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Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Updated: April 2, 3:14 PM ET
NL Tout Wars: Believe in Wright, Reyes

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

I love it when a plan comes together … though I guess it's OK if it completely falls apart.

Such was the case in Tout Wars, as my strategy -- get "my guys," i.e., put my money where my mouth is (again) -- unraveled quicker than I could gulp down my first cup of coffee. Within 20 minutes I had already blown $112 -- 43 percent of my budget -- on three players, seemingly steering my roster toward adopting the uncomfortable strategy of "stars 'n' scrubs," the same one that led to my disastrous performance in my rookie year of 2001.

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Fortunately, that's not what happened.

"Scrubs"? Hardly. While my LABR team featured $1 "gems" like Matt Diaz, Matt Stairs and Brett Wallace, in Tout Wars $1 bought me Ronny Paulino, Nate Schierholtz and Jamie Moyer, guys I think have a higher probability of turning in a profit. And it helps when the three stars you land sell for cheaper than what's listed on your price sheet.

Catchers

Ronny Paulino, $1: I wasn't about to pay for catchers, so for $1, I'm pretty happy with Paulino. He's a .355 career hitter against left-handers, making him a perfect platoon mate for the left-handed-hitting John Baker.

Tout Wars recaps

AL-only: Matthew Berry
NL-only: Tristan H. Cockcroft
Mixed: Brendan Roberts

Buster Posey, $6: The price was more a product of what remained in my budget in the endgame, and I preferred to have no stats initially from Posey than terrible stats from a Henry Blanco or Dave Ross. Maybe Posey gets 100 at-bats late in the year?

Buys I liked at this position
Ramon Hernandez, $10: Amazing that a 20-75 candidate cost this little.
Yadier Molina, $9: The price I paid for him in LABR, so naturally, I like it.
Mike Rivera, $1: For $1 I'd take a chance on him considering I don't really like …

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
Jason Kendall, $8: Again, not a Kendall fan, hence liking Rivera for $1.
Russell Martin, $26: I won't pay this much for a chance at 15 steals from a catcher.
Ivan Rodriguez, $7: Won't hurt your batting average, but won't help it much, either.

Corner Infielders

Casey Kotchman, $14: Though he adapted poorly to the National League late last season, he's still 26 years old and is two years removed from a .296-batting-average year in which he had a phenomenal walk/strikeout rate.

David Wright and Jose Reyes
Having the ability to own both David Wright and Jose Reyes on one team is one advantage to an auction.
David Wright, $39: I've got him worth easily more than $40, and was shocked he didn't reach that plateau. About as safe a player as you can find in the NL.

Bill Hall, $6: I needed power in a bad way after netting so many steals guys, and Hall does clobber left-handed pitching. That the Brewers added Mike Lamb to give Hall some needed rest against right-handers helps boost his stock.

Dallas McPherson, $2: Obviously this purchase came before news of his release Tuesday, but I'd call it a good thing, considering Dolphin Stadium is rough on lefty sluggers. Given a chance elsewhere, he could be a cheap 20-homer source.

Buys I liked at this position
Garrett Atkins, $20: A .300-25-100 candidate should never go for that little.
Mark Reynolds, $13: Cheap power if your team is already strong in batting average.
Albert Pujols, $38: Went after Wright and Reyes, yet I seriously considered going $39.

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
Derrek Lee, $23: I'm not wild about his drop-off in home run and walk rates.
Kevin Kouzmanoff $17: He hit .226 with a .658 OPS at home in 2008 … bleagh!
Ryan Zimmerman $24: He's more valuable than Atkins? Seriously?

Middle Infielders

Kelly Johnson, $16: Not the most exciting use of $16, but he's a consistent 15-homer, 10-steal, 90-run guy, and that's about book value for those stats.

Jose Reyes $41: Now he cracked the $40 plateau, but in a deep NL league, his 60 steals, 15 homers and 120 runs scored bring a good $45 worth of value. I'm not even a Mets fan, but I'm thrilled to own two of their key players for what I'd call cheap.

Jeff Keppinger, $2: His BABIP annually almost matches his actual batting average, and in 2007 it was unrealistically high, and 2008 unrealistically low. Split the difference and if he bats .290 for me given 300-plus at-bats, he'll earn me a profit.

Buys I liked at this position
Dan Uggla, $18: That's actually not a bad price for a realistic shot at 30 homers.
Orlando Hudson, $11: I still say as the No. 2 hitter, he bats .290 with 100 runs.
Rafael Furcal, $20: If he stays healthy, he'll earn $10 more than that, easily.

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
Felipe Lopez, $19: Clint Barmes stole five more bases than him in 88 fewer at-bats …
• Clint Barmes, $15: But that doesn't mean I like Barmes for $4 less.
Khalil Greene, $16: He barely earned that much in this format during his big 2007 season.

Outfielders

Milton Bradley, $14: If you were following the draft live, you might have read that I was disappointed with this purchase. Truth is, I wasn't. I just thought he would have been a bigger steal at my previous $12 bid, and a huge steal when I bid $10. I'm a huge Milton Bradley fan because of his per-game performance when healthy.

Shane Victorino, $24: I don't even need a speed guy like this, but when Nate McLouth goes for $34 and Matt Kemp $32, a $24 Victorino looks like an outstanding buy. I can always trade my steals excess for a little power punch later.

Where should they go? Insider
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Kosuke Fukudome, $3: I'm not even a fan, but is one bad half-season enough for us to declare him the next Tsuyoshi Shinjo? There's still sneaky 15/15 potential in Fukudome, and I think he's capable of batting .270-plus.

