The LABR event is one of the highlights of the baseball season each year (special thanks to Steve Gardner). For years, I would read about the event in the USA Today newspaper, enthralled at the analysis of how the drafts unfolded. For years, I’ve been part of the auction events, but this season I pivoted out of the AL-only Auction I’ve been in, and instead I found myself mired in the middle of one of the strongest 15-team mixed leagues ever assembled. Below, you will find my diary of the event, written in real-time, as I went through the process of putting the team together.
5 x 5 Rotisserie style scoring.
Hitting Categories – BA, HR, RBI, Runs, SB
Pitching Categories – W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV
ROSTER: 2-C, 1-1B, 1-3B, 1-CI, 1-2B, 1-SS, 1-MI, 5-OF, 1-UT, 9-P, 6 reserves
Every team must have a minimum of 4,200 at-bats and 950 innings pitched.
Each player will have $1000 in FAAB money to
spend on changes for his team.
The minimum bid on any player will be $1.
1. Tim McLeod, Prospect 361
2. Zach Steinhorn, Creative Sports
3. Mike Podhorzer, Fangraphs
4. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY Sports
5. Alan Harrison, The Fantasy Fix
6. Joe Sheehan, Sports Illustrated
7. Joe Pisapia, Fantasy Black Book
8. Jeff Erickson, Rotowire
9. Rudy Gamble, Razzball
10. Paul Sporer, Sleeper & the Bust podcast
11. Fred Zinkie, eponymous
12. Ray Flowers, Fantasy Guru
13. Ryan Bloomfield, Baseball HQ
14. Scott Pianowski, Yahoo Sports
15. Stephania Bell/Kyle Soppe, ESPN
*Round taken in parenthesis.
Catcher: Francisco Mejia (15),
Buster Posey (18)
First Base: Rhys Hoskins (8)
Second Base: Jonathan Villar (4)
Third Base: Scott Kingery (9)
Shortstop: Alex Bregman (1)
Middle Infielder: Nick Madrigal (22)
Corner Infielder: Starlin Castro (21)
Outfield: Aaron Judge (2), Justin Upton (12), Avisail Garcia (13), Kyle Tucker (14), Jesse Winker (17)
Utility: Yordan Alvarez (3)
Pitchers: Jose Berrios (5), Brandon Woodruff (6), Madison Bumgarner (7), Raisel Iglesias (9), Hector Neris (11), Ryan Yarbrough (16), Reynaldo Lopez (19), Seth Lugo (20), Jon Lester (25)
BENCH: Eric Thames (23), David Fletcher (24), Tyler Mahle (26), Jake Arrieta (27), Kevin Pillar (28), Emmanuel Clase (29)
DRAFT WRITE UP
ROUND 1: Was thinking potential up the middle strength with this first pick given my draft slot. How did it play out being that I don’t want to take a starting pitcher in the first round? Alex Bregman can hit. I don’t care about the buzzer gate crap. Bregman went .315-26-62-65 on the road last season with no trash can.
ROUND 2: Aaron Judge needs to play games, he’s under 115 games the last two years, but per 162 games the last two years he’s still at .276-41-93-116-7 with a .920 OPS. With health… giddy up.
ROUND 3: Thought starting pitcher. Considered Ozzie Albies but he went right before me. My choice was down to the speed of Whit Merrifield, and SP of the guy I took… Yordan Alvarez. He had an elite season for any player, but for a rookie he was stupendous. He can drive the ball out of all parts of the field, and that 14 percent walk rate led to a .412 OBP that was similarly fantastic. A rare instance of me taking a DH-only player early. NOTE: Khris Davis fell all the way to the 14th round, and I sure would have loved him at that cost but I couldn’t make that move with Alvarez in the fold.
ROUND 4: The league is aggressively taking starting pitchers and that line of thought has dominated a good deal of the SiriusXM broadcast too. Folks are just heavy into the starting pitcher train these days. Gotta play your draft, so I was thinking Kershaw/Corbin, but Corbin was drafted. Therefore, give me Kershaw… but wait. Corbin and Kershaw both went in the six picks between my ¾ round selection, so there was no SP I had to grab at that spot. Really wanted to take Xander Bogaerts as a result, but instead I pivoted to the speed and grabbed Jonathan Villar since my first three picks might steal only 15 bases. My second guy in the top-4 who qualifies at two spots, Villar has stolen an average of 40 bases the last four years while he has averaged 17 homers. Will Mattingly let him run? I’ll take 30 thefts from Villar.
