A cross county trip for Tout Wars is always one of the highlights of the month of March. The draft at least. Am I the only one who detests children flying on planes? At least babies? My red eye was a trip from hell as a one year old behind me screamed the entire time at the absolute top of his lungs. What a mess. I arrived in NY extremely tired at 8:45 AM, grabbed a cab to the hotel, took a 90-minute power nap, had a burger, and headed to the event. The actual draft was tons of fun, and I do think that my new plan this season, the new Ray Flowers if you will, put together a pretty solid team if I do say so myself.  

THE FORMAT

Mixed League
15-teams
$260 auction for 23 starters: 14 hitters, nine pitchers
six bench spots (rostered by a snake draft)

5x5 scoring (we replace batting average with on-base percentage)

*We use 15 games, not 20, to be eligible at a position.

DRAFT PARTICIPANTS

1- Jeff Zimmerman, Fangraphs and Fantrax
2 - Scott Swanay, FantasyBaseballSherpa
3 - Eric Karabell, ESPN
4 - Michael Rathburn, Rotowire
5- Derek VanRiper, Rotowire
6 - Scott Engel, Rotoballer
7 - Brent Hershey, Baseball HQ
8- Zach Steinhorn, Baseball Prospectus
9 - Tim Heaney, Rotowire
10 - Bret Sayre, Baseball Prospectus
11 - Ron Shandler, RonShandler.com
12 - Scott Pianowski, Yahoo! Fantasy Sports
13 - Al Melchior, FNTSY Radio
14 - Ray Flowers, Fantasy Guru
15 - Gene McCaffrey, The Athletic/Wise Guy Baseball

I should also note that the board of Tour Wars decided to pay a nice honor to my friend, Lawr Michaels. There will be a year award in his honor given every year, the Zen and Now Award.

THE PLAN

Note – I didn’t change one part of what follows after the draft.

I’m writing this section prior to the draft. My plan was to do the same-ish kinda thing I’ve usually done on offense, though with even that was up for debate as I was considering a modified Stars and Scrubs approach (up to $70 on two guys and $95 on three). I will be changing things up substantially on the pitching side, something I discussed in this podcast. The plan is to spend big on some arms with the end result being something like a 170/90 split for offense/defense. I’m heading into with the idea of spending $50 or so on two arms to lead the rotation, then nabbing another for around $20 (likely a closer). Another version of the plan, option #2 if you will, would be three arms at $20 apiece with two arms in the $10 range as support. We will see how it plays out with my modified Stars and Scrubs approach.

MY ROSTER

* Number in parenthesis is the $ amount spent out of the $260 total (reserve rounds were selected via a snake draft)

C: Austin Hedges ($3), Jorge Alfaro (3)
1B: Freddie Freeman (36)
2B: Jose Altuve (34) 
3B: Manny Machado (31)  
SS: Amed Rosario (12)
MI: Paul DeJong (6) 
CI: Eric Hosmer (6)
OF: Jesse Winker (14), Byron Buxton (7), Michael Brantley (11), David Peralta (8), Jorge Soler (2)
UTIL: Jose Martinez (1)

PITCHERS: Jameson Taillon (23), Jose Berrios (22), Stephen Strasburg (18), Nick Pivetta (9), Julio Teheran (3), Mychal Givens (3), Archie Bradley (4), Ryan Pressly (2), Jesus Luzardo (2)

RESERVES: Greg Holland, Eric Thames, Anthony DeSclafani, Justus Sheffield, Carlos Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes

THE SQUAD - HITTERS

I went even bigger than my initial plan spending not $90 on my top-3 hitters but $101 on Altuve/Freeman/Machado. Look, as I say all the time, you gotta play your draft. When guys are going for more than $50, and tons of guys are blowing past the $40 threshold, you gotta jump in and get your men. I was able to roster Freeman at $36 which turned out to be pretty favorable when a few minutes later Paul Goldschmidt went for $43. I’m not really sure why folks aren’t in on Machado, but at $31 I was very comfortable adding him to the squad (remember, we have 15-game eligibility in this league which means Machado is SS/3B eligible). Altuve seems to still be dealing with that knee a bit, but the guy can flat out hit. With Machado/Freeman not being speed guys, Altuve was an ideal match, even if he’s no longer a 30+ steal guy.

I didn’t spend more than $14 on any other name I rostered on offense, but I still think it worked out pretty well.

Hedges/Alfaro are certainly no OBP boosters, but with my outfield potentially being thin on power, I thought grabbing the two with their ability to produce 30+ homers was worth the risk. Plus, I rostered a bunch of fellas with well above average OBP, couple of elite guys there actually, so I could afford the drain they will bring there.

I wanted Brian Dozier at middle infield, and was waiting for him to come up for bid. However, when A. Rosario was sitting there at $11 I felt I had to push in at $12 (see his Player Profile). Straight up I would prefer Dozier for sure, but my squad needed a speed component, you never know in an auction how many others are targeting a guy (Dozier), so sometimes you gotta fill a need and hope you didn’t make a mistake. Again, I love Rosario that price and it totally fit a need. Still, it did hurt when Dozier went for $13 later in the draft.

Hosmer at corner is boring, sure, but he will play daily, is in a better lineup this season, and he should rebound somewhat from last year and his price, when compared to other corner infielders, is certainly fine.

My outfield, as pointed out in this audio, cost the same thing as Bryce Harper. I got my favorite – Buxton – and for just $7. I’ll take that risk all day long (and so should you at that price). As for the rest of the outfield… Winker has a shot at a .400 OBP (see his Player Profile). Soler is having a big spring, and he was cheap as all get out (see his Player Profile). Brantley and Peralta aren’t on the superstar list my any means, but at $19 they were the same price as Andrew McCutchen. I can’t complain about that.

