It’s time for my favorite and longest post of the year – my LABR Mixed draft review!
Why is it my favorite?
- Reason #1 is that I get to talk about my draft and have you ever met anyone who plays fantasy baseball that does not like discussing their own draft?
- Reason #2 is it is the first draft post of the year so it has the novelty thing going for it
- Reason #3 is that discussing draft strategy using actual draft results is way easier and more compelling than discussing them in concept.
As always, thanks to Steve Gardner at USA Today for the invite. This is year #6 for me and I am still in search of my first ring.
Quick Perspective On The Difference Between 15-Team Mixed w/ Weekly Roster Changes vs. 10/12-team Mixed Daily Roster Changes
I am going to share with you the only relevant difference between these two formats. If you are someone who plays shallow leagues with daily roster changes (and typically a high transaction cap), repeat this as a mantra in your head when drafting in this format (like in NFBC).
The 2019 Razzball Commenter Leagues are now open! Free to join!
More of your PAs/IP need to come from players you draft or get in trades.
Free agency is still very important for filling roster holes and you still need to churn out the underperforming parts of your roster. This does not mean you avoid all risky/upside players and only draft a team full of boring, safe players. The roster management skills you learn playing daily (ideally using our tools like the Streamonator and Hittertron) will come in very handy.
You just do not have the same safety net in this format if you mess up your draft because there just isn’t enough free agent talent or FAAB $ (especially LABR which is $100 vs NFBC and Tout which is $1000). Certain strategies like “Draft 3 Starters and stream the rest” is near impossible to pull off.
So think about the time you invest during the season in a daily format and invest some of it during draft prep to make sure you look back on your draft with no regrets.
Last Year Recap (here’s my post-draft writeup)
My slow ascension to the top spot continues. After a 4th place finish in 2017, I climbed to 3rd place in 2018. It was a suspenseless 3rd place, though, as Rotowire’s Derek Van Riper and Prospect361’s Tim McLeod finished 20 points ahead of me and 4th place was 8.5 points behind me.
It was a generally successful year with solid stats from my first 3 picks (Turner, Springer, Severino) and some nice value picks in Acuna (9th), Morton (14), Boxberger (20), Eduardo Escobar (23), and Andrew Heaney (27). My team had no major weaknesses (my worst category was AVG with 7 points). The difference between winning and finishing 3rd came down to my 4th (Darvish) and 5th (Posey) round picks. The Darvish pick was a killer – taking Nola with the 4th or 5th pick instead of Darvish would have been a massive swing in the standings as the 1st place team (DVR) grabbed Nola in the 5th round.
It just goes to show how hard it is to win an expert league. You need a lot to go right.
I do not have a fancy acronym for my draft process but it has gone relatively unchanged since 2017. I build a War Room that allows me to mock draft against NFBC ADP and track my team $ totals per category. (Note: I am going to offer access to my War Room for all early Razzball tools subscribers – stay tuned!)
My goal is to anticipate the tough decisions and plan accordingly. The #1 thing I am looking to avoid is being in a position in the draft where I am chasing a category or position and I am dependent/desperate for a specific player to make my team whole. Those are the cases where you have to overdraft the player, get lucky, or scramble. The 2nd thing I am looking to avoid is a panic pick when you just do not know whom to choose.
I do a handful of mocks and I end up with a general script for the first half of the draft. I try to have contingencies on every pick. This isn’t set in stone. If a great value falls my way, I adapt. The goal is to minimize scrambling or realizing post-draft that my team has a major hole.
Here are the full results of the 2019 LABR Mixed League Draft. Below are my picks and my analysis:
|POS||PICK #||PICK||PLAYER||TEAM||NFBC ADP||DIFF|
Draft Strategy Overview
- Picking 12th, I had two draft scenarios in place: 1) DeGrom is available and an unexpected hitter like Trea Turner does not fall to me or 2) DeGrom was taken and I would go hitter/hitter and take an SP with one of my 3/4 picks.
- Aim for balance across categories – particularly on power/speed/AVG.
- SP depth keeps shrinking and I want the option of going 7 SP / 2 RP as much as possible (unless I fall into a 3rd closer). So in the 2nd quarter of the draft (around Rounds 8-16), go a little heavier on SPs unless you really like a hitter.
- Get one solid closer in the 7th/8th round
Early Round Notes
- My first 3 picks went exactly as planned. DeGrom/Stanton/Rendon were the three players I had earmarked for picks #1-3 should DeGrom be available.
