Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tout Wars Recap by "The Rookie" Joe Pisapia

It’s easy to lose yourself and get caught up in the room. The absolute best minds in fantasy baseball surrounding you with their eyes on the rookie to see if he can hang in “the show”. My first Tout Wars experience is something I will never forget. It’s a pipe dream when you cover fantasy sports to someday be accepted into the fraternity. The members of Tout could not have been more welcoming and supportive for this first timer and it was an honor to be indoctrinated into the free masons of fantasy.

My strategy going into the Tout Mixed League Auction Draft was the same as any auction I’ve done in the past. I’m looking for players to hit a profile of production at a particular price point. This isn’t that difficult, but it’s easy to get swept up in a bidding war and abandon your discipline. My preparation centers around the construction of a “Pre-Draft” team that fits what I believe will be a competitive roster within the $260 budget and leave myself under at least $10-12 for inflation in the draft room. This is a common practice but a useful one. When I dropped in the projected stats of the “Pre-Draft” team, I would have placed 3rd in last year’s Tout Mixed League, so I was on the right track.

The Tout Draft experience is a throwback to your old school, pen and paper in your friend’s parent’s basement 15 years ago. There is no draft software to sort players and remove selected ones. It’s an all-encompassing commitment of mind and spirit for 4 hours as you ride the waves of bidding, trying to secure what you need before time and money run out. I rarely if ever bid on a player I wanted until the words “Going twice!” were uttered. Why even throw one unnecessary dollar onto a player salary I want to roster? This also has a nice ripple effect of putting the previous high bidder on the defensive, making them decide quickly if they are going to continue after they already thought they had succeeded. There is a poker game element to the auction process.

When the dust cleared here’s what I was left with and I must say in a league of this size and depth of knowledge, I was pleased with the end result.

C1 Jonathan Lucroy MIL $20

In my “Pre-Draft” team I budgeted $20 for Lucroy and I was willing to go slightly above that mark if necessary. A two catcher league with 15 teams makes backstops a priority considering that every major league starting catcher will be active each week. The RPV of Lucroy in this scenario is quite high and I still don’t see much drop off statistically between him and Posey.  For the $7 price difference of $7, I’ll take the discounted Lucroy.

C2 Jason Castro HOU $1

A second catcher wasn’t a priority once I had Lucroy under control. Jaso was my original target but his price went higher than anticipated. I nominated Castro thinking someone would go to $2 or $3 but alas, crickets. Still, a second catcher who has a starting job and can hit a dozen or so homers isn’t the worst thing to be “stuck” with at the end of the day. You always have to be prepared in a live auction to roster the player you nominate. Never forget that!

1B Todd Frazier CIN $21

Drafting Frazier gave me enormous draft flexibility which is something I preach in The Fantasy Black Book. I could slide him from 1B to 3B and let the market come to me for other corner infield payers, and that’s exactly what I did. I’m a believer in Frazier’s power, speed and athleticism. I’ve been watching him play since he was 12 years old growing up in NJ and he’s also about as solid a dude as you can hope to own. If you think makeup means nothing in fantasy you are absolutely wrong. Hustle shows up in the box scores and so does pride and work ethic. Frazier has all of these and for $21 he was a bargain. When the value of my original plan (Prince Fielder) ballooned to $27, I was pleased to have added a player like Frazier with power and speed.

2B Ian Kinsler DET $17

My original target was Kolten Wong for $19 and when you consider I was targeting him for an “Ian Kinsler-type” season, why not go with the original for the same amount? Far too often fantasy owners want to reach for players with potential and neglect the proven veterans and this is true of any league no matter how expert or novice. Kinsler likely won’t steal as many bags as Wong, but he will certainly score more runs and has a more proven power floor.

3B Manny Machado BAL $12

I’ll be the first to admit I am not the biggest Manny Machado fan, but this is business not personal. For $12, the 23 year old Machado carries improving power, a favorable home park and for less money than players like Matt Carpenter ($16) who will lack the upside of Machado. At the time I drafted him, he had the ability to play 3B/CINF or UT for me thanks to owning Frazier.

SS Jimmy Rollins LAD $14

The original plan was Segura for about $12, but I ended up with a player who can steal 25-30 bases, with far more power and run scoring potential. Again, I compromised on the high stolen base potential a bit, but came away with the better overall player. Segura would have been a nice roto rebound candidate for $11, but for $3 more Rollins offers more track record and proven production.

