The section below before I reveal my team is going to be similar to previous LABR recaps since little has changed and there’s no sense in rewording things.
It’s mid-Feburary, so you know what that means…another super eeeeeeaaaaaaarrrrlllllllyyyyyyy LABR Mixed draft has been completed! Tout Wars auctions don’t take place for another month, my local league’s auction is in the same boat, and opening day is still six weeks away! The early timing of LABR Mixed presents some interesting challenges in that there are many position battles yet to have even begun and poor Pedro Alvarez still finds himself teamless. So on one hand, it requires us to perform serious research and really know the depth charts, but on the other, we’re all just speculating, crossing our fingers, and hoping for the best.
LABR Mixed is a 15 team league composed of fantasy baseball industry veterans, with traditional 5×5 roto scoring, standard 23-man active rosters (which means two catchers and nine pitchers), and a six man reserve squad. We get unlimited DL spots. We use FAAB and begin with 100 units. The minimum bid is 1, not 0, so if your team is ravaged by injuries, there may come a point where you’re literally out of FAAB units and are forced to keep a hurt player in your lineup (yes, this has happened to me before and I’ve seen it happen to many a team I’ve competed with as well).
Before I recap my team, let’s talk strategy. To be honest, I hate being asked what my strategy is heading into a draft or what it was after the draft has ended. Strategy, seriously? Obviously, my strategy is to draft the best team possible…by acquiring as much value as I can, while being mindful I don’t draft 300 steals and just 100 homers (believe me, my player values make this is a lot easier to accidentally accomplish than you would ever imagine!). However, there is kind of an answer to this silly “what was your strategy?” question. I’m probably so used to the way I draft that I don’t even think of it as strategy anymore, but rather just “correct” or “proper” drafting.
A year ago leading up to the 2016 LABR recap, I described an important piece of snake draft prep that I perform. The exercise helps me determine which positions I could afford to pass on the top players at value in order to wait for bargains to appear later on, and which positions I shouldn’t expect to find undervalued names, and instead snatch up the top tier guys. So in other words, if I don’t see any players I feel are undervalued at shortstop, then I’m perfectly happy using an early round pick on a Carlos Correa or a Corey Seager. I don’t need to save the spot to scoop up a bargain later. However, if I notice a couple of first basemen I feel are undervalued later on, I might decide to pass on a Joey Votto or a Freddie Freeman early to take advantage of the potential for profit later.
Of course, this analysis was all based on NFBC ADP, and as you are well aware, it only takes one owner to realllllly like a player to make ADP useless. And in a league full of industry guys, many owners tend to take their guys whenever they feel like it, even if they could have selected those same guys several rounds later.
After performing this exercise and comparing my personal values to NFBC ADP, sadly I didn’t find any particular position filled with bargains at all. That was odd. I found specific players to be undervalued, of course, but not a large group from any position, and it was the same type of player that I usually find undervalued (speed and high batting average guys). So rather than going into the draft with a list of positions to wait on and a list of positions I should be willing to pounce on the top guys in the early rounds, I fell back into my standard value based draft strategy (ughhh, there’s that word again) where I just scooped up the guys that were undervalued in an effort to maximize the value of my team.
Another so-called strategy that has just been my way forever is that I always draft starting pitchers late. In LABR, I have been drafting a top 15 option in the first couple of rounds along with everyone else, but then waiting much longer to pair him with another starter than the majority of, if not all, other teams. I try to fill my staff and reserves with lots of young, high upside guys, figuring I’ll hit on a couple of them. Then it’s easy enough to find pitching from free agency during the season.
Last, I will never draft a top closer. It is not because I think they are overvalued in drafts; in fact, I absolutely think they are fairly priced and the top options deserve to go where they go. But the huge turnover at closer each year provides us with so many opportunities to pick one or two up during the season, so why spend so much on one during the draft? Sure, it’ll cost you FAAB units, but if you’re slick, you can often preemptively pick up a setup guy behind a closer looking shaky with the idea that your guy may take over the role in short order. And best of all, you probably got him with a minimum bid. I’ve had quite a bit of success buying closers throughout the season in this league, which gives me no motivation to pay for them during the draft.
Finally, it’s time to reveal my team. I was unlucky enough to get saddled with the 14th selection, which is the second worst slot in this draft. Since the biggest value gaps appear in the first round, the best pick will always be the first overall, and then almost always followed by the second, third, etc.
|Player||Pos||Round Selected||My Rank Round||Round Selected – My Rank Round||ADP Round|
|Jung Ho Kang||Be||17||16||1||17|
If anyone ever wondered what my strategy in LABR is, this year’s draft may be the best execution of it ever.
- Two top catchers since all catchers are always undervalued and I’d rather get a discount on a top guy than a mid-tier guy? Check.
- An “ace”/top 15 starting pitcher, and then a whole lot of waiting to pair him with my second starting pitcher? Check.
- A portfolio of young, high upside starting pitchers that will result in my staff sinking or swimming? Check.
- A collection of crappy closers? Check.
- Still caring when it got to reserve pick time and building depth with a couple more lottery ticket starting pitchers and other valuable players that should be starting on other teams? Check.
