Go Big or Go Home: My Tout Wars Team

Last year in Tout Wars, several of the participants decided that a conservative approach in these redraft leagues did not get the job done. More often than not, the winner was the owner who drafted the most risky plays that paid off. A report card of surprising “A’s” and “F’s” often bested those with “B’s” and “C’s.”

“Go big or go home” was the prevailing comment, often muttered disgustedly under someone’s breath. “Go big or go home.” GBOGH!

But it worked, sort of. Derek Van Riper won the Tout Mixed Auction in 2015; finished last in 2016. Chris Liss finished last in Tout-AL in 2014; he won in 2015. Hmm… maybe it’s just a Rotowire thing.

It got me to thinking that the GBOGH mindset had some value but was not a deliberate, full-out planned strategy. It was something that was half-planned (“I’ll buy Kershaw, Scherzer and Thor, and then fill in.”) or serendipitous (“Oo, Stanton just landed in my lap for $22 after I already bought a $30 Carlos Correa and $20 Kyle Schwarber. I guess it’s GBOGH.”). But what if we planned this all out? Is this something that could work as a deliberate strategy? Could the Broad Assessment Balance Sheet (BABS) help?

I don’t know. But I decided to find out in Tout Wars this past weekend.

The Plan

Use BABS to draft a few high-end, low risk core players. GBOGH would need a strong foundation to have something to fall back on; BABS would help me identify who the best multi-asset, no-liability players are. In my roster description below, I’ve labeled these players as (CORE).

Start filling in with players on the low end of asset groups that have high upside. This is clearly one of the biggest benefits of BABS, as she can identify where the market is undervaluing skills. BABS arranges players into groups of like assets, ranks the groups, and then sorts the players within each group by their respective market values. The players who are being undervalued just pop right out.

I decided to chase those players specifically. I’d draft from the bottom third of the deepest asset groups, hopefully accumulating some potential profit in the process. I was willing to pay a few dollars above market price for these players because their skills upside merited it. I’ve labeled these players as (BABS).

Play for six months. There continues to be a tendency for us to draft as if the current MLB depth charts are fixed, stagnant documents. When we open up our thinking to six months, the perspective changes dramatically.

For instance, we already know that 40-50 percent of all players are going to hit the DL at some point of the season. If a player’s DL stint happens to start on Opening Day, drafters will discount him – often significantly – even if he will likely be healthy within a month. But we continue to pay full price for players who could just as well hit the DL in, say, July. So grab those discounts!

Similarly, if a high-skilled prospect is a good bet to unseat a shaky incumbent, his draft price is almost always a fraction of what his true value will be. Last year in Tout-AL, I spent $1 on Max Kepler, who started the season in the minors. He ended up earning $8. (I also spent $5 on Jose Berrios, but we won’t talk about that.) Yes, it’s risky, but everything about this game is risky. GBOGH!

From a BABS perspective, this was where I would abandon my risk budget and target players who might be fully productive at some point during the season, but not now. Perhaps I’d be compromising my roster for early season productivity but the goal was to have a team that would be in a much better competitive position later on. Again, it’s a six-month season, a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve labeled these players as (6MOS).

In order to have as many options as possible, I decided to switch to the Tout-Mixed league. Here is my roster, in order of acquisition cost.

1B – Joey Votto ($40)                      F   (P+,A+*)
(CORE) Votto (pictured) is one of the most valuable players in an OBP league. With a market value closer to $48, I was more than happy to start my team here.

CO – Freddie Freeman ($36)        F   (P+,AV*)
(CORE) I fully intended on rostering two high-end 1Bmen. There is a steep price drop after the first six, so I was hoping to push the market a bit.

2B – Brian Dozier ($27)                F   (PW,s,a)       
(CORE) Dozier was not my first choice at 2B. My primary target was Matt Carpenter in the $25 range, but I dropped out when bidding hit $30. I thought about waiting for Jason Kipnis as a (6MOS) pick, but the price on Dozier was reasonable and he fit the profile for a core player.

