2022 Tout Wars Mixed Auction Draft Review
By now, my auction draft preparation routine is set. The nervous newcomer who entered the SiriusXM studios back in 2012 to participate in his first Tout Wars auction is now an 11th-year Tout, still a little nervous on draft day (after all, you can really mess up an auction) but with a much better idea of what he’s doing.
In the week leading up to the auction, after spending more than two months digesting content and forming opinions on players, I make a chart of an ideal roster that I expect to fit under the $260 budget. I assign each starting roster slot a dollar value which represents the maximum I’m willing to spend for my top target and then include several cheaper fallback options with corresponding costs. The dollar values are flexible and I’ll certainly pay a few bucks more than the listed limit for my first choice if the draft dynamics dictate that an adjustment is needed. I’m also comfortable if my ideal roster exceeds $260 by $10-$15, figuring that I’m not going to get all of my top choices anyway. As my roster fills, I keep track of how much over or under budget I am, being careful not to reach a point early in the draft where I’m over budget by around $20.
When it comes to early nominations, the most common strategy is to choose players you don’t want and watch in delight as dollars disappear from budgets. While I do follow this approach at times, I also think it’s important to nominate some of your Plan A guys to find out if you can get them while there are still multiple elite options on the board. That’s exactly what I did with my first nomination, Jose Ramirez, the foundation piece of my ideal roster. Fortunately, I was able to land Ramirez for $49, a few dollars more than what I had hoped, but I was fine slightly overpaying for a third baseman who could deliver 35 homers, 100 RBI, 100 runs and 25 steals.
As for the rest of my team, this is what you need to know.
•The advanced metrics say that Aaron Nola’s 4.63 ERA last season was a product of bad luck, and I tend to agree being that most of his other numbers were ace-caliber. Still, my #1 choice to head my staff was Walker Buehler, and when I went to $35 in the Buehler bidding, I really thought I’d win him. But it wasn’t meant to be. Scott Pianowski bid $36 and I pulled out. Nola was my top fallback option, so it’s not like I’m disappointed with him as my ace. But at $30, I didn’t get him at any sort of discount. Jose Berrios has been one of “my guys” for several years now thanks to his consistency, and I paid $20 for him, exactly what I expected to pay. The problem is that Nola and Berrios are my front two starting pitchers on all three of my fantasy teams so far, and I try to avoid these situations for the sake of diversity. If either one of them fails to meet expectations, my fantasy season could be doomed.
•The plan was to pair Ramirez with one of either Bryce Harper or Mookie Betts, but I was way off in projecting prices for the two outfielders, figuring that I could win Harper for around $40 or Betts for no more than $37. So when Harper went for $47 and Betts for $43, I knew I had to bid aggressively for one of the few remaining upper-tier outfielders. Kyle Tucker topped my list, and I was relieved to land him for only $36. I think this was a case of OBP overadjustment. Tucker might fall well short of Harper and Betts in the OBP department but considering his tremendous 2021 campaign and potential for even greater things ahead, he isn’t $7-$11 less valuable.
•In this age of closer uncertainty, I think it’s important to draft at least one reliever who you can count on for 30+ saves and strong ratios. I think I did that with Kenley Jansen. He might no longer be vintage Kenley but he should still be pretty, pretty good for his new team in Atlanta. When factoring in his $14 price compared to that of Edwin Diaz ($23), Raisel Iglesias ($22), Ryan Pressly ($22), Emmanuel Clase ($21) and Jordan Romano ($18), I like Jansen even more.
•As I mentioned in my LABR draft review, I’m targeting the middle tier of first basemen this year, specifically the trio of Rhys Hoskins, Josh Bell and C.J. Cron. Of the three, I gave the thin edge to Hoskins since Tout is an OBP league. Hoskins’ weakest category is Batting Average (career .241 AVG) yet he has always been a valuable asset in the OBP department (career .360 OBP). But when the bidding on Hoskins exceeded $20, I was out, and this decision was easier since both Bell and Cron had yet to be nominated. Cron is my starting 1B in LABR, and I valued him close enough to Bell that I figured I’d mix things up and go after Bell. Cron ended up being the better buy at $10, but I still think that spending $15 for Bell allows plenty of room for profit.
•All fantasy managers love bounceback candidates and I made sure to roster at least a few of them. Coming off a dreadful 2021 season in which he failed to even reach double-digit homers, Gleyber Torres has looked good so far this spring. Torres has a track record of high-end production, so I was willing to take the $10 gamble that he hasn’t all of a sudden forgotten how to hit. Another promising sign is that he improved at the plate following his late-season move back to second base, so maybe there was some psychological stuff going on here with Torres allowing his defensive struggles at shortstop to affect his hitting. It was also nice to see him increase his activity on the bases last year, swiping 14 bags in 20 attempts. Honorable mentions to Max Kepler and Alec Bohm while we’re on the subject of bounceback candidates.
•How about breakout candidates? I prioritized drafting some of those players too. At a certain time towards the end of the draft, my max bid was $2 and only a few other managers had max bids greater than $2. So I nominated Jo Adell for $2 and was lucky enough to get him. Adell had by far the highest ceiling of any player available at the time, so I was thrilled to add him as my OF5 even though I would be limited to $1 bids for the remainder of the auction. On the pitching side, Triston McKenzie still needs to work on his control and do a better job limiting home runs but he put together enough dominant outings last season to convince me that he could be on the verge of taking a big step forward. The strikeout rate is elite.
•Perhaps the biggest challenge in assembling a fantasy baseball roster this season is addressing the stolen base category. There simply aren’t many steals to be found. My preferred route has always been to draft three 25+ SB contributors in the early going and then not worry too much about steals the rest of the way, but good luck with that in 2022. I think the best approach is to spread out the stolen bases among five or more players. There are enough 8-15 SB sources to make this work, and I did just that here with Amed Rosario, Kolten Wong, Gleyber Torres and even Avisail Garcia to complement Jose Ramirez and Kyle Tucker. Hopefully, this group will give me enough steals to finish among the top-5 in the category.
I’m optimistic about this squad, which is rare for me being that I usually spend the days immediately following a draft obsessing over the mistakes I made and the weaknesses of my roster. Who knows if my cautious optimism will prove to be a positive or negative sign. We’ll find out in a little over six months.
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