It was a pleasure and a privilege to be invited back to this year’s Tout Wars Mixed Auction. Some highlights from this year at my table included seeing the guy who drafted Maikel Franco below for the first time in too long, and getting to watch Todd Zola work up close as an auctioneer. He is a very entertaining guy who should be hosting game shows. I wish I had more time to spend with Ray Flowers and Gene McCaffrey. Of course, getting to honor the memory of my dear friend Lawr Michaels as part of the group was the biggest honor of all.
Early April Tout Wars Mixed Auction Insights
I worked with veteran fantasy analyst Eric Karabell for four years at ESPN.com. During the time I spent with him, I learned Eric was never a braggart. He did not want to seize the spotlight. When he played fantasy baseball, he would let the results speak for themselves.
When Eric nabbed Maikel Franco for a dollar in the Tout Wars Mixed Auction, there was no fanfare. Nor should there have been, as Franco has been an annual minor disappointment throughout his career. But after five games, all of a sudden, it seems like Karabell has made another nifty pick. Will he have to answer questions about his deft pinpointing of Franco when it’s all over this season?
Everyone in Philadelphia is raving about Bryce Harper, but Franco is looking like a serious long-after-the hype-has-gone sleeper after a blazing start. So far, he is hitting .400 with three home runs, eight RBI and a .591 OBP. Naturally, there is a lot of skepticism that this will carry deeper into the season. Franco is a .254 career hitter with high marks of 25 home runs and 88 RBI. His numbers have not been terrible, but expectations have always been higher.
Yet as the Philadelphia Inquirer recently indicated, the “new and loaded” Phillies lineup has pushed Franco off to the side of the stage, and he likes it there. Initially, the move to hit Franco eighth was criticized. Yet he has taken to the new, less-publicized role and is flourishing with reduced fanfare. Maybe because there is less pressure on him, he now is responding better than ever.
“Hitting eighth, I’m in better control of my emotions. I don’t swing at everything. I don’t try to cover everything. I feel more confident,” Franco told the Inquirer. “I know they’re going to throw me more breaking balls. Some kind of weird pitch.”
Manager Gabe Kapler said hitting eighth forces Franco to be more patient and take more pitches. Plus, Franco could conceivably be motivated by hitting lower in the order. Maybe he wants to prove he is not a guy who fully deserved to be dropped. Yet the Phillies do have a very impressive lineup, so there is not much room for maneuverability, and why mess with success? Kapler thought this move would be good for Franco, and he will likely keep him in the spot as long as Franco keeps hitting well. Pitchers cannot relax more near the bottom of the lineup if Franco remains a significant threat.
It’s very early to start diving into advanced statistics, but it’s never too early to consider intangibles. Franco is obviously locked in early in his new role as a Phillie, but as we all know, baseball is a constant game of adjustments. If he is feasting on the junk he is seeing with the pitcher behind him, opponents will take notice quickly and start employing different approaches when facing him. So it’s far from certain that he can build on his sizzling start.
But if he does, Eric Karabell may have to answer some questions about being a “visionary” when drafting Franco for a buck. Likely, he will wave off any such talk. But people will always want to hear what Eric Karabell has to say. It’s much too early to get excited about Franco for the rest of the season. But when Karabell is nominating one dollar players next year and you are listening to the Tout Wars drafts on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, you might raise the volume a little if this continues.
More Tout Takes
- Tim Heaney is the defending Tout Mixed Champ, and he has already started to make more savvy moves that we will look back on and realize why he is a proven winner among the best. Heaney won Anthony Swarzak with 56 FAAB dollars before he was even activated from the IL. A few days later, it looks like Swarzak is locked in as Seattle’s closer for now. Swarzak only has seven career saves, but he is the most stable veteran at the back end of the Mariners bullpen. You win among the best in the biz by taking risks. Swarzak has neither the proven stuff or established closer’s mentality. Yet there does not seem to be a better choice right now to fill the fireman role for the M’s than Swarzak. Even if Heaney gets shorter term results from Swarzak, all saves make a big difference in the cumulative view.
- I will give Karabell his early due for the Franco pick so far, but Bret Sayre may prove to ultimately have pulled off the steal of the draft by nabbing Peter Alonso for two dollars. All spring long, I was lamenting how underpriced he was. Talking to one prominent Mets insider in the preseason, I was only more encouraged to target him when things got cheaper or later. A former Mets player who now is part of their media team told me he was so impressed by Alonso because he went the other way, unlike most young sluggers he has seen. He predicted that if Alonso broke camp with the team, he could hit .280 with 30 home runs. Of course, opponents will soon find Alonso’s possible weaknesses and try to expose them as they gain more info and film on him. It will be up to Alonso to respond to the challenge, and I believe he will. He already overcame some concerns about his defense and a spring training battle to earn his position at first base.
- Who believes in Tim Beckham? Al Melchior certainly does. His winning FAAB bid of 76 dollars was 43 more than the next highest bidder. Many fantasy owners may have added Beckham this week, but could soon cut him if he starts to disappoint again as he did last year. Yet as noted in this can’t-miss piece on Fangraphs, health could be a big reason why Beckham was such a forgotten man this preseason. he is swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone, and we are already starting to wonder if he can get back to his 2017 form instead of simply being a bridge player to J.P. Crawford. Of course, Melchior works for Fangraphs, so maybe he knew this all better than the rest of us.
Scott Engel is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s Hall of Fame and a four-time award winner. He was one of the driving content forces in the rise of RotoExperts.com and was the lead host on the RotoExperts in the Morning for six years on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. He was also instrumental in the launch of the FNTSY Sports Network. Scott was the first-ever Senior Writer and Managing Editor at CBS SportsLine and won a company Hall of Fame Award. He was also an Associate Editor and Fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He has been the featured Fantasy Writer on Seahawks.com since 2012 and his work has been syndicated to the Associated Press, NFL.com, New York Daily News, New York Post, Yahoo Sports, Bloomberg Sports, Sports Illustrated and many others. He is a credentialed media member who won an FSWA award in 2016 for his Insider Fantasy Reporting. Known as “The King”, Scott is on Twitter @scottTheKing
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