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Thursday 25th May 2017

Last week, I introduced my National League Tout Wars team for 2013 – or more accurately, I discussed my strategy more so than the actual players.

Since then, there have been some interesting happenings.

I mentioned one of the limitations of my Tout Team Tarnish is the number of injury-risk players. You know how the old marketing saying goes? “If you can’t fix it, feature it!”

As Opening Day arrived, three of my 23 starters were placed on the disabled list. Two of them were already known on draft day – Francisco Liriano and Chase Headley. Headley’s understudy Logan Forsythe joined them shortly after the draft.

Replacing the three injured players on Sunday night looked to be a problem, however. The good news is that Tout features an unlimited-in-size disabled list. The potential bad news was that MLB clubs were not required to declare their season-opening rosters in time for our midnight FAAB cutoff.

As of the deadline, none of my injured players had been officially placed on the DL. Because of that, I could not try to acquire replacements to augment my roster without having to give up other players. With a small, four-man reserve roster, there is no room. But if I waited a week, a number of the better remaining free agents may be long gone.

Some players were put on the DL earlier, such as the Cardinals' David Freese and Jason Motte. Owners of those players could swoop in and pick off the prime free agents, I feared.

The appealing free agent list grew by one on Sunday with the surprise arrival of Jose Fernandez. The Miami Marlins had announced that two of their starters had shoulder problems, making them unavailable to open the season – Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez.

That opened the door for Fernandez and Alex Sanabia … not Jacob Turner, who had been in the rotation all spring. Granted, having to face the Cardinals in three straight spring starts helped cause Turner‘s ERA to inflate.

I cannot help myself. I am about to go off about MLB’s geographic problems in Florida and especially in South Florida. The Mets, Marlins and Cardinals are isolated – with the nearest clubs two hours or more away. As a result, these clubs face each other eight times each spring and their minor leaguers play them exclusively.

That may be changing soon, however. Houston owner Jim Crane is negotiating to build a new, two-team spring training facility in the West Palm Beach area. The Toronto Blue Jays have also been looking for a new home and are rumored to be a willing partner.

Anyway, back to Tout. As fantasy owners know by now, Miami made the surprising news of promoting top pitching prospect Fernandez into the rotation. That was done despite the right-hander having no professional experience above A-Advanced. This spring, the 20-year-old threw just two innings in big league camp. It was a most curious decision, indeed.

I expected the opportunity to acquire the new, shiny pitcher in Fernandez would set off a bidding war among my Tout peers.

That was good for my strategy. Even before the new “Fernandezmania,” my hope was to acquire the man now listed as Miami’s number three, Kevin Slowey. Former Oakland A’s starter Tyson Ross, the fifth starter in San Diego, was my other primary target. To label these guys as “post-hype” might even be stretching it. Yet, I think at least one of them may turn out to be useful.

Under the “Vickrey Rules” used in Tout, winning bids are set at $1 more than the second-highest bid. However, in past years, if the initial bid was $10 or more, the floor paid would never be lower than $10.

Because Tout Wars changed bidding rules this season, our FAAB dollars should go farther. The Vickrey floor has been removed. Therefore, an uncontested $50 bid would be dropped to $1.

This past week, I chose not to go for Fernandez, who went for $22. Instead, I picked up Slowey and Ross for a total of $1.

There is no doubt that I am going to have to mix and match my starting pitchers this season based on matchups. With four starters from two projected last-place teams in Miami (Slowey and Wade LeBlanc) and Colorado (Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio), I will have no choice.

My bottom line message is to not be afraid to take chances on potentially useful but overlooked pitchers early in the season. On the other hand, do not fall in love with them either.

If I do not get early production from Slowey or Ross, they will get thrown over the side for someone else. It may be different for Fernandez’s owner, though. It is only human nature to want to give more rope to someone for whom you paid over one-fifth of your full-season FAAB to acquire.

As hard as it may be for you, be ruthless. Forget what a player cost and make frequent, honest assessments as to his value in continuing to take a roster spot. Your season may depend on it.

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. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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