2024 Fantasy Baseball: AL Tout Wars recap

Vinnie Pasquantino
Vinnie Pasquantino

This past Saturday, I was privileged to participate in my second AL Tout Wars draft. The long-standing industry league had a series of drafts that took place in Manhattan, so it was just a quick jaunt for me, and it's always a great experience to get to participate in the auction draft live and in the room with so many notable fantasy baseball players.

Before I share my team and my general strategies and takeaways from the draft, just a quick breakdown of the Tout Wars rules. The Tout Wars AL-Only league is a standard 12-team league with 23-player starting rosters, but it uses OBP instead of AVG in the 5×5 categories. It seems like a small thing but it really alters the value of a few players, which we'll discuss later. AL-Only Tout Wars also only has four starting outfield slots instead of five, one 'INF' spot instead of both 'MIF' and 'CIF' spots, and adds two slots for a 'Swingman,' which can be filled by either a hitter or a pitcher and can be changed each week.

I hope that, in walking you through my thought process and execution (or lack thereof) in this auction, you can crystalize your process and learn from my mistakes and successes to help you come away with the most successful draft possible.

Draft Prep

The beginning of my preparation started much like any other draft. I used Tanner Bell's SGP sheet with ATC projections (modified for some players where I feel like the projections are missing) and created valuations and rankings for my drafts. I limited the player pool to just AL-only and then updated any reliever projections based on the awesome work done by the Reliever Recon crew. I worked with them for a year before coming to Rotoworld, and I know how locked in they are, so I trust their opinions over most anybody.

After the SGP sheet gave me dollar values based on the AL Tout league settings, I went back and looked at last year's AL Tout auction to see how much money players went for. I then checked my dollar values and playing time projections again to ensure I wasn't drastically off on anything.

However, then I decided to do something differently.

Given that Doug Dennis has won two years in a row by not drafting a single starting pitcher. I had to adapt to what he was doing. I mapped out my strategy to ensure I got a few big-money bats and then had a list of $8 and cheaper targets for the other hitting spots based on the category value they would give my team. When it came to pitching, I planned to trust my knowledge of the starting pitching pool and decided to bid for one ace and then fill out the rest of my staff with value starters, which would give me more money to spend on hitting. I also knew that if I paid up for two main relievers, I could find solid relievers later as well and I could split my nine-man staff with five starters and four relievers to try to keep my ratios in check.

So how did I do?

Eric’s 2024 AL Tout Wars Team

AL Tout
AL Tout

General Observations

We saw the impact of the new positions - or perhaps the recent success of Doug Dennis - right off the bat. Last year, 15 hitters went for $28 or more. This year, it was 20. That may not seem like a lot, but it was indicative of the larger hitter pool being pushed up by a few dollars. Luckily, I had slotted enough money for my top two "big bats" and was able to get Kyle Tucker and Rafael Devers at a value I liked. However, the higher cost for hitters had some ripple effects we'll discuss later.

Another consequence of the hitter prices was that there were many cheaper pitchers than I had anticipated. I expected that I would have an advantage in the room with my in-depth study of the starting pitching landscape and had planned to scoop value starters while saving money for hitting. Some of the value pitchers I got early in the draft wound up not being much of a value by the end of the draft since pitchers I liked were going off the board for $1-3. That caused me to zag a little bit from my draft plan in a way I regret doing.

Where Did I Go Right?

Two of the top "big bats" I wanted were Kyle Tucker and Rafael Devers, so I'm happy I landed them. I love Tucker's ability to contribute across five categories, and with him now hitting in the middle of the Astros' order, I think we're about to see his best season yet. I also didn't love the cheap 3B options in an AL-only format, so I knew I wanted Devers or Jose Ramirez. I figured Ramirez's stolen base value would make him too expensive, and he did go for $6 more than Devers, so I'm more than happy with the price on Devers. For the record, I was planning to pivot to Maikel Garcia if I got outbid on Devers, and I think he's going to have a great season (why do I like so many Royals?)

Overall, I feel great about my power production, with my OBP, HR, and RBI categories all projecting to be higher than the 80th percentile marks from last season. Of course, people spent more on offense this year so those percentiles may go up even more, but I think I'm in a good starting spot.