CINF Nolan Arenado COL $19

Fans of The Fantasy Black Book Show on Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Radio know that I am tough on Arenado, but when Ray Flowers nominated him at $18 and no one bid I couldn’t let him go on an opening bid. So, on principal I bid $19 and became the owner of a 2015 Nolan Arenado. My toughest critique of him has been his home/road splits, but since this is straight roto, not a head-to-head scenario, I believe his counting stats will be strong at the end of the season. Arenado as a CINF I felt offered 25/80 appeal and that’s not too shabby in a 15 team mixed.

MINF Brandon Philips $1

Phillips is on the decline, but still capable of contributing some homers and steals. I especially think a revived Votto and Bruce will do wonders for his value in 2015. He's a good enough athlete to gamble on one more bounce back campaign.

OF1 Jose Bautista TOR $36

He’s the only player I paid more than $30 on my entire roster and it’s because of his elite four category production. He’s a 100/35/100 threat who’s .400 OBP will raise the collective on base percentage of my entire roster. I wouldn’t have gone to $37 because then, but I didn’t mind maxing my threshold for the best on base guy in the big leagues. Originally my plan was to get two 1A outfielders for about $55 a piece, but once I spent $36 on Bautista I had to find savings and get creative.

OF2 Hunter Pence SF $12

ENTER HUNTER PENCE! I know he’s going to miss the start of the season, but Pence is a five category, front line outfielder and five months of his bat is well worth $12. Combined with Bautista, I actually saved $2 from my original outfield budget. I did have to sacrifice a few weeks of production, but I can patch it together until he’s healthy. When Pence returns I have a great 1-2 outfield combination.

OF Melky Cabrera CWS $10

I was targeting J.D. Martinez, Alex Gordon, Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollack for this spot. Unfortunately. They all went out of my price range leaving Pollack and Cabrera. I thought Pollack for sure would join the others and sell for well above my means since he’s an industry darling this year. Therefore, I grabbed Melky at $10. Pollack ended up going for $9 shortly thereafter, but then again had I been in on the bidding perhaps it would have gone higher.  No regrets. They are comparable statistically and Melky has more track record so again the proven entity ends up getting the roster spot.

OF Michael Bourn CLE $1

Now with limited budget at the end of the draft I had to make calculated purchases. Bourn is older and coming off of consecutive down years, but I was low on steals and even 20 from Bourn would be worth the $1 investment.

OF Nick Markakis ATL $1

If he’s healthy, Markakis brings a strong on base percentage and a dozen homers. He also has an everyday job waiting for him. That’s something many $1 fliers in a league this deep cannot say.

UT Micah Johnson CWS $3

I always preach leave upside for the end of your draft and I did just that with this pick. Johnson is having a great spring and if he does win the everyday second base job he brings big steal and on base potential. He also carries trade value based on his “potential” and I will certainly be open to offers.

P1 Johnny Cueto CIN $22

Rather than spend $35 on one big arm, I decided to try and build my rotation around two nearly elite starters for about $45. Not only would this strategy yield more overall production, but it also minimizes my risk. If your staff is tied to one big ace and he goes down that can crush you. Cueto would have been a lock for NL Cy Young last year and is in a contract year. Sign me up for $22!

P2 Jordan Zimmerman WAS $23

Did someone say contract year? I believe I did. Zimmerman is a terrific pitcher and will certainly deliver elite ERA and WHIP. If his K/9 holds in the 8.3 range as it did last year, he may be the steal of the draft. I ended up with two 1A aces for $45. Mission accomplished!

P3 Garrett Richards LAA $14

Pitchers miss starts all the time during a season. Why a guy missing two in April means he’s discounted $10 I’ll never know. Richards was an ace last year before his untimely knee injury. I now had three arms capable of a sub 3.00 ERA, 200K’s and a WHIP around 1.10 or better.

P4 Jose Quintana CWS $14

Here’s the one place I may have overpaid based on preference, but clearly I wasn’t the only one at the table who thought highly of Quintana. Back to back 200 inning seasons, with and improved offense and bullpen make Quintana one of my favorite arms in 2015. If he performs up to his ability the $14 will seem like a bargain.

P5 Taijuan Walker SEA $6

I had him on my “Pre-Draft” team for $5 so I was right on target. I expect him to be a solid #5 starter and in a league of this depth. That’s a pretty big talent to slot in the back of any rotation. His risk kept his dollar value low and his reward clearly is worth every penny.

P6 Matt Moore TB $1

So I could waste a $1 on a nothing pitcher or take a chance on some upside. Jose Fernandez went for $6 and I see no reason why Moore can’t at least be a trade chip to a team desperate for pitching if he avoids a setback and returns in June/July. He could also end up being a nice addition to my own rotation should injury strike mid-season. It will cost me nearly nothing to find out and my rotation is already a strength.

