Not many fantasy baseball leagues mean more than LABR in the world of fantasy sports. Started by John Hunt 20 years ago, it was the first exposure many of us had to fantasy baseball, at least the first chance to really dig into the mind of the experts in the field to find out why they did what they did on draft day (for more on the history of the event see Steve Gardner's wonderful piece). I'm honored that I've been asked to be a part of the event.
Last year, despite drafting a team that was literally called the worst of all-time by everyone, I ended up being tied for first place in the last week of the season before eventually finishing in 2nd place to Steve Moyer. That was in the NL though. This year I was moved over the the AL. How did my team turn out? I think it looks better on paper than the club I rostered last year. Time will tell.
12 team AL-only $260 5x5 scoring 14 hitters, nine pitchers six reserve rounds (the reserves are chosen via a snake draft)
C: Derek Norris ($2), Hector Gimenez (2) 1B: Eric Hosmer (22) 2B: Dustin Pedroia (29) 3B: Kevin Youkilis (11) SS: Ben Zobrist (25) MI: Howie Kendrick (18) CI: Josh Donaldson (6) OF: Jacoby Ellsbury (24), Nick Swisher (18), Chris Young (11), Drew Stubbs (13), Nate McLouth (4) UT: Kelly Johnson (10)
Hosmer went for only $1 less than Mark Teixeira, but I felt like the youngster, who I've touted many times before, has a chance to rebound to his 2011 levels, and then some if it all clicks. At third I rostered Kevin Youkilis, another one of “my guys” this year. You may not love him but at $11 I think it's hard to find fault with his addition (Mitch Moreland went for $10). At corner, I've got Donaldson. He's got legit power. I've been telling folks to think Casey Blake like levels of production if he gets 500 at-bats.
I went second base crazy. It was not a plan. I targeted Pedroia as the big dollar guy I wanted. I wanted also to grab Howie Kendrick as a strong MI option. Mission accomplished. The Johnson pick was the one I look at on offense and say – maybe/maybe not. If he goes 16/13 as he has each of the last three years, only he and Brandon Phillips can say they have done that at second base, I'll be fine with the $10 bid. Oh, an I also grabbed my main man, Zobrist, who qualifies at second, shortstop and outfield.
Ellsbury could be the steal of the draft --- IF he plays 140 games. I backed off Yoenis Cespedes at $29. Desmond Jennings at $26 was too steep too. I went to $26 on Austin Jackson before he eventually went for $27. Licking my wounds, I got Ellsbury with the next selection directly after AJax... for $24, only one dollar more than Nick Markakis and eight less than Jose Bautista. Young and Stubbs are risks, but it's an AL-only league. Those two guys could hit 40 homers and steals 50 bags. Hey, it's possible. Swisher is boring, but boring and stable is fine in this format. McLouth had a nice finishing kick last year, Nolan Reimold is always hurt, and Wilson Betemit is currently the Orioles DH. Sounds like McLouth could get plenty of playing time.
On the hill...
I got Shields to be my horse. I was waiting, and waiting and waiting on Scherzer. When he was finally brought up, I had to pass. I pushed the bidding up to $24, but bowed out when he went for $25 (he was the last big arm left which inflated his cost significantly). I then settled on Brandon Morrow as my fall back #2 starter – until his price soared to $19. Luckily I was able to get Wilson shortly thereafter, for only $10 mind you, and with his elbow apparently sound that was a great pick given the cost of the two righties that went right before him. I rounded out the rotation with Niemann and Blanton, two stable and cheap commodities, and took a shot on the young but oh so talented Archer for just $4. Finally, my last starter was Jimenez, an as my lone $1 player, why not?
In the pen, things were pricey. I struck early with Santos and Balfour – a power duo with some minor health concern woes, that cost me $20. For reference, Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan went for $18 a piece. I also added the elite arm of Peralta. In the reserve rounds I added two potential closers in Wilson and Valverde. If one of those guys becomes a closer and gives me, say, 15 saves this year, I'm in great shape and I won't have to blow a third of my FAAB budget chasing saves.
I like the club. I've got Youkilis, Zobrist, Swisher for some positional flexibility. I've got speed across the board (Stubbs might be my only 30 SB option, but look at all the guys with 15 SB potential). I've also got a solid group of potential 15-25 homer guys. The batting average won't be great, but the counting numbers should be solid.
The pitchers I like as well. Power arms in the pen (Peralta is a power arm out of the pen to augment my two closing options (don't forget I also took shots on free agents Valverde/Wilson in the reserve rounds). Shields/Wilson are a solid 1-2 punch. Niemann/Blanton are boring but they can be key pieces in league specific setups. Archer is a young kid with a luminous future. He could open the year in the Rays' rotation, but even if he doesn't he will be up at some point. Jimenez improves just a little bit, or Pineda is back to full strength in the second half...
So, this team looks better than my entry last season. Does that mean it will do better or worse when the final numbers are tallied?
Click here for a review of the entire AL LABR DRAFT.
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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