Hola Razzball Nation. Much like that Pennsylvanian groundrodent (hogs=bacon. this ain’t getting be bacon), I’ve been underground prepping the first half of this winter. Though it’s not like I’ve been keeping you in the dark as I posted my 2016 fantasy baseball projections (in collaboration w/ Steamer) and auction dollar values around the actual Groundhog Day.
The middle of February ushers in the most romantic holiday of the year for me – LABR Draft day. This year it was Tuesday, February 16th – casting its big shadow over V-Day (I dressed up in sunglasses and a moustache – my wife thought I was Grey) and the “Let’s honor dead leaders by giving your kids the day off from school while non-bank/government employers just consider it Monday” holiday.
For those not familiar, this is a 15 team mixed league snake draft with standard 5×5 roto scoring. Same roster format as we use for RCL except 6 bench spots, 2 starting catchers, and unlimited DL. Rosters can be updated weekly. The free agent budget (i.e., FAAB) is $100 and you can only pick up players on the major league roster (the draft is the only time you can prospect stash).
My 2015 LABR Team came in 5th place – putting up a fight for 3rd place but well behind Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre of Baseball Prospectus who edged out Fred Zinkie of MLB.com on the backs of an INSANE 7th-9th round pitching run of Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, and Jake Arrieta. Looking at my 2015 draft (and my relative success) is a good reminder how the second halves of these drafts are the equivalent of a Joc Pederson at bat. Take a few big hacks and hope for a home run (my big flies last year were Khris Davis in 13th, Danny Salazar in 15th, Santiago Casilla in 17th, and David Peralta in the 26th).
Here are the results of the 2016 LABR Draft. I suggest opening it another tab while reading this post.
|B||Orlando Arcia (SS)||17.253|
|B||A.J. Reed (1B)||19.283|
|B||Kevin Quackenbush (RP)||24.348|
|B||Jeremy Jeffress (RP)||25.373|
|B||Derek Holland (SP)||26.378|
|B||Tim Anderson (SS)||29.433|
Draft Strategy Overview
- Err towards power over speed or AVG (will be writing a separate post on why).
- Try to keep team balanced from a category perspective throughout draft (explained more below).
- Build upon 2015 research to map out possible draft scenarios leveraging NFBC ADP.
Early Round Notes
- I had a set strategy for picks #13/#18. Based on my ADP modelling, I felt there was about a 40% chance that Giancarlo Stanton (8%), Anthony Rizzo (25%), or Kris Bryant (18%) would fall to 13th. If one fell, I was taking them otherwise Mookie Betts. If I took Betts, my second pick would have been the best available power 1B between Chris Davis, Jose Abreu, and Edwin Encarnacion. If I got a power bat, I wanted Betts, Marte, Altuve, or Pollock. Fred Zinkie zinkie’d Betts with the 17th pick so I ended up taking Marte.
- I suspected that Bryant would be the likeliest power bat to fall to #13 since his contact issues seem to turn off most industry folks. I see a young, smart hitter (great eye, studies swing mechanics) with huge power upside.
— Fantasy Sports Radio (@SiriusXMFantasy) February 17, 2016
- My #3/#4 picks were earmarked for an ace and a power bat OF. There were a lot of ‘ace’ candidates I had at equivalent value. I felt Corey Kluber was the most likely candidate to make it back but he was snagged right before me at the end of a 10 SP in 13 pick run that also snagged one of my fallbacks in Carlos Carrasco. The upside of that is that one of my two preferred bats reached me in Justin Upton (J.D. Martinez was the other). I took Upton 3rd and I got Syndergaard with my 4th pick – surprisingly making me the last team to draft an SP at only pick 48!
- There weren’t a ton of SP2/SP3 that I liked. I planned on two SPs between the 5th and 11th rounds. With my top 2 SP2s off the board (Cueto, Salazar) by my 5th pick and in need of a 1B, I was in a tough spot as I suspected that both ‘turn’ guys might also be thinking SP/1B with their next two picks (neither had a 1B). Since there were several 1Bs on the board but only one SP I wanted (Lester), I went SP and kept my fingers crossed that Freddie Freeman would make it back to me. Alas, Freeman was snagged and I decided on Fielder over Pujols to help balance out my AVG. Only problem was I failed to realize that Fielder isn’t 1B eligible to start the year (only 18 games at 1B). Durr.
