Welcome back to The FAAB Review, the weekly series that looks at FAAB bidding in expert leagues to help you, the Baseball Prospectus reader, with your fantasy baseball bidding needs. Every week, I closely scrutinize the expert free-agent bids in LABR Mixed, Tout Wars NL, and LABR AL. As a reminder, LABR uses a $100 budget with $1 minimum bids, while Tout Wars uses a $1,000 budget with $0 minimum bids. LABR and Tout Wars use a bidding deadline of Sunday at midnight ET for all FAAB claims. Any statistics mentioned in this article are through the previous Sunday’s games.
Trevor Rosenthal $11. Other bids: $4, $3, $1. Tout Auction: $99
Entering 2017, Seung Hwan Oh was considered one of the five or six “reliable” closing options in fantasy. His average ADP of 70th put him behind only Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton and Mark Melancon. On Opening Night, Oh blew a save in horrific fashion. It was against the Cubs, so no one thought much of it at the time, but ever since Oh hasn’t quite looked like his dominant self. The results have been solid after a rocky first week (in his past six outings, Oh has allowed one run in six innings with one walk, six strikeouts and five saves), but he also has had moments where he looked vulnerable, something we didn’t see much of with Oh in 2016.
In a different bullpen or on a different team, you might look at Oh and think his job was safe based on the past week. But Rosenthal picked up a save April 19 against the Pirates, has closed for the Cardinals before, and was a dominant reliever before completely losing his command in 2016. Oh is safe if he continues to nail down the saves, but he is not as ironclad as we thought a month ago, thanks to Rosenthal’s re-emergence.
Scott Pianowski of Yahoo! nabbed Rosenthal for $11. He does not have a closer (he drafted Sam Dyson, Sean Doolittle, and Joaquin Benoit) and decided he does not want to play a nine-category game. Pianowski also had Dyson/nabbed Oh in Tout Wars. Jeff Erickson of Rotowire has Oh in LABR but did not bid on Rosenthal. He has three closers but did put a low-end bid on Bud Norris (see below), implying confidence in Oh going forward.
Jordan Montgomery $11. Other bids: $3, $2, $2. (BAL)
I picked up Montgomery this past week in LABR AL. You can read my comments here. Despite so-so results to date, Montgomery looked solid against the White Sox and Pirates this past week. On our most recent podcast, George Bissell made the excellent point that the AL and NL parts of the FAAB Review are good resources for mixed-league players looking for the Next Big Thing. Chances are good that if a pitcher is picked up in one of the mono expert leagues and performs well, he will be nabbed in the mixed leagues in the next week or two.
Taylor Motter $9. Other bids: $4, $3, $3, $3, $3, $2, $1, $1. Tout Draft: $46.
I should save some of my C-minus jokes for the FAAB Review instead of wasting them on Twitter.
Expected to be the last bat off the bench for the Mariners and a potential candidate for demotion in the short term, Motter instead has emerged as an offensive force, mashing five home runs to go along with a .667 SLG. Only Mitch Haniger has been a better hitter for the M’s. Motter has been starting at shortstop in Jean Segura’s absence. Segura is due back this week, but Motter figures to find his way into the lineup almost every day, particularly now that the Mariners have cut ties with Leonys Martin. Lost in Motter’s fast start is his stolen-base potential; he stole 19 bases in 88 games at Triple-A in 2016, and while he won’t steal at that pace in the majors, a 15-steal pace as an everyday player is a reasonable expectation.
Zach Eflin $8 (@LAD)
Bud Norris $6. Other bids: $4, $3, $2. Tout Auction: $73. Tout Draft: $27
Cam Bedrosian went on the DL over the weekend with a groin strain, and Norris picked up the save for the Angels later that day. Norris is the guy to get in Anaheim, particularly since Andrew Bailey and Huston Street are both on the DL. There will be some aversion to Norris, but there’s no reason he can’t pick up a few saves in the next 2-4 weeks while Bedrosian is out. There is often a prejudice against pitchers like Norris who failed as starting pitchers, but in short relief he should be adequate, at a minimum.
Bret Sayre grabbed Norris in the Tout auction league at $73. He has Bedrosian, so being slightly aggressive to get Bedrosian’s replacement was a logical move. Bret enters the week in fourth place in Tout, and thus far has done OK with Bedrosian, Fernando Rodney and Santiago Casilla as save sources.
