Groovin' with Govier: Fantasy Baseball Roundup (3/22)
Welcome to the last spring training edition of Groovin’ with Govier. If you’re new here (regulars: skip), I dissect various players and strategies related to the current fantasy baseball landscape. Don’t forget our 2023 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide is available right now! Save a couple bones with my promo code MJGOVIER when you sign up so you can get access to Eric Cross, Matty Davis, Vlad Sedler and many more FTN whiz-kids. Now it’s time to stoke your flames of passion for fantasy baseball, much like future super ace Roki Sasaki has done already while pitching for Japan in the World Baseball Classic.
Today I Consider Myself The Luckiest Man On The Face Of The Earth
For the first time in my budding career, I was given the chance to be a part of the industry event known as Tout Wars. For the uninitiated, Tout Wars is a competition going back to 1998 comprising several leagues with many different fantasy baseball analysts from all across the realm. I was offered a spot in the 12 team H2H points mixed auction with the requirement that I attend in-person for the auction at the Hotel Edison in midtown Manhattan. To know me is to understand that when I grew up as a kid in the 1980s, I watched La Bamba (1987) way too many times. If you have never seen this Lou Diamond Phillips classic, you must rectify that as soon as you can. The premise centers on the infamous plane crash in 1959 known as The Day The Music Died, but it’s more specifically about the life of Ritchie Valens. All this to say I have a stupid fear of flying, but I powered through anyways thanks to my incredible wife Leigh Ann.
Drafting is always a good time, but it’s even more enjoyable when Todd Zola and Jeff Erickson from Rotowire are running the event. Those guys are such pros! Jeff has always been gregarious, supportive of my efforts and very approachable. With Todd though, I admit freely the first time I met him in Arizona a few years ago, I was afraid of him. That ended up being completely unwarranted social anxiety though as he’s been quite a funny dude in our interactions. I got to know Todd a bit more thanks to this event as we spent just over four hours on this auction. This was my first ever live auction experience. Online auctions feel like amateur hour after experiencing the real-time bidding intensity with the face-to-face exchanges that took place. While I will forever have Zola’s voice repeating the words, “going once… going twice…” imprinted on my mind, what captured my attention even more were the caps on certain players that these fantasy baseball wizards wouldn’t go beyond.
The Tout Wars 12 team H2H points mixed auction took place last Sunday in a single conference room at the Hotel Edison in New York City with the attendees all deserving of praise and recognition as quality fantasy baseball minds. I sat next to Geoff Pontes and Greg Jewett. Kiddie corner to me was the back-to-back defending champion himself: Frank Stampfl! Not only was I thrilled to be invited, but I definitely was grateful for the opportunity to get a firsthand look at Ariel Cohen and Paul Sporer as they revealed their hand a bit with their nominations and bids on various players. We also had a few lurkers milling around in the background as Pitcher List himself Nick Pollack popped in along with Kev Mahserejian (who I finally got to meet and is just as awesome in person) and Jason Collette.
One of the unique tenets of the H2H auction league is each year the winner has the right to select the scoring system of choice from CBS, ESPN, Fantrax and so on. No surprise then that reigning champion Frank Stampfl selected the standard CBS H2H points league scoring system. If you’re curious, all three rankings for CBS H2H points scoring have Aaron Judge ranked No. 1. When you beat an opponent for the week in total points, you get a victory for that week. Obviously, rivalries will naturally form once the season begins due to the specific competition of head-to-head fantasy play. However, rivalries already began to bloom during the draft. I’m not sure it was on the level of Average Joes taking on Globo Gym, but the competitor in me has a one-track mind. Lauren Auerbach and Frank Ammirante seemed to have my number a few times when it came to winning bids. Lauren outbid me on Andrew Benintendi when I was down to dollar bids only near the very end of the auction. She got the new White Sox outfielder for $2 at a time when my final roster spots that needed to be filled were OF and pitching. Lauren already goaded me earlier when she raised the bidding on William Contreras of the Brewers, who I was certain would be my second starting catcher (it’s a two-catcher league) pairing nicely with Tyler Stephenson who I spent $18 on without any regrets. I ended up settling for Eric Haase instead at $2. Haase will not hit for average like Contreras can. I mentioned that Frank Ammirante got under my craw in a fashion similar to Cousin Eddie’s vibe at every single Griswold family gathering. Though Frank is more handsome than Cousin Eddie, outbidding me on my personal hero Jake Fraley will stick with me for years to come. He bumped up the winning bid on Fraley to $4. Again, this is the price I pay for waiting to snag cheap outfielders as my starters. The good news is Tout Wars is pro trading! So maybe I should delete what I just wrote if I hope to acquire Fraley from Frank in a trade at a later date?