- My practice drafts with DeGrom at #1 had included a second SP at pick #4. But later simulated drafts taking my first SP at pick #3 or #4 had gotten me very comfortable going heavy on SPs in rounds 9-13. When my preferred SP in round 4 (Corbin) went off the board and Adalberto Mondesi unexpectedly fell to pick #49 (estimated 5% chance based on NFBC drafts), I snapped up Mondesi and then executed Daniel Murphy and Victor Robles as planned in picks #5/#6. But the fact I had not practiced a draft where I took SP1 in the 1st and SP2 outside the first 7 rounds did bite me later in the draft.
- A general note on the “OMG you took a SP in the first round!” reaction. As I noted in an earlier post this year, my perspective on drafting SPs is that any round and combination can work but it should play to your draft and in-season strengths (e.g., if you are great at finding cheap pitchers at end of draft and in-season, go cheaper on SP) and you should plan your draft accordingly (e.g., if you going cheap on SP, do a lot of research on later round SPs). I get some (including my blogmate Grey) are in the ‘never take SP in 1st round (and sometimes 2nd round) camp’. I hear you. I also hear that couples who convert native people to Christianity prefer to have sex in only one position. It’s not wrong….but it’s a lot closer to wrong than right IMO.
I have used the same post-draft writeup structure for a while now as I find it more interesting than a pick-by-pick analysis and most readers seem to agree. This format does mean I talk more about my competitors’ teams than most post-draft write-ups. I do my best to be respectful yet honest.
Hopefully, you’ll find some piece of strategy you can apply to your upcoming drafts. I have updated this to reflect changes in my philosophy since last year. Some of it incorporates learning. Some of it is driven by changes in the player pool.
You’ll see me note a lot of percentages about pick values. I calculate pick values based on my auction dollar projections. The #1 pick gets the $ value of the 1st ranked player, etc. Generally, the last pick in the 22nd round is worth a dollar (13 hitters + 9 pitchers * 15 teams) as I budget $0 for the 2nd catcher. The 23rd to 29th rounds are valued at or around $0.
|Topic||In General||My Team||Observations on Other Teams|
|Hit/Pitch Mix||I’m typically looking to stay about league average which historically is around 67/24/9 for Hit/SP/RP.
But if I go SP in the 1st round, try my best to avoid being under 60 in hitting.
|The heavy investment in 2nd round SPs led to a marked shift in the room from previous years to 63.1/27.7/9.2. Last year was 67/25/8.
This was my most extreme draft in memory. I went 57.4/33.1/9.5.
WTF? I JUST wrote a post about this. I try to inspire y’all with positive examples – not “don’t fuck up like me” stuff.
So here is what happened. In all my draft practice, my picks #7/#8 were slated as OF3/RP1. Initially, Robles was my target but I moved him up to pick #6 because of his ADP creep. Eddie Rosario was the most realistic target and then either Leclerc or Yates for RP. But when Felipe Vazquez unexpectedly fell to pick #7, I could not resist and then Rosario went off the board on the turn. I improvised with taking Robbie Ray at pick #8 vs reach a bit on ADP for Aaron Hicks. Swap Hicks in and a late SP and I am at 63% hit. I could have course-corrected at pick #10 by taking Mazara or McCutchen (Hicks was gone) but really wanted Hamels. Both OFs were long gone before my next pick.
At this point in the draft (rounds 11-16), I found the pitcher values were better than hitters. The two bats I liked (Dickerson and Bauers) were taken by my pal Dr. Roto. There were a glut of 1Bs (Santana, Bell, Cron, Zimmerman) that were at the top of my queue but felt better grabbing SPs I liked and bargain shopping later. This worked great with Tyler White at pick #21 and Kendrys Morales at pick #26. I am also pretty happy with my late round OF values.
So in retrospect, I wish I had taken Rosario at #7 / best RP available at #8 or went Mazara or McCutchen at #10 vs Hamels. If I had mocked this draft, I would have made a mental note on this. But I think I packed in a lot of offense for 57% of budget.
|The room matched last year with four drafters investing 40+% in pitching. ESPN’s team were the lowest with 55.6% hitting after taking 7 pitchers in the first 13 rounds (including 2/4/5)
Typically, there are a handful of 70+% hit teams. This year Scott Pianowski’s 76% was the only one over 70% and pales compared to his 87% from last year.
|Upside vs Reliability||Sprinkle upside picks throughout draft, veer towards reliability in early rounds.||Victor Robles at pick #6 and Adalberto Mondesi at pick #4 (to a lesser extent) are big upside plays that I balanced with reliable picks at 2/3/5 (Stanton/Rendon/Murphy).
After going heavy on pitchers in rounds 7-13, I took two upside hitters in Austin Meadows and Nick Senzel at picks 14/15 and then used later picks to backfill with some bats with (mildly) more reliability like Grichuk, Kiermieier and Kendrys Morales.
