2015 draft season has begun (at least for me)! The 2015 15-team mixed LABR draft took place on Friday, February 10th – nearly 2 months before the start of the regular season. Almost 60 full days where I can read the player news and play injury bingo (Jonathan Lucroy – woo-hoo, not on my board!).

This was a snake draft with standard 5×5 roto scoring. See here for the draft results and my illustrious leaguemates. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that no more than 2 of these people has ever killed a drifter.

If you need additional fodder to criticize me and my picks, here’s a synopsis of my 15-team mixed failures from last year (including LABR). Onto my picks…

Pos Name Pick
C Christian Bethancourt 25.364
C Robinson Chirinos 22.327
1B Jose Abreu 1.4
2B Howie Kendrick 12.177
SS Danny Santana 11.154
3B Kyle Seager 5.64
OF Jacoby Ellsbury 2.27
OF Jay Bruce 6.87
OF Alex Gordon 8.117
OF Khris Davis 13.184
OF David Peralta 26.387
CI Joe Mauer 21.304
MI Chris Owings 16.237
UT Kennys Vargas 18.267
SP Corey Kluber 3.34
SP Matt Harvey 7.94
SP Gio Gonzalez 9.124
SP Brandon McCarthy 14.207
SP Danny Salazar 15.214
SP Rick Porcello 20.297
RP Craig Kimbrel 4.57
RP Trevor Rosenthal 10.147
RP Santiago Casilla 17.244
B Kevin Kiermaier (OF) 19.274
B Jimmy Nelson (SP) 23.334
B Justin Masterson (SP) 24.357
B Vidal Nuno (SP) 27.394
B Kurt Suzuki (C) 28.417
B Danny Farquhar (RP) 29.424

Early Round Notes

  • I chose Abreu over Stanton with the #4 pick for the following reasons: 1) Stanton’s injury history, 2) Abreu’s better contact rate (which makes him a better AVG bet), 3) Better home park, 4) Better lineup, 5) Not sold on Stanton maintaining his SBs, and 6) The sheer volume of OFs often make it easier to find bargains later in the draft.
  • My 2nd and 3rd round targets were Max Scherzer and Starling Marte. Both were surprisingly taken before my 2nd pick (based on the January FSTA expert draft and the NFBC ADP). Jacoby Ellsbury was a nice consolation prize as I think he is one of only a small handful of players that can go 15/30 (Carlos Gomez & Marte are the other two). I hoped Stephen Strasburg would make it through the turn unscathed but happy with Corey Kluber in that spot. I like Bumgarner and Price (the next two pitchers off the board) but they both threw a LOT of innings last year and I could see some hangover. (Note: Kluber threw 230 IP last year so on some shaky ground here)
  • In a perfect world, I draft a hitter in Round 4 instead of Kimbrel. I debated on Adrian Gonzalez and, in retrospect, he might have been the better choice.  Kyle Seager, who I drafted 5th, is the only other hitter I really like who went in the next 20 picks.
  • I love my Matt Harvey (7th) and Gio Gonzalez (10th) picks. One enhancement to this year’s Player Rater (here is the 15-team MLB) is a $/Game calculation. For a SP, this is the projected $ value per average start. Matt Harvey is projected at 14th for 2015 – all 13 above him (Jose Fernandez the exception) were drafted by the middle of the 5th round. And this is with me giving him a stingy 6.0 IP/Game estimate where most of these aces are set near 7 IP. I think the ‘innings count’ squawk by the Mets brass is fairly meaningless. He probably skips a couple GS throughout the season. His $/G is at $22 – guys drafted in the 7th/8th round like Samardzija, Cobb, Cole, and Shields are in the $13-$17 range. As long as Harvey nears his peak and I get replacement level or above performance on his off week or two, I feel good. As for Nat Gio, psyched to get at least one Nat after missing Scherzer and Strasburg to take advantage of this putrid hitting division.

General Notes/Strategy
I read every drafter’s post-draft notes (linked to a few below) and always wish they were less about pick-by-pick decisions and more about larger draft goals/philosophies + evaluating other teams’ decisions. Tried something new below – let me know what you think.