P7 Justin Masterson BOS $1

Back with John Farrell, I see no reason a healthy Masterson can’t return to being a useful starter. Just a year ago he was a #3, now he’s fallen off the face of the earth? I’m willing to bet $1 he rebounds for 12 wins or more in Boston decent peripherals.

P8 Jake McGee TB $8

With no mandatory RP slots to be filled, my hand wasn’t forced into the closer market that quickly escalated well above what I anticipated. A few teams stacked closers which immediately put the market value for the other teams through the roof. I refused to spend money there with so much annual turnover in the market in this league setting. McGee was a steal especially when you consider an injured Sean Doolittle went for $11. McGee was quietly brilliant last year and is aiming for a late April return. My goal was to just be mildly competitive in saves and that theory required two closers to start that process.

P9 Brett Cecil TOR $3

Considering the price tag of closers and even set up men, Cecil for $3 was exactly what I was looking for as the draft wound down. Once Marcus Stroman went out for the year, it was only a matter of time before Cecil was declared the 9th inning guy to start the season. Will he hold the job? Who knows? But guys like Steve Cishek ($16) and Neftali Feliz ($13) are no lock down sure things either.


CJ Cron LAA: A bat with some pop for the UT slot.

Rob Refsnyder NYY: I’m not sold on Stephen Drew keeping that job and Refsnyder has on base skills and power that will play in Yankee Stadium. I say it’s only a matter of time before he gets a shot.

Adam Ottavino COL: “Old Man Hawkins” can’t keep that closing gig all year and I think Ottavino gets a serious look at some point in 2015.

Angel Pagan SF: Always a health risk, but if he can make it to opening day in one piece and play for a month, I’ve covered my Hunter Pence pick with a player capable of 75% of Pence’s production.

Seth Smith SEA: More outfield depth with power and at least one annual hot streak in him.

Jaime Garcia STL: I just need a few April starts to bridge the gap to the return of Richards. That’s all I can expect from the often injure Garcia.

*I’m also allowed to add two more players when I DL Pence and Moore in a week or so. The more bodies you can control on your roster the better in a league this deep.*

So there you have it, my first foray into Tout Wars. I believe in the depth of my roster, looking for 23+ guys to produce for 6 months. There may not be a ton of superstar celebrity, but I’m betting on the strength of their talent as a collective.

The complete draft results can be found HERE.

Thanks again to the fine folks at @CityCrabNYC for hosting, to @RonShandler, Peter Kreutzer (@kroyte) and @lawrmichaels for their Tout leadership, and to auctioneer @Jeff_Erickson for deftly running the draft, @LennyMelnick for suggesting I apply and to everyone for making the rookie feel at home.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Position Scarcity Matters...Just Not How You May Think (AKA Sirius/XM Fantasy Host Draft Recap)

The fantasy world is mostly composed of two camps: those who believe in position scarcity and those who don't. The problem is they are both wrong. To truly take full advantage of your team's potential on draft day you have to understand and exploit your league format and rules. Position scarcity does in fact matter, but the league itself dictates what those positions that are in fact scarce. This is an easy concept to grasp, yet grossly ignored in fantasy coverage. Most fantasy experts paint with one wide brush and neglect to to cater to specific league strategies as much as they should.

Let's start with my recent performance of the Sirius/XM Fantasy Host Draft. Some of the great minds in fantasy baseball such as Ray Flowers, Kyle Elfrink, Jeff Mans, Nando DiFino etc. and some ex Major Leaguers like Cliff Floyd and C.J. Nitkowski were all participants in this week's host league draft. The format was:

14 Teams, Season Long Roto 5x5:
(2) C, (1) 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CINF, MINF, UT, 9 P slots and 5 OF active.

Now, RPV in the Fantasy Black Book tells us that 2 catcher leagues demand a plan as the talent pool isn't deep at all. However, the greatest priority in this format and specific league depth isn't in the infield, it's actually in the outfield. The outfield you say? The theoretical "deepest" pool of talent? Yes. While that may be so, however it's also the most utilized position in this league by a strong percentage. In fact, nearly all of it! I'll explain with simple elementary school math:

14 Teams X 5 Active OF equals 70 active OF

Now factor in that the CINF position will be filled mostly with 1B eligible players (not the weaker 3B pool). This means that the 14 teams will likely be starting an OF at the UT spot as well. So let's bump that number up to 80 total active outfielders.

