2024 LABR Mixed Draft Recap

Last Tuesday night, the competitors of the LABR Mixed draft virtually congregated for our annual mid-February 15-team draft. Drafts this early are challenging. On the one hand, the early timing benefits the prepared and the more highly skilled. On the other hand, there remains a great many unknowns that we need to make educated guesses on at best, and complete shots in the dark on at worst. In addition, the longer time between the draft and opening day means more opportunity for injuries to decimate your roster before the season even begins (Kodai Senga’s new owner is already shaking his head)!

Before sharing my team, I’ll quickly remind you once again of my “strategy”. I put that word in quotes because even after more than 20 years of playing fantasy baseball, I’m still not sure I understand what it means to have a draft or auction strategy. Isn’t everyone trying to maximize the value of their team? The only way to do that is to buy as many players at a discount to their projected value, at as large a discount to that projected value, as possible, while keeping categorical balance in mind (you probably shouldn’t buy 300 steals and only 150 home runs, even if you think you can easily make trades).

Of course, trying to maximize the projected value of your drafted roster wouldn’t be successful if everyone valued players exactly the same way (or used the same projections). However, the good news is that we are unlikely to all use the same projections, and even if we did, we still wouldn’t calculate the same values given the same projections. It’s rare that everyone agrees on the value of a particular player, so those disagreements will allow you to buy the players you project to earn more than your leaguemates do. Then you just need to be right and the championship is all yours!

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

2024 LABR Mixed Team – By Pick
OVERALL PICK PLAYER POS
8 1.8 Fernando Tatis Jr. OF
23 2.8 Michael Harris II OF
38 3.8 Bo Bichette SS
53 4.8 Zac Gallen P
68 5.8 Max Fried P
83 6.8 William Contreras C
98 7.8 Andres Gimenez 2B
113 8.8 Andres Munoz P
128 9.8 Esteury Ruiz OF
143 10.8 Carlos Rodon P
158 11.8 Jake Burger 3B
173 12.8 Trevor Story SS
188 13.8 Vinnie Pasquantino 1B
203 14.8 Tyler O’Neill OF
218 15.8 Jarred Kelenic OF
233 16.8 Ryan Mountcastle 1B
248 17.8 Byron Buxton DH
263 18.8 Giancarlo Stanton OF
278 19.8 Shea Langeliers C
293 20.8 James Paxton P
308 21.8 Hunter Harvey P
323 22.8 Sean Manaea P
338 23.8 Jordan Hicks P
353 24.8 Trevor Rogers P
368 25.8 Sean Bouchard OF
383 26.8 James McArthur P
398 27.8 Tanner Houck P
413 28.8 Robbie Ray P
428 29.8 Michael Kopech P

2024 LABR Mixed Team – By Position
OVERALL PICK PLAYER POS
83 6.8 William Contreras C
278 19.8 Shea Langeliers C
188 13.8 Vinnie Pasquantino 1B
158 11.8 Jake Burger 3B
233 16.8 Ryan Mountcastle CI
98 7.8 Andres Gimenez 2B
38 3.8 Bo Bichette SS
173 12.8 Trevor Story MI
8 1.8 Fernando Tatis Jr. OF
23 2.8 Michael Harris II OF
128 9.8 Esteury Ruiz OF
203 14.8 Tyler O’Neill OF
218 15.8 Jarred Kelenic OF
248 17.8 Byron Buxton Util
53 4.8 Zac Gallen P
68 5.8 Max Fried P
113 8.8 Andres Munoz P
143 10.8 Carlos Rodon P
293 20.8 James Paxton P
308 21.8 Hunter Harvey P
323 22.8 Sean Manaea P
338 23.8 Jordan Hicks P
353 24.8 Trevor Rogers P
263 18.8 Giancarlo Stanton Bench
368 25.8 Sean Bouchard Bench
383 26.8 James McArthur Bench
398 27.8 Tanner Houck Bench
413 28.8 Robbie Ray Bench
428 29.8 Michael Kopech Bench

I’m going to come right out and say it — snake drafts stink. This year might be the best illustration why. Using ATC projections and our auction calculator, Ronald Acuña Jr. is projected to earn nearly $20 more than the second most valued player. That’s absurd! I don’t think I’ve ever seen this big a dropoff from the top ranked player to the second ranked player. It gives the team who picks first overall a massive advantage, as the way a snake draft is set up, if everyone drafts optimally (I know, that never happens, but imagine it does), there’s no way for any other team to make up the gap gifted to the team with the first pick. I just don’t get why we should introduce even more luck into a game that already incorporates enough of it by already giving a team a huge advantage before the draft even begins. Alright, rant over, let’s talk about my team.

