Phew. After a nearly four and a half hour snake draft online, I have officially completed the earliest draft in my fantasy baseball career. LABR stands for League of Alternative Baseball Reality, and along with Tout Wars, is one of the two most publicized “expert” leagues. In the past, LABR has had only two leagues, an AL-Only and NL-Only, with both formats using a live auction in Arizona to select players. Last year, a mixed league with an online draft was formed and I participated in the inaugural season as well. With that background out of the way, let’s get into more league specifics.
This is a 15-team 5×5 league with the standard 14/9 starting rosters and 6 bench spots. We are allowed an unlimited number of players on the disabled list, so Tommy John surgery returnees like Brandon Beachy and Cory Luebke, would make for low risk selections if they were available in the reserve rounds, which of course they weren’t. I drew the fourth overall pick, which I think is awful this year. There is a clear cut top three, and then a cliff after those.
As with any draft or auction I participate in, I tend to take pitchers late or spend close to the least amount of my budget on pitching. I am confident in my ability to grab undervalued starters late and enjoy filling up my bench with lottery tickets. This year, I also realized that there is a massive number of outfielders I felt were being undervalued, as compared to their NFBC ADP ranks. So I decided that I was going to try to steer clear of paying value for the top outfielders so I had room later on to fill up on the undervalued guys.
My Winning Squad (Round):
C: Victor Martinez (5)
C: Mike Napoli (9)
1B: Anthony Rizzo (6)
3B: Brett Lawrie (4)
CI: Adam LaRoche (10)
2B: Robinson Cano (1)
SS: Starlin Castro (3)
MI: Andrelton Simmons (17)
OF: Jason Heyward (2)
OF: Ichiro Suzuki (11)
OF: Alejandro De Aza (13)
OF: Starling Marte (14)
OF: Justin Ruggiano (18)
U: Chris Parmelee or one of my reserve hitters (25)
P: James Shields (7)
P: Tim Lincecum (8)
P: Homer Bailey (12)
P: Rafael Betancourt (15)
P: Steve Cishek (16)
P: Andrew Cashner (19)
P: Shelby Miller (20)
P: Trevor Bauer (23)
P: Frank Francisco (24)
BN: Jedd Gyorko (21)
BN: Darin Mastroianni (22)
BN: Mark Rogers (26)
BN: Chris Archer (27)
BN: Carlos Villanueva (28)
BN: Carlos Carrasco (29)
Rd 1- According to the NFBC, since the latest PED drama surfaced and Ryan Braun‘s name was once again involved, Braun has not gone earlier than fourth overall in any of their mock drafts. This was exciting news! I thought there was a chance. My excitement increased as Miguel Cabrera went first overall, followed by Mike Trout. Could it be? Nope, USA Today’s Steve Gardner had to spoil all the fun and grabbed the most valuable fantasy player third overall. Damn. Before the draft, I debated who to take fourth overall. My values said Albert Pujols, but he, along with the guys just behind him (Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez), seemed a bit too risky for my taste. I have never been a real Cano fan, but I bit the bullet and went with him. It’s my first time owning him so I expect a disappointing year.
Rd 2- Surprised I got Heyward as I just assumed he was being overvalued. I’m happy though as I never have any Braves on my team to root for and at least there is some serious upside here. Heading toward my pick, I thought Clayton Kershaw was about to fall to me. I NEVER draft pitchers anywhere close to this early, so I was nervous about having to make a decision. Luckily, Kershaw was selected two picks before me, so I didn’t have to worry about dealing with an early offensive disadvantage.
Rds 3 & 4- No interesting analysis here. Castro and Lawrie were simply near the top of my values and given the drop-offs to the next highest players at their respective positions, I thought they were the best options. You know exactly what I projected for Lawrie, and he has both lots of upside, and obviously some downside.
Rd 5- At this point, the top of my values list included a bunch of starting pitchers and outfielders. As I noted earlier, I wanted to wait on both of these positions, so I went with a (hopefully) top catcher in V-Mart. Of course, any player who missed an entire season due to injury is going to be a risk, but my projection valued him as an end of third rounder, so he was a slight value here even with a somewhat conservative projection. Though, catchers seemed to be a bit undervalued throughout the draft, so maybe this was just a neutral pick.
Rd 6- Alex Rios was one of the outfielders who has been significantly undervalued. I expected to draft him. But, you have to expect the unexpected and sure enough, Rios was selected two spots before me. I didn’t have a back-up plan and the top of my value list was all catchers, outfielders and starting pitchers. Crap. Rizzo was the next best thing at a position I wanted to draft. In hindsight, I am very happy with the decision, especially considering my projections are quite conservative compared to those from the systems on FanGraphs.
