For some, Labor Day marks the end of the summer. For others, LABR Day signifies fantasy baseball drafting season has begun. Last weekend, I was privileged to participate in the first ever League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) mixed league draft. Last Tuesday, I wrote about my general strategy for drafts in general and LABR in particular. Today I will present my squad and offer a thought or two regarding each pick.
Mixed LABR is a 15-team league using standard 5x5 scoring with the regular 14-man hitting, 9-man pitching active roster plus a 6-man reserve. Trades are allowed and my spidey sense says this league will be more active than your standard industry league.
So without further ado, here is the squad I will be taking into battle:
1.07 Troy Tulowitzki – I am not as high on Tulo as others, though he was hard to pass up at this spot. I thought long and hard about Robinson Cano due to his combination of reliability and productivity, but in the end I opted for Tulowitzki feeling there was a better chance of getting a second baseman I like later as opposed to a shortstop.
2.09 Mark Teixeira – Get this, I made this pick without even knowing he was adding bunting to his repertoire. That’s exactly what I need, Tex fouling bunts off trying to beat the shift. Maybe I should have taken Emilio Bonifacio instead. Lame jokes aside (as my league-mates will attest, I made plenty of those in the chat room), I am not a fan of the second round inventory of drafts of this size. Once you get to the latter part of the round, the players all carry more risk than normal in a 15-team draft. In fact, Teixeira was the final player going in the neighborhood that I would have been comfortable drafting, though I’m pretty sure I would have taken someone and not passed on my pick. I have heard all the spring talk if Big Tex being not so big anymore and looking to use the whole field when hitting from the left side, but I am not counting on anything more than he has delivered the past few seasons. Anything else would be gravy. Actually, I don’t like gravy; make that icing on the cake.
3.07 Felix Hernandez – Just after I clicked the draft button and King Felix magically jumped from my queue to my roster, my cell phone rang. It was the Seattle police department, informing me that if I pick Hernandez one more time, he is going to slap a restraining order on my ass. Good thing I am playing National League Tout Wars this season. Long story short is Hernandez is coming off of a perceived down year, but in fact he pitched better than the previous season. He was just snake bit. This is probably going to be my last chance to get Hernandez at a discount since this time next year, he will be toting around the AL Cy Young trophy.
4.09 Brandon Phillips – Remember when I wrote I expected to pick up a second baseman I liked? I hope so, it wasn’t that long ago. Anyway, I have drafted Phillips so much he calls and asks me “What round this time?” I’m no longer expecting 30/30 or even 20/20. Phillips is now one of those guys that you count on for 15/15 then light some candles, cross some fingers, etc. For what it’s worth, I’m taking the over.
5.07 Jon Lester – I swear, if I hear Jock Thompson of Baseball HQ make one more chicken joke I am going to rip out a couple of pages of his Forecaster. Here’s the deal, I’ve had chicken from the Popeye’s near Fenway Park and it is mighty tasty. But the cook there goes a little overboard with the Cajun spices so not only do I not blame the boys for enjoying a little fried treat, I understand why they felt the need to wash it down with something cold to dull the Cajun sensation. As far as Lester’s mound work, while I am not a fan of cherry-picking samples to make a point, I am going to do it anyway. Here are Lester’s monthly ERA’s from April to September: 2.52, 5.50, 2.31, 1.56, 2.78, and 5.40. A closer look at the splits reveals Lester was almost the same guy each month, except May and September when his walks ballooned. The moral here is not take away May and September and Lester had a fantastic season but rather his campaign was not as bad as some make it out to be and all it is going to take is for the southpaw to bear down for all 30-plus starts and not have a couple stretches of lapses. If the guy can beat cancer, he can certainly beat chicken-gate.
6.09 Kevin Youkilis – I know he never plays a full season. I know he is a little arrogant and has a real messed up stance and is coming off of a down year. But this is the sixth round, not the third where he has been going for the past several seasons. I don’t need him to play the whole year, I don’t care if he is a d-bag and he gets himself into the proper hitting position when it counts. Did I mention this was the sixth round, not third?
7.07 Alex Avila – Confession time, this is my least favorite pick of the draft. Well, my least favorite pick I made. I can’t believe KFFL’s Tim Heaney passed on Ryan Braun then took Starlin Castro in the second. Not only am I a fan of lame jokes, I have no issue intending them for an audience of one – hiya Tim. This actually is my least favorite pick, but I was sniped on both Matt Wieters and Miguel Montero and if you read my introductory strategy manifesto, I want to draft an edge at catcher and Avila is the sole survivor of my second tier, so now he is my first catcher.
8.09 Ricky Romero – Chicks may dig the long ball, but fat guys that play fantasy baseball dig the strikeout and Romero makes this fat guy very happy. I think he is still maturing as a pitcher and has shown he could give a fig about facing the AL East umpteen times a season.
