The Solid, the Shifty and the Fungible

[Cue Ennio Morricone music here.]

The long and fun Tout Wars weekend is over. Drafts were held, summaries will be written (and posted at toutwars.com), and eventually games will be played. At no other time will more people write the words, “I like my team,” more often.

You can find the spreadsheet with all the leagues’ results here.

I spoke on Sirius XM after the auction and was asked about some of the players I bought, and while I was talking I couldn’t help thinking that this was for the most part a boring draft. Relentlessly and with few exceptions players (even starting pitchers this year) went for something close to my bid price. I, for the most part, bought the guys whose price stopped at or below the price I’d put to paper for them. My strategic goal was to buy stats and to acquire risky guys who might make an impact.

The goal for every fantasy team is to establish a powerful enough base that the breakout guys put you in contention to win. That’s what might happen out of the draft, but the real work is massaging the roster all season long to maximize in each category. Some combo of work, good timing and utter luck are what puts teams over the top. But first, they have to get into contention.

Here are my purchases with some notes on the players and their prices. As you’ll note, mostly boring, but I like my team.

THE SOLID

Rob Brantly ($7, $6) He’s the cleanup hitter! On a really crummy team! He’s got some power and shouldn’t crush my BA, and has the potential to do more.

Joey Votto (My Bid Price $37, I paid $37) Hey, he’s Joey Votto. Is he not a power hitter anymore? I don’t believe that, but if it’s true he will then be the most awesome hitter for average ever. There is the chance for profits here, he earned in the 40s in 2010, but mostly I want him to stay healthy all season.

Ryan Zimmerman ($27, $27) Third base is a ghost town once you get past the top five, and with Headley’s injury even he’s suspect. So, a solid producer at his price is a win. Every other third baseman who cost more than $10 exceeded his bid price, demonstrating the league’s sensitivity to getting shut out at the hot corner.

Zack Cozart ($12, $14) Having three $25+ guys at the time, I didn’t feel comfortable pushing Starlin Castro and extra buck. He went at my bid price. And Jimmy Rollins went for one under. As I pushed Cozart $2 past my price I regretted not going the extra dollar for the much better players, but he was the last full time SS available. His job is secure and even if he isn’t the best hitter in the world he has a bit of power/speed production. A bit.

Hunter Pence ($22, $21) One of the places where the Touts try to save money is in the midlevel outfielders, the guys who are not dominant either in power or speed. Pence is one of those guys, and capable of having a bigger year than this bid pays for.

Angel Pagan ($21, $19) Another Giant outfielder? Yes, but one who runs a lot. Guys like Cameron Maybin went for $25. Maybin’s like Pagan but younger with a worse batting average.

Denard Span ($15, $14) Another boring outfielder at the slightest of discounts, but Span has never had a season like the best he seems like he might be capable of. On a new team, despite a weakish spring, one hopes for more than what he’s done in the past. But if he does just that, I’m okay with it.

Scott Hairston ($7, $4) Once the prices drop below $10 the comparison doesn’t mean much. Hairston earned $18 last year in 350 AB. It wouldn’t take a lot to get him more playing time in Chicago (or released for that matter), so consider him cheap and likely to earn a bit of a profit with the chance of something more.

Yorvit Torrealba ($1, $1) A catcher in Colorado backing up a guy who is a bad catcher. Yorvit has some productive years behind him, and having taken a catcher who will start the year in the minors, I was looking for a puncher’s chance with a catcher in dollar days. Hello son.

Cliff Lee ($28, $26) I’ve knocked my starting pitching bids down quite a bit in prep for this draft, and was glad to see that pitcher prices were generally on par. Any of the top six or seven starters will earn out, unless he gets hurt. I chose Lee for no particular reason.

Zack Greinke ($21, $19) Maybe he was a little cheaper because of injury concerns, though he appears to be healthy at this point. He’s in a good ballpark in a lineup that costs a lot. Irresistible.

Mike Minor ($14, $12) I would have gladly gone to $14 on Minor, who seemed to put it all together in the second half last year. CBS and LABR landed in the $12 range, so I’m not claiming this is a bargain, but given the potential upside I was happy.

Marco Estrada ($10, $11) He’s a guy for whom my projection outpaces my bid price. He throws strikeouts and homers and if he can rein in the one he could have special upside.

Lance Lynn ($11, $11) Like Estrada, plenty of strikeouts. He’s kind of the opposite of Minor, in that he stumbled in the second half, but was overall just fine. While it would be great if all three of Minor/Estrada/Lynn were solid this year, you have to figure one will fail. But which one? That’s why I have three.

THE SHIFTY

Travis D’Arnaud (Minors, $5) One can argue that the money spent on D’Arnaud and Matt Adams could have been better spent buying Starlin Castro rather than Zack Cozart. I won’t argue with that, but once the barn door is open you have to adjust. I didn’t buy Castro. D’Arnaud isn’t a lock for the big leagues this year, but indications are he’ll get a chance come June or July. He’s a free-swinging power hitter, who may get off to a slow start offensively, but will quickly outearn his price here if he has any success at all. If he turns into Devin Mesoraco this year, I’ll be disappointed, and not all that surprised.

Matt Adams ($5, $5) He may or may not make the team at the start of the season, and doesn’t seem to have a regular job if he does, but they’re not going to let him languish. He’s too potent a hitter for that. Is he a big league star hitter? Borderline at that level, for sure, but he will hit for power if he gets the playing time. The other guys available at this price were Gaby Sanchez and Todd Helton. Either could be better, but neither could be much better.

