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.
All 2016 statistics in this article were as of Sunday, May 1st.
Sean Manaea $18. Other bids: $8, $8, $4, $2, $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $126.
This was our buy. With $95 to spend entering the week, we were in the driver’s seat with FAAB. We didn’t necessarily have a pressing need for Manaea, although as I noted in last week’s FAAB Review (under Steven Wright), if we do have a slight weakness it is on the pitching side, where we are a little short on strikeouts and wins and could use a little more depth.
Bret is more of a Manaea believer for 2016 than I am (we both like him long term), but I’m still surprised that we were the only double-digit bidders on the Athletics pitcher. The logical concern likely revolves around an innings limit with Manaea and the possibility that he gets demoted once Henderson Alvarez is ready to go. However, as we have often seen in these situations, talented players have a way of pressing the issue and staying in the majors if their performance warrants and Manaea certainly has this type of potential.
I didn’t mind overbidding by this much because thus far the LABR experts have been more conservative to date than they were in 2015.
Table 1: LABR Mixed FAAB Spending, 2015 versus 2016
$80 does not sound like much of a difference between this year and last. However, the depth of top talent in the upper minors isn’t nearly as strong as it was last season. I don’t mind sitting on a pile of FAAB in a mono league with a strong team since you have the luxury of waiting for and bidding on a trade deadline import. In mixed formats, there is no Yoenis Cespedes coming over from the “other” league. This year, there will be no one with the talent of a Carlos Correa or Miguel Sano promoted to the majors. I didn’t want to spend the whole FAAB pile on Manaea, but since we are still in second place we had the luxury of being somewhat aggressive with our bid.
Best of all, LABR’s liberal reserve rules won’t leave us singing “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Manaea?” if he doesn’t work out.
Seth Smith $16. Tout Mixed Auction: $15. Tout Mixed Draft: $27.
$16 is a lot to plunk down as the lone bid on Smith, but as noted above there had not been much spending entering the week. Smith is playing nearly every day and swinging a hot bat. Both Tout Wars leagues bid more conservatively on a hitter who is useful while he is hot but generally has played as a replacement level hitter in 15-team mixed leagues. Since 2013, he has earned -$0.17, $4.24, and $0.52 in 15-team mixed, according to the PFM.
Jesse Hahn $16. Other bids: $8, $6, $1.
Hahn was the other pitcher Bret and I discussed, but we decided that we wanted Manaea more and also decided that we did not want or need to add two pitchers this week. Hahn looked terrific against the Astros this past weekend, particularly where his velocity was concerned. Hahn hit 97 miles-per-hour on the gun and was averaging 95, up 2-3 mph from last year. Hahn has always had a fairly strong ceiling in terms of potential but has been limited by his health in the past. In LABR, I like the aggressive bid on said ceiling.
Brandon Drury $13. Other bids: $8, $1. Tout Mixed Draft: $141.
Drury doesn’t have a regular position but the Diamondbacks are finding ways to get his hot bat into the lineup. This is a tough call in mixed leagues. Rolling the dice on high end at bats is more appealing than buying into safe ones, but if Drury slumps at all he could disappear completely. It doesn’t help Drury’s cause that nearly everyone on the Diamondbacks is swinging a hot bat at the moment, with the exceptions of Nick Ahmed and David Peralta. Peralta won’t sit and the Diamondbacks love Ahmed’s defense so much it is unlikely that he sits. I would take this kind of gamble on Drury in mixed if I had multiple holes on offense and/or a struggling squad.
Trevor May $13. Other bid: $1.
With Glen Perkins injured and Kevin Jepsen scuffling I like May as a cheap FAAB play but $13 seems like a lot to spend on a moderate chance at future saves. Todd Zola of Mastersball spent a combined $26 on Drury and May. You can read his rationale for these buys in his FAAB column at Mastersball.
Michael Fulmer $11. Other bids: $8, $1, $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $36. Tout Mixed Draft: $361.
Fulmer doesn’t have nearly the ceiling Manaea does but he looked fine in his debut against the Twins, throwing gas with a 95 mile-per-hour fastball and a hard slider. He did look somewhat more hittable his second time through the lineup and I didn’t see as much movement on his pitches as I would have liked to see, but Fulmer should be a capable major league arm. Fulmer is a nice matchup play in mixed and could particularly see success his first time around the league before hitters adjust.
Check out the crazy disparity between the two Tout Wars leagues’ bids. Eno Sarris of Fangraphs sunk about 36 percent of his budget into Fulmer!
