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.
Eric Young $8. Other bid: $5. Tout Auction: $35. Tout Draft: $9.
Sunday marked the 14th anniversary of Eric Young Jr. being drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 30th round of the MLB June Amateur Draft. Five 30th round picks from the 2003 draft made the majors: Young, Adam Ottavino, Scott Feldman, Mark Melancon, and Johnny Venters. This is unusual; it is common for no 30th round picks from a given draft to make the majors, and even in a good draft, only one or two picks from that round make it.
Without looking at his statistics, I assumed Young had at least one big, stolen-base fueled fantasy campaign. But a look back at the historical record tells us that this isn''t so. Even in Young's best season – a 46-steal campaign in 2009 where he won the NL steal title, beating Jean Segura on the final day of the regular season in a moment that all baseball fans will surely remember until their dying days – he only earned $16.39 in 15-team mixed, according to the PFM.
Sixteen dollars and 39 cents certainly is a favorable outcome. But to offer additional context, this made Young the 65th-best hitter in 15-team mixed in 2013. The other thing I forgot about Young is that he was only a full-time player for one season, in 2013, when he won that stolen-base title on the last day of the regular season for the moribund 74-88 Mets.
I bring all this up not for the obscure historical lesson – although I do find these obscure facts interesting – but rather to look at the fantasy value of stolen bases from a different lens. While stolen bases certainly are valuable in fantasy, even in our world we tend to overemphasize how many players truly have an impact. My initial reaction to the mixed-league bids for Young is that they were far too conservative, but looking at his historical earnings these bids seem just about right. Young could steal 10-15 bases while Mike Trout is out, but it is more likely that he has a very limited impact and slips into a bench role or back to Triple A when Trout returns. It is fine to chase speed, but in mixed leagues, one-trick ponies come with an opportunity cost for your roster.
Jeff Hoffman $7. Other bids: $4. $2. Tout Draft: $32. (@CHC)
Hoffman struggled in his major-league debut in 2016, but while some of those difficulties were due to Coors, others were because it was his first exposure to the majors. Hoffman has been terrific in 2017, and while his opportunity could be temporary if Tyler Anderson's injury is not serious, I cannot believe that the Rockies would demote Hoffman if he continues to pitch like this. He gets a good matchup against the Cubs at Wrigley this weekend (2017 is weird) and I would not be afraid to use him in nearly any format.
Randall Delgado $4. Tout Auction: $76. Tout Draft: $22. (MIL)
After only three starts, it is difficult to tell if Delgado is doing something different that is leading to better results or if he has mostly been the beneficiary of soft opponents in favorable ballparks. A start this week at Milwaukee against a good lineup in a hitter's park will offer the best test yet for Delgado. The good news is that his velocity has transitioned well from the bullpen to the rotation and the strikeouts have mostly held as well. I would take the flier and see if this is legitimate.
David Paulino $4. Other bid: $2. Tout Auction: $13. Tout Draft: $21 (@KC)
Throughout his minor-league career, the biggest knock on Paulino has been his durability. The stuff is great when it is all working, but the lack of durability has led to repeatability issues, which means that there are days when Paulino's delivery falters and he cannot control his offspeed pitches with any regularity. The upside makes Paulino's spot start against the Royals well worth investing in this week, although the Astros are hoping that Joe Musgrove returns to their rotation this coming weekend. With Mike Fiers holding a slot in Houston's rotation, Paulino makes an interesting stash.
Trevor Williams $3. Tout Draft: $7 (MIA)
Williams was solid against the Mets this past weekend, although he only struck out three and was hardly dominant. Williams gets a good matchup at home against the Marlins, but he is a borderline matchup even with a weaker opponent in a good park on tap. Williams may be a bullpen arm long term, as he profiles more as a two-pitch pitcher and still has issues with consistency on his change.
Seth Lugo $3. Tout Auction: $33. Tout Draft: $50. (@ATL)
Lugo is penciled in to make his 2017 debut this weekend against the Atlanta Braves. His DRA and FIP in 2016 were nowhere near as good as Lugo's ERA, and as we have seen this year with Robert Gsellman, while Dan Warthen is good at what he does, the Mets don't have a magic wand when it comes to young pitchers. Lugo isn't someone I would want to take a flier on until I could see a few quality starts under his belt. Lugo is listed in the LABR Mixed transactions this week but this appears to be an illegal move, as you cannot add players on a major-league DL via FAAB in LABR.
Jordan Zimmermann $2 (@BOS)
Ben Lively $2. Tout Auction: $44. (@ATL)
Lively is the eighth pitcher since 1913 to pitch at least seven innings, allow one run or fewer, and not strike out a batter in his major-league debut. There isn't a famous name on this list, although Cactus Keck should be a famous name based solely on what a cool name Cactus is. What I wrote about Lively in the Baseball Prospectus Annual remains true now. He is a back-end arm who gets by with deception and will likely have difficulties as a starter facing major league hitters on a regular basis. Lively's repertoire suggests a future in a major-league bullpen or as a sixth starter/swingman type.
Arodys Vizcaino $2. Tout Draft: $1
With the Braves in rebuilding mode and buried in the NL East, stashing Vizcaino as a potential late-season closer if Jim Johnson gets traded is a wise move. Vizcaino's walks have dropped significantly in 2017 and he could get a long look in the ninth if Johnson is traded.
Martin Maldonado $1. Other bid: $1
Week 10 was an unusual week, where hitters dominated the $1 FAAB bargain bin. Pinder is the name that jumps out among these hitters: a solidly performing middle infield-eligible hitter who has power and is playing nearly every day.
