We are now heading into the third year of the LABR mixed league. In its inaugural 2012 season, I finished in the middle of the pack. Last year, I finished second. If you’re a fan of following trends, then clearly I’m going to finish somewhere in the negative mid-single digits this year. I think that’s good. On Tues night, I endured an exhausting nearly four hour online snake draft…in early February. Yup, LABR likes to draft early so the results could be published in the fantasy issue of USA Today Sports Weekly. Of course, that makes it extremely difficult to draft a real team with so many position battles yet to be fought.
This is a 15-team 5×5 league with the standard 14/9 starting rosters and 6 bench spots. We are also allowed an unlimited number of players on the disabled list. I drew the ninth overall pick and immediately knew who was going to fall to me as my selection. Well, thought I knew.
My Winning Squad (Round):
C: Evan Gattis (10)
C: Jason Castro (12)
1B: Eric Hosmer (3)
3B: David Wright (2)
CI: Anthony Rizzo (6)
2B: Aaron Hill (7)
SS: Everth Cabrera (5)
MI: Brad Miller (13)
OF: Ryan Braun (1)
OF: Domonic Brown (9)
OF: Khris Davis (15)
OF: Michael Brantley (17)
OF: Junior Lake (19)
U: Mitch Moreland (20)
P: Madison Bumgarner (4)
P: Hisashi Iwakuma (8)
P: Ernesto Frieri (11)
P: CC Sabathia (14)
P: Tim Lincecum (16)
P: Alex Wood (18)
P: Kevin Gausman (21)
P: James Paxton (22)
P: Jenrry Mejia (23)
BN: Josh Beckett (24)
BN: Tyler Skaggs (25)
BN: Henry Urrutia (26)
BN: Carlos Carrasco (27)
BN: Rickie Weeks (28)
BN: DJ LeMahieu (29)
As is often the case, my the team I ended up with is quite surprising. But we’ll discuss those surprises and what led to my selection with a round-by-round recap.
Rd 1: As soon as I learned I had the ninth pick, I just knew I would end up with Braun. His NFBC ADP was 11 and there seemed to be a guaranteed group of players who went in the top 10. Although he’s obviously not without risk, I’m extremely happy to have landed him since this was a first round full of players I didn’t feel comfortable with as first rounders.
Rd 2: Simply a value play here. Somehow my projections produced a ninth overall ranking for David Wright, so was satisfied getting him in the second, though not surprised given his ADP of 25. Steals from your third baseman is nice.
Rd 3: Ughhh, this was the beginning of what I feared was a disastrous remaining draft. Having fully believed that Jean Segura was legit and not being scared off by his poor second half, I was praying that he would fall to me. He had already last past his ADP of 29, so I was getting increasingly nervous. Then what do ya know, he was taken the pick right before me. Unfortunately, I had no backup plan, something I usually make sure to have since you have a time limit to make your pick.
I panicked, had no idea what to do and ended up taking Eric Hosmer. According to my values, it was a fair selection, but it felt way too early. It’s not like I’m a huge fan of his to begin with, but let’s hope the big second half was a precursor for a mini-David Wright type season.
Tip: HAVE A BACKUP PLAN!
Rd 4: Round four was craaaaaaazy. Five of the first six picks were starting pitchers. If you know me, you know I never take starting pitchers early. Last year in this same draft, I didn’t take my first starter until the seventh round. But no hitter stood out at the time and I made the decision to go with a pitcher for a change…as did everybody else apparently. First, I thought Adam Wainwright might slip to me. He did not. Then I thought I’d take whoever fell to me between Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez. They each went in the two picks before mine. Being too stubborn to go with a hitter at this point, I went with Madison Bumgarner before there was another step down to the next starter, despite himself being a step down from the previously selected starters.
Tip: Join an auction league, snake drafts will give you a heart attack.
Rd 5: We can be fairly certain that Everth Cabrera is going to be the same player with or without PEDs and the potential for 50 steals was good value here according to my calculations. I love the significantly improved contact rate, but whether he could sustain it will be a big factor in determining whether he could repeat his rates.
