Along with my Mastersball colleagues Lawr Michaels, Todd Zola, Rob Leibowitz and Zach Steinhorn, I participated in the Tout Wars industry league drafts this past weekend in New York City.
The annual events, with four drafts spread over a two-day weekend, include American and National League-only drafts, a mixed league auction and a new format based on the monthly games introduced by ShandlerPark.com last summer.
My enjoyment of the evening festivities in the Big Apple, catching up with long-time competitors and friends, are self-truncated due to the reality that the National League draft, of which I am a part, occurs last, on Sunday morning.
That offers a second challenge for me, which is being patient. Waiting until the final day, after the other three drafts are on the books, is tough.
As it turned out, being patient was a requirement for me once the draft finally began as well. My general approach is to spread the wealth, in which I keep spending on any individual player below $30 and often cases $25, in order to acquire a more balanced team and hopefully, one that is more injury resistant.
I had established a budget by position for planning purposes, with a hitting-pitching mix of $182/$78. While I was not a slave to these values, I managed the two allocations separately until late in the draft. Prior to the draft, I had looked at a variety of combinations of about six different players at each of the 23 roster spots.
Given my self-imposed pricing limitations, I had expected to remain on the sidelines during the first five or six rounds of nominations. That almost was not the case as I wanted to test the market on young players with a throw of Brewers shortstop Jean Segura. I went to $19, but unsure how much farther the bidding might go, I stopped there, and Segura went for $20.
I did pick up some cheap speed early when a competitor nominated new Braves leadoff man Eric Young, Jr. Paying $8 was a fair price for his expected 25-30 bags. That also kept me from the appearance of having done nothing in the draft, though the external chatter, if there was any, did not bother me one way or the other.
My second acquisition was a player I had not specifically targeted, Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco. When the bidding slowed in the teens for a player I feel has a mid-20’s value, I got in. Polanco was mine for $19.
As the first break approached, the SiriusXM broadcasters singled me out from among the 12 NL Touts to come on the air to review the draft to that point. Perhaps my acquisition of players, which likely appeared slow to some, drew the attention.
As it turned out, I dulled many of those questions by spending over $80 in the last moments before the intermission, first gobbling up Marlins closer Steve Cishek for $16. With an improving Miami team, I think Cishek could approach the top tier of NL closers in value at a mid-tier closer price.
I also struck in the corner infield and outfield with a batch of low-20s players in Brandon Belt and Mark Trumbo ($23) along with Matt Holliday at $22. During the on-air interview, Rotowire’s Chris Liss questioned the Trumbo acquisition due to a low on-base mark. (Tout is an OBP format.)
I agreed that Trumbo is a drag in that category, but I also consider his 30 home run/100 RBI potential to be very real. About how many other NL players could we have that aggressive of a forecast? With a consistent .370-.380 OBP player in Holliday also safely on my roster, I felt I hadn’t sacrificed OBP terribly with Trumbo. I did avoid the Pedro Alvarezes the rest of the way, but accomplished one objective for this draft – which was to not get caught short on power – one of the league’s most precious commodities.In 2014, I ended up with too much speed as my past concerns over the general inability to trade steals (and stolen bases) during the season were confirmed. Everyone seems to want to add power and strikeouts along the way, offering up speed and closers in trade. As a result, my lower-tier team finished with roughly two dozen more steals than the second-place team, a stat that I am not proud of.
In the middle of the draft, I dropped down into the teens for my acquisitions of the middle of the Dodgers’ infield in Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins for $19 each. Snagging Adam Lind, who in my view is like a Holliday-lite, for $17 completed my core offensive group.
I went cheap at third base with a $6 Jake Lamb, who looks to be the starter to open the season for Arizona, and backed him up with another third baseman also in a good position to earn a job in San Diego’s Will Middlebrooks at $5.
Behind the plate, I joined my $11 Daniel Norris with Welington Castillo at $2. In hindsight, perhaps I should have gotten Arizona starter Tuffy Gosewisch for the same price or went a couple of bucks more for another starter in Francisco Cervelli of the Pirates. My hope is that the Cubs will trade Castillo into a starting role elsewhere.
With the exception of the aforementioned Polanco, I had considered every one of my 14 hitters in pre-draft scenario planning.
The teens is where I wanted to be in pitching, as well. My focus was to acquire four upper middle tier pitchers with good strikeout totals to match up with closer Cishek. That was accomplished with Gio Gonzalez and Julio Teheran ($16), Francisco Liriano ($13) and Homer Bailey ($12) joining my roster.
As my fellow drafter Mike Gianella from Baseball Prospectus noted afterward, the average NL Tout owner spent $6.25 more on pitching above the NL LABR average. Of course, that was reflected in individual player prices, as well.
As the draft neared its close, I still had three pitching spots and two offensive slots to fill, but also had enough money to go $3 or $4 on several players. A wise strategy would have been to add the extra dollar hammer on a few promising starters, as my offense was already pretty well lined up.
Especially with Bailey starting 2015 on the disabled list, getting some additional pitching would have been smart. Instead, I filled my middle infield position with Brandon Crawford at $5. While that is a good pick in a vacuum, it left me with $1 selections the rest of the way.
More than any selection in my draft, that seemingly innocuous $5 spent on Crawford hurt, as it took away my bidding hammer. As I watched a series of desired hurlers go for a dollar more than I could spend, my agony was increased when I was able to snare a decent middle infield alternative, Dan Uggla, in the second reserve round. By then, the Crawford buy was already ancient history, but I was still feeling its impact.
Other than take a boatload of bad starting pitchers, after getting Jaime Garcia for $4 (I think he will be starting somewhere) and Jeremy Hellickson for $1, I had added setup men Pedro Strop and Jordan Walden to complete my nine arms.
My advice to you is this. Make sure you allocate some time to think about the end game, and specifically, your strategy in it. You cannot really prepare for this in advance, which makes it more challenging, other than perhaps to have a group of preferred $2-$3 pitchers and hitters identified. During your draft, there may not be time for a break at the right moment and with players being taken faster and faster in the latter phase of an auction, think time between picks is shortened.
Still, it behooves you to find a way to do take a brief step back. In this example, I should have realized my roster’s strengths and weaknesses and placed my end-game focus on pitching instead of beefing up an already solid group of hitters.
All in all, I believe I have a competitive offense and a very good pitching base. I ended up spending $180/$80 on hitting and pitching, but the overall higher pitching prices probably meant less average value for that $80. Looking ahead, I will put more emphasis in finding the 2015 version of a Jose Fernandez or two and whoever they turn out to be, to get them on my roster.
Now, the fun begins!
P.S. My team follows, with the link to all the Tout Wars rosters and winning bids. Good luck in your drafts and I hope you can glean some value from ours.
|Derek Norris||C||$11||Gio Gonzalez||P||$16|
|Welington Castillo||C||$2||Julio Teheran||P||$16|
|Brandon Belt||1B||$23||Francisco Liriano||P||$13|
|Jake Lamb||3B||$6||Homer Bailey||P||$12|
|Adam Lind||CI||$17||Jaime Garcia||P||$4|
|Howie Kendrick||2B||$19||Jeremy Hellickson||P||$1|
|Jimmy Rollins||SS||$19||Pedro Strop||P||$1|
|Brandon Crawford||MI||$5||Jordan Walden||P||$1|
|Mark Trumbo||OF||$23||Steve Cishek||P||$16|
|Eric Young, Jr.||OF||$8|
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-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.