LABR: An Experts Take
The League of Alternative Baseball Reality, or LABR for short, just completed the 19th draft in the history of the event (12 experts drafted in the American League, and 13 in the National League, this past weekend in Phoenix). I was graciously invited to the NL-only draft, thank you to Steve Gardner for that (you can read Steve's thoughts on the draft in this piece), and though my team has been roundly lambasted since the drafts completion I still had a great time at the event and look forward to the marathon that is the baseball season. Before I offer some thoughts on the draft, here's who I was able to roster on my squad (for a look at the entire auction here is a Google Doc with all the selections).
C: Wilin Rosario ($8), David Ross (2) 1B: Garret Jones (10) 2B: Daniel Murphy (17) 3B: Placido Polanco (10) SS: Rafael Furcal (12) MI: Chris Nelson (4) CI: Derrek Lee (3) OF: Andrew McCutchen (33), Dexter Fowler (19), Chris Young (20), Alfonso Soriano (10), Carlos Quentin (13) UT: Nate McLouth (4)
PITCHERS: Madison Bumgarner (19), Tommy Hanson (14), Rafael Betancourt (16), Wandy Rodriguez (10), Gio Gonzalez (13), Sergio Romo (6), Luke Gregerson (3), Takashi Saito (2), Jeff Samardzija (1), Erik Surkamp (1)
BENCH: Ross Detwiler, Rick Ankiel, Blake DeWitt, Tom Gorzelanny, Logan Forsythe, J.D. Drew
Some general notes.
In this league trading is allowed. That might be something I will need to explore to bolster some areas of weakness.
There is an odd quirk in LABR. All players that were drafted at the auction table need to be in your active roster. The only want to remove a player from your lineup is if he is placed on the DL or demoted to the minors, or of course you can always just cut a player. However, if Dexter Fowler is hitting .199 in April I can't just put him on the bench, he has to remain active (Chris Liss of Rotowire.com won the AL-Only league last year despite having to hold on to Adam Dunn all year).
As for my team...
Yes I left money on the table, and yes that was a mistake. I'd pinpoint two areas where I should have spent more. (1) I should have added Aaron Hill up the middle. I backed out at $14 and Wolf/Colton rostered him for $15. If I had gotten Hill the last quarter of my team would have looked different, but I certainly could have used him given my lack of infield strength. (2) I should have gone the extra dollar on either Ryan Dempster or Ricky Nolasco who went for $9. Could have also gone the extra dollar on Chris Volstad who I let go (maybe a few bucks to Roy Oswalt would have been nice too). Everyone who follows my work knows I'm a fan of both. Instead, I ended up with Erik Surkamp as my final starter.
Everyone is bashing me for my weak infield, and I can certainly see why there is concern. A big key for me is obviously what happens with Derrek Lee. If he signs with someone a 20 homer, 70 RBI season would be huge for my club. However, he might retire, he might end up in the AL or he might end up playing as a part timer in the NL. People have also questioned my catchers, and with good reason. But to be fair, catchers were going for some pretty high dollar amounts. Would you have paid $10 for Jonathan Lucroy, $8 for Ryan Hanigan or $5 for Jason Castro? Maybe, maybe not, right? Another key is the health of Rafael Furcal and Placido Polanco. If they play 135 games each then this situation looks a lot better. If they don't, look out below.
Is the infield weak? Yes it is, but I think some have overlooked the strength of my outfield. For my money, it's the best group in the league. There might be valid concerns with Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Quentin, but if the both hit 25 homers with 80 RBIs, as my 4th and 5th outfielders in an NL-only league, that's pretty damn good. Chris Young might hit .240, but he's also been a 20/20 guy three of the last five years while averaging 91 runs scored a season the past two years. At this point everyone knows I'm on the Dexter Fowler train, I might be the conductor, but I really have high hopes for him putting it all together for a full season. And then there is Andrew McCutchen who is a wonderful foundational building block.
On the hill, I love my top-4 arms: MadBum, Hanson, Wandy and Gonzalez. I took a risk on Hanson, but I thought at $14 it was worth it even with the health concerns. As for Gio, I'm shocked I got him actually. I threw him out there for $13 fully expecting him to go for at least $18. Ten seconds later he was part of my team. Funny thing, after the :10 seconds of silence when no one pushed his bid up I then heard three teams at the table say that he was a great buy.
I overpaid for Rafael Betancourt at $16. This was another mistake I made – i.e. I waited to long to jump into the closer mix. I incorrectly thought that people would grow weary of paying $15 for every closer that was thrown out for bid. They didn't. At the point I added Betancourt he was the only legitimate closer left on the board other than a guy like Frank Francisco, so I was forced to overpay to add Rafael who has elite skills but has never shown the ability to work the 9th inning before the last month of 2012. I should have jumped into the closer mix earlier – I might have saved a few bucks.
In the end, the truth is every team in an NL-only league with 13 clubs is going to have holes. Hopefully things break right for me an I'm in contention late. If not, I'll review all the correct an incorrect decisions I made over the course of the season and come back even more prepared in 2013.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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