Fantasy Baseball Auction Analysis: NL-Only LABR
Howard Bender recaps his team and reviews his performance in the NL LABR auction, one of the premier fantasy baseball industry leagues.
As the calendar flipped to March and spring training was well underway, the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) skipped its annual excursion to Arizona and instead descended upon the Tampa-St. Petersburg area in sunny Florida to join the folks at Baseball HQ and their First Pitch event. Some of the finest minds in fantasy baseball gathered to both witness and take part in the three auctions we, as fans of the game, have grown to love each and every year – the Mixed League Auction, the AL-Only auction and, of course, the one in which I compete, the NL-Only. The coverage on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports radio was abundant, the competitors fierce and the gallery was eager to cheer on (and razz) their colleagues. Steve Gardner, the Grand Poobah of USA Today and LABR, will have full coverage of all the LABR drafts and auctions in the much-anticipated Sports Weekly Draft Edition, but for now, allow me to shed some light on my auction, the NL-Only, and how things went.
I suppose I should also add the caveat that I suffered a broken foot the week of the auction and then had to travel cross-country to the event. I can neither confirm nor deny that pain-killers had some hand in my final outcome, but you can make your own determination by what you read below.
LABR NL-Only Auction:
- 12 teams
- 5x5 standard roto
- $260 Budget
- 2 C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, 5 OF, UT, 9 P, 6 reserve picks
- Derek Van Riper, The Athletic (defending champ)
- Mike Gianella, Baseball Prospectus
- Lenny Melnick, Lenny Melnick Fantasy Baseball
- Steve Gardner, USA Today
- Brian Walton, Creative Sports
- Eric Karabell, ESPN
- Howard Bender, Fantasy Alarm
- Rick Wolf & Glenn Colton, CTW on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio
- Greg Ambrosius & Shawn Childs, NFBC
- Doug Dennis, Baseball HQ
- Derek Carty, RotoGrinders
- Grey Albright, Razzball
Strategy Going In:
Grab a solid 1-2 punch on the pitching side, grab steals early, get at least one bona fide closer with strong job security and fill in with power. I also wanted to keep a close watch on multi-position eligibility as injuries can really crush your spirit. There is never much of a weekly selection on waivers, so having the roster flexibility to keep your options open is important.
I split my budget up as $160 for hitting and $100 for pitching. Not too far off from the typical 60/40 split and I knew once the majority of the team was filled, I would be somewhat flexible. I’m usually pretty good about my adhering to my budget, but late in the draft, you usually need to make some adjustments. Also, be mindful that some of what I budgeted for certain players doesn’t fully match up with my auction values, but that was because I’ve drafted with this crew for the last four years, so I know some of their tendencies and where I may need to spend up. Always know who you are drafting with. It’s a battle and every advantage matters.
Players Targeted Heading In:
My Team (in order of purchase):
SP Jacob deGrom ($38) – It was déjà vu all over again as the bidding started on deGrom. Max Scherzer had just gone for $34 and I had deGrom ranked higher on my board. I also had him priced at an expected $42 so when the bid was “going twice” at $37, I jumped in to keep it going. When no one raised me, I had my ace at what I deemed a bargain price. The exact same thing happened to me two years ago as I backed into owning Scherzer in 2018, the year I went wire to wire and won NL LABR. Happy accident and a solid pivot as I figured Buehler was no longer an option.
OF Starling Marte ($32) – He was one of my primary targets and had budgeted $30 for him, but knowing how stolen bases would be valued, I figured I would have to pay up a little bit more. I was not unhappy with the $2 increase.
SP Luis Castillo ($25) – I wasn’t thrilled he was nominated so early, but I had $30 budgeted for him and a number of top players were going for less than expected in the early goings. The fact that I got him for $5 less than I thought meant I was back on-track from my “overpay” on Marte and going from Buehler to deGrom. Best of all, I had my 1-2 punch and two of my three players were pre-draft targets.
2B Ozzie Albies ($26) – Another pre-draft target nominated relatively early, so it was time to jump back in an be somewhat aggressive. I got him slightly cheaper than I thought, so this was a nice win. Not only do I have my 1-2 pitching punch, but I’ve got two high-end stolen base guys.
2B/3B Mike Moustakas ($28) – Don’t you just hate when your targets are all nominated close together? Moose was a big one for me as I love him in Cincinnati and the 2B/3B eligibility is huge. I went out of budget slightly, but not enough to put me on tilt. I did, however, know I should probably sit on my hands for a little bit.
RP Héctor Neris ($19) – Well that didn’t last long. A bunch of closers had come and gone and Neris was a guy I was eyeballing because of the way Joe Girardi likes to structure his bullpen. Had to make the move.
C Tucker Barnhart ($6) – I tried to fly under the radar with my next nomination and thought I could get away with a cheap backstop fairly early. Then people started to bid him up a few bucks. I probably should have let go, but Team Vicodin was running the show at this point and I got sacked for six bucks.
