The 2020 season marked my fourth year as a member of the prestigious Tout Wars community. For those who don’t know about it, Tout Wars is a set of fantasy baseball experts’ leagues that have been running since 1997 and were featured in the 2010 documentary Fantasyland. It includes a mixed league draft, a mixed auction, an AL auction, NL auction, Head to Head points auction and a 50-round Draft and Hold. My first year (2017) went swimmingly as I won the Head to Head auction league running away. I moved my way up to the prestigious AL auction where I started off strong but ended the season middle-of-the-pack. Last year, I could not make it in-person in New York with my son on the way, so I joined the online Draft and Hold. Needless to say, I got crushed, finishing 10th out of 15 teams. I’d like to play injuries (as they were rampant) but a true fantasy baseball tout never blames failure on injury!
This February 17, with the excitement of the 2020 season still at the forefront of our minds, we began drafting our 15-team Draft and Hold (D&H). As most D&H’s, it’s a non-FAAB league, so avoiding injury-prone players is of heightened importance. Moreover, all Tout Wars leagues use on-base percentage instead of batting average. Being that this is my only OBP league, I made sure to adjust my personal rankings for this format. One of the big mistakes I believe fantasy players make in OBP leagues is to overvalue the category. It is certainly important to be mindful of this difference, but alas, it is just one of the ten categories. Targeting players with high OBP’s should never come at the expense of other categories.
Nevertheless, there is certainly a valuation adjustment. Hitters such as Anthony Rizzo, Carlos Santana and Joey Votto should always receive a substantial bump in one’s rankings while guys like Randal Grichuk, Eddie Rosario, Adalberto Mondesi and Kevin Pillar deserve a notable decrease.
In case you were curious, over the last four seasons (2016-19), there are only two hitters with an OBP over .400 – Mike Trout (.445) and Votto(.418). Rizzo ranks among the top-seven over this span with a .389 OBP. Having the first pick in this format (to get Trout) is surely gold. On the flip side, there are a handful of players with an on-base percentage below .300 over this span (with at least 500 games played). Those include Rougned Odor (.288 in 586 games), Grichuk (.288 in 529), Pillar (.293 in 603), Chris Davis (.294 in 518), Freddy Galvis (.295 in 629) and Maikel Franco (.299 in 560). Typically, Salvador Perez is a known ‘fade’ in OBP formats since he owns a career .297 on-base percentage over eight career seasons (last topping .300 in 2013).
I drew the ninth selection and assumed I’d have no shot at Juan Soto, but alas, my streak of good fortune continued. Below, is the entire draft board and my pick-by-pick breakdown (here is a link to the original draftboard).
1.09 – Juan Soto, OF, WAS
By the grace of the roto gods, or simply because those drafting before me had other preferences, I landed on Soto – a player I have ranked fifth overall in OBP formats. Let’s see what we have here: a 21-year-old stud who is already one of the best hitters in baseball who posted a .282-34-110-110-12 standard roto line in just his second full big-league season. A guy with a 16.2 percent career walk rate, which is the league’s third-highest mark the last two seasons behind Trout (19.2) and Bryce Harper (16.6). A player with two seasons of an on-base percentage over .400. Soto ninth overall as my first-round selection was the gift of all gifts and an ideal anchor for my team.
2.22 – Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, SDP
A big fan of Tatis and someone who, along with Soto, provides me with a solid base of stolen bases. A category I don’t typically go out of my way to address early in drafts. I would have preferred Jose Ramirez here, but he was taken with the second pick of this round. Had Walker Buehler been available, I would certainly have had a tough decision to make. Luckily Dr. Roto picked him right before me.
3.39 – Luis Castillo, SP, CIN
I did not want to go much longer without my first starting pitcher and I had very few Castillo shares among my teams at that point in February. He’s a top-10 starter in my rankings and someone I was expecting to step his game up another level in 2020. He held opposing batters to a .200 average last season and though he slipped in the second half, he maintained a 2.29 ERA and a 29 percent strikeout rate prior to the All-Star break. Most impressively, Castillo improved his control greatly in the second half, dropping his walk rate from 12.3 percent to 7.4 percent.
4.54 – Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, TOR
Happy to target and draft Guerrero within the top-50, but if he falls beyond that, it’s Lock City for me. One of baseball’s most revered prospects over the last few years and I’m basically buying in on overreaction (and underpricing) by the masses based on a less-than-stellar rookie season. Though we’ll be working with less than full season in 2020 now, this is still one of this team’s picks I’m most confident about. Guerrero won’t steal bases but I’m expecting hefty production in the four other categories and for him to be among the league leaders in batting average.
