Cory’s Mixed Auction Tout Wars Draft Recap
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Coming off a competitive fifth-place finish in the Tout Wars mixed auction last year, my overall strategy going into this auction was mostly the same as in past years: build a strong offense that can compete in every category, acquire two top closers to anchor a great bullpen and bargain shop for inexpensive starting pitching with upside. Last year, I nailed two-thirds of the strategy, with a monster offense and a great bullpen, but my starting pitching melted down as none of the risks panned out.
Just a reminder, this is a 15-team mixed league, with a $260 budget for a standard 23-man roster, and a six-man snake reserve draft. Here’s who I got this year, in order of purchase:
Corey Seager (SS) $18
I had projected Seager at $19 so I was happy to get my first purchase of the day at a slight savings, perhaps thanks to the balky knee that may cause him to open the season on the DL. Still, I think my projection for him is actually somewhat conservative, and if the knee problem doesn’t linger, he could return a big profit even at this price. In fact, I think he’ll be the #2 shortstop in fantasy this year behind Carlos Correa, so I’m very happy with this buy.
Kenley Jansen (CL) $21
He and Wade Davis shared the highest auction price for any closer, with Craig Kimbrel going shortly after for $20 and Trevor Rosenthal for $19, so I paid a fair value for the man I expect to be the #1 closer in fantasy baseball this year. In fact, I had projected him at $23 – the same price Aroldis Chapman went for as the #1 closer last year – so I think I even got a small discount!
Giancarlo Stanton (OF) $39
Derek Van Riper is notorious in Tout Wars for spending heavily to buy the elite bats, and that drags up the prices on all of the top-25 hitters. I had projected Stanton for $37, and he carries considerable risk at almost any price due to his lengthy injury history, but the choices were getting thin and I didn’t want to get shut out of the elite power bats. Of course, I can’t feel too bad about getting a 26-year-old slugger who has averaged 41 homers per 162 games in his career. I just hope he gets close to that many this year!
The downside of this purchase is that I had to pass on my pet player, Edwin Encarnacion, who went moments later for my projected price of $33. But, he carries some injury risk too, and I didn’t want to commit that much money after spending so much on Stanton.
Rougned Odor (2B) $18
This was without question my biggest reach of the day, but I am a huge Odor fan, and after passing on Encarnacion – it was too tempting to acquire another pet player at a much lower price. He was outstanding after his recall last year, ranking third among MLB second basemen in OPS from that date through the end of the season, so he could indeed earn this price. But, he’s still very raw and lacks plate discipline, and may get stuck near the bottom of the Rangers’ lineup. There’s upside here, but at a very risky price.
David Robertson (CL) $17
I wanted a solid second closer to back up Jansen and opted for Robertson at a dollar more than I projected him. I might’ve been better off with a slightly cheaper option in Ken Giles ($16) or Cody Allen ($14), but Robertson has been remarkably consistent over his career and was quietly outstanding last season, with a career-best WHIP despite an artificially high ERA fueled by overinflated strand and HR/FB rates.
Kyle Seager (3B) $22
Not much to say about this one. I got a solid, consistent power bat who is still in his prime, at a very reasonable price, at a point in the draft when power was dwindling and most hitters were still going slightly above my projected prices.
Marcus Stroman (SP) $12
Almost all starting pitchers were going for $3-4 more than I had projected, so I was happy to get Stroman at my projected price. Unfortunately, the more I look at this buy in hindsight, the more unwise it seems. I’m as big a Stroman fan as there is, but he threw only 46.1 IP last year including the postseason, has averaged a good but not great 7.4 K/9 in his brief MLB career, and pitches in a great hitters’ park in what should be a tough division. On the bright side, Stroman’s injuries last year had nothing to do with his arm, and he should get plenty of offensive and bullpen support, so he could indeed earn what I paid, or even more. But, I probably would have been better off with a similar risk/reward profile at a better price from Yordano Ventura ($7), Luis Severino ($7), Carlos Rodon ($8) or Patrick Corbin ($8), just to name a few.
Yu Darvish (SP) $10
I got him right after Stroman, which makes me feel better about that purchase. Darvish is a borderline top-10 starter when healthy, and should be back by late May or early June, plenty of time to throw 150 or more innings. But even if he comes back at the All-Star break, and pitches at a step below his previous level, I still could break even on this pick. Anything more than that and I could make a huge profit. This is one of my favorite buys of the entire auction.
