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What you’ll find below is a recap of this week’s Tout Wars Mixed Draft. There are actually two mixed leagues in Tout Wars this year, the other includes innings pitched over wins and saves/holds over saves. However, this piece is about the 15-team league with 5x5 stats and OBP instead of AVG.
My previous finishes:
2020: 13th place
2019: 5th place
2018: 4th place
2017: 6th place
Yes, I would like to forget about last year. And who wouldn’t, really? There are certainly quite a few major leaguers who feel the same way. I’ve generally been in contention in this league year-in and year-out, so I didn’t want to beat myself up too much about how things went down last year. I drafted a team last March that had the likes of Yordan Alvarez, Yoan Moncada, Marcus Stroman, and David Price on it. I don’t need to explain much more than that. With a full 162-game season ahead of us, I’m confident I’ll be right back where I usually am, hopefully finishing the job this time.
Before we get started, here’s a list of the other participants and their affiliations:
Tom Kessenich - SportsHub Games Network
Tim McLeod - Prospect 361
Adam Ronis - Fantasy Alarm
Rudy Gamble - Razzball
Greg Ambrosius - SportsHub Games Network
Charlie Wiegert - CDM Sports
Perry Van Hook - Mastersball.com
Scott White - CBS Sports (Last year’s winner)
Ray Murphy - Baseball HQ
Seth Trachtman - Rotoworld
Michael Beller - The Athletic
Tim McCullough - Baseball Prospectus
Anthony Perri - Fantistics
Shelly Verougstraete - Dynasty Guru
You can take a look at the full Tout Wars mixed league draft board here, but what follows are my picks and relevant commentary.
1st round: Freddie Freeman 1B, Braves
This was tough. It was very tempting to go with Francisco Lindor (who eventually landed with Tim McCullough in the second round), but shortstop is a deep position and I feel like Freeman is the top option at a position where quality begins to drop off rather quickly. Freeman is also coming off his best season and holds an even .400 on-base percentage dating back to the start of the 2016 season. In a league where OBP matters, this gives me a good base to start my roster.
2nd round: Yu Darvish SP, Padres
2020 was weird enough for pitchers, but 2021 might be even weirder. Nobody knows how many innings pitchers are going to throw and the sample sizes from last year don’t give us much to go on. That’s why I think it’s important to grab the pitchers you are relatively certain about. Darvish certainly fits that criteria, as he holds a 2.40 ERA and 211/21 K/BB ratio in 157 2/3 innings over 25 starts dating back to the All-Star break in 2019. Those are deGrom-like numbers. There’s some debate about who the No. 4 fantasy starter should be after deGrom, Cole, and Bieber this year, but now you know how I feel about it.
3rd round: Zac Gallen SP, Diamondbacks
Pitchers were coming off the board fast and furious in the early going, so I was a little surprised that Gallen lasted this long. After Clayton Kershaw was selected 24th overall, there was only one pitcher — Jack Flaherty — in the next 12 picks before my pick. I’ll take it. There was some momentary internal dialogue about Gallen vs. Snell, but I picked the former because I don’t think we’ve seen anything close to his best yet. Through 27 starts in the majors, he quietly holds a 2.78 ERA. He’s struck out 178 batters in 152 innings in that time, though the walk rate is a work in progress. He at least took a step forward in that area last year, but it easy to imagine him getting stingier as he gains more experience. Two aces to start my squad meant I could really focus in other areas, which I did.
4th round: Tim Anderson SS, White Sox
Remember the Francisco Lindor debate I was having back in Round One? Well, I was able to get Anderson a cool 35 picks later. And if you really look at it, there might not be a ton of separation here. Yes, Lindor has the edge in patience and power, but Anderson still gets all that volume at the top of the loaded White Sox lineup and I think he’s one of those guys who is a BABIP-outlier. He has the speed and his quality of contact is good. In fact, he had 16 barrels in 159 batted balls last year after having 20 in 391 batted balls for the entire 2019 season.
5th round: Austin Meadows OF, Rays
Meadows might be my favorite pick from my draft. Coming off a breakout 2019, the 25-year-old slashed a disappointing .205/.296/.371 with four homers across 152 plate appearances last year. However, that needs to be viewed in the context of a COVID-19 diagnosis which delayed his start to the season and an oblique injury in September. I’m tempted to give him a complete mulligan here, as you can do for several other players in the unprecedented 2020 campaign. Meadows may not be a .290 hitter, ultimately, be he should be a strong contributor with counting stats and makes for a nice start to my outfield.
6th round: Brandon Lowe 2B/OF, Rays
Back-to-back Rays picks here. What I loved about Lowe in this spot is that, yes, I could put him at second base, but I had the flexibility to move him elsewhere depending on how the rest of the draft played out. But looking purely at second base, he deserves to be considered among the position’s studs. Since the start of 2019, he’s hit .270/.347/.530 with 31 homers, 88 RBI, eight steals and 78 runs scored over 138 games. Maybe his playoff struggles are too fresh in people’s minds? I’m not sure, but I was happy to get him here.
