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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
Cubs manager Joe Maddon still believes in Jon Lester
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(9:22 pm ET) Despite Jon Lester's rough start to his Cubs' career, manager Joe Maddon has not lost faith in the free-agent left hander, per the Chicago Tribune.

Lester suffered the loss to the Padres on Sunday, giving up three earned runs in six innings.

"He's getting better. I think he is getting a little sharper with everything," Maddon said. "He still seemed frustrated on certain pitches today ... [but] I think it was a nice step forward."

Lester (0-2, 6.89 ERA) signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs during the offseason.


Scott Van Slyke doubles twice, homers, three RBI in Dodgers' victory
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(9:01 pm ET) Dodgers left fielder Scott Van Slyke went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer, two doubles and three RBI in Sunday's win over the Rockies.

The homer was Van Slyke's first of the season.

"Van Slyke's a tough out. And if you give him an extra chance, more times than not it ends up hurting you," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.

Rangers outfielder Jake Smolinski rips first home run of 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:35 pm ET) Rangers outfielder Jake Smolinski went 2 for 4 at the plate with a home run in Texas' 11-10 loss to the Mariners Sunday. Smolinski went deep in the third inning when he smacked a 3-1 pitch from James Paxton over the left center field wall, driving in Rougned Odor, his first home run and RBI of the year.

Smolinski is now hitting .143 in 21 at-bats this season.


Jeff Francis, Russell Martin become Blue Jays' first Canadian battery
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(8:34 pm ET) When Jeff Francis entered Sunday's game in the fifth inning and pitched to catcher Russell Martin, it marked the first time in Blue Jays' history that the franchise featured a Canadian battery, reports the Toronto Sun

Francis, who hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, was called up by the Blue Jays from Triple-A before Sunday's game. 

Martin is from East York, Ontario.


Mariners outfielder Austin Jackson cracks first home run of the year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:31 pm ET) Mariners outfielder Austin Jackson went 3 for 5 at the plate with a home run and two RBI in Seattle's 11-10 win over the Rangers Sunday.

Jackson got going early, taking a 1-2 pitch from Ross Detwiler over the left center field wall to lead things off in the first inning, his first home run of the season.

Then, in the ninth, Jackson singled to left field, bringing home the game-tying run before Nelson Cruz won it later in the inning. Jackson, who picked up his first two RBI of the year, is now hitting .277 in 47 at-bats this season.


Journeyman P Brandon McCarthy may have found home with Dodgers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:20 pm ET) Journeyman pitcher Brandon McCarthy may have finally found a home as the right hander, who signed a $48 million contract with the Dodgers ($6 million signing bonus) during the offseason, is off to a solid start after his strong performance Sunday against the Rockies, reports the Denver Post.

McCarthy is with his sixth MLB team and seems solidified as the Dodgers' fourth starter this year.

"He was a lot better," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said after Sunday's game. "Take a look at his velocity when we faced him last year in Arizona. He was 90-91. Today, he was 95. He's a completely different pitcher."

Rays outfielder Steven Souza continues hitting tear Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:19 pm ET) Rays outfielder Steven Souza continues to be a force at the plate early in the season. Souza ripped his third home run of the year in the first inning off Michael Pineda, scoring David DeJesus. Souza credits his success to making adjustments, reports MLB.com.

"Their game plan today was pretty obvious -- they were going to come at me with breaking balls," Souza said. "And so I made an adjustment.

"He hung that one and I just barreled it up."

Souza is hitting .289 with 10 RBI in 45 at-bats so far this season.


Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz blows saves, tagged with loss Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:10 pm ET) Rangers relief pitcher Neftali Feliz last 1 1/3 innings Sunday and blew a save opportunity in Texas' 11-10 loss to the Mariners. 

Feliz came on in relief in the eighth and allowed a run, charged to Keone Kela to make it 10-9 before finishing off the inning. Then in the ninth, Feliz put two men on when Austin Jackson singled to right field, scoring Brad Miller from second, giving him his first blown save of the year.

Things got worse from there. Feliz then intentionally walked Robinson Cano to load the bases for Nelson Cruz, who singled to left field to end the game.

Feliz, now 0-1, boasts a 6.00 ERA in six innings of work this season.


Mariners' Nelson Cruz rips two homers, walk-off single in win Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:01 pm ET) Mariners right fielder Nelson Cruz went 3 for 6 at the plate Sunday with two home runs and the game-winning walk off single in the ninth to lead Seattle to an 11-10 win over the Rangers.

Cruz got things going early with a solo homer in the first over the left center field wall on a 1-0 pitch from Ross Detwiler. Cruz then homered again in the third, again off Detwiler, over the left field wall for a three-run shot, his eighth of the season.

Cruz then came up in the ninth with the game tied at 10 and the bases loaded after Texas intentionally walked Robinson Cano. Cruz ripped a 2-2 pitch to left field, bringing home the winning run.

Cruz is now hitting .354 with 14 RBI in 48 at-bats this season.


Rangers pitcher Ross Detwiler allows five runs, earns no decision
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:57 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Ross Detwiler allowed five runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings of work in Texas' 11-10 loss to the Mariners Sunday. 

Detwiler struggled early and often, allowing two home runs in the first inning to Austin Jackson and Nelson Cruz. Then in the third, Detwiler put two men on for Cruz, who ripped the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for a three-run home run. Detwiler allowed two more hitters to reach base before getting the hook.

Detwiler, still 0-2 on the year, now boasts an 11.68 ERA and will look for his first win of the season Sunday against the Angels.


 
 
 
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