Welcome back to The FAAB Review, the weekly series that looks at free-agent 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.
Justin Wilson $13. Other bids: $8, $4, $4, $3, $3, $3, $1, $1.
There was a time when Francisco Rodriguez was a relatively safe if unexciting closer in fantasy. He would blow a few saves every year and has not been a top-shelf option for years, but you always had a general idea of what you were going to get from Rodriguez. A season ago, however, there were some warning signs, particularly in a diminished strikeout rate and a dip in fastball velocity. While no one was particularly excited about rostering Rodriguez, he was seldom if ever mentioned on the list of Kryptonite/do-not-touch closers in fantasy.
Flash forward to May 2017. Rodriguez has been a disaster for the Tigers. The velocity dipped even further this year, although oddly enough the K rate has jumped up somewhat. But even though the strikeouts are up, Rodriguez is allowing home runs at a prodigious rate. After the latest debacle Sunday, the Tigers are ready to make a switch in the pen, and Wilson sounds like the team’s first choice in the ninth. Wilson certainly has the skills to hold onto the job all season long, and with only one year and a relatively nominal amount of money left on Rodriguez’s contract, it is possible that this is the last we have seen of Rodriguez in Detroit as a closer.
You might have noticed that many of the FAAB update columns have closer updates, which coincide with Matt Collins’ Closer Report, which also comes out Tuesday. This leads to similar updates being posted in both columns, which is repetitive and not the best way to provide information to you, our beloved and faithful readers. As a result, I am proud to announce that Matt Collins is moving into my house and will be sleeping in a shed I hastily constructed in my back yard. Starting on Tuesday, May 16, Baseball Prospectus is proud to present our latest column: Mike and Matt’s Ninth-Inning Adventures.
You’ll have a front row seat to all the high jinks that are certain to occur as this crusty-yet-loveable New Englander tries to adjust to the bucolic lifestyle on the outskirts of suburban Philadelphia. See Matthew get confused as he tries to figure out what a jawn is! Watch in bewilderment when Matthew goes to Wawa and finds out that you can order sandwiches at an establishment that also dispenses gasoline! You will laugh and you will also cry but most importantly you will learn something about yourself while watching Matthew’s wacky adventures with the Gianella family!
Marwin Gonzalez $7. Other bids: $4, $4, $3, $3.
Wait, Marwin Gonzalez has nine home runs. This was my first reaction when I looked at Gonzalez’s stat line. I was aware that Gonzalez had been on a power binge, but would have guessed that he had five or six homers. Gonzalez has always had some pop, but no one expected him to go on this kind of tear. Gonzalez’s swing rate has dropped considerably, so I assumed the answer to his increased power was “swinging at higher-quality pitches,” but a look at the heat maps indicates he is swinging at fewer pitches in the strike zone, not more. However, he his contact rate is excellent on nearly everything except for low pitches below the zone. This appears to be a combination of a real adjustment to Gonzalez’s approach with a moderate sample fluke. Gonzalez should be owned in virtually all formats, as the Astros should figure out a way to get his bat in the lineup while he is this hot. Another 15-20 home runs for the rest of the season is a reasonable outcome.
Ariel Miranda $5. Other bids: $3, $2, $2, $1, $1, $1. (@PHI, @TOR)
Miranda has performed capably thus far, and the multiple injuries in Seattle’s rotation mean that he is likely to be a starter for the long haul. The home-run rate and the 4.91 DRA make it difficult to recommend Miranda, even with two favorable road starts on tap. I’d use him in AL-only. In deep mixed leagues, he is either a desperation play or a volume play.
Zack Cozart $5. Other bid: $2.
Like Gonzalez, Cozart is swinging at far fewer pitches this year with improved results. In Cozart’s case, the power has not spiked but rather the batting average. Cozart has always been a somewhat underrated commodity and even though we all know he won’t keep this up, a .280 batting average with 15 home runs is a reasonable expectation. Good things happen when you start swinging less and walking more. As with Gonzalez, the improvement is legitimate even if the sampled data is misleading.
A.J. Griffin $3. Other bids: $1, $1. Tout Draft: $56. (@SD, OAK)
Griffin’s strikeout rate has jumped from 21 percent in 2016 to 28 percent this year, but the swinging-strike rate has barely jumped and the velocity remains as underwhelming as ever. It is possible that a legitimate improvement has been made, but nothing in the data indicates that Griffin is better than he was last year.