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7th round: Raisel Iglesias RP, Angels
My first closer. I considered waiting here since Shelly Verougstraete already took Liam Hendriks and Josh Hader and she was on the turn, but Anthony Perri hadn’t taken a closer yet and Iglesias was one of the last names I felt comfortable grabbing. Yes, the closer spot is that sad this year. James Karinchak might have the most upside of any potential closer (he didn’t go until the 8th round), but the Indians have been rather vague about their intentions there. Low stress is what I want, at least for one of my closers.
8th round: Teoscar Hernandez OF, Blue Jays
Hernandez is a vexing player, but I’m banking on his power after he slugged 16 homers in just 50 games last year. Given his penchant for the strikeout, it’s easy to have serious doubts after he hit just .235 in 259 games between 2018-2019. The one thing we do know, though, is that Hernandez hits the ball extremely hard. In last year’s shortened season, he ranked in the 96th percentile in hard-hit percentage and the 98th percentile in both average exit velocity and barrel percentage. As such, his xBA backed up what he did in 2020. To be quite frank, it would be impossible to expect someone with a 30-percent strikeout rate to hit .289, but would I take .250 with 35 homers and 10 steals? I would. I want a piece of this Blue Jays’ lineup, especially with the venues the team will hit in while they wait to get back to Toronto.
9th round: Travis d’Arnaud C, Braves
Speaking of quality contact, d’Arnaud had that in spades last year. According to Baseball Savant, his hard-hit percentage was second-highest in the majors among players with at least 100 batted ball events. Only Fernando Tatis Jr checked in higher. He’s completely turned his career around since joining the Rays in 2019 and sits fifth in my personal rankings at catcher. I followed my rankings here, though I have real concerns about his ability to hold up over a full season. With a lengthy injury history, he’s never played more than 112 games in a season.
10th round: Tommy Edman 2B/SS/3B/OF, Cardinals
I took Edman in Tout Wars last year and it didn’t work out, but last season was so strange for the Cardinals that it’s hard to take it all that seriously. COVID-19 messed up their schedule significantly and it’s pretty amazing that they managed to make the expanded playoffs along with the Marlins. The weirdest thing about Edman’s season was that he went just 2-for-6 in stolen base attempts after going 15-for-16 in 2019. With his elite sprint speed, there’s reason to believe he’ll bounce back. The Cardinals moving on from Kolten Wong should open a full-time spot for him at second base.
11th round: Josh Donaldson 3B, Twins
My picks since Freeman haven’t exactly been OBP-monsters, so I wanted to turn my focus back to that area after addressing other category needs. Donaldson is an obvious injury risk — a calf injury limited him to just 28 games — but 163rd overall is a fine time to take a chance. After all, he had a .373 on-base percentage when healthy last year and sports a .376 on-base percentage dating back to 2013.
12th round: Tyler Mahle SP, Reds
So you’re saying my team needs more than two starting pitchers? Crazy, but I’ll play along. After ignoring starting pitchers with nine rounds, I got back on board with Mahle, who was an under-the-radar success story in 2020. After switching up his pitch mix and increasing his velocity, he put up a 3.59 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. The control wasn’t great and he’s a fly ball pitcher in a tough home park, so there’s a reason he’s being drafted where is. But he’s interesting.
13th round: Marcus Stroman SP, Mets
And now I went back-to-back with pitchers who didn’t even play last year. Real galaxy brain-drafting here. In Stroman’s case, he came down with a calf injury last spring before eventually opting out of the season due to concerns over COVID-19. When we last saw him, he posted a fine 3.22 ERA and 159/58 K/BB ratio over 184 1/3 innings between the Blue Jays and Mets in 2019. It will be interesting to see which version of Stroman shows up this season. He missed more bats after being traded to the Mets and he’s added a new pitch — a split-change — this spring. Still, his bread and butter is inducing grounders and he should be a lot happier with Francisco Lindor behind him this year.
14th round: Jameson Taillon SP, Yankees
Taillon hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since May 1, 2019. While he didn’t end up having Tommy John surgery until August of that year, he’s still some 19 months removed from the procedure, so he’s good to go for the start of the 2021 campaign. His strikeout numbers have always been more satisfactory than good and the margin for error is thin in the AL East, but he’s certainly in a better situation in terms of support with the Yankees.
