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.
Tout Draft Mixed
Jorge Polanco $63. Other bids: $43, $27, $11.
On the surface, Polanco’s year-to-date numbers appear pedestrian. He is ranked 47th among middle infielders on the PFM, suggesting he is a fringe third MI in a 15-team league like LABR. But Polanco has been on fire of late. His OPS over the past 30 days is first among middle infielders and ninth overall. He has four home runs, 12 runs, 20 RBIs, three steals and a .378 batting average in his last 98 plate appearances. He isn’t going to be this great (duh) but he has more of a ceiling than his overall 2017 stats would suggest. It is easy to look at a hot streak and suggest that the time to buy has passed. While Polanco won’t continue at this blistering pace, he is 24 years old and it is likely that he builds on what he has done in the past month. Polanco is an excellent example of where simply saying “regression” is bad practice. At a minimum, he is a strong spec play in a deeper mixed league like LABR.
Lucas Giolito $49 (TB)
Typically, I skip over players who don’t generate multiple bids. But Giolito was once such a hot commodity in fantasy that is worth discussing why only one team in Tout Mixed Draft bid this week. He was not available in Tout Mixed Auction, where he was drafted in March and held all year on reserve. In LABR, our own Bret Sayre drafted Giolito but cut him in June. No one picked up Giolito this week in LABR, the first week teams were permitted to bid.
So out of 30 teams in two leagues that could have bid on Giolito, only one team did. Giolito still could be a very good pitcher, but fantasy experts care far less about their legacies than they do about the here and now. In that here and now, Giolito is a pitcher whose fastball isn’t what it once was and who currently appears to be more of a project than a certainty. He ranked 31st on Baseball Prospectus’ midseason list of top 50 prospects, but all that experts in a redraft league see is a pitcher who at best was inconsistent at Triple-A. If you are pushing for a title in anything outside of AL-only, you cannot touch Giolito, and nearly every expert seems to agree.
Trevor Williams $47 [@CHC (yesterday), CIN]
Jake Junis $43. Other bid: $9. (TB, @MIN)
This marks the fifth time Junis has appeared in a FAAB Review column in 2017, which tells you a lot about his role in a deeper mixed league. He is a match-up play who isn’t valuable enough to keep around on a six-man reserve list just in case he gets hot and is worth using every week. Junis has been up-and-down this year from outing to outing with very little middle ground. Junis fits the profile of a back-end starter: someone who could be good enough to hold on as a fifth starter for years who is unlikely to develop beyond that. Perhaps this is the week he puts up two solid starts in a row, but given his track record I wouldn’t suggest betting on it.
Chris Stratton $41. Other bid: $4. (STL)
Despite being a former first-round pick, Stratton’s profiles similarly to Junis: a potential back-end starter at best, a future middle reliever at worst. Stratton is the kind of pitcher who has average stuff but can capably throw four pitches for strikes. He has the benefit of an excellent park when he is home, so if you need a streamer this week, you could do worse than Stratton against the Cardinals.
Mark Leiter $29. Other bid: $2. LABR Mixed: $3. (ATL, @MIA)
I wanted to include Leiter in the most recent Baseball Prospectus Annual. Bret voted me down. This led to a heated shouting match in the headquarters of Baseball Prospectus, located at 69 Baseball Way in Nice, Calif. Books were thrown, insults were traded, my selection of Jered Weaver in the 2015 LABR Mixed draft was tossed in my face like so much sand at the beach (it’s an expression!). Finally, management won out and I was not permitted to include Leiter, in the Annual, not even as a lineout1. I was bitter, but I vowed I would write about Mark Leiter someday.
And now that day has come! Here he is, Mark Leiter, included in Week 22 of the FAAB Log, Baseball Prospectus’ most widely read column2. Leiter has been up and down this year, which in part can be attributed to bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen. However, the success he has had with his splitter cannot be ignored. Leiter has thrown the splitter about a third of the time in his past four outings, and has an 18 percent swinging-strike rate on the pitch. This doesn’t make Leiter invincible; he was hit hard by the Padres on Aug. 15. But it does make Leiter an intriguing matchup play in NL-only. Of course, I had little if any of this information at my disposal when Bret and I got into that nasty brouhaha back in November. Bret, I’m sorry, and I’ll try to listen to reason next time. And that nasty welt I left on your arm has completely healed, so I don’t know why you won’t return my calls or answer the door when I unexpectedly pop in at your house!3
Andrew Albers $27 (OAK)
Jake McGee $19. Other bid: $6. LABR Mixed: $1.
For months, Greg Holland was cruising along in the ninth inning for the Rockies. He posted a 1.62 ERA in the first half, struck out 43 batters in 33 1/3 innings, and made the smug little jerks who drafted Holland at the back end of their auctions happy about their choices, both in fantasy baseball and in life. But Holland has cratered since the All-Star break, allowing 15 runs in 13 1/3 innings to go with four home runs, so Colorado yanked Holland from the closer role. While there has been talk of a committee, McGee has picked up the past two saves, so he could be the one to capitalize the rest of the season. After slipping in velocity in 2016, McGee’s fastball is back up to around 95 mph. His whiff rate hasn’t been dominant, but it has improved from a year ago. Hopefully, the ebullient “marry me, Jake McGee” chants and songs that used to emanate from the stands in Tampa when McGee was at his peak find their way to Colorado this September and maybe even in the postseason.
