2021 LABR Mixed Draft Recap

On Tuesday night, the competitors of the LABR Mixed drafted virtually congregated for our annual early/mid-February 15-team draft. Drafts this early are tough, because although in some respects it benefits the prepared and the more highly skilled, there are also many unknowns at this point of the offseason, that once known, could alter a player’s or multiple players’ values, perhaps significantly. In addition, all this additional time between the draft and opening day means more opportunity for injuries to decimate your roster before the season begins! So as a result, and although I’m not sure if this is even mathematically possible, it feels like the early draft time requires both more skill and more luck. Anyway, let’s get to the draft results. The full draft could be found here.

Before sharing my team, I’ll quickly remind you of my “strategy”. I put that word in quotes because is there really a strategy in any draft or auction? Everyone is trying to maximize the value of their team, and the only way to do that is to buy as many players at a discount to their projected value, and as large a discount to that projected value, as possible. So I simply take what the draft gives me and roster players I would have never guessed I would have, simply because they are a bargain at their current price and past their ADP, meaning there’s no need to wait on the player as I risk another team benefiting from the mispricing. If I see a large group of players at the same position all around the same value, I’ll typically skip those higher valued players in favor of a less valuable player at a different position, with the expectation that at least one of those hitters will make it back to me, as I usually don’t care which hitter I get, as I’m just buying projections.

So that’s generally how I play hitters. On the pitching side, I’m notorious (well, I do this in every league, so whether other owners are aware or not, I actually have no idea) for paying less for pitching than most (all?) other teams. There are two reasons for this — with two ratio categories, there’s more opportunity for good fortune that could vault a cheaper pitcher into a far higher tier, and I’m simply more confident in my ability to find true breakout candidates later in the draft, of which I collect a bunch to raise my chances of hitting on a couple.

So that’s how I approach snake drafts. Now let’s get to the results. I’ll present my roster two ways — in pick order and then by position.

2021 LABR Mixed Team
1.4 Mike Trout 4 2 -2 OF
2.12 Adalberto Mondesi 27 39 12 SS
3.4 DJ LeMahieu 34 64 30 2B
4.12 Pete Alonso 57 31 -26 1B
5.4 Carlos Carrasco 64 111 47 P
6.12 Eugenio Suarez 87 74 -13 3B
7.4 Yordan Alvarez 94 40 -54 DH
8.12 James Karinchak 117 528 411 P
9.4 Victor Robles 124 69 -55 OF
10.12 Dylan Bundy 147 276 129 P
11.4 David Price 154 P
12.12 Gary Sanchez 177 79 -98 C
13.4 Nick Madrigal 184 268 84 2B
14.12 Richard Rodriguez 207 P
15.4 Lorenzo Cain 214 183 -31 OF
16.12 Eduardo Escobar 237 120 -117 3B
17.4 Matt Barnes 244 559 315 P
18.12 Buster Posey 267 C
19.4 Oscar Mercado 274 117 -157 OF
20.12 Sam Hilliard 297 284 -13 OF
21.4 Griffin Canning 304 255 -49 P
22.12 Caleb Smith 327 227 -100 P
23.4 Tarik Skubal 334 P
24.12 Chris Archer 357 P
25.4 David Peterson 364 P
26.12 Reyes Moronta 387 P
27.4 Anthony DeSclafani 394 257 -137 P
28.12 Gregory Polanco 417 304 -113 OF
29.4 Gregory Soto 424 P

2021 LABR Mixed Team
Position Player
C Gary Sanchez
C Buster Posey
1B Pete Alonso
3B Eugenio Suarez
CI Eduardo Escobar
2B DJ LeMahieu
SS Adalberto Mondesi
MI Nick Madrigal
OF Mike Trout
OF Victor Robles
OF Lorenzo Cain
OF Oscar Mercado
OF Sam Hilliard
Util Yordan Alvarez
P Carlos Carrasco
P James Karinchak
P Dylan Bundy
P David Price
P Richard Rodriguez
P Matt Barnes
P Griffin Canning
P Caleb Smith
P Tarik Skubal
Bench Chris Archer
Bench David Peterson
Bench Reyes Moronta
Bench Anthony DeSclafani
Bench Gregory Polanco
Bench Gregory Soto

I added each players’ 2020 ADP I had saved from my 2020 Pod Projections and then calculated the difference between where I picked the player and the 2020 ADP. Notice a pattern? Of the 14 hitters I drafted that played in 2020, 11 of them came at a cheaper price than their 2020 ADP! The vast majority of those were either 2020 disappointments, injured, or opted out early on. My strategy coming in was certainly not to draft the underachievers of the small sample 2020 season. It just so happened that it appears my leaguemates dinged these hitters far more heavily for their 2020 performances, or lack thereof in the case of injury and opt outs, than I did.

