My Tout Wars NL Team 2011

We drafted in Tout Wars NL yesterday. You’ll find a link to the spreadsheet and live blog Jason Collette ran at toutwars.com. You’ll also find his live blog for Tout Mixed and my live blog of Tout AL further down the page, as well as links to the various spreadsheets.

You’ll find more about the event at Toutwars.com, on the Tout Wars page on Facebook, and following #toutwars on Twitter.

Historically, this draft is pretty tight. The best hitters go for a few dollars below my general assessment of their bid price, and the best pitchers the same. You would think this was an exploitable mistake, and maybe it is (Mike Lombardo from Wise Guy Baseball won three times buying good pitchers and catchers), but in my experience if you get a good price for a $35 pitcher (say $30) and then all the other pitchers go cheaper still, the price advantage disappears. The key thing is to stay away from the mid-range hitters, at least the sexy ones, because there will be more money for them than there “should” be. Evidence, Jay Bruce went for $29 yesterday.

In recent years I’ve mapped out my draft sheet with target prices for each slot, and a few players who I would be happy to roster at that price. This aren’t hard guidelines, but serve rather as a structure to help me gauge where I am versus my budget. I feel free to shift resources around if I see a bargain, but it also reminds me that there are available players I “like” who fit into my plan. Until there aren’t, of course.

The ability to adjust is the key thing during a competitive closely fought auction. That’s because the prices that are paid at auction are variable. My $28 player is someone else’s $32, at least at that moment, and certain types of players tend to clump at non-linear prices. So while I may have hoped to buy Pedro Alvarez (16-my bid prices in parens), Pablo Sandoval (16), or Chase Headley (15) at $16, these guys went for 19, 23, and 16. I didn’t pop for Headley because of when he came out and because Casey McGehee, Scott Rolen and Ian Stewart were still out there, as was Aramis Ramirez, at a higher price point. But their prices all blew past my bid limits, and when I didn’t chase them I had to scramble, because there really aren’t enough third basemen.

And that’s the point. While I don’t really believe in position scarcity, the room is smart enough to know it doesn’t want to get stuck with Juan Franscisco, so they borrow money from elsewhere, and the prices of third basemen clump around $20 rather than $16. And they all did. The only cheap corners were Francisco, Mark Kotsay, Brad Emaus, Daniel Murphy, Russell Branyan, Eric Hinske, and that’s it. The next tier of nearly cheap included Melvin Mora 7, Todd Helton 8 and Casey Blake 8.

That elsewhere, where the money comes from, is pitching.

My discipline is to take the shortfall when I have to, and try to load up on the resources that are cheaper. There isn’t a ton of trading in this league, but there is some, and there is the FAAB wire. So I’m the guy who ended up with Melvin Mora (7) and Juan Francisco (1) for $7 and $1. I certainly hope I don’t have to play them all year, but the extra money allowed me to stock up elsewhere. In my case I have four solid outfielders. Some teams only have two or three. I hope that helps.

Here’s the 2011 Ask Rotoman squad:

CATCHERS: Yadier Molina $12–The prices for Posey and McCann were reasonable, but I was hoping for Soto, who blew up to $19, making Posey’s $22 seem cheap. A fair price for a regular catcher is fine by me. Yadier has that.

Ivan Rodriguez $1–By the time we got to second catcher I was trying to save money, and didn’t want to push Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder or Nick Hundley, each of whom went for a buck more than I wanted pay. I didn’t want to pay +$2. Thus, I-Rod, a Hall of Famer.

CORNERS: James Loney $19–I was trying to put together a squad of ugly hitters, guys who would play and perhaps not reach their bid prices, but it wasn’t to be. Loney was the centerpiece here, and he didn’t stop until he reached my bid price for him, which is on par with his earnings the last four years. Only growth in his game will bring a big profit. Only bad luck will bring a loss.

Melvin Mora $7–Supposedly in good shape and ready to play following a minor car accident, he should get a few hundred at bats if his body holds up. If I could do it again I would have bought Headley for $17, though there’s no guarantee he would have stopped there. There are reasons to hold your nose and go with cheap guys, rather than pay up for the more expensive guys. Cheap guys can earn profits. Cheap guys are fungible, easily dumpable if someone better comes along. Cheap guys at a scarce position don’t inflate as much as pricey guys, which leaves you more money for better priced and equally productive resources, like outfielders.

Juan Francisco $1–A ton of power, but no guarantee that he’ll play even if Scott Rolen gets hurt. Still, a ton of power could do some nice damage if he gets a chance, and when hasn’t Rolen gotten hurt?

MIDDLE: Orlando Hudson $10–Another year another new team for him, but he’s got an important role in the Padres’ lineup. He’s not a roto star but rather a solid guy with plenty of AB at his price. Sometimes you want profits, sometimes you’re happy to take solidity.