SP – Jon Lester ($25)                      F   (ER, k)    
(CORE) I had four other starting pitchers in mind to anchor the staff – Yu Darvish, Corey Kluber, Chris Archer and Masahiro Tanaka – but bidding stopped here. I might have been able to do better, but this was fine.

MI – Dee Gordon ($19)                  F   (S+, a)
(CORE) From a roster construction perspective, this was a solid pick given the power and OBP banked with earlier buys.

OF – Khris Davis ($17)                  F   (P+,a)       
(BABS) Davis was the first of the BABS-driven picks. He is in the same asset group as more expensive players like Giancarlo Stanton ($29) and Trevor Story ($27). Comparable skills within a normal range of statistical variability, but at a lower price – that’s how BABS works.

SS – Jose Peraza ($16)                    F   (S+,AV- | EX)
(BABS) Peraza’s lack of experience suppresses his value. But for want of a few HRs and 30 points of OBP (which I’ve banked earlier), I saved $19 over rostering the comparable Starling Marte. I figure at least 95 percent of you will re-read that last sentence and think I’m nuts. Enjoy.

SP – Kenta Maeda ($16)                 F   (e, KK | e)
(BABS) Maeda is in the same asset group as Justin Verlander ($24) and Danny Salazar ($13). Salazar would not come out until later and is more of an injury risk anyway.

CA – Willson Contreras ($15)      M   (PW,AV | EX)
(CORE) I wanted some productive catchers, and when Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy and Gary Sanchez went for $28, $22 and $21, respectively, I thought this was a very good buy. With more playing time, Contreras’ assets potentially rise into the group populated with names like Machado, Donaldson and Rizzo.

RP – Jeurys Familia ($11)             P   (ER, K+, SV)    
(6MOS) Familia was one of several closers who I suspected might be underpriced because of some uncertainty. I was very happy to get him for $11; not so happy that someone nominated Addison Reed shortly thereafter, who I had hoped to grab in the reserve round.

OF – Ender Inciarte ($10)             F   (SB, AV | INJ)
(BABS) This was my first mistake of the draft. Inciarte brings up the rear of an asset group populated by the more expensive Jean Segura ($18) and Elvis Andrus ($13), so the price was right. But I didn’t need another single-skilled speed guy and those dollars could have been put to much better use later on.

On the flipside, though, Inciarte is my most expensive player with any injury concern. I ended up with six hitters with injury liability, but the fact that all are $10 or under works well for risk mitigation.

3B – Nick Castellanos ($7)           F   (PW,a | INJ)        
(BABS) The asset group that Castellanos belongs to is deep and covers a wide range of players, like Evan Longoria ($19) and Jose Bautista ($27). I think this price is a coup.

RP – Koda Glover ($6)                   P   (e, k, sv- | EX)
(6MOS) Glover is in the same asset group as lesser-priced Ryan Madson and Daniel Hudson, but apparently he owns the Nationals’ closer job, for now (and possession is nine-tenths of the law). As I detailed in the First Pitch Forum events, the quest for 40 saves starts with drafting the team. This is a start.

OF – Alex Gordon ($3)                   F   (PW,* | INJ)
(BABS) Gordon is in the same asset group as Todd Frazier ($21) and Justin Upton ($25). An excellent spring training (.380/.456/.500 in 55 PA) had me optimistic about his health.

CA – Wilson Ramos ($2)               P   (a | INJ)    
(6MOS) With the news that he might be able to DH as early as May, this seemed like a good speculation at a great price. His .354 OBP last year was particularly enticing. All I’d have to do now is grab a stopgap backstop in the reserve round.

RP – Addison Reed ($2)                 P   (ER, KK) 
Yes, when someone tossed him out at $1, I had to go to $2 to cover my Familia buy. This is an okay price for a month of saves, but it tied up a roster spot I could have used for another starting pitcher. Curses!

