Here's the thing about points leagues in fantasy baseball: I kinda hate 'em.
Yeah, OK, sure ... people should play whichever scoring system they prefer. I'm not here to say you're wrong if you happen to enjoy points leagues. In fact, I encourage you to sign up to play fantasy baseball right now using whatever fantasy settings you like. Eventually, MLB will return. Fantasy, in all its forms, enhances the fan experience.
But generally speaking, I am not seeking out points leagues. Not my thing. I really don't appreciate the footballification of fantasy baseball. A primary reason the points format works well in football leagues is that every roster position contributes to scoring in distinct ways. That is to say, your fantasy QB doesn't accumulate points in the same manner as your RBs and WRs and kickers. A diversification of skills and player traits is naturally built into the game.
In baseball, obviously, that isn't the case. The job of your team's catcher, for fantasy purposes, is identical to your shortstop and your second baseman and outfielders and all other position players. Hitters hit, pitchers pitch. You have no need for specialists in a points league, no need to consider a variety of skills. You certainly don't have to keep saves or steals or ratios or any other specific categories in mind when assembling rosters. Team-building isn't a thoughtless exercise — you clearly still need to nail your projections and ace the draft — but you're free to ignore stats that can't be easily punted in other formats.
However, I can appreciate the fact that some of you may simply be fed up with the tyranny of saves and steals. Or you might reasonably prefer a scoring system in which a home run is much more valuable than a stolen base. It's a sensible position. I get it. Typically, I want my fantasy leagues to assign appropriate values to the events that matter most in reality. Points leagues can definitely get this done. Still, one of my favorite aspects of roster construction in fantasy is the consideration of team needs, the constant assessment of surpluses and deficits. In points leagues, this is minimized.
So, again: Not my thing.
But we can't always be so choosy in our fantasy lives. A few months ago, I asked the organizers of Tout Wars if I might switch to the head-to-head mixed auction (which happens to be a points format) from the N.L. only league, due to a travel conflict (which of course disappeared when responsible people ended all non-essential travel). Despite my dislike for the scoring method, I do happen to enjoy head-to-head.
And anyway, I'm not so much of a scoring snob that I can't appreciate the opportunity to play against a collection of fully licensed and highly skilled fantasy experts, no matter the rules. Tout's auctions were held online this spring, for obvious reasons, so they lacked a bit of the usual intrigue. (Whenever possible, a live fantasy auction with a consistent auctioneer is the optimal experience, but no one should be doing that in March of 2020.) The strategies I would normally bring to any mixed auction were of course still in play. If you're auctioning in a format like Tout mixed — in which the $1 players are exceedingly useful and replacement value is high — then it pays to take a stars-and-scrubs approach. One of the great benefits to an auction is that you can spend your way to a roster that can't possibly be assembled via draft. As long as you're comfortable with the $1 and $2 end-game options, you need to take full advantage of the opportunity to load your squad with upper-tier fantasy assets. Having leverage in the late stages of a mixed auction isn’t particularly meaningful.
A secondary concern is to identify the roster spots where the $1 players aren't so safe — the talent-scarce positions that need to be addressed aggressively, perhaps with luxury buys. For me, in 2020, those are the corners. First base and third base are minefields outside, say, the top-15 at each spot. In a league like Tout, with twelve teams and CI spots to fill, I wanted to avoid the Hosmers and Vottos if at all possible.
You can find all Tout rosters via this link, if interested. Here's a look at my squad, beginning with the bats ...
C Omar Narvaez, Mil, $2
C Robinson Chirinos, Tex, $2
Let the record show that I have, in fact, taken my own advice regarding catchers. It rarely pays to invest early or heavily at the position. These catchers combined for 39 bombs last season, both of 'em are walkers and one can hit for average (Narvaez). That'll do.
1B Freddie Freeman, Atl, $38
3B Kris Bryant, CHC, $26
CI Paul Goldschmidt, STL, $25
This is how you control the corners, people. Buying both Freeman and Goldschmidt thinned out an already thin first base pool, so that's a bonus. Bryant is expected to lead off for Chicago this season, which clearly gives him a path to a huge number of plate appearances. In a points format, it's a total non-issue that KB won't hit in a prime RBI spot. (Full Tout scoring rules are available right here.)
