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Todd's Mixed LABR Team: A Call to Arms PDF Print E-mail
Organized Chaos
Written by Todd Zola   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 09:50

On Tuesday evening, the League of Alternative Baseball Reality, better known as LABR, held their 2014 Mixed League online draft. Fifteen teams gathered in the RTSports draft room and banged out 435 picks. I've been lucky enough to play in the league since its inception in 2012. Here are the participants with the draft order:

1. Todd Zola, Mastersball
2. Craig Glaser/Bradley Ankrom, Bloomberg Sports
3. Ray Murphy, Baseball HQ
4. Bobby Colton, Rotowire
5. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY Sports
6. Tim Heaney, KFFL
7. Bret Sayre/Mike Gianella, Baseball Prospectus
8. Rudy Gamble/Grey Albright, Razzball
9. Mike Podhorzer, Fangraphs
10. Doug Anderson, DFS Edge
11. James Quintong, ESPN
12. Fred Zinkie, MLB.com
13. Jake Ciely, RotoExperts
14. Jason Collette/Paul Sporer, Towers of Power podcast
15. Jeff Erickson, Rotowire

I was bestowed with the first pick as randomly selected by LABR head honcho and USA Today Senior Editor Steve Gardner who broke the news to me as he was enjoying some fresh lobster that was anonymously delivered to his door. Last month, my partner-in-crime Lawr and I also had the luck of the draft as we began the defense of our Fantasy Sports Association championship with the first pick, Then, as well as on Tuesday, the first pick was....

1.01 Mike Trout - maybe if Miguel Cabrera didn't get hurt at the end of last season there would be more of a debate, and I realize Trout is susceptible to injury with his all out style of play but the 5-category production is too good to pass up. I still don't think we have an accurate read on Trout's baseline, especially batting average. Lost in last season's numbers was an improved his contact rate. I still think there's going to be some give-back with respect to BABIP but we don't know where that will settle in tandem with his contact. The combo should still put him in the .300 neighborhood and that's an awful nice neighborhood to be in. Now I have to wait 28 picks until I draft...

2.15 Dustin Pedroia - not my typical selection this early as I prefer to focus more on counting stats and let batting average fall where it may but Jason Kipnis, who I have slotted (along with Robinson Cano) together on my draft board was selected four picks earlier by the esteemed Mr. Gardner. Pedroia hurt his hand on Opening Day last season which likely influenced his paucity of power so I'm hoping for a little better production than last season to add to the batting average buffer. Owning Pedroia will allow me to absorb some low batting average players later. It's funny, I'm not at all a scarcity drafter but if you don't know me, you may assume I am after picking....

3.01 Jose Reyes - with my next choice. It just happened this pair of middle infielders was atop my draft board. The fact that they fill what is perceived to be scarce positions is secondary. I caught some flack for Reyes from those who prefer a more risk averse selection so early, but it has been my experience that the third round is wrought with risk and if I'm going to take a swing, it's going to be for the fences. I felt the same way last season - if Reyes can stay healthy, he's going to be a monster in Toronto. Big if, I know, but sometimes the upside reward is worth the downside risk. The only issue I have is I am low on power which I addressed with....

4.15 Mark Trumbo - you can take your ADP and stick it up your...OK, family web site.... While I understand that on occasion an ADP can help you time your picks to maximize potential, what is most integral is selecting players that add intrinsic value to your team relative to what is expected from that pick number. Along those lines, what if I picked Jay Bruce here? Considering he went to Rotowire's Bobby Colton way back in the second round, some would say I got a steal here. Now what if I told you I think Trumbo is going to have a better year than Bruce? If you promise to finish reading this before clicking, here's why I say that. Now that my power and speed is in better balance, it's time to address starting pitching which is why I then chose....

5.01 Aroldis Chapman - huh? Don't worry, I know he's not starting. Here's the deal. What I do is determine a target ERA and WHIP for my first seven pitchers figuring I use the last two spots to play the match-up game. I map out a few different pathways to achieve that goal. Prior to my 5.01 pick, there was a huge run on starting pitching, stripping me of couple of the avenues leading to the desired ratios. I have a Plan B and Plan C that both involve using the top tier closers since those at the top end can influence ERA and WHIP. Pairing a top closer with a third tier starting pitcher yields the same stats as a second tier starting pitcher and second tier closer. This is the tact I chose, figuring to wait until the next turn and pair him with someone like....

6.15 David Robertson - huh redux? Now I'm playing a game of chicken. I looked at the board and the composition of my competitors and decided that there will be some viable starting pitchers for me at the next turn and if I'm lucky, I may even push the panic button of my industry brethren and instigate a bit of a closer run, which in turn helps push starting pitching down to me. Plus, one of the pitfalls of being at the wheel is being caught at the wrong end of a run like I was with second tier pitching. This way I don't have to worry about missing the inevitable closer runs that occur in every draft. For what it's worth, I don't subscribe to the ploy of not paying for saves. I went back and reviewed the rosters of the previous Mixed LABR champions as well as the winners of Mixed Tout Wars and the victors all secured saves during the draft or auction. If it's good enough for the champions, it's good enough for me. Since I was waiting further on starting pitching, it enabled me to pick up....