RP – Hector Neris ($2)                  P   (ER, K+, sv- | e)
(BABS, 6MOS) Neris’ skill set compares with all the front-line second tier closers, like Osuna, Oh, Kimbrel, Diaz and others. Had I not already rostered Reed, this would have been a solid pick, but I really could not afford to devote another roster spot to chasing more saves. Mistake No. 2. Of course, if he becomes the closer, forget what I just wrote.

OF – Ben Revere ($1)                     M   (SB, AV- | inj-)
(BABS, 6MOS) Into dollar days, I had to toss out players who I’d be willing to eat. Revere (also pictured above) was not optimal for this roster, but it’s a trading league. If he was a full-timer, he’d be in the same asset group as Inciarte above, and after just one down season, it’s tough to give up on those bags just yet. With just Cameron Maybin in front of him – who has one 500-AB season in the past four – and his blistering spring, odds are good Revere will get his ABs. Some team is going to need steals.

OF – Michael Conforto ($1)          M   (P+, a | e)
(BABS, 6MOS) I’ve been writing about Conforto all winter, speculating on all his potential paths to playing time. We haven’t even gotten to Draft Day and a scenario I had not considered is already opening a path – an injury to Juan Lagares. The best part is Conforto’s asset group. If he backs into full-time ABs, or close to it, his value rises into the same group as Khris Davis above.

UT – David Peralta ($1)                 M   (p, AV | INJ)
(BABS) With full-time ABs, he’d be in the same asset group as Robinson Cano ($27), Ryan Braun ($30) and Jose Abreu ($28). If healthy – and 49 productive ABs this month seem to indicate he is – he should pass that full-time bar.

SP – Alex Wood ($1)                       M   (ER, k | INJ)       
(BABS) Wood is a somewhat riskier arm, due to his health history and the pitching depth on his heels. But he’s won a rotation slot thanks to a solid spring, so that’s something. And his asset group – even at 150 IP – includes Jacob deGrom ($25) and Carlos Martinez ($20). [EDIT: Okay, so I was premature. The good news is that he’s still on the staff, not in AAA. (6MOS) says he’ll get his chance.]

SP – Drew Pomeranz ($1)            M   (e, k)
SP – Andrew Triggs ($1)               M   (e, k | EX)
SP – Matt Andriese (Res)             M   (e, k | e)
(BABS) All three pitchers are in a 16-player asset group led by Zack Greinke ($12) that also includes arms like Kevin Gausman ($9), Sean Manaea ($5) and James Paxton ($9). You can see how lesser skills generate lower market values, but you can also see that there is still potential profit in this trio of end-gamers.

CA – Omar Narvaez (Res)              M   (| AV, EX)
(6MOS) I’m hoping that Narvaez puts up numbers like he did last year. That will be enough of a stopgap until Ramos returns.

SP – Lucas Giolito (Res)                M   (| EX)
(6MOS) Hailed as one of the top pitching prospects in the game, it seems that everyone went sour on him after his less-than-stellar 21 inning debut. I think it pays to have a very short memory.

SP – Chad Green (Res)                  M   (k | inj-, EX)
(BABS) It seems like last year’s UCL sprain may be behind him, given his spring numbers (12 IP, 8 K, 1.50 ERA). He’s in a 24-player asset group containing names like Matt Moore ($5), Jake Odorizzi ($4) and Drew Smyly ($5).

SS – Franklin Barreto (Res)        P   (s, AV | EX)
(6MOS) Oft-injured Jed Lowrie stands in his way, though the A’s would have to want to promote the 21-year-old. An early read on his skills puts him in the same group as Jose Ramirez, Adam Eaton and perhaps Francisco Lindor. But that is clearly premature.

1B – Rowdy Tellez (Res)               P   (P+,AV* | EX)
(6MOS) Given that I have so much invested in my two first-basemen, it seemed like a good idea to roster a high-upside talent in case one of them goes down. With only weak-batting Justin Smoak in his way, odds are good that Tellez will see the majors at some point. Besides, his asset group puts him right at the top of the BABS draft board. The huge Experience risk mitigates the excitement, but there is a nice skill set here.

