I have to say that as much fun as the whole cycle of spring craziness and travel, of flying to Vegas and doing the FSTA, and Phoenix and doing LABR, the culmination--Tout Wars in New York City--is my favorite. Not that all the other travelling and prep and carousing with my league mates is not wonderful and fun, not to mention stiff competition. In fact the competition within the three leagues is pretty much the same.
But Tout--for better or worse--has had the spotlight for a while. Plus I have won it twice. And there are very few things on earth that beat a few days in New York, including going to Rudy's Music Stop where I tried out a Hofner Bass this time, something now on my wish list. Not to mention my yearly pilgrimage with Andy Regal to Virgil's BBQ where their wings are among my favorite foodstuffs on the planet. And, what has become the Tout Eve soiree at the wonderful Irish Pub, Foley's, on W. 33rd Street.
Of course the auctions are the real thing happening, as they are the source, and this year our friends at MLB.com--coordinated by Mike Siano and Cory Schwartz--gave us a great venue, right in the middle of the Chelsea District in the Chelsea Market (which rivals Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto for fine little eating locales).
I draft in the American League, as most of you probably know, and Saturday morning the AL Touts gathered and initiated this year's competition. The night before the draft I did put up a list of players I wanted, not that I try to covet specific players or even focus on names, for I think getting locked into any strategy or set of players in a draft or auction--which are fluid activities--is a mistake.
Still, there are names I like, or think will be undervalued, and this year was no different. If you want to see the piece, go to Wish List and you can at least see my thinking, and I also comment below where my roster is listed:
- C-Matt Wieters ($17) On my wish list I projected $14. He has upside. I can live with the difference.
- C-John Jaso ($5) Two-thirds of last year's performance will earn his keep.
- 1B-Justin Morneau ($20) If he pulls a Chase Utley, and plays 115 games, and gives normal production, Morneau will be well worth the price.
- 2B-Chone Figgins ($19) Better than last year and a ton of steals, plus he will play third.
- 3B-Kevin Kouzmanoff ($11) .260-18-70 and I will be more than happy.
- SS-Asdrubal Cabrera ($15) On the wish list I had him for $13, but again, fine. If he is healthy, look for a solid year.
- MI-Dustin Ackley ($8) Last position player I needed, and the kid can flat out hit.
- CI-Alberto Callaspo ($5) Cheap, and productive
- O-Josh Hamilton ($29) Like a few players on my team, if he stays healthy, he will be deadly.
- O-Nick Swisher ($20) Solid. Remember, this is the Moneyball poster boy, and everything Billy Beane thought was true.
- O-Coco Crisp ($18) Three dollars more than I fancied, but still cheap, and if healthy will show some pop and plenty of speed.
- O-Alex Gordon ($14) Five bucks more than I hoped, but with a bunch of good young players around him, the burden of the future of the franchise is no longer on Gordon's shoulders.
- O-Mike Cameron ($3) Ten homers and steals justify the price. Set to platoon with J. D. Drew.
- DH-Jim Thome ($4) Boy, if Thome repeats his 2010 totals, this might be the steal of the draft.
- P-A.J. Burnett ($9) Right where I projected. Any bets AJ's numbers after May were an aberration? I am sure they were.
- P-Brian Matusz ($12) Good young arm on the rise.
- P-Alexi Ogando ($6) Another live young arm on a high flying and scoring team.
- P-Scott Baker ($4) Either this is a steal, or I have blinders on.
- P-Erik Bedard ($6) OK, a clear gamble, but Bedard is throwing well this spring, and like so many on my team, at this price, he does not have to do much to earn his keep.
- P-Joe Nathan ($14) If I got the old Joe Nathan, and rumors are I do, that’s cheap. On a team that wins.
- P-Michael Wuertz ($1) I was hoping Craig Breslow would be my $1 Oakland reliever, but Wuertz is fine, and I think top dog if Andrew Bailey is hurting.
- P-Joba Chamberlain ($2) My last pick, and again, an example of how fickle the game can be. Still, a steal right here, especially if Joba can repeat 2010.
- R-Tim Wakefield I shuddered as I nominated, but the guy is ageless, has a bunch of good starts every year, and, well, I have Erik Bedard on my roster. I might need help.
- R-Jack Wilson Insurance against Ackley.
- R-Landon Powell I always carry a back up catcher, just in case, so I don't have to wade through the free agent pool.
- R-Michael Taylor Kind of a throwaway, but a good one who is also an Oakland longshot.
One other player I coveted was Gordon Beckham, who I projected at $17, and went for $18 to Pale Hose aficionado Dean Peterson. By the time Beckham came up, I already had Figgins. (I was trying not to wait too long to spend my money).
Note that Dean also copped Mark Buehrle ($3), whom I like, but who just does not strike out enough batters.
I do have to note that this year was as even as I can remember the draft progressing. No owner dumped all his money the first five rounds, and the entire affair was more than disciplined.
And, as noted on the Tout Wars blog, I did take some high risk, high reward players. But, you win with the risks, and finish a strong sixth without. I am not interested in finishing sixth in anything.