It was a surreal experience last weekend taking the ferry from lower Manhattan and arriving at Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees, for the 2018 Tout Wars auctions.
This was just my second year competing in Tout Wars, and there was a major change in my league: the decision was made to move from H2H categories to a H2H points format.
This change had a dramatic effect on how most of us valued players and production. Knowing your format is so important – if you play in anything other than a standard 5x5 Rotisserie league, you can't just draft from a standard cheat sheet or gauge value based on ADP.
The scoring system:
Hitting Points: Single=1, Double=2, Triple=3, HR=4, BB=1, Strikeouts=-.5, Runs=1, RBI=1, Stolen Base=2, Caught Stealing=-1
Pitching Points: Win=5, Loss=-3, Save=5, Blown Save=-3, Strikeout=1, Walk=-1, Out=1, Hit Allowed=-1, Earned Run=-1
After plugging those settings into our Draft Software for Mac, I quickly discovered just how much this format inflated the value of starting pitching.
From the software, a look at our top players available under this scoring system:
Justin Mason of Friends with Fantasy Benefits, The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational and The Sleeper and The Bust podcast (everywhere) was onto this and took an extreme approach, loading up on high-end starting pitchers. He bought Scherzer for $54 and Kershaw for $52, as well as Carlos Martinez for $27, Ray for $24, Samardzija for $15 and Cueto for $10. I liked the aggressiveness and the not caring what others thought – people criticizing him for this approach just didn't grasp the scoring system well. Justin will be formidable. There may be better teams top to bottom, but I'm not looking forward to facing him.
My team (of $260):
C: Willson Contreras, CHC ($11), Yadier Molina, STL ($7)
Yes, offense was devalued under the scoring system, but I still couldn't believe the bidding stopped at $11 on Contreras in this two-catcher league. He's my clear No. 2 catcher. Molina doesn't stand out anymore, offensively, but he's a compiler and that should lead to solid weekly points totals.
1B: Carlos Santana, PHI ($13)
With a walk being worth as much as a single or a run or an RBI, Santana gets a major boost. He felt undervalued by most of the room. We had him at $15.89 with this scoring system, ahead of guys like Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and Miguel Cabrera.
2B: DJ LeMahieu, COL ($13)
I had to fight Paul Sporer on both Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, and I lost both of those fights. After getting priced out on Albies, I settled for LeMahieu. He was one of the few remaining second basemen that I felt comfortable with as a starter in this 12-teamer.
SS: Xander Bogaerts, BOS ($13)
I'm ending up with quite a few shares of Bogaerts this draft season, which surprises me. I was one of the people picking apart the batted-ball numbers last year, pointing to the groundball/flyball distribution as a main reason for skepticism with the power, but I'm finding the price is usually favorable. The hand issue last year makes a deep dive into his 2017 stats a fool's errand. More than anything else, I'm betting on the pedigree and the lineup around him.
MI: Scott Kingery, PHI ($5)
This was one where I probably should have just let Kingery go for $4, but after talking him up on SiriusXM with Jeff Mans, I had the impulse to go $5. By comparison, Kingery went in the reserves of the 15-team mixed auction that same day – the sweet spot is probably $1-to-$3 in standard mixed-league auctions.
OF: George Springer, HOU ($26), Nomar Mazara, TEX ($11), Lorenzo Cain, MIL ($10), Stephen Piscotty, OAK ($5), Avisail Garcia, CWS ($3)
Springer shaved the K-rate down a lot last year and shouldn't be punished so bad by the -.5 for hitter strikeouts. The top offensive options were drying up at that point and I felt I needed to get one offensive anchor.
Mazara's surface numbers were pretty stagnant from Year 1 to Year 2, but don't let that fool you: he did show signs of growth last season. He walked more, made more hard contact and improved against lefties. I'm not going Bill James on Mazara this season, but I think he's a borderline top-100 overall player.
With stolen bases not being a category that you have to compete in, all stolen-base guys were naturally devalued, but Cain does enough across the board to still be worthwhile.
Piscotty may not be all that much above replacement level in this format, but I like his chances for a bounce back now that he's out west close to his family.
Garcia was second to Jose Altuve in first-pitch-swing rate last season and he hit .506 on those pitches. The league should adjust and give Garcia fewer first-pitch strikes, but he has hit the ball hard over the past two years and I'm optimistic that he can adjust back.
UT: Jason Kipnis, CLE ($4)
Plugging up your UTIL with a middle infielder? Hashtag expert. But after getting Kingery, I knew I needed a solid fill-in to buy me time, and I knew I could get someone capable in reserves to plug into this spot.
P: Justin Verlander, HOU ($36), Aaron Nola, PHI ($31), Shohei Ohtani (P-only), LAA ($17), Luke Weaver, STL ($10), Blake Snell, TB ($6), Dinelson Lamet, SD ($5), Felipe Rivero, PIT ($4), Eduardo Rodriguez, BOS ($1)
More Verlander. He was insane with Houston last year after getting out of Detroit and I always love his price in auctions.
It's probably a sucker play, but I'm buying in on Nola in a lot of spots.
Ohtani was the first player nominated, and I was mocked both in the room and on Twitter for the buy.
lol Ohtani 17
— Ryan Donovan (@TheReal_Dono) March 18, 2018
I guess we can go ahead and close the book on Ohtani after a few bad spring starts. Sure.
With Weaver, there has been a lot of talk about how his K-rate didn't line up with the indicators last year. Perhaps he will give something back there, but he also has good control and I'm not sure how predictive swinging-strike rate is anyway.
Snell is a guy I was pretty much done with last summer – I basically gave him away to Shannon McKeown in Staff Keeper League – but he returned from the minors and showed real growth in the second half. He has been getting rave reviews in camp and seems focused. Snell just needs to continue to locate well with the fastball. That's the key for him.
I wrote about Lamet in my 2018 magazine article, and while I've seen him priced up a little too high lately, but I was happy with this cost.
Saves are devalued in this league, but I like Rivero's skills a lot and he was below my projected price unlike virtually every other closer put up for nomination.
Rodriguez could be a difference maker if the knee can hold up. That's a big "if," I get it, but he's been making tremendous progress and it sounds like he may not even end up missing a turn in the rotation.
Alex Cora announced Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello will start the first three regular season games for the #RedSox. Brian Johnson being prepared for Game 5. Door open for Eduardo Rodriguez in Game 4.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) March 20, 2018
Reserves (in order of selection): A.J. Puk, OAK, Yangervis Solarte, TOR, Franchy Cordero, SD, C.J. Cron, TB, Sandy Alcantara, MIA, Derek Dietrich, MIA
I said in my LABR review that Puk was one of my new favorite targets, and I'm finding myself trying to grab him even in shallower formats now. He was sent down, but I think with the needs in the rotation there in Oakland, he could be up as soon as mid-April.
Solarte's positional flexibility was the lone reason I grabbed him with my second pick in the reserves.
Yes, I grabbed an injured Franchy in a 12-team mixer. I have a problem.
Cron isn't a big difference maker in this format, but I can plug him in for Kingery if Cordero doesn't have a steady role to begin the season.
Alcantara will probably be my first cut in this league. I thought he may start the year in the rotation, but he was just officially sent to the minor-league side Tuesday. Perhaps he's worthy of a stash, but I can't afford to with Puk also on the roster.
Dietrich seems slightly undervalued right now. He should gain outfield eligibility to pair with third-base eligibility, and he's having a great spring (.381/.438/.714). Even so, I won't hesitate to cut bait if he gets off to a slow start or if a needs arises elsewhere on the roster.
Click here to check out full results from all of the 2018 Tout Wars auctions.