Cory’s Mixed Auction Tout Wars Recap

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I missed Tout Wars last year due to a scheduling conflict, and while Craig Glaser (@sabometrics) of Bloomberg Sports performed admirably as my stand-in, my team still scuffled to a bottom-three finish for the second straight year. It’s easy to say that finishing near the bottom of the pack is no shame in Tout Wars given the quality of the competition, and that’s true, but it still stings and I want to prove that my 2012 championship was no fluke.

To accomplish that this year, I went into the draft on Saturday looking to load up on power while also protecting my on-base percentage, which Tout Wars uses instead of batting average. I was willing to sacrifice some speed to do this, figuring I’d go for the “cheap speed” route later to fill in the gaps. On the pitching side, I wanted to build a high-quality bullpen without paying for the elite closers, and looked for low-risk, mid-upside starting pitching. Starting pitching emerges all season long so I draft my team with the mindset of making extensive moves in that area throughout the year.

Here’s the recap of who I bought, position by position:

Catchers

Derek Norris ($11 vs. projected $16) – Norris has solid power and will play a lot for the Padres, especially with Tim Federowicz out for a few months, so he should put up worthwhile counting numbers. Most importantly, though, he’s a strong OBP source for a catcher, making him more valuable in this league format. Several catchers went for below what I projected them, and in hindsight I would’ve preferred Yasmani Grandal at $8, but I think I can earn a profit on this pick.

Robinson Chirinos ($1 vs. projected $1) – He has some pop, plays in a good hitters’ park and doesn’t have much competition for playing time. I’ll be satisfied with a repeat of last year’s numbers.

Corner infielders

Edwin Encarnacion ($35 vs. projected $31) – Yes, I chased on this one, and yes there’s tremendous risk with him already battling a sore back during spring training. But I vowed going into the draft to spend for power, and it was expensive in the early going so I had to reach for one of my pet players. In hindsight, I should’ve kept going on Jose Abreu rather than letting him go to Al Melchior (@almelccbs) at $36, exactly what I projected for him, but I’ll never feel bad about bringing E42 back to my team.

Josh Donaldson ($32 vs. projected $27) – Almost every worthwhile third baseman went for several dollars more than I projected, so it’s no surprise I had to overspend here. He’ll have a hard time earning what I paid for him, but like others I’m betting that a move into a better lineup and a great hitters’ park will produce a spike in his numbers.

Yonder Alonso ($1 vs. projected $4) – Nothing special here, but he’ll offer a little pop and a decent OBP. I’m hoping he’ll end up near the top of the Padres’ lineup, since they lack any better table setters.

Middle infielders

Scooter Gennett ($1 vs. projected $3) – He should be the Brewers’ leadoff hitter, which should mean plenty of runs, even if he’s better in AVG leagues than the Tout OBP format. He has a little pop and will steal a base, too. Nothing special, but he won’t be useless. I would’ve loved to get Kolten Wong, but couldn’t afford him after spending so much on my corners and outfielders, especially when he went for $17 vs. the $12 I projected for him.

Jed Lowrie ($4 vs. projected $7) – Yes, I really did think we were bidding on Brett Lawrie. But, in reality they are actually very similar… injury-prone, low-OBP players with above-average pop for their positions. This one is in a better hitters’ park so maybe this mistake will pay off?

Chris Owings ($1 vs. projected $2) – He’ll hurt my OBP but has a little pop, a little speed, and safer playing time this year. I think there’s some upside here and I actually like this as a dollar flier.

Designated hitter

Chris Carter ($20 vs. projected $20) – I’m frankly more concerned about locking up my UT spot with a full-time DH than I am about his ability to earn this bid. His power is obviously legit, and I believe he made enough improvements to his swing that he can maintain a .240-250 average or even better. And, since this is an OBP league, he could end up being a small plus in that category. Now I just have to hope Jonathan Singleton gets sent back to Triple-A so Carter can qualify at 1B and open up my UT spot!