The Tout Wars draft crew pushed hard for starting pitchers this week. Minaya was a little cheaper than McGee. He probably has more job security, but nearly every White Sox beat or blogger I follow on Twitter doesn’t trust Minaya to hold the job the rest of the way.
Mitch Garver $2
JaCoby Jones $2. Other bid: $1.
Both of these purchases were mine. Having a need at multiple offensive positions in an AL-only league in late August isn’t what we experts like to call “good.” Indeed, some might even say it is the opposite of that, which is “bad.” With my Russell Martin replacement and Victor Martinez landing on the DL, I was left with the choice either of carrying zeroes for a week or trying to squeeze as little juice as I can out of what was out there on the free-agent pool. With an offense that is scuffling already, I felt I had no choice but to do the latter. I entered the week two points out of first but could feel the league slipping away, as my offense continued to fall despite having more at bats than any other team in the league. Hopefully Jones steals a few bases and Garver gets enough playing time to hit a lucky home run or three. Yes, I’m grasping at straws. But such is life in AL-only.
I failed to get Carrera and got Adrianza instead. It was that kind of week.
Tout Wars NL
Ben Lively $212 (@MIA)
Over the winter, I opined that Lively’s likely future was in the bullpen or on another team, thanks to the rotation depth of the Phillies. Ha-ha, good one, Mike. Thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness, the Phillies have been forced to rely on Lively again as a starting pitcher. His ERA has been passable, but everything else has been subpar or worse. If you need to rely on Lively, even in an NL-only, you are probably in trouble.
Ross Stripling $102
Stripling has been very good out of the Dodgers bullpen this year, but the $102 bid probably happened because he might get a start against the Padres this weekend due to a doubleheader. It is a good matchup and Stripling has pitched very well of late, but it also is likely that he would be limited to 70-75 pitches if he does get the start. It is a good play if you want strikeouts and don’t care much about anything else.
Tommy La Stella $67
We have been down this road before. On May 8, 2016, La Stella was sporting a robust .362/.440/.660 line in 54 plate appearances. For the rest of the 2016 season, he put up a .228/.316/.287 line in 115 plate appearances. Somewhere in the middle of those 115 plate appearances he refused an assignment to Iowa, went home to New Jersey, and considered retiring. There is a stupid New Jersey joke to be made here but I won’t make because I’m from New Jersey and contrary to popular belief there is plenty to not only like but love about New Jersey. The roadside fruit and vegetable stands! The hundreds of miles of shoreline! The skiing in the northwestern part of the state! There is so much to do and see! You should come visit sometime! I promise I won’t shout at you like I’m doing now!
Hitters like La Stella, who are good enough to make the majors, are good enough to go on hot streaks like the one he did in 2016, and like the one he is currently enjoying. And for all we know he could stay hot and put together a season of 150-200 plate appearances that we randomly look back on in a few years while perusing Baseball Reference and say something like “wow, I forgot that Tommy La Stella had that amazing year in 2017.” But it’s more likely that he slumps.
Mike Aviles $44
When Aviles was a Royal in 2009, I went out on a limb and said that his performance in his rookie season in 2008 was legitimate and that he would go out and have another strong year in 2009. Stupid me. His 2008 was mostly fueled by batting average and BABIP (remember when we used to talk about BABIP? Those were the days). Aviles had a miserable 36 games in 2009 before a right elbow injury and Tommy John surgery ended his season prematurely. Since 2009, Aviles has 2,755 plate appearances with a 76 OPS+. Only five players with at least 2,500 plate appearances have a worse OPS+ in that time frame: Alcides Escobar, Darwin Barney, Adeiny Hechavarria, Clint Barmes, and Emilio Bonifacio. Yet I’ll always root for Aviles to defy the odds and nab another MLB job on some team’s major league bench. He is with the Marlins now, putting up his best numbers since 2010. This is damning with faint praise, but it is more than anyone would have expected from Mike Aviles after surgery knocked him out of commission in 2009.
Yoenis Cespedes $25. Other bid: $0.
Cespedes is out for the year, which is something Brian Walton of Mastersball did not know Sunday, when he placed a modest bet that Cespedes could return. It was worth a shot.
The bargain bin in Tout NL was dominated by Reds starters and Mets hitters, with a former Met catcher thrown in for good measure. You know you’re in NL-only when three-fifths of the Reds rotation is purchased in a week. If you are wondering, Justin Nicolino is the only projected NL starting pitcher in the free-agent pool in Tout NL (if you read this column you are wondering, which makes me wonder about you). Don’t let your babies grow up to be mono league fantasy players.
1 – this never happened
2 – nope
3 – Michael, please