Bret Sayre nabbed Griffin in LABR. His pitching staff is in tatters, with Cole Hamels and Ian Kennedy on the DL, and with Johnny Cueto and some of Bret’s secondary starters struggling. We have all been in this difficult position, where nothing on the pitching side is working and you are stuck taking chances. Griffin does have a nice pair of matchups this week, and is a solid Week 6 streamer.
Sandy Leon $3. Other bid: $1. Tout Auction: $7
A prolonged slump after a hot streak to start the season led to many fantasy experts writing Leon off as a viable fantasy option. But Leon had a strong week, punctuated with a two-home-run game against the Twins this past weekend. Leon is 29th out of 38 catchers in TAv (minimum 50 plate appearances) so I don’t want to oversell his value, but if he is playing he is worth using as a second catcher in 15-team mixed.
Mike Montgomery $3. Tout Auction $11. Tout Draft $23. (@STL)
Brett Anderson landed on the DL over the weekend, and the Cubs are expected to turn to Montgomery for a start this week in St. Louis. Montgomery’s potential has excited fantasy players going back to his days as a Royals prospect but injuries and inconsistency have dogged him, on and off, for years. His career starter/reliever splits suggest Montgomery could be a viable member of the rotation although he is historically more homer prone against right-handers. I’d roll the dice on Montgomery’s ceiling in nearly any format, although he is the kind of pitcher you add to a staff with holes or where you need to take risks.
The rainout Monday night in Colorado muddies the waters for Montgomery. With an off day on Thursday, the Cubs could decide to skip Montgomery and use him in the bullpen for another week, particularly after the 18-inning game with the Yankees on Sunday.
Matt Cain $2. (@NYM)
Luis Perdomo $2. Other bid: $1. (@TEX)
I recognize this is damning with faint praise, but Perdomo is one of the more-intriguing Padres pitching options. His high slider usage and extreme ground-ball rate offset a less-than-stellar whiff rate, and while the four-plus ground-ball to fly-ball rate is not sustainable, Perdomo did manage to induce nearly three times as many grounders as he did fly balls in 2016. The matchup at Arlington is risky, but Perdomo is reaching the point where everyone is going to snatch him up and see if what he is doing is sustainable. The time to take a chance on a young pitcher with potentially viable skills is now in deeper mixed.
Yan Gomes $2. Other bid: $1. Tout Auction: $0.
Gomes was Bret’s other Tout pick-up this week. Bret replaced Travis d’Arnaud in both mixed expert leagues, with Gomes in Tout and Dustin Garneau in LABR as his third choice. Ray Murphy of Baseball HQ nabbed Gomes and Leon, replacing Welington Castillo and Mike Zunino. It is depressing to have to replace two catchers in a two-catcher league in the same week. Gomes has some power potential, but going back to 2015 he has an ugly .195 batting average in 717 at-bats. Gomes is OK in a two-catcher league but in AVG leagues his value is greatly diminished.
Tout Wars NL
Gregor Blanco $169. Other bids: $28, $12, $1.
My instincts when a player like Blanco is purchased at such an expensive price—and well above everyone else’s bids—is to write something negative about the bid and question the bidder. But maybe I have been going about this all wrong. Perhaps I should examine all the reasons that Andy Behrens of Yahoo might have made such an aggressive bid on Blanco.
Maybe Andy looks at Yasmany Tomas’ 0.0 WARP across 1,097 plate appearances and thinks that it is time for the Diamondbacks to make a substantial change in the outfield. Or perchance Andy is looking at the injury histories of David Peralta and A.J. Pollock and thinking that Blanco is here to stay, and will get his at-bats. Or perhaps there is something about Blanco himself: the 33-year-old outfielder who had a bad year in 2016 but who was also a useful piece of the puzzle for the Giants from 2012-2015. Perhaps Andy watched the Diamondbacks this weekend and saw something not in Blanco’s swing but rather in Blanco’s heart: that intangible piece of the puzzle those miserable stat nerds insist doesn’t exist but maybe—just maybe—does if you only…believe, the way that a brave and courageous soul like Andy Behrens believes.
Or maybe Andy just overbid by mistake. I have no idea. He didn’t respond to my direct message on Twitter so I had to make up all that ridiculous crap about Andy’s FAAB bid.
Matt Garza $72. Other bids: $11, $0. (NYM)
Garza has been solid in his three starts since returning from the DL and while he has not been fantasy-relevant since 2014, he is at least worth considering as a streamer for NL-only. However, the Mets have been a tough opponent even without Yoenis Cespedes, so I’d pass on Garza this week at home against New York. Garza’s slider use has spiked, which is a trend worth watching.
