2012 Draft Prep: Tout Wars takeaways

For those unfamiliar with Tout Wars, here's a quick rundown: 41 of the world's best fantasy baseball players gather in New York City to participate in three separate leagues (AL only, NL only, and Mixed). It's auction style against the best and the brightest, meaning there are no sleepers -- only gambles, outbids, and frustrated sighs when a catcher you were trying to sneak through for a dollar is bid up to two by that dude across the room.

Tout Wars isn't just a slap-ourselves-on-the-back festival of narcissism for Fantasy experts; its original intent was to provide a value barometer for the millions of Fantasy Baseball players looking for advice as they go into their own drafts.

In Saturday's mixed league, for instance, which took place just hours after Ryan Madson need for surgery was made public, "RYAN MADSON TOMMY JOHN" was written on a piece of paper and waved in front of participants by auctioneer Jeff Erickson (of Rotowire) before the auction began. Supposed new closer Sean Marshall promptly went for $12. By comparison, Cleveland closer Chris Perez cost $7, Seattle's Brandon League cost $10, and Jose Valverde went for $12. I bought Aroldis Chapman for a dollar.

In Sunday's NL-only auction, a room of experts collectively managed to place Marshall's value at $13. He cost three dollars more than Dodgers closer Javy Guerra and a dollar more than Nationals closer Drew Storen . Chapman went for $5.

So, even though I personally think Chapman will find his way into the closer role at some point (if he doesn't remain a high-strikeout starter, which would still make him a bargain for a buck), I can't ignore the fact that a bunch of experts disagree. Vehemently. And this was just one of many nuggets I took away from my Tout Wars weekend. Read on for more lessons learned over the three days of auctioning, player-buying, and speculating ...

Freddie Freeman is not getting the respect he deserves: Freeman hit .282 with 21 home runs last year, his rookie campaign with the Braves. It's not out of the question to think he can hit 30 this year, and do so at first base in a league that lost two of its top first basemen ( Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols ). But Freeman commanded just $14 in Tout Mixed. On the NL-only side, Yahoo's Scott Pianowski added him for $22. His current ADP on CBSSports.com is 130, behind Derek Jeter , Jason Heyward and Dee Gordon .

The Hawaiian Lion is the greatest shot you've never head of: It's Goldschlager on the bottom and Jose Cuervo gold on top. It's delicious. I swear. And that's what makes it so dangerous. It made the Friday night Tout Wars party both a little more and a little less memorable.

Four very different reserve gambles: My reserve draft (a quick snake done after the auction to fill out the bench) consisted of four players who could either fade into obscurity or be pleasant bargains:

Chone Figgins : Best case, he gets cheap steals and has a rebound in average. Worst case, he repeats his dismal 2011 and I cut him for Rod Barajas .

Kerry Wood : Best case, Carlos Marmol is traded or injured, and he takes over as closer. Worst case, he's an effective middle reliever with a high strikeout rate.

Grady Sizemore : Best case, he sits on my DL (doing no harm to roster size) and then returns with a bang in two months. Worst case, he sits on my DL doing no harm to my roster size. I am still able to add Rod Barajas .

Kevin Gregg : Best case, he emerges as the Baltimore closer or is traded to Cincinnati to close. Worst case, he's a poor man's Kerry Wood .

Sorry, Cory: At the end of the Mixed auction, MLB.com's Cory Schwartz called out A.J. Pierzynski for a dollar. At that point, I had $4 to spend on two players, so I bought him for $2, figuring he's good for a nice batting average and will hit second, apparently, in the Chicago lineup. Just so everyone doesn't think I'm some heartless dream-shatterer, I was on the other end of that, "I'll go two," outbid a few times, most notably when Fred Zinkie went up to $2 on Josh Willingham , a player I thought I could sneak into my outfield for a dollar.

Every league needs a Zinkie: The defending Tout Mixed champ also probably set the record for most trade offers last year, and while they weren't all sent to me, he managed to chronicle a several-week-long odyssey of counter-offers and insane proposals that were exchanged between us. Not every league literally needs Fred Zinkie, but it helps to have someone who you know will always at least be receptive to helping you work out a trade, and do so fairly. I think our league of 15 has at least 10 free-wheeling, let's-make-a-deal-type owners who fit that bill, possibly more.

Don't forget about Ryan Howard : He went for $7 in Tout Mixed and is probably worth $10-11. He'll likely make a team back up to $15 in value. Paul Singman nabbed him in Tout Mixed, and can now DL him, pick up a middling first basemen to hold him over, then reap the rewards of a healthy Howard for the second half of the season. In keeper leagues, he's even more of a smart, sneaky play.

Oh, hold on: Apparently, Cory Schwartz believes that my $39 Hanley Ramirez purchase was the most egregious act of overspending in the auction, so now I don't feel so bad about stealing his would-be catcher.

In defense of Hanley: A year ago, we were talking about him as the top overall Fantasy player. He went for $49 in last year's auction and, as we all know, hit a bit of a rough patch in 2011. But consider that he was hurt, he has a new manager this year, he'll have eligibility at shortstop and third base, and he has a much stronger lineup around him this year. Add all that together, and I see at least $39 worth of value coming back.

Two pitchers I wish I had gone the extra dollar on:

Stephen Strasburg : Sports Illustrated's Eric Mack got him for $17. Looking back, at $18 (assuming nobody else went bid him up to $19), he would have been a great addition to my staff. Lots of strikeouts, a low whip, and low ERA.

Mark Buehrle Wise Guy Baseball's Gene McCaffrey and I were stuck at a tiny table off to the side at last year's Mixed draft, and we kept going after the same players. This year, we nabbed seats at the normal table ( FantasyBaseballSherpa.com's Scott Swanay sat on the floor for the five-hour extravaganza), and didn't tangle at all. But Gene's $2 Buehrle could turn out to be a tremendous buy. The last time he pitched less than 200 innings in a season, Justin Bieber was five years old.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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