In General My Team Observations on Other Teams
Upside vs Reliability Sprinkle upside picks throughout draft, veer towards reliability in early rounds. Be cautious of guys with brutal contact rates (e.g., Springer, Baez, Bryant) Definitely a better mix than last year! In first 15 rounds, I’d say the Dannys (Santana, Salazar) were my most overzealous upside picks and not sure I make those picks again if we re-drafted. (Rollins or Segura over Santana?, Fiers over Salazar?). Love David Peralta in 26th round as stealth 15/15 potential. A little too upside-y for Jake Ciely (Bryant and Baez) A lot too upside-y for Mike Podhorzer (Hamilton, Betts, Soler, and Tomas). Jeff Erickson’s SPs outside of Sale are as reliable as a convict with dementia. FNTSY’s Doug Anderson’s Carrasco/Ventura/Richards/ Walker/Pomeranz #2-#6 are as reliable as a convict with dementia on Ambien.
Bouncebacks I like them as long as health not a question mark, skills/age look positive, and properly discounted. Jay Bruce fits the bill as does Matt Harvey (18 months from TJS). Low risk/medium reward investments in Mauer and Masterson (both derailed by health issues) Jay Ciely chose Ryan Braun at #2, Carlos Gonzalez at #3, and David Wright at #7. Too much. BaseballHQ with Machado, Beltran, and Alvarez feels like a little too much. Liked Gardner’s Votto (#6) pick and kind of like his Cliff Lee (#9) but prefer Gio there. Not spitting on the pick but FantasyScore’s Keith Hernandez (not that one) going with Fielder over A-Gonz seems medium risk/low reward.
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, unless there is a large value difference, I am choosing the player who provides better balance. Definitely nailed this one. My offense isn’t great but it is well-balanced. So I can focus on BPA with trades/FA pickups. Hard to judge on surface. Clearly Mike Pod’s Hamilton / Betts / Alcides team seems over-invested in speed but in-season trading can alleviate that.
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 don’t think I had any significant ‘had to get my guy’ picks based on our room. Maybe McCarthy? FG’s Jason Collette and Paul Sporer drafted Ken Giles (#12) at least 5 rounds earlier than necessary (I got Casilla in round #17). Steven Souza was definitely going to go sooner than ADP but 13th round felt a few rounds too early. FNSTY’s Doug Anderson’s Carrasco pick in the 6th round was crazy early.
Hit/Pitch Mix I price at 67/33 and 22/11 for SP/RP. That’s my general goal. The actual splits were 67.3%/23.4%/9.3%. Good. Based on the value of my draft slots, I picked 60/26/15. Not good. Unlike w/category balance, I did not monitor this throughout the draft. Will be more aware next draft. Ideally I trade a reliever for a bat upgrade. My 60% in hitting was the lowest with the three picks before me ranking 2nd-4th (between 61-64%). Four came in above 70% with FanGraphs’ Mike Podhorzer unsurprisingly tops at 73%. These all feel like they are in an acceptable range though I dislike being on one extreme of the range.
Closers Like MLB.com’s Fred Zinkie, I like having dependable closers in the 15-team format. HATE HATE HATE relying on FAAB or trades to fill a closer spot. I am happy to get one of the top tier closers in Kimbrel though I wish the closer run started a round or two later (once the first one goes off, you have to react IMO). I like Rosenthal in Round 9 as a high upside closer who is above the ‘coin flip’ line (as in 50% chance they don’t end the year as a closer). Love the value w/ Casilla at Round 17 as it allows me to stockpile saves and, at any time, trade any of the 3 closers. While elite closers went early (4 in first 61 picks), the rest of the closers came off fairly slow. Some solid values with Allen (7th), Uehara (9th), Street (10th), Perkins (10th), Reed (14th) that make my investments look worse in hindsight. I think BP’s Gianella/Sayre got too cute hoping for closer value and ended up with 0.5 closers. I don’t think Steve Gardner’s feeling too great about Rodney/Hawkins given he failed to nab their handcuffs (Farquhar and Ottavino). ESPN’S James Quintong ended up burning a 17th and 22nd picks on Clippard and Romo hoping one ends up a closer.
Middle Infielders Do not overpay for ‘scarcity’. Aim for middle rounds. Focus on R/RBI/SB/AVG over HR. Emphasis on skills. Like Howie Kendrick in 12th round. If Santana (11th) or Owings (16th) shits the bed, somewhat confident I can fill it via FAAB. As stated above, I am uneasy with the Santana pick. BP’s Gianella/Sayre went SS-SS (Tulo/Desmond) with the 15th/16th picks. I can see Tulo here if you can stomach the risk (I have him at this spot with NO position adjustments) but do not like Desmond here. I have him #61 with no position adjustments. MI is a good position later in draft to correct for speed deficiencies – no reason to lock it up so early. I think Rendon at #12 by Ciely and Altuve at #13 by Todd Zola are defensible but I am uneasy betting on their 2014 SB gains to repeat in 2015. I prefer Cano at #17 to those two 2Bs.
Catchers I like to punt Catchers. The demands of the position lead to greater injury risk and more volatile offensive numbers IMO. Punt! I waited until 300 players were off the board before snagging my two catchers: Robinson Chirinos (22nd round) and Christian Bethancourt (25th round). I think Chirinos has a chance at one of those Olivo/Barajas .220/20 HR seasons and Bethancourt could deliver 5-10 HR / 5-10 SB if given 400+ AB. Suzuki is boring but could save me a couple of FAAB $ if Chirinos or Bethancourt are not the starters coming out of spring training. Other drafters see less risk than me at the position. I like some picks better than others. Intrigued by Gattis in 5th round. Like Grandal in 13th round, Montero in 15th round and Vogt in 16th round. Do not like Posey in 2nd round, Wieters in 9th round, d’Arnaud in 10th round, Rene Rivera in 16th round.
Starting Pitchers Draft quality and quantity. Mix upside and consistency. I really like my SPs. Kluber/Harvey/Gio are a rock-solid first 3. Like the high floors for McCarthy and Porcello. Hoping for two solid SPs out of Salazar, Masterson, Nelson, and Nuno either through matchups or sustained success. I’ve noted some SP thoughts above. I trust Sporer on SPs but seems like a lot of risk after Kershaw/Cobb/Smyly with Gausman/Hahn/Chase Anderson/De La Rosa/Daniel Norris.
  1. Catcher Fever says:
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    Granted its 15 teams but Abreu, Ellsbury, Seager, Bruce, Gordon through 10 rounds makes me queasy. Hope it’s H2H.

