Below is the first in a series of articles this year tracking my progress in the Tout Wars Mixed Draft league. The league features some of the industry’s brightest minds, so it’s a heck of a challenge. I’m coming off a fifth-place finish last year after finishing sixth in my rookie year in 2017, so I’m hoping to make a serious push up the standings this year.
Just to provide some context for those unfamiliar with how Tout Wars operates, this is a 15-team 5x5, with two catchers and on-base percentage instead of batting average. The draft took place last Tuesday evening, so below you’ll find my thoughts on strategy and takeaways from the draft in general.
Before we get started, here’s a list of the other participants and their affiliations:
Rudy Gamble - Razzball
Adam Ronis - Scout Fantasy Sports
Scott White - CBS Sports
Seth Trachtman - Rotoworld
Perry Van Hook - Mastersball
Greg Ambrosius - NFBC
Ray Murphy - Baseball HQ
Michael Waldo - Sirius XM/Fantistics
Peter Kreutzer - The Fantasy Baseball Guide
Michael Beller - Sports Illustrated
Tom Kessenich - SportsHub Games Network
Charlie Wiegert - CDM Sports
Tim McLeod - Prospects 361
Tim McCullough - Baseball Prospectus
You can see the full Tout Wars mixed league draft board here, but below are my picks with commentary:
1st round: Christian Yelich OF, Brewers
Can Yelich duplicate his unexpected power spike from last season? I’m skeptical, as he still hits the ball on the ground too frequently, but he provides a safe floor for this sort of format. .375 career OBP, excellent across-the-board skills, part of a great lineup, and plays half of his games in a hitter-friendly stadium. It’s a potent combo deserving of the fifth overall pick.
2nd round: Corey Kluber SP, Indians
Kluber took a step back last year, but he still managed 20 wins to go along with 222 strikeouts and a 2.89 ERA. Imagine having that considered to be a “down” year. I’ll take it. While there’s a decent chance we’ve seen the best of Kluber already, he still has great control and finds himself in an enviable situation squaring off against some bad teams in the AL Central.
3rd round: Cody Bellinger 1B/OF, Dodgers
I was starting to lean toward taking Anthony Rizzo here, but he was scooped up two picks before mine. Still, Bellinger is a fine backup plan. The 23-year-old failed to match the same sort of power last year that he showed as a rookie in 2017, but he still smacked 25 homers while going 14-for-15 in stolen base attempts. Bellinger has cut down on his strikeouts — and improved his contact rate — while continuing to show good patience. He had a .352 OBP as a rookie in 2017 and a .343 OBP last year. The outfield eligibility gives some handy flexibility to any fantasy roster.
4th round: J.T. Realmuto C, Phillies
Realmuto is my top fantasy catcher this year, so I felt like getting him here was an important move at a position that is just plain bad. Given the home/road splits in his career, Realmuto could be even better this year. The pick gave me a nice head start on the competition. While things didn’t work out as hoped, I was originally planning to take Realmuto and then Gary Sanchez on the way back around. That would have been fun. So it goes.
5th round: Gleyber Torres 2B/SS, Yankees
I wasn’t thrilled with the options at shortstop at this point, so snagging Torres felt defensible. The youngster was up and down during his rookie season, but he still ended up with 22 homers and an .820 OPS over 123 games. He could stand to improve his strikeout rate and his production against right-handers, but given his age, it doesn’t sound unrealistic that he will. Torres is in a great situation and provides flexibility depending on how the rest of the draft turns out.
6th round: Zack Wheeler SP, Mets
The idea of Wheeler going in the sixth round would have been crazy a year ago, but he’s earned it. With a big-time velocity spike, he posted a 2.61 ERA over his final 22 starts last season. Efficiency was a real issue for him in the past, but he improved his walk rate in a major way and pitched deeper into games. You can’t help but worry about his injury history, but I’m happy with him as my No. 2 starter, ahead of the likes of Miles Mikolas and Madison Bumgarner.
7th round: Felipe Vazquez RP, Pirates
The top closers were falling off the board at this point and I wasn’t going to pick again for a while, so it was time to make my move. I ultimately opted for Vazquez over names like Aroldis Chapman, Sean Doolittle, and Jose Leclerc. I just think I’m going to get more innings out of Vazquez. He’s reached 70 in three straight years. Chapman obviously has the strikeout edge, but he’s been under 60 innings in each of the last three years.