ROUND 5: Do I end up with Jose Berrios in every league or does it just seem that way? The last two years Berrios has averaged 12 wins, a 3.76 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 198 punchouts over 196 innings. He should get tons of run support this season with a chance for the wins to go up, and I think the ERA can come down.
ROUND 6: Was gonna go Josh Hader here if he fell. He didn’t, so that thought went by the wayside. Still, I was able to grab his teammate Brandon Woodruff giving me the same top-2 starting pitcher arms I had in the FSGA Draft. Woodruff had a 10.58 K/9, 2.22 BB/9, a 1.14 WHIP and a 45 percent ground ball rate. If health cooperates, he’s a 200-K arm this season with a low WHIP.
ROUND 7: Liked the sound of Madison Bumgarner as my third SP and he was sitting there for me to make that thought a reality. I may not have an ace, but sure seems like I’ve got three potential top-25 arms, and I’m totally comfortable with that (though so many others aren’t). He had 203 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP last season, so reports that he’s washed up are erroneous. I do like my top-3 arms given the offense taken ahead of them.
ROUND 8: People think that Rhys Hoskins bombed last year. He didn’t. The average went down, but the walk rate went up, he posted a .364 OBP despite a .226 average, and his overall game certainly suggests that the counting stats the last two seasons could be exceeded (32-90-88 the last two seasons) in 2020.
ROUND 9: Scott Kingery has a good chance to go 20/15 this season after just missing out last year, and he should play everyday at third base ending the guessing game he had with which glove to bring to the park for years. He does have outfield eligibility as well, adding to my roster flexibility.
ROUND 10: Starting pitcher? An outfielder? In the end, I went with Raisel Iglesias as closers were coming off the board. He has 28 saves in 3-straight years, and though his ERA was up last season, he had a career best 11.96 K/9 rate and his 2.82 BB/9 mark was a four years best. He keeps the ball in the yard a bit more effectively this season and he should better the 34 saves he posted last year.
ROUND 11: This is the deepest I think I’ve ever gone with one true outfielder, but I’m gonna keep pushing my luck. Hector Neris is an ideal RP2. Neris has 26 saves in 2-of-3 years, and last year he had a 1.02 WHIP and for the third time in three years he had a K/9 rate of at least 11.43. I’ll hope that Jean Segura falls to the next round.
ROUND 12: Segura didn’t fall to the next round. Still, I have that outfield need, so it’s time to start filling it. David Dahl was all queued up, until he was taken the pick before me. That left old standby Justin Upton for me to nab. His season was ruined last year, but Upton can still hit, the Angels added Anthony Rendon, Joc Pederson (during the draft) and a return to health is likely for the only 32 year old outfielder.
ROUND 13: Avisail Garcia was the choice to help me to continue to plug the outfield gap. The situation in Milwaukee is favorable, he went 20/10 last season and let’s not overlook the fact that Garcia is just 28 years of age.
ROUND 14: A non-Ray pick is coming. I needed some speed after missing out on Mallex Smith. I drafted a veteran coming off an injury in the outfield in Upton, so I passed on Andrew McCutchen. Playing time is an absolute issue for Kyle Tucker. This is a risky pick, period. However, he could run with the job taking over for Josh Reddick, or he could end up being dealt to a team that would allow his 20/20 talent to shine. Taking the gamble and hoping for that substantial pay off.
ROUND 15: Francisco Mejia is gonna break out this season. Maybe. Possibly. The bat is straight legit, and he finally flashed at the end of the year (he hit .333/.376/.563 his final 93 plate appearances), though the glove is still lacking (not his arm, but his glove).
ROUND 16: I was
kinda thinking double-tapping catcher, Sean Murphy was gonna be the add, but
with four starting pitchers taken after my last pick, I wanted to get that
fourth SP for my team in Ryan Yarbrough. The 28 year old lefty has
averaged 14 wins with a 1.15 WHIP the last two years, and we all know that the
Rays know their way around a pitching staff.
ROUND 17: Jessie Winker is gonna have a little less pop, but a much better batting average than… Joc Pederson. Winker can hit, and even with the messy Reds outfield, that offensive approach will finally stand out, even if he loses lots of work when a lefty is on the bump. A post-hype sleeper if he finds his way into the lineup of course. Another upside pick in the outfield with question marks.
