Every year, I’m fortunate enough to be asked to participate in the LABR Draft (League of Alternative Baseball Reality). Usually, we travel someplace like Vegas or Arizona to hold a couple day event that is highlighted by the draft. This year, there’s no event, and I’m drafting from my office wearing a robe. Honestly, an SF Giants robe. Let’s see if I can draft a team that performs better than the one I put together last year (here is a link to the draft from last February).
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 3,500 at-bats and 900 innings pitched.
This league requires 10 games played at a position last season in order to qualify at the spot this year (for more on that, I discussed qualifications here).
FREE AGENT ACQUISITION BUDGET
This league will indeed be using FAAB. Each team will have $1,000 to spend over the course of the year. You must have $1 to bid on a player (no zero bids).
There is no limit to the number of players who can be placed on the Injured List. Players must be activated by the scoring period after they are activated.
- Alan Harrison, @TheFantasyFix
- Scott Pianowski, Yahoo Sports
- Ray Flowers, Fantasy Guru
- Mike Podhorzer, FanGraphs
- Rudy Gamble, Razzball
- Stephania Bell/Kyle Soppe, ESPN
- Joe Pisapia/Paul Sporer, Fantasy Black Book, f. Justin Mason as “Justin”
- Jeff Erickson, Rotowire
- Zach Steinhorn, Creative Sports
- Dr. Roto, SiriusXM
- Ryan Bloomfield, Baseball HQ
- Steve Gardner, USA TODAY
- Tim McLeod, Prospect 361
- Joe Sheehan, Sports Illustrated
- Fred Zinkie, defending champion, Yahoo Sports
*Round taken in parenthesis.
Catcher: Sean Murphy (13), Tom Murphy (26)
First Base: C.J. Cron (15)
Second Base: Jeff McNeil (8)
Third Base: Alex Bregman (2)
Shortstop: Gleyber Torres (4)
Middle Infielder: Scott Kingery (22)
Corner Infielder: Manny Machado (3)
Outfield: Ronald Acuna (1), Michael Brantley (10), Joey Gallo (11), Andrew Benintendi (12), Garrett Hampson (24)
Utility: J.D. Martinez (7)
Pitchers: Corbin Burnes (5), Zack Greinke (6), Shohei Ohtani (9), James Paxton (14), Chris Sale (16), Mitch Keller (17), Gio Gallegos (18), Robbie Ray (19), Peter Fairbanks (20)
BENCH: Freddy Peralta (21), Daniel Bard (23), Madison Bumgarner (25), Carlos Martinez (27), Brendan Rodgers (28), Monte Harrison (29)
DRAFT WRITE UP
ROUND 1: I asked right before the draft started on Twitter who should I take? It’s like people think aces never fail. They always do. Last year, top-30 overall pitchers on draft day – Cole was fine, deGrom was fine, Verlander bombed, Scherzer was very average, Buehler was OK, Flaherty bombed, Bieber was a star, Strasburg bombed. Still not getting why so many people want to go with a pitcher in the top-10. You can’t go wrong at pick #3, unless you take a pitcher, and I went Mookie Betts. He’s on a team that will spend whatever is necessary to overcome any issues, and he has a higher ceiling than Juan Soto in the all-important steals category. It’s a virtual toss-up with the duo, IMO.
That was the plan. I had even started to write it out two minutes before the draft started… and then Ronald Acuna fell to #3. I grabbed him over Soto for the steals component. I love Betts, but I will certainly take Acuna as a dynamic fallback option.
ROUND 2: Not planning to take an arm here, even with the room likely to go heavy top-50 on pitchers. Alex Bregman is the pick. I don’t give a damn about the garbage-can gate junk either. Bregman controls the strike zone about as well as anybody. He’s apparently in phenomenal shape to put last year behind him. Bregman is being undervalued based on recency bias. Bregman was second in the AL MVP vote two years ago. Don’t fall into that group of folks that believe he ain’t elite. If he’s not, he’s just ever so slightly off it.
ROUND 3: I wanted Anthony Rendon or Manny Machado here. First base ain’t great, so I’m getting my corner infielder from third base. Machado plays every day and always produces. His stability grade is A+. If he runs, he’s borderline elite (he may not though – see Nolan Arenado or Manny Machado). If he doesn’t, he’s as solid a corner infield option as anyone in this league will have on their roster. Period. He’s 30-90-90. Bank on it.
ROUND 4: Gleyber Torres hit 38 homers with 90 RBI and 96 runs scored in 2019. Last year his ADP was inside the top-30 overall. He’s 24 years old and a season removed from dominance. He will remind folks why they felt the way they did about him 12 months ago, even after last year’s downright poor effort.
