Regular readers of this column probably know that I'm a big proponent of aggressive FAAB spending early in the season if you come to the conclusion that a certain player can significantly boost your chances of rising in the standings. And, there are two main reasons why I follow this philosophy. First, the earlier you add a player that you feel can make an immediate impact on your team, the more time he has to make that impact. Second, you just never know when or if a better option will come along. In non-mixed formats, I can understand why owners tend to be more conservative in their bidding in the early going, holding out hope that an elite player will become available via a crossover trade prior to the July 31st deadline. But that strategy can backfire if either no marquee trade transpires or if all of the notable trades involve players being sent to the other league. Well, at least no one can accuse me of not practicing what I preach, as my $40 purchase of Brett Cecil in Mixed Auction Tout Wars ranks as the second-richest FAAB acquisition so far this season. The only problem is that the 40 FAAB bucks has so far bought me one save in only one save chance. No save chances in over a month? Are you kidding me? OK, no more venting, I promise.
Now that we have passed the one-third mark of the season, let's take a look at the highest-priced FAAB purchases in Mixed Auction Tout Wars. Do my league mates share my view when it comes to early-season FAAB spending? Sort of. Here are the 12 winning bids of at least $15.
Jason Grilli ($41 to Cory Schwartz)
Brett Cecil ($40 to Zach Steinhorn)
Eduardo Rodriguez ($33 to Al Melchior)
Taijuan Walker ($33 to Nando DiFino)
John Axford ($25 to Joe Pisapia)
Blake Swihart ($21 to Ray Flowers)
Maikel Franco ($19 to Tim Heaney)
Drew Pomeranz ($18 to Paul Singman)
Brad Ziegler ($17 to Scott Pianowski)
Ender Inciarte ($15 to Fred Zinkie)
Cameron Maybin ($15 to Zach Steinhorn)
Carlos Perez ($15 to Paul Singman)
Unsurprisingly, four of these 12 players are closers, as potential saves tend to garner the highest bids. After all, saves is a category. But to be honest, I'm bored of closer talk, so I'll limit this discussion to the top-5 non-closer pickups.
Eduardo Rodriguez - One earned run across 14 2/3 innings with a 14-to-4 K/BB is a pretty good way to open your big league career. Combine that with Eduardo's exceptional minor league numbers this season and Boston's glaring need for starting rotation help and it's growing more and more likely that Rodriguez is with the big club for good. At first, the $33 price tag surprised me, but I'm now thinking that there might even be some profit to be made here.
Taijuan Walker - Investing 33 FAAB bucks in a starting pitcher who has recorded just four quality starts in 11 tries this season is risky business, but Walker is a high-end talent who is only 22 years of age and carries top of the rotation upside. Oh, and two of his four quality starts have come in his last two starts, during which he has allowed a combined three earned runs across 16 innings to go along with 15 strikeouts. I'm generally hesitant to spend so heavily on starting pitchers with minimal big league experience, and Nando did pay a steep price. That said, it's not out of the question that Walker can earn the $33 if he has truly turned the corner. Still, I'm a bit higher on Rodriguez since we have yet to see him struggle at any level this season.
Blake Swihart - Although Swihart has yet to live up to his top prospect billing, playing time will not be an issue for him with the veteran Ryan Hanigan not expected back from the DL until July. And even when Hanigan returns, the Red Sox could opt to give Swihart the majority of the at-bats. The problem is that the results just haven't been there, and even in the Minors, Swihart was more of a high batting average guy than a power hitter. I'll say the chances of Ray's $21 gamble paying off are 50/50 at best.
Maikel Franco - Despite the mediocre .241 batting average through 21 games, Franco's five homers and 15 RBI is proof that he can be a valuable run producer at the big league level. And the best part is that with the Phillies in full rebuild mode, Franco is a lock to remain in the lineup as long as he's healthy. 19 FAAB bucks for a guy who can legitimately hit 20 more homers this season? Not bad at all.
Drew Pomeranz - In a case of poor timing by Singman, Pomeranz landed on the DL after making just one start for Paul's squad, and even though he returned to action earlier this week, the A's will use him out of the bullpen for the time being. While it is possible that Pomeranz will get another opportunity to start at some point this season, there's no guarantee. This is looking more and more like a lost 18 bucks for Paul.
But hey, at least he was aggressive. I commend him for that.