Some drafters are more preoccupied with power than others.
No one at the LABR Mixed Draft was as preoccupied by power as I was (well, except fellow Austinite Paul Sporer and similarly weather fucked Oregonian Ryan Bloomfield) thanks to the wintry, energy grid challenged hellscape that was Texas on Tuesday, February 16, 2021.
Luckily, the House of Gamble did not fall so I have only myself to blame if this team does not take down a crown.
As always, thanks to Steve Gardner at USA Today for the invite.
Last Year Recap (here’s my post-draft writeup)
My 5 year stretch of ‘close but no cigar’ performance (3rd-7th place) in this league went up in flames in last year as I finished 10th thanks to a pathetic 15.5 pitching points despite starting with deGrom/Carrasco (my hitting was 5th with 47.5 points).
I usually would diagnose missteps but, honestly, I am not going to give the 2020 season the satisfaction. Suck it 2020 fantasy baseball.
Congrats to Fred Zinkie on winning the league in 2020.
Expert Analyst Leagues
I get why some colleagues or high-stakes players are cynical towards leagues like LABR. The legacy of calling them ‘expert’ leagues vs something more fitting like ‘analyst’ or ‘writer’ leagues. The fact that inclusion into these leagues – much like the shitty real world – is driven more by industry seniority or connections vs meritocracy. The fact that we are playing purely for pride vs money. The fact there is no such thing as ‘relegation’ if you perform poorly.
Grey and I are wired the same way. We just started Razzball at a time where we were in good position to join LABR and ToutWars when they expanded to Mixed.
That said, we live in a world where NO PUBLIC FIGURES ARE ACCOUNTABLE. Think about every other person who espouses opinions. Are they ever held accountable? I don’t care if your politics are left-leaning or
wrong right-leaning. Don’t you hate when a politician or political talking head isn’t held accountable when they were wrong? Or when the Skips or Clays or Stephen A’s were wrong?
Fantasy sports analysts who play in analyst leagues are actually held accountable. I do not know if every analyst feels the same levels of pride and competitiveness as me but playing in a league that publishes standings is accountability. Here is the ToutWars historical leaderboard. If you do not respect an analyst’s competitiveness or competence, then don’t read them. I know I put a lot of stock in an analyst’s historical performance in these leagues but every reader gets to make their choice.
If you want to ‘hate’ on an analyst’s draft or their track record, I am not standing in your way. I may judge your dickishness if you’re a twat about it on social media but that’s a secondary demerit if I agree with your underlying critique, right?
I am all for taking steps to ensure as many people in the industry get a chance to be held accountable in analyst leagues. That is why I have played in and supported TGFBI from the onset (here is their historical leaderboard). Same with our RazzSlam.
I cannot speak for leaguemates but it is laughable if you think I would play harder if I had $100 on the line. You don’t get rich off fantasy baseball. There is no life changing money to be made. I think everyone’s main objective is to win the league vs use the draft as content fodder – some are just better at it than others. There are days where I cannot believe how much I care about this stuff but I do….and I try to use that fire to make all the projections better so we all can kick ass and maybe one day get so sick of winning that we move on to something more constructive.
(Yeah, I don’t think so either.)
My Draft Philosophy
Last year I christened a new acronym (DARWINISM) to the pile of fantasy baseball draft strategy acronyms. I will summarize/paraphrase below but you can read more words on it in last year’s post.
DARWINISM = Drafting A Roster Which Integrates Needs (of) In Season Management
When I draft, I am the General Manager. I will create draft plans/strategies to simplify my draft day decisions to develop a roster that complements my in-season Manager strengths to maximize chances of team success. Maximizing or ‘winning’ preseason standings is nice but not my main objective.
Some notes on DARWINISM:
- You are overtly customizing your draft strategy to who you are as an in-season Manager. It could be risky or risk averse. Hitter/pitcher balanced vs imbalanced. I am open to a variety of draft strategies/preferences. While I find really rigid draft strategies to be uninspired, my only recommendation would be to reconsider your approach if you aren’t seeing success.
- If you find that your drafting GM has a stronger voice than your Manager, then you really need to step up your in-season play (*cough just for effect and not cuz of COVID* get a Razzball Tools subscription *again, not a COVID cough*).