Jason Bartlett $14–I don’t like this price at all. He’s a $10 player in SD, but the thin ranks left me with no place else to go here. Stubbornness and discipline sometimes have to give way. Should get plenty of AB, but now I have to hope that he’ll bounce back toward 2009 levels. That’s not likely in that ballpark and at his age. On the other hand, should get plenty of AB, which helps even if he ends up losing a few bucks.

Luis Castillo $2–This is how thin the middle is. I was going to nominate him and, I assume, buy him for a buck, but when someone else tossed him out I bumped. My rationale is that he stunk with the Mets. Many a ballplayer is reborn with a change of scene, and why not in Philly for Castillo? A little modest one. Okay, I know I’m going to be looking for a middle. Probably. But it’s worth a shot.

OUTFIELDERS: Carlos Gonzalez $36-You worry about regression, he can’t be as good again, but will he be near as great? He earned $52 or so last year, so this price factors in 30 percent regression. I like that.

Colby Rasmus $26–He’s the right age with the right skill set to blow up in the good way, but he’s immature and ticks La Russa off. Or did. He earned $24 last year and seems to have proved himself as far as talent goes. I expect better than that, possibly much better, but have to admit that expectation comes with a dose of risk.

Marlon Byrd $15–Right at his price. The good thing is he’s in the middle of the Cubs lineup and should get plenty of chances to do everything he does.

Nate McLouth $17–Power and speed here, and proof that no matter how ugly a season a guy has (and McLouth’s 2010 is as ugly as they get) our perception of his potential doesn’t dim. I hope we’re right.

Gerardo Parra $3–He can hit and may actually get a chance to put up some AB in Arizona. He has to in order to help much, because he’s not a power or speed guy at this point. At this price, he works even as a part time player.

Jordan Schafer $3–Last player, I spent my remaining money, nobody bid $2. A handcuff for McLouth. Last I checked he wasn’t burning up Spring Training, but was in the running for a backup spot in the Braves outfield, or more likely, the guy to call up from Triple-A if someone goes down.

PITCHERS: Chris Carpenter $19–I had him on my list of guys to take for $20, but didn’t think that would happen. He seems to be past the hamstring problem, knock on wood. Another guy I wanted for $20 was Marmol, but I didn’t get to the price point first, and after that I found the closers to be pricey.

Roy Halladay $32–The original plan was to buy Halladay or Lincecum for $30 and Marmol for $20. When I failed to get Marmol and Halladay stalled at $31, I bid one more rationalizing that it was only $1 above budget (and a few dollars less than my bid prices for those two guys). This is where it gets tricky however, because when the whole market shifts down five bucks for top pitchers a bargain becomes a player for par. That’s what Halladay represents here, but pitchers at par include a hedge against injury in the best. If he stays healthy Halladay will earn $40+. The discount is for injury risk.

Roy Oswalt $19–Cockcroft and Gianella had loaded up with three top starters, and it was clear that the money we were saving on pitchers was going to hitters. I judged that with a third ace I could compete and would still have a shot at a couple more starters I liked financially. Not of the Gallardo/Billingsley sort, but guys with real upside.

Sergio Romo $4–He should earn this even if he doesn’t start the year as the Giants’ closer. And he might.

Tyler Clippard $3–Same here, with Storen struggling. Any saves you can get early help when it’s time to sort out the closer situation later. Being within striking distance can make one either a buyer or a seller at the deadline.

Carlos Zambrano $8–Awesome finish last year after he came back. I had him with a bid price of $12.

Jair Jurjens $5–He seems to be healthy, which means this is a low risk high reward pitching pick. He’s not as good as he was in 2009, but I’ll love 2008 numbers.

Jarrod Parker $1–More of a reserve pick in the end game. He’s coming back from surgery and is doing fine. Will start the year in the minors and has the maturity to get the call as soon as they’re confident in his health. But as a future No. 1 or 2 he’s on a short leash inningswise.

Barry Enright $3–One of those guys who doesn’t blow people away, but can just plain pitch. When things go wrong they can get ugly in a hurry for this type. but they can work out if you keep him on a short leash.

RESERVES

Wade LeBlanc–Depth, like Enright, in a good ballpark to pitch.

Kyle Kendrick–Another one of those sorts, though his role is less clear and less potentially helpful.

Jesus Flores–Handcuff for Ivan Rodriguez.

Luis Durango–I’ve always liked this guy’s speed. Chris Liss said, “What, are you over the team weight limit?” It was close.

This is a weak set of reserves, though no list stands out particularly. I think we’re seeing the increasing effects of teams going with a shorter list of hitters and more pitchers, and a greater fluidity between the majors and the minors. These trends are playing havoc with our deep AL and NL only leagues (the way the owner’s move to 24 man ML rosters did in the 80s), but in general we’re being very slow to adjust, maybe because there aren’t any obvious fixes.

This team will need to scramble for saves and it will work better if the Francisco, Castillo and Schafer holes are filled quickly and substantially. More analysis is needed to figure out what everyone else did. I look forward to their write ups.

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