ROUND 5: Paul Goldschmidt or a pitcher? That’s what I’m thinking here. Luke Voit went right before me and I nearly pulled the trigger to go Goldschmidt. In the end, I went with the arm – Corbin Burnes. Is he an SP1? Nah. Do I care? No. I’ve continued to write about why I’m viewing pitching differently this year than many. See this article. Check out this one. Don’t forget to give this one a look too. That’s why I’m not falling all over myself to draft pitchers early in 2021.
ROUND 6: Zack Greinke is old, and he barely breaks glass with his velocity. He also just gets outs. Last year his FIP was 2.80, his xFIP was 3.51 and his SIERA was 3.72. He also, to no fanfare, posted the best K/BB ratio of his illustrious career at 7.44, and his 1.13 WHIP was a four-year high. Oh yeah, no velocity Zack still posted a strikeout an inning.
ROUND 7: J.D. Martinez is a crazy good hitter. You can read about his story in Swing Kings, a book I highly recommend by the way (I get no kick-backs for the call). From 2017-19 he averaged .313-41-113-98 with a 1.007 OPS. If he’s 85 percent of that, this is a win, and he should be.
ROUND 8: Jeff McNeil is an ideal target for two huge reasons at this point of the draft. (1) He produces batting average. He’s hit .319 the last three years, which is absolutely elite. In fact, it is the best mark in baseball the last three years. The best. (2) He qualifies at multiple positions – second base and the outfield. I’m totally in here and will use his average boost to allow me to hunt power later in the draft.
ROUND 9: Shohei Ohtani as a pitcher might throw the pill once a week. He might hit 3-4 times a week. He’s tough to fully count on. If he pitches like he can, and it is once a week, I will gladly take him at this cost. In fact, his outlook plays perfectly into what I want to do in this draft on the hill. Target big arms, ones with dominance in them, even if the risk factor is pronounced.
ROUND 10: Michael Brantley is Mr. Stability, especially in the batting average category. I can find power in the 11th round, but finding a legit .300 hitter at this point? Not really. He ain’t sexy, but he’s also not showing any troubling signs that a slowdown is forthcoming.
ROUND 11: Was hoping that Jorge Soler or Joey Gallo would fall after I grabbed another average booster in Brantley. Soler went immediately after I selected Brantley, but Gallo did fall back to me in round 11. Per 162 games played, from 2017-19, his average effort was .217-46-99-99-7. No one hits the ball harder, and in his last two full seasons, he’s hit 40 homers with 80 RBI and 80 runs scored. His average stinks, no way to sugarcoat that, but I also have Brantley and McNeil who legitimately should give me 1,000 at-bats with a .300+ average.
ROUND 12: Gary Sanchez was going to be my pick… but he was taken right before me (I could take the average hit he would bring while getting that massive power). Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I could have gone an arm, or first base (C.J. Cron), or catcher (Sean Murphy), but I opted to add some, speed. I think. Andrew Benintendi was the selection, even with what happened last season. For more on why, see 2021 MLB Players To Target.
ROUND 13: Since I lost out on Sanchez last time, I went with Sean Murphy this round. Pretty sure that Sanchez has more pop, but Murphy, it can rather easily be argued, is the better overall offensive player (his .364 OBP last season was one point lower than the .365 SLG of Sanchez, and Murphy owns a .846 OPS in his young career). He’s a fine fallback option and certainly a catcher one in this setup. Of course, about 14 hours after I drafted him, news of a collapsed lung surfaced.
ROUND 14: I’m sitting here hoping for James Paxton or C.J. Cron to fall to me. An ulcer is growing as I wait. Both guys are gonna get taken, right? The round is half done. Still both there. So, you’re telling me there’s a chance! Paxton was the choice. He reportedly threw well for scouts, the Mariners signed him to bring him back to where his greatest success was, and if he can give me Paxton-like work over 25 starts, I will be happy. Now, I have to hope against hope that Cron falls one additional round. Come on baby.
ROUND 15: C.J. Cron… for the win. I may be wrong about what he will do this season, but the plan worked out – perfectly, so I at least get kudos for that. I ran a poll asking folks what they thought he would do in the homer column this season? Fairly evenly split, though less than 40 percent thought he would hit at least 25 homers, which I find interesting given that he has averaged 28 homers per 162 games in his career, and he’s also hit 29 homers his last 138 games. If the knee is right, and with Coors in his back pocket…
ROUND 16: First off, we have unlimited IL spots, so taking a guy who will start the year on the shelf only hurts me for a week before I can hit up the waiver-wire to add another guy. Chris Sale was therefore the selection. I’ll put him on the IL as soon as I can and immediately replace him with a guy I can use. Not expecting huge innings from arms this season, I’m less concerned than I normally would be about a guy who might be looking at making 22-25 starts.
