Tout Wars mixed auction: Back to the bats

In two different seasons, I’ve come down to the final weekend for a chance at the Tout Wars mixed auction title and fell short. Last year … was not one of those times.

My fate was sealed by putting too much emphasis on top-end — or so I thought — starting pitching. $29 Noah Syndergaard, $24 Jake Arrieta, $17 Carlos Carrasco (that one worked) and $9 Felix Hernandez. Plus $17 Seung Hwan Oh. Yikes.

Overspending on just four starting pitchers and playing off lower-tiered offense did not work out well. I forgot one of the most effective ways to win a fantasy league is to take risks with pitcher variance, and with their reliability — and more importantly, statistical benchmarks — on the decline, you can search for potentially profitable bargains, after you set a steady base, of course.

My chance at redemption took place Saturday with the 2018 edition of this auction, which took place at the Staten Island Yankees’ home field of Richmond County Bank Ballpark.

This Yankees fan appreciated the setting.

Back to business: The 15-team auction has a typical two-catcher, five-outfield, nine-pitcher setup for deep mixed leagues but uses on-base percentage instead of batting average.

RotoWire has the best daily fantasy baseball tools on the web.
Try Our Daily MLB Lineup Optimizer

My process included five crucial steps:

  1. Focus on winning underpriced but top-level players early, trying to get three bats and one starting pitcher priced from $25-$40.
  2. Target two or three pieces of OBP, home runs and stolen bases — when feasible, all three — from as many hitter purchases as possible.
  3. Lock in one top starting pitcher and one elite closer, then adjust to maximizing value with the rest of my staff.
  4. Don’t wait to control the board at the end when inflated cost of mediocre pieces could cripple return on investment. Alternate waves of helpful bargain purchases with periods of feeding other clubs with types of assets you’ve already bought. Instead, try my best to level off my opponents’ Max Bids in the middle and late stages.
  5. Don’t leave myself with more than four players to buy for dollar days, and aim for them to be pitchers and outfielders so I won’t be short on choice.

How’d it turn out?

Hitters $$ Pitchers $$
C Jonathan Lucroy 9 P Madison Bumgarner 29
C Yadier Molina 7 P Aroldis Chapman 19
1B Wil Myers 25 P Miles Mikolas 6
3B JP Crawford 1 P Jose Berrios 12
CI Matt Olson 19 P Blake Snell 6
2B Brian Dozier 28 P Michael Wacha 3
SS Javier Baez 6 P Kevin Gausman 2
MI Yoan Moncada 16 P Chris Devenski 2
OF JD Martinez 33 P Brad Brach 4
OF AJ Pollock 16
OF Chris Taylor 12
OF Eddie Rosario 3
OF Michael Brantley 1
UT Max Kepler 1
Reserves Rd Reserves Rd
DH Albert Pujols 1 P Chris Stratton 3
OF Mark Trumbo 2 P Zach Wheeler 6
2B/3B/OF Hernan Perez 4
SS Freddy Galvis 5

I’ll take you through my process with bookmarks at each break of the auction.

Check out the full results here and more on the Tout Wars drafts here.

For a briefer version, listen to the podcast I did with competitor and colleague Derek VanRiper earlier today.

Phase 1

My first player won — Martinez — set a great tone for my plan. I snagged a well-established yet undervalued big bopper.

Dozier and Myers made up for JDM’s lack of steals, but theirs also come with plenty of pop and, in Dozier’s case, add to the other four-category dominance. Dozier in an OBP league = 💰💰💰.

Bumgarner was my elite starter. The big four (justifiably) went for $39 or more, and I wanted to hone in on the tier below, with Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg ($28, to DVR) and Carlos Carrasco ($28). I’m not concerned about Bumgarner’s health after that freak off-field accident. He’s struck out 27 and walked three in 19 innings this spring.

Chapman rebounded late last year, proving his struggles were probably heavily related to injury. Though MadBum is generally no K/9 slouch, having Chapman to augment his dominance doesn’t hurt.

Moncada added to my Dozier-Myers steals base and is a better asset in OBP. The White Sox’s impending leadoff hitter could go 20-30 if all breaks right, with a more realistic 15-20 expectation for a full season.

I wasn’t planning on going this forceful on corner infield, but the walk- and hard-contact-inclined Olson isn’t the worst target on which to make a mistake. He’s an easy 30 homers for the investment.

