"That's a great buy" was a comment uttered numerous times inside the Mixed Auction Tout Wars draft room back in March, and while it's nice to receive compliments from your league mates, the reality is that no one really knows if a player really is a "great buy" until the end of the season. So, as we head into the final weekend, it's time to revisit the theme of "great buys" and test the widely agreed upon theory that one of the keys to winning any fantasy baseball league is to make the best draft day buys. Here are my picks for the top- 10 buys at a price of $10 or less in this season's Mixed Auction Tout Wars league. Note that I have limited the pool to players that remained on the same owner's roster from start to finish. This way, we can get a better idea as to the impact the player made on the owner's final place in the standings.
1. A.J. Pollock ($9 to Cory Schwartz) - A popular breakout pick, sure. But even the most optimistic of Pollock supporters could not have predicted a top-10 finish in runs, steals and batting average.
2. Chris Archer ($10 to Zach Steinhorn) - He's faded in the second half and September has been especially rough. But seriously, how could I complain about what I've gotten from Archer this year?
3. Andrew Miller ($2 to Tim Heaney) - Entered the season as the likely eighth inning man for the Yankees. Finishing the season as a top-5 closer.
4. Francisco Liriano ($5 to Tim Heaney) - The oft-injured southpaw has recorded his highest innings pitched total since 2010. And then there's the career-high 205 strikeouts.
5. Kendrys Morales ($3 to Zach Steinhorn) - My plan was to nominate Morales for $3 and pull out of the bidding once it got to $10. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to hear crickets. I expected a bounce back season, but I'd be lying if I told you I expected what I got.
6. Carlos Martinez ($1 to Patrick Davitt) - Has emerged as one of the top young arms in the NL, though his shoulder strain needs to be monitored during the off-season and into spring training.
7. Noah Syndergaard ($0 to Patrick Davitt) - Struggled at times but dominated more times than not. All in all, a pretty good first 24 big league starts, don't you think?
8. John Lackey ($5 to Patrick Davitt) - Continues to be one of the most overlooked yet reliable starting pitchers in the game. At the age of 36, his 2.69 ERA marks a career-best.
9. Danny Salazar ($3 to Scott Swanay) - Aside from a mediocre 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in September, there aren't a whole lot of negative things we can say about this guy. He could emerge as a fantasy ace as soon as next season.
10. Josh Reddick ($1 to Zach Steinhorn) - I strongly considered both Ken Giles ($6) and Scott Kazmir ($5) for this spot, but ultimately, Reddick's $1 price tag made the difference. I really had no expectations for the A's right fielder when I purchased him in the endgame. Fortunately, he managed to finally stay healthy while delivering 20 homers, double-digit steals and a useful OBP. Not quite his 32-home run season of 2012, but solid nonetheless.
So, how well does the best buy theory hold up here? Fairly well. As of Saturday morning's standings, every owner who made one of these picks with the exception of Patrick Davitt ranks in the top-5. On the other hand, Davitt made three of these picks and currently sits in eighth place. But Patrick did occupy a top-3 spot for a good chunk of the season, and the pitching trio of Martinez, Syndergaard and Lackey surely had something to do with it.
Although a larger sample size would paint a clearer picture, I think it's safe to say that all of us should continue to strive for those "great buys."