a nice luxury for the Mets to have: a spot starter who has proven more than capable of stepping in on short notice and giving New York five to six solid capable innings. Jacob deGrom is missing time due to his infant child’s health issue (thankfully, this seems to have resolved favorably for deGrom’s child), so Verrett will get at least one more start today against the Phillies. This is a nice matchup, so Verrett should be started in NL formats this week and is worth considering for deep mixed. The challenge with owning Verrett is that the Mets are stacked, and he would need a long-term injury in front of him to generate substantial value.

Dan Straily $32. Other bid: $11.
Straily is projected for a two-start week. He started last night against the Rockies and gets a start later in the week versus the Cubs. Many have ooohed and aaahed over Straily’s potential, but the 27-year-old right-hander has a 4.56 career ERA and isn’t exactly a strikeout machine. I don’t mind him in NL-only, but even in this format there is plenty of risk.

Charlie Morton $32. Other bid: $11.
$32 was apparently the magic number for many Tout NL owners, as this was a losing bid for Chacin and Wolters and the winning bid on Straily and Morton. I had a $47 contingent bid on Morton behind Chacin, so I would have been fine using Morton this week if someone else had gone all in on Chacin. Morton is one of those pitchers who seems like he is worse than he actually is. His NL earnings since 2013 are $9, $8, and $2. This isn’t a guy you want logging significant innings for your staff, but an $8 pitcher in NL-only plays as the seventh or eighth pitcher in your rotation.

Brandon Barnes $31. Other bid: $15.
Charlie Blackmon’s injury could open up some time for Barnes, although thus far Ben Paulsen has manned the outfield while Mark Reynolds’ magical mystery tour throughout the major leagues continues in Colorado. Barnes is an underwhelming option in real life, although in theory he could provide value with the Coors benefit and five to 10 plate appearances per week. Theory took a holiday in 2015, when Barnes did virtually nothing even with the Coors boost. He is fine as a speculative add, but he likely won’t do very much for Colorado or for your fantasy team.

Mac Williamson $22.

Alexi Amarista $22. Other bids: $20, $7. LABR NL: $1.
Yangervis Solarte is on the DL with a hamstring injury, which gives Amarista a short term opportunity to pick up at bats at third base on the good side of a platoon with…

NOPE! I can’t do it! I can’t write another 100-200 words about a player like Amarista, which will basically boil down to “pick him up because it’s NL-only, and a warm body is better than a hole on your roster.” Uh uh! I quit! Looks like it’s time to storm into Sam Miller’s office and…

Um, this is problematic. Baseball Prospectus doesn’t have offices. Or phones, for that matter. The only thing I can do is fire off an email to Sam telling him that I’m tired of writing The FAAB Review and politely ask if it would be possible to write about something more fulfilling than Amarista’s chances of being worth four cents or eight cents this week in NL-only. I could certainly do that, but where’s the personal connection? Where’s the opportunity to gird my loins, build up my nerve, and storm into Sam’s office asking him if I can grab that brass ring and show him some moxie? Where’s the opportunity to get yelled at by Sam, as he chomps down on a cigar, peers angrily at me from behind his typewriter and tells me that in his day you had to go through the School of Hard Knocks to get anywhere in this vale of tears that we call life? Where’s that award he won from Crusty Old Journalism School hanging on the wall, staring down menacingly at me, making me realize that Sam is right, and how can I possibly have the temerity to even share the same oxygen with an iconic baseball writing God like Sam Miller, let alone ask him for more than I am already getting from this wonderful baseball institution that I should feel honored to write 50-word player blurbs for, let alone 3,000-4,000 word incoherent and rambling FAAB Reviews?

We humans used to wonder about what a virtual future would be like: a reality where the line between physical reality and the astral plane would be blurred. But are we not there already? Do we not live in that world, when it is impossible to angrily storm out of a job and quit without typing an email or a Gchat message and hitting send, waiting hours before the response comes, if that response even comes at all? The physical realm as we once knew it is gone, replaced instead by an impersonal void where we can see reality in front of us but where the vast majority of our interactions take place in the cold, impersonal void of the series of tubes that the late Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska (R) claimed made up the Internet. We laughed at Stevens, but was he not correct? Is not most of our life spent within this series of tubes, playing make believe that the interactions we have are “human” and not the product of pointless technology layered upon more pointless technology?

What’s the point? Of anything, really? I should just go back to writing The FAAB Report. It is all I will ever accomplish; this is all I can ever be. And even it isn’t, what’s the difference? Humanity has severed the already tenuous bonds between reality and illusion, thanks to layers upon layers of pointless technology. Good going, science. Thanks for nothing, jerks.

Sigh.

Amarista should be picked up in NL-only, because a warm body is better than a hole on your roster.

I hope you’re happy, universe.

Zach Davies $13.
Mike Foltynewicz $4.
Hector Neris $1
Brett Anderson $1
Ryan Buchter $0

Foltynewicz and Anderson are both stashes. In Tout Wars, you have to keep players like this on your active roster for a week before moving them to your reserve list. Davies had a rough outing in his 2016 major league debut; he does get a favorable matchup this week against the Phillies.

