ROTISSERIE: AL-Only Tout Wars recap

It is always a crazy whirlwind weekend in New York for Tout Wars and this year was no exception. There is always a big party on Friday night @FoleysNYC, and then it turns out the AL-Only auction was first thing the next morning. I was there 90 minutes early because of course I was.

My strategy for this season in the AL-Only auction was a departure from my past few "only" roto auctions in that I could no longer count on getting any kind of pitching staff together with $30 or even $40-50. This is because starting pitching, particularly in the AL, has its value distributed like a two hump-camel. There are pitchers you really want, then a gap, and then pitchers you really (really!) don't want.

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I decided going in that I would try to combat this in two ways. First, I would try to roster Chris Sale (LHP, BOS). Sale was valued on my board at $46 for this particular league—ahead of any other AL pitcher. I know that most touts disagree with this, and worry about innings, injury risk, and a downturn after 2018. I knew I'd get a discount. What I did not know was whether it would be $35, $40, or (ugh) more than $40.

The second part of the pitching plan was to roster not two, but three(!) of the bottom-feeder closers. I reasoned that if I budgeted $30 for that, I could pull it off. The end goal was to spend $70 on four pitching slots that gave me a reasonable start on putting together a staff. After that, another $10 for 5 slots (which is where I mostly fish in "only" leagues anyway).

That would only leave me $180 for hitters. But other owners adjust for the total spend, and given that players like me could skew the total split on hitters/pitcher spend, would likely overpay early for the top hitters and try to read the room for what was happening later. I thought that the way for me to take advantage of this was to try to target a handful of hitters who were discounted in LABR-AL (which is a BA league and not an OBP league), try to grab at least some discount on those hitters, and then feel my way through the dark on the rest.

The hitters I decided to target were Carlos Santana (1B, CLE), who went for $16 in LABR; Jonathan Villar (2B, BAL), who went for $25; Jake Bauers (1B/OF, CLE), who was $15; and Ji-Man Choi (DH, TAM), who was $4. I reasoned that if I could come close to those prices, I'd have a decent amount of money to buy the rest of the offense.

I started out fine with Sale for $39. It came early enough for owners to make a quick adjustment, which was too bad for my strategy, as I'd hoped more hitters would go off the board before that. I also quickly grabbed Jesus Luzardo (RHP, OAK) for $7, which I think will be a nice bargain for 2019, but that left me with $3 for four remaining pitching slots if I could hold serve on the three closers at $30. I'd have to make a small adjustment somewhere.

It went off the rails, then, rather quickly. Villar went for more than I budgeted. My contingency was to move to Mallex Smith (OF, TAM), but he too went for more than I'd budgeted. As the auction went on, steals were going at a massive premium and I decided not to pay it. My adjustment was that I instead bought Xander Bogaerts (SS, BOS) for $28. To me, that was a tiny discount, but gave me a decent stats stuffer at a middle infield slot. It also meant that I was not going to get that premium SB guy that I thought I would by targeting Villar. That would bite me later on.

As the auction went on, I did manage to get Bauers for $15, but not the other hitters I targeted. I got Brad Boxberger (RHP, KC) for $7, Trevor May (RHP, MIN) for $9, and Matt Barnes (RHP, BOS) for $11—so three closers (or quasi-closers) for $27.

I worked to fill out the offense.  Here is how it turned out:

c Narvaez $8 ss Gregorius $3
c Hundley $2 of J.Upton $27
1b Smoak $16 of Mazara $18
3b Andujar $22 of Bauers $15
ci K.Morales $10 of J.Bruce $13
2b MarwGonzalez $13 ut DanRobertson $1
ss Bogaerts $28 sw B.Goodwin $1

You can see that I ran out of money at the end and rostered Daniel Robertson (2B, TAM) and Brian Goodwin (OF, KC) for $2. You can also see that I never found any speed, as the base stealers were all going for more than I budgeted—even the down-list 10-12 SB base stealers. I decided to bag it (pun intended) and trade for steals later, after the category splinters into tiers (as it always does). This offense does not excite me, but it does not ruin me either.

The problem is that with Sale, Luzardo, Boxberger, May, and Barnes on the roster, I had $10 for four pitching slots. Normally, this will work well. This time, it didn't work as well as I wanted.

I took a big gamble and spent $5 chasing Dallas Keuchel (RHP, FA). Keuchel remains a free agent as we speak, and he will only provide me value if he signs in the AL. So far, Houston is the only team to really show interest, and only on a short-term deal that Keuchel has rejected. It remains to be seen what happens here, but that blew my remaining money and may not give me a single inning. Given the composition of my staff, I needed innings.

But as I always do, I went for the arms projected to put up big BPIs and hoped the innings would come. Here is my pitching staff:

Sale $39 Devenski $1
Luzardo $7 Boxberger $7
Keuchel $5 TrMay $9
FrambValdez $3 M.Barnes $11
Loaisiga $1  

There is a ton of risk here. The biggest current threat is that I won't make the minimum innings thresholds. This will require work.

My reserves went better than expected. I got Dan Vogelbach (1B, SEA), Tanner Scott (RHP, BAL), Yusmeiro Petit (RHP, OAK), and Spencer Turnbull (RHP, DET). We'll just have to wait and see if any of them contribute. I am hoping that Vogelbach can come into the UT slot and produce right away, sliding Robertson up to MI and putting Didi Gregorius (SS, NYY) on the injured list (for now).

Let me know what you think in the comments section or on twitter @DougDennis41

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.