I’m going into LABR on Tuesday night. No, I’m not pregnant. Don’t you know it’s rude to ask a fat guy if he’s expecting? Tuesday night is the Mixed League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) draft, an affair featuring fifteen of the industry’s finest writers and analysts.
Last year marked the inaugural season of Mixed LABR and if the axiom is true and you only get one chance to make a first impression, I blew it big time. I am humbled and embarrassed to admit I came in dead last. I have a standing offer to return to the annual AL and NL LABR auctions, but I told Steve Gardner of USA Today, Grand Poobah of LABR, that I felt I had some unfinished business and wanted another crack at the Mixed guys and he kindly obliged.
Our draft spot was announced last week and I’m picking out of the six-hole, so I thought I’d discuss where I’m at with the pick and open the floor up to any suggestions. I realize this pick is not going to make or break my draft, but it’s a little tough to throw out some names of guys I want in the 12th round.
Here’s what I know for sure: Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout are the only two who definitely won’t be on the board at my turn. So I need to come up with a ranking of four names. Let’s review the contenders.
Ryan Braun: A consensus top-three pick until his name was scribbled on a piece of paper along with his lawyer and the notation of 20-30K.
Robinson Cano: As steady as they come, durable and consistent.
Matt Kemp: Off-season shoulder surgery could lessen power while the scare of another hamstring injury may curtail his running.
Andrew McCutchen: Up and coming star, the proverbial five-category contributor still on the upswing.
Albert Pujols: After a slow start, it was the same old thing.
Prince Fielder: Perhaps a surprise, but after Miggy, Braun and Cano, there is no one more reliable.
That’s it, six names. Joey Votto is not in the conversation for me. He has the injury concern plus his power is suspect if he doesn’t start lofting more flies. I’m not going to take a pitcher in this spot, though I’m not going to try to be the smartest guy in the room and wait forever either. Buster Posey is off the table as well. I like him, and can justify this spot in terms of potential, but it has been my experience so far this drafting season that you can get a great return on your investment for catchers in general, so I’ll wait and jump on two I like later. If you can promise me Carlos Gonzalez was going to stay healthy all season, he’d be on the list. But then, if that were the case, he likely wouldn’t be available. Others are really high on Giancarlo Stanton. I agree he could lead the league with 50 homers. But my issue is that may come with 80 runs and 80 RBI.
Looking at the six names, I see two no-brainers: Braun and Cano. After that, I’m guessing it will depend on what mood I am in.
Short and to the point, Braun is the top player on my board and I don’t think he is going to get suspended. At least not based on what is presently known publicly.
As mentioned, Cano is Mr. Reliable. If you’re following my Chance Favors the Prepared Mind series, you know I’m not putting Cano on the list because of scarcity; I don’t believe in the concept. It's his stats, they're that good.
So I have four players for two spots. Let's do this. Since Pujols and Fielder are similar as are Kemp and McCutchen, I'll pair them off and decide my favorite of the two to help narrow things down.
The difference in potential stats between Pujols and Prince is very little, with Pujols getting the slight edge. However, I think Fielder is a little safer both in terms of health and reliability. Admittedly, Fielder doesn't run enough to warrant the sixth pick based on value in a vacuum, but other than Braun, Cabrera and Cano, I see no one more likely to be a top-15 pick, which is my ultimate objective. Pujols may have a slightly higher ceiling, but Prince has a higher floor, so if it comes down to the two of them, I’ll take Fielder.
Turning to the toolsy outfielders, I’m not worried about Kemp’s running. If he’s healthy, he’ll run, at least this year. Maybe not to the tune of 40 bags, but 20-25 is plausible, if not likely. But I am concerned about his shoulder. Early reports are all systems go, but with a draft this early, I’m a tad reticent to rely on Kemp before he takes a swing in anger. I’m not completely sold on McCutchen either, else he would be a no-brainer on this list. My concern is a batting average that can just as easily be .260 as it can .300. I realize the counter argument is at least I’ll get the counting stats, but I can get almost as much from Curtis Granderson a couple of rounds later. Still, McCutchen is healthy, so he gets the nod over Kemp, albeit reluctantly. Similar to the Pujols/Fielder reasoning, Kemp has the upside while McCutchen is safer.
The next step is deciding if either Pujols or Kemp would be my fourth choice or if it comes down to Fielder versus McCutchen for three and four. I think I'm going to stick with the risk element of the analysis and leave Pujols and Kemp on the sideline. Perhaps this is a knee-jerk reaction to making Troy Tulowitzki my first round choice last year in this league, leaving Cano on the table. Still, it feels like the right call.
So now it’s McCutchen against Fielder. There’s definitely a contrast in styles, which makes the decision that much more difficult. Part of me knows I need to introduce more risk into my game play, but the other part would rather play it safe and throw darts later. I realize I just put McCutchen in this spot because he's less of a risk than Kemp, but as mentioned, it's not like he's a completely safe play. I feel like Pinto in Animal House with an angel in one ear and the devil in the other. But instead of deciding whether to cop a feel, I need to make a draft pick.
I’m going to be honest: I’m torn. Well, I would have definitely copped a feel; I’m just not sure which direction to go in if I am faced with this conundrum.
What would you do? None of the above is a perfectly acceptable answer.