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.
Jose Berrios $54. Other bids: $24, $17, $15, $11, $6, $5, $4. (COL)
Bret Sayre bid aggressively on Berrios, putting down a $24 bid on the Minnesota Twins pitcher. Unfortunately for him, Jake Ciely of Roto Experts was even more aggressive, plunking down $54 out of his remaining $70 in FAAB. In expert leagues, aggressive bids like this happen for two reasons: because a team is almost completely out of the running, or because it needs only one more piece to push the team over the top. Jake’s team comes closer to fitting the latter category. Roto Experts sits in third place, and is somewhat short on wins and strikeouts. Despite a positive outing in his 2017 debut, I remain skeptical that Berrios will provide the oomph Ciely is looking to provide to his rotation. The strikeouts were almost non-existent against Cleveland in Berrios’ 2017 debut while the BABIP of .095 indicates a lot of luck was in play. Yes, it was one game, but I am also reacting to Berrios’ work in 2016. I don’t trust him—at least not yet—and I certainly would not blow more than half of my budget in a 15-team mixed league for him.
Derek Law $7. Other bids: $4, $3, $1. Tout Auction: $67. Tout Draft: $22
Mark Melancon’s DL trip elevates Law into the closer role in San Francisco. This is likely to be a short-term injury for Melancon and, with a sizeable contract, the Giants won’t make a long-term change regardless of what Law does while Melancon is out. Three to four dollars is what I would have bid.
Eddie Butler $6. Other bids: $3, $2, $1. Tout Auction: $188. Tout Draft: $111. (MIL)
Even when he was a Rockie, Butler was a siren for fantasy managers who believed that he was the one who could beat the odds, defy altitude at Coors, and become a good pitcher. Butler has moved on to the Cubs, so now the believers have the Cubs strong infield defense to go along with Butler’s 93-mph fastball. Butler has appeal in NL-only, but in mixed he feels like a stretch. The low strikeout rate at Triple A this year is consistent with the low whiff rates Butler has posted throughout his career. The Cubs defense could make him playable, but this isn’t a bet I would make with any kind of confidence.
Ezequiel Carrera $5. Tout Auction: $14
Carrera has performed well when pressed into starting duty, which has happened far more than the Blue Jays were likely envisioning back in March. This past week, Carrera started almost every day because of injuries to Kendrys Morales and Steven Pearce, and now Pearce is on the 10-day DL, giving Carrera further avenues to playing time. The three home runs in 104 plate appearances is a nice surprise but are not sustainable.
Ben Gamel $5. Other bid: $1. Tout Draft: $53.
Except for Daniel Vogelbach (sorry, most of the BP fantasy team), the hitters the Mariners have summoned from Triple A have been quite good. Gamel has made the most of his opportunity, swinging at far fewer pitches and making the most of the swings he is taking. The Mariners will have a nice problem when Mitch Haniger is healthy, but for now Gamel and Guillermo Heredia get regular playing time. Gamel is an asset in deeper mixed when he is playing.
Chad Kuhl $4. (WAS, PHI)
This was one of Bret’s pickups.
Matt Albers $4. Tout Auction $3.
This was another one of Bret’s pickups. I have no faith in any current, former or deceased member of the Nationals bullpen. Albers was the only Nationals reliever with a save this past week, and he and Koda Glover are the only Nationals relievers who are pitching well at all in 2017. Pick Albers…up…I…guess?
Nick Ahmed $3. Tout Auction: $7.
Ahmed is hitting for much more power this year, albeit in a small sample. His percentage of hard-hit balls is up 10 percent although his batted-ball distance has not increased significantly. Ahmed remains a part-timer despite improved results with the stick. I’d leave him in the free-agent pool in deeper mixed, although he could see more playing time if A.J. Pollock’s groin injury keeps him out beyond the minimum 10 days.
Brad Hand $3. Other bids: $1, $1.
Hand has been solid all season long, and with closer Brandon Maurer and set-up Ryan Buchter both struggling, Hand could be in line for saves in San Diego. If not, he is an excellent source of relief strikeouts and a nice back-end pitcher for 15-team mixed. I like preemptive relief picks like this in deeper leagues.
Tommy Kahnle $3. Other bid: $1.
David Robertson has been fine but could get traded later this year, which would lead to Kahnle getting saves. If he doesn’t, his numbers have been so glittering that it hardly matters. Grab him.
Kyle Freeland $3. Other bid: $2. (@MIN, @CIN)
I was impressed by Freeland’s major-league debut at home against the Dodgers, but since then his numbers have been incredibly pedestrian, despite the low ERA. He has two road starts this week and Freeland had been dominant away from Coors (1.65 ERA) but it is hard to trust such a poor K/BB profile. Feel free to use him this week and for other favorable matchups. Try not to get sucked in.
Tommy Pham $3
Joakim Soria $3
Zack Godley $2. Other bid: $2. [NYM (yesterday), @SD)
Profiled as a one-pitch pitcher with poor command in the past, Godley has added 2-3 miles of velocity to a sinking fastball, leading to significant difficulties for hitters facing Godley. Jeff Zimmerman of Fan Graphs noted that Godley had picked up velocity in spring training, jumping up to 94.8 mph in the preseason. If the improvement is legitimate and if Godley can keep his command from deserting him, this $2 FAAB bid is a steal.
