The annual Tout Wars auctions took place this past weekend; for the fifth year I'm in the 13-team National League group. I've had some decent runs in this exercise (second twice), some respectable finishes (fifth once), and one utter disaster (dead last in 2009). Make of that what you will.
If you've only played in mixed leagues for your rotisserie career, what's below probably won't be of any value to you. An only-league is about depth, about finding value with fourth outfielders and reserve infielders, about knowing every player on every major league roster. Most mixed-leaguers in a non-keeper pool wouldn't waste their time on tier-two prospects in the minors, or unsigned free agents, or injured players expected to be back late in the season. In our exercise, those players do get taken, and sometimes there's a wrestling match for them. Keep that in mind as you peruse my club, and for full context, be sure to check out all 13 league rosters.
Here's Team Pianow, grouped by position cluster: catchers, corners, middles, outfielders, starting pitchers, relief pitchers. In the comments, I'll discuss some of the other prices and a few of the players that got away.
My basic strategy in an only-league is to get a full team of participation, collect at-bats and worry about everything else later. The biggest challenge in this concept comes at catcher, given that there are only 16 starters in the league in theory, some of them aren't very good, and we have 13 owners needing to field two backstops each. I also prefer not to chase any catcher that will lead me into the teens; if I can field two starters for about 20 bucks, I'm happy. These two guys went slightly over that, no big deal. Iannetta's upside is blunted by the presence of Miguel Olivo(notes), but that shouldn't keep Iannetta from hitting double-digit homers, and there's always the chance he settles into a solitary starting gig at some point over the summer.
I try not to target players before the action but I had a strong hunch Howard would end up on my team, for a few reasons: I regretted not taking him in the Yahoo Friends and Family League; I think his batting average risk is grossly overblown; and it's always nice to get a bank of power early. Howard came up early in the auction and I got him at market; no discount or overbid here. DeRosa and Huff have a lot more utility in a mono league where the mere possession of a job makes you valuable. I don't need them to produce like supermen to justify this cost; if they can approach 75 runs, 20 homers, 80 RBIs, I'm content. DeRosa also qualifies at two positions (third, outfield), something that really helps in this format.
All it takes is two owners with the same hunch and a price gets a little silly; that's what happened with Desmond here. Cory Schwartz brought Desmond up early in the proceedings and we wrestled for a while; eventually he conceded him to me at $10. I'm a little concerned that Jim Riggleman will waste 300-400 at-bats on Cristian Guzman(notes), but Desmond's had a big spring, he has the job to open the year, and there's a shot that he could be ready for double-digit homers and steals right out of the box. I can't even claim to be the biggest Desmond fan out there; check out what Bill James is expecting from Desmond this summer.
To pull off the participation theme, you need to accept a lot of unexciting starters around the $10 level; that's where Kennedy and Schumaker fit in. Several of my opponents have one or two non-starters in the middle; I'm aiming to have no dead spots anywhere. Kennedy also has third-base eligibility if I need to do some shifting later.
You know it's a carnival ride when you buy a ticket to the Ramirez show, but there's still plenty of ability here, and while the contract-year idea can be overblown in many cases, the lure of the next contract might be a motivator for Manny. The Hawpe purchase was punctuated with me stating the obvious: "I hate Brad Hawpe." But look at his last four years, there's a nice consistency there; I can put .280-75-22-80 in the bank right now, with the possibility of more. I would never target Hawpe in a mixed league; you're looking for upside in a mixer, and you've got the net of a rich free agent pool. The only-leagues are about depth, floor, and the knowledge that the free-agent pool will be of modest help during the year.
Glaus has an asterisk because he's my utility player. Sure, the price looks a little silly; we were near the end of the auction and the inflation process had set in. Glaus is an easy target especially at this price, but I feel better when I see the other 12 utility fits around the league: Ryan Spilborghs, Cristian Guzman, Bobby Crosby(notes), Jim Edmonds(notes), Pedro Alvarez(notes), Wily Taveras, John Bowker(notes) (big spring, for what it's worth), Jonny Gomes(notes), Jody Gerut(notes), Gerardo Parra(notes) (Rico Suave), Mike Morse(notes), Julio Lugo(notes).
Francoeur? Well, the Mets will play him. Francisco I like as a fourth outfielder with power and speed, and he's behind some injury risks (Raul Ibanez(notes), Jayson Werth(notes)). Harris will always be a favorite of mine for his run during 2008; that's my problem, not yours. But the Nats will have to use him more than a strong team would.
This offense might not look impressive to the eye, but I accomplished most of what I wanted. Independent projections have me topping the league in homers and RBIs and competitive in runs, that's the idea. Inadvertently I went into punt mode on steals and the average will have to be managed, but still, it's a good offense for an NL-only group.
I'll go to the mat for Wainwright anywhere, though it broke my heart to see a bunch of name pitchers go in the late teens (Ricky Nolasco(notes), I'm looking at you). There's no way to see this coming sometimes, but it was a very sickening feeling to have to sit out bids like that.
The rest of my staff was built on a budget; I was outchased on some guys I wanted (Joe Blanton(notes) went to $11, Paul Maholm(notes) up to $5, even Brad Penny(notes) I was pushed out on). Cueto has a tangible upside and Arroyo can earn his price - the key with him is not to live and die with his every start. Before you mock Zito (and you will), go check his second half again. The park doesn't hurt. If I can get one useful and trustable year out of Duke, Marquis and Gorzelanny, I'll take it.
It doesn't matter that most of the free world hates Franklin; I just need Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan to like him. A Franklin regression is an easy call, but if he holds the job and has the ERA under 4.00, I'll take it.
Lindstrom's meltdown left a scar with most of us in 2009, but he's tweaked his slider grip this spring and looks like a solid bet to get the closing gig out of the gate. We can't ignore Brandon Lyon(notes) given how much the Astros are paying him, but he doesn't worry me as much as springtime surprise Sammy Gervacio(notes).
I didn't get any middle relievers or closers-in-waiting; a host of them went in the auction and most of them, to my eye, were overpriced. This also means I really need at least one of my closers to hold up all season; if I can even coax 1.5 closers out of the two guys, above, I'm in profit territory. But it's not like I'm betting on Rivera and Papelbon.
So there's my club; the other clubs are here. Who looks good? Who looks spotty? How would you attack an NL-only auction?
Photo via US Presswire