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2012 Draft Prep: Tout Wars takeaways

Senior Fantasy Writer
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For those unfamiliar with Tout Wars, here's a quick rundown: 41 of the world's best fantasy baseball players gather in New York City to participate in three separate leagues (AL only, NL only, and Mixed). It's auction style against the best and the brightest, meaning there are no sleepers -- only gambles, outbids, and frustrated sighs when a catcher you were trying to sneak through for a dollar is bid up to two by that dude across the room.

Tout Wars isn't just a slap-ourselves-on-the-back festival of narcissism for Fantasy experts; its original intent was to provide a value barometer for the millions of Fantasy Baseball players looking for advice as they go into their own drafts.

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In Saturday's mixed league, for instance, which took place just hours after Ryan Madson's need for surgery was made public, "RYAN MADSON TOMMY JOHN" was written on a piece of paper and waved in front of participants by auctioneer Jeff Erickson (of Rotowire) before the auction began. Supposed new closer Sean Marshall promptly went for $12. By comparison, Cleveland closer Chris Perez cost $7, Seattle's Brandon League cost $10, and Jose Valverde went for $12. I bought Aroldis Chapman for a dollar.

In Sunday's NL-only auction, a room of experts collectively managed to place Marshall's value at $13. He cost three dollars more than Dodgers closer Javy Guerra and a dollar more than Nationals closer Drew Storen. Chapman went for $5.

So, even though I personally think Chapman will find his way into the closer role at some point (if he doesn't remain a high-strikeout starter, which would still make him a bargain for a buck), I can't ignore the fact that a bunch of experts disagree. Vehemently. And this was just one of many nuggets I took away from my Tout Wars weekend. Read on for more lessons learned over the three days of auctioning, player-buying, and speculating ...

Freddie Freeman is not getting the respect he deserves: Freeman hit .282 with 21 home runs last year, his rookie campaign with the Braves. It's not out of the question to think he can hit 30 this year, and do so at first base in a league that lost two of its top first basemen (Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols). But Freeman commanded just $14 in Tout Mixed. On the NL-only side, Yahoo's Scott Pianowski added him for $22. His current ADP on CBSSports.com is 130, behind Derek Jeter, Jason Heyward and Dee Gordon.

The Hawaiian Lion is the greatest shot you've never head of: It's Goldschlager on the bottom and Jose Cuervo gold on top. It's delicious. I swear. And that's what makes it so dangerous. It made the Friday night Tout Wars party both a little more and a little less memorable.

Four very different reserve gambles: My reserve draft (a quick snake done after the auction to fill out the bench) consisted of four players who could either fade into obscurity or be pleasant bargains:

Chone Figgins: Best case, he gets cheap steals and has a rebound in average. Worst case, he repeats his dismal 2011 and I cut him for Rod Barajas.

Kerry Wood: Best case, Carlos Marmol is traded or injured, and he takes over as closer. Worst case, he's an effective middle reliever with a high strikeout rate.

Grady Sizemore: Best case, he sits on my DL (doing no harm to roster size) and then returns with a bang in two months. Worst case, he sits on my DL doing no harm to my roster size. I am still able to add Rod Barajas.

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Kevin Gregg: Best case, he emerges as the Baltimore closer or is traded to Cincinnati to close. Worst case, he's a poor man's Kerry Wood.

Sorry, Cory: At the end of the Mixed auction, MLB.com's Cory Schwartz called out A.J. Pierzynski for a dollar. At that point, I had $4 to spend on two players, so I bought him for $2, figuring he's good for a nice batting average and will hit second, apparently, in the Chicago lineup. Just so everyone doesn't think I'm some heartless dream-shatterer, I was on the other end of that, "I'll go two," outbid a few times, most notably when Fred Zinkie went up to $2 on Josh Willingham, a player I thought I could sneak into my outfield for a dollar.

