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Collette Calls: AL Tout Wars Recap

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at theprocessreport.net. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.

This was my 10th year participating in Tout Wars, which seems as unreal as me even being in Tout Wars in the first place. My first year happened because the owners at Rotojunkie had conflicts and couldnít make the draft and I was sitting on a ton of travel points and had no conflicts. While Iíve had a lot of fun over the years, the one thing weíve never done is raise a glass to my title. Iíve never finished in last place, but Iíve also never finished higher than second place and that second place finish was a distant second place to Larry Schechter back in the National League before changing over to the American League. Last year, I felt I drafted extremely well and only managed a fifth place finish because my in-season management was the equivalent of most pitchers hitting. In short, I really want to see my damn name on the Tout Wars menu at Foleyís next year Ė Colletteís Shepardís Pie.

The Plan

Simple Ė get faster. When I looked back at how Iíve done in AL Tout Wars, I realized just how terribly all of my teams performed in speed. I found I had never finished higher than ninth in the steals category in any season. Last year, had I not cut bait with Francisco Lindor three weeks before he was called up or Jarrod Dyson when he was hurt, I may have done much better. I wanted to target Jose Altuve for my team and build around him. If I couldnít afford him, I was going to after Delino DeShields Jr. and move the extra money around as trends came up in the draft. I was going to pair either player up with Lorenzo Cain whom I feel has another level to his game and could be a 20/30 candidate this season. That would give me my speed base so I could avoid chasing the Rajai Davis and Jarrod Dyson types that run, but do so at the expense of other categories.

On the pitching side of the ledger, I was going to draft a Tier 1 pitcher, a Tier 2 pitcher, a Tier 3 pitcher, and then round out with three starting pitchers for $5 or less. I was looking for one big-time closer and then two speculations for saves unless a lower-tiered closer fell to me at a decent price. Last year, I spent $25 on the trio of Brett Cecil, Luke Gregerson, and Andrew Miller, and although only one of them had the job on draft day, I ended up finishing second in the league in saves which emboldened me to try it again.

As Mike Tyson said, ďEveryone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.Ē The proverbial punch in the mouth was me throwing out Jose Altuve as the sixth player and watching his price soar to $38. Plan A went into the trash can and Plan B was activated. Plan B lasted all of one player (see pitching section) and I then had to come up with a Plan C on the fly because I did something I never do.

Catcher:

PLAYERABHRRBIRSBOBPPROJPAID
Conger2287262500.29421
Murphy2346262700.30123

I had $10 budgeted for two catchers. Robinson Chirinos & Chris Iannetta were the two names for C1 and my C2 list consisted of Dioner Navarro, Josh Phegley, Hank Conger, and Gary Sanchez (in no particular order). I was priced out of both of my C1 options so I downshifted and doubled up on the cheap and ended up with one target and another player that I felt was a safe cheap play. I have low expectations for this group, but each has an outside shot at 10 homers with an increase in playing time. The catcher pool in the American League is not that great to begin with, and when Steve Moyer buys two of the best ones for himself at full price, everyone else adjusts. Iíve gone big at catcher and Iíve gone cheap, and I typically end up with the same disappointing results from this position.

Corners:

PLAYERABHRRBIRSBOBPPROJPAID
Park51528827460.3302121
Teixeira50229957020.3302120
Gonzalez3388343950.29516

I had budgeted $40 for these three slots and had the following names listed as possibilities here: Carlos Santana, Byung-Ho Park, Mark Teixeira for 1B, Logan Forsythe, Mark Trumbo, Mike Moustakas, Brett Lawrie, Luis Valbuena for CI, Marwin Gonzalez, Juan Uribe, Joey Gallo, Tyler White, Tyler Saladino for 3B.

Park was my primary target because Iím along for the ride with this guy; I like the reports Iíve read on him and will take the risk on the contact. Teixeira was a pursuit for power production and a grab after passing on Alvarez earlier, perhaps out of frustration with myself for paying more than I wanted to for Gonzalezís flexibility. He qualifies all over the infield, which is huge for AL-only as it opens up possibilities for roster flexibility to cover injury. Gonzalez quietly raked at a .313/.364/.480 clip in the second half of the season as well.

The one guy I really wanted here was Forsythe but he got too pricey for me. He qualifies in a few places, is going to hit leadoff for Tampa Bay, and has been much better setting the table throughout his career than he has as a middle of the lineup bat. I tried to buy Hyun-Soo Kim to help boost my OBP, but Mike Podhorzer had the hammer at that stage of the draft so I went with Teixeira. Thereís HR/FB regression coming from him, but thatís baked into the projection and heíll still be able to produce runs in that lineup as long as it stays in one piece.

