I am back with a third article related to changes made to the Tout Wars constitution in recent years. This week’s subject relates to the size of the reserve portion of our rosters, reduced from six players to four, and how some owners have leveraged those spots.
I am talking about drafting or bidding on minor league prospects not yet on the cusp of being called up to the major leagues.
This approach is potentially more costly than a disabled list stint initially, but offers the chance for considerable upside later on. Owning these players early means they are typically acquired very cheaply compared to potential value.
The downside is tying up a roster spot until whenever the player finally arrives in the bigs. Unlike the examples of injured players cited last week, such as Chris Carpenter and Ryan Howard, there is no ready and waiting DL to stash the minor leaguer indefinitely.
I recall first explicitly planning this approach in National League Tout Wars in 2010 as I wanted/needed a reserve first baseman and knew several were about ready for the majors.
My hope was to select Ike Davis in the first reserve round, but the (bad) luck of the draw placed me at the end of the line. Davis was gone with the fourth pick. Instead, I took then-20-year-old Freddie Freeman of the Braves.
Davis’ Tout owner did not have to wait long for this gambit to pay off. Almost immediately, a job with the Mets opened up. The first baseman delivered, accruing 601 plate appearances, with 19 home runs and 72 RBI.
This grab and stash strategy failed me in 2010, however. I basically burned up a roster spot for the entire season on a player, Freeman, who ended up with a whopping 24 at-bats. Even his late-season playing opportunity evaporated when the Braves acquired and played veteran Derrick Lee instead.
This season, I took Braves shortstop prospect Andrelton Simmons in the reserve rounds. On draft day, the youngster was still locked in a battle with Tyler Pastornicky for the starting job. Unfortunately, Simmons was injured late in camp and fell behind.
Now, Simmons is in Double-A, so how close is he to Atlanta? If and when he arrives, will he contribute enough to be relevant in 2012? I decided to cut bait for another minor leaguer possibly closer to contributing, Washington’s Triple-A outfielder/first baseman Tyler Moore. Despite all the injuries in D.C., Moore may require Roger Bernadina to fail before getting any meaningful playing time.
Another such player, Yasmani Grandal, was taken as a reserve but was dropped by his Tout owner just two weeks into the season. Knowing San Diego has no plans to promote the former Reds prospect without injury to regular catcher Nick Hundley would seem to imply waiting like I did with Freeman in 2010 isn’t wise.
I don’t have a set number of roster spots I would designate for this future use, but for me, two would be ideal. That way, I could have two speculative spots and two positions with active major leaguers ready for in-week replacements of injured players.
Actually, with the swing player introduced this season – replacing the fifth outfielder with either a hitter or a pitcher - one might be able to get by with just one MLB-active player in reserve.
Perhaps that is what some of my NL Tout peers are thinking. Among the many minor league notables already rostered are Anthony Rizzo, Shelby Miller, Nolan Arenado, Matt Adams, Alex Sanabia, Brett Jackson, Jordan Pacheco, Julio Teheran, Tyler Skaggs and Jerry Sands. So was Bryce Harper until last week.
As I write this, one owner, ESPN’s Nate Ravitz, actually has six minor leaguers among his 27. That includes all four reserves and two spots on his active roster. The latter two are Welington Castillo of the Cubs and Casey Kelly of San Diego. The four reserves are Domonic Brown of the Phillies, Charlie Blackmon of Colorado, Trevor Bauer of Arizona and the Mets’ Matt Harvey.
While not all of those players may come through, Ravitz is well-positioned for a few nice boosts later on. The downside is that he lacks any players to move into his lineup if an immediate midweek need presents itself. Given the overall strength of his roster, it seems like a good tradeoff has been made.
All these moves further devalue remaining FAAB dollars as there will be fewer good players to acquire. This reinforces the previously-endorsed theme of spending early – if deals can be had.
I share these ideas to hopefully stimulate thinking among the readers here. Any legal edge one can find to secure advantage is surely worth considering.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.