Rd 7- With no standout hitter at this point, Shields was staring at me atop my value list. Was it time to finally take my first starting pitcher? Yes, indeed it was. I have been a Shields owner many a time, so he feels comfortable as a member of my squads. Unfortunately, I could already see myself yelling at the pathetic Royals offense for denying him a win, and now I have to also hope that he isn’t breaking down.
Rd 8- Still too early to select one of the many outfielders that currently top my list and I didn’t want to take a second catcher already, so back into the pitcher pool I dove, betting on a Lincecum rebound this time. Although it could just be noise, I am encouraged that he has gained eight pounds in the offseason and the Giants will likely do everything they can to bring his velocity back up. He could be one of this year’s biggest bargains.
Rd 9- I am not concerned at all about Napoli’s hip condition, and if anything, it should make him cheaper to acquire in drafts. The Green Monster should really help his BABIP and batting average to rebound and he should set a career high in at-bats.
Rd 10- I was very close to drafting another 2012 bust in Jon Lester, but at the last second, decided instead to go offense with LaRoche, as my corner infield options were quickly drying up. I didn’t want to already have three starters through 10 rounds, that’s very unlike me! Sure enough, Lester was drafted right after my pick.
Rd 11- At this point in the draft, my positional needs were solely an MI, OFers, a Util and pitchers. It was finally time to start scooping up some of the outfielders I felt were undervalued and have been staring at me atop my values list for some time now. The top guy was Ichiro who has defied aging and should have another solid year atop the Yankees order.
Rd 12– I was all set to go with another of those undervalued outfielders in Angel Pagan, but as usual, he was taken two spots before me. So instead of simply taking the next guy in my clump of outfielders, I called an audible and went pitcher instead. Bailey joined my LABR team for the second straight year.
Rd 13– There’s that next undervalued outfielder again atop my value list. Welcome De Aza to team De Podhorzer.
Rd 14- I was deciding between Adam Eaton and Marte, and decided to go with Marte because I needed power more than speed and based on ADP, thought Eaton would slip another round. Naturally, that didn’t happen, as he went four picks later.
Rd 15- Finally time to draft my first closer in Betancourt. Wooo.
Rds 16 & 17- At this point, I still needed an MI and I noticed a large drop-off after Simmons. But, closers were going fast and furious and I didn’t want to be closed out of a second. So I made the choice to go with the rarer commodity (the closer) since ADP suggested Simmons would be available the following round as well. It worked. I got Cishek as my second closer in the 16th and Simmons in the 17th. Eno Sarris will be so very proud.
Rd 18- Ruggiano had been atop my values list for a while. In fact, my projection yielded a seventh round value, so it was a matter of how long I wanted to wait and risk someone else grabbing him. This is not a case of fully believing his awesome performance in a half-season worth of at-bats. He has power and speed and although he is not guaranteed to open the season as the Marlins starting center fielder, his competition isn’t very threatening. Oh, and then there’s this: 309.7. That was his average fly ball plus home run distance last season, which ranked third in all of baseball. He’s got some serious pop.
After that, I rounded out my team with a bunch of young arms, including Cashner of course, with breakout potential. Some of the names either don’t have rotation spots yet or will be fighting for one in spring training. So as I alluded to at the beginning, these are the lottery tickets.
Late in the draft, I was scrounging to find a utility hitter with power. I knew I needed home runs more than speed and was about to draft Kevin Youkilis until I realized he was already drafted. Oops. This was in the 21st round, and I ended up running out of time after figuring out that Youk was drafted. So, Gyorko was autodrafted for me. I could have paused the draft, undid the pick, and selected someone else. I decided to keep him on my team. He has a chance to open the year as the Padres second baseman, so he probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer anyway and he could be a great value this late.
The utility man hunt continued though since I didn’t plan for Gyorko to start there for me. I selected Mastroianni just based on pure value from his steals and then later went with his teammate Parmelee who would give me the potential power I was seeking.
As is usually the case, this team is far from what I expected it to look like. I count only 10 players that I am not surprised to have drafted given how my values lined up with ADP. Maybe that’s actually a high number, but it seems a bit low to me. Also, the team has a surprisingly strong mix of young and older players. I typically end up with the undervalued veterans who have limited upside, but this team actually has lots of young guns that have the breakout potential needed to win a 15-team expert league. Overall, I am extremely satisfied with the squad.