Jacob Turner $72. Other bids: $13, $0. LABR NL: $6. (BAL)
At a minimum, Turner will give his fantasy owners decent opportunities for wins, given that he will have the support of the Nationals offense. But while Turner has been written off as a non-entity at times, it is easy to forget that he is only 25 years old. Turner throws hard, and while some of the same issues he has had remain in the past haven’t been solved, this isn’t a career minor-leaguer with no hope of turning into a back-end major league starter. Turner has a tough matchup against the Orioles this week, but he is worth the gamble. He could stick in the Nats rotation.
Tommy Pham $61. Other bids: $53, $47, $34, $27, $23, $12, $0. LABR NL: $11.
The Cardinals outfield is decimated by injuries, so Pham has an opportunity to rack up plenty of starts the next couple of weeks, at a minimum. Stephen Piscotty and Dexter Fowler aren’t expected to miss too much time, so this could merely be a short-term opportunity for Pham, but he showed this past week what he can do in both power and speed. The bids would have been more aggressive if the injuries to Piscotty and Fowler had been more serious, but the best-case scenario for Pham seems like a return trip to the bench in 2-3 weeks regardless of his performance.
I bid $34. I wanted Pham, but didn’t want to overpay for 2-3 weeks of stats.
Blake Treinen $45.
Jose Ureña $35. Other bids: $33, $0. LABR NL: $5.
Urena had a good start against the Mets on Sunday but he isn’t slated to get another start this week with Edinson Volquez and Wei-Yin Chen slated to come off the DL. This is an OK stash, but $35 is a lot for a non-starting stash.
Magneuris Sierra $26. Other bid: $6. LABR NL: $1
I purchased Sierra; he was my second choice behind Pham. Sierra is a 21-year old speedster who made the jump all of the way from High-A ball to the majors to make his major-league debut Sunday. This is yet another one of my short-term plays to try to get any kind of speed to replace Starling Marte. I will angrily write the words “any kind of speed to replace Starling Marte” every week until Marte returns from his PED suspension in the second half. The 17 caught stealings in 48 attempts in 2016 for Sierra do not inspire confidence.
Kevin Plawecki $8. Other bid: $2.
Plawecki was my other purchase. I needed a catcher to replace d’Arnaud and Plawecki was the most logical replacement. I will regret not bidding on Hanigan if the Rockies stick with him and option Dustin Garneau to the minors after Garneau returns to full health.
Nick Martinez $5. Other bid: $3. Tout Wars AL: $21 (@SD, OAK)
The matchups are as good as they are going to get this week for Martinez (Oakland on the road would have made this more ideal). But a poor strikeout rate, a high home-run rate, and that Martinez pitches in Texas all tell me to stay as far away from Martinez as possible. There is a velocity spike here that is interesting and it is worth considering whether or n…NO DON’T DO THIS TO YOURSELF! STAY AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE FROM NICK MARTINEZ IN ALL FANTASY FORMATS!!!
Mike Minor $2.
Caleb Joseph $2. Other bids: $1, $1.
Castillo’s injury pushes Joseph into a starting gig for the Orioles, making him a strong purchase in AL-only. Joseph hit 11 home runs in 355 plate appearances for Baltimore in 2016 with a subpar batting average. “The power is solid but the batting average is bad” is becoming a mantra for at least half of the starting catchers in the major leagues.
For the second week in a row, I didn’t use my FAAB in LABR. The story remains the same. My team is pitching over its head while many hitters are underperforming. If Dylan Bundy is legitimate No. 3 starter, my pitching will be fine even when some of the other arms “regress.” My entire team’s performance likely hinges on the offense finding its level. Of all my expert teams this year, I feel best about LABR currently.
Tout Wars AL had two moves worth mentioning.
Andrew Cashner $164. I snagged Cashner on reserve in LABR; I am glad I didn’t have to sink 16 percent of my FAAB budget on him like Rob Leibowitz of Rotoworld did. Cashner is my seventh starter in LABR and I have used him once. He has more walks than strikeouts, and while the 2.63 ERA is pretty, Cashner is doing this with mirrors.
Bradley Zimmer $21. This is Chris Liss of Rotowire’s customary gamble on a player in the minors. Zimmer’s numbers are better in his second go round at Triple A but the batting average is still too low while the strikeouts are still too high. Cleveland outfield Monday night featured Yandy Diaz, Lonnie Chisenhall and Abraham Almonte, so the opportunity is there for Zimmer if the injuries persist in Cleveland.