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.
Jorge Polanco $8. Other bid: $1. Tout Auction: $100.
I wrote about Polanco this past week in my segment on the Tout Mixed Draft pick-ups. This week, Polanco was selected in both the LABR Mixed and Tout Auction leagues.
Polanco stayed hot, with three home runs, seven runs, eight RBIs and a stolen base in the past seven days. I made a modest case last week for Polanco; perhaps I should not have hedged my bets quite so much. Polanco could easily be a 15-home run, 15-steal player going forward and has more value than quite a few of the bottom-feeder middle infielders in deep mixed leagues.
Lucas Giolito $3. Other bid: $2. (SF)
I also wrote about Giolito this past week. Where my advice on Polanco was timid, my advice on Giolito was bad. In a start against the Rays on Sunday, Giolito pitched a gem, striking out 10 in seven innings and allowing only one run. Yes, his 5.57 DRA and .171 BABIP speak to a significant amount of luck. But Giolito is mixing his pitches effectively and generating swings and misses with his stuff. He might never be the ace many thought he would be but confirmation bias works in both directions and it was too early for his detractors to take a victory lap after Giolito’s first 2017 start.
Robert Stephenson $2. Other bid: $1. Tout Auction: $60. (MIL, @NYM)
Stephenson’s year-to-date numbers are terrible, but in his past six outings he is 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. The WHIP is bad due to a 6.3 walk rate per nine, and while the home-run rate has dropped, Stephenson’s fly-ball rate has not. If you are using Stephenson this week, you are playing for strikeouts and hoping to get lucky with wins. The good times could continue to roll, and a $2 bet in early September on Stephenson is fine, but the risk is substantial.
Rafael Montero $2. Other bid: $2. Tout Auction: $25. Tout Draft: $12. [PHI (yesterday), CIN]
Montero is on a mini-hot streak, with a 2.77 ERA and 3.17 FIP in five outings before yesterday. He is throwing more changeups and fewer fastballs, and the recipe has kept hitters off balance and kept the ball in the yard. It is a five-game sample so we should not read too much into the results, but Montero is a viable play in deeper mixed leagues if he continues to generate swings and misses with his slightly moderated pitch cocktail.
· I played in mono leagues for years before playing in a mixed league. I joined my first mixed league in 2009 but continue to be surprised at the quality of players you can find in a free-agent pool for mixers.
· Maxwell was having a poor season but with two home runs this past week he put himself back in the radar in all two-catcher formats.
· When he signed a $126 million, seven-year deal with the Nationals in 2010, his contract was maligned by many, but Werth has returned more value on his deal than many free agents do in their decline phase.
· If he can maintain his current performance, Cashner would be the first pitcher with a strikeout rate under five per nine and an ERA under 3.50 since Joel Pineiro in 2009 and only the third since 2006 (Joe Saunders, 2008).
Tout Wars NL
Jack Flaherty $176. Other bid: $1. LABR NL: $24. (@SD)
Entering 2017, Flaherty was viewed as more of a future back-end arm than a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. All of his pitches were quality but none of them were considered “out” pitches and some believed he would struggle in his first go-round against advanced competition. Instead, Flaherty thrived, demolishing Double-A bats and doing very well in Triple-A before his promotion last week. The key was improved velocity on Flaherty’s fastball, with a jump from the low-90s to the mid-90s. The ceiling is higher, and while the short-term could go in any direction, Flaherty should at least be on your 2017 radar. The matchup at Petco is great; after that, the Cardinals schedule might give you pause about using Flaherty in anything but NL-only.
Dillon Peters. $102. Other bids: $51, $2, $1, $1. (WAS)
There is a scouting bias against short pitchers like Peters, and as a result he has flown under-the-radar for the past two seasons despite glittering minor-league numbers. He also broke his pitching thumb in April, which kept Peters limited to 56 1/3 minor league inning. He was great against the Phillies on Saturday but will face a tougher test against Washington. I am always wary of pitchers with low minor-league whiff rates, but Peters’ ability to make pitches might make him a good play his first time around the league, particularly against weaker lineups.
Brian Anderson $68. LABR NL: $1.
Like Peters, Anderson is another under-the-radar Marlins’ prospect (although one prominent website had Anderson ranked second in the Marlins system heading into 2017). Lack of prospect pedigree aside, Anderson had a terrific year in the minors, bashing 22 home runs in 498 plate appearances. He tore apart Triple-A in 33 games, hitting .339/.416/.602 and earning his promotion. Anderson will play regularly for Miami down the stretch, and could provide some pop for NL-only teams at corner.
Nori Aoki $49. Other bid: $0. LABR NL: $17.
Aoki’s primary role for the Mets is to ward off the “they’ll have no choice but to call up Tim Tebow because of all the injuries!” jokes. Aoki is a solid contributor in batting average and offers a smattering of speed and home runs. He’s a fourth or fifth NL-only outfielder, but at bats matter in mono and Aoki will get them.
