There is no more prestigious set of baseball leagues than Tout Wars. As always, it is an privilege to participate in one of these drafts, and this year I was moved from the online Draft and Hold to a live auction in the Head to Head draft. Of course, thanks to the current events, the live auction was moved online, but it was still a great experience to draft with some of the best of the best. Last year’s champion, Ian Kahn, made the first nomination and did so in honor of the late, great Lawr Michaels. With that, the 2020 Tout Wars Mixed Head to Head auction began. Below is a pick by pick rundown of my team, the auction value for each player, and a quick idea of why I made each buy.
If you happened to hear me on Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Radio after my LABR Mixed draft with Glenn Colton, Rick Wolf, and Jim Bowden, you would have heard me say that baseball is now a young man’s game. You used to see players not really make an impact until they were 25 years or older, and 28-30 was really the sweet spot. Now, guys come out of the Minor Leagues and set the world on fire, and if you are drafting a team full of guys in their 30’s, you likely won’t be sitting atop the standings come September. So, I wanted to take a good number of younger players, but really not break the bank for any one guy. I also hoped for a pretty balanced team between hitting and pitching. For those who don’t know me that well, I would say I am a bit on the conservative side when it comes to fantasy sports. I certainly didn’t come into this one figuring on getting Acuna, Trout, or Christian Yelich .
Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves $47: Whoa! Did I just spend on one of the top players in baseball? Did I not just say that I don’t tend to bid up for the highest priced player? Well, Acuna’s bid was at $46 and I thought that was a little low and someone would outbid me to $48. That didn’t happen, and I had who many consider the top overall pick in fantasy. I had a few heart palpitations as three players in I just spent nearly 20% of my budget, but man I was not upset about getting Acuna for under $50. He was three steals away from a 40/40 season and he is only just 22 years old. You’d love to see the OBP a little higher, but he is truly a stud. Part of my initial strategy was gone and we weren’t even ten minutes into the auction yet.
Jack Flaherty , SP, St. Louis Cardinals $39: Now that I spent big on a hitter, I wanted my ace. With so many injury questions surrounding Justin Verlander , Blake Snell , and Mike Clevinger , I had my eye on either Walker Buehler or Flaherty. I couldn’t bring myself to spend again on guys like Gerrit Cole or Jacob deGrom after I just shot the moon at Acuna. I wanted to spend under $40 for my ace. Buehler came up first, but went for $42, so now my entire focus was on Flaherty. The 24 year old had an ERA of only 2.75 and struck out 231 guys in just 196 innings. A stud’s stud, and I got him at the price point I wanted. Shoot, two players and I’m down 86 dollars. I look in the mirror to be sure that it is really me inside my body, and it is. Let’s move on.
Fernando Tatis Jr, SS, San Diego Padres $27: This is my first repeat buy from my LABR draft. I am ALL IN on Tatis this season. The 21 year old (another young guy) smashed 22 homers and stole 16 bags in 2019 despite playing in just 84 games. He has shown no residual effects from the back injury that ended his rookie year early, and will be fine going forward. In fact, this extra break to start the year should only help him. With shortstop so deep I was initially a little upset with myself for going to $27 (again, I’m cheap), but when I saw what other shortstops went for like Bogaerts for $27, Francisco Lindor for $36, and Trea Turner for $32, I started to feel really good about this pick. At the 20th nomination, I had spent nearly half my purse.
Aroldis Chapman , RP, New York Yankees $14: Sometimes you make a bid figuring that you can make someone spend another dollar or two of their money. It happened to me in LABR with Aroldis Chapman , and I didn’t learn my lesson and it happened again with Chapman in Tout Wars. I didn’t want Chapman, but I tried to be cute. I showed my distaste for this pick out loud (read: swear words), and my wife asked me why I bid on a player I didn’t want? As always, she was right. However, if he is healthy the guy still puts up nasty strikeout numbers and is on a team that will threaten 105 wins. However, when I later saw how cheap closers went for in this auction (Osuna for $10, Giles $5, Hendriks $4, Iglesias $2), I had some extra buyer’s remorse.
Ozzie Albies , 2B, Atlanta Braves $27: I have been a fan of the 23 year old Albies for a number of years, and he has gotten a little better with each passing season. And if you are smart enough to have the Fantasy Alarm Draft Guide you would see Greg Jewett’s article of the Player You Must Have this year. I won’t tell you who it is, but you can guess. Albies is a 20/20 threat with a chance at a .350 OBP and the best at the position. I have REALLY spent too much on my offense at this point, but how could I say no to any of these buys? I have to sit tight a little or I will have no money left!
