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Mixed Tout Wars Recap: Kris Bryant, flex hitters, risky pitchers

Joey Gallo might slide in standard 5×5, but he’s a fun play in OBP formats (Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

My 2017 Tout Wars mixed team was a comical mess, so it’s been a long wait for this redemption season. I feel like Bob Knight after his 8-10 record in the Big 10 (if you search for that historic audio clip, remember, it’s monumentally NSFW).

My one unbreakable rule for fantasy drafts is no unbreakable rules. Flexibility is always the goal. But I did sketch out a few auction ideas ahead of time. I wanted to spend more pitching money than I usually do (while unlikely to take on the salary of a Top 4 arm), and I had a feeling Kris Bryant could be a modest bargain — he’s a first-round talent in second-round clothing.

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In the early stages of the auction, Bryant ($40) and Marwin Gonzalez ($9) were my first two purchases. Bryant went for $45 last year, so this strikes me as a value. His OPS+ dropped a modest three points last year, and the low RBI count was a stone fluke. Bryant’s proven to be a combination of durable and someone who will play and produce through injuries, and he’s only 26. Anyone can get hurt, but this is the type of player I’m very comfortable betting on.

I’ve dinged Gonzalez in a few spots this spring, so it might be surprising to see him on my roster. Mostly, I felt the bidding stopped at a reasonable area and I could easily justify the $9. But I also like purchasing a position-flexible guy early in the auction, so I can be more value and stat focused with later purchases. Tout Wars uses 15 games for previous-season eligibility, so Gonzalez therefore qualifies at all four infield spots and the outfield as well. Unless he completely pumpkins in 2018 — and I’ll accept some risk of that — he’s a handy guy to have at this price point.

Here’s the full roster, assorted by positional group. Keep in mind this is a 15-team 5×5 league, where OBP takes the place of batting average. (Full Tout auction results are here; use the bottom tabs to see the league you want.)

Corners: Joey Gallo $23, Kris Bryant $40, Josh Donaldson $34, Matt Carpenter $13

Gallo needs to be completely reevaluated with this being an OBP league — last year’s .333 OBP is acceptable, and there’s never been much question about his power. He also grabs three positions (first, third, outfield), which guarantees I’ll have a flexible roster. I’d love for the Rangers to slot him second in the order, as they’re currently discussing; at minimum, it shows they don’t view last year as a fluke. Neither do I.

I thought Donaldson would go higher; I didn’t need another third baseman, that was merely a price-enforce play. He went for $42 last year. I might have a Carpenter problem, as I keep chasing him more than industry consensus. But even in his injury-wrecked 2017 season, he still posted a .384 OBP, 91 runs, 23 homers. Even his bad season wasn’t that bad. But he’s not healthy right now, so I’m taking on risk, even at a reasonable $13.

Middles: Ian Kinsler $12, Jorge Polanco $8, Whit Merrifield $16

Kinsler is a boring but useful vet, at a friendly price. Ibanez All-Stars, alive and well. The Polanco purchase shows my inability to forecast the suspension market, but heck, he’s only eight bucks. Looks like Gonzalez is a shortstop for me. Merrifield earned $30 last year; I like that he can regress a fair amount and still earn this price.

Outfield: Ryan Braun $13, Brett Gardner $9, Brandon Belt $5, Dexter Fowler $7

I’m probably going to use Gallo here, assuming Carpenter is heathy. Gardner and Fowler are the boring values I like so much, both slotted in loaded lineups. Belt gets a bump in the OBP format. Braun brings plenty of risk into his age-34 season and with Milwaukee’s glutted roster, though I can’t imagine him not playing if hale. He’ll eventually become another position-flex guy.

Catchers: Tucker Barnhardt $2, Manny Pina $2

With heavy offensive investments in other areas, I was willing to go cheap on the catchers. Barnhardt has a job to himself, and Pina’s playing time might be boosted by Stephen Vogt’s physical problems. I have some remorse not chasing after Chris Iannetta, who was a mere $3. (I dare these guys to be as soul-crushing as Jonathan Lucroy was last year.)

Starting Pitchers: Jacob deGrom $26, Dallas Keuchel $16, Chase Anderson $5, Lance Lynn $5, Alex Cobb $2, Marco Estrada $1

For some reason the Davenport Projections have deGrom down for a 3.71 ERA, which makes zero sense to me. Heck, I’d bet on 2.71 before 3.71. Keuchel does so many subtle things right (defends his position, stops the running game, generates ground balls) and I bid on him proactively. I didn’t want Cobb to sign with Baltimore, but so it goes. I’m probably 1-2 pitchers short here, but at least I have some horses at the front, and this is always the most volatile position anyway.

Relief Pitchers: Arodys Vizcaino $7, Shane Greene $3, Josh Hader $2

I like to assemble a plausible path to saves without paying the high-end market prices. Vizcaino has a lot of profit room at $7 and Greene doesn’t even need to close for long to earn three bucks. Generally I’d rather identify the “new Haders” in the fresh season rather than go after last year’s models, but it’s not like I entered a bidding war at two bucks.

Reserves: Dustin Pedroia, Corey Dickerson, Tyler Lyons, Jarrod Dyson, Jose Reyes, Ivan Nova

This league has unlimited DL slots (a rule I’ve never agreed with — I want replacement over storage), so taking Pedroia is logical — I’ll get an early dip into the replacement pool, and his OBP should be an asset later, even if the category juice doesn’t return. Dickerson’s rep might be mucked by Tampa’s unceremonious cut, but he’s still a quality hitter. Maybe Lyons can be part of the St. Louis closing solution. Dyson obviously can run — and Arizona cares more about defense this year. Reyes was productive last season, even if he doesn’t have a clear gig now, and Nova might be playable in a league this deep.

So what does it all mean? I expect this roster to get on base, hit a fair amount of homers, produce runs. I don’t have a ton of speed or a dominant staff. My ability to make good pitching decisions in-season will probably determine how far we go. Your constructive criticism is always welcome: @scott_pianowski on Twitter.