7.01 Carlos Beltran - Again, ADP, Shmee Dee Pee. I'm the elder statesman of this league, pretty sure I'm the only member on the plus side of 50. While all the young kids are riding around town in their brand new Myers, Hamiltons and Harpers, I'll get where I need to go with my old and reliable Beltran. Sure, it may break down on occasion but when running, it purrs like a kitten. The kids probably think I overpaid, but I don't think they know just how well my Beltran has run the past few years and I'm perfectly happy since I know I'm getting more than I paid for. Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope...

8.15 Kris Medlen - is still available. Yahtzee! The gambit worked perfectly. I have Medlen on top of my SP3 tier so along with Chapman, I have the equivalent of a solid SP2 plus a good closer. Not only that, I am able to pair Robertson with...

9.01 James Shields - and sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. I mentioned the target ERA and WHIP. One of the cautions of not getting a top starting pitcher is being devoid of that 200-K base from which to build. This is partially mitigated via the high whiff total of both Chapman and Robertson, but adding Shields completely absolves me of the concern and could even put me ahead of the game with respect to strikeouts. By means of comparison, the starting pitchers I could have selected in lieu of the closers were Zack Greinke, Mat Latos, Mike Minor, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman. These are all fine arms and can help any fantasy staff but are they that different than Medlen and Shields? I think not. Of course, one can contend that I didn't need to invest such high draft picks on the closers and I would still have this pair to anchor my staff, but there's no way of telling what may have transpired if I went in another direction. It's all revisionist history. Plus, the second part of the story is whether I am able to take advantage of the closer runs by picking a guy that slides, like...

10.15 Wilson Ramos - There are eleven catchers I consider worthy of my first catcher spot (lest I eschew catching all together). Since I picked Shields, twelve pitchers (including five closers) came off the board which helped insure there was still a receiver I favored on the board. I almost got real lucky as Matt Wieters was sliding but he was snagged by Ray Murphy of Baseball HQ two picks before my turn. I had the average to buffer Wieters and would have liked the 20-something dingers but Ramos is a fine consolation prize. As was pointed out by the Hall-of-Fame duo of Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf while chatting with them during the draft on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports radio, my team was pretty balanced in terms of positions and stats so I was free to stay the course and "choose, don't chase" which is my credo in drafts. As such, my next pick was....

11.01 Doug Fister - At this point, my pitching stats were exactly as they would be had I embarked on my usual tact of a couple of SP2 and CL2 so in essence I am back on track to build the rest of my staff as usual. Fister is my ideal SP3. Steady, stable and although he doesn't possess a stellar K/9, he makes up for it with a ton of innings so the raw strikeouts are there. I suddenly don't mind having a staff devoid of Chris Sale or Felix Hernandez. The thing is, though, I'm falling behind in hitting, but it is a trading league which is why I took...

12.15 Drew Smyly - When you don't believe in ADP, there's no such thing as too early, so long as the player provides what is expected from the draft spot and I believe Smyly will prove worthy of this lofty slotting. Plus, if you don't know I have a thing for Smyly, you're not paying attention. I passed on several players that I favor earlier because even though I like them and knew I wouldn't get them next time around, the potential return on investment relative to other players still on the board wasn't worth it. But not with Smyly. We're at the point of the draft where the variance associated with projecting player performance renders about 30 players equal. For me, Smyly was in that group of 30 so the potential return on investment was commensurate with other available players. So much to the consternation of the Twitterverse, and despite already being pitcher heavy, I pulled the trigger. But this was nothing compared to when I chose...

13.01 Tony Cingrani - Simply put, in a vacuum, I felt Cingrani offered the best potential return on investment of any player on the board. If this was a no-trade league I would not have gone this route but I am confident that I'll be able to flip some pitching for help elsewhere if necessary. But suffice it to say I had pretty much given back any plaudits received by the on-line followers after sticking to my guns earlier and snagging Medlen and Shields. This pair of picks was rightfully questioned, but I feel big picture they will help me to win the league. You see, I'm not interested in winning the draft; my goal is higher. But drafting two more arms put me in a serious hole at the hot corner which I attempted to address via....

14.15 Kelly Johnson - It will take a few games, but Johnson will attain third base eligibility and should be good for 20-plus homers as ARod's replacement. I have the batting average buffer so that's covered. And if I can find another third baseman, Johnson can play middle which is why I went with...

15.01 Will Middlebrooks - This was my most uncomfortable pick of the evening, perhaps even more so because I live just outside of Boston and still don't have a feel for Middlebrooks, either in terms of his baseline production or role with the team. But it is the 15th round so chasing upside is fine. Plus, he has a smoking hot girlfriend which segues perfectly into a crush of mine that I can actually get, you know, in a platonic fantasy baseball bromance sort of way....

