This past Sunday, I once again had the pleasure of participating in AL Tout Wars, marking the beginning of my 14th year in the league. As always, the event is great fun and an opportunity to catch up with this group who aren’t merely colleagues or fellow members of the industry, but old friends.
This year, Tout made the move to OBP, giving the due respect and, for our purposes, more proper value to players who contribute in the best way possible – creating opportunities to score as many runs as possible.
For years, I’ve used a heavy-hitter focus with budgets that were regularly at 80% or higher devoted to their acquisition. This worked for a long time but not as much in recent years, so I decided that a more balanced budget approach might be in order, so I opted for a slightly more conservative $185/$75 or essentially a 71% split. In the end, this ended up being a $186/$74 or 72% hitting budget, but not significantly different from my expectations.
Heading into the draft, I had budgeted on the pitching side around $25 for an ace starter, $18 for a closer, teens for multiple backup starters, and for low-priced, upside types in the end game. On the hitting side, I budgeted for three hitters in the mid or higher twenties, mid-teens for one catcher and high single-digits for my second while spreading the risk elsewhere.
However, my main tool during any auction over the last several seasons has been a roster-slot/budget calculator where I can just reassign dollars on the fly based on where I am finding value. Finding value and acquiring my needs will always trump my pre-draft position/$ slotting.
So who did I get and why?
C: A.J. Pierzynski $11 – Throughout the draft, I felt catchers were going over value. However, I had targeted Pierzynski from the start. Despite his age, the righty has shown excellent ability to stay healthy and in recent seasons some pop. Many projections this off-season showed less playing time and slightly less than usual value. My value comes from a more typical Pierzynski playing time projection.
C: Dioner Navarro $8 – Came back from the dead and had a great season over a small sample, so of course he is going to regress. On the other hand, Navarro has no competition with J.P. Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud now gone. The 30-year-old has a pretty good history for plate discipline, contact-making, and mid-teens pop potential. He could be a bust given his history, but $8 is not a significant risk and there is a lot of potential for profit.
1B: Originally budgeted $22 at 1B. Abreu and Pujols both eclipsed that mark and couldn’t bring myself to go all in on Mark Teixeira. Instead, I played it safe and went for Adam Lind at $14. Lind and Pierzynski fit well with my “boring is best” philosophy, as fairly reliable bets to perform at a solid, not necessarily dynamic, but useful-stat adding way.
2B: Howie Kendrick $12 – I had $15 budgeted at 2B and think I got a bargain here. Kendrick is a consistently high batting average threat who actually maintains an acceptable OBP despite an aggressive approach, plus some pop to boot.
3B: Targeted low to mid-twenties at 3B on Longoria, Donaldson or Beltre. Felt Longoria and Beltre went over value, so was happy to get Donaldson at $25. I drafted him a year too early in 2012 as one of my sleepers, but it was nice to see him fully translate that 20-HR/good plate discipline skills to the Majors. Now that they’ve been established in the Majors, I think his production is quite sustainable with perhaps the .300-plus batting average being the exception to that.
SS: Maicer Izturis $1 – Drafted Xander Bogaerts to corner with the knowledge that I can shift him to short shortly after the season starts. I can’t see Ryan Goins holding down second base for the Jays for very long, plus there is Jose Reyes’ injury history, so Izturis should get plenty of opportunities to play if he can keep himself healthy as part of the bargain.
CI: Xander Bogaerts $15 – Bogaerts has interesting long-term potential as a possible .300 hitter with 20-plus HR power. Right now, at age 21, I think he’s capable of producing at a similar level to Jhonny Peralta and therefore I nominated him at a typical Peralta price of $15 with the intent being that I might freeze everyone else out. It worked, so I’m left to wonder how much more cheaply I could have gotten him had I not done the freeze bid, but I can’t complain too much since it worked. Now Bogaerts has to complete his end of the bargain.
MI: Omar Infante $9: Dependable, boring veteran good for a little pop and speed.
OF/SW/UT: Jacoby Ellsbury $29 – Felt this was a bargain even with the minor calf injury. Ellsbury’s injuries have been more of the fluke than the Jose Reyes recurrent type, so I am comfortable with him being my most expensive player. It will be interesting to see what impact the short porch has on his game too.
OF: Welcome to my AARP outfield of Nelson Cruz $18, Josh Willingham $13, Torii Hunter $15, Adam Dunn $15, Marc Krauss $1. I passed on quite a few players I felt were going overpriced earlier in the auction to find that there was not much left in value above the $20 range, but plenty available in the mid-range of talent to be had and decided to act aggressively in my pursuit. I suffered through a season of Josh Reddick and passed up the potential to get him at a $14 bargain and instead bought Nelson Cruz at full price. Krauss, Dunnm and Willingham at least all came at discounts and combined could be a double-digit profit. Still, again – this is a definite boring is best crew that will compile stats, though I am notably coming up a bit short on steals after making Ellsbury my first purchase and will have to work to correct this via FAAB or trades.
Pitching: Intended to go after Chris Sale or David Price. Ended up with Jered Weaver at $19. Velocity drop-off is a concern, but the skills are still there, so I'm hoping this ends up a bargain after having him valued in the low twenties. I nominated David Robertson to test the closer market and ended up taking him at $19, hopefully as a potential $4 bargain. I usually go solo-closer and planned to do that again, but liked Tommy Hunter enough not to let him get taken off the board at $9 and bought him at $10.
Other pitchers: Erik Johnson – Potential middle of the rotation type with upside. Nominated and bought at $3. I felt Mark Buehrle was a $5 or so dollar profit for innings eating purposes, similarly with a $1 Vargas and $6 Griffin, who should return to the rotation by mid to late-April. Purchased Dan Straily at $14 as my #2. He has good skills and can miss bats, but he may have pitched a bit over his head from a BABIP perspective. As always, the free agent market is where I typically craft my pitching staff from and I'm not afraid to drop underperformers.
Reserve Rounds: Maicer Izturis is my only non-regular hitter, so I took Francisco Lindor should the Tribe opt to move free-agent-to-be Asdrubal Cabrera. The Tigers have few options in their outfield, so Dirks could reclaim at least a platoon job in left field by mid-season or slightly earlier. Henry Urrutia was selected with the similar idea in mind as a player close to the Majors with David Lough and my other selection Nolan Reimold in his way. Having two out of the three players likely to see the most left field at-bats for the Orioles this season may pay dividends too.
Overall this team will certainly compete on offense and has enough pitching contend, albeit with some question marks, but that's why we play the season out.