Addison Russell (2B/SS) $11
I projected him for $15, so I was surprised to get him for this price after a moderate jump bid. He lifted his OPS by over 90 points in the second half last season and may move up a few batting order spots in what should be a loaded Cubs offense. His dual position eligibility makes him an ideal middle infield selection.
Brandon Belt (1B) $11
There is risk here after last year’s season-ending concussion and minor offseason knee surgery, but I projected him at $12, so it’s a fair price. It’s well within his reach and even leaves room for a profit.
Kole Calhoun (OF) $18
I got Calhoun for the exact price I projected him for – in fact, the same price I paid for him last year – and probably could have gotten him for a dollar or two cheaper after Zach “The Goose” Steinhorn cooled off on his $15 bid. I expect a little less power this year, but he should provide a better OBP, with a lot of runs hitting in front of Mike Trout.
Ben Revere (OF) $8
I was at a point when I was starting to worry about my team speed, and while I’m not a big fan of no-power speedsters, I couldn’t pass up on this price, since I projected him at $19! Dusty Baker vows to have a running offense, so Revere should post a ton of steals and runs with a solid OBP. This buy should yield a huge profit, certainly enough to make me feel better about the moderate overpays on Odor and Stroman.
Kevin Pillar (OF) $10
I thought I could sneak Pillar through at a lower price, given that I got him at a point in the auction when teams were starting to conserve money, but I projected him for $13 so I’m still very happy with this buy. He’s not a great OBP guy, but leading off in the explosive Blue Jays lineup could lead to strong overall numbers and good value for this price.
Logan Forsythe (1B/2B) $10
I’m a huge Forsythe fan and though I might steal him for $4 when Jeff Erickson started reciting “going once, going twice…”, but Joe Pisapia stepped in and bid me up to $10 before bowing out. I had projected him for $8, going slightly conservative after last year’s unexpected breakout, but if he ends up batting leadoff for the Rays, that could be a boon to his value. There’s some risk at this price but still room for profit, and I like players with multiple position eligibility.
JT Realmuto (C) $5
Like the rest of my offense, Realmuto will return solid counting numbers but with a low OBP. It’s nice to find a catcher who can chip in with some steals, and I had projected him for $7 due to that, so I may even have gotten a little discount here.
Derek Norris (C) $7
I got him at my projected price, which was very satisfying after paying $10 for him last year. Given my need for OBP, I would’ve been better off with Stephen Vogt ($9) and/or Francisco Cervelli ($6), but I’m very happy with this tandem for this total cost.
Drew Smyly (SP) $9
Smyly is even more risky than Stroman, given his past shoulder problems, but I like his upside even more and thought he would go for a few dollars more than this. He has a 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 8.6 K/9 over the past two seasons since returning to starting but has managed only 219.2 IP during that time. I’m not worried about his level of performance, but volume could be a major problem if he can’t stay healthy. There’s room for profit here, but this was one of my riskiest purchases of the entire day.
Jesse Hahn (SP) $1
I wanted a dollar pitcher at this point in the draft and love getting Hahn, who offers terrific upside. He has a 3.23 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 170.0 career IP, gets a ton of ground balls, doesn’t give up many homers and works in a great pitching environment. Plus, he’s vowed to throw fewer breaking balls this year to try and keep his arm healthier. I should make a big profit on this purchase almost regardless of how much he pitches.
Brett Lawrie (2B/3B) $6
I wanted Brad Miller as my UT, looking for a backup for both shortstop and outfield, but he surprisingly went for $9 against my $6 projection and I couldn’t afford to chase him to that price. Justin Turner would’ve been a better buy for $5, given my poor team OBP, but Lawrie does at least bring the advantage of dual position eligibility and a better hitting environment. He quietly posted several career-highs last year, most importantly in games played, and is entering his prime years, so hopefully he can regain some of the OBP and steals from earlier in his career and turn this into a big profit.
Jeremy Jeffress (CL?) $2
Manager Craig Counsell has refused to commit to either Jeffress or Will Smith ($4) as the Brewers’ closer, and while Smith may be the consensus pick, I think the club will eventually opt for Jeffress’ power arm in that role. He just made his spring debut on Tout Wars Saturday due to a mild hamstring strain, but was said to be “shoving it” in bullpen sessions and is expected to be ready for Opening Day. Worst case, I think he’ll split the closer role with Smith and return a huge profit on this buy, so I’m thrilled to get him at this price. Combined with Jansen and Robertson, he’ll be the key third piece to make my bullpen a major strength, which is critical to my team given how heavily I discount starting pitching.
