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 22.
Evan Gattis $16. Other bids: $15, $12, $3.
I was puzzled to see Gattis on the free agent pool this week. In LABR mixed, you can carry six players at the most on reserve (players on the disabled list do not count toward this limit). Doug Anderson of FNTSY dropped Gattis a week ago. Heading into Week 8, this is what Anderson’s bench looks like:
Gattis hasn’t done much year-to-date but if the Astros use him four more times behind the plate, he will pick up catcher eligibility. Anderson is loaded up at corner infield/first base with Jose Abreu, Albert Pujols, and Chris Carter, but Adams could have just as easily been dropped as Gattis. He certainly isn’t a sure thing, but sneaky catcher eligibility is a nice thing to have on reserve. In a broader sense, this has less to do with Anderson and more to do with the conservative trading culture in LABR. We all should do a better job about squeezing value out of minor trades in expert leagues, and I say we because I am as guilty of this minor transgression as the rest of the experts.
Alan Harrison of The Fantasy Fix was the beneficiary of Anderson’s maneuver, bidding $16 on Gattis. Harrison’s team is struggling on offense and he needed to make a big move. Harrison triple dipped on Gattis, Trayce Thompson ($13), and Jorge Soler ($10), sinking 39 percent of his budget on three hitters with a fair amount of upside. Given where Harrison is in the standings and the lack of quality minor league options for future FAAB speculation, I like the push at this juncture of the season. Gattis hit 27 home runs in 604 plate appearances in 2015. This is a pretty solid get.
Trayce Thompson $13. Other bids: $6, $6, $3, $2, $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $67.
Thompson is a guy I’m kicking myself for missing out on in Tout Wars NL. He was a risk, but in deep leagues a risk who slugged .533 in limited at bats in 2015 is a worthy one. Thompson continues to mash and has pushed his way into far more playing time for the Dodgers. He should continue to play even after Andre Ethier returns and as a mixed play I like playing the ceiling on Thompson more than sticking a plodding veteran into my lineup with not nearly as much upside.
Bret and I discussed bidding on both Gattis and Thompson but did not do so. I would not have bid more than five dollars or so on either hitter in any event. Our need on offense is not nearly as pressing as Harrison’s was.
Michael Bourn $11. Other bid: $4.
“I can’t figure out what the Diamondbacks are doing.” This sentence can form the core of any kind of baseball analysis, fantasy or otherwise, and hilarity can often ensue. For the writers on the “real” side, it is easy enough to build a joke construction around the conceit that Michael Bourn is a starting outfielder in the year 2016 and call it a day. It’s not that easy for those of us in the fantasy game. Sure, I have an awesome sense of humor (all those people saying “Mike” to me on Twitter can’t be wrong), but jokes aren’t what put the fannies in the seats for The FAAB Review. No, you’re here for analysis.
Is it possible that Bourn can procure enough at bats in Arizona to be deep mixed relevant? It seems extremely unlikely. He has started twice in the last three games but there are a number of superior options ahead of Bourn on the roster. He hasn’t been relevant as a starter since 2013 and his fantasy relevance is limited to NL-only leagues, where 10-20 empty steals does help at the back end of a roster. All of this being said, this is where I will admit that information gaps can lead to poor decision making. At 33, Bourn isn’t ancient, and perhaps he has worked himself back into playing shape and can hit .270 as a regular and steal 25-30 bases. This is a longshot, but given the paucity of steals on the free agent pool, I can see why a team desperate for speed might take this gamble. For Howard Bender of Fantasy Alarm, it is a play to attempt to push for steals on an otherwise balanced and strong team. He will likely move Danny Santana to short and bench Alexei Ramirez. If Bourn works out, great. If not, Bender has enough strength on his roster that he likely won’t need a big pile of FAAB.
Still, I’m not a big fan of the move.
Jorge Soler $10. Other bids: $5, $5, $3.