Okay, enough patting myself on the back. If my strategy itself is flawed, then executing it means nothing! But this is a great example of the type of teams I typically put together in this league, and in shallower mixed leagues as well.
Do you remember this epic debate about position scarcity last year? It generated a possibly record-breaking (for a RotoGraphs post) 130 comments! The summary version is that my values fully account for position and it is my belief that catchers, strictly based on their statistical projections and position eligibility, are consistently undervalued. So while nearly all catchers came at a discount to my values, I typically feel it’s a better use of a pick to get a top guy at a discount than a mid-tier or bottom tier guy at a discount.
If this were an auction, better to spend $20 on a $25 catcher than $8 on an $11 catcher. That sounds like an unfair example because the first yields a $5 profit and the second yields a $3 profit, but this is precisely what happens in my local league every year. So while I don’t go into a draft or auction targeting the top tier of catchers, I just typically end up with two from that group.
I never would have guessed I would end up with Gary Sanchez on my squad. But it was the fourth round and all my other options I felt it was too early for and generally at value there. So I opted to go with Sanchez, who I valued as a second round pick, even despite the massive regression I projected. Newsflash — even a forecast of 24 homers, 143 RBI + R, and a .266 batting average are enough to be extremely valuable when your league drafts 30 catchers.
I guess it was surprising to some that Anthony Rizzo fell to me with the 14th overall pick, but I actually didn’t even have him valued in my top 14! He was 18th, but it was too early for some of the guys I valued a couple of bucks more, so I opted to play it safe. Rather surprising given that he just appeared at the top of my surprise BABIP decliners list. But that’s why I valued him 18th, which is probably worse than literally everyone else.
How much longer does Justin Turner have to perform at this level for people to realize this is real? Hard to believe his ADP was another round later!
An early end to Mike Moustakas‘ season most certainly dampened the enthusiasm for a potential full-season breakout. Every metric is trending in the right direction and round 13 is a cheap price to bet on this being the year.
Ian Kinsler doesn’t need to perform anywhere close to last year to earn fifth round value, but of course at his age, there’s always that risk of falling off a cliff offensively.
I was questioned about my second round choice of Jonathan Villar and that’s perfectly understandable. I’m not typically one to buy into a player following his breakout (oops, apparently did it twice with Sanchez in round 4!). But like Sanchez, even huge regression still results in a player that’s easily second round material. Heck, I actually had him valued 14th overall! That’s with a projection of 13 homers and 48 steals, which are in line or slightly worse than the rest of the projections.
When running my values, I learned that the value of steals gets a big boost in this format versus 12-team mixed leagues. So if you would laugh at the notion of drafting Villar 14th overall in your 12-teamer, that’s okay, I would too. Values are highly dependent on league format and size, and Villar’s value here is a perfect example of this concept.
DJ LeMahieu –> high batting average + steals = near lock to be undervalued
Khris Davis was third in baseball last year in Brls/BBE among those with at least 100 batted ball events and 10th in 2015. Yeah, he’s for real.
Sooo Keon Broxton was the result of a true screwup. Rudy Gamble of Razzball, who was on the other side of the position scarcity/catcher debate linked to above, drafted from the 15th slot. At the end of the ninth round, I was planning to go with Salvador Perez and then Carlos Gomez for my pick in the 10th round after Rudy got his two guys. I KNOW that Rudy punts catcher, so I should have gone with Gomez first, then Perez next. Instead, I foolishly went with Perez first, just to see Rudy immediately take Gomez. I then had little time to come up with an alternative and essentially made a panic pick of Broxton. If I went with Gomez first, I may very well have gotten Broxton in the 11th round and drafted both Gomez and Broxton, though then my pitching staff would look quite different perhaps.
After Davis and Broxton, the rest of my outfield is…probably going to get criticized. But I really like Matt Holliday in his new situation, think Alex Gordon should rebound some, and Leonys Martin is a cheap power/speed combo, something you can never have enough of.
Utility will probably be a revolving door for me, but I love the power potential and upside of Kennys Vargas to start the season with.
Wow, this may be the most fun pitching staff I’ve ever drafted! I didn’t think I would ever draft Jake Arrieta in a league. But for a change, he seems to be undervalued. Lance McCullers, Matt Harvey, Aaron Nola, Taijuan Walker, Dylan Bundy, oh my! There’s an entire hospital wing reserved for this group. But hey, while these guys might come with serious injury risk, the underlying skills and upside are tantalizing.
Watching mediocre closers fly off the board in the late single digit rounds was a joy. While everyone was falling over themselves to draft David Robertson and Cody Allen in the late single digit rounds to take a value loss, I was buying hitters at a discount that my competitors passed over. So that’s why this is the scariest group of relievers I’ve ever assembled. But at least if Huston Street prove he’s healthy and somehow rebounds, while Glen Perkins returns and reclaims the closing gig, I’m going to have four closers…until Fernando Rodney loses his job.
My selection of Jung Ho Kang in the 17th round was interesting. We have no idea how much time he might miss, but at that price, I had no choice but to roster him and wait for him to join the Pirates. His return will give me some nice depth and allow me to make some trades to free up a starting spot.
So I left the LABR Mixed draft with what I believe to be a top notch offense and a boom or bust pitching staff. Perfect.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.