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.
Mallex Smith $27. Other bids: $26, $23, $16, $12, $12, $11, $7, $3, $2. Tout Auction: $313.
Back in February, Smith was drafted in the LABR Mixed Draft by Ray Murphy of Baseball HQ in the 21st round, but was dropped in early May. The same thing happened in Tout Mixed Auction, where Scott Pianowski of Yahoo! dropped Smith on May 1. In Tout Mixed Draft, David Gonos of FNTSY.com wisely stashed Smith in early April for a relative FAAB bargain of $63.
Was it a mistake for these experts to drop Smith?
This isn’t a point about the benefit of hindsight but rather a broader point about how fantasy experts regard certain types of players. Minor leaguers with a prospect pedigree are cherished, while players like Smith are frequently discarded, even though Smith as much short-term upside as any prospect in baseball. It isn’t merely the Yoan Moncadas of the world who are handled like precious cargo. Prospects who have lost their sheen, like A.J. Reed and J.P. Crawford, also tend to have a longer shelf life Yes, Smith was blocked in Tampa Bay. But the same can be said for many minor leaguers.
Now that he is here, Smith is an immediate add in every fantasy league. He has seven steals in 42 plate appearances and even though the BABIP sits at an unsustainable .419, Smith could hit .260 and still have considerable value. Kevin Kiermaier will be out for at least two months and unless Smith completely craters, he is all but guaranteed regular playing time.
Lewis Brinson $12. Other bids: $12, $1.
At the beginning of the year it appeared that Brinson was blocked, with Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, and Domingo Santana all ensconced in the Milwaukee outfield. But Braun has been injured since late April and Broxton has struggled so the Brewers’ brass decided to give Brinson a shot. Brinson is a top prospect with a great deal of upside. He was ranked 17th in Baseball Prospectus’ preseason Dynasty Top 101 rankings and was hitting .312/.397/.503 in 204 plate appearances at Triple-A Colorado Springs with six home runs and seven steals prior to his promotion. This does not sound particularly impressive, but Brinson is a prospect whose raw tools will lead to continued development, even at the major-league level. For 2017, this is a boom-or-bust kind of acquisition but I am still surprised that more teams weren’t in on Brinson or that the bids were not more aggressive.
Matt Albers $8. Other bid: $2. Tout Auction: $45. Tout Draft: $28.
Oh good, you’re here, you’re here! Sit down for a spell and I’ll tell you the story of the Curse of the Washington Nationals Bullpen. Sit down, sit down! Don’t be scared. Have some delicious iced tea! There, isn’t that delicious? Good for what ails you too!
It started way back in 2015, when the Nationals traded for a troubled soul by the name of Jon Papelbon. Papelbon choked a handsome young man who possessed a beautiful mane of flowing hair, and legend has it that an old curmudgeon with a terrible take decreed that the Nationals could never have an elite closer ever again. Papelbon lasted for a while, then he was released, never to be signed by another major-league team. On quiet summer days, you can still hear Papelbon’s loud Christmas sweater screaming, “poor taste! Poor taste!” Mark Melancon was a fine summer rental, but fled the capital in the winter of ’16. Even so, he couldn’t completely escape the curse. While he survived to the tale, his right pronator was not so lucky. But the scariest moment of the curse came when a young and promising Koda Glover hurt his back while bending down to get his body wash in the middle of a shower. The “medical experts” will tell you things like this happen all the time but it was the curse, I tells ya. IT WAS THE CURSE! (lightning flashes, thunder booms in the distance, a book falls off an ornate bookcase I neglected to mention earlier).
Now Matt Albers takes the role of Nationals closer. Oh, he’s a capable young man. The analytic geniuses at Baseball Prospectus will tell you he has a 2.54 DRA, a 0.7 WARP and that any man with good stuff can get the last three outs in the ninth. But those men are too scared to tell you the truth, or about the evil that lurks beneath the grounds at Nationals Park, and the searing hot take that will never allow a man to get the last three outs in the ninth without misfortunate befalling him. Nationals fans will never get to know the joy of another safe closer like Chad Cordero, at least not until the bad hot take is acknowledged as a good one and the idea of “playing the game the right way” is admired and respected in these parts once again (20 minutes of random cackling, followed by 10 minutes of prolonged coughing).
Hey, where did that young whippersnapper go? I had another 40 minutes of cackling left in me!