ROUND 17: Mitch Keller is a fella I’ve written about for years. There’s some worry that I might be a year early here, before a consolidation of the skills, but there’s an arm here that could be ten rounds better than this cost if things come together. He also fits the gameplan of being a potentially dominant arm, even with some ratio concerns (he has a 10.46 K/9 rate, though his swinging strike rate is a bit low at 10.5 percent).
ROUND 18: Lots of options here. It’s a pretty even player pool at most spots, so now we gotta go to work. Was thinking about Drew Pomeranz/Mark Melancon combo with my next two picks, but they both went at the start of the round. I don’t know for sure who is closing in St. Louis. No one does. I need to dive into the 9th inning, so I grabbed Gio Gallegos. He’s got dominating stuff, that’s an 11.53 K/9 and 2.02 BB/9 with a 0.82 WHIP his last 82 outings, and there’s a chance he grabs the 9th inning gig and runs with it.
ROUND 19: Robbie Ray is a mess. I’ve written and talked about that for seemingly a year straight. I get it. I’m looking for strikeouts at this point of the draft, and there isn’t another 200 strikeout guy sitting out there (even last year when he was a hot mess, he had 68 punchouts in 51.2 innings). If he gets back to 2019 levels, which is possible, I’m fine with the lefty at this point.
ROUND 20: Jose Leclerc or Peter Fairbanks is who I’m targeting here. I need some saves help, and now is the time to pounce. Leclerc just went four picks before me, so it is Fairbanks. The Rays don’t seem to want to use Nick Anderson as their sole closer, so there’s a chance that Fairbanks gets double-digit saves. He has walk issues, but that 15.2 percent swinging strike rate is music to this kid’s ears.
ROUND 21: I wrote about Freddy Peralta and why he’s a target of mine in Relievers to Target.
ROUND 22: Which direction? Middle infield? A ninth-inning dart throw? A toss out of a starting pitching name? Hoping that Hector Neris is available when it comes to my turn. Crap. He didn’t make it back to me, going three picks before my selection. Well, makes my decision easier, so I went middle infield with Scott Kingery. For more on Scott, see this report.
ROUND 23: Since I missed out on Neris last round, I went for Daniel Bard this round. Hey, getting Rockies’ relievers late is a time-honored tradition littered with failure. Hoping to get 15 saves from Bard who had one of the more remarkable comebacks in recent memory last year.
ROUND 24: I’m targeting Adam Duvall here for the power since I’ve got some early batting average cover. Crud. There he went. Garret Hampson can play second and in the outfield. I needed depth in both spots. Kingery, I really like given the cost, but there is that little voice in the back of my head about how awful last season was. I can also use a speed boost, and it is legit to think Hampson can steal 15-20 bags. He could even hit 15 homers if he found his way into the lineup daily. Don’t see an obvious path for that to happen though, which is why he’s still available at this point of the draft.
ROUND 25: Madison Bumgarner was awful last season. He’s never been cheaper, and it seems reasonable, at least to me, that he could return a bit more value than a reserve-round pick in a 15-team league. He really has fallen this far.
ROUND 26: Tom Murphy, if he can just keep his feet healthy, should be a totally passable second catcher in a league this deep. He might hit .235 but he should be able to pop 15 homers. No great expectations here.
ROUND 27: Carlos Martinez seems to be fighting the world. I don’t know if this pick will work. Don’t know if he can stay healthy. I also don’t know if he’s going to try and pout his way out of St. Louis. It does seem like he will get a chance to start, and he still owns an impressive right wing.
ROUND 28: Come on Brendan Rodgers, fall. Please. I’ve drafted you the last two years and got nothing out of it. This is the year it changes, right? In 2019, he was a top-25 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com. He slipped a bit last year, but he was still in the top-30 overall at BA and MLB.com. Nolan Arenado is gone, and Ryan McMahon isn’t very good, so there’s a legit chance Rodgers gets a shot from opening day.
ROUND 29: I really wanted to take Jazz Chisholm here, but I could use an extra outfield option. I rolled the dice on a guy who, with 130 games, could go 20/30. Monte Harrison has a difficult road to early playing time in Miami, especially with the signing of Duvall, but an injury to someone in spring, or a hot start, and he could pay off handsomely.
This is about as risky a pitching staff as I will draft. My ratios could be an issue, as could the health of my group, but there are oodles of strikeouts to be found. The decision to go with this type of staff was a result of my decision to hammer the offensive side of things. I don’t think my top-4 picks could have gone any better, and when you toss in a bit of the “Last Year’s Bums” to the mix, I’m feeling pretty alright about the team.
Here is a link to the draftboard.