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 8.
Tyler Chatwood $9. Other bids: $6, $4, $2.
We have been down this road with Tyler Chatwood before. From April 29 through June 27, 2013, Chatwood put together an eight-start streak where he posted a 1.61 ERA in 44 2/3 innings that included four starts at Coors. The “he’s a Rockies starter, avoid him!” is an oversimplification, and in Chatwood’s case we have a pitcher who has succeeded over long stretches in a Rockies’ uniform in the past. The problem with Chatwood is that he’s not a big strikeout guy and is susceptible to luck on balls in play as a result. His first start of two this week against the Diamondbacks last night drove this point home and his second start against the Mets isn’t likely to be any easier. Chatwood is flying under the radar because of Coors and the low strikeout rate, but he does work as a matchup guy in deeper mixed. I’m not sold on him this week for that purpose.
Jonathan Gray $5. Other bids: $4, $1, $1.
Often, a high ERA/FIP differential can mean a severe course correction is coming. However, with a young pitcher like Gray it can indicate someone with good stuff making mistakes in the zone. All of this is speculation; I have only seen snippets of Gray’s outings. He has terrific raw stuff and could become that rare, fantasy baseball unicorn: the Coors pitcher who is an auto-start in every format. Gray isn’t there yet, and four 2016 starts are not enough of a sample size to draw any kind of reasonable conclusions. In 15-team mixed, he is worth starting for the strikeout potential alone, but be aware that his two road starts this year were great and his two home starts were awful. Major League Baseball is unforgiving enough to young pitchers’ mistakes; Coors Field is especially unforgiving.
Alex Presley $4. Tout Mixed Auction: $31. Tout Mixed Draft: $0
Presley is an acceptable play if Domingo Santana’s injury requires a DL trip. Even if Santana doesn’t land on the DL, Presley could supplant one of the Brewers’ underwhelming options in centerfield but it is somewhat of a stretch defensively up the middle. Looking a little bit down the road, a Ryan Braun trade is the most likely scenario to open up time for Presley. He is a back end option in 15-team mixed if he is starting, and I’m not certain the at bats are guaranteed. The three home runs so far are nice.
AUDIENCE: HOW BAD IS IT?
Me: It’s so bad that through 32 games it has a 6.59 ERA and a 6.16 FIP.
AUDIENCE: BOOOOOO! YOU STINK, GIANELLA! GO BACK TO JERSEY!
Me: The joke’s on you! None of this is real. I’m sitting at home by myself writing an article about fantasy baseball bidding. Idiots!
AUDIENCE: Yeah, we’re the idiots in this scenario.
At the beginning of the season, I identified the Phillies as the team most likely to have a useless bullpen for fantasy, with the expectation that no one would crack 20 saves but even if a reliever somehow did that his rate stats would make him unpalatable. I was correct that 2016’s “tanking” environment would lead to this kind of event but wrong about which bullpen would be this bad. You have to go back to 2010 to find a bullpen this awful. The Diamondbacks posted a 5.74 ERA that year. Juan Gutierrez (remember him?) led the team in saves with 15, but had a 5.08 ERA. Chad Qualls was second on the team in saves with 12 and finished with an 8.29 ERA. I always say “saves are saves” but there does come a point where fumbling around for the mere possibility of saves is a net negative. Cingrani appears to be the best option of a weak bunch, but the issue is not merely his performance but the ability of the rest of the bullpen to get to the ninth with a lead intact. A three-dollar stab on both of these pitchers is acceptable, but the negative outcomes cannot be ignored.
Aaron Hill $3.
Bret and I needed a replacement for A-Rod and overbid by two dollars based on the assumption that someone would bid at least two dollars for a guy who hit three home runs in a single game over the weekend. Hill returns to our bench when A-Rod comes back, so this is a low-end gamble that Hill stays hot. With Neil Walker nursing a bruised foot, I like the idea of having some second base-eligible depth on our bench as well.
Tommy La Stella $2. Tout Mixed Auction $21.
