The subject of National League Tout Wars was a logical source of discussion fodder as I recently joined co-hosts Jeff Erickson and Chris Liss on RotoWire’s Fantasy Sports Today show on Sirius/XM satellite radio.
After all, Chris and I have been battling back and forth at or near the top of the league in the early going this year and Jeff is not only an American League combatant, he is also a member of the four-man board that administers the three Tout Wars leagues. That latter job is no picnic with more than three dozen of the most opinionated fantasy players in the world competing. After all, I know I have tested their patience more than once.
Anyway, with Liss and I having switched positions in the National League Tout standings since the last time I was on their show, Chris used this as an opportunity to pose some probing questions about my strategy.
I pointed out the same thing I have said and written on many occasions. On the offensive side, the name of the game for me is at-bats. Build the counting stats totals while ensuring the damage caused to batting average does not become fatal.
In a league in which the top available free agents in any given week had only a half-dozen plate appearances the week prior, just about any hitter seeing playing time has value. That is why even a pedestrian fantasy player like Nick Punto, whom I highlighted here last week, has value in a format like NL Tout. (To replace the since-DLed Punto, I actually acquired Miguel Cairo in trade this past week.)
To strike a balance in my report and to ensure I don’t anger the fantasy gods, I also shared my major concern with Chris and Jeff.
Every single top prospect you could name that might be called up this season is already rostered in NL Tout, a redraft league. Many of them were taken back on draft day. Our Rob Leibowitz discussed this strategy in his article here last weekend.
With only one exception, I am on the outside looking in. I have over $90 FAAB dollars of my initial $100 budget - not because I am saving for a rainy day. I just haven’t seen anyone available worth buying.
What that means is that many of my competitors have youngsters on reserve that may soon come up and become difference-makers.
In the meantime, I have been logging counting stats with my Nick Puntos but could easily be overtaken by one or more of these very formidable competitors.
Liss has one of those players in now-outfielder Brandon Belt, whom I saw hit a grand slam against the Cardinals Triple-A Memphis club recently.
How widespread is this problem in NL Tout?
Not long ago, I read an article highlighting the top twenty call-up prospects for the remainder of this season. 13 of them hail from American League orgainzations, leaving just seven NL players.
All seven are already owned in NL Tout. Four have limited major league experience: Belt, Mike Minor, Domonic Brown and Julio Teheran. Three others are awaiting that first taste of MLB action: Anthony Rizzo, Devin Mesoraco and Jordan Lyles.
One potential downside of this strategy is that several NL Tout owners are using three or even all four of their reserve spots on minor leaguers. That means when an injury occurs midweek, there is no one to substitute in. At the end of the week, those owners can scour the waiver wire for a replacement if they can find one, as disabled list moves are free.
At this point, seven of the other 12 NL Tout teams have at least three minor leaguers reserved. These owners are likely counting on a big mid-season boost that may or may not ever come. Again, in leagues like this, at-bats and innings pitched are very important. Across all 13 teams, a total of 30 minor leaguers are currently being kept on ice out of an aggregate reserve allocation of 52 spots.
Having missed out on Ike Davis in last spring's reserve draft, I burned a reserve spot for the entire 2010 season waiting for my consolation prize, Freddie Freeman, to get his big chance. My thinking was that with fragile and aged Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus on the corners, the call from Atlanta would come soon enough. Instead, a trade for Derrick Lee put the final nail in my failed strategy's coffin.
Here is an example that occurred just this past week. With an eye toward the downstream ramifications of the Marlon Byrd injury in Chicago, one NL Tout owner picked up Brett Jackson for $2, despite the youngster still being in Double-A. He wasn’t the only bidder for Jackson’s services, either.
Now, in my defense, I haven’t been completely asleep at the switch here in 2011. During the first few weeks of the season, I grabbed Jenrry Mejia, who had been returned to a starting role by the Mets this season. A number of fantasy players soured on the youth because he was rushed into relief duty last season before he was ready. After a great April in Triple-A for Mejia, and with known mediocrities in the Mets rotation, I figured it was only a matter of time until we saw Mejia back at Citi Field. A most unfortunate requirement for Tommy John surgery changed all that.
I also took a player on draft day with no MLB experience. Florida third baseman Matt Dominguez struggled with the bat in spring training and seemed destined for some additional Triple-A seasoning. Still, I paid $3 for him. That was before he suffered a broken hand. The good news is that I witnessed Matt playing in extended spring training games a couple of weeks back and issued considerable, albeit silent encouragement. Dominguez is now in Triple-A.
Cedric Hunter of the Padres, who made San Diego’s opening day roster after batting .357 and driving in ten in spring training, was quickly sent down. Yet with Will Venable one of MLB’s biggest disappointments this season, I thought Hunter might receive a second chance. He holds a spot on my reserve roster. Instead, when San Diego dropped Venable early this week, they promoted a Double-A outfielder, Brett Tekotte. As a result, I may have to re-think my Hunter strategy. As you can already tell, unlike some of the others, I don’t view this league with long-term vision.
Here is another challenge. Several other league competitors seem to be holding most of their FAAB money, apparently waiting for the trade deadline, so that route cannot be counted upon for later help.
To augment my roster the rest of the way, it looks like I am going to have to go for the less flashy call-ups and/or hope there are some NL Bartolo Colons drinking from the Fountain of Youth out there.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.