Now consider there are only 90 active outfielders in baseball on a full docket of games. 90+% of the active outfielders on MLB are ACTIVE and IN PLAY in this league every day. That doesn't account for players with OF eligibility being played at other positions like say Brandon Moss nor does it account for platoon players which are a reality at the bottom of this pool. The scarce position here is in fact OUTFIELD.

I began the draft selecting Mike Trout # overall and followed with Justin Upton and Corey Dickerson. Taking three big outfielders off the board worked on numerous levels. The first being appropriate ADP value considering each player's performance ability. Next, it "Drowned the Pool" at the position causing other owners to admittedly reach for Jason Heyward, Rusney Castillo, Gregory Polanco etc. sooner than they preferred. In turn, other players fell further than they should back to me. Lastly, I solidified four power bats capable of 30/100 seasons after selecting Prince Fielder to end the 4th round. Power and outfield were the top priority and I executed. I then took Jonathan Lucroy with the next pick to solidify my C1 spot.

Head to head roto formats allow you to stream pitching and patch things together with your rotation through the waiver wire. However, straight season long roto is a different story. Although pitching is deep, it doesn't mean you should take it for granted. Four major categories are up for grabs and prime for the taking. Many rosters had an elite starter followed by lots of filler and question mark arms which actually negates the good work of a true first tier ace. My next 6 picks were pitchers. Yes 6. Gerrit Cole, Jake Arrieta, Garret Richards, David Robertson (nice value after elite closers were gone), Jacob deGrom and Fernando Rodney (to cover save totals). I then stole Cliff Lee as my 5th starter in the 14th rd (#196) and Derek Holland in the 20th rd (#280) with Wily Peralta, Brett Cecil and Justin Masterson (hoping for a bounce back) on the bench for depth. My 6 starting pitchers are all capable of performing like #1-2 starters. As a collective they are stronger than a front loaded rotation with back-loaded junk. That just turns into mediocrity, whereas my rotation is well above average as a collective.

Sure, Lee is a question, but a calculated risk at a very late stage. Holland was a legit #2 in 2013 and showed he was still excellent at the end of last year. Richards will miss a few starts. Big deal. It's a long 6 month season I'll take his 29 starts over most people's #2. Again, this is about the long haul, not winning a week. Cole, Arrieta and deGrom are all trending upward, are healthy and without inning restrictions. Plus, they all pitched like aces in the second half last year and came at #3-4 starter prices.

The next place you can find value is in experience. Every year the sexy new names go way before boring proven veterans and like Mike Gianella from BP says, "Give me the boring old guys in single season and I will win every time." I don't know what Yasmani Tomas will be in 2015. Or Kris Bryant. But I do know what Chase Utley is at this stage of his career and he has been there and done that. I recognize these older players have limitations and health risks, but I made sure to cover my bases on my bench spots.

At the end of it all my roster looked like this:
C1 Jonathan Lucroy (#2 catcher on the board)
C2 John Jaso (give me a C who doesn't catch and plays DH everyday. Low risk and productive!)
1B Prince Fielder (a former late 1st/early 2nd pick not long ago)
2B Chase Utley (proven MLB talent)
3B Aramis Ramirez (ditto)
SS J.J. Hardy (now healthy a lock to rebound to min 15 HR at SS)
MINF Brandon Phillips (with Votto healthy, much less pressure on him)
CINF Trevor Plouffe (far from sexy, but solid and is Aramis insurance)
OF Mike Trout (best in roto)
OF Justin Upton (contact yr, has slugged well over .500 in his career in SD w/ a big sample size)
OF Corey Dickerson (a bright young talent in a hitter haven)
OF Rajai Davis (cheap steals)
OF Coco Crisp (cheap steals)
UT Chris Coghlan (a quietly productive 2nd half of '14 and set to leadoff for Cubs)
Bench Casey McGehee (low power, but still an RBI guy in an RBI slot in the batting order), Wilmer Flores (underrated bat in the minors), Evereth Cabrera (a possible steal in for steals if he wins a job!)
SP Cole, Arrieta, Richards, deGrom, Lee, Holland (Bench: Peralta, Masterson)
RP Robertson, Rodney Cecil

My infield is established major league proven talent. I know what they are and I have room for waiver wire speculations. I also have plenty of infield depth on my bench to cover time missed for aging players. My pitching is built on proven youth who still have room to improve. I didn't pay a premium for speed but acquired enough to certainly be competitive. If Cabrera takes over a starting role or super utility player spot in Baltimore I could challenge for the lead in that category. And everyone should hit for a .260 BA or better with the exception of Plouffe. Batting average is always the forgotten tool.

So there you have it. An exercise in position scarcity.See full draft results HERE.

In the end give me proven production over promise of production and remember position scarcity is always league specific.