Rd 6: For the second year in a row, I took Anthony Rizzo in the sixth round. I figured he would be undervalued this year, but was hoping he would be a little more so than it appears he is. I don’t think I got great value here, but there were no real bargains on the board at the moment. I wish his surrounding lineup was better, as his RBI and runs scored totals will suffer.
Rd 7: Aaron Hill is another coming off a disappointing year, but his season was marred by injury. Second base really stinks this year and I knew I had to do something before there was a big drop-off. It will be important for him to rebound in steals, otherwise it’s borderline he earns seventh round value.
Rd 8: Shocked I ended up drafting Hisashi Iwakuma and then he thanks me by getting injured and likely being out for most of April. Figured he would be overvalued and actually had an ADP in the sixth round, so not sure how he lasted until the eighth.
Rd 9: The second straight surprising pick I made as I called Domonic Brown a second half bust candidate last year based on a HR/FB rate not supported by his batted ball distance. Who knew I’d end up drafting him?! Just goes to show you that every player has a value and even if you think you don’t like someone, he could still be had, and should be had, at the right price. Brown had an eighth round ADP and that’s where I valued him as well.
Rd 10: Three times a charm? Yet another surprising choice of Evan Gattis, as several months ago I essentially threw up my hands thinking I had no idea what to expect from in the future. But he’s the every day catcher in Atlanta and should be a lock for 20+ homers, while batting in a good spot in what should be a better Braves offense.
Rd 11: By this round, every good and safe closer was already gone. I hate knowing that I’m passing up much better value to dip into the remaining closer waters, but it had to be done. I think Ernesto Frieri will be fine this year and at least I could count on lots of strikeouts from a reliever at the very least.
Rd 12: I’m pretty sure that I’m valuing Jason Castro higher than most, so I wondered how long I could wait before gobbling him up. I think his power surge last season was absolutely for real and he’ll be hitting third again, behind a pretty good on base guy in the newly acquired Dexter Fowler.
Rd 13: Brad Miller is one of my favorite sleepers and I was biting my lip hoping he wouldn’t be swiped just ahead of me. He should hit leadoff behind an improved Mariners lineup and be a nice source of power and speed.
Rds 14 & 16: I lumped these two rounds together for obvious reasons. I’m betting on bounce back campaigns for both CC Sabathia and Tim Lincecum and given how late I got them, didn’t have to invest much. There’s therefore a whole lot of upside without much risk. Well, the risk is I start them and they suck again of course. This is the second year in a row I drafted Lincecum in this league. Last year I took him in the eighth round. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Sabathia 2013 SIERA: 3.95
Lincecum 2013 SIERA: 3.75
Rds 15 & 19: Needed to fill out my remaining outfield slots and opted for a pair of sleeper delights in Khris Davis and Junior Lake. This Davis doesn’t have nearly the gargantuan power his inflated HR/FB rate would suggest, but he does have excellent power and some speed too. Could be a bargain in the 15th. I wasn’t too keen on Lake given his poor strikeout rate and inflated .377 BABIP until I checked out his xBABIP. Would you believe that xBABIP suggests he was actually unlucky?! That mark was a crazy .432, likely a result of his high line drive rate and oodles of infield and bunt hits. He is similar to Davis, but with the opposite power/speed profile.
Rd 17: Was literally all set to draft Oswaldo Arcia who you know I’m a fan of until, you guessed it, he was drafted the pick before me. I needed an outfielder and Michael Brantley was easily the best one still available. Actually, I valued him a fraction more than Arcia, but preferred the youngster with upside. And it’s fitting that I drafted Brantley as just 2 1/2 months ago I shared my pessimism on his 2014 prospects. Who knew I’d draft so many players I thought I didn’t like?
The Rest: As usual, I loaded up on young, high upside starting pitchers. Between Alex Wood, Kevin Gausman, James Paxton, Jenrry Mejia, Tyler Skaggs and Carlos Carrasco, I figure at least one of them is going to have a major breakout year. I’m also cautiously optimistic about a rebound for Josh Beckett, provided good health.
Overall, my frown after the Hosmer disaster was turned upside down as I left the draft with a smile. I managed to draft an offense strong in both power and speed and love my collection of pitchers, with both rebound and breakout potential.
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