- I had 7th/8th round as a good time to draft a speedy OF with at least a fighter’s chance at 10 HRs. Polanco and Yelich tended to be the two I drafted in mocks. With Polanco off the board (as well as speed guys Revere and Hamilton), I decided to double-down on last year’s Ellsbury bet in hopes of a 2014 return over Yelich’s AVG-heavy value. I think concerns about Ellsbury’s age + injuries have been accounted for in his price (i.e., his skill set isn’t markedly different than Pollock). Was pleasantly surprised to see that my top two RP candidates survived the turn (Giles, Allen). Went Giles based on gut.
I am going to re-use my format from last year as most readers preferred it to just a pick-by-pick analysis. (Is it illuminating or surprising in any way that I liked most of my picks?) 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.
|In General||My Team||Observations on Other Teams|
|Upside vs Reliability||Sprinkle upside picks throughout draft, veer towards reliability in early rounds.||I am happy with my mix. I got the two prospects that I really wanted for 2016 in A.J. Reed and Orlando Arcia. I have their per game value at $7-8 which is equivalent to 13th round picks. Same goes for my last pick (Tim Anderson) though I feel less confident he gets called up by early June. I also re-thought how I draft the last third and dialed down reliably mediocre end game SPs (last year Porcello, Masterson, Nuno) in favor of Save upside (Diaz, Jeffress, Quackenbush).||I was critical last year about a couple teams skewing too far on upside. Not the case this year. No team jumps out as being too risky or risk-averse. MAYBE the BP duo (Mike and Bret) with Springer, B. Hamilton, Hanley, and Buxton? Perhaps a lowish floor but I liked those prices. I considered all those hitters at some point in the draft.|
|Bouncebacks||I like them as long as health not a question mark, skills/age look positive, and properly discounted.||Last year’s bouncebacks worked out great (7th round Matt Harvey) and so-so (6th round Jay Bruce). Ellsbury (7th) is my only big bounceback play. Not sure whomelse could even qualify – maybe Ozuna in 13th as a posthype pick? Buchholz in 18th? Puig and Hanley were probably the two other bouncebacks I considered but the timing in the draft just didn’t work.||USA Today’s Steve Gardner has three (Rendon, Reyes, V-Mart) but they all seem fairly priced. Same for Collette/Sporer’s Carlos Gomez and Yasiel Puig picks (though I’ll take my 10th/11th round Pineda and T. Walker over their 9th round Stroman).|
|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’m pretty happy with my balance. A little light in Runs and SBs though I think Orlando Arcia or Tim Anderson will correct the latter. Took on risk with Saves.
I think I value category balance more than others in the draft. Some see this as opposed to value drafting but, by keeping balanced, I CAN grab value throughout draft versus worry about filling needs.
In this format, no guarantee you can fix imbalance in free agency. Trading is tough to count on for some players because if certain types of players keep falling to you, it’s likely you value them more than your competitors and, thus, are unlikely to get equivalent value in a trade (i.e., Mike P. – you are CFCP if you think anyone else values Jarrod Dyson as much as you. I think most feel his O/U on PAs is around 300 and he is an OF who is below average in 4 categories whose skills can be found in free agency.)
|This is hard to judge as I’ve found analyzing teams post-draft is generally a waste of time. MLB.com’s Fred Zinkie’s team feels over-invested in AVG vs power (an Altuve/Betts/Cain first 3 picks will do that) but he’ll just make trades. I see it to a similar extent (with less success in AVG) in the Stephania Bell’s team. The BP team and RotoExperts teams look like they’ll be hurting on AVG.|
|ADP vs “Get Your Guys!”||I prefer to wait as long as possible for guys I like but adjust based on draft room dynamics.||I reached for Orlando Arcia in the 17th as I got spooked once Trea Turner went off the board. Based on my pick vs ADP, Pineda (+31 picks) and Ozuna (+44 picks) were reaches that I’m comfortable with.||No team was a huge offender here. The top reaches (minimum 10 picks above ADP) in the first 4 rounds that my projections weren’t overly bullish on were: 2.11 Todd Frazier, 3.6 Robinson Cano, 4.1 Adrian Gonzalez, 4.12 Kyle Seager, 4.13 Brian Dozier.|
|Anticipate Other Teams’ Picks When Prioritizing||Get ahead of player runs to minimized getting sniped.||Picking 13th, I wanted to trust my draft prep with NFBC ADP to anticipate position runs and keep an eye on the rosters of the two teams on the ‘turn’ to minimize getting sniped.
