Welcome back to Expert FAAB Review, the weekly series that looks at the bidding on free agents 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.
Cody Bellinger $15. Other bids: $9, $9, $9, $6, $2.
For fantasy bidders in mixed leagues, Bellinger presents a dilemma. There is no denying the potential, particularly in power, where a full season of Bellinger could net 30 home runs. Granted, this could come with a poor batting average, but he has too much power potential for you to worry too much about this. The real problem for Bellinger bidders comes when trying to ascertain how much playing time he will get. The Dodgers have been consistent about saying that Bellinger is going back to Triple A later this week when Joc Pederson returns. A prospect of Bellinger’s caliber typically draws a $30-35 winning bid in LABR when it seems “certain” he will be on the big club all year. Since Bellinger went for a little less than half of that, the winning bidder—Steve Gardner of USA Today/Sports Weekly—is likely betting on half a season in the majors from Bellinger from this point forward.
My take? It is a good bet. Pederson is not going to be the last Dodger to get hurt, and the Dodgers at some point will decide that Bellinger should be a permanent fixture in Los Angeles, and not a temporary one. There is also the idea of “wasted FAAB” in LABR: money that sits on the table at the end of the season because teams were too timid early. Bellinger might not be the “right” play, but spending your money in the hopes out of getting something out of a prospect of his caliber is a good move.
Michael Taylor $9. Other bids: $3, $3. Tout Auction: $28. Tout Draft: $62.
Adam Eaton’s torn ACL opens the door for Michael Taylor, a toolsy fourth outfielder who has lots of speed and lots of power potential but who has failed to translate these tantalizing tools into big time stats. A 10 home run, 20 steal season with a bad batting average is the likely ceiling, which in a deep mixed league is something you should be interested in. If Taylor bats in the two hole, it means more runs in the Nationals’ super charged lineup, a big plus in Taylor’s favor.
The tepid bids in the Tout leagues reflect the difference between the excitement over “shiny new toy” versus the laissez faire attitude about “this guy again?”
Christian Arroyo $8. Tout Auction $79.
I didn’t expect a bidding war over Arroyo, but I am surprised that only one team in LABR, and one team in Tout Auction, bid on him at all. If he performs, Arroyo should get regular playing time for the Giants the rest of the way, and he even showed a little power this past week, clubbing two home runs. PECOTA saw Arroyo as an empty .250 hitter and his early success at Triple A was met with cynicism in some corners, but sometimes it is worth looking past the projections and considering the player.
This is also a case where some of the dour scouting reports on Arroyo’s fantasy potential have likely muted interest for most. It is great that we have so much scouting data at our disposal, but sometimes fantasy managers use this exclusively instead of separating reality from fantasy. Arroyo’s inability to stick at shortstop, and the fact that he doesn’t have much beyond his hit tool impact his real-world value, but shouldn’t preclude teams from adding him in 15-team mixed formats or deeper. Arroyo should (modestly) exceed that boring PECOTA projection quite easily.
Delino DeShields $8. Other bids: $4, $2. Tout Auction: $178.
Here we go again. DeShields is stretched as an everyday player, which is putting it very nicely, but five steals in 14 games has a way of making fantasy players lose their collective excrement. Jurickson Profar’s demotion and bad news on Adrian Beltre’s recovery do push DeShields’ value up in the short term, but I remain wary about DeShields as anything more than an AL-only play who will rack up a bunch of empty bags. His .238 TAv and .381 BABIP don’t inspire confidence that this will continue. Enjoy the steals while DeShields is in the lineup, but he isn’t a long-term solution, for either the Rangers or fantasy teams.
Jose Reyes $7. Other bids: $3, $3, $2.
After starting 2017 with a miserable .104/.189/.134 line in 74 plate appearances, Reyes was cut in LABR Mixed. Reyes bounced back in a big way a week ago, with two home runs, six runs, three RBIs, and two steals in 22 plate appearances. Some cynicism with Reyes is likely warranted, but if the Mets are running him out there every day, there is still potential for solid weeks like this on offense. He has been an adventure defensively, but this matters less to the Mets than it does to other major-league teams.
It was too early to cut Reyes three weeks into the 2017 season, but I can understand why that choice was made.
J.C. Ramirez $6. Tout Draft: $33 (HOU)
I picked up Ramirez last week in LABR AL but did not write about him. He proceeded to go out and strike out 16 batters in 12 1/3 innings against the Athletics and Rangers in a two-start week. Coming into the season, Ramirez profiled as a washout starter who would fit into the middle of the Angels’ bullpen, but some tweaks to his repertoire have made Ramirez a dangerous starter thus far. The fun times won’t continue all year, but Ramirez is a must add when he is pitching this well, and he is especially appealing as a home-streaming option.
Alex Cobb $3. Other bid: $2. (@MIA, TOR)
Compared to the rest of the expert community, I was down on Cobb this offseason. Thus far, my reluctance has been justified. Cobb has a good deal of potential, but he now has 10 starts dating back to 2016 where the numbers simply have not been there. Perhaps there is a sudden performance spike coming, but there was a good deal of over-projection on a pitcher recovering from injury without any performance data to back it up. Cobb is risky even as a back-end, deep-mixed league starter.
Erick Aybar $2. Tout Auction: $12
Christian Vazquez $1
R.A. Dickey $1 (NYM, STL)
Aybar has survived a month as the Padres’ starting shortstop. This says more about the Padres than it does about Aybar. Vazquez is in the process of wresting the starting job from Sandy Leon in Boston.