Buck Farmer $8. Other bids: $3, $3, $2, $1. Tout Auction: $118. Tout Draft: $17 (ARI, TB)
After two outstanding starts, Farmer has a shot to claim a permanent spot in the Tigers’ rotation. The walk rate was down in Triple A and Farmer’s good control carried over to the majors. You don’t need DRA to tell you that Farmer isn’t going to keep this up, but a 3.68 DRA in two starts is far more instructive than the 0.00 ERA. His velocity is down, and while velocity is far from everything I am curious to know what Farmer is doing differently, if anything. If he had starred in a 2005 remake of the movie Tron, Buck could have been the Farmer in the Dell.
Sean Newcomb $6. Other bids: $5, $2. Tout Auction: $8. Tout Draft: $201 (MIA)
Newcomb’s scouting profile spoke to flashes of brilliance corresponding with struggles with repeatability and command. He showed all the former and none of the latter against the Mets in his debut Sunday, allowing an unearned run in 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts, four hits, and one unintentional walk. Newcomb stayed on the edges of the zone but never lost control of his arsenal. It was one outing but it was a great sign for both the Braves and Newcomb’s fantasy investors going forward. I’d invest in the #2 starter upside.
Newcomb was one of Bret Sayre’s three pitching acquisitions this week. I really liked this pick-up for Bret.
Jose Pirela $6. Other bids: $4, $1. Tout Auction: $60. Tout Draft: $3.
We knew things were going to be ugly for the Padres this year, but no one would have predicted that Matt Szczur and Pirela were going to be jockeying for at bats in the Padres outfield. Pirela is the starter now, and he has two home runs in 25 plate appearances for the Padres after swatting 13 home runs and stealing eight bases at Triple A in 201 plate appearances. El Paso is a hitters’ park but it isn’t an extreme venue for offense. Pirela should be monitored in mixed leagues but seeing how all the 15-team expert mixed leagues sallied forth and added him to their rosters it is likely that you will have to do the same if you play in a deeper mixed league.
Pat Neshek $5. Other bids: $3, $1. Tout Auction: $128. Tout Draft $69.
Neshek has not been tabbed as the Phillies closer, but that didn’t stop the expert bidders from getting all hot and bothered and bidding for Neshek’s services. Neshek did get the most recent save for the Phillies, but manager Pete Mackanin has not given any indication that he is looking to make a switch in the ninth. Further complicating matters is the fact that Neshek is a prime trade candidate for a contender if he pitches well, so even if Mackanin made a change tomorrow this could be nothing more than a six-week stab at a closer. I like Neshek just fine, but the speculation based on the wisp of a rumor is overblown.
Alex Meyer $3. Other bid: $2. Tout Auction: $11. [NYY (yesterday), KC]
Meyer is past the age where we tend to get excited about prospects, but a high-90s fastball and a slider that can hit the upper-80s (it is classified as a curve by most Fx tracking systems) does tend to get people excited regardless of age. The problem with Meyer is the same as it ever was. He doesn’t throw enough strikes and despite somewhat better results this year, his strike percentage is still very low. Meyer has abandoned his change-up and is mixing in some four-seam fastballs for the first time, but he is still walking over six batters per nine. That’s the bottom line for Meyer, and if he issues so many free passes he is always going to be a risky fantasy play. This was the second of Bret’s three pitcher pick-ups this week.
Mike Montgomery $3. Other bids: $1, $1. Tout Draft: $2 (@NYM)
Montgomery is back in the Cubs’ rotation, this time because of a Kyle Hendricks’ finger injury. This will be Montgomery’s second start of the season and if Hendricks’ injury turns out to be minor this will be another short stay in the rotation, as the Cubs like the flexibility Montgomery’s ability to pitch multiple innings gives them out of the pen. Montgomery handles righties better than he handles lefties, which is weird given that he is a southpaw. His strikeout rate is up this year but then so is his walk rate. He is an OK matchup against the Mets, a team that is middle-of-the-pack in both strikeout and walk percentage.
Jake Junis $2 (@LAA)
Seth Lugo $2 (WAS)
C.J. Cron $1. Other bid: $1.
Kyle Gibson $1. (SEA, CLE)
Chris Iannetta $1. Other bid: $1.
Tyler Moore $1
Chase Headley $1
Scott Feldman $1. Tout Auction: $2. (@SD)
Joe Panik $1
Cory Spanenberg $1
Gibson was the third pitcher Bret picked up in LABR this week. Go Bret!
Bret did not pick up any free agents in Tout, but he did make a trade, sending Yangervis Solarte and $390 in FAAB to Pianowski for Braun.