5.69 – Josh Hader, RP, MLW
This draft season, I’ve been waiting to start drafting closers among the second and third tier, but when a gift horse looks you in the mouth, you take it. That was the case with the league’s most dominant closer, who fell about a half-round below his typical average draft position (59.56 per February ADP in NFBC). Since there were no starting pitchers I loved in this range either, it made sense for this team’s specific build to take the unanimous RP1 then hit the starting pitchers hard later.
6.82 – Jeff McNeil, 2B/3B/OF, NYM
One of the least sexy picks in the 60-100 overall range this draft season, McNeil fit my team well at this point in the draft. I felt comfortable with a decent power base of Soto-Tatis-Guerrero and especially loved the three-position flexibility of the Mets’ #2 hitter. A full season of a healthy McNeil would likely provide a good shot at 100 runs scored and he’s even more valuable in OBP format (.383 rate in 815 career plate appearances).
7.99 – Ramon Laureano, OF, OAK
The 25-year-old had a tremendous first full season, scoring 79 runs, hitting 24 homers and swiping 13 bags in just 123 games (481 PAs). Perhaps someone like Miguel Sano or Mike Moustakas would have been a better fit here needing some power, but I opted for the category balance. A very valuable asset at current cost if he can hit second in that A’s lineup all season.
8.112 – Sonny Gray, SP, CIN
My second starting pitcher was yet another member of the Reds – not necessarily the way I planned on building my rotation. Gray shined in his first season in the National League last year, increasing velocity on his assortment of offerings and posted a career-best 28.9 percent strikeout rate which was nearly eight points higher than his previous career rate. I’ll take my chances with my first two starting pitchers pitching half their games in a hitters’ park because of the fantastic skills both possess.
9.129 – Andrew Benintendi, OF, BOS
Struggled mightily last season and ended up a big-time bust for the price (a second-to-third round pick). He may never post that true massive season some have expected and he doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard (league-average 88 mph exit velocity), but he contributes across the board and could easily post a profit at his new price after 100 overall.
10.142 – Dinelson Lamet, SP, SDP
Boom or bust here as many of us pray we don’t have the second coming of ‘the fantasy stud formerly known as Pivetta’. Oddly, Lamet is right around the ADP (120-140 overall most of draft season) as the infamous Pivetta. Lamet’s 33.6 percent strikeout rate in 14 starts last year sure is tantalizing and it was promising to see a significantly lower xFIP (3.44) compared to ERA (4.07). A make-or-break selection for me.
11.159 – Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU
One of my horses (most drafted) this winter and spring. Perhaps there is a little personal bias from last year. A bit of ‘he owes me’, which is never the right way to approach things in fantasy (or in life, for that matter). But the truth remains that cream (talent) typically rises to the top and I’m not particularly worried about Josh Reddick outplaying him.
12.172 – Lance McCullers, SP, HOU
One of those Tom Cruise Risky Business picks and even less viable in the D&H format. McCullers was going to be on an innings-limit in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. But now, the possible reduced season evens the playing field for the McCullers’, Julio Urias’ and Jesus Luzardo’s of the league. He looked sharp in training camp and though he will certainly have his fair share of rough starts along the way, McCullers could easily return to being a dominant starter, playing in a great home park and striking out more than 10 batters-per-nine.
13.189 – Yasiel Puig, OF, FA
He kept falling, so I finally just said ‘screw it, let’s lick the bat’. That was mid-February, and even prior to the world stopping, there was no signs of major league teams planning on signing him to even a one-year contract. Let’s hope he does so that I’m not rocking a 49-man roster. A half-season of Puig on the Rockies would be a dream come true.
14.202 – Mark Melancon, RP, ATL
Got caught waiting on my second closer and so I had to bite the bullet with a veteran closer playing on a team where there are potentially three other former closers who are arguably more talented than him, on his own roster. Melancon does appear to be the guy who manager Brian Snitker wants to close out games. But should he falter, Snitker won’t hesitate one bit bringing in studly Will Smith to close out games more frequently. Let’s not forget that this bullpen also has three other guys who have notched saves before in their lives – Shane Greene, Luke Jackson and Chris Martin.