Middle:

PLAYERABHRRBIRSBOBPPROJPAID
Schoop49521635820.292910
Pearce35415484220.31782
Gregorius54511576150.315911

As mentioned, this was an area I originally budgeted money for because I wanted to build my team around Altuve. When that didnít happen, I moved the money to the outfield because I didnít have the faith to pay for Jason Kipnis as an Altuve-lite (he went $24) so I targeted DeShields for the speed. I did not have another name listed for second base, so I waited for the one that came out at a price I liked. Jonathan Schoop has received quite a bit of run these days in standard leagues (he went $13 in LABR), but he takes a hit in OBP leagues because he is rather unaccepting of his walks. I was still looking for pop when his name came up, so I went the extra dollar, but would have bowed out if someone said $11.

Pearce was always my target for middle infield and I waited until late in the draft to throw him out. Tout Wars uses 15 games for positional eligibility, so those 18 games Buck Showalter used Pearce at second base last year became a nice thing on draft day. Pearce has raked at Tropicana Field throughout his career and the Rays will be able to use him at least at first base and DH and perhaps even give him some second base time if Forsythe has to spell Evan Longoria. Gregorius was Plan B to my desire to land Brad Miller and his speed/pop combo. Miller went $17 the nomination before I threw out Gregorius and after watching Miller go $6 over my projection for him, I went up on Gregorius because the talent level dropped off after him. Gregorius had a .345 OBP after the break last season with five homers, 30 runs, and 37 runs driven in.

Outfielders:

PLAYERABHRRBIRSBOBPPROJPAID
Cain573187494270.3383127
DeShields55084878350.3282522
Dickerson51426797240.3121817
Saunders36012525080.32396

Once the Altuve plan fell apart, the top two outfielders were my primary targets so I was happy to get both below my projected value. I was very worried Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf were going to make me pay dearly for Cain as Iíve talked about him numerous times this winter and they even introduced him as ďColletteís favorite outfielderĒ on the LABR broadcast. That OF1 slot had three names: Cain, Carlos Gomez and George Springer. Of the three, I felt least confident with Gomez hitting a $30 projection but put his name there because he was Plan C if the other two didnít happen.

Gomez was the first of the trio to come out and went for $29 when I wouldnít say $30 (I said $28). Springer came out shortly thereafter and went $33 (I went $31), which left me with rostering Cain or a big part of my plan falling apart early. My guess is Glenn & Rick were gunshy about pushing me because they had already put out $92 on 3 players including $47 on Mike Trout, so I was able to lock down my primary target below projection. DeShields was the other primary target for the speed and runs and he too came in under my projected spend. The double-digit walk rate fuels his OBP and he swiped 25 bases last season as a rookie on mostly raw skills because of his inexperience at the upper levels of the minor leagues. If the DeShields plan didnít work out, I also listed Kevin Kiermaier, Leonys Martin, Austin Jackson, and Norichika Aoki as alternatives for that slot.

The third slot was set up for a power bat, and Dickerson wasnít even listed as a name on my pre-draft list. The three names I had for this slot were Colby Rasmus, Carlos Beltran, and Avisail Garcia on the cheap side of things. I got in on Dickerson because he was $2 under my projection at that point in the auction, so I took a stab at it assuming the Rays guy would be one-upped. I wasnít and I ended up with the cleanup batter for Tampa Bay for a lineup that should be better at having guys on base this year than they were -- hell, have ever been.

The last outfield spot was a potpourri of sorts with an eye on Aaron Hicks there for his power/speed combo. I only had $8 budgeted for the spot, so I had to let Hicks go once he got to $11, and I was beaten to Austin Jackson at $11 by Chris Liss. I ended up with Michael Saunders because he was below his projected value and I wanted to avoid chasing after Davis as a final option (who went $10 two passes later).

Utility

PLAYERABHRRBIRSBOBPPROJPAID
Napoli46221625730.3311312
White1804262200.36302

The only plan for the Utility spot as well as the Swing spot (can be a hitter or a pitcher) was to leave it open to be flexible. I had $10 for the spot and wanted to get someone that would get me at least 450 at-bats. The names I had penciled in were Luis Valbuena, Victor Martinez, Evan Gattis, and Hyun-Soo Kim. Once I lost out on Kim, I focused on Napoli and let Kevin Kiermaier go for $10 to Lawr Michaels. I should have at least offered $11 for a guy I really like, but I needed the better OBP guy with more pop.

Tyler White was on my list of rookies to toss and see if I could end up with him. For those unfamiliar with White, go look at his career OBP numbers in the minors. Then, go read Dave Cameronís write-up of him over at Fangaphs.

