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Circling the Bases: Tout Wars Recap

Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: M-F at 5-8 PM EDT), Ray Flowers has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. You can follow Ray on Twitter (@BaseballGuys), he never sleeps, and you can also find more of his musings at

Tout Wars Recap

Last week in New York, the Big Apple, some of the greatest minds in the fantasy game gathered for Tout Wars. The owners rostered players in NL-only, AL-only and mixed league setups. Here is my review of the mixed league squad I assembled.

Just so we're all clear, here is the league setup. It's pretty standard stuff.

14 starting hitters (C,C,1B,2B,3B,SS,MI,CI, 5 OF, UT)
9 pitchers (any mix of SP or RP)
5 bench spots
$260 to spend at auction

By the way our very own Jeff Erickson was the auctioneer. He ran a tight ship, one that was appreciated by all in the room.

To see how the draft played out, here is a link to the Tout Wars Results.

I admit to being way more savvy when it comes to snake drafts since I've probably done 50 of them to every auction I've every participated in. However, I'm experienced enough to realize that in auctions with "experts," the stars and scrubs approach is frequently the best plan to employ. Why? The reason is that everyone is going to pay for the stars, and there will likely be some furious budding driving the price into the 40's for some players (Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera all hit $40). I'm not saying I would never pay $40 for a player, but I would never pay $40 for a player. Maybe that puts me behind the eight ball, but I'd rather spread the wealth a bit more than that.

My team? It didn't include a $40 player. In fact, it didn't include a $30 player. My most expensive buy was B.J. Upton at $27. Imagine how pleased I was to hear that after saying he was fine for 10 days that the Rays are now saying Upton will start the year on the DL.

This brings up a point that I thought about during our first break from the draft. You really never know what players will go for, so there is certainly a bit of guesswork that goes into an auction. Do you pounce when one of your guys come up, or do you sit and wait hoping that you'll get a better value later in the draft? The problem with waiting is that the smaller the player pool becomes the fewer assets there are for people to purchase. Therefore, the elite options might end up being bid higher than they should be because they are the last of the "stars" available (you often see two or three people engage in a bidding war for a solid player who ends up going for too much because everyone realizes he is the best player left to add).

I let Andrew McCutchen go. My last bid was $29 but he went for $30 to Cory Schwartz. That "forced" me to go for Upton, and the bidding might have gone a few dollars too high at $27, but I felt I needed to get him since McC was off the board. On the pitching side Cliff Lee came up early, and he was the starter I was targeting. The bidding kept going, and since it was early I figured I keep pushing the spending until I got him which I did for $26. Certainly that's not a prohibitive price at all, he's likely to go for $30 in some drafts this season. Unfortunately, Tout wasn't one of those drafts. I got my guy in Lee, but then I was sickened to see the following hurlers go off the board for much less: Tim Lincecum ($22), Jered Weaver (21), CC Sabathia (21) and Zack Greinke (21). I like Lee as much or more than all of those arms, but not if I have to pay 15 percent more like I did. So in the end I got Upton (27) and Lee (26) for $53. Again, not a terrible number at all. But it's conceivable that I could have rostered McCutchen (30) and Greinke (21) for $51. I'd rather have those two players, and I would have saved two dollars. Oh well. That's the ebb and flow of a draft that you have to navigate.

Chase Utley for $6 was a risk, but when he was just sitting there at $5, early in the nomination process mind you, I just couldn't let him go for that cheap. If he plays three quarters of the year at the level he displayed last season I'll still be fine with my investment. I was able to build some depth around him though in case he isn't able to return any time soon. How do you lock down a player at the auction? Here is a video of how I handled Dustin Ackley. In addition to Ackley, I was able to get Danny Espinosa later in the proceedings. Even if Utley is out for a long while a second base/middle infield duo of Ackley and Espinosa - I'm fine with.

Carl Crawford for $18 and Nelson Cruz for $20. That duo might hold the key to my offense. I bet more than a few paid $38 for Crawford last year - his first in Boston. If I get 140 games from each of those guys I find it hard to believe that they won't offer a solid return on my investment. Also, big fan of Alex Rios here. Some might question a $13 bid, but that's exactly what I had him budgeted at.

Carlos Lee and Gaby Sanchez aren't very exciting, but $20 for my first baseman and corner infielder is fine with me.

One regret on offense. I wish I would have rostered Nick Hundley over John Buck.

As for the arms, I did something slightly unusual for me - I went over $20 on two arms. Lee and Felix Hernandez (23) are about as stable a duo as you could find, so I was alright with making the move to roster the duo. Effectively it put me out of the elite bullpen arms, but I still think I did a pretty impressive job building my pen (yeah, I am patting myself on the back). Santos (13) is my only closer at the moment, but Jansen/Clippard/Romo/Robertson give me a foursome of some of the most dominating relief arms in the game --- for a total cost of $13 an a reserve round selection (Robertson). I challenge anyone to beat that foursome at that price.

The rotation, behind the two big arms, is a gathering of four guys that I'm excited by. I added James McDonald in the reserve round, and he certainly has the type of arm that could turn in an impressive season. The other three arms are John Danks, Ricky Nolasco and Chad Billingsley. If you check out Danks' performance from 2011 it looks like he regressed. He didn't. He actually pitched slightly better than he did in 2010. Nolasco and Billingsley, yeah they were disappointing, but as I pointed out in the First Pitch Forums run by Baseball HQ, both guys still own solid skills that say last year was more a hiccup than trend. Regardless of whether or not you are in love with those three arms, paying $3 for each of them has to sound good to you, doesn’t it?

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.