Homer Bailey $45. Other bid: $0. [MIL (yesterday), @NYM]
Bailey had a 7.51 ERA with 6.4 strikeouts per nine, so naturally he pitched extremely well against the Brewers yesterday. I would still avoid Bailey unless you are desperate and/or need volume and don’t care about ERA/WHIP at all.
Brandon Phillips $27. Other bids: $10, $4, $4, $4. Tout AL: $379.
Phillips offered a pleasant surprise to AL-only fantasy managers looking for an everyday hitter, moving to the Angels from the Braves at the 11th hour. I was willing to use my remaining $10 in FAAB to get him but Dave Adler of Baseball HQ used his big stack of FAAB (relatively speaking) to make sure he got his man. Phillips isn’t the fantasy monster he was in his heyday but he is in double digits in steals and home runs for the third consecutive year and the 10th time in his career. The batting average is always solid and he should produce. Being at the top of the Angels’ lineup with Mike Trout batting behind him makes Phillips an excellent runs play.
Mike Leake $26. Other bids: $20, $14, $4, $4, $1, $1. Tout AL: $296. (HOU)
Leake was the other NL import, and the bidding in LABR was more spirited than it was for Phillips. Ray Flowers of Sirius XM won Leake for $26. Flowers is mostly interested in wins, as he could quickly gain 4 1/2 points in the category with a strong showing. Leake was solid in his Mariners’ debut, striking out seven in seven innings in a win over the Athletics but his 6.31 ERA in August should raise some red flags. The low strikeout totals always put Leake at risk for poor outings. I did not bid on Leake. While I need wins, I am gambling that I can gain in ERA/WHIP and at worst offset any losses in wins (my team was first in the category entering Monday’s action).
Kyle Gibson $17. Other bids: $2, $2. (@KC)
I might wind up regretting not bidding $1 for Gibson last week. I noticed he was trending positively even before his most recent gem against the Royals, but decided to be cautious and take a wait and see approach. This was a bad idea, as Brandon Funston spent a big chunk of money to get Gibson and ensure he meets the LABR’s innings requirement. Gibson is doing a better job keeping the ball down but is also striking out more batters thanks to improved spotting of his fastball. It could all fall apart for Gibson, but I would bet on sustained success in September and take a shot.
Artie Lewicki $4. Tout AL: $45. [KC (yesterday)]
Lewicki is one of those pitchers who put up strong numbers in the minors who has generated zero scouting buzz, thanks to an average fastball and what has been called “fringy” off-speed stuff. He will join what appears to be a six-man rotation for the Tigers down the stretch. Even in AL-only, I am leery of Lewicki, despite the five great starts at Triple-A prior to his promotion. His start against the Royals yesterday did nothing to inspire confidence.
Jeimer Candelario $4. Tout AL: $35.
The Tigers are so committed to playing Candelario this month that they are moving Nick Castellanos around the diamond so they can see what Candelario offers at third base. Candelario’s minor-league numbers are far from impressive, but the former Cubs prospect is still considered a decent bat long term and could provide home run power for his fantasy teams down the stretch. Candelario was my contingency plan for Phillips. I could have bid a dollar and won Jeimer’s services, but with only three transaction periods remaining, it was much more important to get the player I wanted than it was to make the “perfect” bid. I desperately need at bats and production to stay afloat on offense.
Brett Anderson $3. Other bid: $1. Tout AL: $42. (DET)
Anderson didn’t work out for the Cubs (and he took a shot at them on one of his social media accounts this weekend) but he has had two solid starts for Toronto thus far. He isn’t striking batters out, which is par for the course for Anderson. The optimal outcome for Anderson is plenty of grounders and double plays. This has worked out for Anderson for the most part (he has a 3.98 ERA in his career) but the ugly starts are, well, ugly. A matchup against a rebuilding Detroit team is fine in AL-only.
· After missing on Gibson, I opted for Leone over starting pitchers like Anderson or Boyd. Leone has had a dominant year out of the pen for Toronto. I’m not expecting saves but am looking for good rate stats and perhaps a garbage win or two.
· Mejia was Cleveland’s DH yesterday. His catcher eligibility makes him an excellent pick-up in AL-only, but Mejia’s keeper owners will scream if he is DH-only in 2018 because of a few September starts in the majors.
· The trade deadline in LABR AL was at 1:10 p.m. ET yesterday, and I made my third and final deal of the year, swapping Corey Dickerson to NFBC for Carlos Gomez. I can pick up 3-4 points in steals and am unlikely to gain in batting average, which is where Gomez potentially loses the most to Dickerson. Gomez is more of a gamble, but with a seven-point deficit to make up in the last week I needed to take a chance.