Josh Willingham, $3: Full Nationals outfield or not, Willingham has averaged .280-27-93 numbers per 162 road games for his career. (I'm so glad RFK is no more.)

Nate Schierholtz, $1: He can hit, having batted .308 for his minor league career and .310 in his first 58 big league games, and has the fourth-outfielder job all to himself now that Dave Roberts is gone. Hardly what I'd call a "scrub."

Buys I liked at this position
Chris Young, $25: I should have kept bidding, but my funds were drying up at the time.
Chris Dickerson, $9: A young lefty in that ballpark … you just never know.
Mike Cameron, $12: A dozen bucks gets you a decent, albeit old, 20/20 bet!
Adam Dunn, $18: I was kicking myself within seconds of letting him go this cheap.

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
Fred Lewis, $20: Wasn't even a case of "last good player on the board at the time."
• Jordan Schafer, $15: Again, there were better outfielders still available at the time.
Jerry Hairston Jr., $10: Hefty price for shortstop eligibility; doesn't do much else.
Jeremy Hermida, $15: Too much to gamble on a guy who has done nothing in his career.

Starting Pitchers

Tim Lincecum
It's probably not a surprise the reigning NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum was the highest-priced pitcher in this draft.
Tim Lincecum, $32: The most expensive pitcher, but the most expensive pitcher in a 13-team NL-only league should really be going for more than $32. Especially if he's 24, the defending Cy Young winner and a certain bet for 200-plus K's.

Chad Billingsley, $19: Apparently I like him -- see "team, Tristan's LABR" -- and he came $4 cheaper in Tout Wars than he did in LABR. Thank you, minor groin problem, and no, it's nothing that concerns me much.

Rich Harden, $15: Along with Milton Bradley, the health of my two Cubs probably will determine my outcome in Tout Wars. A healthy Harden is worth at least $10 more than this, and I'm encouraged that in between all his DL stints in his career, he has been nothing short of dominant. Per-game performance, folks, per-game performance.

Jamie Moyer, $1: That's half the price I paid for him in LABR, and in Tout Wars, I get the option of picking and choosing his matchups each week. Score!

Andrew Miller, $3: He terrifies me as much as he tantalizes me, but if there's any league in which to take a shot on him, it's a 13-team NL-only that has no problem with owners picking and choosing weekly matchups.

Micah Owings, $3: I'm just a fan. His hitting stats -- and only his hitting stats (not the others') -- count, right? Right?

Buys I liked at this position
Chris Young, $12: Not a fan, but I've seen him go for twice this much (LABR: $23!).
Brandon Webb, $25: The one buy I think might make my Lincecum pick look foolish.
Hiroki Kuroda, $8: I paid $11 for him in LABR and thought that a steal, too.
Chris Carpenter, $10: I'm on the bandwagon, and this seems about right for him.

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
Ryan Dempster, $14: He won't totally tank, but he's not going to repeat that 2008.
Ian Snell, $10: Oh, how the not-mighty have (apparently) not fallen.
Chris Volstad, $8: About as good a sophomore-slump candidate as anyone.
Paul Maholm, $10: I'm a fan, and think he has value, but 2008 might be his ceiling.

Relief Pitchers

Trevor Hoffman, $11: DL-bound or not, what's to like about Hoffman is that his contract, track record and a lack of reliable alternatives practically guarantee he'll be the closer for every healthy game he plays in 2009.

Steven Shell, $2: True story: In one of my biggest leagues, a 14-team mixed, points-based, non-keeper league, one owner once wrecked his team by leaving $137 of his $260 budget on the table and buying a pitcher no one in the room had ever heard of. This was in 2005. That pitcher was Steven Shell, and to this day, we still get a kick out of the fact that, despite his being a $1 bust that year, Shell did eventually reach the majors three years later. Beyond that I have no explanation for why I'd want to go to $2 on a Nationals reliever, other than he had good ratios and might wind up in a setup role.

Rafael Soriano, $2: For $14 you could have gambled on Mike Gonzalez staying healthy, and for $2 you could have gambled on Soriano staying healthy. You know which one I picked. Besides, replacing a $2 player is a heck of a lot easier than a $14 one.

Buys I liked at this position
Francisco Rodriguez, $22: Cheap, really, for the NL's best fantasy closer.
Jose Valverde, $18: No one seems to respect him enough in any of my drafts.
Kevin Gregg, $8: Was named the Cubs' closer hours after the auction.

I wouldn't have paid so much for …
Jon Rauch, $5: Has pitched dreadfully this spring, now a long shot for saves.
• Mike Gonzalez, $14: I'm not seven times more confident in him than Soriano.
Heath Bell, $19: I don't like Qualls for $19 either, but like Qualls much more than Bell

Reserve picks

1. Cha Seung Baek: Padres pitchers are the ultimate matchups candidates, so Baek will get his looks for me when Miller, Moyer and/or Owings need to sit.

2. Sergio Romo: He might be the most talented arm in that Giants bullpen, if he can only work through the elbow problems that dogged him this spring.

3. Tim Hudson: Speaking of elbow problems … we get unlimited DL spots, so I'll keep Hudson stashed with the hope he can offer me a dozen useful late-season starts.

4. Mike Hampton: Ditto Baek, as I think you can never have too many matchups candidates.

ESPN.com fantasy baseball analyst Tristan H. Cockcroft is a two-time LABR champion, most recently winning in 2008. You can e-mail him here.