Tip Drill: Scenes from NL-only Tout Wars

It's that time again, amigos, where I relate the results from one of my industry leagues and then 4,329 people pile into the comment area and say snarky things. You know the drill.

It's kind of silly when I get trashed for my Yahoo Friends & Family Drafts — I've won two titles and recorded three second-place finishes in seven years there, and I've never had a bad team. The haters are losing their shirts in that exercise. But if you want to mock my record at Tout Wars, you've got a target to aim at. Although I finished second two consecutive years in NL Tout a few years back, I've been nowhere near the brass ring over the last three seasons.

If you're looking for mixed-league talk, this isn't the place to get it. The NL Tout Wars League is a 13-team mono exercise, where every team is forced to roster some ugly ducklings. The waiver wire is thinner than Kate Moss. One thing I love about mixers is the idea that you can always fix a team on the wire, somehow. If you don't have a good draft/auction result in a mono league, you're in for a long season.

My goal for an only-league is to have no dead spots on offense if I can avoid it: you win these leagues with at-bats, participation. I generally like to get one pitching ace and then work the market for decent deals, and I'd also like to get a closer or two without tapping into the pricy tier. You can win one of these things by punting an area or a category, but I always think that should be the last resort. Whenever possible, get balance, compete in all areas.

I hit a fair amount of those goals, but you'll recognize the belly, the weak area, easily enough.

One other thing about Tout: it's a 5x5 league but there's a slight roster tweak for this year — we're using 13 offensive players (just four outfielders), nine pitchers of any constitution and one "swingman" who can be a second utility player on offense or a tenth pitcher. My goal was to use this spot as a hitter, but I wasn't locked into that. Talent runs out quickly.

For full auction results, click right here. Before you take out the shears to my team, look over the entire league. We've all got holes, somewhere.

Now to my roster, by position:

Catchers: Jonathan Lucroy $10, Ryan Hanigan $8

I approach catchers like I approach closers; I like to get two solid ones without paying for the big-ticket retail. I fully expect Lucroy to return 10 bucks or more easily, and I also like Hanigan at that price, expecting Dusty Baker to lean on the veteran over hot-shot rookie Devin Mesoraco.

A lot of other owners were scrambling at the catcher spot, and not just because there's not much to go around in the NL. One of my Tout competitors, Todd Zola, decided to roster four name catchers (Montero, Ramos, Hundley, Ruiz): two in starting spots, one for his utility and one for his swingman. If you need someone to block a pitch in the dirt this year, go see Lord Zola.

Middles: Brandon Phillips $27, Jose Reyes $30, Jimmy Rollins $22

This was a target area for me, as I don't like the NL's depth at second base and shortstop. I also see a potential speed problem in the NL this year, so I wanted some rabbits here as well. I bought all of these players early, then watched some interesting bidding wars unfold later on (Ian Desmond $18, Starlin Castro $27, Zack Cozart $13, Jason Bartlett $10, Marco Scutaro $14). I envisioned Phillips and Rollins on my team before the auction (something I rarely do); Phillips is one of those consistent-across-the-board performers that sometimes is undervalued, and Rollins as entered the "boring old veteran" part of his career. On Reyes, I was price-enforcing but I have no problem paying the ticket.

Corners: Freddie Freeman $22, David Freese $15, Casey McGehee $7

I waited a while before I entered this fray, but at least two of my purchases are names I feel good about (Freeman impressed me as a rookie, and Freese has breakout written all over him). McGehee comes with obviously fleas, but considering the Pirates have Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones as their nominal corners, at-bats should be available. After spending for big names up the middle, I needed to be budget-conscious here.

