This past Saturday, as you all well know by now, Tout Wars 2012 was held at the SiriusXM studios in New York City. Whether I play in AL or NL Tout, it is a great time and the draft I look forward to most every single season for the camaraderie and level of challenge it always is.
This year I returned to AL Tout and with a planned budget of around $190 on hitting and $70 on hitting (or a 73%/27%) split. But then I am never quite that exact. My main tool at any auction is my budget tracker which I slotted for fourteen hitters and 9 pitchers. Yes, I set it up for a $190/$70 split originally, but I do it in excel for the purpose of being flexible and really giving myself a budget range of $180 to $200 on hitting (and conversely $60 to $80 on pitching) to take advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves throughout the draft. I also gave myself a soft ceiling of not going above $25 on any player, but ended up going above it twice. Ultimately I ended up with a 74%/26% split, so overall I ended up sticking pretty much to my original intent.
Before I go on, I should note that this year Tout Wars included a new wrinkle of a swing man that allows participants to carry their choice of an extra utility hitter or a tenth pitcher rather than a fifth outfielder. I opted to go the traditional 14 hitter/9 pitcher route with the idea of utilizing that rule on an in-season basis depending on my team needs at any particular time.
So, who did I purchase and why?
C: Kurt Suzuki $9, Salvador Perez $2
1B: Mike Carp $13
2B: Mike Aviles $9
3B: Kevin Youkilis $24
SS: Alexei Ramirez $19
MI: J.J. Hardy $18
CI: Adrian Beltre $29
OF: Ichiro Suzuki $24
OF: Torii Hunter $18
OF: Josh Willingham $15
OF: Seth Smith $3
UT: David Murphy $3
SWG: Josh Donaldson $2
Catcher: Kurt Suzuki was a particular target of mine prior to the draft. He’s no offensive force, but I like his combination of contact and moderate power skills. He has posted two straight seasons of a .240 or less batting average on balls in play and for a player who hits line-drives around 20% of the time more often than not, there is upside still to be found here. At $9, this was a very comfortable purchase. I had only allotted a few dollars for my second catcher, so knowing I would be likely drafting a catcher who receives a smattering of at-bats throughout the season, why not say “$2” and try to get someone who might actually provide some help in the batting average department when they are around. Yes, Perez will miss most of the season, but it is possible that he will be around when I need him most during my stretch run. Of course this left with me a gaping hole at my second catcher slot, so I utilized one of my end-game choices on Josh Donaldson, currently leading the pack for the third base job at the time of this articles writing also at $2. He has a good history of producing power and drawing walks over his minor league career and at third base won’t have the wear and tear of catching. Plus once he gains third base qualification, then later in the season m roster has more flexibility. Finally, knowing that both Donaldson and Perez are still on the risky side, I took Travis D’Arnaud with my first pick in the reserve round as a potential impact mid-season replacement.
The corners: I originally intended to spend in the mid-twenty dollar range on a first baseman, targeting mostly Paul Konerko at this spot. He went a bit higher than I was willing to spend at the time, so I had to reroute my budget around a bit, shifting my first base monies to the low to mid-teens with a focus on Justin Smoak, Mike Carp, and Kendrys Morales. Carp was who I ended up landing late in the auction at $13. Carp is certainly no high-end option, but he is a patient hitter with legitimate 20+ HR potential and is capable of hitting .260. Plus he has multiple position eligibility.
To account for my budget rerouting, I then targeted Adrian Beltre to make up for missing out on a bat like Konerko. When Beltre came out, the number of other options at his level caliber were few, so I pushed it to $29 to make sure I rostered him. In my planning I had specifically targeted spending $20, if not to $25 on third basemen knowing the dearth of talent at the position. So my two main options here were Kevin Youkilis and Michael Young. I was in on the bidding on both and came away with the former at $24. While not my initial intent, carrying two third basemen of this caliber could easily be a boon as I look for trade partners later in the season. It is scary to note that looking at Beltre’s performance last year, he actually underperformed in the batting average department when you consider his BABIP as compared to his 2009 and 2010 campaigns.
Middle Infield: I flushed out much of my middle infield in the early to middle portion of the draft, focusing on my sub $25 plan. At this point I had missed out some of the bigger sluggers, so I targeted J.J. Hardy ($18) on the premise he would help make up for some of that loss. Granted I expect regression given the sudden return of his power for the first time since his 2007 and 2009 campaigns, but he has shown mid-twenties or better power three-times in his career now and it is a skill he owns, so I still expect a return to at least the 20+ HR plateau. Seeking consistent, repeatable production (drafting boring players has always been a large component of my drafts), I focused and bought Alexei Ramirez at $19.
OF: I continued the theme of boring and mostly dependable with Ichiro at $24, Torii Hunter at $18, and Josh Willingham at $15. All three players are post prime, but they are not quite done yet. Both Willingham and Hunter retain their power. Ichiro is still durable and has some speed left. His BABIP last year was well out of the context of his career norms and while it may be the result of having lost a step, his plate discipline skills remain and his speed scores were actually higher in 2011 than they were in 2010. I think he has at least one more good year and a rebound year at that left in him. As for Seth Smith and David Murphy, I had both valued in the low-teens and was pleasantly surprised to get them so cheap and it was because I did that I probably left $2 on the table. Smith should be the primary left-handed DH for the A’s and occasional outfielder while Murphy always finds at-bats given the questionable ability of the rest of the Texas outfield to stay healthy.
Pitching: I like having anchors in the rotation and the bullpen. Joe Nathan showed he had regained most of his former form and was a straight forward purchase at $16. Justin Verlander was not a part of my original plan. I had originally planned to buy two starters in the upper teens, but when I saw Verlander who I valued in the $30s floundering at $27, I threw out a $28 bid and didn’t mind at all landing the Detroit ace. I then lowered my amount for my second tier pitcher and ended up with John Danks at $13. The rest I focused on lower end pitchers, mostly with upside (Garrett Richards, Danny Duffy, and Drew Smyly) as well as Derek Lowe and Jerome Williams (also providing a handcuff for Richards) to provide innings. Obviously I am not trying to necessarily win ERA or WHIP here, but to gather innings, wins, and strikeouts, and perhaps catch some lightening in bottle from one of my youngsters, also including Mike Montgomery from the reserve round. Smyly may be optioned to Triple-A to start the season, but between him, Andy Oliver, and Jacob Turner, he is actually the most MLB ready in terms of repertoire and ability to command his stuff, so I expect him to be recalled soon even if I have to find a temporary replacement. Finally, as Grant Balfour is far from a sure thing as the A’s closer given how his fastball tends to be rather straight, it didn’t hurt adding Brian Fuentes at $2.
Reserve Round: Ben Francisco was rostered to move in for when I place Perez on the DL and move Donaldson to catcher. That will free a spot for Smyly on reserve as I will probably, barring an Andy Oliver late spring training implosion, be replacing him temporarily on the active roster.
So is the team a winner? Right now I can’t say that. No draft day team is the same as the final day squad. Winning a fantasy baseball league is a 162-game process. All I can say is that I’ve laid a pretty good foundation on offense provided my veterans do not all show their age at once and break down. My rotation has upside built in, but in case some of the youngsters fail, I am not overly committed to them given my low-investment and will be constantly hunting the FAAB wire for replacements as needs be.