Here is a case where bidders had to choose between looking at results year-to-date versus making a FAAB play based on ability and the hope that Soler lives up to his immense talent going forward. Cubs watchers seemed encouraged by Soler’s solid play this weekend against the Giants, and from what I saw he did look a little bit better with the bat than I would have expected based on the numbers. However, three games of anecdotal evidence and my somewhat passive watching of the Giants/Cubs series doesn’t pass for analysis, and a cursory look at the batted ball data makes me believe that Soler’s somewhat more patient approach has led to some more tentative swings and less drive than he has been getting in the past. There is still 20-25 home run potential so as is the case with Thompson I like the gamble, but unlike with Thompson this bid can only be viewed as a speculative play at the moment. Soler was a 13th round pick by Ray Murphy of Baseball HQ, so between this move and Anderson’s this seems to be the time of year when people start bailing on mid-round selections in deeper mixed.
Junior Guerra $5. Other bids: $3, $3, $1. Tout Mixed Auction: $57.
I love Guerra’s matchup this week against the Braves in Atlanta. Bret didn’t like Guerra as much as I did, so the Brewers’ hurler was merely a contingent bid for us at a dollar. The conundrum in a league like LABR is how much should you bid for a favorable matchup, particularly given the lack of zero dollar bids? Guerra has been solid thus far and could maintain as a decent enough back end arm for the Brewers, but there is a cap on his wins ceiling, which makes him a tough weekly play in mixed. He does have a nice mini-stretch coming up in the next two weeks, with a two-start matchup next week home versus St. Louis and at Philadelphia. Even if I had persuaded Bret, I would not have gone past $2-3.
Chris Herrmann $5. Other bids: $2, $1. Tout Mixed Draft: $39.
Chris Herrmann merited nothing more than a blurb in the Baseball Prospectus 2016 Annual. He was mentioned in zero fantasy articles this past spring; he didn’t even sneak his way into an NL-only article. Yet here we are on May 24 and with a mere 77 plate appearances Hermann is tied for seventh in home runs and sixth in RBI among catchers. He even has two stolen bases for good measure. It would be easy to simply write Hermmann off as a small sample size anomaly, but the batted ball data are off-the-charts great, with a hard hit ball rate that has nearly doubled from last year, an exit velocity among the Top 40, and a batted ball distance that is third overall (behind Trevor Story and Brandon Moss). Herrmann seems to be generating greater bat speed and/or getting around earlier on the fastball, and while these results certainly won’t maintain, the dream many had for him a few years ago as a super utility outfielder who can also catch once or twice a week may ultimately be realized. In a league like LABR that carries 30 catchers, Herrmann has to be owned while he is hitting, even though he’ll need a Welington Castillo injury to maintain fantasy value over the long haul.
Danny Duffy $3
This was our buy for the week. We keep streaming pitchers in the hopes of landing some solid arms behind Jake Arrieta; our 2015 plan of having three non-elite starting pitcher picks turn into Arrieta, Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole hasn’t worked out in 2016. Hisashi Iwakuma (4.39 ERA, 1.41 WHIP), Michael Wacha (4.03, 1.46), and Carlos Rodon (4.47, 1.47) haven’t been awful, but if two of these three do not at least moderately improve, we will not win this year, no matter what Arrieta does. I have always been a believer in Duffy as a starter, but am somewhat wary of a rematch against the White Sox this week. This move is less about Duffy and more about trying to find some more solid matchups while our non-Arrieta starters try to get their sea legs.
Tony Wolters $3
Tyler White $2. Other bid: $1.
White looks like he will be yet another cautionary tale when it comes to getting too excited about hot spring trainings and fast starts. White’s slash over the last 30 days is 169/236/323, and while there are some established veterans who have fared worse, White has neither the track record or the contract to survive such a poor showing. Marwin Gonzalez and Luis Valbuena shouldn’t be considered the greatest of obstacles, but the Astros have already pushed White into more of a quasi-part time role. There is nothing wrong with hoping to catch lightning in a bottle here at two dollars, but it is fairly likely that you won’t.
Mark Reynolds seems to be a $1 free agent buy every week, and I am only sort of kidding. Goeddel is likely to push past David Lough into regular outfield at bats for the Phillies, but is still a poor play in a deep mixed. Swihart’s catcher eligibility and status as a starting outfielder gives him some cache in mixed.
Tout Wars AL
Jimmy Paredes $147. Other bids: $87, $5.