While these were the players who came my way, there were others who might have been better (6MOS) fits had I been in position to acquire them. Ian Desmond ($9), Jason Kipnis ($6), David Dahl ($7) and Didi Gregorius (Res) were four injury targets at ridiculous discounts that I would have liked a shot at. Yoan Moncada, Raimel Tapia and Jae-Hyun Hwang were interesting minor league reserves who passed me while I was filling holes. But you can’t have them all, and I’m satisfied with who I ended up with.

The (BABS) players are what this team rides on. All 15 don’t need to return the profit indicated by the upside of their asset groups, but if even six or seven do, this team will rock.

Complete details about the Broad Assessment Balance Sheet (BABS) can be found in the PDF eBook, “The BABS Project: Uncovering the Truth About Winning at Fantasy Baseball” for only $5. Or, get the eBook for FREE with a one-year membership to RonShandler.com, for $19.95. Here is what you get with your membership.


24 thoughts on “Go Big or Go Home: My Tout Wars Team

  1. David

    Ron – very interesting read on your thoughts, and your responses to the GBOGH strategy. I really enjoy these posts in March where experts de-construct how they went about building their teams vs. just “I think this guy can be a sleeper” or “He went for $X and I had him valued at $Y so it was a good value pick”.

    I like how you made clear that your strategy isn’t all or nothing. It’s a few different components, that build on each other and offer a reasonable shot at building a winner over the 6 months. The psychology of taking advantage of others discounting guys who are hurt now is a perfect example of this. Good luck!

  2. Steve Bates

    That looks so much like one of my teams it’s scary.

    1. joseph sworen

      Ron :
      The only thing that I find surprising about your team, is you were still in on Kipnis–given his current injury situation. I also have a lot of the same players {as I’m sure many of the readers here have). Believe it or not I, have Votto, and I am more concerned there. Its not an OBP league and I am cocerned with his BBs and lost counting stats. I hope i am wrong.
      Since you are the only one here that can answer my question. I have an open roster spot and am now interested in Ryu of the Dodgers. I cant find him in the database and I’m only guessing maybe (e,k) INJ. Any help here ?

      1. shandler Post author

        I was in on Kipnis BECAUSE of his injury situation.

        If you do a pitcher search in the database, Ryu is there. I don’t have a 2017 expectation but we can look back at 2014 and use that as a guide. He was (ER,k) that year.

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  4. Jonathan

    Great article – like others I enjoy reading through your thought process. I also used BABS for a draft this weekend, straight draft, 12 team mixed and there is considerable overlap in our rosters… Peraza, Castellanos, Neris, Wood, Pomeranz, Triggs, and Andriese. One point where I differed was taking Kelley rather than Glover as I thought all that was down was that Glover is very much in the discussion for closer, but hadn’t actually been named yet and Kelley having the superior skills I went with him with the 6MOS mindset that even if he doesn’t start as closer there is a decent bet he might get there eventually.

  5. Chris Cannan

    In my auction. I had Marte as $35 keeper and Peraza went for $27.

  6. Scott Bourland

    Great article, but since I am AL Only the players listed don’t help much, but the concept of how you drafted with BABS does. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Dave Stokley

    Ron, if my math is right you spent 75% of your budget on hitters. Was that your plan going in? Do you have a number you usually target?

    1. shandler Post author

      My only targets are BABS targets. I spend whatever I need to get what I want.

  8. joseph sworen

    Ron :
    When I review the previous BABS cheat sheet : what went into both Triggs and Andriese generating (e,k) skill sets?, as neither were listed as having any skill set before the 3/17 update.

    1. shandler Post author

      Looking back at previous updates, both pitchers had (e,k) assets but were listed with part-time innings. Perhaps with them rising to mid-time status they are now appearing on your sheets?

