My 2015 LABR Mixed Draft Review

You all know by now that last Tuesday night, I participated in the LABR Mixed league draft. It’s a 15-team league with standard 23-man active rosters and a six player bench. I drew the 11th pick.

Before diving into my pick in each round, let’s first discuss my draft strategy. A year ago, I shared How to Win Your Snake Draft, and it’s the strategy I generally follow. I’m an all out value guy, never target any specific players and use ADP to maximize profit.

But for the first time this year, I decided to analyze the player pool a little more than usual before the draft. I compared every player’s NFBC ADP to my ranking, calculated the difference and then sorted to determine which players my values indicated were most undervalued. I then counted how many of the significantly undervalued players came from each position. A position with lots of undervalued players could be waited on, while a position with few meant it would be okay selecting a player at or close to fair value.

Compared to my rankings, second base, third base and then shortstop had the fewest undervalued players. So my goal was to try to select top players at those positions early, so I could wait on the undervalued players at other positions later. I was certainly not going to draft a player too early simply to execute on this plan, but if I had a choice of a second baseman or outfielder projected with similar value, I would opt for the second baseman.

Phew, let’s get to Pod’s winning squad:

1.11 (Round.Overall Pick) Anthony Rizzo – Picking 11th, the assumption is always that one of my top 10 players is going to fall to me. That certainly did happen, but they were a couple of guys with either a later ADP (Buster Posey) or I absolutely wouldn’t take in the first round (a pitcher, Felix Hernandez). I hate getting guys at value (though there’s rarely a profit opportunity in the first round!), so I wasn’t thrilled about taking Rizzo. But I did have him ranked exactly 11th, which surprised me, as I scoffed at early mocks that had him going in the mid-teens.

2.20 Billy Hamilton – Exhibit A as to why you should always calculate dollar values, rather than just arbitrarily place names in some sort of order. How could you possibly determine the value of various stat lines, and at different positions, without doing so?! He was my 15th ranked player.

3.41 Ian Kinsler – No profit here. I had him ranked 40th, but it fit in with my above strategy. With only two undervalued second basemen, I knew I didn’t need to wait and was better served going with an elite option here than somewhere else that was overflowing with profit potential.

4.50 Evan Longoria – The first time I have ever owned Longoria as he has always been overvalued in the past. I now have my third baseman, one of the three positions I was hoping to lock up a top option early. His down year and significant drop in power is obviously a concern. But at age 29, I’m willing to give him a mulligan. His spot here only assumes a partial rebound, so he would earn some nice profit if he returned to the 30 home run plateau.

5.71 Cole Hamels – Oyyyy. If you know me, you know I never, ever draft pitching early. But at this point in the draft, I didn’t like any of my hitting options so by default, my first starter was the choice.

6.80 Mookie Betts – I fully expected a Hamilton-like reaction after this pick, but oddly, it heard crickets. I had him worth the #41 overall pick, making him a mid-third rounder. The outfield logjam in Boston is a slight concern, but with a projected 2.6 WAR in just 441 plate appearances according to our Depth Charts, it would seem colossally silly to give him anything less than full-time at-bats. His skill set looks similar to Shane Victorino, but with more walks and better batting average potential. He’s a real candidate to shoot up to the second round in next year’s draft methinks.

7.101 Dustin Pedroia – Sticking with the Red Sox theme, Pedroia is coming off a career worst performance. But it would appear that health played a large role:

…the second baseman said his thumb injury from 2013 restricted his ability to lift weights in the offseason prior 2014, leaving him weak as he began the season. In the first series at Fenway Park, he landed awkwardly on his left wrist and suffered through pain and weakness until finally opting for surgery in September.

His body was “kind of shriveled up,” he said. “Not anymore.”

Pedroia has been back in the gym this offseason and his wrist feels fully recovered.

Even just a small rebound to 10-10, right in line with projections from Steamer, the Fans and myself, would result in some profit here.

8.110 Hisashi Iwakuma – Where’s the respect? I drafted him as the 26th starter off the board! I had him valued as the 12th best starter, and that’s with projected ratios worse than his career marks. He posted a sub-3.00 SIERA last season, but an unfortunate HR/FB ratio inflated his ERA. He is one reason why I don’t jump on starters early — with so many pitchers, there is more room for disagreement, which provides more opportunities to scoop up players you personally feel are undervalued.

9.131 Matt Wieters – I knew based on ADP that there was a strong chance he would make his way onto my team. He’s obviously a risk given his return from TJ surgery, but hitters don’t endure nearly the same obstacles as pitchers do. Jeff Zimmerman explored Wieters’ situation and concluded that “he should retain his hitting value”. If this turns out to be true, he’s a bargain as the 10th catcher off the board.