La Stella is a nice option for the Cubs to have on their bench, but a ridiculously great hot streak has pressed La Stella into everyday service. His slash of .362/.444/.660 is just a wee bit better than his career line of .266/.340/.367, and while it is unfair to completely write La Stella off because of his 2014 campaign with the Braves, a 10-12 home run ceiling with a .260-.270 batting average seems like a reasonable expectation going forward. This would be acceptable for a starter on a second division team, but on the Cubs he will cede time at some point to Javier Baez or Jorge Soler. La Stella must be owned while he is playing, and the runs/RBI bump as part of that lineup is a nice plus.
Curt Casali $2. Other bid: $1.
All Curt Casali does is hit home runs. With four home runs in 69 plate appearances this year, Casali now has 14 home runs in 266 career plate appearances. He can’t keep this up if he keeps striking out at a 42 percent rate—pitchers will stop throwing Casali anything remotely resembling a strike—but fantasy owners can be somewhat more forgiving of a bad average from catchers than they can from players at other positions, especially in two catcher leagues. If you can afford the AVG hit, you can take the risk on Casali.
Cesar Vargas $2. Tout Mixed Auction $19.
I wrote about Vargas last week in the NL-only portion of the FAAB Review, and now he gets the FAAB Review Mixed League Treatment. The results so far have been great, but I’m not sure how Vargas keeps this up with a walk rate hovering near five batters per nine innings and a 97 percent strand rate. Assuming the rainout last night didn’t change San Diego’s plans later this week, Vargas has a two-start week, with one at the Cubs and one in Milwaukee. The Cubs are an awful matchup for nearly any pitcher, let alone one who walks batters left and right. If you can stream Vargas in deep mixed for just the Milwaukee start, that’s okay. Otherwise, sit him this week.
Pitching dominated the one-dollar buys in LABR mixed, with three starting pitchers and one potential starter in Lyons nabbed via the FAAB process. Bret is probably sad that Perez wound up on someone else’s team, but I suspect Perez will be a free agent at some point again this season and we’ll have an opportunity to morosely discuss Perez via texts.
Speaking of Bret, he made no FAAB moves in Tout Wars Mixed Auction. He also ended the week in first place. Yay Bret.
Tout Wars NL
Alex Presley $129. Other bids: $56, $51, $21.
I profiled Presley above in the LABR Mixed section. He’s obviously a must-add in NL-only formats if he is available, even if the playing time past this week is uncertain.
Ross Stripling $112. Other bids: $31, $17, $5, $1.
Phil Hertz of Baseball HQ cut Stripling after a five-start stretch where Stripling posted a 4.33 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and 22 strikeouts in 27 innings, and Derek Carty of ESPN happily added Stripling with an aggressive $112 bid. Stripling has outperformed my expectations for him based on what I wrote earlier this year in The FAAB Review and he is particularly appealing when facing a non-Rockies, NL West slate. He is home against the Cardinals this week, who are first in the majors in OPS against right-handed pitchers. It’s a tough assignment for Stripling, and a tough play in any format.
Reid Brignac $96.
Reid Brignac has a .219/.265/.309 slash in 938 career plate appearances, good for a .204 TAv. He is 30 years old, and hasn’t had a positive WARP since 2010. He is now the Braves starting third baseman, with Adonis Garcia demoted to Triple-A for the time being. The Atlanta Braves are delivering a serious challenge to the theory that any at bats are good at bats in NL-only.
Tony Wolters $88. Other bids: $13, $3, $0.
If you have a ridiculously good memory or absolutely no life, don’t worry, this isn’t a rerun. Wolters was also purchased for $88 in Tout Wars NL on April 18th. He was cut on May 2nd. Grey Albright of Razzball was the winning bidder in both cases. Nick Hundley hasn’t been able to stay healthy so far this year, and Wolters has been the primary beneficiary, picking up 57 plate appearances thus far. He has done almost nothing with those plate appearances outside of three stolen bases. Dustin Garneau has been a much better hitter throughout his minor league career but the defensive metrics and framing numbers support the idea of Wolters as the more viable starter while Hundley is out. The play with Wolters is to hold your nose and hope that he can produce some value because of the Coors bump.
Junior Guerra $54. Other bids: $3, $1. LABR NL: $3.