Luis Robert , OF, Chicago White Sox $16: This is one of my man crushes for 2020. The 22 year old outfielder is set to make his debut for the White Sox this season, and has already signed an extension with the team without playing an inning for them. In three levels of the minors last year he had 32 home runs and 36 stolen bases, and I am in love. Another young guy, another speed and power threat, and at a price I could really sink my teeth into. I celebrated with a fist pump after this one.
Matt Olson , 1B, Oakland Athetics $26: My man crush from 2019 continues this year and I absolutely came into the draft targeting this soon to be 26 year old. He hit 36 home runs despite missing 35 games, and has a real shot at 40 this season. The OBP isn’t awesome, but I needed a big bopper, and I absolutely love Olson. It was a struggle to pay what I did for him considering how many players I still needed, but I just couldn’t let him pass.
Taylor Rogers , RP, Minnesota Twins $8: This one just I just couldn’t say no to. I locked up my second closer for under ten bucks on one of the better teams in baseball. Plus he struck out 90 guys in 69 innings. He wasn’t a target coming in, but I felt the bargain was too good to pass up.
Victor Robles , OF, Washington Nationals $20: The soon to be 23 year old was great in his first season with the Nats with 17 home runs and 28 steals in 155 games. He is someone that I am targeting in as many leagues as I can possibly get my hands on him. It was tough to lay out $20 for another hitter, but at this point my hope for a balanced team is in the toilet. I’m going to have to find some pitching bargains and likely play the waiver wire during the season. But man, is this offense stacked!
Matt Chapman , 3B, Oakland Athletics $16: I guess I am an A’s fan this year with both corner infielders now on my roster. He is an elder statesman on my team, turning 27 in late April, but Chapman is a big power guy and should easily top 30 home runs if healthy. Chapman is a great target, and that itchy trigger finger on the bid button just wouldn’t let me say no when I knew I needed pitching. My infield is now set, I’m almost broke and I have no catchers and one starting pitcher, but I am still happy.
Amed Rosario , SS, New York Mets $4: Did I mention I need pitching? And yet, here I am bidding on more hitting. The 24 year old had a great year with 15 home runs and 19 stolen bases with a .323 OBP. I can see him possibly topping both of those numbers. This league requires a middle infield spot and Rosario was a guy I had my eye on for that position when the draft started and with him going that cheap I pulled the trigger.
Christian Vázquez , C, Boston Red Sox $2: I needed two catchers, and I needed them cheap. Many were in the same boat as me so even a quality guy like Vazquez went for not a lot of money. His 23 home runs might have been a fluke, but he was a top ten option at the position that only cost me two dollars.
Sean Manaea , SP, Oakland Athletics $2: All of this waiting for a starting pitcher Hallam and you pull out Manaea? He won 12 games two years in a row before going down with injury, and came back last year and pitched masterful down the stretch. He is a younger guy with great stuff pitching in a cavernous ballpark with a great team. He is far from ideal as your second starter, but the price couldn’t be ignored.
Scott Kingery , SS/3B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies $3: A 20/20 threat, and will turn 26 in late April. Kingery looks to be the Phils second baseman this year, which could gain him extra flexibility. He will start in my corner infield spot, but based on the rest of my roster he will likely end up in my fantasy outfield. Kingery might not have realized his full potential yet, and he is an awesome mid-draft target. Although, now I am about out of money.
The $1 Players
I spent money way out of character, but man am I happy with my offense and two closers. In LABR I had one $1 player, here I will have nine. I need to find some bargains.
Caleb Smith , SP, Miami Marlins: He is wildly inconsistent, but with amazing strikeout stuff. Smith showed the ability to dominate in some games, but failed miserably in others. I need some more of those dominating starts in 2020.
Hansel Robles , RP, Los Angeles Angels: A guy I really wanted coming into this draft with his 23 saves despite not having the role all season. He is set to be the Angels closer from start to finish this year, and while he isn’t an elite strikeout option and had no previous closing experience, I feel confident in him. And he was a buck.
Kolten Wong , 2B, St. Louis Cardinals. I was hoping that no one nominated Wong while there was any money left and I made it! I certainly don’t need him at second with Ozzie Albies and my middle infield spot is filled with Amed Rosario , but I really like Wong. He could bat leadoff, and if he does he could threaten 30 steals. He has a little bit of pop in his bat and plays the game very aggressively. He gives me nice depth at middle infield and I have more steals than I need. It could be a valuable trade chip to make up for my embarrassment at starting pitcher.