  2. It is not H2H. It is 5×5 roto as noted in post. Not going to lie that I am unqueasy about my hitting. But some of that is due to the offensive environment. I have heard several people talking about how crappy the hitter options are – especially at certain parts in the draft.

  3. mrrr says:
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    I like the draft Rudy, especially early. I don’t love the Harvey pick with the other options available at the time but I understand your reasoning. I just think the risk is higher than the upside there.

    • @mrrr: You’re not alone on that mrrr. Like w/ Abreu over Stanton, I’m not going to pretend they are slam dunk decisions. Sometimes they are 55%/45% decisions.

      • mrrr says:
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        @Rudy Gamble:
        I like the Abreu pick. He’s in his prime and though the power took a dip in the 2nd half, he improved his BB and K rates and hit .350. I really like the 1/2 combo of Abreu/Ellsbury in a 15 team league.

        • jal179 says:
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          @mrrr:

          Well played Rudy.

          I love the Bum and his track record so I would of opted for him instead of Kluber… I totally agree that around the 40th overall pick the hitting just sort of gets blah and I’m finding I’m grabbing an elite starter in the 4th in 12 team mocks.

          McCarthy is deadly value– I’m with ya. Garrett Richards went super late and is someone that needs to be moved up–it’s his knees gents not his arm. I could see him in the AL CY young race.

          • Thx. If bum didn’t go to the World Series last year, I probably take him.

  4. Holden says:
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    I like the Salazar and McCarthy picks.. not a fan of Ellsbury there, though. Woulda liked Donaldson Harper or even Strasburg better I think. All in all not bad…

    • @Holden: Thx. Not a lot of love for Ellsbury out there – maybe residual hate from his injury-plagued years from a couple years back. Strasburg should’ve made it back to me (2 SPs by MLB.com?!). Dr. Roto prefers Donaldson too. His 2013-2014 value is a bit exagerrated to near perfect attendance – 668 and 695 PAs the past two years. With the move to turf and natural regression, could see him playing 10 less games. I prefer Seager 3 rounds later. As for Harper, I think SBs are off the table for him and he’s just such a wild card for health.

  5. Cram It says:
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    I think it’s a well-rounded team dude. Pitching is rock-solid top to bottom. Don’t understand the McCarthy love around here…def would’ve gone Fiera, Pineda, Liriano or Shoemaker, but I digress. Quality fall-backs at each position. OF is safe…love the Khris Davis pull there. Batting avg might be troublesome, but otherwise, should be competitive across the board. Thumbs up.

    • @Cram It: Thx. I’m a little surprised by the universal approval of McCarthy but he made some nice adjustments when he went to NYY and now he moves to the NL, a great pitcher’s park, solid infield defense and excellent W potential. No way I take Pineda or Shoemaker ahead of him. Like Fiers and Liriano – though McCarthy’s control should beat Liriano in WHIP handily.

      • GhostTownSteve says:
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        @Rudy Gamble:

        I’d say McCarthy is the #1 non-sleeper sleeper of the early draft season. It’s the age we live in. Everybody looks at the FIP leaderboard.

  6. Steve says:
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    1 last keeper-Calhoun$7,BHam$18,Avisail$5,DSantana$5,Chapman$9,GRichards$7,Baez$5. Use OBA,R,HR,RBI,SB. QS,Sholds,K/BB,K,WHIP.

