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Sunday 17th Dec 2017

The exceptional knowledge of our own Lord Zola has been demonstrated countless times over the many years Mastersball has been in place in its various representations. In no manner has that been proven to be truer than in the area of gaming theory.

For example, just recently, Todd determined there was more to say about the various weekly transactions across the industry showcase leagues of Tout Wars and LABR. He stepped into the void with his insightful "Todd's Take," in which he shares his unique perspective focusing on FAAB strategy, game theory and league dynamics.

Among his remarks last week in reference to our common league, National League Tout, was the following: “I'm in this league along with Brian and the thing I see is our competitors are not afraid to stash current minor leaguers even though as Brian points out, you're taking a goose-egg for a week as rules require all acquired players to be active…”

The context was speculative $1 bids on minor leaguers Kris Bryant, Casey Kelly, Odrisamer Despaigne and Allan Dykstra. The first three were still in Double-A, though the Cuban right-hander Despaigne has since been promoted to Triple-A.

On Wednesday, another prospect introduction occurred when Atlanta tacitly admitted what we have known for some time – that Dan Uggla should no longer play every day. The Braves brought up top second base prospect Tommy La Stella and skipper Fredi Gonzalez promptly installed him into the lineup.

This subject returned to my consciousness again because of Lord Z’s strong advocacy of La Stella this spring. In his NL Tout closing vow just last week, Todd added this. “Looks like I have some work to do - scouring the minors for possible call-ups before they occur.”

Well, in this case, we all are weeks too late. Even Todd was trumped when La Stella was taken by Gene McCaffrey of Wise Guy Baseball - back on draft day, in the reserve rounds. McCaffrey has held onto La Stella for the two months since, despite burning one of his four reserve spots the entire time.

There is no need to feel sorry for Zola, as he passed on La Stella at least once as the reserves were selected. I know that because the second baseman was McCaffrey’s second pick. The first time through, he took Dodgers’ uber prospect Joc Pederson! (To his credit, Lord Z made another good round one selection in Wilmer Flores. My choice of Jacob Turner was less inspiring, however.)

This gobbling up of prospects is not a new phenomenon in NL Tout. Believe it or not, it used to be worse.

After all, there are only a few ways to improve one’s team during the season and none are sure things. Trades are difficult to engineer and the price is high. Holding FAAB waiting for interleague trading from the American League to the NL usually ends in disappointment.

A few years ago, so many prospects were being hoarded while still in the minors that the Tout governing board made a decision. Reserve rosters were slashed from six to four. This would make early prospect speculating more painful, they reasoned.

While that logically has to be the case, I am not sure I would even call the change a speed bump.

After all, I should know. I have been holding Oscar Taveras since bidding $3 for him at the draft. I am hoping that when the Cardinals play on the road in June interleague play, we will finally see Oscar’s MLB debut. Of course, he will have to make hay in a hurry (or strategically stab more pins in his Allen Craig and Matt Holliday voodoo dolls) to be assured of remaining north of Memphis through the summer and fall.

I am not alone. At least six NL prospects were taken – not in the reserve rounds, but much earlier, during the main phase of the draft. They received winning bids totaling $17, but have remained in the minors through the first third of the season.

Putting aside all the Kellys added to rosters since the season began, here are eight of the National League prospects who have continued to be hoarded in NL Tout since draft day:

Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates, $5 – Tristan H. Cockcroft, ESPN

Alex Guerrero, 2B, Dodgers, $4 – Steve Gardner, USA TODAY

Archie Bradley, RHP, Diamondbacks, $3 – Mike Gianella, Baseball Prospectus

Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals, $3 – Brian Walton, Mastersball

Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins, $1 – Peter Kreutzer, Ask Rotoman

Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers, (reserve) – McCaffrey

Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies, (reserve) – Gianella

Jon Gray, RHP, Rockies, (reserve) – Derek Carty, Fantasy Insiders

If you are looking to invest in a National League prospect, the above players are especially noteworthy as they have held the confidence of their NL Tout owners since March.

In multiple cases, including outfielders Polanco, Taveras and Pederson, there is strong suspicion their MLB clubs have been artificially keeping them in the minors despite obvious need. The motivation is financial – to hold off until the Super Two deadline passes, which should occur very soon. This maneuver could enable the teams to avoid several million in arbitrated salary in two years.

Other NL Tout-drafted prospects since cut loose include:

Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs, $1 – Kreutzer

A.J. Cole, RHP, Nationals, (reserve) - Kreutzer

Andrew Lambo, 1B, Pirates, (reserve) - Cockcroft

Matt Wisler, RHP, Padres, (reserve) – Phil Hertz, BaseballHQ

Albert Almora, OF, Cubs, (reserve) – Scott Wilderman, onRoto

Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pirates (reserve) – Wilderman

As noted above, Bryant has already been re-acquired in Tout. Others may still come onto the big league radar this season - with the exception of Taillon (Tommy John surgery) and Almora (still in high-A ball).

Footnote: Within 30 minutes after I posted this article on Friday night, Taveras' promotion to St. Louis was announced. My view is that with Matt Adams on the disabled list and interleague play just ahead, Taveras will be given at least two weeks to prove he belongs. If he gets out of the blocks well, there could be no looking back.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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