This past Sunday, I had the privilege of representing Mastersball in the National League Tout Wars auction. The entire weekend is one of my favorites of the year, featuring the gathering at Foley’s on Friday night, the annual meal at Virgil’s and of course the auctions. This year, we were the guests of SiriusXM and held the festivities right in their studios, which was pretty neat unto itself.
My strategy was pretty simple as I decided to channel one of the original Mastersball credos: Draft for Value, Trade for Balance. Much of my recent focus has been on the National Fantasy Baseball Championship, where it is more important to draft in a balanced manner since there is no trading. But contrary to what some may contend, it is possible to consummate deals in industry leagues. I just need to practice what I preach when others complain that it is really hard to trade in their league – I tell them give the other person a reason to deal with you.
There is this belief that since it is hard to trade in a league like Tout Wars, one should not draft a team predicated on having to make a deal or two to win. I’ve never been one to believe in that sort of thing and find if you approach a negotiation in a respectful and courteous nature, it is often pretty easy to hammer out a symbiotic swap. I decided that if the auction dictated it, I was going to put that belief to the test.
So the plan was to find the soft spots in the auction and buy players in an agnostic manner, being blind to the names, positions and specific statistical contributions. I would simply accrue as much potential as I could, then spend the next twenty-six weeks managing the potential into rotisserie points. If I ended up strong at a position or in a category, I would parlay that excess into help elsewhere, just like I have advised my tens of followers over the years.
I would know within the first ten or so nominations how I would approach the bidding. If the room was overpaying, according to my numbers, for the top tier talent, I was going to exhibit excruciating patience and not get involved until that inflation turned to deflation and then I would just buy, regardless of position and contribution. If the first few players were not bid up to my value, I would be more than happy to give them a home. My gut expected the former and my gut was right.
I knew right off the bat it was going to be awhile before I built up my roster as the prices were consistently $3-$6 above what my little black attached to each player. I group players in tiers and almost all of the first several players went for a cost equivalent to a tier higher than I had them.
When using this extreme spread the risk tactic, it is imperative you time your entrance into the foray so you don’t end up overpaying for mediocrity but also don’t leave money on the table. Using my positional value tiers in conjunction with assigning a price I wanted to pay for each the 23 roster spots, I mapped out the plan. My sense was that I would be able to clean up in the outfield and possibly middle infield, but I was nervous about first base and starting pitcher, so if I had to go the extra buck there, I would.
The next step was just waiting, only getting involved with closers, because it is tradition in NL Tout Wars for one of the participants to nominate a closer at their turn each time early in the draft, so the way to deal with it is let the first couple of guys go to set the bar, then jump in the middle, before the “last good closer” realization kicks in.
Something else I noticed that while every other top player was going for a premium, Brian McCann went a bit undervalued. To see if this was going to be a trend, my next turn, I put Buster Posey out to bid and sure enough, he also went a few bucks under what I expected. At that point, I made the conscious decision to take advantage of this and nab two catchers I happen to like if they came in under price, Miguel Montero and Wilson Ramos. I would put them up for bid if necessary, as I expected that at some point, the catcher prices would rise. Sure enough, I got both of them a few bucks below what I would have paid.
A little while later, Jonathan Lucroy went for a reasonable price and while I did not regret buying Montero and Ramos, I shook my head, sort of bummed prices were still cheap since I hoped that prices would start inching up over value. Then it hit me – this year in Tout Wars we instituted a new rule, converting an outfielder into a swingman position, which is a second utility able to be filled by any hitter or pitcher. If the next catcher came in under value, why not use one of my two utility spots and draft for value then trade for balance? So when Carlos Ruiz stopped below value, yours truly was happy to put him at my utility spot. Lawr, who was manning the official roster tracker casually glanced at me as he was typing the name, I gave him subtle head nod and he sort of reciprocated with a head nod if his own.
A little while later, Nick Hundley was making the rounds. I had already decided that if another decent catcher also came in under value, I would take him. So while Hundley may not be the fantasy equivalent of Orlando Cepeda as the first official designated hitter, he will forever hold the distinction of being NL Tout’s first swingman.
My thinking was straightforward. During the auction, the market value of catchers was a couple of bucks less than what I had them priced at. My valuation system accounts for positional pricing, adding a couple bucks to catchers. So what I was doing was breaking even on the two utility spots, effectively paying what it should cost for a non-catcher with the same stats to fill the spot. So even if I am not able to parlay one of the receivers into help elsewhere, at worst I break even at utility.
The Cliff Note’s version on the rest of the team is I indeed ended up paying a little extra for Carlos Lee at first and Jordan Zimmermann to be my staff anchor. My first closer was Huston Street, who is a bit of a health risk, so I opted to buy another full-time closer in Jason Motte, another possible application of drafting value as I liked the price of both relative to other closers. I am fine with my middle infield, getting Marcos Scutaro at what I considered to be a huge discount while picking up Jose Altuve and Zack Cozart, a couple of youngsters I like at what may seem like high prices, but they were in fact spot on with what I expected. Where I made my hay was the outfield, getting four guys all well under my projected cost.
The pitching staff has several holes, with three starters that may not start in the majors and a dinged up Jonny Venters. But remember, there is the swingman position that I can use to occasionally start a pitcher to help make up for lost innings before I deal a receiver for a hurler.
And finally, the purchase of Hundley cost me a reasonable third baseman, as I would not have minded needing to fill the corner infield spot with a part-timer. As it stands now, I may have two dead spots with Jerry Hairston and Brett Wallace joining Carlos Lee at the corner. That said, the prices of the end game third baseman were absolutely through the roof, so I may have actually ended up ahead with Hundley and Wallace as opposed to what I would have put at third and utility.
I certainly did not win the league at the table, not even close. But I do feel as though I have sufficient assets to work with to put the squad in the thick of things, and we’ll see what happens.
Below is the squad with what I paid. All the teams can be found HERE. I am more than happy to address all questions and criticisms in the comments section.
|C: Miguel Montero (18), Wilson Ramos (13)|
|1B/3B: Carlos Lee (21), Jerry Hairston (2), Brett Wallace (2)|
|2B/SS: Jose Altuve (17), Zack Cozart (13), Marcos Scutaro (14)|
|OF: JD Martinez (13), Jason Kubel (16), Angel Pagan (17), Allen Craig (17)|
|UT: Nick Hundley (10)|
|SW: Carlos Ruiz (9)|
|SP: Jordan Zimmermann (17), Shaun Marcum (13), Dustin Moseley (2), Erik Surkamp (2), Marco Estrada (1), Julio Teheran (2)|
|RP: Huston Street (15), Jason Motte (17), Jonny Venters (7)|
|RES: Jimmy Paredes, Jeff Karstens, Mike Fontenot, Steve Cishek|