Much like Christmas, the expert fantasy baseball draft season keeps creeping earlier and earlier from arguably the best day of the year.* So ten days post-groundhog, we had our first draft of the year in what happens to be our most well-esteemed expert league – the 2013 LABR 15-team Mixed League Draft (click link for full draft results) run by Steve Gardner of USAToday.com/USA Today Sports Weekly.
* especially if you’re Jewish and Christmas just means Chinese food + going to the movies with the atheists, eastern religioners, and Christian families that can’t manage a whole day at home together as a family).
This is our 3rd year in LABR and the 2nd straight year as part of the 15-team MLB league. Unlike the AL/NL versions, this is an online snake draft vs in-person auction. Last year, we finished in a disappointing 9th place but took away some important lessons that we were able to apply to this year’s draft. I cannot stress enough how important it is to change your draft strategy based upon the rules of your league. This league is unique in the following ways:
- Weekly roster changes
- 2 catchers (1B/2B/SS/3B/5 OF/CI/MI/UTIL/9 P/6 Bench/Unlimited DL) w/ 20 Game eligibility (5 games in-season)
- $100 FAAB with minimum $1 bid (so very tiny budget for free agents )
All players drafted to your starting roster AND all Free Agents MUST be kept on your active roster or dropped (unless injured where they can go on DL). No benching allowed. Any player taken as one of your 6 ‘reserves’ can be added to your starting roster and then moved back to the bench throughout the season.
(The crossed-out rules are for LABR AL/NL only. The importance of knowing league rules extends to when you decide to write about them too.)
Below is our drafted roster. We feel like we satisfied the below goals and made proper use of last year’s lessons:
- Depth over ‘elite’ in SP – aim for 7 SPs/2 RPs to max in Wins/K’s (we had 5 points last year combined in these stats because we did not have enough SP depth)
- Build a strong offense with a slight bias towards power over speed. (we were average to below average last year in HR/RBI thanks to picking Ichiro + Longoria injury)
- Wait as long as possible on catchers and relievers
- Build a deep bench that give us opportunities to fill in roster holes due to injuries or maximize good pitcher matchups.
- We both have Justin Upton as a top 10 player (me #7, Grey #10). Easy pick at #12. We would’ve taken Fielder (surprise #6 pick over Votto), Votto (#8) or Stanton (picked at #11) over him.
- Evidently we ‘blew up’ Twitter with the Paul Goldschmidt pick at #19. Along with Bryce Harper at #14, this was probably the biggest ‘break from consensus’ in the first 2 rounds. Grey and I were in agreement on the pick. We both have Goldschmidt as a top 21 player (Rudy #21, Grey #19) and our next pick was not until #42 so it was doubtful he would make it back to us. Picking an SP was off the table given our pitching strategy (though I was tempted to nab Verlander). Post-draft, I still like the pick as I think Goldschmidt/Zimmerman (#4) > Wright (#2)/Butler (#4) and Goldschmidt/Altuve (#5) > Pedroia (#2) / Ike Davis (#5) – with the Pedroia/Ike being a little more tempting than Wright/Butler.
- Greinke at #3 ahead of Felix Hernandez was a coin flip for me. For 15-team MLB auction values, I have Greinke, F-Her, Price, and CC as virtually equal in value (~$21, ranked 37-40). Price was off the board and neither of us were enthused about CC. Grey has F-Her at #41 and Greinke at #42 so he was in the same camp. I think Greinke got the edge because of: 1) F-Her’s reported elbow issue, 2) We love NL West pitchers, particularly SF/SD/LAD, 3) More run support for Greinke might equate to more Wins, and 4) a tiny inkling that F-Her might underperform projections because of the fences being brought in at Safeco (last year, F-Her had the 3rd lowest HR/9 at home and the 27th lowest away).
- I think forgoing Catchers and SPs helped us build a really solid OF. We felt Pence (#6), A-Jax (#7), and Reddick (#10) all came at nice discounts.
- I think our starting staff looks pretty solid considering we took only one SP in the first 8 rounds. Peavy/Garza/Niese/Beckett/Estrada feel like a solid 2-6 in a 12-team league, let alone 15-team league.
- The Cory Luebke pick (#19) leverage our experience with this format. We knew we could get some SPs in the Reserve round that we could swap in/out while Luebke is stashed on the DL. We ended up with Wily Peralta and Felix Doubront although I kicked myself immediately after Dan Straily went two picks after Peralta.
- I pushed really hard on the Berkman pick. High upside in Texas (think Berkman 2011 or Vlad 2010) where he can DH. While he is only eligible at 1B to start the year, I think he will get OF eligibility at some point during the year (Vlad managed 18 games in OF in 2010 and we just need 5 for eligibility). Worst case, he gets hurt and we promote Brett Wallace from reserves.
- Bruce Rondon is a calculate risk but we wanted no part of Marmol or Madson. We were hoping to handcuff with Benoit with our last reserve pick but he got taken. Went with Melancon as our saves prospector and someone we can throw in the lineup in the early weeks where we have bad SP matchups.
- Last year, the only hitters on our bench were Ian Stewart and Wilin Rosario. Clearly, Rosario panned out (let us dump Barajas) but we were left in a tough position when injuries came (Ian Stewart did an awful job replacing Longo). We like at least something about our three bench hitters this year – Gomes (home starts), Chris Nelson (2B and 3B, home starts), and Brett Wallace (1B, will get 3B, upside).