Carty double-dipped, grabbing Guerra in both LABR NL and Tout Wars NL. A glance at Guerra’s career line shows a fringy 30-something who will likely be overmatched in the majors, but a deeper dive shows a pitcher who could succeed as a fifth starter on a handful of teams, with the rebuilding Brewers certainly fitting this bill. Guerra can reach the mid-90s with his fastball on a good day (he sits around 93 miles per hour on average) and has a funky split changeup that can be a weapon against lefties. I don’t want to oversell a 31-year-old who has bounced around for years. It’s more likely than not that Guerra fails at the big league level, but as a fantasy flier on a major league team that is going nowhere in 2016, he is worth the speculative grab.
Mike Foltynewicz $37. Other bid: $1
After a rough 2016 debut against the Mets, Folty bounced back with a strong outing versus the Diamondbacks, who aren’t exactly slouches on offense. He credited his strong start to working more off of his off speed pitches as well as an unspecified mechanical adjustment. The raw stuff has always been there for Foltynewicz’s to succeed; as an NL-only play there is plenty of upside in Phil Hertz of Baseball HQ’s $37 bid. Folty gets the Royals in Kansas City this week.
Dansby Swanson $22.
With fellow Brave farmhand Ozzie Albies stashed last week, Steve Gardner of USA Today decided that he couldn’t risk waiting and plunked down $22 on top prospect Swanson. Thus far in 129 plate appearances in the minors, Swanson is mashing. The home run power hasn’t arrived yet, but everything else is mouthwatering, both from a real life and fantasy perspective. Swanson could see some playing time in Atlanta late this season, and the nominal $22 bid is a low end gamble that the Braves bring Swanson up even earlier than that.
Rickie Weeks $21
Mac Williamson $17. Other bid: $11
I bought Williamson on Sunday when it appeared that Angel Pagan—who I own—would land on the DL. Pagan didn’t, and Williamson was unceremoniously sent to the minors. So I get zeroes from the week at one slot on offense, because in Tout Wars you have to keep players active for a week before reserving them. I hate everything. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my trailer.
Chris Herrmann $12. Other bid: $1. LABR NL: $3
Diamondbacks catchers have combined for 11 home runs, 19 runs and 27 RBI this season. Nine teams – the Pirates, Red Sox, Mets, Orioles, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Reds, Braves, and Twins – have combined for five home runs from their catchers. While Welington Castillo has driven most of the production for Arizona, Herrmann has four home runs in a mere 44 plate appearances, or more than 21 major league teams do from their catchers. This obviously won’t last, but as second catchers go in NL-only leagues, you could do far worse. If for some reason you grabbed Herrmann as a one-dollar safety net to Castillo at your NL-only auction, good on you.
The Lorenzen pickup made me wonder if something had radically changed with his timetable, but it still appears that he won’t be ready until June. He was moved to the 60-day DL but not due to additional elbow woes but rather because he contracted mononucleosis. As a result, he lost 20 pounds and had to build up strength before beginning a throwing program, according to Mark Sheldon at MLB.com.
Tout Wars AL
Ivan Nova $102. Other bids: $47, $26, $13.
With CC Sabathia on the DL, Nova slides into the Yankee rotation for a two-start week, against the Royals and White Sox. Nova was fine against the Royals last night (albeit on a limited pitch count) but this doesn’t make me feel any better about the White Sox matchup at the end of the week. Despite mostly recovering his pre-Tommy John surgery velocity, the strikeouts have not returned for Nova. There are some encouraging indicators in Nova’s swinging strike rates, but given that Nova’s one strong season was way back in 2013, I’m inclined to let someone else take the risk on him at anything more than a nominal FAAB bid, even in AL-only.
Cheslor Cuthbert $102. Other bid: $16. LABR AL: $14.
