Tout Wars AL-Only Auction: Bender's Draft Review
Howard Bender gives you the play-by-play of his Tout Wars AL-Only Auction, including how the delay to the 2020 MLB season will affect some of his purchases.
Let’s face it – these are troubling times right now and, unless you were alive when the Bubonic Plague was decimating our world, this is uncharted territory for all of us. For the most part, we are trying to do our very best to quarantine ourselves and be respectful of others. Are there a few bad apples making it difficult for us? Absolutely. But to quote Cool Hand Luke, “there are some men you just can’t reach.” And not to sound callous, but isn’t that what Darwinism is all about? Survival of the fittest? It’s not just physical, it’s mental as well and those taking things seriously today should come out on top of things tomorrow.
But you’re not here to listen to me expound on what is happening in the world right now, are you? You’re reading a fantasy baseball article with the hope and intent to escape, even if it’s just for a little while in the middle of what is likely a very harrowing day. So, with that, I’m going to take you through my Tout Wars AL-Only auction, not just with an inside look to what I was thinking a week ago, but also what I am thinking about, fantasy-wise, with what we know now. A week ago, there was a glimmer of hope for baseball in May. Today, it doesn’t look like we’re going to see anything until June or possibly even July. And that makes a world of difference if you are drafting right now.
Before I get to my team and bidding, one caveat to add is the Great Innings Pitched Debate of 2020. About a month or so ago, a decision was rendered to eliminate the innings-pitched and at-bats minimums for the AL and NL-only leagues and the Constitution on the Tout Wars website was amended. Unfortunately, no announcement was sent out to alert the competitors and, with the exception of Mike Gianella who was looking up the Ohtani Rule, no one was aware of the change.
This isn’t me complaining about the change. I’m fine with it. While the Tout Board claims this was just an effort to catch up to the rest of the single-league roto world, I firmly believe it has something to do with a trade I made with Patrick Davitt last season in which I dealt him some big bats in exchange for a run of mediocre innings-eaters. Injuries decimated my team last year and I had zero chance of competing for the title. I was fine in the offensive categories, but I was going to fall under the innings minimum and therefore lose a substantial amount of FAAB this season because of it. Some people were up in arms that I gave him too much, yet no one else was willing to trade me the starting pitching I needed. I’m being polite right now by not going into further detail, but I will say that it is amazing how a league of touts can be reduced to the whining and crying of your basic home league. Amazing.
Nevertheless, if this change in the rules keeps the crybabies quiet and someone near the bottom of the standings doesn’t have to worry about making minimums in a single-league format, then so be it. Would I have altered my bidding and gone a little heavier on some relievers? Probably. But I don’t consider this oversight of not alerting the league of the change to be too detrimental.
Let’s take a look at what went down in the auction. These picks are in order of when I won each player in the draft.
Remember – 12-team, AL-Only; 5x5 roto with OBP instead of batting average
Budget -- $260 which I designated 65% towards offense
Mike Clevinger , SP ($30) – You know I was all over Clevinger last year as he was my pick for the 2019 AL Cy Young award and I was more than comfortable with going back to the well again this year. We obviously knew the MLB season was going to be delayed, so there was little to no concern that the knee injury he endured early in the spring would keep him out past the “new” Opening Day. Even if the season wasn’t delayed, I would have been in on him. I believe that much in the talent. Would I have backed off knowing the innings minimum was lifted? Probably not. I don’t think I would have ever chosen to punt Wins or Strikeouts and gone with an all-closer mentality.
José Berríos , SP ($22) – This one is a little bittersweet. I love Berrios and am all-in on him this year as he lost his arbitration case and will be pitching with a chip on his shoulder. He’s got tremendous talent and, defensively, the team behind him is rock-solid. But here’s where an online auction hurts in comparison to doing it in-person. Jason Collette had nominated Franmil Reyes but an apparent glitch in someone’s internet connection caused a roll-back to the Mike Trout bidding that happened just before. I assumed that when we resumed the auction that Reyes’ name would be nominated again. It was not and before I realized that to be the case, I was sitting on the winning bid for Berrios. No roll-back here, so I ended up opening my draft with $52 (about half my pitching budget) spent on two starters.
Anthony Rendon , 3B ($35) – Nominated a little earlier than I would have liked, but definitely a target of mine. He’s going to see plenty of pitches to hit, whether he hits in front of or behind Mike Trout . Maybe there’s a slight adjustment period for changing leagues, but not enough of one that would have me concerned.
Matt Olson , 1B ($33) – If you don’t know how much I love Olson, then you’ve obviously never heard me on the radio or read a single thing I’ve written. I wear my heart on my sleeve here and I put my money where my mouth is. Having seen Colton & the Wolfman covet the slugging first baseman in recent drafts had me a little worried, but I was still able to grab him for a couple of dollars less than I would have been willing to pay.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa , C ($6) – It was my nomination and I wanted to try and lay low for a bit. I nominated Kiner-Falefa, hoping to grab him for just a couple of bucks, but obviously the news out of Texas was abundant and it looks like he should be starting at the hot corner as Todd Frazier moves across the diamond. Neither Ronald Guzmán nor Greg Bird were doing anything to win that job, so that opened the door. I paid a few bucks too many, but nothing awful, in my opinion.
