Commentary

Mixed Tout Wars: Liriano, Drew are bargains

Updated: April 2, 2009, 4:10 PM ET
By Brendan Roberts | ESPN.com

Ah, New York City in the springtime. On a nice sunny day, I was surrounded by many of my industry friends, I was all prepared to have a fine Tout Wars auction in my 15-team league, complete with a functional dollar-value spreadsheet that tracks the auction … picture me smiling and cracking my knuckles, ready to go to work.

"Oh, for those of you who don't know, there are now 17 teams in this league, not 15."

The reasons behind this change to the Tout Wars Mixed League made sense, but suddenly my spreadsheet was now defunct. My high-rise hotel room didn't seem like a great idea as I waited for the elevator, clouds set over Times Square … and I didn't even get a chance to crack my knuckles.

Where should they go? Insider
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I had to wing it. My tracking spreadsheet couldn't help me much, so I printed out the values and just figured I'd make my own adjustments, namely trying to add about 15 percent to the values in my head, making notes about the changed depth at each position and then marking players a little deeper down my list I could live with if I had to.

All in all, I think I did OK, but not great. I was happy with my big buys, but it turned out my end-game sleepers were still in demand too much for me to get 'em. Thus, I got players who I felt belonged, but they weren't my guys. The saving grace was that everybody else was dealing with the same dollar-value dilemma, and it didn't seem like many of us had a good grip as to what the stages and appropriate values were.

Here's how it all broke down:

Catcher

Geovany Soto, $18: I was happy to get a top-3 catcher, for sure. I expected him to go for more.

Tout Wars recaps

AL-only: Matthew Berry
NL-only: Tristan H. Cockcroft
Mixed: Brendan Roberts

Chris Iannetta, $12: I foresee a breakout season for him. Other owners talked about the "great bargains" they got at catcher, but I don't think their guys have as much upside as mine does.

Buys I liked at this position
Ramon Hernandez, $7: My fellow ESPNer Eric Karabell got a bargain for R-Hern only after I had filled the slots.
Taylor Teagarden, $1: A personal preference here. He'd probably go for about this in a mixed auction, but I expect big things from him and would have paid more if I had needed a catcher.

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
Joe Mauer, $15: Surprisingly, the guy who paid this inflated price was Baseball Prospectus injury expert Will Carroll. As someone quipped, "What do you know that we don't know?"
• Matt Wieters, $15: This isn't a keeper league, so he might get only four months of Wieters at a premium price for a catcher.

Corner infielders

Mark Teixeira, $37: I was determined to get an elite hitter, and Teixeira was the guy I felt I liked better than the masses. This isn't a bargain by any means, but I also didn't feel I overpaid.

Kevin Kouzmanoff, $3: Perhaps my bargain of the draft. Kouz has 20-homer power and still has his best years ahead of him, and I got him for barely more than the league minimum. That'll work.

David Freese
AP Photo/Richard DrewDavid Freese could wind up as a nice early-season bargain if Troy Glaus misses more time than originally thought.
David Freese, $1: Going on a hunch here and using my knowledge of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. It sounds like: a) Troy Glaus is almost back to square one in his rehab from shoulder surgery (he's ceased baseball activities), so he won't be back anytime soon, and b) Freese is the favorite to start for the Redbirds at third base on Opening Day. And he's been hitting well in spring games. When I looked at the remaining dollar options, I saw a lot of bland choices and figured I'd take a chance on some upside. Remember, Freese, who went to high school in St. Louis, is not a typical no-name prospect. He's almost 26, and he hit .306 with 26 homers and 91 RBIs (and a .361 OBP) in Triple-A last season. I see him as being big-league ready, and if he's not, I can always swap him out for one of the bland choices. This is a calculated risk, and one I felt I had to take to win a 17-team league.

Buys I liked at this position
Paul Konerko, $7: A small price for what I believe will be 25 to 30 homers.
Adam LaRoche, $5: Ditto. Another nice buy for Karabell.

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
David Wright, $50: Just seemed a little exorbitant. For comparison's sake, Miguel Cabrera went for $10 less. Then again, we were in New York.
Evan Longoria, $36: Hmm, guess I'm just not comfortable with his going for more than Carlos Beltran, Tim Lincecum and Johan Santana. But if you like him …

Middle infielders

Freddy Sanchez, $5: Another case of this being a guy, but not really my guy. Not a good price, either. Might be the buy I regret the most in this draft.

Stephen Drew
Brad Mangin/Getty ImagesStephen Drew had 76 extra-base hits last season, a nice bounce-back after a disappointing 2007.
Stephen Drew, $19: For as much as I like him, this is a great price. I mean, Derek Jeter, a guy I like about the same, went for $22.

Jed Lowrie, $2: Reasonable price, but again, not really a guy I like.

Buys I liked at this position
Dustin Pedroia, $30: $30 a good buy? Well, Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler both went for $37. Pedroia has already proven himself, even if he "can't hit the high and inside fastball."
Ryan Theriot, $5: A shortstop who steals 20-plus bases really should have been more in demand than this.

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
Jose Reyes, $55: Or $55 for anybody.
Rickie Weeks, $12: Well, I wouldn't have spent $11 less than this, but the fact that he went for more than Placido Polanco ($8) and Howie Kendrick ($10) just doesn't seem right.