Dioner Navarro $9. Other bids: $3, $2.
The catcher carousel in two-catcher mixed leagues is a burden. In mono formats, you can ignore a hole at the position if there isn’t a starter available via free agency; spending even a buck on a smattering of at bats a week and a potential batting average sinkhole is a waste. In mixed, any every day at bats must be grabbed if you lose a catcher due to injury or ineffectiveness. Navarro is getting a healthy chunk of playing time since Alex Avila went on the DL. He hasn’t done much with the opportunity to date, but as a hitter who has displayed double-digit home run power in the past Navarro’s potential combined with the playing time cannot be ignored.
Joe Smith $7. Other bids: $7, $6, $5, $2. Tout Mixed Auction: $187. Tout Mixed Draft: $160.
Huston Street is on the DL with an oblique injury, so Smith will be the fill-in closer while Street is out. Smith is an extremely uninspiring option in terms of his fantasy stats – particularly his strikeouts – but saves are saves. The Angels don’t have the platonic ideal of a reliever on their major league staff behind Smith in terms of strikeouts or velocity so Smith is safe, as far as relievers go. The bids in Tout were far more aggressive than they were in LABR. This is likely a product of the $1,000 bid cap in Tout and the option of zero dollar minimum bids. The nature of Street’s injury means that this should be a short-term solution, but adding five to seven saves to a team’s season total is likely worth 10 percent of your budget.
Jackie Bradley $6. Other bids: $3, $2, $2, $1.
Jackie Bradley is a good baseball player, and with a .278 TAv since the beginning of 2015 he has established enough of a performance level with his bat that he should stick in Boston’s lineup. However, the fantasy impact may not match the joy that Red Sox fans get from watching Bradley. He’s fine as a back-end, fifth outfielder in mixed but without significant stolen base potential, it’s likely that what you see from Bradley is what you get in fantasy. That’s fine in 15-team mixed but there is little if any upside.
Ricky Nolasco $6. Other bid: $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $22.
Nolasco has gone from “complete disaster” to “passable back-end starter” by taking the Phil Hughes approach of pounding the strike zone. His 0.8 walks-per-nine are the lowest rate of his career and a result of throwing 52 percent of his pitches in the zone, or his highest rate since 2010 with the Florida Marlins. Nolasco remains strictly a matchup play in mixed formats. He gets the White Sox in Chicago this week, which screams no thank you.
Danny Santana $6. Other bids: $2, $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $45.
The BABIP magic that found Santana’s bat in 2014 and then abandoned him in 2015 has returned so far this year in 2016, and Santana was starting in center field for the Twins (why not?) this past week and stole two bases. His shortstop eligibility from last year makes Santana an OK pickup in 15-team mixed, but there isn’t anything in his profile that makes me believe this is sustainable. In other news, Byron Buxton is slashing .214/.267/.357 at Triple-A in 30 plate appearances with two walks and nine strikeouts.
Daniel Hudson $5.
A.J. Griffin $3. Other bid: $3. Tout Mixed Draft: $54.
Griffin is a solid major-league pitcher. But he doesn’t crack 90 on the gun and doesn’t have a particularly strong off-speed offering, so while he can hang in the Rangers rotation, he is very unlikely to replicate his early success going forward. I wrote this before last night’s strong outing against the Blue Jays. I am skeptical of Griffin long term, but he is a must start as long as he is getting results.
Alex Meyer $3. Tout Mixed Draft: $13.
Meyer slides into the Twins rotation this week, and gets his first start today against the Astros. He potentially has great stuff, but his fastball is surprisingly hittable for a pitch that tracks in the mid-to-upper 90s and Meyer has had difficulty in his second and third times against major league lineups. Control has been an issue in the past as well, but in a small minor league sample this year Meyer has shown an improved walk rate. If the command holds, the ceiling on Meyer as a starter is considerable. This is a very good gamble for the low price of three FAAB dollars.
It wasn’t just Navarro. The catcher carousel in LABR was in full swing. Injuries seem like they have been more prevalent at the position in 2016 than they were last year, with the catchers above replacing James McCann, Miguel Montero, Avila, and Travis D’Arnaud.
Kevin Plawecki wasn’t taken by anyone in LABR, but in Tout Wars Mixed Auction this was Bret’s lone move this week; he grabbed the current Mets starter for $73.