Another double-dip, this time by Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf in Tout Wars AL and LABR AL. Mike Podhorzer of Fangraphs was the only other bidder in either league, bidding a far more modest $16. I keep staring at the gaping maw on the Royals depth chart that is second base and think to myself that it is a damn shame that there’s not even a snowball’s chance that Cuthbert has the range for second base. He was mashing in Triple-A before his promotion, but there has almost always been an adjustment period at a new level for Cuthbert, so unless Mike Moustakas’ timetable is pushed back, there may not be much time for Cuthbert to make an impact. This is a great pickup for the short term in an AL-only, but it’s unclear how much value Cuthbert can cobble together in seasonal leagues.
Ronald Torreyes $53
If the Yankees decide to move on from Chase Headley, Torreyes is the logical short-term stop gap to replace him. Torreyes is a decent enough player in real life who has been underestimated throughout his career, but as a fantasy option the lack of significant power or speed would make his value very limited, even in only.
Jorge Polanco $45. LABR AL: $7.
Brian Dozier is day-to-day with a hamstring strain and Polanco has been filling in at second in his stead. He is one of those players whose ceiling is higher than what his minor league statistical profile has shown thus far, and although he’s unlikely to ever be a big time power bat, he could play to a .280 batting average with 20-25 steals as a starter if everything breaks right. At the moment, Polanco is blocked in Minnesota by a number of far less inspiring options, but I don’t make the playing time decisions, I just write about them.
Drew Storen $36
If you thought I’d be Storen my hot takes for the moment he was dropped and picked up later on in Tout Wars, you’d be wrong. Storen has been terrible for the Blue Jays in a set-up role but with Robert Osuna sitting with a minor groin injury, Storen picked up a save last week and is still the likely back-up for Osuna in Toronto. Saves are saves and – unlike with the awful Reds options profiled above – Storen at least has the raw stuff to turn it around and be decent.
Nate Smith $30
Smith is a logical stash in Tout AL given the Angels sudden rash of mound injuries. The stuff is unspectacular but Smith throws four pitches for strikes and could settle in to the decimated Angels’ rotation in a back-end role at some point this year. This is strictly an AL-only play. His best case in mixed is in deeper formats as a home streamer.
Alex Bregman $23.
Another stash, this time by Jeff Erickson of Rotowire. Bregman was tearing it up at Double-A before a hamstring injury put him on the shelf for about two weeks. Bregman may not see the majors this year, but as upside plays go in mono formats, this is a strong one. I’m going to mistype his surname as Bergman at some point this year, aren’t I?
Matt Andriese $16
Bobby Wilson $13. Other bid: $0. LABR AL: $3.
Since the start of the 2014 season, nine players have donned the tools of ignorance for the Rangers. Robinson Chirinos has been a relative success, but Texas just hasn’t seemed to have any kind of luck, either with Chirinos’ health or with finding a sustainable backup. Traded to the Tigers on March 29, Wilson was traded back to the Rangers on May 3 and immediately found himself in a nearly down-the-middle job split with Bryan Holaday. Wilson is a fine defensive backstop but with 10 home runs and a .583 OPS in 626 career plate appearances across parts of eight major league seasons he is the definition of a career backup and minor league journeyman.
Ryan Flaherty $13. Other bid: $0.
J.J. Hardy’s injury opens up regular playing time for Flaherty and gives fantasy owners an opportunity to grab double-digit home run pop with middle infield eligibility in an AL-only. The rub is that the batting average will probably be very bad; Flaherty has a .215 career batting average. Tout Wars is an OBP league, but the .283 OBP doesn’t inspire confidence either. Still, this is a good get by Podhorzer.
Joel Peralta $5. LABR AL $1
Joaquin Benoit and Tony Zych’s injuries make Peralta an intriguing and sneaky closer-in-waiting stash in AL-only. Peralta has pitched very well this season although he still is plagued by the long ball.
Chris Gimenez $2. Other bid: $0
As I noted last week, the catching carousel seems busier this year than usual. The gains from players like Wilson and Gimenez are typically marginal. While I certainly don’t mind the idea of tossing a couple of FAAB bucks at players like these, it almost always amounts to nothing.
More backup catchers. Musgrove has only had 14 outings and 11 starts in Double-A dating back to 2015, but his numbers thus far this year are lights out, even accounting for a ridiculous 97 percent strand rate. The odds have increased significantly from Opening Day that Musgrove will be in the majors this season.