The swingman rule in Tout Wars is what made Paredes a buy in Tout Wars as opposed to a hard pass in LABR AL. A team can carry two DHs in Tout Wars AL thanks to the swingman rule, but there are also other opportunities to be flexible. Lawr Michaels of Mastersball used the swingman rule to take advantage of having three first basemen without losing the flexibility to grab Paredes. He appears to be a strict backup, but the start at second base on May 19 is likely what made Michaels plunk down an aggressive $145. Paredes would be a better offensive option at second base for Toronto than either Ryan Goins or Darwin Barney, but the glove is likely to keep Paredes on the bench. In AL-only, four to five starts a week from Paredes would play, but it is not very likely he gets there.
Matt Shoemaker $88. Other bid: $13.
Shoemaker had a solid outing over the weekend against Baltimore, but I still don’t like him in fantasy. He has been less of a consistently bad pitcher and more of a Jekyll and Hyde type, with two solid outings in Oakland and against Baltimore more than counterbalanced by bad ones against the Rangers (twice), White Sox, Mariners, Cardinals, and Dodgers. If you’re looking for a streamer and want to grasp at straws this is as good a rationale as any, I suppose. Shoemaker has faced a tough slate, and an easier stretch of games could boost his value in AL-only. However, he is still a matchup play at home against the bottom half of the league.
Tony Kemp $71. Other bids: $41, $26. LABR AL $11.
Lineup situations change quickly in Houston, but at the moment Kemp appears to be on the strong side of an outfield platoon with Jake Marisnick. For fantasy, you should mostly expect the potential for a fair amount of steals and not much else out of the gate, although in an OBP league like Tout Wars Kemp has the potential to be a positive in this category as well. If you need steals and can afford to stick a platoon player into your lineup, Kemp is a solid play.
Mike Clevinger $56. Other bids: $44, $13. LABR AL: $3.
Clevinger profiles as the kind of back-end starting pitcher option who is “safe” in AL-only but likely isn’t a good idea in mixed unless the matchup is favorable. This speaks more to where Clevinger is now than it does to his ceiling. If his secondary pitches improve, Clevinger could push past his current projection and play up to a mid-tier starter long term. He got a rough two-start assignment this week, He fared poorly against the White Sox yesterday and gets the Orioles at home later in the week.
Josh Rutledge $37. LABR: AL $1
Robbie Grossman $27. Other bids: $23, $6. LABR AL: $3.
Unless there is an injury, mono league pickups tend to gravitate toward players on subpar teams. This makes sense, as these squads tend to flip through their lineup options until they find an acceptable one. This mirrors what we do in fantasy, so the cycle continues into perpetuity, or at least until the season mercifully comes to a conclusion. Numbers types are excited by Grossman’s on-base tool but he has never done enough with the bat to profile as more than a fourth outfielder. He is starting at the moment, and the moderate success on the basepaths makes him viable in AL-only. You are probably looking at a six to eight home run and 10-12 steal full season pace from Grossman.
Hank Conger $21. LABR AL: $1
Colin Moran $21. Other bid: $13
Moran will get a limited window to prove himself at third base while Alex Bregman works his way up the minor league ladder. Surprisingly, Bregman has only played three games at third base at Double-A Corpus Christi, so the timetable may be more conservative than some believe. Moran isn’t exactly a slouch as a prospect himself, but thus far the ability hasn’t translated to much more than solid batting averages without a lot of power in the minors. Moran is going to need to do more than hit seven to nine home runs with a .280 batting average in the bigs if he hopes to hold onto a regular job. He’s off to an 0-for-8 start and—as I mentioned above—this isn’t a particularly sizeable window. He is an obvious add in AL-only. I would wait in mixed.
Tim Lincecum is a back-to-back Cy Young award winner, which is a distinction he shares with Clayton Kershaw, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Jim Palmer, Denny McClain, and Sandy Koufax. He has a 2.40 ERA across 56 1/3 innings in the postseason and three World Series rings to his credit. He has also made somewhere in the neighborhood of 99 million dollars in his major league career. Lincecum has absolutely zero financial incentive to come back to pitch in the majors. He is doing this out of pride, to try and see what he has left, and to leave the game on his own terms and not on anyone else’s. I spend a lot of time in this space talking about how many of these mono league pickups are marginal plays in fantasy or how they’re not even worth it for “our” game, but regardless of how it ends for Lincecum, it is impossible not to admire his drive at this juncture of his career, and the desire he is showing to make it back to the majors.