I regret to inform you that Wade Miley is at it again: intriguing deep-mixed league fantasy managers with a handful of tantalizing starts. Miley is never as bad as his detractors make him out to be, but also never as great as his believers sometimes say he is either. Nothing jumps out in Miley’s early velocity and movement data that suggests he has turned a corner. Miley remains a solid matchup play on the road and against lineups that are weak against left-handed pitching, but don’t read too much into his fast start out of the gate.
Norichika Aoki $5
Aaron Hicks $5. Other bids: $1, $1, $1. Tout Auction: $49. Tout Draft: $13
Remember when the Yankees were contemplating starting Hicks over Aaron Judge? Good times. Hicks is off to a terrific start, and while there isn’t a clear path to playing time, Hicks is hitting enough that the Yankees will try to find at bats for him when they can. This is a tough call for me in deep mixed. I like the idea of trying to stash a player like Hicks on a six-man reserve list, but living with mostly zeroes for a week is not optimal.
Enrique Hernandez $4. Other bid: $1.
Due to the Dodgers well-documented troubles against lefties, Hernandez is picking up a healthy amount of playing time early, particularly in the last week. He was an asset in 2015 and a disaster in 2016; split the difference and he is a useful commodity, although he is going to have to play nearly every day in order to be worth it. With Logan Forsythe and Joc Pederson both on the DL and Chase Utley performing horribly, there is opportunity for Hernandez to start.
Chad Kuhl $4. Other bid: $1. [CHC (yesterday), @MIA]
When you’re in a fantasy league…you’ve got to play it (snaps fingers, puts on sunglasses) ….
(sound of bass being strummed)
Kuhl when your starter gives up 10 in a game.
Kuhl when your best player hurts his groin.
Kuhl when your DFS slate is wiped out by rain.
Kuhl when your prospect’s demoted to Des Moines.
You’ve got to play it…Kuhl
What, were you expecting a Kuhl/cool pun? This isn’t amateur hour.
Kuhl was off to a solid start before facing the Cubs on Monday night, but zero home runs allowed and a 52 percent fly-ball rate meant that something had to give sooner or later. Kuhl is a home start matchup play in deep mixed leagues, although he should be OK to use in Miami later this week.
(a special thanks to my wife for helping me complete the groin rhyme)
Juan Lagares $3
Tim Beckham $3
Beckham was one of Bret’s FAAB buys in LABR. He is getting playing time and could continue to get starts at short even after Matt Duffy returns, but Beckham’s raw numbers are right in line with his career norms. It is fine to pay for the plate appearances in the here and now, but expectations for a long-term everyday player in mixed leagues should be tempered.
Lonnie Chisenhall $3. Other bids: $1, $1, $1.
Some wondered where Chisenhall would play once he returned from the disabled list, but Cleveland demoted Tyler Naquin and Yandy Diaz, and Austin Jackson and Brandon Guyer are barely playing. Chisenhall is getting regular at-bats in Cleveland’s outfield and in deep mixed this is more important than the infrequent big game on offense. Chisenhall is beginning to remind me of Yonder Alonso: a once-highly touted prospect who is settling in as a low-level major leaguer who doesn’t provide much in the way of power or speed for fantasy managers. Chisenhall has never stolen more than six bases in a season and has not had double-digit home runs since 2014. There is a useful player here, but not a particularly useful fantasy player.
Matt Davidson $2. Tout Draft: $17.
I’m glad to see Davidson succeeding in the early going, but (consults handy sabermetric guidebook) a .533 BABIP and a 47 percent strikeout rate are not harbingers of future success. Davidson is on the right team to continue prolonging the magic, as the White Sox do not have any particularly strong candidates to supplant Davidson at DH. He is a nice shot in the dark for power, but don’t be surprised if he is gone within the next couple of months.
Jacob Barnes $2. Tout Auction: $48
Barnes could be closing for the Brewers in August if Neftali Feliz is traded. Barnes could be closing sooner than that if Feliz falters. Barnes has elite stuff and was overlooked as a prime closer-in-waiting candidate by many this spring (including me) because of an ordinary strikeout rate and a small major-league sample. I heartily endorse this pickup even if Barnes doesn’t get a save in 2017. Elite middle relievers are underrated commodities in mixed leagues, and often better plays than the back-end starting pitchers fantasy managers grab off the wire.
Ty Blach $2. Other bid: $2. Tout Auction: $42. Tout Draft: $56. (LAD, SD)
With Madison Bumgarner going down due to a dirt bike accident, Blach should be in the Giants rotation for the foreseeable future. He knows how to pitch, which is old baseball code for throwing strikes but not having a dominant strikeout pitch. AT&T Park will help somewhat, but even so Blach’s lack of strikeouts makes him a borderline option in deep mixed, and almost always a “no” unless he is pitching at home.