Vinny Pasquantino is a great target in an OBP format given his walk rate. The same goes for Max Kepler and Nolan Schanuel. I don't like Schanuel in normal 5x5 leagues because I don't think he has much power, but he's shown me a bit more power than I expected this spring, and with the power bats I had on the roster, I could get 10-15 from him and be in great shape, especially considering he's hitting second for the Angels, which should help in runs.

I was also happy to get some of the value hitters I did. I think Gio Urshela is going to play nearly every day in Detroit, and Ramon Laureano is going to start as long as he's healthy in Cleveland, so getting both for a combined $5 was nice. If we do get 110-120 games out of Laureano, I also think his speed potential should help me in a category I was a bit weaker in than I wanted to be.

When it comes to pitching, I would have loved my staff if you told me it was who I'd get before the draft, but I regret missing some other values that popped up late. Getting Tarik Skubal for $25 was good because Framber Valdez went for $26, and I have Skubal about seven spots higher in my rankings. However, Cole Ragans went later for just $16 and I would have happily taken him as my ace and saved the money.

I'm big on the upside of all three of Triston McKenzie, Brayan Bello, and Louie Varland, and then I felt good about balancing their volatility with guys like Dean Kremer and Matt Manning. Kremer made some key second-half changes last year, that I covered here, and I love that he's locked into a spot on a great team. Manning has always posted great ratios in MLB action, but he's now throwing harder, with more vertical movement on his fastball, and looks great this spring.

Lastly, I was happy to get stashes like Coby Mayo and Shane Baz. I expect both to be locked into their team's rosters from June on (at the latest for Mayo) and instead of having to fight for them on the wire, I can slot them into my roster and have them help push my team forward.

Where Did I Go Wrong?

Shortstop is clearly my biggest weakness. During the draft, I had about 5-6 options marked for "value" shortstops: guys like J.P. Crawford, Trevor Story, Jeremy Pena, Zach Neto, and Carlos Correa. Every time they came up early on in the draft, they were going about $2-5 over where I had them valued, so I decided to wait, assuming one of them would come in at my desired range. I didn't want to use up all the money I assumed I'd need to fill out my rotation. In the end, I looked up and all of those guys were gone, and I was left with Ezequiel Duran, who would be a great option if he got everyday at-bats, but he likely won't in Texas.

I also came out of the draft a little bit shorter on speed than I wanted to. I know that Duran, Michael Massey, and Max Kepler will get me some chip-in steals, and Ramon Laureano could push 20 if he plays enough games, but I still needed one more guy. Paying $20 for Story instead of the $15 I had budgeted would have helped there. I think Ceddanne Rafaela can help there. He seems primed to be an everyday player in Boston and could play 2B and SS in addition to CF. I think he can be a 30-steal asset, which is great for me, and I'd love for him to get SS eligibility, but I'm just not sure if/when that will happen since we need 15 games for a player to get a new position.

I like getting Massey for $4 at second base because I believe he's in for a good season, but I now have three hitters from the Royals, and I don't love being over-exposed to fine by not great offenses.

Lastly, I zagged from my strategy of getting primarily relievers because I saw value at the end of the draft in Varland and Manning. Instead of seeing which starters made it back to me in the reserves, I took those guys and trusted that I would get some relievers in the reserve portion. While I'm happy to get Josh Sborz and Shelby Miller, I wanted Jason Foley, John Schreiber, Jordan Leasure, or Chad Green, so I'm a bit bummed I missed out on them.

However, I'm just more bummed that I deviated from my plan. I could have paid up a bit for one of those shortstops and then spent just $1 on Schreiber or Foley instead of $4 on Varland and felt a little more secure about my overall team. Sometimes it's just one pick or one decision that can throw you off.

Yet, the draft is only one portion of the season. Even if I feel fine but not great about how I did here, I know I'll have chances on the wire. I need speed and middle infield depth, so the second an option pops up that looks legitimate, I'm not going to worry about saving my FAAB. Perhaps I can fix my mistake before April is done.