Giancarlo Stanton , OF ($23) – He wasn’t really a target of mine, but the delay to the season meant Stanton would likely be in the Opening Day lineup. I had him pegged at roughly $30 in my auction values, so when the bidding was stalled at $22, I jumped in. With all of this extra time to rest up, he could prove to be a steal at this price.
Tim Anderson , SS ($25) – He led the league in hitting last season, the White Sox have made dramatic improvements to their team, people were paying a premium for stolen bases and while I was pushing the budget a little bit, the expense was a necessity.
Ken Giles , RP ($22) – Closers were coming in between $18-20 but at the time of Giles’ nomination, the position was running thin and I needed to pay the inflated price tag. I would have hated myself if I paid this for anyone but Giles at the time and I would have hated myself even more if I settled for a $12 guy who doesn’t have near the level of job security Giles has.
Aaron Civale, SP ($7) – Big fan of the talent and an interview with Terry Francona told me he has the utmost of confidence in this kid. He was having a strong spring before the shut-down and should be a solid option for the cost.
Austin Nola , 1B/2B ($1) – I nominated him at this point to start filling in some of the gaps with cheap picks. As everyone else was bidding up the third-tier talent, I figured this was an appropriate time. What I like about Nola is that he fills a MI spot for me which is an area I think is fairly deep. With the news that Nola will be splitting the catcher work this season, I can afford to wait a few weeks before he gains eligibility. Once he does, I can move him there an input a MI from either waivers or my reserve picks.
Kyle Higashioka , C ($1) – Just need to fill a spot until Austin Nola qualifies at catcher. Higashioka is expected to earn the back-up job and does anyone really know how Gary Sánchez ’ back issues will affect him? I’m sure Aaron Boone will want to give him some days of rest early on in the season and that could mean some bonus play for Higashioka. And if nothing else, he’s an easy cut when Nola gain the eligibility behind the dish.
Jo Adell , OF ($9) – I was a little more bullish on this pick at the time, but now a week later and with the knowledge that the season may not even start up until June or even July, my enthusiasm has waned just a bit. Rookies are going to be a tough thing to deal with this season as we will have to await dates for Super-Two status and all the arbitration clock stuff. Not to mention, the new rule in MLB that limits the September roster to 28 instead of the usual 40 means fewer call-ups.
Michael Pineda , SP ($3) – Again, less bullish with the added delay. Pineda still has 39 games to go on his 60-game suspension, so we’re losing a higher percentage of the season than originally planned.
David Fletcher , 2B/3B/SS/OF ($7) – The super-utility man now has the mad genius Joe Maddon running the show and that should give Fletcher ample playing time throughout the season. He qualifies everywhere but 1B and catcher, so he will afford me massive roster flexibility.
Chris Davis , 1B ($1) – If I can even remotely get some decent early-season production out of him, I’ll be a very happy man. Maybe he’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder and comes out swinging like he did early in the spring. If he becomes too much of a drain on my OBP, he’s an easy cut.
J.A. Happ, SP ($5) – Didn’t spend a whole lot on him here and am hoping that last season was more the aberration than the new norm. He spent the previous four seasons with an ERA below 3.70 with a FIP below 4.00, so let’s hope for some of that again.
Diego Castillo , RP ($3) – Solid ratios, strong strikeout rate and who’s to say Nick Anderson holds the closer job all year? How many times have we seen a guy dominate one year and crap the bed the next? Blake Treinen , anyone?
Shed Long , 2B ($8) – He’s my boy this year! Batting leadoff for the woeful mariners? He’ll get the green light on the bases and should be good for runs scored. Just needs to start the season hot so we don’t lose him to the 9-hole with a .290 OBP.
Alex Verdugo , OF ($9) – I’ll take a moment here to pat myself on the back for having this much money this late in my auction. I had to sit tight and be patient, but I wasn’t going to lose the hammer late in this auction. The longer the delay the better it is for Verdugo to heal up and be ready for an everyday job in the Red Sox outfield.
James Karinchak, RP ($2) – Even with the delay, he’s the handcuff to Brad Hand . His strikeout rate is top-notch and he misses a ton of bats. Even if Emmanuel Clase were to come back, he [Clase] may just stay in the high-leverage late innings instead of a potential push to the ninth.
Tony Kemp , 2B/OF ($2) – The battle at the keystone in Oakland will continue whenever they start back up, but Kemp was leading that charge before everything stopped. He’s got good speed and qualifies in both the infield and outfield which will help.
Casey Mize , SP ($2) – He’s one of those rookies who I think works in the majors no matter what. Maybe he doesn’t start there, but the Tigers aren’t competing for a playoff spot and they need to see what they have on the farm before moving forward. Mize isn’t a huge strikeout guy, but he does have excellent command and the ballpark dimensions of Comerica will allow him to trust his stuff at the big league level.
Jordan Lyles , SP ($4) – Like the player and the improvements he’s made on his curveball which he was throwing more last year. We don’t know how the new ballpark in Arlington will play, but hearing that it’s more pitcher-friendly than the old one. And hey…if Eno Sarris and Paul Sporer like the guys, who am I to argue?
I may be a little light on the stolen bases, but overall, I’m happy with the squad I put together. We’ll see what happens when everything eventually starts back up, but as for a foundation, I feel pretty comfortable.