- I think this type of strategy comes more natural to ‘gut’ players. I think the very nature of being a ‘quant’ leads to more draft ego and trying to ‘win the draft’. The concept of ‘value’ drafting sounds egoless but it is underpinned by the massive ego of thinking one’s rankings are so good that they could win just by exploiting the other drafters’ inefficiencies. Do you go to the supermarket with a plan or do you just buy whatever’s on sale?
- The closest thing I have to absolutes are: 1) “Try not to draft player unless there is a reasonable chance they won’t be on the board during your next pick” and 2) “Don’t look at in-draft standings and try to avoid projected stats”.
- #1 is pretty obvious.
- Re: #2, your in-season Manager does not give a shit about them. Figure out a way to isolate the slivers of value they provide to your Manager – e.g., I have a view in my Draft Tool (free with a season-long sub) that lets me see how balanced I am across categories and how I look vs projected league averages per category. But everything is converted onto the same scale (category $) so I am not fixating on totals or succumbing to natural biases like how 31 vs 29 HR feels like a bigger difference than 29 vs 27 HR or how easy it is to laser focus on HR/SB/K at the expense of R/RBI/AVG/WHIP. I go over this more in this post but the most succinct quote is “You are not obsessed with reaching targets – you are using them as guideposts not goalposts.”
Here are a couple of in-season lessons/preferences in the voice of Manager Rudy that General Manager Rudy has incorporated into his draft strategy for 15-team mixed with weekly pickups over the years. I am not saying these are right for everyone. Just know thy self and draft accordingly.
- Don’t Be Safe, Don’t Draft Scared – I can back-fill or exceed replacement-level stats via FAAB. The boring low ceiling players (aka the Markaki) are cheap in FAAB while the sexier higher ceiling players are more expensive. Avoid the temptation of boring ‘low ceiling’ guys to pretty up the team projections. Focus more on guys with high ceilings vs high floors. I prefer variance at the weekly level vs steadiness because I can always bench (or put on IL) during the bad weeks. Remember, you are trying to beat 10-14 other teams. Embracing some risk/upside puts you in a better position to separate from the pack IMO.
- Don’t Go Into The Season With a Self-Inflicted Weakness – Shit may happen that leaves our team weak in a stat or a position during the preseason. But, ideally, April FAAB should be deployed to find the best players available across all positions/categories. I do not want to tunnel vision on, say, SPs because half my drafted staff is in AAA or beginning an expected stay on the IL.
- If You Feel Good About your RP2 or C2, You Are Delusional Or Spent too Much – Don’t burn a pick in the top half of the draft on an RP2. Take a whole bunch in the late rounds. Safety in numbers. Worst case, I dump them and more spots to fill for FAAB! As for 2nd catcher, I have found those picks are best made with a full bladder so wait until the last two rounds.
- Don’t Tie Up The Bench With Rookie Nookie – I like upside. I like risk. But I need every bench spot for playing matchups and stashing potential closers. If you have to spend more draft capital to get rookies that will play by mid-April, do it. But just know I will cut their asses if they are the minors after I have filed taxes. Also, avoid ‘well-rounded’ rookies. It works much better if they are elite in power or speed (especially speed).
- Multi-Position Guys – A little flexibility is great. Maybe one 1B/OF and a guy who can cover 2B/SS. No need to go overboard though as I seem to always find these types on waivers for cheap.
Here are the full results of the 2021 LABR Mixed League Draft.
Below are my picks compared with NFBC ADP:
|POS||PICK #||PICK||PLAYER||TEAM||NFBC ADP||DIFF|
|1B||146||10.11||Ryan Mountcastle (OF)||BAL||146||0|
|2B||176||12.11||Nick Solak (OF)||TEX||170||6|
|SS||155||11.5||Andres Gimenez (2B/3B)||CLE||175||(20)|
|CI||206||14.11||Austin Riley (3B)||ATL||212||(6)|
|MI||245||17.5||Paul DeJong (SS)||STL||228||17|
|BENCH||335||23.5||Mauricio Dubon (OF)||SF||287||48|
|BENCH||395||27.5||Nico Hoerner (2B/SS)||CHC||585||(190)|
|BENCH||365||25.5||Matt Shoemaker (SP)||TOR||656||(291)|
|BENCH||416||28.11||Luke Weaver (SP)||ARI||443||(27)|
|BENCH||356||24.11||Adam Ottavino (RP)||BOS||479||(123)|
|BENCH||386||26.11||Emilio Pagan (RP)||SD||600||(214)|
Draft Strategy Overview
- Picking 5th, my working assumption was some combination of Acuna/Tatis/Soto/Betts gets taken top 4 and I take Trea Turner to start with a sweet SB/AVG base. If Acuna, Tatis, or Soto fall out of the top 4, giddy-fuckin-up!