8th round: Mallex Smith OF, Rays
Time for a speed play. Even with Smith’s strained elbow this spring, there’s a decent chance he’s ready to go following the Tokyo Series with the Athletics. The 25-year-old stole 40 bases in 141 games with the Rays last season and posted a .367 on-base percentage in the process. The approach is solid and he’s expected to hit leadoff in the Mariners’ lineup, so he should find himself near the top of the stolen base leaderboard again in 2019.
9th round: Miguel Andujar 3B, Yankees
I secured some on-base heavy options already, so picking Andujar felt right at this point in the draft. The 24-year-old drew just 25 walks in 606 plate appearances last season, resulting in a .328 on-base percentage, but it’s hard to complain about 27 homers, 92 RBI, and 83 runs scored in 149 games. His defense is worrisome to the point where the Yankees could consider alternatives if he gets off to a slow start at the plate, but I’ll take my chances here. Similar to Torres above, you have to love the situation.
10th round: Chris Archer SP, Pirates
It feels like everyone is down on Archer, but that’s exactly why I like him right now. His price is downright reasonable. And he could even be undervalued at this point. I’m optimistic in a rebound with a full year in the National League and we know the strikeouts will be there no matter what.
11th round: Adam Eaton OF, Nationals
I was originally hoping to get Brandon Nimmo, but he was selected just before my Archer pick. Still, I was able to add another quality on-base percentage play in Eaton. I worry a bit about his health, but he owns a .363 on-base percentage for his career and should pile up plenty of runs scored atop the Nationals’ lineup.
12th round: Paul DeJong SS, Cardinals
Snagging Eaton made me feel better about getting DeJong with my next pick. It will also enable me to slide Gleyber Torres over to second base. DeJong has an underwhelming .319 on-base percentage though his first 223 games in the majors, but he socked 25 homers in 108 games as a rookie in 2017 and 19 homers in 115 games last year. It’s a trade-off I’m willing to make here.
13th round: Alex Colome RP, White Sox
Maybe it’s because he finished last season as a set-up man in Seattle, but Colome could be going undervalued as a potential closer. Remember, he led the American League with 47 saves with the Rays in 2017. He rebounded nicely last year with his strikeout and walk rates. The biggest danger to Colome isn’t the names behind him on the depth chart, but rather the chance that he’s traded at some point during the year.
14th round: Luke Voit 1B, Yankees
The first base competition is wide open with the Yankees, but here’s hoping Voit beats out Greg Bird. He should still be considered the favorite after his strong finish last year. According to Statcast data, among hitters with at least 100 batted ball events, Voit ranked first in barrels per plate appearance, third in hard-hit percentage, and 11th in average exit velocity.
15th round: Ross Stripling SP/RP, Dodgers
With Clayton Kershaw slated to miss the start of the season, Stripling is the next man up in the Dodgers’ rotation. I see him as a potential value after he posted a 3.02 ERA and 136/22 K/BB ratio over 122 innings last season. With the injury histories of Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu, he should see plenty of work even if Kershaw isn’t out long.
16th round: Marwin Gonzalez INF/OF, Twins
Gonzalez became more attractive this week with news coming down that Miguel Sano will be out until May following a debridement procedure for a cut on his lower right Achilles. Of course, Gonzalez’s most important attribute is that he’s eligible all over the place, but it doesn’t hurt that he offers some pop and should be locked into regular playing time to begin the year.
17th round: Steven Souza OF, Rays
Souza was one of my favorite picks last year, but his season was essentially ruined after he injured his right pectoral toward the end of spring training. He ended up with a brutal .678 OPS in 72 games. I’ll give him another shot now that his price is more reasonable. If healthy, Souza is capable of getting on base while providing pop and speed.
Matz managed to stay mostly healthy last year and is a decent enough option to round out a mixed league staff. May was great in his return from Tommy John surgery last year and possesses plenty of upside as a potential closer option for the Twins. Soler was limited to 61 games last year due to a fractured toe, but he still put up a .354 on-base percentage and an .820 OPS.
I’m not sure how the Padres’ outfield will shake out, but Cordero offers interesting pop and speed amid all of the strikeouts. Cahill was pretty good when healthy last year, posting a 3.76 ERA and 100/41 K/BB ratio over 110 innings, and remains in the AL West after signing with the Angels. Iannetta owns a .347 on-base percentage for his career and makes for a respectable second catcher here.