Every league needs a Zinkie: The defending Tout Mixed champ also probably set the record for most trade offers last year, and while they weren't all sent to me, he managed to chronicle a several-week-long odyssey of counter-offers and insane proposals that were exchanged between us. Not every league literally needs Fred Zinkie, but it helps to have someone who you know will always at least be receptive to helping you work out a trade, and do so fairly. I think our league of 15 has at least 10 free-wheeling, let's-make-a-deal-type owners who fit that bill, possibly more.

Don't forget about Ryan Howard : He went for $7 in Tout Mixed and is probably worth $10-11. He'll likely make a team back up to $15 in value. Paul Singman nabbed him in Tout Mixed, and can now DL him, pick up a middling first basemen to hold him over, then reap the rewards of a healthy Howard for the second half of the season. In keeper leagues, he's even more of a smart, sneaky play.

Oh, hold on: Apparently, Cory Schwartz believes that my $39 Hanley Ramirez purchase was the most egregious act of overspending in the auction, so now I don't feel so bad about stealing his would-be catcher.

In defense of Hanley: A year ago, we were talking about him as the top overall Fantasy player. He went for $49 in last year's auction and, as we all know, hit a bit of a rough patch in 2011. But consider that he was hurt, he has a new manager this year, he'll have eligibility at shortstop and third base, and he has a much stronger lineup around him this year. Add all that together, and I see at least $39 worth of value coming back.

Two pitchers I wish I had gone the extra dollar on:

Stephen Strasburg: Sports Illustrated's Eric Mack got him for $17. Looking back, at $18 (assuming nobody else went bid him up to $19), he would have been a great addition to my staff. Lots of strikeouts, a low whip, and low ERA.

Mark Buehrle: Wise Guy Baseball's Gene McCaffrey and I were stuck at a tiny table off to the side at last year's Mixed draft, and we kept going after the same players. This year, we nabbed seats at the normal table ( FantasyBaseballSherpa.com's Scott Swanay sat on the floor for the five-hour extravaganza), and didn't tangle at all. But Gene's $2 Buehrle could turn out to be a tremendous buy. The last time he pitched less than 200 innings in a season, Justin Bieber was five years old.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers working to fix command issues
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers gave up four runs on four hits in Thursday's game, his first rough patch of spring training. Brothers thinks his command faded when he got batters down in the count, reports the Denver Post.

"It was like an out-of-body experience," he said Friday. "Just one of those oddity nights. I was sharp until I got into put-away counts, then it was brutal. Absolutely brutal."

Manager Walt Weiss isn't concerned about his appearance and thinks it was more of an aberration.

"There's been enough positive signs in spring to feel good about where he is," Weiss said. "But fact of the matter is, that stuff is always right around the corner. Not just him, but anybody."


Seven no-hit innings for Royals' Yordano Ventura
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:56 am ET) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura threw seven no-hit innings in Friday's start. 

Ventura walked two and struck out four, while throwing 49 of his 88 pitches for strikes. He lowered his spring ERA to 5.14.

The Royals took Ventura from the game after the seventh, as reliever Jason Frasor made it one out further before giving up a hit. 

The bullpen completed the one-hitter. 


Brewers pitcher Will Smith holds key to success out of the bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:49 am ET) Brewers pitcher Will Smith could be the best cog in Milwaukee's bullpen this season. Manager Ron Roenicke sure hopes so, reports MLB.com.

"I think coming into it, we're counting on him to pitch some high-leverage innings," Roenicke said Friday. "He's going to be a huge part of that bullpen and what we do and how I match up the seventh and eighth inning. He's going to be important."

Smith has a 0.87 ERA in eight appearances this spring and posted a 3.70 ERA in 78 games last season.

"My last two outings I felt really good out there, really strong," Smith said on Friday. "Me and the catchers are on the same page for everything now. I think I'm good to go now."


Still no decision between Mariners' Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon still hasn't named a winner in the battle for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. 

RHP Taijuan Walker and LHP Roenis Elias are in the running for the spot. Walker has a 0.00 ERA in 18 innings this spring, while Elias' ERA is 6.75. 

McClendon said he wouldn't announce his fifth starter until the final week of spring. Saturday marks the start of the final week, and McClendon said he'd "be close" to making the call, per MLB.com's Greg Johns.


Brewers to decide leadoff hitter Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:36 am ET) Brewers manager Ron Roenicke plans to decide between Scooter Gennett and Carlos Gomez for the leadoff spot in the lineup by Monday, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Gennett hit .289 with 54 RBI and 55 runs scored in 440 plate appearances last season while Gomez hit.284 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI in 574 plate appearances.


Phillies' Jake Diekman historically bad in loss
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Phillies pitcher Jake Diekman declared his Friday appearance, "the worst outing in the history of the world." 

Diekman entered a scoreless game in the fifth inning and promptly gave up a double and four singles before recording an out. He ended up allowing seven runs in one third of an inning.

"I fell behind in counts and every strike I threw they took a good swing at," Diekman said, per CSN Philly. "It’s embarrassing. ... It's unbelievable." 

Despite his 12.27 ERA, Diekman got a vote of confidence from manager Ryne Sandberg. "There’s no concern," he said. 


Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy gets first start at first base Friday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Brewers regular catcher Jonathan Lucroy drew his first start at first base after being cleared from a strained right hamstring injury. Manager Ron Roenicke wanted to be able to see Lucroy's versatility.

"Thought we needed to do it, so hopefully we can do it at least once more,” said Roenicke to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "But as much as he gets out there, it will help. There’s some pitchers that we still want him to catch and if we can get through those then maybe some other days we can get him over there again."

Lucroy was happy to finally be back on the field.

"I've been doing a little bit out there every day," Lucroy said. "Taking some grounders and stuff to stay sharp over there."


Cardinals' John Lackey ready for the regular season
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) John Lackey pitched seven innings, the longest of any Cardinals starter so far this season. 

Lackey allowed one run on six hits and didn't walk a batter, throwing 84 pitches. 

"Throwing seven innings, that was probably a little bit further than I thought I'd go today with the pitch count," said Lackey, per MLB.com's Jennifer Langosch. "But they were pretty aggressive, and I was throwing a lot of strikes. It worked out pretty good."

Lackey had his catcher call the game as if it were a regular season game, and his performance indicates that he's ready for the season to begin.

"That's what it looked like," coach David Bell said. "It looked like he was making all his pitches. The velocity was there. He probably had a little more in the tank, which is a good thing."


Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez not worried about role on staff
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez gave up just one run on five hits in five innings of work Friday against the Nationals. Martinez, who is competing for the final spot in St. Louis' starting rotation, has allowed just seven runs in 16 innings of work.

"I've been working hard," Martinez said through an interpreter to MLB.com. "Some of the outings haven't gone as good as I've wanted to, but I'm just trying to learn from that and get better every day."

Martinez is still focused on earning a starting spot.

"Right now I'm fighting to be a starter," Martinez said. "But if they call me into the bullpen I'm going to be ready for the team. I just want to help the team win, and I'm going to be ready when my name gets called."


Rays pitcher Everett Teaford making push for spot on pitching staff
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) Rays pitcher Everett Teaford tossed two scoreless innings Friday, sending all six batters down in order. The 31-year-old is making management give him an extra look before deciding on the final pitching staff, reports MLB.com.

"I thought he threw the ball well. First pitch, Reimold was ready to go, but after that I thought Teaf did a nice job of mixing pitches just like he always does," manager Kevin Cash said.

Cash likes that Teaford can get out of nearly any situation that arises.

"He's been around enough that he's probably given up enough home runs and big hits so he knows how to handle it when he does deal with some adversity," said Cash. "I wouldn't have expected anything other than that from him. Just getting right back into the strike zone again."

Teaford has spent most of spring training working on his command and effectiveness.

"That's really been the biggest thing I wanted to do this spring is not walk anybody. If I'm going to get beat, make them beat me and up to this point, I really have," said Teaford.


 
 
 
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