Outfielders/utility

Raul Ibanez, $20: The other buy (besides Freddy Sanchez) that I'm not happy about. I like him, but not in a $20 sort of way. Also, his being my first outfielder is a reminder that I'm a bit weak on offense.

Rick Ankiel, $10: Doesn't look too bad on paper, but I got him late, when $10 buys looked like $40 buys.

Willy Taveras, $8: But this I like. Heck, for this price, if he steals just 30 to 35 bases, this is a bargain. I think he'll steal more like 50.

Franklin Gutierrez, $1: The best of my "I would happily live with" options, and at a great price.

Chris Duncan, $1: Again, using my knowledge of the Cards. All the buzz in left field is about Colby Rasmus (who went for $3), but right now, Duncan is in line to play more than the kid. And Duncan has looked great (read: healthy) all spring. In my cheap buys, I tend to play for the short term, not the long. Duncan looks better for April, and I know there would be good options available should I need to replace him. That's why my mixed teams usually don't fare well when you project the stats/standings.

Utility: Gary Sheffield, $2: I still like The Sheff, and in all fairness, this was when he was still employed. For what it's worth, I think he will be employed again soon, and I'm keeping him.

Buys I liked at this position
Brett Gardner, $1: Good hitter, great lineup, tremendous speed.
Brian Giles, $1: He still has too much left, and had too good of a 2008 season, to be a $1 guy.
Michael Bourn, $2: I know he hits for a low average (and posts a terrible OBP), but he's improving, and his playing time doesn't seem to be in jeopardy. All that matters to me is that he could steal 40 bases, and this is a great price to get that.

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
Nate McLouth, $28: I guess I'm just not a believer, at least not enough to pay well more for him than Vladimir Guerrero, Carlos Quentin and Jason Bay.
Jayson Werth, $20: I'm not sold on him yet. I thought my $20 buy of Ibanez was bad, and I still like him better than Werth.
Torii Hunter, $21: A .275 average and maybe 20-20 numbers, at the very best. Doesn't smell like $21 to me.

Tim Lincecum
Daniel R. Harris/Icon SMICan Tim Lincecum provide a repeat performance of his 265 strikeouts from last season?

Starting pitchers

Tim Lincecum, $31: Simply because I felt starting pitchers were going for less than they should, this just happened to be where I bulked up. It all started with what I feel is a fine price for Lincecum.

Dan Haren, $26: Not necessarily that great a price, but I do think we've yet to see Haren's best for a full season.

Rich Harden, $13: Oh, spare me the injury whining, folks. He's healthy now, and at least figures to pitch well when he does start. A player of his ilk at $13 is a great price. Again, I live for the now in mixed leagues.

Francisco Liriano, $19: Not really a bargain, but if he pitches at the level he's capable of (like an elite option) -- and I think he will -- this will be.

Chris Volstad, $4: One of my better buys. He has impeccable control and will post a good WHIP/ERA. I could afford his lesser strikeout rate because I had the "Big Four" above.

Jeremy Guthrie, $1: Same as Volstad, except Guthrie is perennially undervalued, probably because he has an orange bird on his uniform.

Buys I liked at this position
Erik Bedard, $9: Not raising him to at least $10 -- I had a lot of pitching slots filled -- bothered me well into the night.
Armando Galarraga, $2: In a related note, why is everyone completely trashing this guy in their rankings?
Kenshin Kawakami, $3: Yeah, that's right, I think he's gonna have a decent season … what're you gonna do about it?
Yovani Gallardo, $13: Another excellent buy for my Mr. Karabell, whose team is quickly becoming the class of the league.

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
Ted Lilly, $16: I like his name (Theodore Roosevelt Lilly), but not his skills for that price. I think Wrigley Field bites him more this season.
John Lackey, $13: Looked OK at the time (although I did have a bad feeling about him), but in hindsight, spending this kind of money for him might not work out so well.
A.J. Burnett, $18: To be fair, this is compared to the rest of the starters. I had to search hard just to find three "overpriced" guys.

Relief pitchers

Joe Nathan, $25: Really like this. My "don't pay for saves" extends only to the guys in the middle range (because I don't like many of 'em). In my auctions, I shoot for one of those top 4 or 5 guys, and then forget about closers till they're cheap.

Miguel Batista, $1: In all fairness, this is when it appeared he was the closer. Drop time!

Justin Masterson, $1: A guy I really like, whether he's starting or in the bullpen. Don't leave a deep-league auction table without him.

Buys I liked at this position
Brandon Morrow, $6: I checked his status closely before the auction, but even then, I had this sneaking suspicion he'd end up as the closer. I should have put my money where my gut said to.
Brad Ziegler, $3: The latest on Joey Devine doesn't sound too good -- you rarely come out of Dr. James Andrews' office with a clean bill of health, a smile and a shiny red lollipop -- making this a potential steal of a rate for a closer.

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
Carlos Marmol, $10: All the signs were there that Marmol would end up back in the set-up role, at least for now, and this is too much for a set-up man.
Frank Francisco, $16: This is consistent with other auctions I've been in, but I guess I'm the only guy who questions him because he's unproven as a closer and pitches in Texas.

And there you have it. We're talking right now about a fifth-place team, with the potential for better … or much lower.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer and editor for ESPN Fantasy.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy. He has been covering fantasy sports as an editor and writer for more than eight years and was awarded the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2006 from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Roberts can be read in both the fantasy baseball and football areas at ESPN.com.