10.140 Jorge Soler – Shocked. In industry leagues such as LABR, there is that temptation to reach for the next hot thing. So I figured that if anything, Soler would be massively overvalued. In fact, this idea was perfectly illustrated when Kris Bryant, who isn’t even expected to begin the season in the Majors, was selected the pick right before mine.

Soler’s batted distance sat at 292.5 feet, which would have ranked 43rd in baseball if he qualified for the leaderboard. His xHR/FB ratio? A ridiculous 26.4% (the highest on my spreadsheet), thanks to an insane 80.0 SDD, which led all hitters on my spreadsheet by 10! He’s got serious power folks. And he figures to hit cleanup.

11.161 Yasmany Tomas – No one really knows what to expect from the newest Cuban import. Let’s compare projections from both myself and ZiPs:

Pod 600 0.271 23 84 71 5
ZiPS 520 0.254 21 60 61 4
ZiPS – 600 PA 600 0.254 24 69 70 5

We’re not too far off, though ZiPS is lighter on the playing time. If he hits as projected and bats fifth, I can’t see how he would only knock in the 69 runs ZiPS project. That’s awfully low paired with 24 home runs and a projected .197 ISO. He should also gain multiple eligibility once he qualifies at third base which is just an added bonus.

12.170 Alcides Escobar – So I didn’t end up getting a strong shortstop like I intended to, though according to my values, Escobar was my most undervalued man at the position. He’s far from exciting, but I love the fact that he should return to the top of the order this year, versus hitting 8th or 9th like he did for the majority of last season. That should boost all of his counting stats.

13.191 Yasmani Grandal – I simply had to corner the market on Yasmani(y)s. Grandal’s 297 foot batted ball distance was a top 25 mark and gives him serious power upside, while he joins a stronger lineup which should boost his RBI and runs scored totals. So Could Yasmani Grandal Devin Mesoraco? Yes, I think he could.

14.200 Addison Reed – Closers were flying off the board throughout the first 10 rounds, as owners were panicking that there would be none left for them. In a 15-team league, everyone wants at least two. But closers really aren’t worth a whole lot, so rather than snag a $6 player in the 8th round, I refused to give up value and chose to wait it out. Luckily, I was able to wait all the way until the 14th to acquire a full-time closer. I didn’t even care who it was given the cheap cost, but Reed’s 2.68 SIERA last year suggests a significant ERA bounceback this year. I think he makes for a fantastic bottom tier closer purchase.

15.221 Neftali Feliz – I’m really not a fan, but Feliz was essentially the last sure-fire closer still left. And in the 15th round, that’s all I needed to know to take the plunge. He now gives me a second guaranteed closer and I only had to spend 14th and 15th round picks.

16.230 Justin Verlander – Boy how the mighty have fallen. Verlander’s ERA jumped above 4.00 for just the second time in his career, as his strikeout rate fell below 20% for only the third time. But it seems as if his disappointing 2014 could primarily be chalked up to the core muscle surgery he had undergone before spring training:

At this point last year, Verlander was a month removed from core muscle surgery. He was not only unable to throw, he was just starting to get back into his normal conditioning and weight training regimen.

As he would discover later, the core muscle issues adversely impacted his right shoulder, which in turn forced him to alter his throwing motion which ultimately led to the second-worst season of his career in 2014.

That’s all in the past now. Verlander has put on 20 pounds of muscle and he’s back to his normal throwing regimen…

I was amazed he was still available with my 230th pick given his ADP of 196. There’s little downside at this price.

17.251 Scott Kazmir – Fantasy owners still don’t believe in Kazmir, huh? I got him right at his ADP, but had him worth 100 picks better than that. Was it his 5.42 second half ERA? It’s been shown that first half/second half splits have limited predictive value and it’s better to use full season results. And yet due to recency bias, people can’t seem to stop quoting the splits. It’s a good thing though, as it presents us with profitable opportunities like this one.

18.260 James Paxton – Paxton’s potential breakout 2014 season was interrupted by a lat injury that limited him to just 74.0 innings. But he possesses an exciting arsenal highlighted by a strong curve ball, excellent change-up and mid-90s fastball. Oh, and he induces tons of grounders. There’s room for his control to improve, which is something I’d always rather bet on doing than hoping for a spike in strikeout rate. He was also on my LABR team last year, when I got him in the 22nd round.

