I drafted well, made a few trades that really paid off along with a number of strong FAAB pickups. But it was not until September, when Trea Turner continued to get on base and swipe bags at will, Justin Upton homered every other game and Justin Verlander pitched like it was 2011 that I thought there was a legitimate chance of winning the Tout Wars Mixed Auction league. Most of the final few weeks were spent bouncing between first and second place before taking the lead for good with only a few days remaining. After spending some time reflecting on this championship season, it's time to write about it.
MVP (hitter): Jose Altuve - I felt comfortable shelling out 31 bucks for Altuve's services, confident he would earn back at least that in the form of a .350-plus OBP, 35-plus steals and 85-plus runs. If he could somehow match last season's 15 homers, that would be special. As it turned out, the Astros second baseman fell a bit short in stolen bases, but I'm not complaining. He easily exceeded every other projection while still ranking among the top four players in the AL in thefts. With this MVP-worthy season, Altuve raised his fantasy stock from top-15 pick to top-5 pick. I'd have no problem paying the increased price in 2017, which could approach $40 in an auction. However, note that only five of his 24 home runs came after August 1st, so counting on another 20-home run season might be a little too optimistic.
MVP (pitcher): Jon Lester - Paying 25-plus dollars for a "true ace" is not my style. Instead, my preference is targeting a pitcher in the low-end ace/high-end SP2 tier with the potential to deliver a "true ace" caliber season. Lester was the guy I wanted and indeed purchased at a reasonable cost of $21. I'd say it all worked out pretty well. The Cubs southpaw earned a price hike for 2017, but even so, the continually underrated hurler should be well worth the investment.
Best bargain auction purchase (hitter): Carlos Beltran - Beltran cost $2 as my fifth outfielder, and I was expecting 130 games, 20 homers and 70 RBI. Instead, the 39-year-old enjoyed his most productive season since 2012, batting .295 with 29 homers and 93 RBI in 151 games split between the Yankees and Rangers. Beltran proved he can still be a middle of the order bat, but can he remain injury-free for a second straight season? I wouldn't be surprised if Carlos eventually finds a home in the Hall of Fame, but at a price that figures to be in the $10-$15 range, I'll likely steer clear of him in 2017.
Best bargain auction purchase (pitcher): Jose Quintana - Julio Teheran ($6) deserves an honorable mention, but Quintana's overall numbers are better. This $9 buy turned in a career year, though his lack of run support (13 wins despite a 3.20 ERA) was frustrating. There's little reason to think that Quintana, who turns 28 in January, will regress in 2017, and I'll be willing to spend the 15 bucks it will take to draft him at the auction table.
Best FAAB addition (hitter): Travis Jankowski - Although Jankowski faded in September (.256 OBP, 1 SB), he remained productive long enough to reward me with 16 steals. A glance at the final standings reveals that those 16 swipes were worth four points, a fine return for 152 FAAB dollars. Jankowski's fantasy outlook for 2017 is a mystery, as San Diego's outfield picture is crowded, with Manuel Margot his main competition. If given regular at-bats, Jankowski could be a quality mixed league asset. Stay tuned.
Best FAAB addition (pitcher): Ervin Santana - Santana hasn't exactly been the model of consistency but the veteran righty is usually a safe bet for a quality start, and that's all you can ask from a back-end of the rotation mixed league starter. So one day in early-July, I spotted Big Erv on the waiver wire and figured he really didn't belong there despite struggling in May and June. This was a case of perfect timing, as 12 FAAB dollars bought a 2.40 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over 15 starts to go along with 89 strikeouts across 97 1/3 innings. I won't be trying to draft Santana next year, but wouldn't mind owning him for the price of a late-round pick or a couple of dollars in an auction.
Best trade: Aaron Nola and Jay Bruce for Justin Verlander and Matt Kemp - Speaking of perfect timing, this swap seemed balanced when it was agreed to in late-June. Nola was in the midst of a rough stretch but after his outstanding April and May, there was reason to think he would bounce back. Meanwhile, despite a strong strikeout rate, Verlander sported a mediocre 4.30 ERA. Still, I was looking for more stability in my starting rotation, and in that respect, considering Nola's thin big league track record, he was the riskier option. To make up for the moderate (but at the time not significant) starting pitching upgrade, I was willing to accept what at the time was an outfield downgrade from Bruce to Kemp. Well, we all know how this turned out. In 18 starts for my squad, Verlander went 9-3 with a 1.98 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 147 strikeouts over 123 innings. Nola would make only four more starts before missing the remainder of the season due to an elbow injury. Bruce would register a .763 OPS in the second half after posting an .853 OPS prior to the All-Star break while Kemp provided 19 homers and 55 RBI in 81 games.
Best move I didn't make: Trading Trea Turner - It was early-May and Turner, a reserve round pick, wasn't close to being called up. Getting tired of waiting and figuring I could use a boost in power, I thought it might make some sense to part with Trea and his upside for a known commodity in Lucas Duda. Eventual runner-up Fred Zinkie had expressed interest in Turner but was unwilling to meet my asking price of Duda and Alcides Escobar for Turner and Trevor Plouffe. I actually formally proposed this. All Fred needed to do was click "Accept". Phew.
As always, thanks to the Tout Wars brain-trust for running these leagues, and special thanks to Peter Kreutzer (aka Rotoman) for his yeoman's work as the Mixed Auction league commissioner.