I drafted out of the 8 hole, and without going back to historical LABR Mixed drafts to check, I could swear I’m almost always right smack in the middle. I actually prefer being in the middle than on a bookend, as it’s hard enough sometimes to decide on one pick when it’s my turn, so finding two players at the top of my value list that also doesn’t represent a “reach” compared to ADP is even more challenging!

I’ve never owned Fernando Tatis Jr., so I’m pretty excited. I feel like last year’s disappointing return, both from a fantasy and real baseball (just a .332 wOBA) perspective, after missing all of 2022 to injury, may reduce his fantasy price ever so slightly, actually making him a good target out of the first round players. He underperformed his xwOBA by .036 points, which is pretty significant, as well. It’s too bad the Padres offense figures to be pretty weak.

I’m not sure why Michael Harris II isn’t getting as much love as he should with an ADP of 31, as he is projected to earn the 22nd most value among all players by ATC. No bargain here for me, as I was just going with the most valuable player on my board, as he obviously wasn’t going to make it back to me in the third round.

It’s another first time owing of Bo Bichette, who surprisingly stole just five bases last year. Overall, it was a disappointing fantasy campaign, but he still has give category contribution potential. My first three is quite the blend of power and speed, so I was already thrilled with my foundation.

I despise drafting pitching early as I’m confident in my ability to find undervalued gems and breakout targets in the later rounds. But no one else in LABR really shares that same strategy, so by my fourth round pick, the starting pitching pickings were slimming fast. I’m not much of a Zac Gallen fan given his pedestrian SwStk%, but he keeps delivering, so he’s somehow figured out how to do it without dominating stuff. I followed that pick up with Max Fried, who I also selected last year, coincidentally, just two overall picks after where I selected him this year. Fingers crossed he gives me more than just 77.2 innings this time, but with my injury luck, I’m not expecting anything.

This league is another where no one pays the price of what a catcher is valued at based on the projections. So I generally just wait until the first catcher is taken and then try to find relative bargains. William Contreras is easily the highest valued catcher according to ATC and actually projected to earn the 28th most value among all players. I’ll take that at pick 83!

Andres Gimenez was the first pick where I had no clue who to go with. There are always several points in the draft where there’s a cluster of players at the same position at the top (so you can typically afford to wait a round as odds are at least one in that cluster will still be available for you next round), or guys with an ADP at least a round or two later than what we’re currently in. So I froze here, feeling like there’s no obvious pick. The timer was getting low and I eventually panic-decided to go with Gimenez, but of course as I try to quickly type in his name in the search, I typed Jimenez before running out of time. Luckily, we were able to pause the draft to give me the player I was trying to search for and we continued on. He did certainly fit in well as yet another power/speed combo, even if I wasn’t particularly thrilled about him joining my team.

Closers go early in this draft, which I love, because I’m just drafting these five category hitters, while others are drafting a role that is so unreliable each season. But eventually, I had to cave, going with Andres Munoz, who at least has the makings of one of the elite given his crazy SwStk% and strikeout potential.

A draft wouldn’t be a Pod draft without rostering a speed demon. Whether it’s Juan Pierre, Dee Gordon, or Adalberto Mondesi in the past, I constantly find these mostly speed only guys are quite undervalued. So even though I was already pretty good in steals with my combo mixes, I couldn’t pass up last year’s second most prolific base-stealer. This also allowed me to shift my focus to power over the rest of the draft.

One of the reasons my LABR team stunk up the joint last year was due to Carlos Rodon, who I drafted 40th overall and gave me a 6.85 ERA over 64.1 innings. Thanks! Oddly, his fastball velocity was perfectly fine, so it’s not obvious why he struggled so much. This year, word is that his velocity is up significantly from where it sat during the same time last year, and he overhauled his mechanics during the offseason. Sounds like an ideal rebound candidate and a potential bargain at 143rd overall.

Jake Burger was the first “let’s go big on power now” pick after Ruiz. While playing a full year in Miami isn’t great for his offense, I like anyone locked into the cleanup spot of the batting order.