Tout Wars NL
Brett Phillips $117. Other bids: $41, $36, $12.
Phillips was the “other” outfielder called up by the Brewers this past week. His calling card is a cannon of an arm that gets the scouting types excited but doesn’t do anything for us fantasy types. The fantasy profile is as a moderate power bat with a little speed thrown in for good measure. The challenge with Phillips is that the whiffs have increased prodigiously since he was acquired by Milwaukee from the Astros and there isn’t enough in his profile to suggest that Phillips would survive a 35 to 40 percent strikeout rate in the majors. Phillips may get an opportunity to start, but unlike with Brinson there is a good possibility that this is simply a short-term call up until Braun is ready.
I bid $36. The bottom of my offense is leaking but I was reluctant to spend nearly 12 percent of my budget on a hitter who could be in the minors in a week or two. I am surprised there were no bids in LABR.
Jose Pirela $112. Other bids: $88, $68, $41, $41, $24, $6. LABR NL: $15.
Pirela was profiled above in the mixed section. I only bid $24. I significantly misjudged Pirela’s market, although I would not have bid more than $75-80 for him even with an aggressive bid.
Sean Newcomb $86. Other bids: $83, $81, $67, $51, $47. $22. LABR NL: $9. (MIA)
Newcomb was the third player bid on in Tout this week and the third player I did not acquire. Relative to my limited innings/ratio protection strategy this bid was relatively aggressive. I should have stashed Newcomb a week or two ago on my reserve list for $0.
Tyler Moore $34. Other bids: $32, $12, $5, $1, $0. LABR NL: $3
Moore will start at first for the Marlins while Justin Bour is on the DL with a left ankle contusion. At first, it seemed like Bour would only miss 10 days but now the possibility exists that he might be out longer. Moore has some pop but a limited on-base percentage and defense that doesn’t play anywhere but first base has kept Moore on the bench/in the minors for most of his professional career. He’s worth the speculative grab in an only but unless worse news emerges on the Bour front you can ignore Moore everywhere else.
I was a little surprised Adleman was available. I have him in the CBS NL expert league and have streamed him two or three times. CBS does have a seven-man reserve list compared to Tout Wars’ four-man list, but given the paucity of starting pitching Adleman should be rostered in -only.
Brian Johnson $13. Other bids: $11, $2. (@PHI)
Entering June, Johnson was a spot starter for the Red Sox and not taking a regular turn, but Eduardo Rodriguez’s injury changes that, at least in the short term. Johnson had a masterful outing against the Mariners that was bookended by two mediocre turns, against the Blue Jays and Tigers. Johnson uses his pitches well but has limited stuff. His fastball doesn’t top 90 and his secondary pitches are decent but nothing special. If you’re grabbing Johnson this week it’s for what should be an “easy” start against the Phillies, not for a long-term fix.
Jake Junis $13. Other bid: $2. (@LAA). Tout AL: $11
Entering 2016 it appeared that Junis had stalled out as a serviceable but underwhelming minor-league arm, someone who might be able to fill out that back end of a bullpen but nothing more. But Junis added some velocity to his fastball and improved his off-speed selections enough to make himself a viable back-end rotation candidate. The results since he was promoted to the Royals have been underwhelming and the walk rate is a significant concern. Even in AL-only, Junis is a fringy option and a match-up play at best.
Chris Tillman $9 (@CHW)
Buck Farmer $7. Other bids: $6, $2, $2, $2. Tout AL: $187. (ARI, TB)
Farmer was profiled above in the mixed section.
I bid two dollars on both Farmer and Johnson. Bids in the AL were divided among teams that did not have a significant need for a pitcher and bid two dollars apiece and teams that did have a pressing need and bid six dollars or more. My efforts to trade a starting pitcher over the last 3-4 failed in part because owners in LABR would rather spend between seven and $13 of their FAAB on arms than to trade a useful commodity for a pitcher. Given the paucity of hitting in the free-agent pool, I cannot say that I blame them.
Peter Bourjos $3. Tout AL: $37.
I bid $2 more than I needed to bid and grabbed Bourjos to replace Kevin Kiermaier. My team is near the bottom in steals and I should probably ditch the category, but Bourjos and Jaycob Brugman were the only viable outfield replacements available in LABR this week so I decided to take one final stab at steals. Bourjos would need an injury to one of the outfielders in front of him to have value although he does have three home runs and three steals in 71 plate appearances as a part-timer thus far.