This article is part of our Rounding Third series.
Another series of Tout Wars auctions are in the books. I participated in the AL auction Saturday morning, competing against RotoWire colleague Chris Liss for the second AL-only auction this spring. I then was the auctioneer for the Mixed League in the afternoon and early evening, and finally was part of the broadcast team along with Kyle Elfrink for the NL auction Sunday.
I didn't come into the auction with a specific plan - generally, I wanted to split my hitting and pitching on a 70-30 basis, and I wanted to be able to take advantage of what I believe are the early bargains in auctions in industry leagues. But in previous years I'd assign certain dollar values for certain slots, sometimes to the point of doing it for each position and penciling in 3-to-4 players that could conceivably fit those slots. That approach has worked for me, but in a way, it was too limiting - often an auction ebbs and flows in terms of buying activity, and having a rigid plan prevents the ability to pounce on perceived bargains when they present themselves.
This year was a little different than most for Tout Wars. For one, we implemented a new roster rule. Instead of having to buy five outfielders, we now (in the AL and NL-only leagues) had four assigned outfield slots, one utility slot, and one "swingman" slot which could be used on any position player or a pitcher. It's a reaction to the realities of major league roster management - even though MLB teams have 25-man rosters, frequently they carry 12 pitchers and sometimes even 13 pitchers. There are fewer real-life platoons and fewer teams carrying a fifth outfielder. The other big change was the group of people participating. Jason Grey is now a scout for the Rays and is out of the fantasy sports industry, Dean Peterson from Stats Inc. had a wedding to attend so he switched over the NL, Rob Leibowitz from Mastersball.com similarly swapped places with colleague Todd Zola, and Joe Sheehan couldn't make it this year. There still were a lot of the usual suspects, but this is a pretty stable league that had almost a third turn over.
The auction had a heavy emphasis on hitting early, with a lot of the good second-and-third tier starters not going off the board until we were 90 players in. Closers went even later - eight of the 14 closers were bought after 118 players had been thrown out. In a way, that worked out for me after I had purchased four starters and decided not to invest in closers in the auction. I needed more money off the table going towards a quantity I wasn't going to allocate my auction dollars.
Here's the squad that I finished with - it's competitive, but will need a few upside gambles to pay off to win. The full results from the auction can be seen here. We start with the standard $260 budget.
C - Mike Napoli, 19 - Napoli won't hit .320 again, but I also don't think he's a threat to tank all the way down to .238, as he hit in 2010. Playing time won't be a problem, unless he gets hurt, which of course is always a looming issue with catchers. But I love the price on him, especially compared to Carlos Santana (28 - though in fairness, I went back and forth with Mike Siano from MLB.com trying to get him) and Matt Wieters (22).
C - Ryan Doumit, 11 - I'm not sure about this buy. The theory is that Doumit will play a lot at catcher, first base and DH in an attempt to keep Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau healthy. But Doumit also has his own troubling injury history, and this ballpark doesn't play to his strengths. I would have been better off paying the extra dollar on a few others, I think.
1B - Adrian Gonzalez, 33 - This is what I was referring to when suggesting that elite players can be undervalued in this league. I had him priced at $37.
SS - Yunel Escobar, 16 - Second and third tier middle infielders were priced up considerably, and I had to wade into that morass to get Escobar at this price.
3B - Brett Lawrie, 29 - Those that have been reading or listening to me know my stance on Lawrie, but still I hadn't acquired him in very many leagues. This was one dollar more than the price he went for LABR, and I'm fully acknowledging that I overspent even my valuation on him by a buck or two.
MI - Brian Roberts, 2 - I'm aware he might not play at all because of his concussion, but at $2, it's worth the gamble, especially because I was light in speed at the time, the commodity he's most likely to bring.
CR - Kila Ka'aihue, 2 - Once the A's return from Japan, Ka'aihue could lose out on his roster spot to Daric Barton, who is still working his way back from injury. But he's also out of options, so the A's have at least one external reason to keep him on the big league squad.
OF - Lorenzo Cain, 17 - I needed outfielders and I needed speed - Cain fits both of those needs.
OF - Travis Snider, 7 - This looks worse one day later, after the Jays optioned him to Triple-A Las Vegas despite a good spring for Snider. But this also serves as your weekly reminder that the season is really long - Snider could get the call in May and this could still bring a profit, and he could also get dealt.
OF - Mike Trout, 4 - This one I bought fully knowing that he'll begin the year in the minors. Again, it's a long season - if things aren't going right for you in April, don't overreact. Sure, be proactive in getting emerging players, especially hitters in AL or NL-only leagues, but don't give up on a high-upside potential impact players on the way.
UT/Swing - Craig Gentry, 1 - Gentry addresses my outfield issue and my stolen bases issue. His defense is so good that his limitations at the plate will be tolerated. Could be a sneaky way to get 15-20 steals on the cheap.
P - Matt Moore, 19 - This was a fair, not great price, but honestly, I just wanted to own him in one league this year. I would have stopped, though, if he went to $20.
P - Dan Haren, 22 - Judging by the immediate online reaction outside our draft, this was my best purchase. I think it was pretty good as well - the ERA should rise a little bit, but the WHIP is safe and he's incredibly durable.
P - Max Scherzer, 14 - Chris and I debated him on the air Monday - I think that there's another level for Scherzer, Chris thinks that he's as good as he's going to get. I like the strikeouts, but I'm a little worried about the home runs.
P - Brandon Morrow, 14 - Morrow might be the most important player for my draft. I already had purchased the three above starters, and the plan was to get a couple of $5-7 starters next, and spend more on the hitting. But when the bidding on Morrow stalled at 13, I jumped in, as I think he's got $20+ potential with a few breaks.
P - Jarrod Parker, 3 - Parker won't make the trip to Japan, but he'll get his shot soon enough - maybe in mid-April, maybe a little later, but the A's gave up Trevor Cahill to get him - they'll roll him out soon enough.
P - Dustin McGowan, 1 - I was pretty happy about this gamble Saturday, pretty bummed out on Sunday when he hurt his foot.
P - Tim Collins, 1 - All he's ever done at any level is get people out.
P - Fautino De Los Santos - I didn't buy saves at the auction table, at least not early on, but there's a puncher's chance he gets the saves in the second half.
Reserves: Colin Cowgill, Kosuke Fukudome, Ramon Santiago, Chance Ruffin. The first three picks all address possible roster issues at the start of the season, and Ruffin is a flier based on the possibility that Brandon League gets dealt at some point.
Clearly a few things need to break my way, but I've built a solid base, and it's not as if the roster will remain static. I need to find some stolen bases and saves at some point midseason, but luckily those are the two easiest commodities to trade for and outfielders, my positional weak point, are more readily available than other positions.