Speaking of cleanup hitters, if I told you a middle infielder who used to be a top tier option, albeit because he played in the best hitter’s park in baseball, was available at pick 173 after an injury-riddled, disappointing season, is that something you would be interested in? I wasn’t a fan of Trevor Story at all after his move out of Colorado in 2022, and he’s done nothing to think he’ll suddenly turn things around. But hey, perhaps you give him a mulligan last year given his injury woes, and remember he still owns both power and speed and is projected to hit cleanup for the Red Sox. I don’t think there’s much downside at this price.

I was hoping to nab Rhys Hoskins as my first baseman, but he went three picks after I picked Story, and he went ahead of where I valued him at. I wanted the power, but ended up settling for Vinnie Pasquantino, who I valued a bit higher anyway. I worry how he’ll return from shoulder surgery, but gosh do I love his skill set.

Tyler O’Neill was one of several that ruined my local league team last year, but rather than ban him from future Pod teams, I think of it as an opportunity to buy low. I love the move to Fenway Park from Busch Stadium’s pitcher friendly environment, and we know he has the power and speed to contribute across the board if everything goes right. The only concern is that with top prospect Ceddanne Rafaela competing for the starting center field, if he does indeed win, it’s possible O’Neill finds himself in a platoon with either Jarren Duran or Wilyer Abreu.

Jarred Kelenic at 218?! Boy has the former hyped top prospect fallen, but it gives us fantasy owners to buy the post-hype prospect at a nice discount. Yes, there have been some warts over his parts of three MLB seasons so far, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, has the power and speed to make the same major fantasy impact we all hoped he would have already made. It would be silly to give up on him after fewer than 1,000 plate appearances. Oh, and moving out of T-Mobile Park to Atlanta’s Truist Field could be a boon. Finally, word is the Braves are leaning toward playing him full-time, and not as a platoon guy who sits against lefties. While that could hurt his batting average, it’s still great news for his playing time potential and fantasy upside.

I don’t have much to say about Ryan Mountcastle, who apparently I wasn’t scared off of after rostering him in Tout Wars last year. I’ll just cross my fingers that he doesn’t lose playing time to Ryan O’Hearn again!

Alright, now, for the two picks that could either do nothing for me because they spent more time on the IL than on the field or vault me to a championship, I present to you, Byron Buxton and Giancarlo Stanton in rounds 17 and 18. Buy low, buy low, buy low! There’s no one that has anywhere close to the upside these two have at these prices. The most shocking thing to me is that I actually drafted them before their ADPs, because I thought their prices were so absurd, I couldn’t risk someone rostering so much upside, so cheaply. You may have noticed that I actually drafted Stanton as a reserve, before filling out the rest of my starting roster. That was what I decided to do to ensure I didn’t miss out. I have a feeling these two are going to end up on all my teams.

Shea Langeliers rounded out my starting offense, fitting perfectly with what I was looking to do after drafting Ruiz’s boatload of steals. Let’s just pray for my batting average now, as I have quite a lot of potential stinkers.

The fun part began in round 20, where nine of my remaining 10 picks were pitchers. It includes lots of dart throws, which could work out and result in a strong staff, or leave me scrambling for innings. I also drafted some potential closers since I faded them so badly after Munoz that I needed to speculate at this point.

Finally, say hello to Sean Bouchard. Remember when discussing Gimenez earlier and how I panic-drafted him as my time was about to run out since no one else stood out? Even in the 25th round that could happen! I had Bouchard in my queue, but figured I could get him in the last round. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone else I actually cared to draft that I thought had less of a chance to make it back to me, so I pulled the trigger here. You never really know what the Rockies are going to do, but at least right now, Bouchard figures to win the starting right field job. He’s got the power and speed to make a fantasy impact if he’s allowed to play everyday and not get yanked as soon as he hits a slump.

For what it’s worth, the FantasyPros.com projected standings show me with the best offense…by far. I’m not sure whether it includes all 29 players in the calculation, which obviously would make it inaccurate, or if it fills out a starting roster based on draft order.:

Unsurprisingly, it also shows me with the second worst pitching! While I don’t intentionally draft a crappy pitching staff, this does line up with how I typically draft — lock in top tier offense and spend little on pitching, hoping to hit some dart throws, pick up breakout guys early in the season, or buy low on unlucky pitchers (ERA well above SIERA). Sadly, my supposedly top offense typically underperforms, and oftentimes I end up with more pitching points than hitting points. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen yet again this year.





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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Manco
1 month ago

It either is incredible or the injuries keep coming in waves.

Last edited 1 month ago by Manco