Cody Reed $1 (@STL)
Alex Avila $1. Other bids: $1, $1.
Yonder Alonso $1. Tout Draft: $12
Trevor Plouffe $1. Other bids: $1, $1
John Hicks $1
Whit Merrifield $1
Austin Romine $1. Other bids: $1, $1. Tout Auction: $32
Clayton Richard $1. Tout Draft: $12. (@ARI, @SF)
Tucker Barnhart $1. Other bid: $1
Tyler Chatwood $1 (WAS)
Bret also picked up Reed in LABR. I wouldn’t touch Reed in any format right now. (Bret and I will fight about this on this week’s podcast.)
Over the past two seasons, I have become convinced that two-catcher leagues are horrible and should be abolished. Check your league rules on John Hicks. In LABR he is first-base eligible based on his 2016 major-league games played. In Tout Wars, Hicks is catcher eligible based on minor-league games played in 2016. Hicks has short-term appeal as a catcher-eligible player with Miguel Cabrera on the DL.
I like Alonso and Plouffe at least as much as I like some of the other fringy hitters who went for $2 or more in LABR this week.
Richard has been capable in 2017 but always feels like he is on the verge of putting up that one start that completely wrecks your ratios. I like Chatwood but inserting him into your lineup for a home start against the Nationals is rough.
Bret also picked up Kolten Wong in Tout Wars for $64.
Tout Wars NL
Enrique Hernandez $91. Other bids: $75, $37, $32, $19, $14, $1, $0.
The difference between 15-team mixed and NL-only can be seen in the tepid pair of bids in LABR for Hernandez vs. the eight bids chasing after him in Tout Wars. I bid $14 on a block of players to replace Starling Marte, and lost three of them. There was a lot of hearty laughter in my house this week at the flurry of “options to replace Starling Marte” articles published at various fantasy websites. In mono leagues, your “option” consists of eating an entire block of cheese right out of the package, followed by prolonged sobbing, followed by curling up into the fetal position for hours at a time. I thought about bidding more aggressively on Hernandez and a few of the other players I missed on, but in the end, none of them felt like they would make enough of an impact to justify sinking 10 percent of more of my budget into.
My strategy in Tout the past 2-3 years has been to avoid overspending on marginal hitters and to target a handful of high-impact hitters. This worked well in 2016 with Willson Contreras, but not nearly as well in 2016 with Albert Almora. Still, it is more likely you will get high-impact stats from a stud minor leaguer that you stash than you will from a marginal backup pressed into starting duty.
Scott Van Slyke $37. Other bids: $12, $2, $0.
Unlike Hernandez, Van Slyke has not performed well in his limited role against left-handers. With Joc Pederson’s on the DL, Van Slyke could see more playing time, although Van Slyke hasn’t hit particularly well since 2014, and even in -only leagues his value is likely to be limited to the odd home run.
Matt Cain $37. Other bid: $2. [LAD (yesterday), SD)
Through three starts, Cain has a 3.31 ERA. He also has a 5.29 FIP, a walk rate of nearly 4 ½ per nine and has allowed 1.7 home runs per nine. This won’t end well. Two home starts against the Dodgers and Padres aren’t awful, but even in NL-only, I’m passing on Cain.
Update: Of course, Cain was solid against the Dodgers late last night. I still don't trust him.
Allen Cordoba $27. Other bids: $14, $2, $0, $0. LABR NL: $2.
A 21-year-old Rule 5 pick this winter who had never played above rookie ball, Cordoba was projected to be overmatched against major league competition, but thus far he has held his own, albeit in a very limited sample size. The appeal of Cordoba was supposed to be cheap speed in mono leagues, so of course he has one home run and no steals in 26 plate appearances. I suspect if the Padres do decide to use Cordoba as a starter he will be overmatched, but since the possibility exists he is worth a gamble. This was another one of my $14 bids.
Zach Eflin $23. Other bids: $7, $0. LABR NL: $2. (@LAD)
Eflin was purchased in LABR Mixed, but NL-only is where he belongs for now. Eflin has had two good starts but they were propped up by a .147 BABIP. Eflin’s problem a year ago was a lack of a solid secondary offering to go with a tantalizing fastball that sits around 92-93 mph and tops out in the mid-90s. He is throwing more curves instead of sliders, but on balance it remains a heavy fastball diet. We will see if it works, but there is nothing in the peripheral results that gives me a good feeling about Eflin.
T.J. Rivera $18. Other bids: $14, $0.