On pitching, I have some younger pitchers but they merely need to repeat previous levels of performnce vs over-perform to make my staff a success. Joey Lucchesi is the only SP of the group who has yet to pitch 150+ IP in a major league season (130 IP in 2018).
|There are several teams that hewed too reliable in the first 15 rounds for my taste but none that were indefensible in their conservativeness.
Joe Sheehan – a BP founder, writer of a well-respected newsletter and current SI writer – went too heavy on SP upside. While I like Whitley, Burnes, and Soroka individually, owning all three creates a lot of risk for having to burn 2+ bench spots (out of 6) on SPs in the minor leagues or in non-valuable RP roles. This format is much more forgiving for owning injury-prone pitchers (e.g. Rich Hill) as the DL is unlimited.
|Bouncebacks||I like them as long as health not a question mark, skills/age look positive, and properly discounted.||I have had little luck in past years on identifying strong bouncebacks in this draft. Last year, I really liked Michael Brantley’s value which was a great call but I only got him in Tout Wars.||My favorite bounceback call was Jeff Erickson taking Gary Sanchez in the middle of the 7th round. I do not like taking catchers early but I have him as an early 6th round value. Based on NFBC ADP, I projected a 4% chance he is on the board for my 6th pick and he went 19 picks after that! And then he mitigated the AVG hit with a discounted Justin Turner at pick #9. Bravo.
Joe Pisapia of Fantasy Black Book dialed up several booty calls to bouncebacks with Kris Bryant (3), Wil Myers (6), and Carlos Martinez (9). Alan Harrison of FantasyFix went Votto (4), Dee Gordon (6), and Corey Seager (7). To be honest, I don’t love any of those picks but Wil Myers is the only one I strongly dislike (I view him as more of a 10th round player).
|Category Balance vs Best Player Available||In a weekly league with FAAB, I prefer to come out of drafts without glaring weaknesses. So I do monitor this during draft so, everything equal, I am taking the player who provides better balance.||Mission accomplished. I feel above average across the board with Runs perhaps being the most vulnerable.||Other than Jeff Erickson punting saves and Joe Sheehan punting SBs, I did not see anything egregious in terms of category imbalance.|
|ADP vs “Get Your Guys!”||I prefer to wait as long as possible for guys I like but adjust based on draft room dynamics.||Focusing just on the first 15 rounds where getting value vs ADP is most important, my average pick was 0.5 picks before ADP. My biggest reach was Victor Robles at pick #79 (ADP 96) but I knew he would not make it back to my next pick of #102.||The room averaged 4 picks before ADP with BP, Prospect361 and Rotolady the most ‘get their guys’ at an average of about 14 picks before ADP.
Jeff Erickson of Rotowire was by far #1 with an average of 10 picks after ADP.
|Anticipate Other Teams’ Picks When Prioritizing||Get ahead of player runs to minimized getting snaked.||Picking at #12, your main focus is making sure you don’t get sniped between your odd and even picks. Whether it was prep, good luck, or both, I only got sniped once (Eddie Rosario) and that was my mistake.
|Hard to judge other teams on this.|
|Closers||While bullpen committees are becoming more popular, identifying lower-tier closers in February has always been rough. My strategy is generally get one secure closer and then be opportunistic on RP2. Safety in numbers if grabbing speculative closers.||I have had good success with closers the last two years. I am very happy with Felipe Vazquez at end of round 7. I think Cody Allen in round 12 is solid value and got his handcuff (Buttrey) in the last round (29).
There were several RPs that interested me throughout the 2nd half of the draft but I was busy stocking up on offense. Trevor Hildenberger (round 27) has as good a chance to close as Blake Parker and Trevor May who were more expensive and is a tolerable start in bad SP matchup weeks.
That said, I think a few other teams did better in terms of value.
|While the RP investment was a little higher than expected (over 9% – would have predicted 8%), that feels driven by 4 RPs taken in 5th/6th round which I am meh on.
Not a huge fan of doubling up on RPs in first 8 rounds though Kimbrel/Chapman at 6/7 by Jake Ciely isn’t awful.
There were bargains throughout draft IMO. Ryan Bloomfield’s Davis/Giles in 10/11 was great. Liked Leclerc in 9th by Tim. Scott Pianowski’s Greene/Strickland in 19/21 was wonderful.
|Middle Infielders||The glut of SS has made ‘scarcity’ arguments scarce. I just wanted to avoid filling up on MIs too quickly.||I had Segura/Murphy as Round 4/5 picks to help stabilize AVG (and speed from Segura). I could not pass up Mondesi when he fell which made Murphy that much better. I also saw Murphy as potentially 1B/CI.