Somewhat surprisingly, I feel I aced the harder of the two jobs and meh on the easier job. I felt totally in control determining who’d come back after the 24 picks to the left of me. I got sniped once (Kluber) but that wasn’t a huge surprise.
But I was sniped several times by the ‘turn’ guys. Fred Zinkie is probably the WORST guy I could’ve asked for here because his penchant for trading gives him the confidence to build his team regardless of category/position balance. He bummed me out taking Betts at #2 when I mentally wrote that off after he took Altuve #1. Maybe I take Hosmer over Fielder at #6. The bigger surprise was sniping Storen as an RP3 when I thought his team screamed for Schoop at #16. Osuna was an expensive handcuff (taken in 20th) but I think Storen is the overwhelming favorite given his crankiness as a set-up guy. He got me on Josh Tomlin in the 26th as well. Like Tomlin and his Robbie Ray pick’s $/GS projections.
USA Today’s Keith Hernandez got me on Freddie Freeman in the 6th (was hoping enough 1Bs on the board) and surprised me taking Hoover at RP3 in the 20th and David Hernandez at RP4 in the 22nd. I liked the price of the Hoover/Diaz handcuff (Cingrani 3rd in line) and Hernandez was super cheap at that point. I think those ARE good values so can’t criticize the picks but hard to anticipate it. (In retrospect, probably near 100% chance AJ Reed would’ve survived the turn where Hoover was taken. Beltran would not have in the 21st.)
|Hard to judge other teams on this.|
|Hit/Pitch Mix||I price at about 65/35 and 26/9 for SP/RP based on NFBC ADP analysis. That’s my general goal.||NFBC ADP came through. While last year’s LABR splits were 67.3%/23.4%/9.3%, this year’s were 64.6%/25.9%/ 9.4%. So I had my overall values ranked perfectly. My team splits were 65/29/6 – better than last year’s 60/26/15 which required a RP for Bat trade in May to balance things. Will cover RP in ‘Closers’ section.||The highest Hit% were FanGraphs’ Mike Podhorzer’s 71/29 and FantasyFix’s Alan Harrison at 68/32. USA Today Fantasy’s Keith Hernandez had the highest Pitch% at 58/42 with Todd Zola second at 60/40 (note: he drafted Kershaw #4). The most perilous is probably Hernandez’s but it could be rectified by trading a closer for a hitter (like I did last year)|
|Closers||My position on Closers seems to change a bit every year. Given how many unresolved closer situations there are, I wanted to secure a good RP1 and go cheap on RP2 to minimize risk. Invest in end game on closer candidates.||I went into the draft confident that I can get a solid closer at pick #8. Very happy with Giles (and could’ve had Allen or Rosenthal). I considered Tolleson at #11 and Casilla at #14 but wanted to invest less. As noted above, got surprise turn-sniped on Storen, Hoover, and Hernandez. Oh well. I think Diaz, Jeffress, and Quackenbush all have a chance at being named closers to begin the season. One plus is that I invested the third least pick value in RP (6%) so could spend elsewhere. Also, the amount of unsettled closer situations made it near impossible to handcuff. Different owners for Reds, Brewers, Padres, Blue Jays, Marlins, Braves and Mariners RPs!!!||FG’s Collette/Sporer invested the most $ in RPs with a 7th/8th on Britton/Allen. Both were solid values. BHQ, RotoExperts, and Jeff Erickson of Rotowire were the only other teams to invest two top 10 picks in RP. Steve Gardner surprisingly left the draft with zero closers – just Betances, Herrera, and Gregerson. Imagine he’ll be aggressive on FAAB for closers. Hard to say whom else might be short a closer come opening day.
Crazy note: last year’s winners didn’t draft any closers.