BREAK TIME – one of the strategy points was my goal of having C1, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF1 and SP1 filled within my first eight selections. Well, I fell a little short as I have an extra starting pitcher and am short an outfielder, but one of the other points was draft the pitcher, not the round and I wanted Romero and was afraid he would be taken soon, so I opted to break one rule in order to adhere to another. That’s the cool thing about making your own rules; it is OK to break them when necessary and since a third rule is to be fluid and ready to adjust on the fly, I really didn’t break the first rule, which is more like a rule of thumb anyway.
10.09 Torii Hunter – Hunter may be old and boring, but he has something left in the tank.
11.07 Jason Kubel – Kubel may be old and boring, but he has something left in the tank. What? Cut me a break, I’m a green analyst and am just recycling some analysis. I did it to save the environment to make sure this is not the only mixed LABR draft ever and we are all here again next year.
12.09 Wilson Ramos – Note to our Platinum subscribers, I apologize for not conveying how high I am. Hmm, that sentence would be funny if I stopped there, but I am actually being serious here. I apologize for not conveying how high I am now on Ramos. The more I look at things, the more I like the power potential and prospects for a lot of playing time.
13.07 Gaby Sanchez – Corner infield is not as plush as it has been in the past and I like Sanchez to be a solid contributor.
14.09 Josh Willingham – This guy must like challenges. Let’s see, first he plays in Florida, then Washington and then Oakland, not exactly parks conducive to a guy whose main skill is hitting ball real far. So after conquering these locales, where does he go? Minnesota, of course.
15.07 Justin Masterson – All that was keeping Masterson from going from a guy who was really good but struggled against lefties to a guy who was really good was not struggling against lefties. Last season, Masterson markedly reduced his walks against lefties and the rest fell into place. It is a bit of a leap of faith to assume he maintains last season’s success, but it is a leap I am willing to make (insert Lords a leaping joke here).
16.09 Marco Scutaro – Not much to say, I am a low risk drafter and Scutaro is a solid option to fill my middle (insert too many donuts joke here).
17.07 Giancarlo Brantley – Excuse me? Really? Sorry, I thought all outfielders named Michael changed their name to Giancarlo, my bad. Michael Brantley (got to get his full name in so it gets properly linked) is one of my favorite later picks for solid average and steals, and with the news about Grady Sizemore, he is even favoriter.
BREAK TIME – I recently participated in an ESPN mock draft (I am doing some freelance work for the World Wide Leader) and got my indoctrination of sorts, being publicly ridiculed for my efforts:
I’ll save gujuguy83 (if that’s his real name, it’s probably Michael) the trouble. My outfield is a complete joke.
However, as I discussed in the introductory essay, I believe there are positions where you draft an edge and there are positions where you look to improve as the season progresses. It is my experience that outfield is easiest position to pick up surprise talent since there are more platoon and fourth outfield types that get more playing time than expected, which unto itself is enough to make them fantasy relevant. So gujuguy83, the joke’s on you.
18.09 Dayan Viciedo – And sometimes you don’t wait for in-season to find the playing time break-outs, sometimes you draft them.
19.07 Grant Balfour – If this were a no-trading league, my outfield would be even more of a joke as I would have made sure to secure a more reliable closer earlier, but with trading, I am willing to take some speculative shots and my feeling is Balfour ends up with the Oakland closing gig.
21.07 Henderson Alvarez –There is a pretty good chance Alvarez would have lasted a round or two longer, maybe more. But I decided I was going to be the one to be “that guy”, you know, the one who can’t wait to tell everyone “I was right about Henderson Alvarez.” You guys can have your little Hosmer’s and Lawrie’s and Jennings’ and Moore’s – Alvarez is MINE. Now take Alvarez out of your queue, let go of your mouse and slowly back away from the PC.
22.09 Chone Figgins – I mentioned in part one that I am not going to chase speed; I look to get a little bit here and a little bit there. Thus, it is not surprising that my comedic outfield is largely devoid of stolen base potential. Figgins is a late round upside play that I can put at utility, or maybe trade to Heaney since he seems to like to overpay for speedy infielders.
23.07 Sean Rodriguez – There are a ton of starting pitchers I like as streamers still on the board so I decided to start my reserve list early and S-Rod covers both middle and corner.
24.09 Brian Bogusevic - Basically looking for the outfielder with the funniest name still on the board, because my outfield is, you know, a joke.
BREAK TIME – As suggested and discussed in the associated strategy essay, I favor streaming starting pitchers with forgiving home parks. OK, break over, I hope you didn’t have to go to the bathroom, besides, we’re almost done.
25.07 Jarrod Parker – Oakland has a big park.
26.09 Hector Noesi – So does Seattle.
27.07 Bartolo Colon – That Oakland thing plus we fatties stick together (insert leather chaps joke here).
28.09 Dustin Moseley – I forget if he plays in San Diego or San Francisco, it’s getting late. But either way it doesn’t matter – park big.
29.07 Travis Snider – Hoping he helps prove my outfield is no joke.