- My plan after that is SP in the 2nd or 3rd round, and one more SP in the top 10. Otherwise, front-load with AVG in early rounds and cash that in in later rounds for HR/SB deficiencies.
- Aim for balance across categories – particularly on power/speed/AVG.
- Aim for around the projected market’s Hit/Pitch split (projected at 63.5/36.5).
- When in doubt, do not take MI because the depth is insane.
Early Round Notes
- Juan Soto fell to 5th.
- I coin-flipped on Flaherty at 2.25 vs Woodruff as I have Kershaw more of a late 3rd/early 4th value.
- Going Soto vs Turner puts more pressure on my 3rd/4th picks to address speed (this is before Dave Martinez noted Soto’s goal is to steal more bases in 2021 – not that I really believe that.). I debated but took Devers over Robert at 3.5 as I just do not see Robert hitting in top 5 of the lineup or LaRussa letting him run wild. I would’ve been happy with him at 4.10 but settled for Arozarena when Dr. Roto snagged him a few picks prior.
- The 4/5 turn was disgusting. I had Alonso, Torres, Carrasco and Burnes all queued up for naught. I would have been fine with any of the four whereas Arozarena’s speed + solid R/HR/RBI contributions were harder to replace. I think it made sense to go Arozarena first and assume one of the four fall. Sometimes the room is too sharp. I do not feel very good about Sonny Gray at 5.5.
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 I estimated pre-draft at 63.5/36.5 Hit/Pitch.
|The years of 67/33 hit/pitch are long gone. Last year’s was 64/28/8 (Hit/SP/RP).
This year was 61/31/8 (counting Ohtani as a hitter) which reflects both the NFBC-driven trend of taking SP1s in the first two rounds (with the occasional SP/SP start) as well as the reduced investment in RPs given all the committees.
I went 62/31/7 this year so was successful at staying about league average.
|Last year was the most condensed I have ever seen this draft on hit/pitch split as everyone was between 60-68% hit except for one drafter.
This draft was very different.
SIX teams went under 60% hit with Joe Sheehan being the first analyst I can recall spending more on pitching vs hitting (48 Hit/41 SP/11 RP).
Conversely, three of the drafters picking 1st-4th (Scott Pianowski, Ray Flowers, Mike Podhorzer) were at 70+% hit.
Alan Harrison’s 4.15/5.01 investments in the first two RPs off the board led to him investing almost double the average in RPs.
|Upside vs Reliability/ Volume||Sprinkle upside picks throughout draft, veer towards reliability in early rounds. Focus on $/Game vs $.||On the hitter side, I did not have many boring, reliable picks. Eddie Rosario, Paul DeJong, and Wilson Ramos are the only ones that apply. Juan Soto and Rafael Devers have high floors but are young enough to still have some upside.
Randy Arozarena, Ryan Mountcastle, Andres Gimenez, and Austin Riley are all standard upside plays. Mauricio Dubon and Nico Hoerner are late picks with skill upside and potential to secure prime batting order spots.
I am not sure how to classify Giancarlo Stanton.
I am happy with this hitter upside/reliability mix. As noted earlier, if you are going to invest in young players, get guys with secure playing time and either elite power/speed.
Aside from Jack Flaherty, my pitching is more boring (and aspiring to be reliable). Meh. The prices on sexy SPs is just a little too rich for me. I just wish everyone would stop with the young pitcher gifs and focus their adoration on catchers. Unfollow @pitcherlist. Follow @catcherlist. They deserve to be on top at least once.
|This is Tim McLeod and Joe Sheehan looking at the available prospects after the first 11 rounds.