15.219 – Christian Walker, 1B, ARI
One of my absolute favorite mid-draft targets this season. A guy I feel has been incredibly mispriced and someone who can easily out-earn an extra 100 overall spots in ADP. The late-bloomer who turns 29 this year spent most of his 20’s in the minors but had a lovely 5×5 roto line (.259-29-73-86-8) in his first full season (603 PA). He should hit fourth in a talented Dbacks’ lineup, walks enough (11.1%) to contribute to an above-average OBP (.348 last year) and he is one of the only first basemen who can provide us with a few extra swipes. Knowing guys like Walker, Luke Voit, C.J. Cron and Daniel Murphy are around late in drafts makes not worry if I don’t own a first baseman through my first 13 rounds.
16.232 – Griffin Canning, SP, LAA
The elbow is a problem. And no, I do not believe this the same case as for Clevinger, Paxton and a few others where a July start would solve the problem. I hope it’s not true, but would not be surprised if Canning follows the Severino, Sale and Syndergaard route here with Tommy John. But hey, I’m not a doctor – I just play one on Twitter.
17.249 – Nick Senzel, OF, CIN
Another one of my guys this draft season. Feels very underpriced for the skill level and expected production. But he’s very injury prone for a young guy and might have a crowded outfield to contend with (i.e. he might only be in the lineup against left-handed pitching). That said, when he is in the lineup, it would likely be against righty arms and he’d be at the top of the lineup against them. He flies on the base paths and we were witnesses to that in his rookie season (14-of-19 in 104 games). Could swipe 20 in half a season and add 15-20 homers with a stack of runs scored.
18.262 – Nick Madrigal, 2B, CHW
By this point you’re probably wondering why I’m drafting a stand-alone Tout Wars league where there’s no league entry fee like a NFBC overall contest as you notice a lot of ‘reaching for upside’ on my roster. Well, with 50 rounds, I feel comfortable about the backend of this player pool where I don’t mind taking upside risks on someone with the contact tool and the speed that Madrigal has. He’s a weak, slap hitter and may not even be major-league ready. But he will get an opportunity with this team and the price is low enough to find out.
19.279 – C.J. Cron, 1B, DET
One of the steals in the draft, if we can be frank. Cron is a masher. And though Comerica Park is not the ideal landing spot for a power hitter, I’d still put him among the top 10 percent in league home runs this season. His 91-mph average exit velocity is above league average and that .548 xSLG last season is tantalizing for what’s potentially to come. Cron would have reached 30 homers with ease if not for some IL time (missed 36 games) and he crushed 30 dingers in 140 games the previous season. An ideal corner infielder for this team in need of power and at a price well below his ADP because of my leaguemates’ concerns about his OBP (career .311). This squad has enough plus-OBP on it to cushion it.
20.292 – Kevin Gausman, SP, SFG
I really want Gausman to be a ‘thing’ again. We’ve been teased for so long. Since his Baltimore days. And those of us who have rostered him have dealt with many trials and tribulations. Being a member of the Giants and getting to make half his starts in AT&T Park is the primary reason I’ve been compiling shares of him. Well that, and the big strikeout rate bump last season (from 22.6 percent first half to 29.8 percent second half). Be sure to check out Ray Flowers’ take on Gausman.
Tom Murphy (C, SEA), Johnny Cueto (SP, SFG), Jose Peraza (2B/SS/OF, BOS), Ryan Helsley (RP, STL), Jose Martinez (OF, TBR)
Murphy is one of my most-owned players in drafts this season simply because I like his hit tool and he seems to be a forgotten man to others. Best usable when there are a gaggle of southpaws on the schedule as it’s very likely that second-year man Austin Nola will steal 40 percent of the starts and a good chunk of them against right-handed pitching. Cueto is my second of three Giants’ rotation arms and I do believe he has one last hurrah. If it’s just a couple of months of a hurrah, even better, before his arm falls off. Peraza is going to get more playing time for the Red Sox than I believe most people think. Not a great OBP guy at all but when he does get on base, there’s a good chance he’ll try to swipe some. Helsley is the guy I believe (hope) takes the reigns as the Cardinals’ closer. Carlos Martinez is back in the rotation and manager Mike Shildthad been quoted about wanting to ease the studly Giovany Gallegos into the role and not wanting to put him into high-pressure situations right away. The Rays’ stud JoMart is someone I just target every year. He treated me well two years ago after I plucked him off waivers and all any of us really wanted for him was a trade to the American League where he can just DH. The only thing we’re unsure of is how often he’ll find himself in the lineup given the depth of this Rays’ offense.