Jo Adell , OF, Los Angeles Angels. The speedy prospect of the Angels likely starts in the Minors now with this pause in Spring, even though he was off to a good start. It will depend on what the arbitration clock looks like this season for how long he stays on the farm. He could have an immediate impact once called to the Majors.
Dakota Hudson , SP, St. Louis Cardinals. Remember I need value starters here so someone just doesn’t bid two dollars on who I nominate. Hudson did win 16 games with an ERA of only 3.35. His WHIP was terrible at over 1.40 and he only had 136 strikeouts in 174 innings. Hey, we are in the dollar bin time now, I’m not pulling Max Scherzer out of my butt here! I don’t love it either, but it could be worse.
José Leclerc , RP, Texas Rangers. He is a bit of a risk as he doesn’t have a full season of closing experience, and LeClerc lost the job last year before reclaiming it at the end of 2019. His ERA was awful last season, but he did strike out 100 batters. He was an elite reliever in 2018, and for a buck I had to take the chance. Starters were all almost garbage at this point so I am hoping to help my ratios and high strikeouts for a reliever.
Yasiel Puig , OF, Free Agent. I really don’t like this guy as a player, so this was tough. However, we were at the end and the outfield was slim. He has to sign somewhere right? He’s had 20 home runs in three straight seasons and while I know he acts like a total fool, there has to be room for him in a lineup somewhere. Hoping when we get back to baseball that Puig finds a home where he gets 500 at-bats.
Mike Zunino , C, Tampa Bay Rays. There was just nothing left at catcher because I waited too long. Zunino does have some pop in his bat, but he hit freaking .165 last year and lost time to Travis D’Arnaud who at least is out of town. If he could just get back to an OBP near .275 and hit 15 homers I wouldn’t cry but I will likely be working the wire for my second catcher.
John Means , SP, Baltimore Orioles. Means is about as unsexy as they come, but he still got the job done last year. He won 12 games, and an ERA of 3.60 and a WHIP of 1.14. Sure, he plays on one of the worst teams in baseball, but as my final player and for one dollar I think I could have finished much worse.
This is now a snake draft where we choose our bench players. Anyone is up for grabs and there is no bidding, just taking turns drafting. I had the eighth pick
C.J. Cron , 1B, Detroit Tigers. He is one of my favorite under the radar power spots. Cron could easily hit 30 homers in Detroit. I am planning on using him at corner infield and putting Scott Kingery in my outfield at least until Jo Adell comes up.
Nick Madrigal , 2B, Chicago White Sox. More speed at middle infield, Madrigal has a chance to be on the field for the White Sox on Opening Day. He is a high level talent that could allow me to trade some of my better known guys and not lose much production by putting Madrigal in my every day lineup.
Brendan McKay , SP/DH, Tampa Bay Rays. I was definitely looking for upside here as the Rays have a knack for producing good pitchers. He wasn’t very good in his cup of coffee in the Majors last season, and got off to a rocky Spring start. However, he has dynamite strikeout stuff and being a low salary guy, he is exactly the kind of player the Rays depend on. As long as his shoulder is ok, which this stall in the season should help, McKay could possibly surprise us.
Teoscar Hernández , OF, Toronto Blue Jays. The OBP and RBIs surely are a drain, but if Yasiel Puig doesn’t get signed and Jo Adell toils in the Minors a long time I need some outfield depth here. I am surely not writing home to my mother about this pick, but the guy did hit 20 home runs in back to back seasons. Not too bad for the fourth round of the reserve draft.
Griffin Canning , SP, Los Angeles Angels. Did I mention at all I would be going after some upside pitchers? Canning looked like he might need Tommy John early in Spring, but then got some good news. Still, he needed some injections in his elbow and likely was going to miss April anyway. The kid has some potential so why not try him instead of some old, retread veteran with no upside?
Jon Berti, SS/3B/OF, Miami Marlins. He is eligible in three places, has a good deal of speed, and a nice bit of upside. What he doesn’t have is a firm grip on a regular starting job so this was a bit of a dart throw. I like the speed and the multi-positional eligibility and since Miami will stink, why wouldn’t they give him a shot? He just as easily could be my first drop in a waiver wire run too.