Each year I'm fortunate enough to be asked to compete with the best of the best in LABR - the League of Alternative Baseball Reality. The league has been around for 22 years and is, along with Tout Wars, the creme de la creme of fantasy leagues (I'll be in New York for Tout Wars later in month). So I set out for Phoenix, drank a wee bit too much on Friday night (thanks Phil Backert and Jeff Mans for that - and that mysterious couple that I'm sure spiked my free drinks with something), and went about putting together my AL-only club on Saturday. How did I do? Let's review the club and find out.
$260 auction for 23 starters
14 hitters, nine pitchers
six bench spots (rostered by a snake draft)
All of that is pretty standard stuff. However, there's one significant difference with LABR.
You draft 23 starters. The only way to remove any of those players from your lineup is to do one of the following.
(1) Drop a player onto waivers.
(2) Put him on the DL if he is hurt.
(3) Put him on your reserve list if he is sent to the minors.
That's it. As you can see this setup could pose some issues. Do you hold on to a guy who is struggling early on or do you let him go knowing that, over the long run, he'll likely produce? Obviously this format is very restrictive and makes drafting a solid roster paramount (trades are allowed, but the league isn't exactly flush with a myriad of deals most of the time ).
One other note about the reserve rounds. Players drafted as bench options can be freely moved in an out of the lineup with no penalty. Of course, you have to have an opening in the starting lineup - one of the three options listed above must be present - in order to activate the bench players.
* Number in parenthesis is the $ amount spent.
C: John Jaso (11), Josh Phegley (3)
1B: Mark Teixeira (9)
2B: Marcus Semien (13)
3B: Lonnie Chisenhall (11)
SS: Jose Reyes (24)
MI: Dustin Pedroia (22)
CI: Alex Rodriguez (6)
OF: Josh Hamilton (5), Shin-Soo Choo (18), Adam Eaton (17), Desmond Jennings (15), Shane Victorino (7)
UT: Ike Davis (3)
HOW THE DRAFT WENT
I thought it went pretty well to be honest. My offense is stable with good depth, and while I didn't get the one final starting pitcher I wanted, I can see that staff killing it in the ratio categories.
Jaso and Phegley are a solid duo, especially if Jaso gets 450 at-bats as the designated hitter for the Rays.
Teixeira isn't a great play at first, but for single digit cost, with a legitimate expectation of 20-25 homers, he's not a bad add.
Semien is my current second sacker, but he's got a lot going for him. Not only does he qualify at second but he's also third base eligible. Oh yeah, he will pick up shortstop early on as well. He's a nice young player with some pop and speed. Pedroia is a stellar up the middle option too if you ask me. At the cost of $22 he wasn't cheap, but I'm banking on a return to form for the now healthy mighty mite.
Reyes isn't a 40 steal guy any more, but hitting atop a powerful lineup in Toronto, big numbers are coming if he can just stay healthy.
Chisenhall had a great start before falling hard late in the year. A repeat of last year will be worth my bid, and it wouldn't take a ton of growth for him to be a positive earner.
A-Rod. I hate him. People hate him. People now seem to hate me for taking him. How could I not at $6? If he has 300 at-bats this season he earns that. If he hits 20 homers, which I do think is possible, I could have two Yankees hitting me 40 homers for a grand total of $15.
While folks disputed the wisdom of drafting A-Rod, the condemnation I received on twitter for my Hamilton selection bordered on delirious. I had folks asking if I was paying attention. Some thought I was drinking during the draft (those that know me know that I never do that). But honestly, how much time does Hamilton miss this season? Two weeks? A month? The specter of him missing the entire season cannot be dismissed, but for $5 I thought it was worth the risk. Like A-Rod, if he just plays half the season he will crush his cost. Some take chances on the sexy rookies that may not be up to July, and folks think their draft went great. I just took a risk on Hamilton instead of that youngster.
Choo at $18 was a great buy. Last year he was going for $10 more than that.
Eaton at $17 brings me a top of the order threat on a team that figures to score a ton of runs in Chicago. he also hit .300 last season. A repeat there with 25 steals and 90 runs is doable if he stays healthy.
Davis is healthy and with a new club in Oakland. He has a chance to see the majority of starts at first base and he does have a 32 homer season on his resume.
On the hill, Price is the ace I was searching for. Huge strikeout totals, a rock solid WHIP, and the ability to lead the league in victories. Like that an awful lot especially with the upper level pitchers that moved to the National League this offseason.
Weaver... why does no one like him? He's not great at anything, but he's really good, won 18 games last season, and never does anything to harm your ratios, ever.
Ventura might have s few concerns about his health, but no one throws 98 mph cheese with less effort.
Graveman should - I hope - grab the 5th spot in the Athletics' rotation. If he doesn't my pitching staff will be in need of a trade. If he does, he could be one of those sneaky success stories out of Oakland after a stellar minor league season last year.
My relief arms kill it. Clippard and Miller will both get at least intermittent save chances (who knows about the health of Sean Doolittle meaning Clippard could get an extended run at the 9th inning). Both strikeout a guy per inning and can pitch day after day racking up frames to help the ratios.
Davis might have been the best reliever in baseball last year. The ratios go up no doubt, but tons of strikeouts are the order of the day, and a little issue health with Greg Holland and I've got another 9th inning arm.
Soria will lead the Tigers in saves. That's my prediction. It certainly won't be Joe Nathan pulling off the trick.
Fields may be 2nd right now in Houston in the closer race. He might be third. He might be fourth. I do know that he has a huge arm, had a long stretch of dominance last season, and is worth the cost even if he's working as a setup man.
I grabbed Young who signed with the Royals with my last pick. He cannot repeat last season, but he always seems to defy expectations as well as metrics. I added two more power bullpen arms in Frieri and Morin. Can never have too many relievers that strike out a ton of batters, can you?
Offensively, I rostered Juan Francisco who qualifies at first and third. He might, just might, see significant playing time with the Rays. If he does, cheap power will be found. Green could see an increase in work in the outfield with Hamilton down. Hopefully it's not Collin Cowgill but Green who gets a chance at playing time. Finally, Murphy is aging, boring and always needs to be platooned. Still, with a break or two 350 at-bats is doable.
I spent $96 on my pitching staff following my plan to bump up my normal $80-85 price range for arms. I could have used one more starter, but when given the chance to grab a flunky 4/5 starter from my club, I decided instead to pile on the big time power arms out of the bullpen and boy did I. My five relievers, combined, could easily strike out 10 batters per nine innings. An injury or two to a few guys and I could have multiple closers as well. Price is a huge anchor at the top too. I really like the makeup of the staff.
Offensively the club's outlook rests on a few things. (1) Does A-Rod have anything left? (2) How long will Hamilton be out? (3) Can Victorino and Teixeira stay healthy?
If things break right this team could contend for the top spot. If the answer to questions 1-3 end up in the negative, well, here's to looking at a middle of the pack offensive finish leaving a bit too much responsibility on the shoulders of my arms.
What a weekend.
L to R: Kyle Elfrink, Ray Flowers, Chris Liss