If I had to peg any team as being a little too reliable/boring, it would be the ESPN duo of Stephania Bell and Kyle Soppe.
|Bouncebacks||I like them as long as health not a question mark, skills/age look positive, and properly discounted.||For the 2nd straight year, I invested in Giancarlo Stanton as a bounceback candidate (last year 5th round, this year 9th). I think Paul DeJong is going a little cheap and will be closer to a 12th round pick (vs 17th) if he can get back to 30 HRs with a tolerable AVG.||Ray Flowers is team bounceback with Torres, J.D. Martinez, Gallo, and Benintendi. I really like the first two of that quartet.|
|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.||I overdid it on AVG and with a mild skew on HR/RBI vs. Runs.
There is a valid argument that AVG is the worst category to overinvest given the variance that can occur with BABIP. I will have to give this some consideration in the rest of my drafts.
Relatively happy with pitcher balance.
|I have Dr. Roto and Alan Harrison fielding strong SB teams that I project to struggle in the other hitting stats. I have Steve Gardner and Scott Pianowski as good offenses with projected struggles in SBs.
I liked Mike Podhorzer’s Adalberto Mondesi 2nd round pick until he tripled up on SB-dependent players with Madrigal and Mercado. I’m guessing he wrote speed on a 3M sticky note. (He also drafted Robles and Cain!)
|ADP vs “Get Your Guys!”||I prefer to wait as long as possible for guys I like but adjust based on draft room dynamics. At the very least, avoid drafting guys with high chances of being on the board for my next pick.||Focusing just on the first 15 rounds where getting value vs ADP is most important, my average pick was 8 picks before ADP. That is a little more eager than usual for me.
Players I drafted 20+ picks before ADP:
|The room averaged 7 picks before ADP in the first 15 rounds so I finished about average..
The most ‘Get your guys’ was Tim McLeod at 21 picks above ADP. Zack Steinhorn was next at +16.
Scott Pianowski (-8) and Joe Pisapia/Paul Sporer/Justin Mason (-4) were the two biggest value draters. Jeff Erickson – who has been the biggest value drafter the past two years – was the same +8 as me.
The three biggest bargains based on ADP were Pianowski’s Dinelson Lamet (-85 picks) and two catchers – Ryan Bloomfield’s Austin Nola (-38) and Joe Sheehan’s Daulton Varsho (-44). Lamet’s drop is likely all injury risk aversion while Varsho’s ADP is likely to fall because of playing time concerns.
|Anticipate Other Teams’ Picks When Prioritizing||Get ahead of position runs to minimized getting sniped. When near a turn, be strategic on your pre/post picks. Do not sleep on guys you like if you feel they will not make it back to you.||I did about as well as could be expected anticipating the 1st-4th turn picks.
The 2nd/3rd turn was surprising that three of the four went Bat/Bat/Bat with Woodruff on the board. I would have gone Bichette at 2.10 vs. Flaherty if I could have anticipated that. Factoring in the chances one manager goes SP/SP there, this outcome feels like a long shot.
As noted, the 4th/5th turn was brutal and might have had more snipes than all the other turns combined. I think Arozarena was the only 20+ SB play I liked in this area of the draft and I took him at ADP (56th). Given the bat-heavy starts, Carrasco and Burnes getting sniped was certainly a risk. Alonso was likely as well but Torres went 14 picks before ADP. Just an odd part of the draft there where I do not love many of the players after that group.
Nothing else of note after that. Of course there were cases I got sniped and/or players I liked went earlier than expected.
Based on reading/listening to post-draft content, I know Steve Gardner would have liked Stanton to fall in the 9th and I sniped Ryan Bloomfield on Nathan Eovaldi.
|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.||The era of 10+ RPs taken by the end of the 7th round is over.
Now only 10 RPs went in the first 10 1/2 rounds – and that makes sense given how few strong bets there are for 25+ saves.
Ottavino (24th) and Pagan (26th) were two cheap guys I like from the skill side and can fall into saves.
All in all, I invested 7.3% in RPs which is a little below average.
|The room invested 8.1% in RPs which is almost identical to last year.
Alan Harrison repeated his move from last year by investing the most in RPs (15%, with only two others above 10%) fueled by a Hader/Hendriks 4/5 turn.