Starters

PLAYERIPWKERAWHIPPROJPAID
Sale210152562.791.023332
Salazar188141983.401.162020
Walker184111693.731.231212
Moore162111583.781.29105
Karns12871154.051.3025
Ramirez15291203.801.2474

The plan all along was to spend money on pitching. Everyone spends money on hitting and few spend it on pitching. A new year, a new strategy. Last year, I didnít spend more than $15 on any pitcher and spread the risk, but Shane Greene, Drew Hutchison, and Trevor Bauer didnít work out as well as I thought. This year, my plan was to get three tiers of pitchers:

Tier 1: Either Chris Archer or Carlos Carrasco

Tier 2: Either Danny Salazar or Garrett Richards

Tier 3: Either Taijuan Walker, Justin Verlander, or Collin McHugh

Last 5 spots (in order): Matt Moore, Erasmo Ramirez, JA Happ, Clay Buchholz, Nate Eovaldi, Ervin Santana, Jesse Hahn, Tyler Duffey, Nick Tropeano, Chris Bassitt, Shane Greene.

That plan didnít even make it eight nominations into the draft as I did something Iíve never done before Ė bought the best pitcher in the draft, albeit unintentionally. Dallas Keuchel was the first player nominated and went for $26, just as he did in AL LABR. I did not have Keuchel valued that high ($21), so I thought Iíd see how Sale went knowing he too would be unlikely to go over the $33 he went for in AL LABR. In my experience, the Tout pitching prices for the top guys are within $1-$2 of what the LABR price was. That meant I could place the $32 bid on Sale and either watch him go $33 and bow out or take him $1 less than what he went for in LABR. If this were a second tier pitcher, I wouldnít do this, but with the best guy in the American League pitcher pool, itís not a bad place to be in. I donít recall who said $31, but no one said $33 so I had to immediately alter my pitching plan. Spending an extra $8 on that first pitcher (had budgeted $24 for the 1st slot) meant that I had to get cheaper downstream.

Tier 2 worked out exactly as I had hoped as I got Salazar exactly at the price I had him projected for and two dollars cheaper than what he went for in LABR. Tier 3 pitchers were ranked in the order I wanted them because Iím a Taijuan Walker believer in 2016. He has fewer than 250 innings at the big league level and you could see him turn a few corners last year. Now thatís heís re-working his changeup and sinker, Iím fully invested in him. I had him valued at $12 and got him at that while he went for $15 in LABR. The rest of the staff worked out better than I could have expected. I never thought Iíd get Moore at $5 with how well heís looked this spring and already hitting 95 on the gun. My love for Erasmo Ramirez is well known and he pitched incredibly well the final two-thirds of the season (2.70 ERA, 1.08 WHIP during that stretch) and my $4 acquisition of him was my last roster spot. I also spent quite a bit of time discussing how I felt Nate Karns was ready to take another step in 2016 this past fall during the First Pitch Forums in Arizona. Before he was shut down with forearm soreness in September, Karns was on a 12-start run where he had a 3.03 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP, and was striking out 26 percent of the batters he was facing. His changeup got better with every start.

Relievers

PLAYERIPSVWKERAWHIPPROJPAID
Giles65354823.051.171818
Dyson6524572.751.2522
Farquhar6563603.301.2222

This was one area that worked out exactly as planned. I budgeted $18 to land one of Ken Giles, Zach Britton or David Robertson and planned on picking two other relievers from the pool of: Sam Dyson, Alex Colome, Danny Farquhar, Nate Jones, Trevor May, Liam Hendricks, Fernando Salas, Mychael Givens, and Brett Cecil. I took Dyson when Glenn & Rick tried to sneak him through as a dollar bid as itís tough to let a guy go for $1 that Eno Sarris calls the right-handed Zach Britton. I took Farquhar as I nominated him at the $2 bid to see if someone would go a dollar up and nobody did. I take Kevin Cash at his word that it will be a closer-by-committee situation but recall that last year, Jake McGee never got his job back once he returned from injury.

Bench

Daniel Nava, Rey Fuentes, Nick Tropeano, Bradley Zimmer

Nava is going to be on the strong side of a platoon with Craig Gentry and gives me someone to put in the lineup for White should he not make the Opening Day roster. Fuentes is likely to make the Opening Day roster in Kansas City while Dyson is out. His stolen base totals in the minor leagues have been 42, 41, 35, 38, 25, and 29 since 2010. His role is unclear, but I wouldnít mind picking up some steals out of him while the depth chart allots him the chance to run. Zimmer is me returning to the Cleveland well and making a speculative play on playing time. Last year, they had no shortstop and I figured Lindor would be coming up. This year, their outfield is weak outside of Michael Brantley so Iím speculating on an aggressive promotion of Zimmer during the summer. Tropeano is someone with a great change, a good slider, and an average fastball, but struck out 134 batters in 125 innings between Triple-A and the majors. He should end up in the Angelsí rotation in 2016 and gives me some pitching depth to use if I move one of my active roster pitchers to pick up some offensive help.

The final numbers put my team in the top three, which is what I was aiming for. If you do a draft and donít come out highly ranked with your own numbers, youíve done something very wrong. The drafting is honestly the easy part of the season; itís the next 26 weeks that Iím more anxious about than sitting in the room with fantasy Hall of Famers and multiple expert league champs.