|Middle Infielders||Pay no premiums for ‘scarce’ positions. Stay patient. Adjust player choices based on offensive category balance.||I like Daniel Murphy in the 12th round. I think he’ll be a solid 4-category contributor this year with power upside based on his 2H change in approach. Considered Schoop in 16th but satisfied with Forsythe in 20th as Schoop seems destined for bottom 1/3rd of lineup. Took fliers on two speedy SS prospects (Arcia, Anderson) with no one blocking them on their rosters. Grabbed Gregorius at end of draft as a fill-in. Fill-in plus SAGNOF prospect for SS was the plan going in.||13.8% of pick value spent on 2B/SS where I valued it at 11.3%. This was almost all due to the market valuing SS 50% more than me (6.9% vs my 4.6%). The most overpriced in my eyes were Tulo and Corey Seager.|
|Catchers||I like to punt Catchers. The demands of the position lead to greater injury risk and more volatile offensive numbers IMO.||I liked a couple of Catchers that I thought I might be able to snag in 12th-14th round but couldn’t get the price I wanted. Was fine with Hundley in the 15th as C1 and took advantage of similar C2 punters with Navarro to start the 28th as 5 other catchers taken before my 29th. I only have Navarro down for 271 PAs but have his $/G ($ per game started) as 16th among catchers with PA projections above 250. If/when Avila gets hurt….||I valued Catchers at only 2.3% of pick value while the ‘room’ spent 5.7%. The only catchers drafted in the first half of the draft that went close to what I feel is their position-neutral value were Schwarber in the 4th (though I’d have preferred Gomez or A. Jones in that slot), Sal Perez in 9th and my Hundley pick.|
|Starting Pitchers||Draft quality and quantity. Mix upside and consistency.||I am happy with my top 6 SPs in Syndergaard, Lester, Pineda, Walker, McHugh, and Buchholz. Perhaps it’s a bit riskier from a ‘floor’ and injury perspective than ideal but I like the per start projections. I feel I paid the ‘injury’ discount for Pineda and Buchholz (who I both have at around 160 IP). Eovaldi and Holland are okay SP depth – if healthy, they’ll be usable in most weeks. Would not have minded grabbing a 9th SP if the value was there but I prefer the lottery ticket on Tim Anderson with pick 29 versus a marginal SP (would have taken Josh Tomlin if still on the table). Will work FAAB hard for SPs like just about everyone.||On the quality side, I’ve got Zola’s team as the clear #1 (mine is #2 fwiw and that’s not much since it’s inherently biased). I have him spending the most too. I have the two FanGraphs squads and Zinkie’s as the least valuable but they also spent the least. Best bang for buck (besides me) was BHQ. Worst bang for buck was Sporer/Collette’s team (I said something similar last year and was proved right – still willing to give some benefit of doubt given Sporer’s SP research). On quantity, the average was 8.7 SPs so I was near the average. The two newbies (Alan @ Fantasy Fix and Howard Bender @ Fantasy Alarm) went with 6 SPs – no one else less than 8. Rookie move.|
If I’m not on record with this, let this serve as official notice that using projections to determine pre-season standings is almost a complete waste of time. The only thing I like about it is to see the category (im)balance of each team. That said, might as well share what my $ values are for all the participants. This is just positive dollar value ($0+) of all drafted players using my mixed league 15 team rankings. This ignores any type of ‘balance’ – figuring imbalanced teams can always trade strengths for weaknesses. I’m also showing the FantasyPros standings that are based on only projected starting rosters. Some additional caveats:
- Every capable drafter’s team should show up #1 if they do this exercise so don’t read any hubris into the below.
- I adjusted my hit/pitch mix from 67/33 (version on the site) down to about 64.5/35.5 based on ADP research
- I only ensure that 15 catchers have positive value so teams that invested more in catcher would probably argue that I underprice their catcher investments.
- This type of exercise will ding teams that I project have playing time or injury concerns – e.g., Michael Brantley + 1 month of a replacement is greater value than my $ value which basically assumes you start no replacement in April. It also values prospects like my Reed and Arcia at $0. That is why I report $/Game in my pre-season projections but that would be misleading to include for this exercise since it doesn’t distinguish between guys like Brantley/Darvish who are projected to miss a little time vs a platoon hitter vs a prospect with TBD call-up date, etc.
|Team||Sum of $ ($0+)||FantasyPros Rank|
|Razzball – Rudy||307.7||9|
|FNTSY – Anderson||288.5||7|
|Mastersball – Zola||286.5||1|
|Fantasy Alarm – Bender||269.4||4|
|MLB.com – Zinkie||264.2||3|
|Rotowire – Erickson||261.6||13|
|RotoExperts – Ciely||259.9||5|
|Fangraphs – Podhorzer||254.8||12|
|USA TODAY – Gardner||251.7||8|
|TheFantasyFix – Harrison||251.3||6|
|ESPN.com – Bell||247.0||11|
|USA TODAY – Hernandez||244.1||10|
|BaseballHQ – Murphy||233.8||14|
|Fangraphs – Sporer/Collette||229.1||15|