Three teams invested less than 4% – Fred Zinkie (Pomeranz/Wittgren), Ray Flowers (Gallegos/Fairbanks/Bard), and Tim McLeod (Melancon, Bryan Garcia). I like Ray’s the best of the three.
|Middle Infielders||The glut of MIs, especially SS, has made ‘scarcity’ arguments scarce. I just wanted to avoid filling up on MIs too quickly.||I was the only manager to have zero MI in the first 10 rounds.
Trailing in speed at that point, I jumped ADP for Gimenez in the 11th. Solak in the 12th and DeJong in the 17th were both guys I liked 1+ rounds more than ADP.
I added Nico Hoerner in the 27th round who is 2B/SS and would also allow me to move Solak to OF in a pinch. (Unfortunately, the min game requirement is 10 which turns Dubon from 2B/SS/OF to OF. Hopefully he gets some opportunities in the infield).
|MIs in the first 15 rounds averages almost exactly their ADP value. My favorite value compared to my projection was Gleyber Torres at the end of the 4th.|
|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 went with Wilson Ramos in the 18th and Elias Diaz in the 29th round. This netted out to a 1.6% of budget on catchers which was the third least in the room.
I like both these catchers to be non-AVG killers who don’t kill me in R/HR/RBI thanks to Ramos’ contact rate and Diaz playing at Coors.
|4.8% of draft capital was spent on Catchers which is similar to last year’s 4.6%.
Joe Pisapia/Paul Sporer/Justin Mason came the closest to the 0% investment in catchers (taking two catchers after the 22nd round) but succumbed to Alejandro Kirk in the 22nd.
|Starting Pitchers||Draft quality and quantity. Mix upside and consistency but put a little more weight on quality vs quantity of IP. Aim for about 9 SPs.||I invested about the league average (31%) in starting pitching and I’m rather ambivalent about this staff.
Heaney, Eovaldi, and Minor were the only SPs I took between Round 9 and Round 21. They project fine but I’m not going to pretend to be psyched.
I regret taking Domingo German in the 22nd after reading more details on his domestic abuse case. Given the team drama + bad jujus surrounding him, it is hard to justify taking him even ahead of teammate Deivi Garcia.
I am pretty happy with Shoemaker and Luke Weaver as late stabs.
|The room averaged 7.8 SPs with Dr. Roto drafting the fewest (6) and Alan Harrison drafting the most (10).
The draft capital ranged from 18% (Podhorzer) to 40-41% (Sheehan + McLeod).
While Dr. Roto may be lacking in depth, his 36% SP investment looks really good in terms of bang for buck. Starting with Bieber/Buehler as pocket aces certainly helps.
I also like Scott Pianowski’s SP draft for ‘bang for the buck’. Kershaw/Gausman/Lamet comes with agita but he could end up with strong production at a cheap price if everything breaks right.
|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.||Last year was a disgusting year for me with speed.
My two speed guys in the top 8 were Albies and Pham who both got hurt. I grabbed Andrus and Newman in rounds 9 and 14 and they were awful.
My whole draft would have been better off if I took Trea Turner over deGrom with pick 1.8.
Passing on Turner again in the 1st (for Soto) and Robert in the 3rd (for Devers) hopefully doesn’t bite me. Maybe Soto actually steals 20 SBs with all the preseason chatter.
My main two speed guys in Arozarena and Gimenez may still have rookie status. If I am going to embrace upside/youth, it is going to be for speed.
I think Solak and Tapia could deliver 15 SBs each and Dubon + Hoerner have some speed upside as well.
|The room was fairly disciplined with the top 28 SB contributors drafted about a 1/2 round earlier than ADP.
The best bargain vs ADP was Luis Robert who had an ADP of 39 and lasted until Dr. Roto’s 51st pick. Dylan Moore also lasted almost a full round past ADP for Alan Harrison (though I have him as a fade vs ADP).
The biggest overpays for speed vs ADP were Fred Zinkie’s Tommy Pham (my values concur with Fred), Mike Podhorzer’s Victor Robles + Lorenzo Cain and Zach Steinhorn’s Kolten Wong pick (~6 rounds above ADP).
I am cautiously happy with this draft. Fielding 9 healthy, above-replacement level arms every week is going to be a challenge this year. I would not be surprised in my pitching staff looks a lot different by the end of the year. Just give me 120 games each of Giancarlo. Please.