I dominated. At least that's what my warped mind told me after my just completed foray into AL LABR in Phoenix. After basking in my own glory I thought it might be wise to look at the other side of the League of Alternative Baseball Realty and the events that transpired in Arizona. Here are some general musings from the NL-only league that I hosted for SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio but didn't participate in.
Thanks to Steve Gardner and USA Today for hosting the entire event. Here's picture of us hanging out interviewing the lead man during the broadcast (that's Kyle Elfrink, The Oracle, and Chris Liss with Steve at the far right).
The NL LABR draft was one of the oddest I have ever seen. Wasn't just me either. Nearly ever person we spoke to told us that their plan of attack had to be changed mid draft. A couple of teams were going uber heavy with hitting and that caused a whole bunch of the pitchers to go for less then they should have. The result was that most jumped into the pitcher mix to find bargains. What did that do to the offense? Predictably there weren't as many bargains to be had there as expected. In fact, a whole host of the mid level guys ended up going for full price or even more than expected. There was also a very odd trend that saw closers go for much cheaper than I've ever seen in one of these expert auction drafts. Let's break things down.
Brief digression... I couldn't work with a better group of people. Seriously. There isn't one person in this industry that is a jerkface. How rare is that?
Clayton Kershaw went off the board at full price at $35, and then the floor fell out. It's not fair to bag on someone for paying what Kershaw is worth, but when you look at what happened thereafter Derek Carty had to be sick to his stomach that he invested so heavily in the ace of aces. Look at some of the prices that other SP1 types went for.
$27 Jose Fernandez, Stephen Strasburg
$24 Adam Wainwright
$23 Cliff Lee, Madison Bumgarner
$20 Cole Hamels
$18 Zack Greinke
Lee and Bumgarner for 2/3 the cost of Kershaw? That's just nuts.
What about the next level of hurlers?
$18 Gerrit Cole, Matt Cain
$17 Mike Minor, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann
$16 Kris Medlen, Homer Bailey
Cheaper still you say?
$11 A.J. Burnett
$7 Tim Lincecum
Think of this. You could have drafted Burnett, Lincecum & Zimmermann for the same price as Kershaw. A second option would have been Greinke & Gonzalez for the same price as Kershaw. You get the point. Pitching went off the board for much less than it should have. Very, very odd.
Craig Kimbrel went for $22, a bit low, as did Aroldis Chapman at $20. The follow up is where the oddness occurred. Normally there is a linear path that is followed, the next closers go for 19, 18, 17, that kind of thing, but for the most part closers ended going off the board in the $10-12 range after the elites. Honestly, if I had been in this league I would have rostered three closers. Some prices.
$12 Jonathan Papelbon
$10 Huston Street
$10 Steve Cishek
$10 Jim Henderson
Then there were the outright cheapies.
$7 Bobby Parnell
$6 Rex Brothers, $2 LaTroy Hawkins (both ended up on the same team – Eric Karabell of ESPN. Click on this little audio link to hear Eric talk about his club)
Oddly, Tyler Clippard even went off the board for a steal at $2.
The reliever market was ripe for the picking.
Second base was extremely expensive on the whole. The last colored column is the dollar figure taken from the 2014 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide (you should pick up a copy if you haven't yet, it's pretty amazing and includes updated rankings on a daily basis). Check out how my proposed values matched what actually happened at LABR.
Everyone realized that they were going to have extra money to spend after pitching went for so cheap, so a lot of the cashola ended up going to the keystone late.
Some other random thoughts.
Paul Goldschmidt only cost $33. That's probably $4-6 dollars lower than he will go for in most NL-only leagues.
David Wright cost just $26, an extremely low price given his talents. To put that into perspective, a mini bidding war broke out over Nolan Arenado who ended up costing $22. You have to jump in when the bargains present themselves. Sometimes if you wait you end up having to overpay for inferior talent.
Justin Upton ($24) was had at a discount. Loved the value of B.J. Upton as well ($12). Matt Kemp and Jason Heyward went for $21. Too much? Hardly, especially when you consider the price of some of the other outfielders: Carlos Gomez ($32), Hunter Pence ($29) and Billy Hamilton who went for $28 (a link to some audio on Hamilton). I think that's a simply absurd total for the speedster from Cincy by the way (you can listen to a discussion about Hamilton in this audio clip). I mean, seriously? Hamilton cost more than Yasiel Puig ($27), Giancarlo Stanton ($26) and Jay Bruce ($27). Crazy time. Makes a lot more sense to me to roster Ben Revere ($19) and Chris Young ($9) for the same price. By the way, for more on Puig here's some audio from the event.
Other hitters who went for way too much, other than Hamilton of course (still don't quite get it), follow.
$25 Starling Marte
$20 Domonic Brown
$19 Matt Adams
$17 Adam LaRoche, AJ Pollock
$15 Zack Cozart (my favorite player – dripping with sarcasm)
$14 Khris Davis
Context matters, don't forget that. Some of the above players went for more than they should have because they were the last guy available to fill a spot for someone or because multiple owners were bidding late for the same guy realizing that the talent pool was thinning.
Remember, every draft is different. As a review of the NL LABR draft proves, you can have a plan, think you've got everything figured out... only to find out it's just not gonna go the way you planned. You have to be able to bob and weave effectively in an auction, it's a true test of your skill, if you want to emerge with a team that can compete for a championship (the Draft Guide has an article breaking down some of the ways you can attack the auction setup).
By Ray Flowers