Tout Wars NL
Ichiro Suzuki $113
He isn’t playing every day, but Ichiro has played very well in semi-regular duty for the Marlins, and it’s likely that Miami will try to get him in there 2-4 days a week as long as the bat is hot. This is an extremely aggressive bid by Zola, but Todd is kicking butt in the early going in Tout Wars NL while my team is floundering, so I’m not going to waste my time or yours questioning Todd’s methods.
Cesar Vargas $111. Other bids: $14, $2.
Never viewed as a prospect, Vargas spent years toiling in the Yankees system—first as a starter and then as a reliever—prior to signing with San Diego this past winter as a minor league free agent. Over at Minor League Ball, John Sickels had a comprehensive write-up about Vargas last month. Vargas had a solid debut against the Cardinals but it was his strong performance against the Dodgers that made Scott Wilderman of On Roto plunk down a hefty $111 bid. I believe Vargas can survive in an NL rotation, but I would be more enthusiastic if he had a higher strikeout rate and a stronger infield defense behind him. The heavy groundball profile leaves him fairly vulnerable to contact, and the Padres current alignment behind him doesn’t give me a great deal of confidence.
Justin Nicolino $102. Other bid: $26. LABR NL: $9.
Nicolino makes Vargas looks like Noah Syndergaard. Nicolino has a 2.77 K/9 rate in 81 1/3 innings across two seasons in this brief major league career. Yes, the ground ball profile is terrific, but Nicolino offers way too much batted ball variability for my tastes, even in NL-only. He is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, and the differential on Nicolino’s fastball and change is only about six mph. Tread very carefully here.
Hernan Perez $66. Other bid: $0.
Perez is Triple-A depth and his ceiling is likely as a utility infielder who bounces around for 10 years and gets a memorable hit in the 2021 World Series that makes us all shrug collectively in our collective and comfortable old age and go “you can’t predict ball!” He’s also behind Yadiel Rivera and Jonathan Villar on the Brewers’ depth chart at middle infield. He could get some playing time while Scooter Gennett is on the DL and does have some low-end stolen base potential.
Tyler Holt $66.
Perez and Holt were both purchased by Grey Albright of Razzball. They replaced Orlando Arcia and Tony Wolters on Albright’s roster. Albright had Dee Gordon and very little speed to speak of otherwise, so this is clearly an attempt to grab what he can in the category.
Ozzie Albies $65.
There haven’t nearly been as many stashes in Tout NL to date, but Ray Guilfoyle of Fake Teams took the plunge on the 19-year-old Braves phenom. Albies was promoted to Triple-A earlier in the week and it seems far more likely than it did in March that he could make a late appearance in the majors in 2016. Think mostly stolen base potential for fantasy, but the talent certainly could provide for more if the bat continues to develop in Triple-A. I used to hate stashes like this, but with so much of a gap in the bottom half of the National League this year, I do not mind it nearly as much as I would have in prior years.
Emilio Bonifacio $57.
Bonifacio was supposed to be up this past weekend but due to an obscure rule I don’t quite understand and don’t care to figure out the call up was invalidated. He could be up later this week. He would provide speed for the Braves off of their bench and could get a few starts, although he looked cooked last year in his brief stay in the majors. Bonifacio has proven me wrong in the past.
Brett Wallace $42.
Last week I referenced Wallace by his nickname “The Walrus” in a song parody of Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers.” Someone had to ask me who that was. This was a very popular nickname for Wallace at the time when he was a prospect way back in 2009. Our institutional memories are bad and/or everything dies, take your pick. Last week, Dennis Lin of The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Corey Spangenberg and Yangervis Solarte will miss more time than initially anticipated so Wallace should see some time at third base for San Diego, although Adam Rosales and Jemile Weeks are the primary beneficiaries of the Spangenberg/Solarte injuries thus far and Wallace has done little offensively except walk. Writing these sentences has made me feel faint and I need to hire someone to build me a solarium that I can retire to post haste before I have another one of my “spells.”
Adam Morgan $34. Other bid: $26. LABR NL: $4.
This was my buy for the week. It’s only May 3rd, but based on how badly my pitching has gone already in Tout Wars, I’m pretty sure that I’m screwed and it will take a miracle to repeat. Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, and (part of) Taylor Jungmann have destroyed my rate stats and it will take months to climb out of the basement in ERA (by some expletive deleted miracle I’m not last in WHIP). At this point I’m playing the volume game in strikeouts and hoping to get enough wins to be competitive. Morgan is throwing harder than he was at this time last year, and whatever the Phillies are doing with their pitchers seems to be working. Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff are the only reason my staff isn’t complete doo-doo so I figured in for a penny in for a pound. I know from Pythagoras so I figure the Phillies aren’t going to win 92 games and be this good all year, but as long as their staff continues to pitch like this, wins certainly are a possibility, even in low scoring games. If Wainwright or Miller don’t recover to some degree, it won’t matter anyway. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stick my head into a bucket of ice water.
