This past Tuesday evening, I had the privilege of participating in the Mixed LABR draft. A few years back, Steve Gardner of USA Today added an on-line draft to the League of Baseball Reality family, joining the traditional American League and National League auctions, which will be occurring March 7 and 8.
Mixed LABR is a 15-team league with standard 23-man rosters with a six-man reserve. Important to note is we use a separate DL with no limits. This will become relevant in a bit. Trading is allowed and as opposed to some industry leagues, deals are commonplace.
What follows is a pick-by-pick review with a snapshot of what I was thinking at the time.
1.13 Jose Altuve 2B, HOU: Before each draft, I do what we all do but no one wants to admit it. It’s OK, we’re all adults here, we’ve been doing it for years. I turn the lights down low, grab my laptop and mocksterbate. This time I dreamt about a pair of up-and-comers: Anthony Rendon and Anthony Rizzo. The only question was which one I wanted to do first. It turned out they both came out prematurely. I thought I was screwed. Hold on, here comes the climax. There’s a happy ending after all as Jose Altuve fell right into my lap. I know he’s small, but size isn’t everything. What he lacks in stature he makes up for with speed and durability. Not everyone would have taken Altuve in this spot, afraid he blew his wad last season and there was no way he could get it up to that level again. I’m OK with that. I don’t need him to do that again, what he did in a previous relationship is his business. I just need to lower my expectations and plan accordingly so I don’t get hurt down the line.
OK, enough with this tongue-in-cheek spewing. Altuve may not have been my first choice but part of a draft is being so intimate with the player pool that you can adjust to any situation. I had worked out some paths for just this scenario and here’s why I picked Altuve. As mentioned, this is a trading league with separate reserve and disabled lists. This means I can comfortably stash a prospect and still have ample reserve spots to manage pitching and cover the hitting with back-ups. It won’t be opening day but at some point, the Atlanta Braves are going to promote Jose Peraza and hand him the reins to either second base or center field. The day they do, I put Altuve on the market. I’m guessing ten minutes later, MLB.com’s Fred Zinkie will send me three offers from which to choose. The point is, I have already considered how to build a team starting with Altuve and embellished it with a possible trade from strength.
2.03 Hanley Ramirez LF, BOS: Twitter expected Josh Donaldson at this spot but I’m swinging for the fences. If I had it to do again, I may have taken Donaldson but I’m also doing a little diversification. I already have a few shares and although I expect huge things from the Bringer of Rain in Toronto, I’m concerned about the turf. So of course I opt for the durability and reliability of Hanley. Sigh. I know the risks but I’m playing to win and that’s Ramirez. Anecdotal, for sure, but David Ortiz and Ramirez have a father-son type relationship, so I expect attitude and effort isn’t going to be an issue.
3.13 Matt Kemp LF, SD: If you’re keeping score, you’re playing to win. Kemp is another play-to-win pick. I like the upside and am not shying away because of the park.
4.03 Yoenis Cespedes LF, DET: Love the lineup, and Comerica isn’t the monster park many perceive. It’s all about counting stats and Cespedes should have bountiful runs and RBI.
5.13 Kole Calhoun RF, LAA: The only surer thing is Batman escaping the clutches of the Joker or Penguin. If healthy, Calhoun could lead the league in runs with 20/10 well within his grasp.
6.03 Sonny Gray SP, OAK: This was a tough one. I could push pitching a little further but there’s someone I’m eyeing and the last thing I want is to get burned on both pitching and not getting my guy. This is the equivalent of nominating someone you want fairly early in an auction and either buying him so you know what you’re working with or letting him go. I opted to buy him.
7.13 Cody Allen RP, CLE: Most say there’s a big-four with respect to closers. Others contend it’s five with Dellin Betances joining Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland and Craig Kimbrel. I agree that it’s a quintet; I just think they have the fifth musketeer wrong, it’s Allen.
8.03 Rusney Castillo CF, BOS: And here’s the mystery guy. Yes, there’s a logjam but I’m taking off my projection hat and putting on my drafting hat and have to believe Castillo is going to play nearly every day. He’ll be hitting down in the order, which will hurt him a bit, but Boston should turn the order over enough so it shouldn’t be that bad. I think Castillo has a Starling Marte ceiling with a Leonys Martin floor. My thoughts on ADP are expressed in the piece linked above. I’m playing to win.
9.13 Tyson Ross SP, SD: When you push pitching, you often need a little luck and I am very fortunate Ross fell to me as my SP2. Everyone knows about the park; it’s the quiet 200 whiffs that I covet.
10.03 Adam LaRoche 1B, CWS: LaRoche is a key component of the Altuve plan. I knew I’d need some solid but not overly pricey power from my corners and LaRoche is perfect.