15th round: Sean Murphy C, Athletics
Coming off two procedures for a collapsed lung, Murphy kept slipping before I plucked him as the 12th catcher off the board. If there was more clarity on this situation, he undoubtedly would have been selected a couple of rounds earlier. I already took Travis d’Arnaud in the ninth round, so I won’t be utterly devastated if things don’t work out with this one. But if it does, I could have one of the best catching combos in the league. Seth Trachtman (Yasmani Grandal/Salvador Perez) is my main competition on that end.
16th round: Mitch Haniger OF, Mariners
Drafting players who didn’t play last year in the new market inefficiency. That wasn’t the plan going in, but the theme continued here with Haniger, who has had the worst luck over the past couple of years. Look up the details if you really want to feel uncomfortable. Still, he had a .285/.366/.493 batting line with 26 homers, 93 RBI, eight steals, and 90 runs scored over 157 games in 2018. Most important of all, he’s looking healthy this spring.
17th round: Tommy La Stella 2B/1B, Giants
I don’t know how the Giants are going to find playing time for all of these guys, but La Stella is an underrated option in this format. In addition to qualifying at multiple positions, he sports a .349 on-base percentage for his career and seems to have found a new groove as a hitter. In 135 games dating back to the start of 2019, he holds a .289/.356/.471 batting line with 21 homers and a 40/47 K/BB ratio. Let’s hope he plays enough.
Imagine being disappointed when Greg Holland goes off the board. That’s how I felt when Anthony Perri took him just before my pick in the 18th round. I quickly pivoted to Bradley, who might not be as locked into the closer role with the Phillies as Holland is with the Royals, but he’s certainly the better pitcher. This could actually turn out quite well. Fairbanks is more of a dart throw, but we know how the Rays roll with their closer situation. Sheffield’s strong finish last year provides reason for optimism.
Hernandez and Diaz were mostly about looking after my team OBP. It’s hard to say what to reasonably expect from Diaz after he posted a negative average launch angle last year (really), but he finished with a .428 on-base percentage with more walks (23) than strikeouts (17). Meanwhile, Hernandez appears locked into the leadoff spot for Cleveland. Lowe has really struggled this spring and hopefully won’t find himself squeezed out of another opportunity.
Reserve round picks:
At this point, it’s about depth and upside. Peterson fits more in the depth category while Clase and Howard are strictly upside. Cleveland’s late-inning situation is undefined, so I wanted at least one piece of that. Howard might have underwhelmed during his first taste of the majors last season, but he’s looked electric this spring and needs to have some sort of role this year.
Sort of like La Stella, I don’t really know how Slater fits into the Giants plans this year, but he did enough last season to pique my interest. While it’s reasonable to expect Wander Franco to arrive in the majors at some point this year, Adames fell way too far here. Wittgren might even be a better bet to notch saves with the Indians this year than Clase.
My quick lineup takeaways:
The best thing about my roster is the flexibility, notably with Lowe, Edman, and La Stella. This allows me to target any and all positions on the waiver wire and shuffle things around to maximize output. There’s injury risk with my lineup (d’Arnaud, Donaldson, Murphy, Haniger in particular), so I’m going to need some good luck with this group. OBP isn’t likely to be a strength for this team, nor is power, but I’m not going to be a zero, either. This team will compete everywhere.
My quick pitching staff takeaways:
A lot is riding on what Stroman and Taillon do after their respective long layoffs. I’m fairly confident in Darvish and Gallen leading my rotation. Maile, Sheffield, and Howard are the breakout candidates and Peterson is more a depth play aimed at specific favorable weeks. Five of my 29 picks were relievers and odds are I’ll get two and maybe three closers out of it. There’s no harm with throwing them back in the waiver wire pool if things don’t work out.
My quick league takeaways:
The general consensus among fantasy analysts this spring is that you need to grab a couple of early horses due to the uncertainty about workloads this year. The majority of drafters (this author included) used that approach, with Scott White standing out. He took three pitchers (Bieber, Nola, Maeda) in his first four rounds. Perry Van Hook took a decidedly different approach, as he waited until the 6th round (Hyun-Jin Ryu) for his first starter before taking Zack Greinke and Julio Urias in the next two rounds. It will be fascinating to see how these approaches play out. If the newly-altered baseball indeed puts a damper on offense this year, maybe grabbing those elite bats early as opposed to pitchers will indeed be the right way to go. As in, it could be easier to find useful pitchers on the waiver wire.
The other interesting part of White’s draft is that he didn’t invest in a single closer, instead opting for IL-bound players Luis Severino and Framber Valdez and exciting youngsters like Brendan Rodgers, Michael Kopech, Jo Adell, and even Jeter Downs. I have no doubt that it will still be possible for him to compete in the saves category given the turnover in the league, but the pressure will be on. Hey, he’s the champ for a reason. Anthony Perri was one of the last players to invest in a closer (he took Mark Melancon in the 17th round), but he added Greg Holland, Giovanny Gallegos, and Sean Doolittle right after that. All make for good speculative plays.