In 13 days, I will be making the trek from Downtown Manhattan to the SiriusXM headquarters in Midtown Manhattan to participate for the fifth time in the Tout Wars Mixed Auction draft. My preparation process has now officially entered the serious stage, but let's face it, auctions are pretty tough to prepare for. You can assign dollar values to players and make a list of players to target, but master plans can easily get thrown off by a few unexpected winning bids, so flexibility is a must.
Still, I do like to enter the draft room with a master plan in the form of an ideal team that I expect to fit under the $260 cap, though I make sure to include contingency plans. But, this column will not be about the auction phase of the draft. Instead, I'm going to focus on the easy (well, easier) part, the reserve rounds. Roughly ten minutes after the conclusion of the 345-player auction, we will conduct a six-round snake draft to fill out our benches. By this time, I'm usually so drained out from the auction that it's hard to think straight, which is why I like to have an extensive list handy of intriguing players that could be available in the reserve rounds. Using my still in progress 50-round, 15-team mixed slow NFBC draft as a guide, here are some of the players that are piquing my interest. (Note that all of these guys were taken in rounds 24-29 in the NFBC draft, coinciding with the reserve rounds in Tout.)
Trevor Story - This is probably wishful thinking, as the 23-year-old top prospect is the favorite to open the season as Colorado's starting shortstop. It seems likely that he will garner a bid at least in the $3-$5 range. If Story produces right away, it will be difficult for the Rockies to justify making a lineup change, even when (or if) Jose Reyes rejoins the team.
Brandon Finnegan - Although the Reds say that Finnegan will need to compete for a rotation spot this spring, I just don't see Michael Lorenzen standing in the way of the former first-round draft selection. Call it a hunch. There's immediate mixed league mid-rotation potential here.
James Paxton - Speaking of potential, injuries have so far prevented Paxton from making his mark at the big league level, and he was inconsistent during his 13-start 2015 campaign. But if he can pitch more like the guy who posted a 2.66 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over his first 17 major league starts and actually avoids the DL, now that would be something.
Desmond Jennings - Him again? I just can't seem to shake off my fascination with Jennings and his power/speed ability, even though he lets me down time and time again due to a combination of health woes and overall mediocre performance. Jennings will likely still be available in the reserve rounds, and there's little risk in taking another chance on him for a price of $0. I will really try to resist though. Let's see how that goes.
Pedro Alvarez - It would help if Alvarez actually signed with a major league team. But assuming that Pedro receives fairly regular at-bats somewhere, even as the strong side of a platoon, go ahead and tell me where you can find a cheaper 25 homers.
Joaquin Benoit/Kevin Quackenbush/Ryan Madson - Don't we all love the saves speculation game? In deep mixed leagues, my general closer strategy is to draft one upper-tier stopper, one mid-range closer with a high degree of job security and one setup man who is next in line for saves behind a shaky or injury-prone closer. Benoit, Quackenbush and Madson all fit this description, and there's a good chance that at least one of these relievers will find a home on my Tout Wars roster in 13 days.