BaseballHQ at Tout Wars 2024

The BaseballHQ roadshow took a bite out of the Big Apple last weekend, as several writers took part in Tout Wars auctions and drafts on a busy St. Patrick’s Day weekend (Parades! Half-marathons!) in Times Square.

Rather than rehash the same prep questions that were covered in the LABR article, let’s discuss some of the rule differences between the two leagues, along with how the HQ participants dealt with the variations. 

The BHQ participants:

AL-only auction – Andy Andres, Chris Blessing, Patrick Davitt, Doug Dennis (defending champ)
NL-only – Phil Hertz
Mixed auction – Dave Adler, Brent Hershey
H2H – Greg Jewett
Mixed draft – Ray Murphy, Brian Entrekin, Shelly Verougstraete, Ryan Bloomfield (defending champ)
Draft and hold – Corbin Young
SOLDS and IP – Matt Cederholm, Sara Sanchez


The rosters can be seen at this Google Doc.

Tout Wars has introduced a SOLDS League. What’s that about, and how did you prepare for it?

Matt Cederholm - Batting average, Wins, and Saves are replaced with OBA, Innings Pitched, and Saves+Holds. The biggest difference is that closers go much later than in typical leagues — in this draft, the first relief pitcher went in the 7th round. Using OBA and IP changes your evaluation of players, particularly starters. There are few high-IP starters, so they tend to go a bit earlier. For the top starters, IP now affects four categories, so volume becomes more important.

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How did your team turn out in the SOLDS league?

Sara Sanchez - There was a mini-run in the 7th round on top-tier relievers; that still felt too pricey to me. I wound up taking Adbert Alzolay as my first reliever in the 13th round, and feel great about it. The other thing I tried for the first time this year was double dipping at the back end of a good bullpen (Hector Neris and Alzolay). 

With IP instead of wins, Spencer Strider has an absurd value relative to the rest of the field. He's a $5-9 value over the non-Acuña bats. He's an even bigger value over the next best pitcher. I took Strider 1.2 overall;  I mocked it, and liked him better than Juan Soto, Aaron Judge or Mookie Betts. For the second/third round, I was either going to go pocket aces, or take two big bats to cover the fact that I started Strider #1. I ended up with Marcus Semien and Francisco Lindor; I love this start.

Matt - I took pitchers earlier than I normally would. I like having an anchor starter and closer, but that's not enough in an IP league. Overall, I like my team, but I constantly had to fight the sense that I was taking a player too early. That cost me some guys I really wanted (e.g., Henry Davis). I also took on a lot of performance risk, especially in pitching. My top three are Yoshinobu Yamamato, Cole Ragans, and Shane Bieber, and all have questions.

In LABR, there are unlimited IL slots. Tout is trying a new experiment this year: a maximum of four IL slots in AL- and NL-only leagues. As for reserves, LABR has a 6-man reserve list - but only players taken as reserves in the auction can be placed there. Tout is more flexible. Also, in Tout, there are two swingman positions (hitter or pitcher). How do these rules affect your strategy?

Doug Dennis - IL rules won’t affect my strategy, but it is a restriction that will hamper my effectiveness. It’s hard to use a slot on a guy scheduled to come back in July. Conversely, less restrictive positional rules mean you can buy whoever gives you numbers without as much worry over slotting. It changes the end game dramatically. It gives an advantage to a Stars and Scrubs approach, so I’d expect more high bids early on offense than in past years.

Dave Adler – Daily streaming is not allowed in Tout, so the more liberal reserve rules won’t allow anyone to utilize that strategy in a given week. But it’s helpful that a player can be reserve/activated to/from the reserve/IL list mid-week, so you don’t lose several days of stats. It makes me a bit more likely to take an injured player at the auction if he’s not projected to be out too long.

Chris Blessing - One of my best producers last year was a reserve round pick (Yainer Diaz). I like that reserves aren’t restrictive in Tout.  I’m good with the added swing position; as Doug said, it might drive up some prices because it’s easier to make a Stars and Scrubs strategy work. I might try to get all the healthy pitchers above cost.

Ryan Bloomfield - This affects my Tout strategy of streaming pitchers weekly from my bench, rather than the waiver wire. In 15-team leagues, replacement-level starting pitchers typically do more harm than good, so I typically have 2-3 extra starters to stream from my bench. In the draft, I'll often start drafting reserve starting pitchers before I fill out my starting hitters, since I've found it's much easier to stream batters than starters in season.

Matt - If you're speculating on a potential role change (e.g., taking a backup closer) and will want to stash the player, the timing of when you take him is affected in LABR, but overall, it didn't have much impact on my strategy.

Sara - The reserve list situation didn't impact my strategy at all. I have three pitchers and three hitters there, but a couple of those guys are very droppable. I will say that the SOLDS league moving to 15-team changed how I used those picks considerably. I used to speculate on high-end prospects who might make the team. This year I stashed Martín Pérez and José Quintana for very boring regulars with slightly above average ratios.

Any other strategy issues of note?