19.281 Trevor Bauer – More young pitching with upside, Bauer’s repertoire features an assortment of solid pitches and improved control as a result of revamped mechanics. Ya gotta figure the Indians defense improves, which should push down his 2014 BABIP of .312 to much closer to league average.

20.290 Colby Rasmus – Meh. I still needed my fifth outfielder and just wanted to grab whoever I projected for the most home runs. Rasmus was that guy. I figured I had enough steals and was looking for more power, without too much regard for my batting average. This spot could be a revolving door.

21.311 Jonathan Broxton – Like Feliz above, I’m not exactly a fan, but as of now, he’s the Brewers closer, which makes him a bargain in round 21. If K-Rod resigns, no big deal, he gets dropped and I lose little.

22.320 Jung-ho Kang – Pure upside play. My choices were blah, boringness or a shortstop who could make a real fantasy impact if he becomes the starter. Dan Farnsworth loves him and that’s enough for me to roll the dice this late.

23.341 Mike Moustakas – Is the Moustakas breakout upon us? I can’t be sure, but it was a cheap enough price to find out. He’ll compete for corner infield/utility time with my two soon-to-be-discussed options below.

24.350 Yusmeiro Petit – With a spectacular curve ball and strong changeup, he has the repertoire to succeed as a starter. But no matter his role, he should earn some positive value and give me options when I don’t like the matchup(s) for my last potential active starting pitcher.

25.371 CC Sabathia – Wow. I could understand why most are down on Sabathia. He’s hefty, old, coming off major knee surgery and has posted ERA marks of at least 4.78 over the last two years. But c’mon people, 371st overall?! His overall skill set has remained solid, as his SIERA has yet to poke above 3.90 since 2004. So fantasy owners must be assuming his BABIP and HR/FB remain significantly inflated. I’m not.

26.380 Ike Davis – Oakland wasn’t exactly the ideal landing spot for Davis given its left-handed home run suppressing ways. But, he’ll be on the strong side of a platoon and has shown excellent power skills in the past. And there’s this:

The 2014 season was supposed to be better, but a physical exam showed that he still had traces of the disease [valley fever], which can linger in some patients. He hit just one homer in 24 at-bats before the Mets traded him to Pittsburgh, where he rebounded some, hitting 10 more homers in 336 at-bats.

“Valley fever is a nightmare,” said Davis, who turns 28 in March. “You have no energy, no nothing. It was definitely a weird one. It’s supposed to go away on its own, but when I had an X-ray last year, it showed I still had it. I’m hoping that’s over and done with.”

If he is free of the disease — and Davis said he’s feeling stronger than he has in several years…

If his loss of power was truly due to valley fever still lingering and he’s completely healthy now, then we should expect a major rebound.

27.401 Allen Webster – Webster ranked 18th in Eno and Dan Schwartz’s Pitch Arsenal Score, as his changeup is lethal and slider excellent. He now gets to pitch in the National League and has a rotation spot with the Diamondbacks pretty much locked up. He just needs to improve his control and a sub-4.00 ERA is there for the taking.

28.410 Carlos Rodon – Speculation is that if he dominates in spring training, he could open the season in the White Sox rotation. If that happens, he was a great grab in the second to last round. If not, he’s my first drop and there’s no loss. I opted for the lottery ticket here rather than the safe veteran with limited upside.

29.431 Justin Smoak – A last corner infield/utility option, I’m loving Smoak this year in Toronto. He was an xHR/FB rate underachiever and the park switch should help push his actual HR/FB rate toward his expected mark.

The full team:

C – Yasmani Grandal
C – Matt Wieters
1B – Anthony Rizzo
3B – Evan Longoria
2B – Ian Kinsler
SS – Alcides Escobar
MI – Dustin Pedroia
CI – Mike Moustakas
OF – Mookie Betts
OF – Billy Hamilton
OF – Colby Rasmus
OF – Jorge Soler
OF – Yasmany Tomas
Util – Ike Davis
P – Cole Hamels
P – Hisashi Iwakuma
P – Justin Verlander
P – Scott Kazmir
P – James Paxton
P – Trevor Bauer
P – Addison Reed
P – Neftali Feliz
P – Jonathan Broxton
BN – Jung-ho Kang
BN – Justin Smoak
BN – Yusmeiro Petit
BN – Carlos Rodon
BN – CC Sabathia
BN – Allen Webster

We hoped you liked reading My 2015 LABR Mixed Draft Review by Mike Podhorzer!

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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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Overall I think nice job, I like your balance. I see quite a few of your later round picks with significant upside. Good luck.


Least favorite pick, Kinsler. Favorite pick(s), your late round flyer corner guys, Moustakas, Davis and Smoak