Tout Wars Mixed League Review

Heading into my second year in Tout Wars, I felt a lot more relaxed than in ’11.  Coming off a somewhat earned and somewhat fortunate league title in my rookie season, I had more confidence at the auction table but also knew that my competitors would be paying greater attention to my bids, while possibly hoping to sap an extra dollar or two out of me at times.

If you’ve never done a fantasy auction, I’m not sure if I can recommend it.  It’s a grueling process that requires you to be on guard consistently for about 5 hours.  I enjoy it, and so do most people who really love this game.  A draft is a better player selection approach for the casual fan, since it affords many breaks to regroup and plan out strategies (true story – I gave my son a bath between my 4th and 5th picks in this year’s LABR Mixed League draft)!  But, if you’re truly passionate about who ends up on your roster, the auction is the way to go.

I never enter an auction with a specific plan.  I don’t like to be boxed into an concept that takes away the chance to get good values when they arise.  I bring one sheet of paper to an auction – a list of all potential picks and how much I’m willing to spend on each one.  I’ll bid on anyone until they reach my breaking point and then I almost always back out.  This year I had a few ideas of who I might end up with, based on drafts I had done in other leagues.  As usual, I was mostly wrong when projecting my roster! The full league rosters can be found HERE, so I’ll spare the details of all my winning bids.  Here are my thoughts of my favorite and least favorite spots on my team:

The Good

1. Nabbing Grant Balfour for $5 – Most closers went for double-digit prices.  A few risky bets, such as Frank Francisco and Brett Myers, didn’t fetch such a high price.  I don’t view Balfour in that light.  He’s someone who has pitched well enough to close in recent years and now he’s finally getting the chance.  I think he can hold the job.  With closers such as Bailey, Marmol, Nathan and Marshall going for $5-7 more, I was happy to save a few bucks on my second closer.

2. Good deals in the outfield – Last year I spent a lot on my outfield but this year I didn’t like the prices as much.  After adding Josh Hamilton and Adam Jones I looked for cheaper options, while still hoping to stay out of the $1 scrap heap.  Melky Cabrera, Josh Willingham and Alejandro De Aza cost me a total of $11 and I expect them to capably fill my final three outfield spots.  Together, they offer a nice balance of power and speed, and they allowed me to spend more money elsewhere.

3. Josh Beckett as a third starter – When Beckett’s name was thrown out, auctioneer Jeff Erickson from Rotowire accidentally thought the bidding was starting at $10 – which seemed sensible to me.  Turns out it was starting at $2 and when it stopped I was left with Beckett for $9.  After last season’s embarrassment, I expect Beckett to be focused on rejuvenating his reputation this season.

4. Josh Hamilton for $24 – According to my projections, Hamilton was my biggest steal. I expected to former AL MVP to go for close to $30 and I was prepared to go higher than $24.  Two words, folks – contract year.  Hamilton is out to prove he deserves a monster contract and knows that staying on the field all season is key.  I’m quietly hoping for more than 500 at-bats.

5. The boys in the dugout – I have a bad habit of getting sloppy and coming away with very little for my bench at the end of drafts.  This time, I felt like I did very well.  Mike Carp and Seth Smith give me a pair of solid hitters who can jump in the lineup when injuries occur.  And, one of my strongest gut instincts this season is that Joe Nathan won’t hold up as the Rangers closer.  I just don’t think he has it anymore, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s out of that role by the middle of May.  So, I added Mike Adams, who pitches so well that he can be helpful even in a middle relief role.  I’ll use him in the opening week, then stash him on my bench and hope I’m right about Nathan.  Quick tip – this is the year to pick an extra middle reliever at the end of your draft.  Because the season starts on a Thursday, the first week is an abbreviated one in most leagues.  Several starters won’t appear in games that week, so a pitcher like Adams can get you a scoreless inning or two, which is better than an empty active roster spot.

6. Raw power – No, I’m not talking about Shark Week!  It’s always good to know your own tendencies and mine is to draft too many steals and not enough homers.  Even though I won this league last season, I was aware of my failure (second-last) in the home run category.  Picking Joey Votto and Josh Hamilton as my best players was a deliberate plan to spend a fair amount of cash on players who don’t steal a lot of bases.  I expect steals to be my weakest offensive category in April, but I know my natural tendency will be to chase them on waivers and in trades all season.  At least I’ve given myself room to do that.

The Bad

1. The risky catchers – Last season I (over?) invested $40 in Buster Posey and Geovany Soto.  You all know how that turned out.  This season, I promised myself that I would only take one pricey catcher, and the other one would come from the bargain bin.  Because of the physical demands of the position, the injury risk is very real.  Well, that plan flew out the window when I paid a total of $35 for Matt Wieters and Miguel Montero.  In a vacuum, I feel that the price I paid represents good value.  My projections indicated that their total value was in the $38-40 range.  I also like getting good catchers because they protect your batting average.  Most fantasy teams end up with at least one catcher who hits under .250.  By avoiding that fate, I allow myself to roster one of those players at a different position (hello, Mark Reynolds).  I’ll be crossing my fingers on my two backstops all season.

2. Another risk: Matt Moore – I didn’t think I would end up with Moore in any 2012 leagues and I was surprised when the bidding stopped on the future AL ROY at my $14 bid.  I believe that Moore is going to fare well in the Majors right away but I recognize the risk of my number two starter having so little Major League experience.  I would have preferred a veteran such as Ian Kennedy or a young player with more experience such as Madison Bumgarner.  But, I ended up with Moore and it should be an exciting ride!

3. Spending $39 on one player – I was undecided as to whether I would shell out big bucks for any one guy but I ended up taking the plunge with Votto.  I really like Votto and I’m comfortable with owning him, but I know that spending so much on one guy prevented me from nabbing $10-20 players I liked later on.  At least I managed to stay out of the $1 trash bin, which was an area that left me high and dry last season.

4. Mark Reynolds – After picking the two quality catchers, plus Votto and Hamilton, I felt like I had the batting average base to take the plunge on a few swinger like Reynolds.  If the Orioles slugger can hit in the .225 range, his massive power can make him a big asset to any fantasy squad.  There aren’t a lot of 35-homer players anymore, and this is one of them.  But, a .198 season like he suffered through in ’10 will be hard to watch!

Overall, this is a horse I can ride!  The league isn’t won or lost on draft day – that happens through the many roster decisions that are made during the next six months.  This is a tough group of smart fantasy owners and I’m hoping to hang out in the top half of the standings so that I can enjoy another good chase for a championship down the stretch.

PS – It has been well-documented that I made a flurry of deals from Opening Day all the way to the deadline in this league last season.  Well, I’m open for business once again!  Consider this an invitation to my 14 competitors – if you don’t like some aspect of your brand new roster (or, if you regret passing on one of my players on Saturday), send me an email and let’s get the negotiations started!

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