The most money I spent on a player was $36 for Trea Turner. Other first round talents like Ronald Acuña Jr. ($40) and Julio Rodríguez ($37) gave me the baseline for my Turner bid. That was a strategic plan of mine before the auction. I wanted to see the prices for a few superstars before I committed to one in the hope that I could catch a discount. Lauren Auerbach made Juan Soto the most expensive player in the whole event at $44. Julio Urías ($27) was my first pitcher in a similar manner after many of the highest ranked pitchers came off the board. My patience also helped me snag Dylan Cease ($22) later on. For reference, Justin Verlander went for $30. How much of a difference in total points scored will there be between Verlander and Cease by season’s end? Not much according to how I do business. I was surprised to be matched bid for bid on Jonathan India ($11) by Pontes. I am fine spending the money I did, but I expected to face little resistance considering I nominated India at a point when the draft was roughly 75% completed. The Tony Gonsolin ankle issue has not been the reason I have been avoiding him in all drafts prior to this one. Simply put, I expect Gonsolin to regress a fair amount when it comes to WHIP and contact rates. He was a fortunate soul last year. Yet, when I needed a pitcher, spending $2 to get Gonsolin just felt so right. Gonsolin is an example of a player I didn’t plan to bid on until the moment presented itself as Zola counted down on a bid of $1. Like Waingro, I had to get it on man. Being prepared to be flexible when drafting is a positive trait in my view. To view all my winning bids, check this out.
After we exhausted our budgets, six reserve rounds were done in a snake draft format where the champion gets first pick while the rest of the order is based on the final standings from top to bottom from 2022. Whichever manager I replaced from last season did not do so well as I was ninth in the order. I selected Pirate Roansy Contreras, Washington’s Luis García (the hitter), Alex Lange not Alex Murphy who is also from Detroit, AL MVP in waiting Brandon Belt, “I once hit three home runs in a game in 2022” Josh Rojas and originator of the I-29 Shuffle, Edward Olivares. The Tout constitution states that I must start at least two RP every week. I felt having an under-appreciated closer from my terrible bozo Detroit Tigers might assist my already stellar one-two punch of Ryan Helsley ($18) and Alexis Díaz ($4). It’s possible Roansy will not be my only starting pitcher needed as we have nine pitching spots to fill each week. As the Magic 8 Ball states, signs point to yes when it comes to dropping a couple of my reserve picks for another starting pitcher or two. In points leagues, innings pitched matter greatly.
Overall, my weekend in New York brought me in contact with new acquaintances like Sky Dombroske, Joe Gallina and Ryan Hallam while having the pleasure of seeing friendly faces like Clay Link again. Tout Wars structures luminaries from all across the fantasy landscape in competition, but it’s also very much about cultivating a community that is very real. When I get an opportunity like Tout Wars to connect with others in real-time who share a passion for baseball, it’s a strong reminder of the inspiring power of in-person human interaction. The night before my draft there was a Tout Wars party at a lovely little joint called Tito Murphy’s just off the beaten path from the home base for consumerism in America. Ron Shandler (among many other awesome people I can’t all name here) was there presenting an award for a fella by the name of Rick Wilton who started the annual First Pitch Arizona weekend that is centered around the Arizona Fall League and fantasy baseball. I was not familiar with Rick, who was given the Zen And Now award named after a fella who I did not have the pleasure to meet, but certainly am aware of, Lawr Michaels. As Baseball Pods himself has told me a few times, Lawr was a guy who had an incredibly infectious spirit of positivity and was a very lively, caring human being. He passed away too soon a few years ago, but his energy seems to spur others within fantasy baseball forward in a positive way. I mean, I never met Lawr and I am hardly the spiritual type, but I actually feel his passion in the others he left behind. For real!
Fantasy baseball as a game is the bee's knees. It’s the community, though, that makes it go. The residents who inhabit the tenement of fantasy baseball are generally well-intentioned people. Fantasy baseball’s occupants reside on many different floors of the building. The people in the fantasy baseball subreddit make up one part of it (though it might be labeled the uninhabitable section of the building). There are also a bunch of Facebook fantasy baseball groups that live in their own echo chamber. Even fantasy baseball Twitter, which seems to think it’s the center of the fantasy baseball universe, has its own enclaves within the overall expanded Twitter universe. How about the magazine-reading fantasy people? They still exist. Though, I am simultaneously shocked and pleased it’s in large enough numbers to still warrant being published. There are people of a certain age on TikTok and YouTube talking about fantasy baseball who have no idea what Tout Wars is. The FSWA gives out accolades recognizing analysts for all kinds of fantasy sports endeavors. But despite the fact that they are supposed to be representative of all the other occupants in the tenement, they don’t always meet that criteria. The people who run the Sirius/XM fantasy channel are even more inside baseball to me. I was looking forward to meeting some of them at Tout Wars, but unfortunately our draft didn’t get covered. All of these levels combine to make up the beautiful realm of the overall fantasy baseball co-op. Yet, it would be disingenuous for me to state that I’m unaware of any challenges related to inclusion, growth and respect. These areas of concern need to be addressed with the tenement’s super. Unlike tenements, there is no super or residential council to go to when there is a problem in the building. Who decides what’s best for the overall community? Which people or sects of fantasy baseball have the authority to be the gatekeeper for the community as a whole? Why does it matter? I do not speak for the masses nor do I presume to. Maybe I should just play the game to win money and forget the rest? Yep. That’s probably the easier play here. Apathy as a strategy has worked so well in other areas of the culture I inhabit in this country. Why deviate from the comfort of indifference when it numbs me up so good? Yet, it’s events like Tout Wars that remind me of why it’s ALWAYS worth making the effort to care in the first place.
