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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

How many times have we read or listened to people offer aggressive advice, not knowing if they would really take the necessary steps themselves?

I have. And this week, I can report that I have sampled the taste of my own medicine – gambling an entire season’s worth of free agent allocation budget (FAAB) money – and still missing out due to flawed execution.

Last week in this space, I encouraged fantasy owners - as strongly as I could in print – to make a post-draft evaluation of your rosters, analyzing weaknesses and taking corrective action at the first opportunity.

I explained that in many leagues, that window is widest during your first league transaction period. At that time, MLB roster and role decisions made in the final hours of spring training camps lead to fresh plums that were unpicked on draft day.

That story could be written convincingly since I was writing about my own blueprint for National League Tout Wars.

Part I. The Problem

Coming out of that draft, I had a strong offense, with starters at every position. However, my pitching took a hit, with four solid mid-tier starters, a good closer and four $1-type roster fillers.

Worse, in the reserve rounds, I gambled on a pair of competitors for a starting job in Arizona who both failed. Despite Trevor Cahill being traded away, my bets on Randall Delgado (bullpen) and Allen Webster (minors) did not come through.

That same transaction opened a rotation berth for top prospect Archie Bradley, who is one of the few non-Colorado NL starting options who were not claimed on Tout’s draft day. The 22-year-old has been a top-25 prospect in MLB for the last four years running, according to Baseball America.

While I would like Bradley in my lineup, I know other NL Tout warriors would, too. The fact that Cincinnati lefty Tony Cingrani fetched a winning bid of $52 early in the season two years ago - and went on to perform well - sticks in my mind as a potential benchmark.

To be honest, though, I am not sure if an unproven Bradley would be worth half a season’s FAAB - or more. He clearly has the longest runway of the NL starting options available, but Tout is a redraft league. The need is to produce now, as even reserve roster spots are precious.

After all, Bradley is far from a slam dunk. While his minor league career strikeout rate of 9.5 per nine innings is tantalizing, my excitement is diminished by his comparable walk rate of 4.5. On the latter number, the trend is heading in the wrong direction, as Bradley issued 5.1 free passes per nine last season. Add a so-so at best Diamondbacks defense behind him and a park that seems to give up a lot of runs and you can perhaps understand my trepidation.

Yet, all things considered, I saw Bradley as the pick of this NL starting pitcher litter:

  1. Archie Bradley

Trevor Cahill – Traded with $6.5 million pinned to his shirt and $5.5 million more coming from his new club, looking for a fresh start with the rebuilding Braves.

  1. David Buchanan – A very impressive spring for the (gulp) Philadelphia Phillies while coming off a nice 2014 MLB debut.
  2. Jordan Lyles – Despite 10 walks in 22 1/3 spring innings, a WHIP under 1.00. There is that little Colorado thing to worry about, however.
  3. Eric Stults – After eight years in the league, what Atlanta’s fifth starter can offer is known. Yawn.
  4. Eddie Butler – In addition to pitching for the Rockies, the rookie has had shoulder trouble this spring. Do I really need another Jaime Garcia? Pass.

Part II. The Plan

With as many as three roster openings, and given I felt the top three pitchers stood above the other three listed above, I decided to bid as aggressively as possible.

Due to a below-par finish last season, I began 2014 with $93 of FAAB. Unable to make primary bids in a greater amount than my total, here is where I landed:

  1. Bradley $41
  2. Cahill $26
  3. Buchanan $26

Contingencies were included with the above to ensure I was not shut out if I was outbid for any of the three. In reality, I expected to lose out on Bradley, but at least force his new owner to pay handsomely, and win Cahill, Buchanan and Lyles or possibly Stults. The latter two were given $11 contingent bids.

While the three primary bid amounts may seem random, they are not. Totaling them, you can see that I had put my entire season’s FAAB budget on the line this first week. However, the Vickrey bidding process deployed in Tout provided some potential protection from myself. In that system, the winning amount paid for a player is reduced to $1 more than the second-highest offer.

So, in my dream world, I would secure all three starters and have $10 or $20 bucks remaining to stretch over the remainder of the season. More realistically, I would get my #2, #3 and #4 choices and still have at least $30 left in the bank.

Knowing any three pitchers will probably all not work out, at least I would have plenty of time to evaluate their respective performances before having to develop a far more modest in scope Plan B.

Part III. The Execution

As I am responsible to recap the weekly NL Tout bidding for Mastersball, I like to write my section as soon as the results are posted at midnight Eastern Time Sunday night/Monday morning.

Given the size of my bets, I admit that I approached this deadline with greater trepidation than usual, however.

As it turned out, by 12:01 a.m. ET on Monday, I was crushed by my greediness, not getting any of my three top choices. Making the failure even more painful is the fact that I came in second in the bidding on all three, missing out on Bradley by just $4.

I say “greediness” because I had originally decided to focus on Bradley and Cahill only. However, when reviewing free agents, Buchanan’s stealthy success interested me, too. By trying to spread my $93 across three pitchers instead of two, I fell short on all three.

Ending up with Lyles and Stults at the minimum $1 each actually smelled ok – for one day at least. The Rockies opened at Milwaukee, where Lyles threw six innings of two-run ball.

To see the bidding results for all Tout Wars leagues in detail as well as for the LABR leagues, remember to check out Mastersball.com each Monday morning all season long.

Part IV. In Closing

What can you learn from this?

Well, first of all, I don’t just pontificate here. I definitely taste my own medicine, even when bitter. We’ll have to see over the upcoming weeks and months if I can devise a Plan B that shores up my staff after this failed initial attempt.

Second, and far more importantly, there is still time for all of us. Even if you did not chase free agents aggressively in week one, get after it in week two. The Cingrani example mentioned above actually occurred in the second week in 2013.

Even if you do not have a Vickrey bidding buffer, take some risk and do not fall just short in your bidding as I did in this example. Hoarding FAAB while waiting for potential mid-season trades in “only”-leagues is just not worth it.

Whatever you do, take action early to improve your fantasy roster!

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.

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