16.15 Corey Kluber - If you aren't playing attention regarding my favor for Smyly, you're living under a rock if you don't know to keep your dirty, filthy hands off my Kluber. Just look at the peripherals and the second half and you'll know why. But yeah, more pitching which means I need to take some fliers on the likes of....

17.01 Avisail Garcia - Full time job in a hitter's haven, I'll take it this late. Plus I need outfielders and they are thinning out a bit. Dang it, I can't think of a clever segue to....

18.15 Carlos Ruiz  - There were two bounce-back backstops I was eyeing, Ruiz and Alex Avila. I feel Ruiz has a higher floor (based on better contact) so less can go wrong. That is, worst case Ruiz doesn't hurt my batting average. I'm hoping for some of his pop to come back but I can live without it. Avila has a higher ceiling, but he can also be a power bust while sinking average. But now I'm down a little more power so I'll look for....

19.01 Adam LaRoche - to find his home run swing again. We're in the fungible portion so if LaRoche struggles, there will be someone on waivers so I'll roll the dice on 20-plus homers and turn to the outfield for....

20.15 Nick Markakis - Granted, Markakis is showing a slide in skills but he's not that old and should have a rebound in him. That said, he's never been a power source, but he does hit near the top of a decent lineup so I'll take that and look for pop from...

21.01 Matt Joyce - Most of what's left are low batting average regulars or lefty swinging platoon players that may not get as many plate appearances but their prowess against right-handed pitching makes up for it. Joyce should again see all the at bats against righties and sneak in some against southpaws. Sort of like...

22.15 Nate Schierholtz - Similar to Joyce, between the two I hope to get 40 dingers and I should have the average to buffer any collateral damage. So now all I have left to fill my roster is a starting pitcher and I like to go upside at this point so we'll throw a dart at...

23.01 Hector Santiago - nice peripherals but trouble staying healthy. Take Santiago out of the unforgiving Cell and put him in the kinder and gentler Angels Stadium and at worst I have a streaming option.

Mixed LABR uses a six-man reserve, allowing once-a-week activations from reserve. Perhaps more importantly, we have a separate DL. In leagues that combine the two, as the season progresses you're no doubt forced to tie up multiple reserve spots with injured players. However this isn't the case here. As such, I opted to be speculative, hoping get the proverbial lightning in a bottle, knowing I can still get the likes of Marco Scutaro and Chris Denorfia off waivers. Not needing to use a reserve spot for a hurt player means I can afford to sit on a prospect a little longer. Well, not physically sit on them. That would be weird.

Of all the picks, I was most uncomfortable with the Johnson/Middlebrooks turn so I decided to address that in reserve, loading up on middle infielders and third baseman, hoping to upgrade one or both spots. Remember, Johnson should qualify at both sooner than later. The first pick to pull this off was...

24.15 Brian Roberts - Hey, who knows? He's the starting second baseman for the Yankees and still has something in the tank. The concern is more the number of games than how well he plays so I'll take the chance he's good to go early and squeeze what I can out of him and hedge my bet with....

25.01 Chris Owings - The D-Backs have declared shortstop to be an open competition between Owings and Didi Gregorius. If Gregorius wins, I'll drop Owings, no big whoop. Now that I have that covered, I'll switch gears and look for a high upside arm in....

26.15 Burch Smith - knowing he's on other's radar as well. I've been on Smith since my first projections run in November when I sorted by K/9 and screeched, "WTF?!?!?!". I toned it down a bit but the kid misses bats. Factor in Petco and I'm more than happy to sit on...errr....stash Smith for a bit. You know, I'm still not 100 percent happy with the MI/3B situation, plus I can move Johnson to OF so why not further speculate with...

27.01 Nick Franklin - Seattle has to trade him, right? And if they don't I can hope....

28.15 Tommy La Stella - wins the 2B job in Atlanta. How confident can the Braves be in Dan Uggla? After all, they left him off their playoff roster in lieu of Elliot Johnson. And if La Stella doesn't win the job, maybe....

29.01 Maikel Franco - will. Franco is the long-term answer at the hot corner in Philadelphia; Cody Asche is just keeping it warm.

So that's it. Not a team I would take into a no-trade league like the National Fantasy Baseball Championship, but a team I am very comfortable taking into a league that features defending champion and my former FantasyBaseball.com colleague and present mlb.com blogger Fred Zinkie. The Champ has set the over/under for players staying on his team all season at nine.

I'm taking the under.

The full draft board is available HERE.

As always, please feel free to post questions, comments, criticisms below or better yet, on the forum where it is easier to get some dialogue going.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 February 2014 13:16
 

Comments  

 
# thebig747 2014-02-14 15:59
I don't like the Reyes pick at all and I don't like your starting pitching. Trout looks good though!
 
 
# Todd Zola 2014-02-14 17:30
At least I got one right

The rest is why we play the game!
 
 
# thebig747 2014-04-09 21:41
Holy injuries!
 

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