I know some hardcore fantasy baseball managers who were knee deep in Jose Altuve shares. When Altuve took that pitch from Daniel Bard off his mitt, I had yet another reason to dismiss the WBC (feels manufactured to me). Altuve could be out until the All-Star break since he needs surgery on his broken thumb. Cue the horns for 26-year-old (he turns 27 Tuesday) David Hensley. It really chaps my ass when I forget about players from the previous year like Hensley who made a small, but tantalizing impression on me. Starting in 2021 at Double-A, Hensley displayed a keen ability to get on base. A 130 wRC+ in 464 PA during 2022 at AAA Sugar Land with 20 swipes propelled him to his MLB debut. Former Giant Mauricio Dubón is technically a threat, since he’s on the roster. That’s about the extent of his threatening vibe though. Dubon is a defense-first, below-average offensive player with a career wRC+ of 77. Hensley is primed to lock down this spot with only the concern coming from Dubon being a late game defensive replacement that reduces at-bats for Hensley over time. Hensley is 6-foot-6, which means some of you might be worried that he doesn’t fit the classic profile of a second baseman in the vein of Placido Polanco or Fernando Vina. It doesn’t matter. His offensive profile plays. OBP league managers make sure to prop him up inside of your top-12 2B rankings for your upcoming draft.
Anybody reading this who is shocked by the latest Carson Kelly injury has likely never played fantasy baseball before. What a bummer it is for Kelly to be put back on the shelf once again. There was a glimmer of real hope somewhere between 2019 and 2022 where I thought Kelly was going to be worth at least some percentage of the value he was supposed to return in the original trade that sent Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis. Newly acquired catching guru Gabriel Moreno will see his ADP soar over the next nine days. It’s funny that Moreno was also hit by a pitch recently and was able to avoid an injury. Some guys just have all the luck.
Let me make it crystal clear to you all: I will not be abandoning Vaughn Grissom in the leagues I already drafted him in. The NL East is going to be one hell of a fight in 2023. Atlanta is going to need all hands on deck for this effort. I don’t see how their best effort doesn’t include Grissom. Yes, he is being manipulated. No, I do not think he will stay in the minors until June. GM Alex Anthopoulos has shown himself to be a shrewd dude, but sometimes it’s as simple as manipulation of the player clock when it comes to explaining roster moves. Last year Chris Sale and Fernando Tatis Jr. taught me a ton about holding onto a player for too long. I will pull the rip cord if needed, but I will wait until I get pretty close to the point of no return.
It appears Kyle Stowers is going to make the Orioles’ opening day roster and most likely start at a corner outfield spot. He’s a lefty bat with nice pop who knows how to draw a walk. At this point, he needs to get more consideration in upcoming drafts especially if you play in an OBP league. This fifth outfielder is calling my name. Do not hesitate!
This Rays’ lefty-hitting middle infielder has shown off plenty of the goods this spring going 15-35 with 5 doubles and 3 dongs. Tristan Gray is 26-year-old and was last seen crushing 33 bombs at Triple-A Durham in 2022. Problem with that is he did almost nothing else finishing with a sub 100 wRC+ of 96 in 500 PA. I don’t see how he offers anything else expect power from the left side. If you’re thinking about taking a flier on him in your upcoming draft, I’m not sure why.
This Rule 5 pick from the Dodgers has to stay on the roster to stick around. The Athletics are going nowhere fast, so Ryan Noda is going to be a part of the MLB roster. Jesús Aguilar is there to confuse fantasy managers, but Noda is worth considering. Despite a lack of contact this spring, Noda has shown off his trademark batter’s eye with 8 walks. Noda is a total afterthought in most fantasy drafts, but even in mixed leagues Noda is worth monitoring in 15-teamers and deeper. Remember he has 54 combined home runs over his last two minor league seasons.