Brent Hershey - I started by identifying players with big BA-to-OBP disparities. After doing a bunch of drafts with standard BA scoring, I just don’t want to be surprised. I culled a short list that included Luis Arraez, Edouard Julien, J.P. Crawford, and Jackson Holliday (primarily due to some eye-opening walk rates in the minors). Most of these MIFs do not run much, so even if I rostered two of these players, I’d have to be counting on SB from outside the SB-heavy MIF slots. That turned my attention to big-ticket players who both got on base and ran, so I focused on Kyle Tucker and Fernando Tatis Jr, as well as José Ramírez. I usually employ a spread-the-risk approach in this league (with varying degrees of success), so getting over that $40 hump —as I thought Tucker and Tatis would be around—was something I was resigned to do.

How did you like your team?

Ryan - I had the 2nd pick and thought it was an easy call to go Juan Soto over the field. I didn’t focus on stolen bases, since I'd rather load up the other four hitter categories and try to finish middle of the pack in SB. I also wanted to get two "full-time" closers, and think I accomplished that with Josh Hader (5th round) and Adbert Alzolay (11th). With the unlimited IL, I decided take Jasson Domínguez and Robbie Ray late. 

Dave – While I have extensive experience in Only-League auctions, this was my first mixed league auction. It was nice not having to drill down as deeply as in only-leagues; It made me more comfortable with a Stars and Scrubs approach (but see below!), since there would be usable players to roster at $1. 

Doug – It was harder to get offense than in prior years. I need to add steals in-season. I’m happy with my pitching (I even got a starter, contrary to my usual strategy!). My opening bid of $25 for Triston Casas was met with crickets to my surprise. My endgame on offense was a mess, but I can make up for it.

Chris - I like my team, it’s very competitive and speculative at the same time. But with three other BHQers in the room, it’s just not the most optimal setup due to our shared valuation of players.

Phil - I went into the auction hoping to get two top closers (done; Raisel Iglesias and Edwin Díaz); concentrate on hitting (check); get at least one competent catcher (Francisco Alvarez); get enough speed (CJ Abrams and Michael Harris II); and then try to find some low cost pitching with a relief bent. The jury is out on the latter; relief pitching went so high that it was hard to find good option.

Brent - I dropped down to an at-value José Ramírez when Tucker/Tatis kept rocketing past $40, and ended up with both Julien and Holliday. On the pitching side, I’ll need to keep close tabs; it feels like I loaded up on SP2/3s rather than aces so my ratios may not be strong enough. Took a bit of risk on saves with David Bednar at $14, but backed him up with Evan Phillips at $15 and thought about rostering another closer as well. I’m happy with my cheap SP at the end, but I’ll require tight management all season long, I think.

Any moves you regret?

Ryan - Regrets, I have many. I missed out on the second catcher run and will be forced to stream that spot in FAAB to start the year (I took Yan Gomes late). I also worry a little about my SP2-3. I took Luis Castillo to anchor my staff in the 2nd round, but waited until the 7th to grab my SP2 (Eury Pérez) and much later for my SP3 (Ryan Pepiot, 12th round).

Dave – BHQ is high on Esteury Ruiz, projected at $24 in this setup. It killed me when the bidding stopped at $9, but I had already acquired plenty of speed at that point and needed power and OBA. The lack of respect for him means I would not get top value in any trade offers.

Chris - I really wanted Riley Greene. He’s been trending in a great direction this spring, even if the power still isn’t there. I regret my $17 bid on Tyler O’Neill; I wish I went to $21 on Greene instead. I don’t love my Anthony Rendon pick for $7; maybe he’ll be motivated to return $7 of value.

Brent - I was not in on Nolan Jones through most of draft season, but he’s more interesting in this format. But his price was a bit too far above my comfort zone.

Phil - I was using Total Control drafting, so there’s nobody I regret not going an extra buck.  If anything, I’m sorry that I spent too much on a couple of players, meaning I had to settle more than I would have liked in the end game.

Any oddities or takeaways?

Ryan Here's an oddity — I took the wrong Max Muncy! There was a similar Logan Allen snafu later in the draft as (I think) Touts tried to get used to the draft room. Always a lesson learned to spend some time in the draft room ahead of time and get familiar with how it works.

Dave – As a noob in this league, I checked out the auction rosters from the past few years. I was able to see which competitors went Stars and Scrubs, and who Spread the Risk. I was also pleased to see that prices were traditionally around projected value, so I expected a reasonably orderly auction. Well… as they say… past performance does not reflect future results! I was planning on a Stars and Scrubs approach, but when Ronald Acuña Jr. went for $61 and Juan Soto $55, I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. I switched to Spread the Risk, and acquired a competitive team.

Doug - I wish buyers paid more for starting pitching, it was very skewed to offense this year.

Chris - I got one of the two SP I was targeting to lead my staff, Grayson Rodriguez ($24). As a reaction to injuries, and Doug winning two straight championships without starting pitchers, SP was at a discount and I took advantage with Nestor Cortes ($11), Aaron Civale ($13), Cristian Javier ($8), Erick Fedde ($5), and JP Sears ($4). It helped me overprice next in line saves later because I had more money to spend.

Phil - I was surprised at how much relief pitching cost. I think it may have been due to the plethora of pitching injuries over the past couple of weeks. I was also surprised at how much folks were spending on catching. In the past, only a couple of catchers had warranted double digits; this year it seemed everyone rostered a catcher at over $10.

Keep an eye on Tout webpage, where there will be regular surveys of all participants, and watch how the BHQers do in the standings. 

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