Eric Young $27. Other bids: $24, $13, $9, $6, $3. Tout AL: $217.
What? Again? But I just wrote a bunch of crap about Eric Young in the mixed section! What's left to write? Do you want me to write about where Young went to high school, in Piscataway, N.J.? I worked in Piscataway for a year and a half. I could write about driving past Quibbletown Middle School and giggling about that funny sounding name. But this hardly seems appropriate for a fantasy baseball FAAB column, and this space is about nothing if not decorum and propriety. Otherwise, I don't have a lot to say about Piscataway. I remember a Jiffy Lube I used to drive by on the way to work, but Jiffy Lube isn't particularly unique to Piscataway. This was a bit I thought was going to hilarity for my readers that clearly isn't working out the way I had intended. I'll edit this out later.
(don't forget to edit this out later, Mike. This was very bad and you should be ashamed of yourself for writing this)
In -only leagues, Young is obviously more valuable than he is in mixed, but not nearly as much as you would think. Below are Young's only-league earnings since his debut in 2009.
That $23 season was the 33rd-best among NL-only hitters in 2013, sandwiching Young between Everth Cabrera and Bryce Harper. The best-case scenarios for Young in 2017 are something more closely resembling his 2011, 2012, or 2014.
The teams that bid on Young not only had a need for steals but a roster slot available for Young. I would have bid $6 or $7 on Young, but currently have five viable outfielders and a full-time DH. You cannot reserve active players in LABR, so I would have had to release a hitter to add Young to my team. This rule in part explains the limited number of bids on Young.
John Hicks $8. Other bid: $1.
With James McCann on the DL, Hicks and Alex Avila are in a straight platoon behind the plate for the Tigers, with Hicks getting the starts against lefties. For the second week in a row, the Tigers will face three lefties and three righties, and it is possible that Hicks gets one start against a right-hander, as Thursday against the Angels is a day game after a night game, Hicks has displayed a surprising amount of power relative to his career minor-league performance. He is a fine pickup in an AL-only league and should be scooped up if he is unowned.
Yusmerio Petit $4. Tout AL: $1.
Petit has terrific numbers for the Angels out of the bullpen and could get a vulture save or two if Bud Norris isn't available. Four dollars seems a tad expensive for this kind of play, however.
Eric Skoglund $2. Tout AL: $42. (@SD)
Skoglund followed up an impressive major league debut against the Tigers with a rain-shortened clunker against Cleveland. Reviews on Skoglund's arsenal are mixed. Skoglund believers point to how his size make his low-90s fastballs appear faster to opposing hitters, as well as an above-average curve that is acceptable as a secondary pitch. His detractors say all Skoglund's pitches lack significant movement and that he must be almost perfect with his location to perform well. I don't want to jump to conclusions because of two outings, but based on what I have seen I lean toward the positive profile. At a minimum, Skoglund is an auto start this week at an NL venue against the Padres and their 25 percent strikeout rate.
If you are going to take a flier on Gibson, a road start in San Francisco is the week to do it.
I like the idea of grabbing Olson on the cheap if you have a slot. Even if he gets demoted, LABR does allow teams to reserve minor leaguers.
I stood pat. I tried one final time to trade a starting pitcher for a catcher or middle infielder but had no luck. I cut Chris Tillman and Steve Cishek and added JA Happ and Keone Kela to the active roster.
Tout Wars NL
Chase d'Arnaud $57. Other bid: $6.
"Chase d'Arnaud has replaced Erick Aybar as the Padres starting shortstop" is not a sentence I expected to write this year, but here we are. D'Arnaud has a .364 OBP in 36 plate appearances. If he can reach base at that clip there is value, particularly because D'Arnaud has always had stolen-base potential (he has 25 steals in 473 career plate appearances). It is possible that this will not last, but if D'Arnaud is starting he is a great stolen-base target in NL-only.
Austin Slater $25. Other bid: $7. LABR NL: $4.
Slater profiles as a reserve outfielder. He picked up a couple of starts for the Giants because Hunter Pence was hurt and their left fielder is an actual gaping hole in the outfield grass that sucks up visiting players and calls itself Porcraxtu, the God of Subpar Fielding. With Pence slated to return this week, Slater and Orlando Calixte will battle for at-bats in left field. Neither has much fantasy appeal. If I had to choose, I'd pick Calixte for the stolen-base potential.
Ben Lively $21. LABR NL: $6. (@ATL)
Besides Lively and Cactus Kech, the other six pitchers to pitch at least seven innings with no strikeouts and one run or fewer allowed in their major-league debuts are Matt DeSalvo, Anthony Telford, Mike York, Greg Bargar, Rickey Keeton and Joe Krakauskas.
According to Baseball Reference, Kech got his nickname because he pitched in Texas. This feels very lazy and uninspired. The New York Times stopped calling him Cactus later during Kech's rookie season. Perhaps the Times also thought it was lazy and had a staff meeting to discuss the pros and cons of Kech's nickname before scrapping it entirely.
Krakauskas is one of 25 pitchers born in Canada with 500 or more innings pitched in the majors.
I wouldn't have guessed that Telford pitched 455 1/3 innings in the majors.
If you take runs out as a criterion, 36 pitchers since 1913 pitched seven or more innings in their major-league debut without a strikeout.
Ty Blach went for $16 in LABR this week, with Lenny Melnick of Roto Experts narrowly beating out Brian Walton of Mastersball's $15 bid. Blach was purchased in Tout last week. I still do not believe in Blach despite his strong outing against the Phillies.