I only paid more for three hitters compared to their 2020 ADP. One of them was an absolute bargain at last season’s ADP and undervalued based on a perception of one-dimensionalness, the other just proved he’s indeed one of the fantasy elite after doing it a second time, and the last was a rookie in 2020 who now opens the season as the everyday starter. So their draft prices deserve to be higher heading into 2021.

Now let’s dive into more player specifics.

I drew the fourth pick, so I knew I would be given the opportunity to nab one of my top four players, which I valued within $2 of each other before a near $5 drop to the fifth player. That means fourth is a good spot to be in drafts with this format and number of teams. However, I decided against selecting the one available player from my top four. The draft began without fireworks, as such:

1.1 – Fernando Tatis Jr.
1.2 – Mookie Betts
1.3 – Ronald Acuna Jr.

Those three were part of my top four, but my projected third most valuable player was Trea Turner, whose ADP was 8. Clearly, not many fantasy owners viewed Turner as a top three pick. However, the combination of his steals, newfound power, strong batting average, and forecasted 100+ runs scored surely made him worth that pick, but fantasy owners apparently weren’t actually willing to fully pay for those projections. I ended up becoming one of those owners who chose not to pay for those projections, rightly or wrongly. Given his injury history and reliance on steals, which I always seem to find cheaply later in the draft, I opted for better safety and more power. Mike Trout at fourth overall? I’LL TAKE HIM! I’m only projecting nine steals from him, so anything more than that is gravy and would push him back into the top four.

My next pick is so Pod, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my leaguemates snickered to themselves thinking “shocker, I knew Mondesi would go to Pod”. In fact, I just checked my draft from last year’s LABR team and had totally forgotten I selected Mondesi as well! I got him 33rd overall then, and paid more here simply because that was when my pick was. My other option was to allow another owner to earn a nice profit, as his 15/50 potential over a full season is possibly top 10 material. I wasn’t going to let that happen.

Frankly, I was almost embarrassed, and pretty surprised that I ended up clicking the Draft button next to DJ LeMahieu’s name in the third round. I was hoping it wouldn’t have come to that as Manny Machado was slipping and I was crossing my fingers he would last one more pick. He didn’t, as he was scooped up the pick before me and I had to quickly make alternative plans. LeMahieu’s the type of player in which the kneejerk reaction is he’ll be massively overvalued, as there’s just no way he could come close to repeating his 2020 performance. Heck, I didn’t even think he could replicate his 2019, but he actually upped his game last year.

My issue was that he significantly outperformed his xHR/FB rate in 2020, and actually ranked eighth in largest outperformance of my entire population set. If you use a 50 FB+LD minimum (about two months of batted balls), he’s the biggest outperformer, and it’s not particularly close. Since that’s accounted for in my projections, I never would have guessed I would be the one drafting him. But here’s the thing — his xHR/FB rate during 2019’s power breakout almost perfectly matched his actual HR/FB rate. Don’t forget, one of xHR/FB rate’s major weaknesses is fully exposed by LeMahieu, who takes full advantage of his home ballpark. Even if you regress his 2019 HR/FB rate a bit, and then combine it with a low strikeout rate, high BABIP, and 100+ runs scored, he’s clearly worth the pick and current ADP. I would have never realized it without my own projections and dollar value calculations.

Toward the end of the fourth round, Pete Alonso was my first pick that started the trend of buying hitters coming off a disappointing 2020. Funny enough, I rostered him in last year’s LABR draft as well! But I had to pay a 28th overall pick then, versus a 57th pick this time. The cheaper draft price was essentially all because he BABIP’d .242 instead of the .280 in 2019, while everything else was more or less in line with forecasts. Is that enough to deserve such a drop in draft cost? I don’t think it is.

As I discussed early on, only one other team waited longer than me to select their first starting pitcher. You’ll recall that Carlos Carrasco had battled leukemia that cut his disappointing 2019 season short. We had no idea what to expect in 2020 and so his draft cost was depressed for obvious reasons. Amazingly, aside from a spike in walk rate, he showed absolutely no degradation in skills, which is pretty incredible. Now in the National League for the first time, without the universal DH, and Francisco Lindor behind him once again, he should maintain his place as one of the league’s top pitchers.