Outfielders

Yasiel Puig ($31 vs. projected $30) – He’s an excellent OBP source, and even small growth in the power and speed could yield plus-plus value. This bid isn’t as risky as it may seem because, even if he doesn’t reach his ceiling, he has a very high floor. Plus, he’s fun to watch and was one of my target players going into the draft…even if he doesn’t earn this cost I’ll be glad to have him on my team.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays

Mookie Betts ($18 vs. projected $23) – This was one of my first buys of the draft and I’m surprised he went so inexpensively. I projected him for a nearly full season of at-bats, in which he’ll provide an excellent OBP, 20+ steals and double-digit homers, plus a ton of runs batting atop the reloaded Red Sox offense. I understand the risks here, but he has the skills to earn even more than I projected, never mind what I paid.

Kole Calhoun ($18 vs. projected $13) – He scored 90 runs in 127 games last year, which translates to 110 or so over a full season, which would place him right among the MLB leaders. He hit 17 homers, too, so I’m expecting 20 or more, plus a handful of steals. Calhoun is in his age 27 season, so I think I’ll end up making a profit on this pick, even if he cost me a few dollars more than I had projected.

Jayson Werth ($13 vs. projected $22) – Based on my projections, this was one of the five biggest bargains in the entire draft. I wasn’t projecting him for a full season of at-bats, either, so even if he misses a little time early in the season there’s still plenty of time for him to earn this cost. Werth will produce a high OBP and good power, and approach double-digit steals, providing excellent five-category value. I’m very happy about this buy.

A.J. Pollock ($9 vs. projected $14) – Pollock is easily overlooked due to past injuries and the potential for crowded playing time in the D-Backs outfield, but he’s a very good player and I expect him to be locked in as their centerfielder and leadoff hitter. He has double-digit homer power, should steal 20+ bases and will score plenty of runs.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays

Starters

Masahiro Tanaka ($10 vs. projected $14) – I LOVE this pick. Even if he only lasts two months due to his balky elbow, I could still make a nice profit, and if he manages to throw an entire season, this will be the biggest steal of the entire draft. The only pitchers in baseball last year who threw more innings than Tanaka did, with a better ERA, WHIP and K/9, were Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez and Jake Arrieta. That’s it. This is a huge discount on a potentially elite starter, even factoring in the injury risk.

Hyun-Jin Ryu ($6 vs. projected $12) – Another nice discount thanks to a sore shoulder from which he is expected to fully recover. Strong ratios, decent strikeouts, and should get plenty of wins on an improved Dodgers team. There’s not a lot of downside at this cost, and plenty of room for profit if he doesn’t miss too much time to start the season.

(I was hoping for Gerritt Cole ($16 vs. projected $13) or Tyson Ross ($14 vs. projected $12) as my top two starters, but I think Tanaka is better than both and Ryu won’t be a huge step down from either, and I got this tandem for $14 less than the pair I had targeted. If I can get 55+ starts out of my pair, I’ll be very satisfied.)

Brandon McCarthy ($6 vs. projected $7) – I’m a big fan of McCarthy and he was a target coming into the draft. He purposefully put on plenty of weight going into last season in an effort to stay healthy and throw harder, and both goals were met. The Yankees restored his repertoire to full effectiveness after acquiring him last season, and the results were outstanding. If he even approaches that production again, and does it over a full season, there’s room for a big profit here.

Jered Weaver ($5 vs. projected $8) – His velocity continues to drop but he continues to put up #2/3 starter seasons; last year he went 18-9 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, with 169 K’s. I’ll make a very tidy profit on this buy.

Henderson Alvarez ($4 vs. projected $7) – He doesn’t strike anyone out, but should produce strong ratios and pick up a dozen or more wins with the improved Marlins. Like Ryu and Weaver, he’s not elite but I’ll make a nice profit on this one too. I would have preferred Danny Salazar ($3 vs. projected $9) and could’ve afforded him, but given the draft dynamics I don’t mind having settled for Alvarez.

