AL LABR Reserve Round Picks

Every year, USA Today’s Steve Gardner hosts four LABR drafts and auctions. The LABR draft happened a couple of weeks ago with the three auctions (12 team AL, NL, and mixed) happening this past weekend. I was lucky enough to participate in the 12-team mixed auction (more on it later), but the most useful information is digging into the reserve picks. Sometimes I’ve never even heard of them. I’m going to dive into some of these end-game players from the AL auction and look for any hidden gems.

Here are all the reserve picks

A.J. Alexy: A 23-year-old Rangers pitching prospect who had good strikeout rates in the minors (10.2 K/9 in AA, 11.7 K/9 in AAA last year) but didn’t in 23 MLB innings (6.7 K/9). He’s always struggled with walks and that continued into the majors (6.7 BB/9). I could see him taking a step forward if he threw more strikes.

Andy Ibáñez: Coming into the offseason, I was an Ibáñez fan until the Rangers added Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. With Josh Jung out for most of the season, Ibáñez is projected to be the best hitter vying for the vacant third base job. If he’s starting don’t be afraid to roster him.

Clay Holmes: After being traded by the Pirates to the Yankees, Holmes found the strike zone (5.4 BB/9 down to 1.3 BB/9) and he dominated (1.61 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 10.9 K/9) with 5 Wins. I missed on the improvement and should have probably rostered him in more draft-and-hold leagues.

Cody Thomas: A power-hitting (18 HR in 245 PA in AAA) A’s outfielder who may struggle with his batting average (32 K% in 2021). After seasons of having a low stolen base success rate (16 for 28 from 2017 to 2019), he didn’t attempt one steal last season. He’s worth a look if promoted.

Cole Winn: Looks to be a strikeout machine, but walks too many batters. Might be a shaky debut for him.

D.L. Hall: The Orioles starter made it to AA with major walk issues (6.0 BB/9 in High-A, 4.6 BB/9 in AA). Instead of hoping he can figure out the control issue this season, I’d let someone else take the gamble.

Domingo Acevedo: Here at FanGraphs, we project him to be the best arm in the A’s bullpen, that’s not saying much.

Dylan Coleman: While Scott Barlow is the most talented pitcher in the Royals bullpen, Coleman is a close second. I like this pick.

George Kirby: With a fastball sitting around 97 mph, he’ll grab anyone’s interest. I expect him to start in the minors and it’ll be interesting to see how he progresses.

Glenn Otto: A steal. His 9.26 ERA is doing its job of scaring away the weak. I’ll bet on regression and the 10.8 K/9 from last season. The only concern I have is if the walks issues from before 2021 return.

JT Chargois: In deeper leagues, I don’t mind taking darts on Rays relievers who were used in high leverage situations. While Chargois didn’t get any Saves last year, he did end up with 6 Wins.

Jordan Balazovic: My first thought is why him after seeing him play for my local AA team. He was fine (9.5 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 in AA), but he has to take so many steps forward.

Jordan Groshans: Blue Jays infield prospect who made it to AA. His profile (i.e. not elite top-20 overall or spent some time in AAA) is not something I’d take a chance on.

Josh Winder: Unlike Balazovic, I can get behind Winder after seeing him throw last season in AA. It’s a 95-mph fastball with three other swing-and-miss offerings (cutter/slider, change, and curve). I’m not sure why he struggled in 17 AAA innings, but the pieces are there for a productive starter.

Kevin Smith: The Blue Jays third base prospect was added by the team who drafted Cavan Biggio. Smith’s Steamer600 projection puts him with 25 HR, 14 SB, and a .238 AVG. Worth remembering.

Oswald Peraza: The 22-year-old has a ton of skills with 18 HR and 38 SB with a near .300 AVG across three minor league levels in 2021. There is a chance he stays in the minors all season, but if he does get promoted, he’s a must-add in all formats.

Owen Miller: He’s a backup infielder (played all four infield positions in 2022) with no carrying skill. His batting average was his carrying card but his strikeout rate jumped 10% points from 2019 to 2021. Ignorable for now.

Miguel Andújar: After an amazing 2018 season (27 HR with .297 AVG), he’s been hurt and hasn’t been able to break into the Yankees starting lineup. I could see his value go up if he happens to get traded. His Steamer600 puts him with 26 HR and a .271 AVG. That will play in any league … if he’s on the field.

Reynaldo López: The entire draft was sleeping on him. He returned over $10 of value last season and not one manager spent $1 on him? A steal by Steve Garner in the reserves.

Richie Palacios: I weak-hitting 25-year-old second baseman who did steal 20 bases across two levels last season. He has an uninspiring 10 HR, 16 SB, and a .264 AVG Steamer600 projection.

Sam Huff: He spent some time in the majors in 2020 and there was some thought he could make a major league impact in 2021. He never got that chance. It’ll be interesting to see how much a high strikeout rate (40% in AA, 36% in AAA) limits his upside.

Steven Kwan: He was considered to be a weak-hitting prospect (30 raw power here at FanGraphs) with his batting eye being his best trait. His Steamer600 has him with a respectable 17 HR, 8 SB, and .281 AVG so dug in a bit to find the disconnect in the power department.

From the 2022 Baseball America Prospect Handbook:

That fit with his profile as a slap-hitting leadoff hitter prior to 2021, but in 2021 he produced surprising power. While Akron and Columbus are both hitter-friendly ballparks, he did his best to answer questions about his ability to drive the ball.

From the 2022 Minor League Baseball Analyst:

Tapped into added power by adjusting swing trajectory, getting to double digit HR. Still, a hit-over-power profile.

It looks like Kwan should be rostered if in the majors.

Stephen Piscotty: While his role and health are up in the air, I’d not be surprised if he accumulates 500 PA and around 20 HR.

Tim Mayza: The league’s managers, definitely focused on talented pitchers without roles. Mayza is no exception. The lefty is projected to be the Jays second-best bullpen arm. Last season, he got a decent number of strikeouts (9.7 K/9) with a few walks (2.0 BB/9) leading to 5 Wins and 1 Save.

Tommy Romero: I’m intrigued since he dominated AA and AAA last season. His strikeouts jumped up from 2019 and I’m not sure of the exact reason. He may have added some fastball velocity by I’m trying to verify that is the case.

Trevor Larnach: A solid add who should see some at-bats during the season.

Triston Casas: Boston’s first base situation is going to be interesting to see how it plays out. Bobby Dalbec ended the season hot (.269/.344/.611 in the 2H) and there are rumors of the Red Sox signing a bat who could also play first (i.e. Kyle Schwarber). Casas is one of the top prospects in all the minors so who knows how the playing time will shake out, especially with J.D. Martinez entrenched as the DH.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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5 months ago

Enjoyed this breakdown! Here’s hoping there’s an NL version as well.