Liked Odor’s value at the end of Round 9 so cashed in on Murphy’s position flexibility earlier than I expected.
Had Adam Frazier earmarked as a post-300 pick value. Love him in 22nd round as he gives me OF depth and could help my slight weakness on Runs assuming he hits leadoff.
|While historically MIs crept up because of scarcity, there were a few MIs that crept up in this draft for other reasons. Dee Gordon and Garrett Hampson both went 1-2 rounds earlier than ADP because of speed need. Cano, Lowrie, DeJong, and Asdrubal all went 2+ rounds earlier than ADP but predominantly to drafters at the turns where you need to do this if you really want a guy.|
|Catchers||I typically like to punt Catchers. The demands of the position lead to greater injury risk and more volatile offensive numbers IMO. I prefer catchers who aren’t AVG sieves.||I like Francisco Cervelli as a cheap C1. I took him in the vicinity of ADP in the 18th round. Decent AVG floor plus opportunity to hit in the top 2/3 of the lineup.
I am less enthused about Christian Vazquez as C2 but he is basically free (28th round), has solid playing time, and if he pair his plus contact rate with a little better contact quality, he is a poor man’s Omar Narvaez with less BBs and a few more SB.
|In 2016, I wrote a post that questioned fantasy baseball catcher valuation. Even 2019 takes still hew closer to tradition than my take which is catcher adjustments should be mild to zero.
My system suggested 3.2% of draft capital go to catchers in 2019. The FanGraphs system has 5.9%. This room split the difference at 4.6%. For reference, 1% of budget is $2.6/team which is roughly 2 rounds.
There was a wide variance by player on my value vs where they were drafted. I like the values of the first 3 catchers as well as Posey and Molina.
|Starting Pitchers||Draft quality and quantity. Mix upside and consistency. Aim for about 9 SPs. Get an extra SP in the first 2/3 of the draft because depth falls off vs previous years.||I am very happy with my SPs. I better be because I spent a lot. Everyone I snagged were pre-draft targets with the exception of Robbie Ray.
I ended up with 9 SPs as hoped/planned.
|Last year, two teams only drafted 5 SPs. This year the lowest was 6 SPs by Scott Pianowski (who was one of the 5 SP guys). Scott managed 29 points in W/K/ERA/WHIP which is crazy impressive given his 5 drafted SPs were also cheap AF.
On the other end, Jeff Erickson went with 12 SPs, three more than anyone else. This was possible because he only drafted 1 RP. In truth, I don’t like it. Would much rather take 2 fliers on RPs and hope to fall into some saves.
There is a very high correlation between draft capital on SPs and projected W/K/ERA/WHIP points (r=.71). The biggest outlier is the RotoLady (Andrea LaMont) who was the #1 spender on SPs (33.6% edging my 33.1%) but my projections just don’t love a Bauer / Taillon / Castillo / Keuchel / Luzardo / Peacock first six. While a lot of that is low projected IP for Luzardo and Peacock, you can’t spend 33% on your budget on SPs AND be short on innings.
|Speed||SBs are in such short supply that it is more important than ever to have a plan for where you can draft speed at value||I have never drafted so much speed relative to the draft room. I have me projected #1 in SB with only Dr. Roto in the vicinity.
Such is a draft where Mondesi falls in your lap at #4, you roll the dice on Robles at #6, and you add a little bit of speed on later picks (Odor, Kiermaier, Meadows).
If I accomplished this by drafting <10 HR SAGNOFs like Dee Gordon or Mallex Smith, this would be a mistake. But I did not (I am average to above average IMO in the other 4 categories) so I am happy with it.
|I project 22 drafted players delivering $7+ in SB value.
The first 12 (Trout to Villar) went close to ADP. It was a mixed bag after that with Mallex Smith the biggest bargain vs ADP (28 picks below) and Hampson, Gordon, and (my) Robles the biggest overpays. (Cedric Mullins didn’t make the cut but was a huge overpay vs ADP though I did have him valued well above ADP).
There were two teams in my projections that came out of the draft too low on speed. One is Joe Sheehan’s and that is pretty obvious on cursory review (his best SB guy has a 8 week calf recovery). Alan Harrison is less apparaent because he drafted Dee Gordon but no other real speed source. He might be lucky to get 15 SBs out of his OF as presently constructed.
Last notes (I swear):
- Last year, the top 4 teams based on my values were myself (3rd place), Mike Podhorzer (7th), Fred Zinkie (10th), and Jake Ciely (14th). So, like most preseason standings, they had close to zero predictive value.
- My top 4 for this year are myself, Dr. Roto of Scout, Ryan Bloomfield of BaseballHQ, and Jeff Erickson of Rotowire.