Gosh I hope Yordan Alvarez is healthy. It’s totally understandable that after major knee surgery (on both knees!) and only about a half season’s worth of MLB at-bats, fantasy owners are being cautious. But man the upside at this price is considerable. I abhor filling my Util slot with a DH-only hitter, especially relatively early, but sometimes you just can’t pass up on such a hitter at the going rate.

An unproven closer toward the end of the eighth round is exactly what happens when you don’t want to draft anyone else. It always happens at least once in a snake draft — when you look at your rankings sorted in descending dollar value order, and every hitter at the top of your list you believe you can draft later, or you’ve already drafted enough at the position of the player at or near the top. That’s when I end up going for a starting pitcher or a closer, the latter because they are in short supply and the top tier go early. James Karinchak surely struggles with control at times, but his strikeout ability is so enormous that those walks shouldn’t hurt him very often. He’s the obvious guy to open the season with the job for the Indians, but there’s legit risk he walks himself out of the job.

Victor Robles is another great example of a hitter whose draft price has fallen precipitously thanks to a poor 2020. There weren’t many, if any, positives underlying his performance, so all I needed to know is that he’s still just 23 years old, owns above average speed, and hits enough fly balls to contribute at least neutral value in home runs. I thought he was overvalued heading into the 2020 season, but now, I think he’s getting punished too much for a small sample down year.

I really didn’t want to draft Dylan Bundy. Frankly, I’m really surprised I did. His fastball velocity trend was ominous and it truly scares me heading into 2021. But his price was pretty darn good and was one of the few starting pitchers who didn’t get selected far earlier than my ranking. If I was already accounting for the down velocity in my projection, then I was fine getting him at a discount to my mediocre forecast.

Hilarious, I drafted David Price one pick later than last year. Back then, word was that Price was being traded to the Dodgers, and that word got out during our draft, if my memory is correct. I figured that would boost his value and rushed to draft him. He ended up opting out, but still represents an intriguing rebound player off his disappointing 2019.

Wow, people have truly given up on Gary Sanchez, huh?! I paired him with Buster Posey in the 18th round, so I feel like there’s a chance I make a killing with my catcher duo at those prices. Lorenzo Cain is another forgotten guy after he opted out just five games into last season. I love my 10-20 guys, as they always seem undervalued, doing a little of everything but not standing out in any particular category.

Eduardo Escobar hit 35 homers in 2019, then went missing at the plate in 2020, and lost over 100 picks from his 2020 ADP!

Oscar Mercado is yet another I drafted on last year’s LABR team, but got him at 118 then and 274 this time after his miserable season. This one definitely deserves the ding as his playing time is no sure thing. But his upside is considerable and really hasn’t changed even after he stunk up the joint in 2020. Remember though, it was just 93 plate appearances, so the Indians didn’t exactly give him a chance to dig out of his slump.

FREE SAM HILLIARD! Maybe he’ll truly open on the strong side of a platoon in Colorado, but you never know what the organization is thinking. His power/speed combo is just too intriguing not to take a chance on near pick 300.

As promised, I drafted six starting pitchers in my last nine picks, hoping to catch at least a couple of lightnings in a bottle. Included in those nine that weren’t starting pitchers are two potential closer candidates in unsettled bullpens that have shown or I think could show the skills to succeed in the role all year. Also included is my last “bad 2020, discounted 2021 price” player in Gregory Polanco. At least I know he’ll play and is my backup in case Hilliard is banished.

So there you have it, a team composed of many of 2020’s disappointments, mixed with typical Pod-like roster construction. There’s still another nearly six weeks to go before the season begins, so a lot could change during that time and my roster could look even better, or much worse.

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.

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3 years ago

Thanks for the write up. I was waiting for this post after listening to the Sleeper and the Bust live draft episode with Joe P’s team. I think “league winner” was the phrase used by Joe P when you selected Yordan. Overall your batters look awesome and I like some of your pitcher dart throws.

The balance of your hitter couplets throughout the draft were super fun to think about when looking at the draft board. Great pairings:

Good luck this season!

3 years ago
Reply to  Telemachus

those first 4 hitters are so uniquely different. I know pod doesnt spend much capital but i was a little surprised how late he really started taking pitchers. I looked at the draft results and seems to be atleast a few others with a similar strategy. I figured the run on pitching would be more significant.