Derek Dietrich $2. Other bid: $1. Tout Auction: $44.
Martin Prado’s injury paves the way to regular playing time for Dietrich. Dietrich is one of those players who gets everyone else gets excited about his potential even though I never quite see it. Don’t get me wrong. Dietrich would be a decent regular for the Marlins, and could hit 15 home runs with an OK batting average in a full season. But I cannot comprehend the degree of excitement people have for a competent-but-not-great baseball player in anything outside of an NL-only format.
Another week in LABR Mixed, another week of multiple catchers being picked up by the LABR experts.
With Asdrubal Cabrera almost definitely headed to the DL, T.J. Rivera will continue to pick up regular at-bats. He is a solid, underrated contributor of a little bit of everything across the board when he is getting at bats.
Tout Wars NL
Eddie Butler $195. Other bids: $84, $32, $2, $2. (MIL)
While Butler may have been a middling pick in LABR mixed, in Tout NL he has the potential to be one of the higher impact picks for the entire season.
Or does he?
In 2016, only three of the top 16 free agents in Tout Wars NL were starting pitchers. This isn’t a one-year trend either; in 2015, only one free-agent starting pitcher earned $10 or more. I understand why Lenny Melnick of Roto Experts plunked down one-fifth of his budget on Butler, but recent history suggests that if you don’t get your pitching at auction in a deep league you are in trouble. The trend toward starting pitchers throwing fewer innings is having an impact not only in real baseball but in the fantasy version as well. Butler is going to have to exceed expectations by quite a bit to be a high-impact free agent, even in an NL-only format.
Matt Szczur $151. Other bids: $81, $63, $47, $18, $14.
Melnick was busy this week, spending almost 35 percent of his budget on Butler and Szczur. With Travis Jankowski hurt and Hunter Renfroe scuffling, Szczur could be a starting outfielder for the rest of the season in San Diego. This is the positive side of Szczur. The downside is a career .243/.295/.374 line over 391 plate appearances and a minor-league stat profile that suggests very little upside except for some stolen bases. Szczur isn’t young, and while the Padres might plug him in as a fill-in outfielder, there is little job security if the young outfield core in San Diego performs.
Zach Godley $84. Other bids: $71, $2, $2. [NYM (yesterday), @SD)
See above. Godley should have been nabbed already in an expert NL-only league. Godley was not even taken in the reserve phase of Tout, so either no one was tuned into the velocity spike in spring training or no one believed it was sustainable.
Jeimer Candelario $63. Other bids: $13, $13. LABR NL: $2.
This was my bid, to replace Conor Gillaspie at third base. I don’t even care that I overpaid. Third base in the National League has been a wasteland, Gillaspie has been terrible, and I am willing to gamble that Candelario sticks in Chicago as a credible backup. The real gamble on Candelario is the hope that he gets traded to a team where he can play full time.
Pat Neshek $19. Other bid: $11.
Neshek is not going to steal any saves from Hector Neris, but he has been one of the few reliable arms in the Phillies bullpen and has leapfrogged Joaquin Benoit as next-in-line behind Neris for saves.
Nava was my other buy this week. The Phillies are playing a series in Texas and, with the DH in play, it increases the chances that Nava gets some starts. I considered reserving Jason Heyward but hope that he will be back this week. The replacements after Nava were suboptimal.
Austin Romine $3. Other bid: $1
Romine was my first choice to replace Russell Martin at catcher. David Adler of Baseball HQ outbid me. Romine’s playing time has predictably dwindled with the return of Gary Sanchez. Romine is worth rostering in AL-only, but then nearly any catcher with a pulse is worth rostering in this format.
Christian Bergman $3 (OAK)
Omar Narvaez $2. Other bid: $1.
Narvaez was my second choice to replace Martin. Geovany Soto’s injury opens the door to more playing time for Narvaez, but thus far in 187 career plate appearances Narvaez is a singles hitter who doesn’t hit many singles.
Yandy Diaz $2. Other bid: $1. Tout AL: $52.
Diaz’s minor-league profile excited a lot of people when Diaz made Cleveland’s roster on Opening Day but thus far Diaz has done next to nothing with his first big-league opportunity. The lack of regular playing time obviously hurts him, but this is an obstacle for many players trying to break into the big leagues without a top-shelf prospect pedigree. Diaz needs an injury for a chance to be viable, and even then, I am not convinced this is a great bet.
Chad Pinder $2. Other bids: $1, $1.
Pinder is on the “wrong” side of a platoon in Oakland, but being behind Jed Lowrie on the depth chart isn’t the worst thing in the world in terms of future playing time. Pinder has hit well in limited duty thus far and if his role is expanded he could be a sneaky source of 10-15 home run power with a handful of steals thrown in.
Cliff Pennington $1. Other bid: $1. Tout AL $21.
Should I have bid on Pinder and/or Pennington to replace Daniel Robertson at middle infield? Maybe. Pennington is a safe playing-time bet, assuming he doesn’t hit an empty sub-.200 while filling in for Yunel Escobar.