Rivera was the third and last $14 player I lost on, to my bitter rival Steve Gardner of USA Today/Sports Weekly. I have little faith in Rivera as anything more than an empty .300-.310 OBP guy, but with several regulars on the Mets ailing, Rivera could play every day for the next week or two. There also is the slim possibility that Rivera takes at least some of the job at third base away from the struggling Jose Reyes. The Mets do not seem eager to promote Amed Rosario, which means that Rivera—and not Reyes—could wind up as the stopgap.
Phil Ervin $14
Chris Taylor $13. Other bid: $0. LABR NL: $1
Patrick Kivlehan $2. LABR NL: $1
A.J. Ellis $1
Ross Stripling $1
Justin Grimm $0. LABR NL: $1.
Neil Ramirez $0
Jered Weaver $0 (@ARI)
Tim Adleman $0 (@MIL)
Enny Romero $0
Chris Heisey $0
Rene Rivera $0
Ervin was my consolation prize for missing out on Hernandez, Rivera and Cordoba. My hopes for him are modest, but I need to replace Marte’s steals and Ervin ran a lot in the minors. I’m obviously not expecting 20-30 steals, but a handful while I look for someone better in my utility slot would suffice.
The NL back-end options are as ugly as they almost always are. I liked Derek Carty of ESPN’s reliever strategy of Grimm and Ramirez instead of grabbing someone like Weaver or Adleman in a bad matchup. Yes, I know Weaver has been OK thus far, but it is impossible to trust him.
As a Travis D’Arnaud owner, I thought about bidding on Rene Rivera instead of Ervin. But carrying Rivera’s lousy offense and hoping I lucked into a home run seemed like a waste of even modest resources.
Blake Parker $5. Other bids: $3, $1, $1.
Parker was viewed by some as the other Angels’ closer alternative to Cam Bedrosian, but given that Parker entered the Blue Jays game in the sixth on Sunday, the smart money should still be on Norris. Parker had a subpar year in 2016 but he quietly was a solid reliever for the Cubs from 2014-2015. He has AL-only utility even if he isn’t getting saves.
Tyler Duffey $3. Other bid: $1. Tout AL: $8.
Duffey was drafted at a buck in AL LABR but had to be dropped due to a roster crunch. With Ryan Pressly struggling, Duffey has emerged as a logical next-in-line should closer Brandon Kintzler struggle. Duffey isn’t nearly as useful as Parker if he isn’t closing, but he is safe enough as a flier to keep on your active roster in AL-only.
Jim Adduci $3. Tout AL: $1.
Remember Jim Adduci? I didn’t, and I wrote about him twice in 2014. Adduci popped up on everyone’s radar in 2013 thanks to a ridiculous 16-home run, 32-steal line in Triple A for the Rangers that came out of nowhere. He made the 2014 Opening Day roster for Texas, but a broken finger put him on the DL in April and Adduci never got back on track. He decided to try his luck in Korea in 2015. He mashed and stole bases in 2015 but wasn’t doing nearly as well in 2016 when a suspension for oxycodone use led to Adduci leaving Korea and sitting out the rest of the season. The Tigers signed Adduci to a minor-league deal this winter, and while he was supposed to be organizational depth, a rash of injuries led to Adduci’s call-up and insertion into Detroit’s lineup. He is 31 years old and it probably won’t work out, but it also is possible he pushes past Tyler Collins and gets regular playing time. At a minimum, it is a fun gamble.
Yolmer Sanchez $2. Other bid: $1.
I drafted Sanchez but dropped him a week into the season because he was 1 for 4, and even for the 14th hitter in an AL-only felt like a weak link. He hasn’t exactly been lighting the world up since then, but with a home run, three runs, and three RBIs in 26 at-bats, he has outperformed his replacement on my team, Daniel Robertson—primarily in batting average. It isn’t a huge deal but I probably would have been better off saving the FAAB dollar on Robertson and standing pat.
It was a much more interesting week in Tout AL, where five players were purchased for $20 or more: Jaff Decker ($75), John Hicks ($66), Brad Peacock ($56), Josh Rutledge ($4) and Jorge Bonifacio ($21).
I bought Latos, Ramirez, and Harris. I’ve missed more than a few starts early and was looking for a little volume to make up for lost ground in strikeouts and, possibly, wins. J.A. Happ and Chris Tillman are both due back next week, so Latos and/or Ramirez likely are to be temporary fill-ins, as opposed to permanent options. I like Harris, and while he has no chance at saves in 2017, he should be good for some garbage wins on a very strong Astros team.