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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

To tell the truth, I was far from the most dedicated Led Zeppelin follower even in their heyday, but I do subscribe to the theme of their 1976 concert film. When moving from the National League LABR draft at the beginning of March to the NL Tout Wars draft two weeks later, I stuck to the same basic tune.

Yet, just like a musician constantly altering how a song is performed live, making small adjustments seemingly every time, so it was here. My preparation for the second auction draft was based upon the first, yet unique in its own way.

Normally a spread-the-wealth kind of player in “only” leagues while avoiding the $1 pitching endgame, this year, I moved away from that approach. With the growing concentration of aces in the Senior Circuit, I decided I had to have one to compete. By carefully adding a few $1-$2 pitchers later in the draft, I could still snag my second and third hurlers in the higher and lower teens, respectively.

Which pitchers I would draft depended on where and when I could find value, but my hope was to ensure high strikeouts even at the slight expense of ratios. My thought was that I could mitigate some of the latter with a couple of solid setup men, if necessary. When all was said and done, I had just two common pitchers across the two rosters, or 22 percent.

In LABR, my ace choice was Stephen Strasburg. Lingering injury concerns might have caused a few of my peers to take a dollar or two off the price of the Nationals’ right-hander, but if so, that was fine with me. Strasburg finished the 2015 season very strongly and seems poised for a standout season. I paid $27 to roster him in LABR.

In Tout, however, I had to contend with BaseballHQ’s Phil Hertz, who lives in the Washington, DC area and is often all over Nationals (and his favored Mets, of which he rostered at least six this year).

Sure enough, Hertz doggedly hung in the Strasburg bidding until it reached $29, and I was not prepared to go $30. Hertz told me after the draft that he came in with the objective of getting Strasburg, and so he did. Only Clayton Kershaw ($41) and Max Scherzer ($32) went for more among hurlers.

I was very pleased, though, to acquire Jacob deGrom instead for at least $5 less than Strasburg would have cost. Perhaps the least flashy of the Mets’ three aces, my hope is that the reports of his velocity being down will disappear when the bell rings for the regular season.

My second starter in both leagues ended up being Tyson Ross of San Diego. Though the right-hander cost me a dollar more in Tout compared to my $18 purchase price in LABR, the 200-plus strikeouts should be worth it, even if the breakout predicted by many is less pronounced.

I strongly considered Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals for this spot as well. The veteran is coming off a non-pitching injury (Achilles) that essentially gave his arm a full year of rest at age 33. Of course, he has another good team behind him this season. My only trepidation was trading off strikeouts for Wainwright’s expected improved ratios.

My next two pitchers, around the $10 area, were Cardinals-focused. In LABR, just after going $12 on Jaime Garcia (for the ratios), his hard-throwing teammate Carlos Martinez fell into my lap at just $11. The latter was undoubtedly my best buy of the draft and came as a complete surprise, albeit a pleasant one.

In LABR, my choices were Julio Teheran ($12) and a veteran with a new team and additional upside in St. Louis in Mike Leake ($9). Comparing the pairs, Martinez may outpace Teheran, but Leake could outperform Garcia this season.

My ratio guys in LABR are Tony Watson and Sergio Romo at $2 each, added when most other competitors at the table were down to $1 maximum bids. Perhaps Romo will provide a few saves, as well.

That raises the point – taking this approach meant I was minimizing saves. I prefer not to say I am dumping the category, as in-season closer acquisition opportunities are not that rare. The large number of unsettled situations in the NL increase my odds of finding help later. In fact, Andrew Bailey went undrafted in LABR, but fetched $6 two weeks later.

In Tout, I had gone with a first-half, second-half closer split across two different teams in Fernando Rodney ($4) of San Diego and Arodys Vizcaino ($7) from Atlanta. Interestingly at Tout, the draftee just to my left, Ray Guilfoyle of faketeams.com, took both relievers (for a total of $15). As a result of not chasing saves in Tout, my total pitching spend dropped from $86 to $80, or 33 percent to 31. Not an issue for me.

Along with Ross, my other common pitcher across the two drafts was a definite target in Washington’s Lucas Giolito. All I have seen this spring reinforces my belief that once we get past the Super Two service time hurdle, Giolito will force his way into the majors – and perform well once there.

My fallback was another almost-ready prospect pitcher who is a bit less polished at this stage but also has a high ceiling in Tyler Glasnow of the Pirates. I ended up with Giolito at $5 (LABR) and $6 (Tout), while Glasnow would have required at least $5 as well. (He fetched $4 in both drafts.) I am pleased with my purchases.

There should be footnotes though, due to differences in league rules. In LABR, prospects can be drafted, but not added during the season via FAAB until they are called up to the majors. In addition, LABR has a six-man bench, making it easier to stash a couple of prospects.

Tout also has a swing player instead of the fifth outfielder. In that format, one could choose to start 10 pitchers and just 13 position players at any time or go with the more traditional 9/14.

Tout allows minor leaguers to be acquired at any point during the season, but they require a non-zero bid and must be active the first week after the purchase. Despite Tout thinning the reserves to four per team from six a few years back, the top prospects always seem to be grabbed early. If I was going to tie up one of my precious reserve spots, I wanted one of the very best prospects expected to be ready this season and I think I got my man.

I will reprise my The Song Remains the Same set right here next week when highlighting my NL LABR and Tout offenses.

Click on the highlighted link to see the full results of the Tout drafts, which are all on one spreadsheet. Just click on the tabs to toggle among the various format leagues. The NL LABR draft results can be viewed here.

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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