Dee Gordon ($9, $8) As spring training winds down it looks like Gordon could end up marginalized despite Hanley Ramirez’s injury. My thought was that in 100 AB in the next month or so Gordon could steal 15 bases, but I paid too much given his shortcomings as a hitter and the possibility he’ll end up in Triple-A later this week. My fingers are crossed to ward off buyer’s remorse.

Jonathan Broxton ($5, $5) On my sheet I still had Broxton down at $10, his pre-Aroldys Chapman-as-closer price, but I didn’t pay up here out of confusion. He was my last buy and I had $5 left. He surely would have cost $3 if I hadn’t nominated at $6 (whoops, tiny print on the spreadsheet, adjusted down a buck) and spent my last $5. He was the best available pitching choice at that point by far, as a Closer in Waiting.

Kyuji Fujikawa ($9, $8) If I had bought Alfonso Soriano, who I dropped out too soon on because I wanted Carlos Quentin who was then bid out of my price range, I wouldn’t have had money for Fujikawa. But I did. I actually preferred Steve Cishek, but when he was bid up to his price I had to shift my sights to Fujikawa. Chris Liss spent $8 on Marmol (and bid $7 on Fujikawa, saying one of us is going to be glad he couldn’t bid more or didn’t have to). Given the situation, I’m fine with this, but it is no discount and is certainly risky. And I would have preferred Michael Fiers, who went for $7 (but might have gone higher because Derek Carty had the scratch at that point), but decided to get it settled earlier.

Drew Storen ($6, $2) Again, in the endgame the expected bid price doesn’t mean much. But Storen throws strikeouts and has a history as a closer, making him the Closer in Waiting (and likely to vulture a few as well).

THE FUNGIBLE

Daniel Descalso ($4, $3) I wanted Jordany Valdespin or Donovan Solano, but Valdespin’s price spiraled and when Descalso was nominated before Solano I pounced rather than being shut out. That’s how weak second base is. When Solano went for $2 I was full of regrets and remorse. Still am.

Tyler Moore ($2, $2) He was the best power threat (tee hee) on board at this point in the draft, with no clear path for any playing time at all except as DH during interleague.

Chris Capuano ($1, $1) Coming off a fine year, but lacking a clear role in the Dodgers rotation, let’s call him Best Available Arm and hope some team in a good ballpark that needs a pitcher trades for him.

THE RESERVES

Gregg Dobbs ($3, reserve) Because T’Arnaud is starting in the minors, and I drafted Torrealba, his replacement, into my utility slot, I wanted the best available hitter for some power with a big league job to fill that hole. That’s Dobbs, probably, which isn’t saying a lot. Can’t have too many Marlins.

Kolton Wong (minors, reserve) If he’s called up he’ll have more value than Daniel Descalso fer sure.

Alex Castellanos ($2, reserve) I was going for the best young hitter who might make an opening day team, looking for offensive options.

Freddie Galvis ($1, reserve) When I saw the Phillies play in spring training, Freddie led off the game with a sharp single to left field that he turned into a double. The crowd of Phillies phans went crazy. It turns out they love him after seeing him play sort of regularly last year. I was looking for another shot at 2B.

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (a conclusion)

When a league plays the game as tightly as this one does your options are limited. I’d targeted Domonic Brown after seeing him play in spring training, but his success meant everyone knew what I knew, and Phil Hertz bumped him a buck or two past my price. Early on I might have pushed, but at that point my budget was stretched.

Mike Gianella had the most interesting draft, spending just $34 on pithcing. The problem with that is that his pitching isn’t very good, but he does have a lot of hitters at decent prices. He’s got talent, now he needs to rearrange it.

Lenny Melnick and Phil Hertz were the reason I stopped targeting guys. They both have their buys, and aren’t afraid to push their budgets to get them. When you collide you usually lose, one way or the other. I’d hoped to pick off Julio Teheran for a few bucks, but Phil took him all the way to $8. Playing agnostically, a phrase I think originates with Liss, let’s you find the bargains where they fall. For Gianella that meant on offense. For me, I worked to find them on both sides of the aisle.

The danger is that I will confuse bargains for my overreaches. That may be what happened with Dee Gordon, D’Arnaud and Adams, or those could each turn out to be a robust embrace of risk that pays off. I’m looking forward to finding out.

4 thoughts on “The Solid, the Shifty and the Fungible

  1. Hi Peter:

    I had both Sandoval and Freese below my par prices, although perhaps I should have adjusted Sandoval down further after hearing conflicting news about his injury.

    I’ll have more in my write-up at Baseball Prospectus at Friday morning. It was interesting, to say the least.

  2. With both Liss and Lenny grabbing multiple $30+ outfielders (three in the case of Lenny, *and* a $25 Maybin), the distribution of elite talent in this draft wasn’t very uniform. In a way it worked against those who saved their money early – my impression was that a lot of those third-tier players were chased up. I also think that the supply of third-tier hitters is thinner in the NL than usual – more so than in the AL.

    • It’s a good point. When it is only a few teams pushing up the prices of the elites, the midlevel prices don’t necessarily crash, since most of the teams are still on their budgets.

      That said, I also agree Jeff that the thinness from the teens down means that teams are primed to push the top players hard, which is why I look at Ryan Zimmerman at his par value ($27) as a bit of a bargain, even though I mostly hope to break even on him.

Comments are closed.