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How Chris Liss ran away with AL Tout Wars

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

With just about a week left in the fantasy baseball season and a commanding 10.5 point lead (as of writing this), it's safe to say Roto Wire's Chris Liss will be this year's American League only Tout Wars winner. Before we turn our attention towards the 2016 season and all the draft preperation that comes with the chapter change, let's take a look back at what made Chris's team successful.

For those who are unaware, the "only" leagues in Tout Wars are 12-team leagues. Basically if the player has a pulse they're going to be useful. Furthermore, injuries can derail a season in this type of format as the replacement players on the waiver wire are usually quite a bit worse than the player lost. Now take into consideration Chris drafted both Miguel Cabrera and George Springer this season. How'd he manage to weather the storm and take home the title?

The auction:

It appears Chris had a clear plan at catcher - don't pay. Liss acquired both his catchers for a total of $11.00. While I personally thought the Rene Rivera acquistion would prove to be a decent catcher No. 2, he's completely flopped. While more production would have been preferred from the catcher positions, the low acquistion cost makes the poor production received less painful.

At first base Chris paid $36 for the aforementioned Miguel Cabrera - this was the foundation piece for the entire roster. While Cabrera has performed quite well while on the field, the total year-end production is probably below what Chris had expected back in March.

When it came time to pick up his middle infielders, Chris decided again to spend as little as possible, but also keyed in on guys who had a chance at consistent playing time. In a league this deep, playing time is the driving force towards success. For a combined $10.00 Chris acquired Johnny Giavotella, Nick Franklin and Stephen Drew. World beaters they are not, but two of the three received near everyday at-bats and Chris left them in for better or worse basically the entire season. When you don't spend a ton on a particular group of players, you don't require MVP type production. Set it and forget it. Chris was also able to make a key acquisition at the MI position part way through the season which we will touch on shortly.

At third base Chris targeted a solid contributor (Evan Longoria) and an upside play (Manny Machado) for a combined $41. While Longoria wasn't spectacular this season, he took the field regularly and provided a decent floor of statistics for Chris's squad. The upside play in Machado worked perfectly and is a large reason Chris was able to weather the injury storm to both Miguel Cabrera and George Springer.

For his utility player, Chris dropped $28.00 on Chris Davis. Coming off a so-so season the year prior, Liss appeared to believe in the power (and perhaps the affect his medical use exemption would provide) and paid a pretty penny for the power hitter. He was rewarded for this belief.

In the outfield Liss acquired a group that left me feeling underwhelmed on draft day. This group consisted of George Springer, Rusney Castillo, Byron Buxton, Anthony Gose and Josh Hamilton. Combined he spent $56, with the majority of that going towards Springer and Castillo. An early season, under the radar FAAB move would prove to be crucial in soldifying this outfield group.

In terms of pitching, Chris would spend $78.00 on his staff, with Carlos Carrasco anchoring the group at a purchase price of $17.00. A strong number two in Jake Odorrizi ($12.00) and a couple of upside plays in Taijuan Walker ($10.00) and James Paxton ($9.00) gave Chris a decent group without breaking the bank heading into the season. For saves Chris spent $20.00 on a combination of Jake McGee, Wade Davis & Joakim Soria. While Soria was the only pitcher to receive every day saves, McGee and Davis pitched like relief aces and saw save chances here and there.

To wrap up the auction portion of this break down, it was clear Chris wanted to build a foundation of offensive players at key positions (1B, 3B, CI & OF) and was willing to go "live body/low cost" at catcher and middle infield. Again, in a league this deep, you need a plan of attack at the auction table as you will not be able to roster studs across the board. I also feel Chris's pitching plan was excellent. While the total spent on his staff wasn't some crazy $30-$40, he spread the love across the board and limited his exposure by not drafting one top-tier ace for $25-$35 and back-filling the rest of his staff with unproven/cheap pitchers.

FAAB Moves:

The first thing that jumps out at me in regards to Chris's FAAB bidding this season is the lack of a giant "all-in" FAAB bid. In fact, the most spent was back in April when Chris dropped $16.00 on Zach McAllister. Otherwise, it was a lot of single dollar bids and getting out ahead of the masses that gave Chris a giant advantage in the FAAB bidding. For example, on April 6th, Chris acquired Mark Canha for $7. A week later Chris was ahead of the pack, nabbing Shawn Tolleson for $1.00 to add a second closer to his roster. Not to brag, but I also added Tolleson that week thanks in large part to the excellent tools at Baseball HQ. Then on May 11th Chris added what was probably the main reason his team was able to survive the Miguel Cabrera and George Springer injuries, with a $1 acqusition of Carlos Correra. The cheap middle infield from draft day now consisted on two everyday players (Giavotella & Drew) and a ROY front-runner. A week later Chris would add Lance McCullers for $9.00 (his second highest FAAB bid for the season).

Trade: Chris wasn't too active on the trade front this season, however, in July he swapped Soria for Joe Mauer. A week and a half later, Soria was traded and no longer a source of saves. Later, in August, Liss moved a FAAB acquistion in Jean Machi (who was closing off and on for Boston) and received Henry Owens. While Owens was never great, the idea behind the trade was solid as Machi is garbage and Chris had a nice save total as is. Lastly, right before the deadline, Chris packaged Ivan Nova and Shawn Tolleson (again with a comfortable save total) and acquired Sonny Gray in an attempt to bolster his starting rotation. Both Tolleson and Nova were acquired in season for a combined $2 FAAB and months later they were used to acquire a top of the rotation anchor. Well done.

So with a week to go, how did Chris position himself to take down the title? It appears with a well planned out draft strategy at certain positions and a FAAB approach that makes this writer think he needs to reconsider his own FAAB bidding in the upcoming season.

Well done Chris.

To read more of my work, follow me on twitter: @dmojr

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