HomeTrending MLB NewsTout Wars Expert Recap 2024

Tout Wars Expert Recap 2024

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Image credit: © Nathan Ray Seebeck – USA TODAY Sports

Participating in a fantasy baseball auction is more art than science. It always has been. And it’s an odd thing to say since we have more data now than ever before on players. Good art will surprise you and possibly make you think of things in a way you hadn’t considered before, yet there are only so many ways to build a rotisserie team. So what kind of art can you make when everyone knows what you’re going to try and do? In other words, is it possible to be effective at a strategy that doesn’t have the advantage of any element of surprise?

Stars and scrubs. It’s not a new strategy by any means, it has been written about since at least the 1990s. But just like metal, it’s about how heavy it is. In the 2023 auction, I had $22 left after 30 minutes in the room and I had seven players on my roster. I had joked at the time that it was partially allowed because fellow big spenders like Derek Van Riper and Fred Zinkie were no longer in Tout Mixed and partially allowed because no one actually thought I’d actually spend that much money so early. In 2024, the element of surprise could not possibly be there again, right?

When the Tout spreadsheet first showed up on the projector, whether by fate or by design, my name read “Beat Sayre” rather than my given name. I won’t lie–I kind of liked it. It’s not a group that punches down.

The Stars

We’ll get to the spending in a minute, but I wanted to have a little fun with my first throw. As defending champion, I get to nominate the first player in the auction and I wanted to try and freeze-bid the room on a player I wanted at a particular price. Given the uncertainty around Gerrit Cole, that’s where I went. I had done some mental calculations prior to the auction about what number I’d throw him out at and here’s what I came up with:

Cole full-season value/price: $40
Odds Cole misses full season: 30%
Best guess as to return date: June 15 (~60% of season)
Value if he returns on 6/15: $24, depreciated by 25% given disjointed nature of spring, so $18
$18 * 70% = $12.60

I threw him out at $12 and got him at $12. If I had thrown him out at a lower price, sure maybe I get him at $9 or $10. But also if it starts at a price that brings more action, maybe more people bid and it goes up to $14 or $15. Be confident in your values.

After Cole came out, I added these names to my team in relatively quick succession:

That was about 10 minutes in. The race was on. 

I’ve still got too much money here, let’s buy some catchers.

And there we are. $27 left for my next 15 picks. I did not purchase another player for almost 2.5 hours. I had a few slow drafts I needed to make sure I stayed on top of anyway. 

On Judge/Alonso, the OBP tax wasn’t there and it surprised me. I had Judge as a $51 player in this format and when the bidding stopped at $40 I think it caught me and a few others in the room off-guard. I had Ohtani and Tatis at $51 and $49, respectively. It’s not like other superstars weren’t expensive. Ronald Acuña went for his normal $60+ price. Juan Soto went for $55. Kyle Tucker went for $48. Yordan Alvarez went for $43. People were spending, but they were spending on the star players they wanted, not the ones the room gave them (for the most part – Brent Hershey grabbing Jose Ramirez for $36 was a great value). 

I spoke about this when I went on the SiriusXM show after the first break. If you are not discerning about which stars you get in this strategy, you’ll get more of them and they’ll come at a better price. I did not target any of these guys in particular – I’d have been just as happy getting any other top 15-20 player talent at the right prices. These just happened to be right. 

As far as the catchers go, this was a predetermined plan to avoid the dregs of the position. In a league where 30 catchers are in active rosters, the endgame feels particularly bad this year. There are a lot of job shares and even the full-timers are real OBP sucks without giving too much value on the positive side. Rene Pinto? Travis d’Arnaud? Yan Gomes? Tyler Soderstrom? These guys are all starting for someone, and maybe they play in 100 games and return $2-3 in value, but it’s a bigger chasm this year than usual.

The Scrubs

When you have this little money left to allocate across the last 15 spots on your roster, the goals look a little something like this:

  • Three players who will return $10 of value or more
  • Five additional players who will still be in your active roster on May 15

The rest become reserved, get hurt or become waiver wire fodder. Some of these guys have more upside than others, but if you ask me right now to guess which ones fall into each bucket, I’d be hilariously wrong. When you customize your valuations prior to the auction and spread the risk, you give yourself the best chance of hitting those targets. 

In no particular order other than price:

We’ll see where those chips fall. Some of those players, like Lowe, Moncada, Laureano, Morton and Bradish were more traditional targets because I had them valued at a combined $48 (significantly more than the $10 they went for in auction. The others were just the best of what was around based on what I needed.

Sometimes this is about just knowing your league and its rules, and taking advantage of them when you can. FAAB bidding is pretty fast and loose in Tout both because $0 bids are allowed and because reserves are fully flexible (you can sub them in and out of your lineup freely, unlike LABR). Also, with unlimited IL spots, it’s a lot easier to stash guys like Bradish without losing the roster fluidity.

In the reserves, I focused on supplementing my roster where it has its biggest weaknesses: pitching volume/health, saves and steals:

  • Yennier Cano (the “I don’t believe in Craig Kimbrel” pick)
  • John Means (the “I don’t have enough injured Orioles pitching” pick)
  • Ranger Suarez (the “oh shit I need to fill out my active roster” pick)
  • Jon Berti (the “this may be the only guy left who can steal 25 bases” pick)
  • Ricky Tiedemann (the “I needed at least one prospect in the reserves” pick)
  • Colin Rea (the “I think this guy needs to be drafted in 15-team leagues” pick)

I had a few different other participants come up to me after the auction that and say that they wish they had the patience to run an auction like this. Some of them were certainly being polite. This strategy isn’t for the faint of heart and it’s definitely not for everyone. But also just because something is interesting doesn’t mean it will be successful. Go back and watch the first (and only) season of the ABC smash TV show “Flash Forward” for a great example. 

But I will say this. If I was able to hit my spots in 2024 the same way I did in 2023, I expect those value stars to disappear in next year’s auction. And then I’ll have to find a new way to make good art. After all, there are only so many Marvel movies you can force.

Thank you for reading

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