Austin Voth (SP, WAS), Chance Sisco (C, BAL), Zach Eflin (SP, PHI), Johan Camargo (SS/ATL), Austin Romine (C, DET)
Voth and Eflin are two decent stabs in this range. Voth wasn’t guaranteed a rotation spot when I drafted him in late February but I was impressed with what I saw in eight starts last season (3.30 ERA, 1.03 HR/9, 25.3 K%, 7.5 BB%). Romine I took not long after Sisco which should tell you everything you need to know about my confidence in Sisco as my C2, though I do believe he has some untapped upside. Camargo had a good shot at winning the third base gig in Atlanta which would give him the ever-valuable dual-position eligibility.
Drew Smyly (SP, SFG), Chris Taylor (2B/SS/OF, LAD), Ji-Man Choi (1B, TBR), Tyler Mahle (SP, CIN), Daniel Ponce de Leon (SP, STL)
Oh look, another Giants arm! I love to play with fire, but at least when I do it’s in the right parks. I likely would never start Smyly against the Dodgers or at Coors Field but sometimes ‘Good Smyly’ makes an appearance, and we can log some decent strikeouts on those outings. Mahle and de Leon are two of my favorite outside-looking-in rotation guys. Meaning I believe they are more talented then their respective team’s #5 starters and will find their way into those rotations sooner than later. If you’re in D&H’s, just heed my advice and scoop these guys up. Taylor is another wise multi-position eligible guy, which is gold in this format for when one-third of your team is on IL and you can’t make roster moves. Choi you can time in your lineups on weeks where the Rays are facing mostly right-handed pitchers. And he’ll usually hit third or fourth in the lineup in those games.
Christin Stewart (OF, DET), Tony Kemp (2B/OF, CHC), Eric Lauer (SP, MLW), Lane Thomas (OF/STL), Jedd Gyorko (3B, MLW)
You can see the quality of names quickly start to diminish. Stewart has been a destroyer of baseballs in the minors but has yet to translate that to the big-league level. Don’t mind taking a shot and seeing if there is some massive profit potential here. Kemp is a decent hitter and should sneak his way into the lineup more frequently than many people assume. Lauer is the guy everyone is scared of drafting because hey, ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore’! Lauer in Miller Park could be dangerous, but given that he’s way down my depth chart, I’ll likely just spot start the guy. I’m sure you know this but Lauer had major home/road splits last season, pitching to a magnificent 3.08 ERA at home (Petco Park) and crushing fantasy managers with a 5.99 ERA on the road.
Kevin Plawecki (C, BOS), Trevor Gott (RP, SFG), Tim Locastro (OF, ARI), Jon Duplantier (RP, ARI), Jordan Luplow (OF, CLE)
Snagged a fourth catcher here in Plawecki. Is he a good hitter? Nope. But he’s the backup catcher in Boston and will surely get his fair share of playing time. The goal would be to never have to use him. Gott is beloved by Giants’ management and has an outside shot to close out games. That’s the only reason I picked him up here. If you look up Statcast sprint speed you might find it interesting to see Locastro atop that list. One injury to a Dbacks’ outfielder, and we’re looking at someone we can plug into our lineups in need of swipes. He stole 17 (on 17 attempts) in 250 plate appearances last season. Duplantier is a stud arm in waiting. Currently relegated to the bullpen and best-case scenario is he finds his way into the rotation or as the closer should Archie Bradley falter. Are there a bunch of lefties coming up for the Indians? Great. I’m putting Luplow in my lineup that week. He posted a .474 wOBA (.422 ISO) and hit 14 homers in only 155 PA against southpaws last season. Way to great of a value this late in the draft.
Curt Casali (C, CIN), John Gant (RP, STL), Kendall Graveman (SP, SEA), Daniel Robertson (2B/3B, TBR), Matt Andriese (SP/RP, LAA)
Casali is my fifth catcher. Not exactly the position I want to load up on but one that is wise to do so with. Gant is in the conversation for closing duties with Helsley if the Cardinals really do want to baby Gallegos. Graveman, don’t ask me about that one. He’s in the Mariners’ rotation but I do pray that I’ll never have to insert him into my lineup. Finally, Robertson and Andriese. When you have someone in your league calling you a bastard for stealing their 49th and 50th round picks, you know you’re probably doing something right. With those final picks in a draft where 750 players are selected, you just want someone with a roster spot and a pulse. Check and check.
You can compare my roster to the rest of the league and even see for yourself where I had been sniped (like in the sixth round when Bo Bichette and Nelson Cruz were scooped up right before my pick). Overall, this team’s first 20 or so picks is perhaps a bit too risky for a format with no FAAB, but at least they’re not the injury risk types. Nevertheless, I believe I built some nice depth across all the positions and made sure to get some multi-position guys to provide some extra roster flexibility. Let’s see how much of a season we get and how far (to the top?) I can take this team. Wish me luck.