Finally, Martinez for a $1… how can you complain about that? He qualifies at 1B/OF, and though I’ve been boisterous about his defensive shortcomings, the dude can mash.

As bench stashes on offensive I rostered Thames who you know I’ve touted (see his Player Profile). I also added Cespedes. ‘But why Ray?’ In Tout we have unlimited DL spots. I will be able to stash Yoenis with no ill effect until he is ready to play. I didn’t feel like I would be missing out on any offensive player in the last round of the draft, and during the first FAAB run I will simply add a replacement. In essence, I got Cespedes for free, or $25 out of $1,000 in FAAB for whatever guy I grab the first FAAB run.

Despite the big spending on my top offensive players, my squad could have looked a lot different. I stopped bidding on Nolan Arenado at $38 and he went for $39. I stopped bidding on McCutchen at $18 and he went for $19 (I stopped reasoning that I could get Winker for less, which I did). I also bid up Justin Upton to $14 (he went for $15). I probably should have kept going on Upton, he was a great buy, but the funds were getting low (more on that in the Final Thoughts section). I also stopped at $15 on Yoan Moncada who went for $1 more. The timing just wasn't right to go higher when I was looking at numerous spots I still needed to fill. 

THE SQUAD – PITCHERS

My top end staff, the modified Stars and Scrubs approach that I laid out, came to fruition in the draft. I went with the three guys at $20 route spending $63 on Taillon/Berrios/Strasburg (here’s me locking down Strasburg). I threw out bids on a bunch of the $30+ arms, but the room was very aggressive there, so I decided to go with the three fellas vs. the larger duo, and I’m happy with the results indeed and believe my top-3 will put me in a nice spot in the overall pitching standings.

I bolstered the trio by rostering Pivetta for $9 (more on that below). I had no issue with that call at all, and at the time I really liked it. There were a lot of cheaper options later that went for less on the bump, so perhaps I would have been even better off going a bit more S/S’s, but he’s another power arm that could give me four guys with 170 Ks as a base, and I like that. I also rostered one of my favorites in Teheran for a measly $3. I spoke with Steve Phillips about him last week and Steve reported that he’s in great shape, has added velocity, and the team loves where he is at right now.

Givens/Bradley for $7 in a vacuum, love that. Of course, it’s not like I have two guys who are lockdown 25-save guys. I could break even here, or see a huge return. There’s a good deal of potential variance. I love Pressly who is likely second for saves in Houston, and he rather quietly had a killer season last year (see Bullpen Arms to Know).

I had pitchers ranked ahead of Luzardo. So why take the phenom? I had a plan to grab an injured arm on reserve, I did just that (more below), so I knew I could take a risk on a youngster who wasn’t going to break camp with the club. I thought back to Tout Wars 2018. When Juan Soto was called up last year, I rostered him for $412, a huge investment (there was another $400 bid for his services). I have to think that Luzardo would generate a similar degree of interest when he’s called up by the Athletics, so I’m really playing the long game here with Luzardo. We will see if it pays off as I passed on Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman and Alex Wood in favor of Luzardo.

In the reserve rounds, I used some strategery. I grabbed Bradley for $4, but not knowing what the D’backs 9th inning plan is, and realizing I was light on saves, I added his pen mate Holland with my first selection. Let’s just hope Yoshihisa Hirano doesn’t get the gig. I really like DeSclafani and his potential to have a strong season if he gets the homers in check (see his Player Profile). I’m a big fan of Sheffield’s arm, and I don’t think he stays in the minors too long. I’ve got him in the two auctions I’ve done thus far (see my AL LABR write up). Finally, just as I did with Cespedes, I will place C-Mart on the DL and grab another player until he is good to go on the first FAAB run. Still love the arm, if he can just stay healthy of course.

As with the offense, I just missed out on getting another bigger name arm in Clayton Kershaw. I bid Kershaw up to $16 and he went for a buck more. I ended up with Strasburg at $18 as his replacement, and I’m obviously fine with that.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Goal: $170 on hitting, $90 on pitching
Actual: $174 on hitting, $86 on pitching

I think the squad turned out well. Hell, when Derek Van Riper tells you after the draft that he likes your team, you’re doing something right (he and I both bid up two arms – Pivetta and Tyler Glasnow. I pushed Pivetta one more buck to $9 and got him ahead of DVR, while I pushed Glasnow to $8 and he went one dollar more. We will have to wait and see who gotta the better end of that one at the completion of the season). I went way more aggressively in Tout than I have in the past with three batters over $30 and three arms at $18 or more. I think it’s the way to play this room, so I’m glad I stuck with my 2019 game plan. Still, there ended up being a lot of later bargains – Jean Segura at $15, Wil Myers at $16, Upton at $15 stood out as killer buys – but because of my heavy spending early I wasn’t able to dive in.

A critique of the club would include the lack of saves, but I’m often able to play that game effectively in season on waivers, and spending $30 on two closers leaves you wanting in other areas on draft day. I’m likely a bit low in the power department, but I’m OK with that. The reason is that power is everywhere, so if I need to make a deal to bolster that spot, I will likely be able to find trading partners. Speed and on-base percentage aren’t anywhere near as prevalent, so I’m confident I’ll be able to swing those assets for some pop if need be.

I like the team and the way I followed my plan, and as a result I think this team has a shot to be competitive this season. I will check back in seven months from now to see how it all played out.

FINAL RESULTS OF THE AUCTION (make sure you click on Mixed Auction at the top in blue).