Miguel Rojas $20. Other bid: $0. LABR NL: $1
Rojas could see a little more playing time with the Gordon suspension, but this is a hitter with two home runs and zero steals in 344 major-league plate appearances dating back to 2014. His career slash is .233/.287/.297. He is fantasy irrelevant even if he plays every day.
Andres Blanco $15. Other bid: $0.
Blanco is a bench player for the Phillies, which seems like an indictment given the Phillies are playing with the lineup that they have. Yet somehow Blanco has had a ridiculously good offensive line since 2015 and provides some pop in NL-only as a third middle infielder. Cesar Hernandez has not looked good this year, so Blanco could find his way to at least semi-regular at bats for Philadelphia.
Adleman went for double digits, but you could argue that most of the Tout NL bids were not competitive this week and I have to draw the line somewhere, lest I write 2,500 words on AL and NL-only pickups. Ross is a solid pickup as a catcher who will draw regular at bats and I dig Barraclough as a middle relief play for such little coin.
There was very little Tout Wars and LABR overlap in the NL, so I thought I’d briefly note the players who were taken in LABR this week who were not taken in Tout.
NL-only free agent pools are brutal this year.
Tout Wars AL
Chris Devenski $57. Other bids: $6, $5. LABR AL: $6
This week’s top FAAB play in Tout Wars AL is a fringy, non-prospect pitcher who isn’t supposed to be more than a swingman/spot starter at best. He keeps getting results, and his start against the Athletics this past weekend was competent enough. Devenski’s above average change could be enough to fool hitters the first time around, and while I’d stay far away in mixed, he is an okay gamble in AL-only, and fine to stream in places like Oakland, Seattle, and Anaheim, and by gar it put them on the map.
Matt Dominguez $51
With Chris Colabello out due to a PED suspension, Dominguez could get some at bats at first base alongside Justin Smoak. Dominguez hasn’t been fantasy relevant in some time (if he ever was). He does potentially have some home run pop, and I don’t mind him as a cheap add at a buck or two in $100 FAAB formats.
Tyler Wilson $44.
Wilson fit the fairly typical minor league starter/future major league reliever profile in the minors, and has done little to disprove this in his short time in Baltimore. He has a plus fastball but his off-speed stuff is underwhelming, and while it’s a small sample, a 1.42 ERA as a reliever and a 4.41 ERA as a starter doesn’t support the idea that using Wilson every fifth day in the rotation is sound. His woeful strikeout rate as a starter and a reliever give additional credence to a Quad-A profile. Wilson’s ERA has survived somehow, but in the AL East in that park there are red flags everywhere.
Alex Meyer $41. Other bids: $33, $18, $6. LABR AL: $11
Meyer was profiled above in the LABR Mixed section. The aggressive bid in LABR AL makes sense; I’m very surprised there wasn’t a harder push for him on the Tout side.
Brad Brach $25. Other bids: $25, $6, $0.
Zach Britton sprained his ankle over the weekend. It doesn’t look like a DL stint will be required, but Brach was mentioned as a saves possibility should Britton miss an extended amount of time. Darren O’Day is a more logical choice given the money shelled out to him by Baltimore this offseason, but it is possible that Baltimore is more comfortable with O’Day in the eighth. Brach has been lights out thus far this year and in AL-only is a fine addition, saves or no.
Tim Beckham $12
J.R. Murphy $7
Fernando Salas $6. Other bid: $0. LABR Mixed: $2
Unlike in mixed formats, Smith is long gone in only so the speculation drops down to the next level. Salas has a superior K rate to both Street and Smith, although a 7.7 K/9 is hardly the elite, jaw dropping kind of number that will make your non-fantasy baseball friends say “wow! What a great pickup! Now leave me alone!” when you annoy them about your fantasy team at family gatherings or when they are in the shower.
More catcher and relief speculation in the AL.
As I was writing this, it was announced that J.J. Hardy would be going on the DL with a broken foot and would miss six to eight weeks. I have him in my non-expert, AL-only. These are the middle-infield free agents in the pool in my AL-only at the moment:
If you’re wondering why the Tout AL free agent write-up is even less scintillating than the Tout NL one is, this is why. The backups in AL-only are there for their defense, versatility, and intangibles.
Thank you for reading
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