It is indeed LABR (League of Alternative Baseball Reality) weekend in Phoenix, which means spring games, great time with friends, and of course serious drafting.
The league, curated by the inimitable Steve Gardner of USA Today, includes some of the great humans within the industry like Rick Wolf, Glenn Colton, Eric Karabell, Tristan Cockcroft, Derek Van Riper and many more who converge to draft in the AL and NL formats.
In the past, I have often revealed just who I covet in drafts like LABR and Tout before the draft, something I may well do prior to Tout in three weeks, but as I prepare for the AL LABR contest, after a week of play, I am looking at some names that were more or less off everyone's radar until the games began.
And, I say this because it is important to remember we do win with the cheap Rick Porcellos and J.A. Happs, not the expensive Mike Trouts we need to establish the stat base. For, those bargain players are indeed the ones who turn their respective profit into titles. Note that though I am drafting in the American League, the National League LABR auction is tomorrow evening, so I hit some players who could be germane to either league for this time.
Note that you can listen to the draft live on Sirius/XM hosted by our mate Kyle Elfrink.
Billy McKinney (OF, Yankees): Drafted #1 by Oakland in 2013, traded to the Cubs with Addison Russell in 2015, and then for Aroldis Chapman last year, the outfielder certainly seems to have been attractive to a lot of teams, but he's now with a fourth squad in four years with an unclear role. Just 21, McKinney has always been highly rated, but he hit just .246-4-44 last year at two levels but scored a solid .342 OBP. However, after six at-bats, he is .500-2-5 with a double and is clearly raising eyebrows. The outfielder is at least worthy of reserve consideration.
Kendall Graveman (P, Athletics): After a crappy start, Graveman got his sinker sinking, finishing 10-11, 4.14 over 186 innings, and is probably #3 in the rotation behind Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea. I saw his debut Friday and the sinker was sinking as Graveman allowed just a freak hit that bounced off third base over his two innings during which he coaxed four ground outs.
Sonny Gray (P, Athletics): OK, Gray will probably still garner $10 or so, but he too looked good in his first start, whiffing four over two innings and allowing nothing else. If Sonny is healthy, Sonny is worth it.
Greg Bird (1B, Yankees): He missed all of last year after being penned as the heir to Mark Teixeira, and who knew what this year would bring? There has been speculation, but .417-3-5 with two doubles after 12 at-bats has to make us all go "hmmmm."
David Price (P, Red Sox): I dunno. He is not a sleeper, but if you want my opinion, I would stay away and use my resources elsewhere.
Ubaldo Jimenez (P, Orioles): I saw Ubaldo speak after his two strong innings earlier in the week, and he talked about how he had gotten into a bad habit with his grip that he resolved last August. And after going 0-2, 3.92 that month, Jimenez turned in a stellar September, going 3-1, 2.31 over 35 frames with an 0.829 WHIP. Is he worth a $1 late gamble in an AL-only format? Yep.
Jabari Blash (OF, Padres): A great name. Blash, who was drafted in 2010 (8th round), has bounced around, but on another young and changing team, he has a shot at earning some playing time, especially if his .455-3-10 start over 11 at-bats continues.
Jarrett Parker (OF, Giants): Definite pop, but lots of whiffs. However, Parker has the left field gig and he cracked a shot the other night that left the yard in a hurry. Parker banged 100 homers over 681 games in the Minors and is hitting .286-2-7 with a swipe thus far. Watch him.
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