Fantasy baseball 2014 draft prep: Tout Wars review
The 2014 Tout Wars mixed league auction is officially complete, and thousands of fantasy baseball owners now get to see what values are placed on players from 15 different fantasy writers, including myself. It's like looking through a window into the crazed minds of derelicts. And rarely do I walk away from the Tout Wars draft thinking, "Well, that was different!" But that's what happened this spring, as a couple out-of-the-ordinary things cropped up, compared to past seasons.
The Tour Wars teams and player values can be found here on this Google spreadsheet. It's scored as a 5x5 Rotisserie league, and with 15 teams in the league and the standard $260 salary cap for each team, there was $3,900 available to spend on 345 players. After the auction, there was a four-round reserve draft.
Keep in mind, we use on-base percentage as a hitting category rather than batting average; that adjusts the dollar values a bit, so use caution when applying these dollar values to your own league. Also, keep in mind that a player's price is not always indicative to how everyone ranks him. Since owners have more money to spend early on, some players can go for higher prices, as opposed to players that get nominated later, when teams have much less money.
Below are a half-dozen or so major points that I took away from the draft.
Even experts have bad drafts
Scott Swanay of FantasyBaseballSherpa.com tried to save money for bargains later in the draft, but they ended up being much cheaper than even he expected. As a result, he was about to finish the draft with an unheard of $61 remaining, so he nominated injured Braves starter Brandon Beachy for -- $61. By $9, Beachy ended up being the most expensive player in the history of the Tout Wars mixed league.
Before everyone rips into Swanay for drafting a guy out for the season after Tommy John surgery, realize that the league constitution has some quirky rules. Once one of your players goes on the disabled list (and Beachy was not yet on the DL), you get your salary money back in the form of FAAB money to bid on free agents.
This is a case of someone taking lemons and making them into Tang -- not really a good thing, but better than lemons. Fantasy writers can screw things up, too -- which is what most readers tell us on a daily basis anyway.
One fallen domino can affect everyone
Swanay spending $61 on a useless player impacted everyone at the table. We saw Miguel Cabrera ($47) and Mike Trout ($46) go to the same aggressive bidder, and other stars went for cheaper prices than they should have.
By removing just 1.5 percent of the money in the bidding pool, there were smaller changes in other areas of the draft; for example, fewer $20 players were sold. In other 15-team, mixed experts auctions, there have been an average of 52 players bought between $20-29. However, there were only 45 purchased between $20-29 in Tout Wars. Swanay's $61 could have easily been spread out between half a dozen $17-20 players to at least bid their prices up into the $20s.
With everyone looking for bargains, there were fewer to be had.
Hindsight is 20/20
After this draft, everyone said how there should have been more bidding on the star players. That's easy to say post-auction -- especially if you weren't involved. But when you're trying to hold onto some money for the bargains that you know are coming up, you don't want to get caught spending double that on one of the superstars you weren't planning to roster.
Ray Guilfoyle of FakeTeams.com notes that he got caught price policing with both Clayton Kershaw ($33) and Craig Kimbrel ($22). Both prices are reasonable for a 15-team league, but he didn't want them -- he wanted that money for later deals.
Most of us were caught waiting for bargains -- which, in fact, negated the bargains.
Don't follow the crowd
The one player that didn't hoard their cash for a run at a bunch of bargain-priced players was RotoWire's Derek Van Riper. As a matter of fact, he went out and bought both Cabrera and Trout for a total of $93. He even bought Buster Posey for $24, Jose Bautista for $31 and Billy Hamilton for $20. He ended up with 15 players priced under $9, though.
Despite the cheap purchases, he was considered by most to be one of the favorites to win this season after the draft. His cheap purchases were smart ones, like spending $5 for Adam Dunn, whose.319 OBP last season pairs nicely with 30-plus HR power. Batting average leagues should remain cautious, however.
By going against the grain, Van Riper was able to grab underpriced stars and still scoop up quality players late.
Jump-bidding is a good way to unnecessarily pay extra
There were a couple owners that would jump bid on a player -- bidding a high price right off the bat, in an attempt to either scare other owners off, or not allow owners enough time (during the plus-1 bids) to consider their own price for that player.
Ray Flowers of FantasyAlarm.com does this regularly, and he has proven, over and over, that it just doesn't work, and no one in the room gets flustered. No one is letting a great player slip through without a decent price attached.
I nominate stars at $5 apiece, and I let someone else jump bid them. Then, $1 or $2 at a time, the price escalates. I'm never stuck with a player I could have had $2-10 cheaper. Does it take longer? Sure. Does that matter in any conceivable way? Certainly not.
After the top guys, all closers are nearly the same
Every team owner pretty much wanted to grab two closers and move on. This meant that some of the lesser closers moved up into the tiers with the better closers, but it also meant some of the better closers came down closer to the bad ones. Seven closers went for $15 or more in the draft, with just two going for more than $20. The next 20 closers were all priced between $10 and $15, including Joakim Soria, who was named the Rangers' new closer just hours before the auction Saturday.
The relief pitcher position is one of the most volatile, so don't overpay for any, even though they might help you lead the position. Just grab a couple and get out. Either they'll pan out and you can be in the middle of the pack, climbing past those that didn't pan out. Or, they won't pan out and you'll be amongst the others bidding on their replacements. Just don't spend too much.
Timing is everything
Your nominating strategy is relatively important, as you can miss bargains at some points, while also squeezing out a few extra dollars from other owners at different points.
In the early parts of the auction, I like to nominate players I don't plan on owning and happen to have a lot of news surrounding them that particular weekend.
For instance, by nominating someone like Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, who took a line drive off his face a couple days earlier, I was able to get owners to spend money they still had. If no one nominated him until later, his $11 closing price likely would have dipped down to $6 or $7, considering he's going to miss a third of the season. (Even after he does return, we'll have to see how ready he is to stand on the mound waiting for one of his 100-mph fastballs to come back at him. Closers have to deal with certain emotions many other players do not.)
Late in the draft, I began nominating players I wanted because fewer owners had as much money to spend. I got Michael Pineda for just $3, even though he's now the fifth starter on a Yankees team that has re-stacked their offense. The same theory applied to Drew Smyly, a sleeper reliever-turned-starter that I had on my short must-get list.