Tout Wars NL
Michael Bourn $122. Other bids: $83, $69, $57, $27, $21, $14, $9, $5.
I wrote about Bourn in the mixed section above. With nine separate teams bidding, this was one of the most aggressive FAAB battles of the year in Tout NL. As you can see, the bidding broke into two camps: one that was fairly aggressive on the 33-year-old outfielder and another that was fairly timid. I was in the latter camp, bidding a paltry $14. I’m not certain he sticks in a regular role and with Jose Reyes coming back for my team at the end of the month I didn’t feel the need to place a sizeable bid on a strict steals play. Three of the four teams that did place big bids are in the bottom four in the steals category, which offers a solid explanation of the thinking on both end of the bid spectrum.
Keon Broxton $52. Other bids: $22, $11, $8, $2.
I had holes on offense this week but did not bid on Broxton. I am convinced that the people who designed our simulated realty goofed when they added Colorado Springs and did not add enough gravity to Security Service Field (Security Service Field? What the heck does this even me—no, please, don’t tell me. I’m serious. Don’t explain this to me in the comments. I don’t want to know). Broxton put up video game numbers at Triple-A, with seven home runs, 15 steals, and a .301 batting average in 118 plate appearances, but I have as much faith in any of that translating to the majors as I do in the creator of our simulated reality appearing and telling us that this life is nothing but an illusion and that we are the product of a computer program, someone’s dream, or whatever this artificial reality is that we are living in at the moment. I suppose one could argue that since this is a simulated reality that it does not matter how much you bid out of your $1,000 FAAB budget on Keon Broxton. I disagree, and say that while we may be living in a simulation, that our behavior dictates our reality, and in this reality I cannot simply pretend that the artificially inflated statistics of Colorado Springs mean anything more than this construct we call “reality” or “life.” Broxton returns on the bad side of a centerfield platoon with Kirk Nieuwenhuis (an awesome name for the masters of our simulated reality to make up, I must admit) and as such is unlikely to make a significant impact. The contact rates thus far in the majors have been incredibly bad, and Broxton won’t produce anything in the way of value—even in NL-only—if this does not improve.
Matt Cain $44. Other bids: $11, $3
In my other, NL-only expert league (yes, I’m in two NL-only expert leagues! Sorry folks, I’m already married! There will be no #thristbase hashtag here!) I have Cain on reserve and have used him for 22 1/3 of his 52 total innings year-to-date. Even in NL-only Cain is a matchup play, despite the fact that his last three outings have shown some fairly encouraging results (21 innings, 20 hits, four walks, four earned runs, 17 strikeouts, 1.71 ERA, 1.10 WHIP). As is often the case with incremental data, there isn’t much in the Fx to support the idea that Cain has suddenly rediscovered a magical fountain of youth and revitalized his career. The biggest difference in the pitch data is a moderate shift from his curve to his changeup. Cain is worth using in the hopes that this is a legitimate upswing in performance, but the risk that he is more of a backend NL-only starter than someone who has turned a corner is a legitimate one.
Christian Bethancourt $37
Zach Davies $14
Hernan Perez $14. Other bid: $1.
As the defense of my 2015 Tout Wars NL championship continues its unabated march toward detritus, I nevertheless continue to try making pickups in my attempt to avoid complete futility. Davies is a spot starter. I am hoping that his matchup this week against Cincinnati can produce a win and some decent strikeout totals. Even with Scooter Gennett back, Perez is getting some at bats and somehow has produced three home runs and five steals in a mere 54 plate appearances. He won’t keep this up, but he did steal 21 bases in 596 minor-league plate appearances in 2014 so perhaps he will at least keep running. Then again, maybe he won’t. I need Reyes to come back and I need the rest of my hitters to hit. I can keep writing about my FAAB pickups in this space, but unless someone migrates from the American League or an unexpected promotion from the minors occurs, it won’t matter all that much.
Renfroe has kind of been forgotten as a prospect, but he has now produced solid power numbers in over 250 plate appearances in Triple-A. The walk rate is a little too low for my tastes, but the contact rate at Triple-A has actually improved this year, and even with the move to Petco, Renfroe could be a solid .270 hitter with some power. The Padres will likely try to trade Matt Kemp and/or Melvin Upton at the deadline, so it’s possible Renfroe gets the call later this season.
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