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The best weekend of the year is over. Yeah, that’s a feel good start isn’t it? Have no fear, this will not be a woe is me piece. Rather, it will be a positive, uplifting and somewhat self-aggrandizing retrospective on how Rick Wolf, Stacie Stern and I fared at the LABR AL auction by adhering to what Commander Mike Metcalf (call sign “Viper”) would call the Rules of Engagement. For those who do not know, LABR is the “League of Alternative Baseball Reality” – the granddaddy of fantasy baseball expert leagues started by John Hunt and now ruled benevolently by Steve Gardner of USA Today. So enough palaver – you want to know how we did and why we did it. So, let’s get to it. The draft started off great as we three donned our respective Mariano Rivera jerseys both to pay homage to the greatest reliever of all time and to show that despite the fast paced action, the three teammates would remain completely in sync (see Rick Wolf’s great piece on our LABR AL strategy).
In the first of two parts, I take a look at the Hitting side of the ledger:
Matt Wieters $18 and Steven Vogt $2. We really like Wieters to get to another level this year. His .247 BABIP means he was unlucky in 2013. Bottom line - we got guaranteed solid power production from a scarce position with batting average upside. Vogt, while not guaranteed a job, could easily earn a tidy profit. If Jaso mans the DH role, then Vogt could see 400+ AB on the strong side of the platoon. (SMART? Yessir. We rostered bankable stats with upside at a scarce position).
Miguel Cabrera $42; Nick Swisher $16 and Mike Carp $2. Not much I can tell you about Miggy you do not already know. He is the best pure hitter in the game, is eligible at a scarce position, will play the less demanding 1B (with some DH) and will hit .320+ thus allowing us to roster run producers with weaker batting averages (see Hamilton, Josh and Cruz, Nelson). Swish is and always has been underrated in both fantasy and real baseball. He is durable, plays both 1b and OF and is a lock for 20+ HR and 75+ RBI. Add in the facts that his BABIP says he was unlucky and his line drive percentage remained high, a return to .260+ seems likely. Carp is a classic deep league buy – a player eligible at multiple positions who, even if he stays in his part time role, will give you around 10 HR and 40 RBI (numbers I will gladly take at $2). (SMART? Again, yes. We have the best 3B to fill that scarce position, a 1B still in his prime with upside over last year and another position flexible player in Carp who plays for a very good Team in Boston)
Ben Zobrist $20; Alcides Escobar $15; and Brian Roberts $3. Zobrist is what he is -- a player with little upside and little downside risk. It is hard to imagine he will fail to produce the now familiar .270 with double digit HR and SB and around 70 R and RBI. Not too shabby for a guy who will man either the scarce 2B or SS for us. Escobar provides us profit potential after a down year. He will steal at least 20 and likely 30+. However, the profit lies in the fact that people focus on the .234 average from 2013 but forget he hit .293 in 2012. When you add in the facts that his BABIP was way below career norms, his line drive percentage stayed strong and his K rate went down, you get a guy who will outperform the “what have you done for me lately” price at which we rostered him. Finally, Brian Roberts at $3 was a steal. An everyday player at a scarce position hitting in a good lineup (T in SMART stands for Team) who will take advantage of the short porch in Yankee Stadium will earn a profit if he only gets 200 AB. After that it is gravy. (SMART – yes. However, we may have paid too high a scarcity premium for Zobrist – time will tell).
Desmond Jennings $21; Josh Hamilton $20; Nelson Cruz $18; Jesus Guzman $2; Alex Pressley $2 and Craig Gentry $1. Jennings has yet to reach his full potential. However, even if he doesn’t, the solid steals and fairly strong other counting numbers make him a high upside, low downside SMART play. Hamilton and Cruz are both examples of living by the Rules of Engagement. Because both are injury prone, the Rules say do not pay full value. We didn’t. Both are $25-30 players if healthy all year. We rostered both at a discount of between 20 and 40 percent. Guzman has hit .300 throughout his minor league career but never really got a chance to play full time. If he wins the 1B job in Houston, he could earn $10+ in profit for us – worth the risk. Pressley has a job with the Twins. In a deep league, that is always worth more than $2. Finally, getting Gentry at $1 and adding 20+ SB was, pardon the pun, a steal in the end game. (SMART – largely. We should not have put ourselves in a position of having to chase speed but we did chase it and catch it at fair prices so no harm done).
Stay tuned for reviews of the LABR AL staff and our LABR NL team in future pieces.
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