2B Whit Merrifield, KC, $14
SS Javier Baez, CHC, $19
MI Elvis Andrus, Tex, $2
Shortstop is just ludicrously deep this season. Baez and Andrus combined to hit 41 homers, steal 42 bags and score 170 runs last year, and I landed the pair for just $21. It's simply not a position that demands significant draft or auction capital. Second base, on the other hand, is much trickier. You can feel pretty good about the top dozen, but thereafter it's all lottery tickets and low-ceiling vets. Merrifield is coming off a season in which he led all of baseball in games, at-bats, hits and triples, plus he offers multi-position eligibility. He's a gift at $14, considering the settings.
OF Mookie Betts, LAD, $43
OF Willie Calhoun, Tex, $2
OF Brett Gardner, NYY, $1
OF Kole Calhoun, Ari, $1
OF Nomar Mazara, CWS, $1
UT Trent Grisham, SD, $1
Yeah, that's pretty much as stars-and-scrubsy as it gets. Outfield is such an easy position to fill from the bargain bin; my plan from the beginning was to land one of the big four at this spot, then surround him with $1 and $2 players. Betts obviously has the every-stat skillset necessary to challenge for top-scoring honors, assuming good health. Willie Calhoun's fractured jaw would have prevented him from opening the season under normal circumstances, but there's nothin' normal about 2020. He should be good to go, whether the year opens in May, June or July.
Grisham was having a monster spring (11-for-31, HR, SB), in case you missed it, and his minor league profile suggests on-base skills with power and speed. He'll start for the Pads and deserves a spot on any/all respectable sleeper lists.
P Shane Bieber, Cle, $35
P Max Scherzer, Was, $34
P Liam Hendriks, Oak, $4
P Craig Kimbrel, CHC, $4
P Lance McCullers, Hou, $2
P Jake Odorizzi, Min, $1
P Alex Colome, CWS, $1
P Joey Lucchesi, SD, $1
P Kwang-Hyun Kim, Stl, $1
I was prepared to go a few dollars higher in the bidding on Scherzer, so it was nice to get him at a small perceived discount. But I almost immediately threw those savings at an aggressive/reckless bid on Bieber — not ideal, but it was a last-pitcher-in-the-tier situation. Also, I seem to be bullish on Bieber relative to industry consensus; he's coming off a 259-K season that was not in the slightest bit fluky.
You'll note, by the way, that I managed to purchase seven total players on this squad — Betts, Scherzer, Freeman, Bieber, Baez, Bryant, Merrifield — who might reasonably be selected inside the first 40 picks of a standard draft. In any mixed auction, that's a prime goal. One thing you simply cannot do in a mixer like this is throw double-digit bids at mid-tier starting pitchers; I’m happy to say I avoided that trap.
Tout's point system (like most) pushes managers toward good pitchers in winning environments (wins are +8, saves +5), so I didn't mess around with anyone tied to an obvious bottom-dweller. McCullers felt like a steal at $2, thanks to both the team context and the fact that an abbreviated season should at least partially erase concerns about a workload limit. By May, he'll be more than a year-and-a-half removed from elbow surgery. He had a successful spring (4.2 IP, 2 ER, BB, 6 Ks), too. He's been a draft priority, a high-upside arm available at minimal cost.
In the unlikely event that my dominant roster should need assistance from its bench, here's the junior varsity ...
BN Kevin Newman, Pit
BN Jonathan Schoop, Det
BN Mike Yastrzemski, SF
BN Jose Quintana, CHC
BN MacKenzie Gore, SD
BN Avisail Garcia, Mil
Gems, all of 'em. (OK, maybe not Quintana. But the rest? Gems.)
At last, we've arrived at the place where readers may toss excessive praise on another flawless lineup, in keeping with longstanding tradition. That's what comments are for, folks. Get to it ...