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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
Nationals' Bryce Harper (illness) back after one-day absence
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:31 am ET) Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper returned to the spring lineup Friday against the Cardinals after sitting out Thursday due to an illness. Harper is batting .231 (6 for 26) with one double, one home run, three RBI, five runs, seven strikeouts and 10 walks in 12 spring games.

Pirates GM: Jung Ho Kang will be on our Opening Day roster
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:30 am ET) Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told reporters that he still plans to have Jung Ho Kang on the Opening Day roster, despite his recent struggles this spring, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Manager Clint Hurdle indicated last week that Kang's timing issues at the plate may have to do with his leg kick that begins his swing. Kang, who spent his previous nine baseball seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, is hitting .111 in 11 Grapefruit League games.


Jose Tabata among 12 players cut from Pirates camp Friday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:28 am ET) The Pirates announced Friday they cut 12 players from major-league camp. 

They optioned Bobby LaFromboise to Triple-A, while reassigning Deolis Guerra, Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Leesman, Brad Lincoln, Steve LombardozziBrent Morel, Gustavo Nunez , Deibinson Romero, Jose Tabata, Sebastian Valle and Josh Wall to minor-league camp.


Twins' Josmil Pinto (concussion): I'm cleared for 'everything'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:23 am ET) Twins catcher Josmil Pinto told reporters he had been cleared to do "everything" in terms of baseball activity, but isn't sure when he'll see game action, per the Pioneer Press.

Pinto suffered concussion-like symptoms after he was hit on the back of the head three times by an Adam Jones backswing on Saturday. He indicated earlier in the week that he could get into a game this weekend.


D-Backs' Cahill feeling good despite so-so minor-league outing
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:21 am ET) Diamondbacks starting pitcher Trevor Cahill allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings during a minor-league start Thursday, according to The Arizona Republic. Cahill, who is competing for a spot in the rotation, said he pitched better than his stat line indicated.

"I was able, for the most part, to keep the ball on the ground," he said. "I felt like I didn't make too many mistakes and the ones I did, they hit. That's going to happen."

Cahill, who has a 4.50 ERA through three spring starts, said he feels better about his command and ability to repeat his delivery than in past years.

"I think the misses are a lot better," he said. "They're competitive misses. They're not yanks in the other batter's box. Most of the misses are down, which leaves less room to get hurt."


Nats' Drew Storen to pitch Friday, Stephen Strasburg on Saturday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:17 am ET) Nationals right-handed pitcher Drew Storen is among the pitchers slated to make an appearance in Friday's Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals, and starter Stephen Strasburg will pitch Saturday against the Mets, according to Comcast SportsNet Washington.

It will be Storen's first outing since he underwent surgery to remove the hook of hamate bone from his left hand back on March 13. Strasburg will also make his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury on March 20.


D-Backs' Hellickson skips minor-league start due to dead arm
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:16 am ET) Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Harkey said starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson did not make his minor-league start Thursday due to dead arm. However, Harkey expects Hellickson to be ready for the start of the season.

"He got some treatment a couple of days after his last start and in his bullpen he was a little dead," Harkey said. "It was a perfect time to do it now in March than do it in April."

Hellickson threw a bullpen session Thursday instead of making his minor-league start. He is still scheduled to pitch Saturday against the Royals.

Hellickson is 2-1 with a 5.87 ERA in three spring starts.


Red Sox's Christian Vazquez scheduled for an MRI on Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:12 am ET) Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez (elbow) will undergo an MRI on his injured elbow on Friday. He downplayed the issue, telling reporters that he's "going to be fine," according to WEEI. He is scheduled to catch Joe Kelly in a minor-league intrasquad game. Vazquez will be refrained from throwing to bases.

Rays' Cash: Desmond Jennings been on fire offensively all spring
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:15 am ET) It took 12 games for Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings to hit his first home run this spring, but despite the lack of home run power, the 28-year-old outfielder is still doing pretty well in Grapefruit League games.

Jennings, who hit a solo home run Thursday against the Yankees, is batting .483 (14 for 29) with two RBI, four runs, four walks and two stolen bases.

“He’s been on fire all spring, his at-bats, everything,” manager Kevin Cash said, per The Tampa Tribune. “The impressive thing is, the other day he didn’t have his best day, looked a little lot of sorts, but he came back two days after that and just erased it. He’s knocking balls all over the place.”


Athletics' Jesse Chavez happy with spring showing
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:55 am ET) Athletics pitcher Jesse Chavez allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings while striking out one in Thursday's 6-4 win over the Giants.

Chavez, who was on the mound just two days after the birth of his daughter, is happy with his performance this spring, the Bay Area News Group reports.

"I feel good," Chavez said. "I’ve put some men on, but I’ve pitched out of some jams. I’ve showed them I won’t let it snowball."

Chavez believes he needs to improve at changing the eye level of batters.

"I’ve got to get them to change eye levels better," Chavez said. "The last two or three starts, I haven’t been able to do that. The pitches that I’m trying to elevate they’re fouling off (instead of swinging and missing) and that runs up my pitch count."

Chavez has posted a 4.50 ERA in 16 innings as he competes for a spot in the rotation.


 
 
 
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