Erasmo Ramirez (SP) $1
Ramirez posted a stellar 2.99 ERA (14th-lowest in all of MLB) and 1.04 WHIP in 24 starts from May 14 to September 24 last season, so he clearly has the ability to be a top-end starter. Of course, he was utterly horrible in his other 10 appearances, so there’s plenty of risk here too. But for a dollar, there’s almost no way I won’t make a profit on this buy, and at the age of 25, it’s not out of the question to think he might take a major step forward.
Kevin Kiermaier (OF) $1
I was hoping to sneak through Gerardo Parra ($10) for my last outfield spot. No such luck, but getting Kiermaier for a buck is a fine consolation prize. His .298 OBP last year was brutal, but he made up for that with 10 homers and 18 steals, and his outstanding glove will keep him in the lineup every day and help drive up his counting stats. Even with the poor OBP, I’ll make a profit on this buy.
Nate Eovaldi (SP) $2
Eovaldi is one of the hardest-throwing starters in the game, has decent command and isn’t homer-prone, all of which contributed to a 14-3 record last year. On the downside, despite his elite velocity, he’s still too hittable and has only managed good but not great strikeout numbers. He was much better in the second half last year after improving his changeup, so he could take a step forward this year. I love this gamble for $2, and between him, Stroman, Smyly, Hahn and Ramirez, I think I have a group of young starters who collectively present major breakout potential this season.
Reserves: Alex Cobb, Doug Fister, Rubby De La Rosa, Henderson Alvarez, R.A. Dickey and Daniel Nava
As usual, I loaded up on five more starting pitchers with varying degrees of upside, to create lineup options and hedge against injuries. Between Darvish, Cobb and Alvarez, I’ll have three more spots to fill in free agency once the season starts. Nava has had a huge spring and could end up in my Opening Day lineup as a short-term fill-in for Corey Seager if he has to start the year with a brief DL stint.
(Funny anecdote, at least to me: I record all auction purchases in one big Excel sheet, to track projected standings, auction inflation, the available player pool, etc., then copy the row for each of my purchases into another spreadsheet so I can quickly check my own roster and needs. At one point, the draft got somewhat out of turn and I nominated Andrew Bailey, only to have that nomination nullified when the previous owner at the table, Scott Pianowski, took his turn instead. Then, I tried to pick up Bailey in the end game for $2, when only Joe Pisapia would be able to outbid me (and seemed disinclined to do so)… but I realized I had already completed my roster, as I had forgotten to copy Hahn into my roster spreadsheet and thought I still had one pitching spot left! Joe then took Bailey in the reserve round after I stashed Alex Cobb, so I missed out on Bailey three separate times in this draft. Watch him go on to pick up 25 saves this year!)
Here’s how that all looks as a roster:
C – Norris 7, Realmuto 5
CI – Belt 11, K. Seager 22, Forsythe 10
MI – Odor 18, C. Seager 18, Russell 11
UT – Lawrie 6
OF – Stanton 39, Calhoun 18, Pillar 10, Revere 8, Kiermaier 1
SP – Stroman 12, Darvish 10, Smyly 9, Eovaldi 2, E. Ramirez 1, Hahn 1
RP – Jansen 21, Robertson 17, Jeffress 2
So, based on my initial goals, how’d I do? Well, pretty good, but not great. I think I will do well in the offensive counting categories, although much of my speed is expected to come from several players each stealing 6-10 bases, with only Revere, Pillar and Kiermaier looking like guarantees to even top a dozen steals. I could have a very poor OBP, particularly if youngsters like Odor, Russell, Kiermaier, Pillar and Realmuto don’t improve their on-base skills. My bullpen should be terrific, particularly if Jeffress secures a share of the closing gig, and I like the upside of my pitching staff. However, given all of the youth and injury risks among my starters, I’ll need to cycle in pitchers all year long to try and stay competitive in wins and strikeouts, the categories that killed me last year.
According to my own projections, three-time champion Fred Zinkie is once again the team to beat, with last year’s runner-up Scott Swanay right behind him. After them, there are several teams projected in the low 90’s in points, including myself, Dave Gonos, newcomer Brett Sayre and MLB.com’s own Zach “The Goose” Steinhorn. However, given Fred’s propensity to lead the league in trades as well as in the standings, I’m sure every team is in for a fair degree of turnover this year. Looking forward to the season getting started to see how they all do!
Let me know what you think!