  9. Dave Stokley

    Where did you hear/read that Wood got the rotation spot? Everything I can find says that Ryu got the 4th spot and McCarthy is likely to get the 5th.

    1. shandler Post author

      When I wrote it, Wood had the 5th spot. That obviously has changed.


  10. Chuck Henderson

    Hi Ron. In terms of using the BABS spreadsheet, would it be a reasonable approach to re-sort your spreadsheet focusing even more on skills than you currently do? For example, instead of having the M, SB AV guys slotted in several groups after the F SB AV guys, would it be reasonable to put them right after the F SB AV guys (Followed by the SB AV guys) so there is even more emphasis on the skill sets, given the point you have been making repeatedly (a good point I believe) that we really can’t draft assuming guys will be healthy all year. I think it may make it easier to analyze and look at the possibility of a guy if he were to get a jump up on playing time. I think this is even more relevant this year with the advent of the 10 day disabled list, I think we are going to see even more even distribution of AB’s across baseball than we have ever seen. Where is the flaw in my logic here?

    1. shandler Post author

      The ranking of the asset groups is more art than science. If it is more valuable for you to rank the skills more closely despite the playing time disparity, go for it. Note, however, that the PT breakdowns are already pretty broad and take potential injuries into account.

  11. Dave Stokley

    What made you choose Votto and Freeman over Trout, Betts, Bryant and Arenado?

    1. shandler Post author

      As noted above, I deliberately wanted two high-end 1Bman to push the market a bit — and both core OBP guys. I would not have been able to afford the others.

  12. Marc Miner

    With Treinen named the WAS closer, do you think he has the skills to hold the job?

    1. shandler Post author

      Sure. But so do Kelley and Glover. With multiple viable options, skills become secondary. A few blown saves and someone else will get a shot. Don’t forget pitchers like Steve Cishek and Carson Smith, both of whom had elite skills both before and after they lost their respective closer roles.

  13. James McKnight

    On the “drafting for 6 months” idea, I have Luke Weaver on my bench in an NL-only league. Luis Perdomo is available as a free agent. BABS lists Perdomo as no assets or liabilities, but such a pitcher will have his two-start weeks and is a warm body in case of injury. I’ve never kept a minor league player on my bench, do I do so now? For perspective, my staff is Syndergaard, Maeda, Zach Davies, Tyler Anderson, Gsellman, Leake, Ryu. I know how it says above about the amount of movement to and from the DL, but behavior changes are tough, and Perdomo and his major league jersey are starting to look good.

    1. shandler Post author

      I think what you are doing is perfect.

  14. Jason Denny

    15 team mixed keeper league, year 2. A ton of owners kept guys way over priced and then players went over priced but not many “values” were out there that I liked – mostly guys with liabilities. Of course, one of my keepers Adrian Beltre is on DL so needed to fill in.

    All in all I spent too much money in the middle as I refused to over pay for the top talent and it cost me in the end as I had to rely on 8 – $1 guys and got stuck with many bums but like most years at the end of the year 50-60% of your drafted team was either dropped or traded so I have my work cut out for me.

    I give myself a C+/B-.

    It is hard to do an online draft with the spreadsheet.

    Ron – I would recommend doing a social experiment finding out how many members would be more $ to help you offset the cost of getting BABS into an application like Rotowire and many others so you can use it to draft as you go. Easy for me to say as the risk and cost is on you but I would definitely pay double membership fee for that.

    What does everyone think about this lineup? I knew at the end I did not like it a lot so I loaded up on some potential keepers if things go south.



    Kang, J
    Gray, Sonny

    1. shandler Post author

      Yeah, a draft app would be a nice addition. It’s on my wish list.

      Nice offense. Starting pitchers thin out quickly behind Kluber and Archer, but Neris/Miller will help keep your ratios in check and Kuhl could be a usable piece. IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE A SHOT THIS YEAR, I’d trade Brinson/Albies/Neris/Miller for starting pitching.

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