ROUND 18: Buster Posey is an ideal C2 in a 15-team mixed league. The salad days are a distant memory, but he will play a lot, and should be capable of giving me a .280-10 type of effort. I’d rather gain the .040 extra average points versus the eight extra homers I would get if I waited to grab that second backstop a few rounds.
ROUND 19: A power arm was my goal, and I was disappointed to see Dustin May get picked ahead of me this round. I pivoted and went to Reynaldo Lopez. His slash line against fell to .257/.319/.427 with a .317 wOBA in the second half, and we know he has strikeout per inning stuff. Hoping that Seth Lugo is there next round to help stabilize a potential ratio issues that Lopez could create.
ROUND 20: Yes… on Seth Lugo. The last two seasons Lugo has averaged five wins, five saves and 10.3 Ks per nine with a 2.68 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. He could see more save chances this season if Edwin Diaz starts out slowly after his messy 2019 effort.
ROUND 21: I took Starlin Castro because he had 2B/3B eligibility. I’m looking to keep building options in a league this deep, and hope the move to the Nationals allows Castro to produce just a bit more this season. His addition also allows me to go MI or CI moving forward with freedom, since I can slide him between each spot.
ROUND 22: Nick Madrigal has one of the best hit tools in the minors as the young man can flat out hit (see his Rookie Writeup). He does not strike out (16 Ks in 120 games last season), could hit .300-ish right away, and he should steal 20+ bases at the major league level. I will have to wait a bit, hopefully he will be up by late April, but I’ll happily do that for this bat in that White Sox lineup. Ray, stepping out of the norm for him, and taking a rookie. Take that folks who say Ray doesn’t draft rookies.
ROUND 23: Corner infield or starting pitcher? I like the skill-set of Eric Thames and at this point of the draft he’s as good a pick as any at CI. Even if being platooned, as he will be, he should be able to hit 25 homers with an .850-ish OPS if he stays healthy. I’ll look to grab Pablo Lopez with the next pick to help out the arms.
ROUND 24: Ugh. Lopez went the pick after I grabbed Thames, so no go there. I’ve got needed coverage spots across the board including up the middle/at the corners/and in the outfield, and I think there is a good deal of parity at the SP position at present. I’ll role the dice and grab David Fletcher who qualifies, wait for it, at 2B/SS/3B/OF. He hit .290 last season and scored 83 runs, and he should play a good deal. A safety pick that is boring and potential unnecessary.
ROUND 25: Waited a long time to grab my final pitcher, and I’m turning to an oldie in Jon Lester since Fred Zinke stole Johnny Cueto from me the pick before it was my turn. Damn you Fred. Lester was my fallback, and he’s probably not appreciably different if we are being honest, as he has a clearer path to 170-innings. Lester still racks up those innings, he had 165 strikeouts in 171 innings last year, and has won at least 13 games each of the last four years and 6-of-7 seasons. The ratios, those could be dangerous though.
ROUND 26: Tyler Mahle was the call over injured veteran Jake Arrieta. Mahle has homer issues, massive homer issues really at 1.7 per nine the last two years, but he posted a 3.8 K/BB ratio last season and finally controlled the strike zone. He could follow the 2019 Anthony DeSclafani path this season with a mild breakout.
ROUND 27: Jake Arrieta, continuing the old run of arms in the late round, is a decent gamble. He finally had his arm repaired, and the hope is that he will regain some of the form, note “some,” that he has flashed in the past. Not expecting much if being honest.
ROUND 28: Wanted to grab one more outfielder, and we’re all tossing darts a bit at this point. Kevin Pillar doesn’t have a job as I write this, he almost certainly will be Opening Day, but in each of the last three seasons he’s gone 15/14. Further, he’s stolen at least 14 bags in 5-straight efforts. At this point, if I can get a 15/15 effort from Pillar, that would be a win.
ROUND 29: Thought about going another veteran arm. Considered going Wander Franco. Even thought of grabbing Brendan Rodgers or Garrett Cooper (the last player went right before me so he wasn’t an option). Ultimately, I went with power arm of Emmanuel Clase. He is no worse than third in the pecking order in Cleveland in terms of the 9th inning, and he might be second, right behind Brad Hand. Clase throws 99 mph and had a 3.0 GB/FB ratio last year in 21 big-league outings. With so much time before Opening Day, I’ll speculate on a potential saves option with my last pick.
Here are the overall Draft Results.