Tout Wars AL

Christian Vazquez $151. Other bids: $95, $82, $57, $27. LABR AL: $13.
The imperative to grab a starting catcher in AL-only is even greater than it is in mixed formats. For this reason, I was surprised that not all of the bids above were to replace a catcher.

Rick Wolf/Glenn Colton $151. Released Erik Kratz.
Lawr Michaels $95. Reserve Rusney Castillo.
Mike Podhorzer $82. Reserve Blake Swihart.
Jason Collette $57. Disable Daniel Nava.
Rob Leibowitz $27. Disable James McCann.

Only one of the five bids on Vazquez was to replace an active major league catcher, and it turned out to be the winning bid. Two of the five bids were not to replace a catcher; they were used to try and replace an outfielder. It is a long season and as mentioned in the mixed section Vazquez does not profile as a particularly strong offensive catcher but it is odd that most of Tout Wars didn’t feel like it had a weak catcher who needed to be replaced. The AL catching core is somewhat weaker offensively than the NL catching core is and some of the backstops at the bottom of the pool are virtually useless in fantasy. Although many are excellent when it comes to the frame, in fantasy baseball you don’t want these guys in the picture.

Oswaldo Arcia $113. Other bids: $51, $32.
With Bryon Buxton hurt/struggling, speculation exists that the Twins could demote Buxton and that Arcia could find himself starting in a corner outfield slot. This is not outside of the realm of possibility, but the issues that the Twins had with Arcia’s defense and lack of athleticism haven’t gone away. Nevertheless, in an AL-only Arcia is a decent short-term gamble just in case Buxton continues to scuffle. The power is legitimate, and even though the batting average would be bad, there is a great deal of home run potential in the bat. I would feel better about Arcia if the Twins didn’t have two players in Joe Mauer and Byung-Ho Park who are locked in at first base/DH.

Eduardo Nunez $22. Other bid: $0.
If Trevor Plouffe lands on the DL, that would open up additional playing time for Nunez in Minnesota. Nunez is more of a utility infielder than a starter, but someone has to benefit and he is the most likely candidate. Other potential beneficiaries include Jorge Polanco, who is likely to get called up from Triple-A and Danny Santana, who could get one more ride as a starter should he appease the BABIP deities. All of these players are of limited value unless they play every day, so unless Nunez gets all of the at bats at third base, he won’t be worth very much. On the other hand, a $22 bid out of 1,000 FAAB units is virtually nothing. It is interesting to note that Colton and Wolf bid a combined $224 on Vazquez ($151), Arcia ($51), and Nunez ($22) in three separate bidding blocks.

Drew Hutchison $12.

Brett Nicholas $12. Other bid: $0. LABR AL: $1.
A converted first baseman, Nicholas will back up Bryan Holaday for the Rangers while Robinson Chirinos recuperates. Kate Morrison and I wrote the blurbs for the Rangers in the 2016 Baseball Prospectus annual yet somehow missed this guy (I blame myself entirely). I feel a little bad, especially since it feels like I wrote profiles or lineouts for about 20 catchers in the Rangers’ section. Nicholas’ power potential is intriguing. I’d like him a little bit more on a weaker team where he could fill in at first base or DH, but the Rangers are kind of stacked on offense. Power or no, it’s going to be difficult for Nicholas to generate much value playing one or two times a week.

Ryan Dull $5
Taylor Motter $5
Roberto Perez $3
Mark Lowe $2
David Murphy $2
Junichi Tazawa $0
Austin Romine $0

Long live the stash! Motter won the 2016 Al Lopez Award for most outstanding Rays rookie in spring training. He’s ancient for a prospect, but age has never stopped the Rays from squeezing the most out of a serviceable player. Motter can play anywhere on the diamond but catcher, and even if the power from the minors doesn’t hold, he could be a nice source of a cheap 10-15 steals. Murphy signed a minor league deal with the Twins, and could fit in if the mess in Minnesota’s outfield lingers. The defense will be good enough for a corner outfield slot, and this isn’t exactly the case of a dead cat bounce. Murphy hit .283 last year with 10 home runs in 391 plate appearances. The defense has eroded to the point where Murph isn’t a viable regular for most teams, but for the Twins he may have to do in the short term if Buxton continues to flounder.

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braves95
4/19
Why doesn't this column get indexed as a fantasy article?
bretsayre
4/19
Because we make this column free for all to read.
edwinblume
4/19
Now and then, I read something -- just one article -- that I point to (virtually) and say something like "now, that's why I pay for BP every year". It happens more than once a year, so I always feel justified in spending the money. Where else could I turn to get such riveting and insightful analysis of a seemingly minor pickup such as Amarista? I don't play in an -only league, but if I did I'd go get Amarista even if I didn't need him, just to make my leaguemates jealous. Mike, rest assured your life does have meaning. Hopefully Sam will buy you a beer. Just because.
cswanso6
4/19
Agreed. I do play -only leagues and I love reading about the Amarista types. Thanks Mike!
pobothecat
4/19
It never occurred to me that BP didn't have offices or phones. Wow.