This article is part of our Collette Calls series.While many were focused on March Madness this past weekend, yours truly and 40+ others were in New York City for Tout Wars 2014. How focused were we on the task at hand? At 11 pm on Saturday night, while in Foley's bar, we all realized that the baseball game wasn't even on one of the many televisions in the place. The conversations about baseball at the table were that good.
It is my favorite weekend of the year and have made the trek from Orlando to New York for eight draft seasons starting with the 2007 Tout Wars when I was a last second sub for the guys from RotoJunkie.com. Last season, I finished 11th place as Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jesus Montero, and Josh Johnson helped napalm my team into an abyss that I was never able to climb out of. I liked my team coming out of that auction, others loved it even more. Either way, finishing 11th place is not acceptable for me. It was my lowest finish in the seven years I had participated in Tout Wars so the plan this season was to not let that happen again.
Each season, my pitching tends to outperform my hitting. Maybe it is because I scrutinize pitchers closer when watching them on television or at games than I do hitters. The camera view that we have during games favors pitching analysis as only so much can be done while watching a batter from that perspective. The side view of a batter, the missing link in breaking down hitters, is a view we usually only see during broadcasts when a player has done something well.
Either way, the plan was to go into the draft with a 68/32 split for my values and to buy some quality starting pitching in hopes that others were a bit more scared off with the recent injuries. With myself, Chris Liss, and Jeff Erickson in the room, I let the RotoWire dollar values be a part of my process, but not the end-all-be-all of it. I took the base projections, meshed them with my own, and then listed out the dollar values from the original RotoWire projections as well as some other industry sources that were present in the room to judge the market value of the player.
The table below shows my roster, what I paid for each player, and what my projections had that player valued at:
If you are interested in the order in which picks went down, by position, you can see that here.
On the offensive side of the ledger, I have few regrets. In my head, I wanted Yan Gomes and Hank Conger at catcher, but Gomes went $13 and I was not willing to go $4 above what I had him projected for. I tossed out Conger at $2 and won him there while jumping in on the Pinto bid after Erickson threw him out. The two are likely on the short end of the playing time stick for now, but both have the most offensive upside for their respective teams and Conger is the better receiver in Anaheim. The duo could produce 10 homers for me, or 30. Either way, they'll do more for me than Montero and Carlos Corporan did last season when I spent $19 on that duo.
I did not acquire as much speed as I would have liked, and that regret started early when I tossed out Austin Jackson as the third player in the draft and then let him go to Ron Shandler at $20. I had him as a $21 player, and for some reason, I could not speak up at $21. I spent that amount on Cespedes 61 spots later, who has a better-rounded upside, but won't bring the speed that Jackson potentially will. My hope is that Aoki will bring extra steals under Ned Yost and his lead foot. Aoki has the on-base skills, so as long as Yost lets him run, I feel he has 30-steal upside. Joyce made his way back on my roster as he has each year I've been in the AL auction (since 2009) because of the switch to the OBP format rather than batting average. He does not hit for a good average because he gets overshifted and tends to pull most of his batted balls in play. This season, because of the Rays' depth, they can use him strictly against righties and he has shown a willingness to go the other way during Grapefruit League play that was not present during the regular season.
Outside of my catchers, I have everyday players at the corners, throughout my outfield, utility, and swing spot. The middle infield is a different story as I lost out on several targets despite my best efforts so I threw the money at other positions and went with endgame targets. I was surprised to get Franklin at $2 because a trade to another team (Detroit, Tampa Bay, New York, Texas) gives him an immediate boost with more playing time. Nunez should get playing time as the Yankees have Brian Roberts on the roster and Derek Jeter may not make it through a 150+ game season. Rather than invest big into a single bat, I spread the risk and chased my targets that I feel have upside such as Abreu and Rasmus. Abreu was my biggest reach of the draft, but with the previous 12-to-15 bats in front of him going $3 to $5 over my projections in bids, I felt comfortable doing that.
Pitching did not work out as I had planned. My plan was to get two Tier 1 starters, a Tier 2 guy, a Tier 3 guy, and find two endgame targets. For the bullpen, I had a Tier 2 closer market in mind, with two strong middle reliever candidates. This is what my pitching staff roster plan looked like:
Get 2 of: Darvish, Shields, Sale, Scherzer, Verlander, Price, Hernandez
Get 1 of: Cobb, Tanaka, Weaver, Sanchez, Kuroda,
Get 1 of: Archer, Buchholz, Masterson, Porcello, Smyly, Nova
Get 2 of: Peacock, Skaggs, Carrasco, Hellickson, Bauer, E. Ramirez, Hutchinson
Tier 1 plan worked out perfectly as I got the duo cheaper than my projections. Tier 2 was addressed immediately when I grabbed Tanaka. In a perfect world, I would have grabbed Cobb at $19, but if I said $19 when he came up as the 43rd bid, someone would have bumped me to $20 because I am the Rays fan in the room and Cobb's longest supporter.
Tier 3 took some time to materialize as I had to wait 100 nominations after not being willing to go $13 on Archer. Tier 4 is where the plan fell apart. My $1 bid on Peacock was at "going twice…." when Mike Podhorzer of Fangraphs jumped in and took him from me in dollar days. He doubled the pain for me in nominating and winning Carrasco for $1 when the bids got back around to him. Having already lost out on earlier attempts to get Skaggs, Ramirez, and Hutchinson, I had to settle for Hellickson and Bauer. Hellickson is already out for two months and Bauer may open the season in the minors. I am fine with waiting on Hellickson as he is an extra reserve while on the disabled list for me, but I have to put Casey Fien and Dane De La Rosa in my lineup to replace them for the time being.
My reliever situation worked out as poorly as my Tier 4 plan did. This was my plan for the bullpen:
Get 1 of: Axford, Frieri, Soria
Get 1 of: Qualls, Jones
Get 1 of: Santos, R. Webb
Simply put, I misjudged the closer market. The table below shows how all closers went in each of the three ToutWars auctions against their RotoWire projections in a 68/32 split:
|Closer||AL/NL||RW Proj||Mixed||RW Proj|
Each of my targets went above what I had them projected for (that's what I get for writing about Axford). The only other player I participated in was Rodney, but I did not go higher than my $11 bid because I do not believe he will hold the job this season with Farquhar looming. The same applied to Hunter, who I have long been vocal about in my concerns of him holding that job. I went early with Santos when he was thrown out because he looked terrific last season and Janssen has had an issue with a sore shoulder throughout the spring. I took Webb because of my concerns with Hunter and O'Day, who also has splits while he tries to add a changeup to help. Webb has already made his adjustments so I made a skills play with him as I did with Qualls who is one of five names in a closer by committee situation.
By category, here is how the roster shakes down against the targets I set pre-draft based on previous standings:
I should have some offensive cache to make a move for help within the season. I will have to be diligent in speculating for saves on the free agent pile as I was last season when I picked up Farquhar nearly a month in advance of him stealing the job from Tom Wilhelmsen. I feel good about this team not finishing in the bottom half of the league, but am still iffy on its shot at dethroning three-time champ Larry Schechter, or even being the best RotoWire entry in the league.