1B/OF Joc Pederson ($15) – This is where is got a little jenky. Other first basemen I coveted were going for too much money and I didn’t want to be without one this season. Last year I bargain-shopped for Ryan Zimmerman and we all know how lousy that turned out. The dual-eligibility was obviously alluring, so with a hazy brain, I went for it and landed him for what seemed fair at the moment. I didn’t love it, but felt ok about having my first baseman this year.
3B/OF Scott Kingery ($19) – About a round and a half passed by in between purchases but it was a rough round and a half as I saw something on Baseball Reference that showed Joc Pederson having only played 19 games at first. I thought I had checked eligibility earlier, but began to doubt myself. So that was a disaster as now I needed a first baseman again. WTF? I was all wrapped up in my head when Kingery got nominated and without thinking clearly (yes, I’m blaming the painkillers) I jumped in on the bidding because I love the player, not because he was right for my team. I overpaid a little, but regained my internal composure, forgave myself and looked through my sheets for a first baseman to go after.
SS Carter Kieboom ($9) – I said I regained my composure and forgave myself for going after Kingery, but I was still tilting a bit and went after Kieboom. Jim Bowden had come back from Nationals camp talking about the youngster likely winning the third base job, so I grabbed him in anticipation of added eligibility.
1B/OF Garrett Cooper ($8) – It was my nomination and I knew I had to get that first base position covered. I wouldn’t have been able to move on if I didn’t. I probably paid a couple of bucks too much here, but this was a sudden necessity…or so I thought.
RP Daniel Hudson ($5) – We took a break shortly after I landed Cooper and was talking to Steve Gardner about Pederson. He then pulled up the site he uses for games-played and showed me that Pederson actually played the 20 required games to qualify. The BR page was showing starts, not appearances. Relieved, I just shook my head at what the last hour or so was doing to me mentally and it was time to get back on-track, especially having overpaid in areas I shouldn’t have. Jim was told that Hudson would be closing, so this five-dollar investment felt safe. Even if he shares the role, I’ll be ok on saves.
SP Caleb Smith ($5) – Great strikeout potential and while yes, he won’t garner much in the way of wins, he is also a serious candidate to be traded. If he lands with a contender, this could be a huge steal.
C Jorge Alfaro ($8) – Catchers were getting really thin and I like the power potential. I overpaid a little, but everyone who needed a backstop was being somewhat aggressive in their bidding.
SP Johnny Cueto ($7) – Bowden’s got me drinking the Kool-Aid here and there were two starters I was deciding between. Cueto was one and Josh Lindblom was the other. I looked and saw how much money Van Riper, who loves his Brewers, had and figured he was holding some back for a guy like Lindblom. I made the move for Cueto rather than backing off and taking a chance against a guy who had more bid dollars than me.
RP Rowan Wick ($1) – I was looking to sneak in a dollar-guy with my nomination and don’t really have much faith in Craig Kimbrel . Wick has great stuff, strikes out a little more than a batter per inning and owns a 50-plus GB%. That plays well in Wrigley and he is definitely the next in-line for saves on the North Side.
SS Johan Camargo ($3) – At the time of the auction, he was the leading candidate for the third base job in Atlanta and was a decent low-budget grab for my middle infield spot. Not to mention, he plays everywhere, so even more eligibility could open. Recent reports have Austin Riley now leading the charge at the Braves hot corner, but Camargo is a Swiss Army knife and will be back in the bigs quickly if he gets demoted to start the season.
OF Jake Marisnick ($1) – Welcome to Dollar Days. Not exactly where I wanted to be at this point, but my Pederson/Vicodin moment left me to fill out my outfield with some hopefuls. Marisnick always manages to eke out playing time, so I don’t hate the pick. I don’t love it, but beggars can’t be choosers.
OF Steven Duggar ($1) – I mean, he’s the starting centerfielder for the Giants and will see plenty of at-bats.
OF Josh VanMeter ($1) – He’s 24-yeard old with a little pop and a little speed. Not ideal but not totally useless.
SP Vince Velasquez ($1) – Who knows? Maybe he turns a corner? Easy drop if he doesn’t.
OF Albert Almora Jr. ($1) – Platooner with speed
SP Antonio Senzatela ($1) – I just needed to wrap this up and splash some cold water on my face.
Reserve Picks (Snake-draft):
- Elias Díaz , C
- Orlando Arcia , SS
- Guillermo Heredia , OF
- Matt Joyce , OF
- Félix Hernández , SP
- Michael Lorenzen , RP
So there you go. That was my NL LABR auction. Overall, I like my squad. Obviously, there are some holes, but who walks out of a single-league auction and doesn’t think they have holes? I acquired many of my pre-draft targets, got my 1-2 punch and have strong SB totals coming my way. Might be a little short on power, especially looking at my outfield, but can happily make that a focus, both on the waiver wire and in trade talks. Should be a fun season as I strive for my second title in three years!