    • Rudy Gamble

      Rudy Gamble says:
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      @Steve: calhoun

  7. Esso says:
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    What kind of changes to your rankings would you see moving from SV to SV+Holds?

  8. Pundeck says:
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    I enjoyed following along with the draft. Never thought I would be so into an over the internet guy of a website I reads draft. What do you have open/next to you when you draft?

    • Ha! Glad u enjoyed it. I had the draft room on one screen and my war room spreadsheet on the other. I also had the baseball hq book next to me for 2nd opinions

      • goodfold2 says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: i’m assuming you mean Baseball Forecaster there?

  9. Del Griffith says:
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    I like the Chirinos pick at 22. I like his power potential and you were able to address other positions without having to waste a pick early on catcher. How Ruiz got picked 4 rounds earlier doesn’t make sense.

    • GhostTownSteve says:
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      @Del Griffith:

      I like that pick as well.

    • Thx. RC has never started for an MLB team so his playing time projections are lower for most. I see no diff between RC and saltalamacchia either

  10. Wake Up says:
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    Glad to see that you and Suzuki made up, after what he did to you and Pinto last year…

    • Nice callback! Served me right for jumping at a C before the 20th round

  11. the swinging says:
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    Rizzo is better than abreu

    • Baezaworldseries says:
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      @the swinging: How is he better?

  12. Paul says:
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    Regarding bouncebacks, any thoughts on Pedro Alvarez? Would you ever consider a team with Bruce, Alvarez and Trumbo? Or is that simply too much BA risk?

    • Assuming Alvarez goes really late, it’s not a bad pick. But not if ur team has Bruce and trumbo (wouldn’t want these two on the same team).

  13. The JoGarza says:
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    Hey Rudy,

    Just wanted to let you know I love the format of draft summary. It’s informative and instructive with immediate examples. Shows that you try to practice what you preach and it’s infinitely better than the round by round analysis, which is only interesting for the first 5 or so rounds.

    • job3rd says:
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      @The JoGarza: I echo JG’s comments.
      Love the format. Good stuff Rudy!

  14. Tom says:
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    How does snake draft strategy differ in a 10 team roto vs a 10 team each category (i.e. not points) h2h league?

    • @Tom: 1) In H2H, I want pitching depth more than aces. More SPs will be rostered (espec. if weekly pickups) meaning streaming is less successful. For shallow leagues (10/12), I prefer to draft only 4 SP (2 aces, 1 good, 1 upside) and stock up on relievers/MRs. In H2H, I might draft 8-9 SP (with no aces but many in the ‘good’) and only draft closers who come at significant discounts (and, if not, draft MRs).

      2) Personal preference is to punt SBs. Just don’t feel they are reliable week-to-week. One way to do this is to take my 10 team $ and discount $SB by 50%. and then weigh up the other category $ by 1.125

      • Tom says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: Thanks. Love the punt sb idea. My h2h league is 10 team standard espn. In 1) it seems like you are saying do 2 different things, unless one was for shallow and one was for deep or maybe the second “in h2h2” was supposed to be “in roto.”

        • H2H is where I punt SB (or at least significantly discount SB$) regardless of league size. For Roto, I never punt anything.

          • Tom says:
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            @Rudy Gamble: My question was about your point 1) from your original response. In that response it seems like you are saying do 2 different things, unless one was for shallow and one was for deep or maybe the second “in h2h? was supposed to be “in roto.”

  15. spring blake says:
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    Really great write-up Rudy, looks like a solid team!

  16. Peter says:
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    Keeper Help please

    Keep 2 of the 4
    Baez Rd 24
    Blockmon Rd 27
    Brantley Rd 25
    Sale Rd 6

    • @Peter: Blackmon, Brantley unless you’re in a great position to win this year. In that case, Sale over Blackmon.

  17. CH Smoot says:
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    Hello – do you know if anyone has published LABR results as a list showing pick numbers, i.e., like you have it (e.g., “Bethancourt, 25.364”), but showing ALL players taken in that format/order? It makes my head hurt trying to negotiate that grid, e.g., okay, what’s 17 * 15, and which way is the snake going, etc. It’s not impossible, but it is does get tedious.

  18. goodfold2 says:
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    that only 60% on hitters about matches what i thought when i watched your board develop. interesting that carrasco in 6th is considered early but harvey in the 7th wasn’t considered expensive.

    • goodfold2 says:
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      @goodfold2: not that i actually estimated that 60%, just that it seemed you spent too much on pitching (you had most pitchers of any owner in top 10 rounds)

      • Yeah, kinda would like a do over on the rosenthal pick to grab a CI

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