Rick Porcello ($1 vs. projected $7) – Like Alvarez, he doesn’t offer much in the way of strikeouts, but he continues to improve and he’s still only 26 years old. He fits in perfectly with the rest of my rotation: a medium-upside starter at a bottom-of-the-barrel price who should produce a solid profit.

Relievers

Mark Melancon ($18 vs. projected $18) – I targeted Melancon coming into the draft, and after the elite guys all went for a couple of dollars more than I projected, I’m very happy to have gotten him for my projected price. He won’t offer the strikeout upside of the elite guys, but his ratios are outstanding and I expect him to approach or even top 40 saves in his first full season as a closer with a very good Pirates team.

Kenley Jansen ($14 vs. projected $17) – I targeted him coming into the draft too, with my price projection factoring in one month of missed time. Over a full season he’s a top-five closer, so I got a nice discount here and expect a strong profit, even after the missed time.

LaTroy Hawkins ($1 vs. projected $1) – Father Time will catch up eventually, so I’m just betting Hawkins will pick up 12-15 or more saves before that happens.

Reserves

Mike Minor gives me a little bit of rotation depth and I’ll stash away Josh Johnson on the DL in hopes he can contribute at some point during the season. Brandon Crawford gives me a middle infield option in case Owings flops, and Shane Victorino is a hedge against Betts struggling. Edward Mujica should steal a few saves early in the season if Koji Uehara can’t ring the bell, and while I’ll probably end up cutting my last reserve pick Melvin Upton Jr. without ever using him, it’ll still be nice to wonder what might have been…

Best bargains:

My projected dollar values produced a .926 correlation with the actual amounts paid for the 345 players picked during the auction, so I feel my projections were very accurate. But, there are always a few players who go for far less or far more than expected, whether due to draft dynamics, or simply not anticipating properly how the table will value the player. Several players went for far more than I projected, but out of respect to those who made the purchases, I’d rather focus on the ones I feel went for the biggest discounts. My Jayson Werth was one, and here are the other top five, based on the biggest net discount between what I projected and what they went for:

Ben Revere to Al Melchior (@almelccbs) ($6 vs. projected $17) – He’s an elite SB source who won’t hurt the OBP. Even a fraction of last year’s production produces a big profit on this pick.

Carl Crawford to Tim Heaney (@Tim_Heaney) ($3 vs. projected $13) – Crawford had a huge finish to last season, and has a much more clear path to playing time this year. I would’ve loved him as an end-game OF. This is almost pure profit for Tim.

Billy Hamilton to Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB) ($16 vs. projected $25) – Like Revere, Hamilton is an elite contributor in steals and could score a ton of runs atop the Reds lineup if Joey Votto returns to health. There is risk here, but upside far beyond what Fred paid.

Evan Gattis to Fred Zinkie ($15 vs. projected $23) – Obviously the wrist injury drove down the price, but if healthy, Gattis could make this a steal. He’ll put up solid OF/1B/DH power numbers while qualifying at catcher.

Jonathan Lucroy to Joe Pisapia (@JoePisapia17) ($20 vs. projected $28) – With decent power and run production, a strong OBP and tons of playing time, Lucroy was one of several catchers who went for what I felt was a discount. Nice snag by Joe at a point late in the draft where very few players of this caliber were available.

# # #

I’m eager to see this team perform. I know I’m short on speed, thin in the starting pitching, and have some injury risks in my offense. But, I think I have a ton of power and a strong team OBP, a potentially elite bullpen, and enough depth to stay afloat while I patch my weaknesses. I was able to execute my plan for the most part, and while I might not be good enough coming out of the draft to consider myself a front-runner, I feel good enough that I’ll be able to outperform the disasters of the last two years. Now, let’s get the season started!

Here’s a full recap of the draft:. Let me know what you think!

Cory

P.S. – Thanks again to the fine folks at @CityCrabNYC for hosting, to @RonShandler, Peter Kreutzer (@kroyte) and @lawrmichaels for their Tout leadership, and to auctioneer @Jeff_Erickson for deftly running the draft. A great day, as always.

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