I didn’t want to spend more than $9 on either catcher. Even if Lucroy’s power doesn’t surge toward 20 home runs, his playing time and ability to reach base will make him safe. I’d be more worried that his past weak contact would hurt him in batting-average setups, but thankfully that applies less here.

Phase 2

My second wave focused on getting important depth for each column.

Pollock and Taylor added to the Dozier-Myers-Moncada pool of steals, giving me five players capable of at least 10 swipes. Diversifying sources of stolen bases is an underrated way to skirt the environment that bloats the prices of Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton.

Pollock might be the ultimate “When Healthy” player. I can’t quit him.

Taylor’s swing changes last season legitimized much of his surprise season. I’ll contend he’s still a 20-20 candidate, and hitting at or near the top of the Dodgers’ lineup should preserve at least 80 percent of his stats.

Rosario’s injury and OBP depreciation probably allowed me to grab him at a bargain. I was happy to take it.

Same with Baez. I was saving my late hammer bid for him or Trevor Story ($9 to DVR), and I got to Baez first. Plucking bargains like this is why you should try to be involved in every stretch of the auction, not just sitting around seething through Dollar Days while these clearance deals pass by.

I didn’t necessarily try to win Molina, but this was a big discount off his value in the RotoWire Draft Software. (Have you downloaded yours yet?) I was OK with having another catcher with playing time and non-crippling skills, given money I had saved in other spots.

The Mikolas-Berrios-Snell trio has risk — but not without jaw-dropping upside. I wrote about Mikolas and Snell in my Sweet 16 sleeper starting pitchers article, and I’ve started to fall more in line with Berrios as a full-season breakout after reading this:

Phase 3

Toppers came in handy in this phase, too, allowing me to round out my pitching staff with two high-upside darts and two skilled relievers who’ll contribute at least a few saves each.

Gausman’s second-half adjustments produced more zip on this two-seamer/sinker last year, which is key to his survival in the AL East. I believe in his breakout possibilities.

Wacha focused on adding strength to his lower half in the offseason and has tinkered with his secondary pitches this spring. Positive peripheral regression from 2017 could lead to a repeat of past sparkling seasons.

Brach hasn’t been officially named closer, but even if he has to share the Orioles’ replacement job for two months, he should make $4. Zach Britton is hardly cemented given his health and possible trade value. Devenski could fall backward into five-plus wins — if not several saves, too — for the defending champion Astros.

My trio of $1 players capped off my plan of going for the minimum at weaker spots. However, I was pleasantly surprised I sneaked Brantley through.

Crawford takes walks at a fine clip, which could give me a .350 OBP, 10-homer, 10-steal asset in what should be a steady Phillies offense.

I want to like Kepler more than I do, considering he’ll cash in as at least a top-side platoon bat who crushes righties. His apparent refusal to embrace the flyball movement has me a bit concerned about his immediate ceiling, but I can hardly complain for his minimum price.

Phase 4

Filling in the blanks fore free is great, although I was Pick 12 of 15, the order of last year’s finish, in the Reserve Snake portion. At least I could get a decent double-tap for the second round.

Pujols and Trumbo provided extra pop, with Pujols set to gain first-base eligibility as long as he stays healthy the first few weeks.

Stratton is another member of my Sweet 16 list.

Perez could play several times a week around the diamond, and the speedster could split the difference between his surprise 2016 and his 2017 letdown. Not a bad dart to circumvent the Jonathan Villar love, which may be a bit too strong.

Galvis gave me a backup shortstop to Baez with a little bit of pop and speed, and he should remain in this lineup for most of the year because he can move around the diamond a bit.

Wheeler looks ready to get a trial in the Mets’ rotation following the Jason Vargas injury, and he has looked promising this spring.

Postgame

I checked off all five of my steps, in some capacity. I didn’t limit myself to a single, eggs-in-one-basket speedster, and I accounted for offense much more strongly than last year while chasing more ROI with pitching.

I left myself weak at the most comfortable places on offense, as well (fifth outfielder, third base, utility) and didn’t necessarily chase catcher expectations.

I may need to gather another potential closer off the waiver wire, depending on whom I can cut. Overall, I think I’ll at least be closer to the front of the Reserve Draft, if not at the front.