Tout Wars NL
Christian Arroyo $333. Other bids: $221, $193, $112, $107, $61, $22. LABR NL: $16
Aw……(cue intense rap beat, circa 1987)
Money, money, money, money, money, money—yeah.
Money, money, money, all the FAAB… dropping down.
Money, money, money, from the sky, make it rain.
Aw, five triple-digit bids, throwing C-notes, like a boss.
Money, money, money, lots of cheddar, is that slang for money, I don’t know for sure.
Yeah, money, money, money, make it rain, but only metaphorically, especially if your team don’t have a dome, baby.
(This went on for much longer in my original draft. I’m convinced that five people read this article so I’m going to start slipping drink recipes and movie reviews in here and see if anyone notices. Hi, Mom.)
I had the $193 bid on Arroyo, figuring that I needed to be aggressive, but it turns out I wasn’t nearly aggressive enough. Nineteen percent of your budget for one hitter seems like a lot, but in an NL-only league where everyday replacements are few and far between, it really isn’t. I probably should have bid more, although my realistic limit would have been $250 even if I had decided to push even harder than this for Arroyo.
LABR NL illustrates the difference between the $100 FAAB limit in LABR and the $1,000 limit in Tout. Thirty-three percent of your FAAB budget is a lot, but when you can make low-end single-digit bids for replacement players like you can in Tout, missing out on a big-ticket purchase doesn’t matter nearly as much.
Jabari Blash $81. Other bids: $32, $31, $17, $11, $2.
Travis Jankowski is on the DL and the Allen Cordoba outfield experiment seems to have ended, so the Padres have turned to a combination of Blash and Cory Spangenberg while Jankowski is out. Blash has shown off some power at Triple A but has not seen that translate to the majors yet, although we are talking about a small sample. He strikes out a lot, although he walks a lot too, which helps Blash in an OBP league.
Rafael Bautista $61. Other bid $2:
Bautista was added to the Nationals’ roster this weekend to replace Adam Eaton, but Taylor (see above) should get most of the starts in center for Washington. Bautista was a below-average hitter in the minors so his bat likely wouldn’t play in a major-league lineup, but the stolen-base potential is enticing if he does get the opportunity. This is a bet against Michael Taylor, which isn’t a terrible gamble as bets go.
Rhys Hoskins $46. Other bid: $1
This bid was mine. I obviously overbid. But I do believe Hoskins will force the issue in Philadelphia if he keeps hitting, much the way Tommy Joseph forced the issue last year for the Phillies. Brock Stassi is already cutting into Joseph’s playing time, which isn’t a good sign for Joseph’s immediate future. I’m not sure if Hoskins’ Triple-A power will translate to the majors, but in an NL-only I was willing to make a modest FAAB gamble to find out.
Michael Morse $37. Other bid: $3. LABR NL: $1
The Giants’ depth chart looks like one of those Family Circus’ cartoons where Billy runs around the neighborhood in a circuitous route in a series of wacky adventures to do whatever it is that little kids do on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Morse started three-consecutive games at first base for the Giants, and with them extremely shorthanded should at least see 3-4 starts a week for the next week or two. He has a home run in 11 plate appearances. If he hits he will play, but he might also play if he doesn’t hit because the rules say you need to have nine players on the field when you’re on defense.
Ngoepe is splitting time with Alen Hanson at second base. The fantasy ceiling is very low, but if Ngoepe is playing he has NL-only value.
Considered a sleeper by many this winter, Anderson was cut in NL Tout last week. The potential is certainly there, but that is one rough matchup against Arizona in Coors for a pitcher who is really struggling.
Happ was stashed by Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN. Happ shouldn’t be up until very late this year, but the Cubs have a way of promoting players based on talent as opposed to need. Chicago has already been very aggressive with him.
John Hicks $8. Other bid: $1.
Here we have the rare scenario where the mixed version of a league purchased a player before the only league version of the league did. Hicks was purchased in LABR Mixed last week while LABR AL took a powder. Miguel Cabrera is due back from the DL later today, so I’m not sure where Hicks fits into the Tigers plans going forward. He caught on Sunday, but I have a difficult time envisioning him sticking with the team so Detroit can carry three catchers. Hicks is someone I’d monitor as a potential add later this season if the Tigers decide to retool.
Chase Whitley $6
Ben Gamel $4. Tout AL: $101
It was a slow week in both AL-only expert leagues, as Gamel was the only player who cost over $16 in Tout Wars. Gamel has started in all five Mariners games since his promotion to the big club and likely will continue to get the lion’s share of the playing time in Seattle’s outfield due to his defense. There isn’t enough in Gamel’s profile to make him more than an AL-only player, but he should provide enough in home runs and speed to give him decent value in this format.
Josh Rutledge $3
Joe Smith $2. Other bids: $1, $1.
Smith has been one of the better relievers in an underperforming Blue Jays bullpen, and with closer Roberto Osuna struggling, a little FAAB speculation is logical. Smith won’t continue striking out batters at such a prodigious pace, but he is a decent option for saves if Toronto does decide to make a change.
I did not place any bids in LABR this week. I activated Chris Tillman and released Mat Latos. I finished the week in third place, although I’m closer to eighth place than I am to second. I cannot believe how strong my team is in ERA/WHIP given that I had Sam Dyson pouring gasoline on my rate stats to start the year.