11.13 Hector Rondon RP, CHC: I considered fading my second closer since this draft is so early and there are still a number of unsettled bullpens. But then I realized that other than Rotowire’s Jeff Erickson, who cleverly paired Chapman with Holland early, everyone else would have the same thought and some would follow through. The result would be a high demand for each emerging closer, so instead of getting involved with that, I went with a guy that demonstrated he belongs in the middle tier of closers.
12.03 Zack Wheeler SP, NYM: As psyched as I was with Ross, I was just as giddy with Wheeler. He may not get 200 punch outs, but it is certainly plausible. I can make up ratios later. I need to make up strikeouts now and Wheeler fits the bill.
13.13 Adam Lind 1B, MIL: Lind is in a similar spot as LaRoche except he may fall into a platoon. If that happens, I’ll see what kind of numbers he’s producing and make a decision. I’m OK with a couple of platoon hitters in a 15-team league, though admittedly I prefer to grab them later.
14.03 Ian Kennedy SP, SD: There were a lot of ways to go here – primarily addressing third base or catcher. There were still some receivers I liked on the board, but the guys with picks 14 and 15 didn’t have any catchers either. I figured the rest of the guys wouldn’t be looking for their second backstop and I’d pick before Bobby Colton at 14 or Mike Gianella/Bret Sayre at the wheel, so I should have my pick of what’s left and if one or both teams pushed catchers even more, I’d get two. As for third base, I didn’t like the inventory available at this spot and made peace with the fact that I’d be picking one from Trevor Plouffe, Nick Castellanos or Lonnie Chisenhall in a few rounds. That left me with another 200-K arm in Kennedy.
15.13 John Jaso C, TB: My friend and colleague Glenn Colton expressed some displeasure with this pick while covering the draft with fellow friend and colleague Rick Wolf for SiriusXM fantasy, citing the lack of upside. While I’m not sure I’d call it upside, the allure of this choice is Jaso will be the primary DH, hitting out of the two-hole for the Rays. Tropicana Field may not be a hitter’s paradise, but the rest of the AL East is rather kind to lefty swingers.
16.03 Rene Rivera C, TB: Not going to lie, I loathe this pick. In a vacuum, it’s not horrible. It’s just that I didn’t need to lock down my second catcher, but in my head the plan was for two and sure enough, a couple went at the wheel. I should have been better prepared for that but I wasn’t. Shame on me.
17.13 Michael Cuddyer RF, NYM: Not sexy but Cuddyer should play regularly and Citi Field was positive for home runs even before they moved the fences in…again.
18.03 Brad Boxberger RP, TB: The way to address ratios is with smart match-up plays while using relievers like Boxberger if the steaming options aren’t attractive. Plus, I may have drafted a third closer. My money is on Boxberger to emerge from the Tampa bullpen with the gig and maybe even keep it when Jake McGee returns.
19.13 Wily Peralta SP, MIL: Peralta isn’t my usual type as an SP5 since his home park mitigates the straight skills advantage incurred when working at home, but the overall potential was too good to ignore.
20.03 Dalton Pompey CF, TOR: Here’s where having already done a ton of drafts comes in handy. Pompey is in essence my first reserve. I know there will be a plethora of viable utility options in reserve. And if Pompey hits the ground running…literally…speed is really an asset, further paving the way for an Altuve trade even if I get sniped with Peraza.
21.13 Lonnie Chisenhall 3B, CLE: It’s really funny how things sometimes work out. Of the three hot corner candidates I mentioned earlier, I prefer Chisenhall. And, the other two were taken before him. As an aside, this is why offering choices in a trade is a great idea since the player your opponent selects may not be the one you like best.
22.03 A.J. Burnett SP, PIT: Now this is exactly the type of late starter I like to deploy: high strikeout potential and a great home park to play match-ups.
23.13 Jose Peraza 2B, ATL: I love it when a plan comes together.
24.03 Shane Greene SP, DET: I prefer National League streamers but Greene fits the description otherwise.
25.13 DJ LeMahieu 2B, COL: Someone has to play second until Peraza is ready.
26.03 Matt Joyce LF, LAA: And here’s my utility.
27.13 Kendall Graveman RP, OAK: If he wins a spot in the Oakland rotation, I have another spot-starter. If he doesn’t, I have my first drop.
28.03 Seth Smith LF, SEA: Just an alternative to Joyce.
29.13 Josh Rutledge 2B, LAA: What can I say, I’m still a believer and if he comes away with the second base job in Anaheim, he’ll earn the draft equivalent of an auction buck.
|C: Jaso and Rivera|
|CI: LaRoche, Chisenhall, Lind|
|MI: Altuve, Ramirez, LeMahieu (Peraza, Rutledge)|
|OF: Kemp, Cespedes, Calhoun, Castillo, Cuddyer (Pompey)|
|UT: Joyce (Smith)|
|SP: Gray, Ross, Wheeler, Kennedy, Peralta, Burnett (Greene, Graveman)|
|RP: Allen, Rondon, Boxberger|