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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
Pirates' Sean Rodriguez to make third start at first base
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:58 am ET) The Pirates will start Sean Rodriguez at first base for the third time this season when they face the Marlins on Wednesday.

Rodriguez is hitting .264/.278/.396 with two home runs and four RBI in 53 at-bats this season. He will bat seventh in the lineup.


Red Sox INF/OF Brock Holt returns to lineup Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:58 am ET) After missing two straight games for the Red Sox, Brock Holt has returned to the starting lineup for Wednesday's afternoon game against the Twins. Holt was hit by a pitch on Sunday and did not play the next two games nursing an arm injury.

But the ailment was minor, as Holt is back in right field and hitting eighth for manager John Farrell. Holt is 8 for 30 with four doubles over his last 10 games. 

Rusney Castillo will be on the bench for Wednesday's game.


Rockies SP Jordan Lyles set to rejoin rotation Sunday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:42 am ET) Rockies starting pitcher Jordan Lyles, who is dealing with a toe sprain on his left foot, will rejoin the rotation Sunday against the Phillies, according to MLB.com.

He was bumped from his original start Saturday in order for Jorge De La Rosa to rejoin the rotation after he was scratched Tuesday due to a cut on his hand.

Lyles is 0-4 with a 7.43 ERA in his last five starts.


Rays RP Grant Balfour opts out of contract
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:39 am ET) Rays reliever Grant Balfour has opted out of his minor league contract and was released by the team on Wednesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times

The 37-year-old Australia-native made six appearances earlier this season with the Rays before being released at the end of April. He then re-signed to a minor league deal on May 5. While pitching with Triple-A Durham, Balfour held a 2.79 ERA in eight games, owning a 11:4 K:BB ratio over 9 2/3 innings.

Balfour is now free to sign with any team, though it is not known if he will choose to continue playing or retire. 


Mets' Collins on Wilmer Flores: 'I see a completely different player'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:34 am ET) Wilmer Flores' slow start to the season is becoming a distant memory. The Mets starting shortstop singled home the winning run with two outs in the 10th inning Tuesday against the Phillies, lifting New York to a 5-4 win.

Flores also had a game-tying sac fly in the eighth inning Tuesday and delivered a go-ahead, three-run homer Monday, which helped New York to a 6-3 win.

Flores has had his struggles defensively in 2015, but he is finally turning the corner offensively. He has hit safely in 15 of his last 17 games, while producing four home runs and 13 RBI in that span.

"I truly believe Wilmer's gotten past [his issues]," manager Terry Collins said, per MLB.com. "He realizes there's going to be a day that you're going to make an error. He's got to play through that, and I think he's doing that. We're starting to see a guy who's going to start swinging the bat like we know he can. He's going to put up some offensive numbers that people are going to be pretty impressed by.

"I see a completely different player."


Yankees CF Slade Heathcott will start over Chris Young
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:25 am ET) Yankees center fielder Slade Heathcott will get the start over Chris Young on Wednesday against the Royals.

Both Heathcott and Young are battling for playing time with star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury on the 15-day disabled list with a knee injury.

Young struck out three times in his team's 5-1 win over the Royals on Tuesday, while Heathcott is hitting .357 in just 14 at-bats this season.


Mariners give SS Chris Taylor a rest on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:23 am ET) After starting eight games in a row, Mariners shortstop Chris Taylor will get the day off on Wednesday, as he is being held out of the lineup versus the Rays. In those eight games, the young Taylor has just six hits in 28 at-bats. So manager Lloyd McClendon has decided to give him a rest and clear his head a little.

Brad Miller will get the start at shortstop with Dustin Ackley entering the lineup in left field for the afternoon affair. 


Rays SS Asdrubal Cabrera, OF Steven Souza still sidelined
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:18 am ET) Rays shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and outfielder Steven Souza remain out of the lineup on Wednesday against the Mariners. Both players have been out since Monday, with Cabrera nursing a groin injury and Souza bothered by an injured wrist.

The team has not provided an update on the status of either player, but with the team off on Thursday, there's a chance they could return for Friday's game in Baltimore.

Brandon Guyer continues to handle right field, and Nick Franklin will grab the start at shortstop on Wednesday. 


Reds 2B Brandon Phillips (toe) out of lineup against Rockies
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:15 am ET) Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is out of the starting lineup on Wednesday against the Rockies.

Phillips, who started nine consecutive games before missing Tuesday's game, is dealing with a toe injury on his left foot.

Reds manager Brian Price said that Phillips' toe continues to bother him, and he wanted to give him three days off considering they have a travel day tomorrow, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"I don't want this to become a nagging thing," Price said.

Phillips is hitting .299 with 18 RBI in 154 at-bats this season.

Skip Schumaker will replace Phillips in the Reds' lineup.


Cubs rookie Addison Russell delivers walk-off hit Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:05 am ET) Cubs rookie Addison Russell delivered the clutch hit Tuesday against the Nationals, as he lifted Chicago to a 3-2 win with a game-ending RBI double in the ninth inning. Russell lined a 1-0 pitch off Matt Grace beyond center fielder Denard Span's reach for his third hit of the game.

"My whole mindset going into that at-bat is to just keep the same approach, stay calm, see the pitch that you want to swing at and hit it," Russell said, per MLB.com. "Don't try to do too much.

"It was a great feeling. I was really into seeing the ball good tonight and things just happened. I think that tonight was a good night."

Russell is the third-youngest player in the majors. He is not lighting the world on fire offensively, but he has hit safely in 23 of 31 games since his promotion from the minors. He is also having his struggles in the field as he makes the transition from shortstop to second base.

Still, manager Joe Maddon seems to be happy with the rookie's progression.

"It's not easy to fight through that at that age with that lack of experience," Maddon said. "His mental toughness is really incredible how he's fought through all these difficult moments himself. He's not used to failing.

"So understand where a lot of guys at that age are, developmentally. They're not here. They're somewhere else, without the spotlight on them, learning their craft. And he's done it on the fly here and he's doing a great job."


 
 
 
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