Outfielders: Nyjer Morgan $11, Ty Wigginton $13, Brian Bogusevic $6, Carlos Gomez $3

And here's the glaring weakness, the belly, the gaping hole in my offense. After a lot of early spending (the middles, plus my shiny left-handed ace below), I knew I'd be out on the big names in the outfield. No worries, they were fetching big numbers anyway. But what really hurt me in this position was the reality that several of my "maybe he'll be a good price" bargain targets were also fancied by at least one other person in the room. You only need two people with the same irrational love for someone and then you see a crazy price. I felt confident John Mayberry would be reasonably priced: I got out before he eventually fetched $14. Alfonso Soriano went for $13. Jason Bay, a target of mine, chased up to $13. Marlon Byrd was $12, Melky Cabrera (who no one has written a good thing about all spring) landed at $19. And so it goes.

Morgan I'm fine with at $11 and while Wiggy was an overpay, he's versatile and he'll be needed on that old Phillies team. Assuming Bogusevic handles right field and keeps the gig in Houston, he can be a modest profit guy. But this group needs help at the OF4 spot and at the utility and swingman spots, and I wasn't able to land that. Most of my cheap-name ideas for the endgame were getting trampled by owners who had a little more money than I did.

Utility and Swingman: Mark DeRosa $2, Juan Francisco $2

I like both of these guys as "final roster" types, acceptable names for your weakest NL-only roster link. But to need both of them, not to mention Gomez, that's a problem. At least they're both behind plenty of injury-prone players in their respective clubs, so they should get on the field a moderate amount. But at the end of the day, my roster desperately needs one or two more impact players on it, and more power (that's always my problem in these things: forever chasing more power).

Starting Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw $32, Trevor Cahill $7, Chris Capuano $5, Ryan Vogelsong $4, Kyle Lohse $3, Roy Oswalt $1

After the Kershaw-$26 debacle in LABR (how did that ever happen?), I think the entire room knew he'd be fairly priced this time around. I was merely enforcing the number at 32 but I can live with the purchase. Unfortunately it turned into a timing overpay, as the big names right behind Kerhsaw were consistently cheaper by several bucks. Still, if you're going to overpay for anyone, might as well be for an elite talent. That sure beats overpaying for mediocre options later.

I went all-agnostic on the rest of the starting staff: no specific targets, just taking what the room gave me. I know Vogelsong is under attack by the Regression Police, but the cheap $4 tag gives him a lot of room for profit. I'm hoping Oswalt prefers the NL clubs when he signs; if he goes to the AL, his stats don't count for me. Cahill goes to a smaller park, sure, but he'll love watching opposing hitters flailing away and missing. He's still got room for strikeout growth/upside. Capuano's a sneaky pick as well, perhaps the most undervalued strikeout source in the league.

Relief Pitchers: Frank Francisco $14, Brett Myers $13, Andrew Cashner $3

Considering there were just three full-out closers left when I finally got in on the saves chase, I feel good with the return. Of course the room also misplaced a few guys — I don't know how Derek Carty ever got Drew Storen for $12.

Bad teams win games, too, and bad teams can support a closer. If both of these guys can be around 20-25 saves, I'm happy. And maybe things will really fall right and they'll be closer to 30.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Cashner stop at three bucks. Big arm, big park, and he's behind the injury-prone Huston Street. Works for me. He's one of the set-up arms who I'd roster without hesitation in a mixed league.

Bottom Line: I should be very strong in runs scored and stolen bases, and if any of my support starting arms step up, the pitching looks fine. There's not enough power here, not even close. I wouldn't tab this team as a favorite or as a weakling, but we'll see what unfolds on the field.

Here's hoping our sharper commenters will come out and share some intel and insight. Every time someone posts a four-word yapping post in all caps, a kitten dies. Respect the room, further the conversation, gamer.

One last point of housekeeping: I might run a mixed-league auction later this week for the message board regulars. You get into that sort of league by showing me that you understand the game and that you're respectful to everyone else here. Egging my house and picking fights with people here, that will not help you. The choice is yours.

What's that, you're an American League sympathizer? Andy Behrens has the AL Tout Wars Story ready to go. Or you can simply say "the heck with it" on these recaps and go trounce some strangers on the diamond yourself. We'll make as many virtual trophies as you need.

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