When I sat down at the computer tonight to write this article, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to write about, or where I was going to go this week. I thought perhaps I might start some positional breakdowns, or perhaps look inside the Michael Bourn signing in Cleveland. But then, before I could put a word down, I got distracted. The New York Rangers were playing the Boston Bruins in the background on my television, my kids were taking turns resisting going to sleep, I was tracking a slow mock draft I am participating in and the LABR Mixed League draft was getting ready to start. Completely distracted from the task of writing, I wandered over to twitter, where I knew I would find the link to the LABR draft board in my timeline. I decided to tune in to the early rounds since our own Todd Zola was participating, but having some time to kill before the start, I browsed through some tweets until something caught my eye.
A fellow writer, Rob Pallazola (aka @RoJoPal) had decided to throw together a draft for his followers that evening and needed a couple of spots filled. After a quick inquiry, I decided that drafting my own team while I followed along with the LABR would be a lot more fun than figuring out what to write about, and I was actually pleased to find out that it was a 12-team league that would indeed be played out. Much of my prep up until this point has been geared towards 15-team leagues, but having a bunch of big 12-team drafts on my schedule next month, it seemed like as good a time as any to get a little practice in. I didn’t really have anything to guide me going in other than the drafts and mocks I’ve already completed up to this point.
The draft was being held over at Yahoo, and this would be my first look at their rankings for the year. I also needed to check the settings for the league. I was happy to see it was a classic 5x5 roto league, with standard categories which meant I could just jump in and draft on the fly. I decided to formulate a general strategy going in, which basically consisted of seeing how long I could wait before diving into the starting pitching pool. Unlike many of the leagues I’ve been drafting, not only was this shallower but it also had a 1400 innings limit. Now, I’m not a big fan of limits, I much prefer minimums when it comes to innings pitched, but I do understand the utility for limits to mitigate streaming in a daily league format such as this. I wondered if I should stick with my original pitching strategy, since getting at least one “Ace” seemed more prudent now.
In the end, I compromised a bit in my mind. I would still try to see how long I could wait on grabbing my first starter, but I would now also try to lock up three quality closers. My thinking was, not only would this hopefully put me near the top in saves, if I could target three relievers with superior ratios and K’s, I’d only need to rely on basically 6 SP’s, and the ERA and WHIP risk incurred by waiting would be mitigated. On the other side of the ledger, I would grab bats for as long as I felt reasonable, and then force myself to go one round past that before picking my No. 1 starter. When I entered the draft room, I saw that I had the #2 pick. The top three players on Yahoo’s software were Mike Trout, Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera. I put the Tiger third baseman into my queue and waited for the fun to begin.
Sure enough, the guy picking first grabbed Cabrera. My head said to go with Braun, but having won two leagues last year thanks in large part to Mr. Trout, I availed myself of the opportunity to own him for the first and possibly only time this year. As I waited for my next pair of picks, I briefly toyed with the idea of grabbing Bryce Harper with one of my next picks. He was sitting down at #38, so I figured he’d be there as well. In the end, I decided against it. None of the Big 3 SP’s were still on the board as Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw were all drafted by pick 15, which I guess was good since I would have chucked my strategy in a second for any of the three. I opted instead for Justin Upton at pick 2.11 and after Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia got taken, I selected Jose Reyes at 3.2. I actually didn’t mind drafting near the edge in this draft, because that meant I would get a built-in 15-20 minute break after every pair of picks. I took a look at my selections. I had left some power on the board, but I was pretty happy with a trio that projects for about 60-70 HR’s, 320-340 Runs and 100 SB’s. With my next pair of picks I decided to concentrate on the corners, and while I narrowly missed out on Paul Goldschmidt, I was more than pleased to add Allen Craig and Chase Headley to the roster. Craig was firmly in my sights for this pair of picks while Headley’s speed and 3B eligibility nudged him ahead of Billy Butler as my Goldschmidt replacement.
So, when did I finally buckle and take a starter? Well, as my next pair of picks came up, Jason Kipnis was staring me in the face. Anyone who has drafted with me this year would have known who I was looking at. To my chagrin, he was selected right before I picked, but I grabbed Ben Zobrist instead, which was a stronger pick thanks to the added SS/OF eligibility. The drafter ahead of me had in some ways saved me from myself there. Through six picks I had my infield covered and two stud OF’s on top. At this point, 19 SP’s and Craig Kimbrel had been drafted. It was time to pick a starter, but remember I said that I would force myself to go one more round before diving in?
The top names left in order on Yahoo were Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Matt Moore, Kris Medlen, Max Scherzer, Yovani Gallardo and Jordan Zimmermann. I knew from previous drafts that my Mastersball rankings had Zimmermann ranked ahead of all those guys. I surveyed the landscape and noticed Carlos Santana was there. Needless to say, I had no problem making that pick, even if this was a one C league. If I was going to force myself to grab one more hitter, having him be one of my personal favorites sure didn’t hurt. I added Zimmermann with my next pick and finally had my first starter.
As the draft continued, those extended breaks really came in handy. I could go check in on the LABR draft results and watch the hockey game, which actually got very exciting at the end. The Bruins scored two goals in the final minutes to send the game into overtime. After a fast and furious but scoreless extra session, the Rangers ultimately prevailed in a shootout.
I will add the rest of the draft, including the rest of my rotation and the three closer choices I planned, in the comments section below. Please feel free to let me know what you think.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanpcarey