ROTISSERIE: 2021 LABR Mixed... in a pinch

Things were a little different this year. The LABR-Mixed draft went off without a hitch on Tuesday night (full draft results HERE) thanks to league commissioner Steve Gardner, but draft night was a little more chaotic behind the scenes for the Bloomfield clan. Some "highlights" from Tuesday's lead-up to the draft:

  • Our house was without power for a fourth straight day, as a once-in-a-generation ice storm pounded Oregon's Willamette Valley last weekend and forced us to leave town.
  • Tuesday was spent clearing debris from our old house—also without power—that's supposed to close on Friday (fingers crossed).
  • I made it back just in time—the closest available pet-friendly hotel was an hour away—to take our toddler for a walk and give mom a break before Tuesday night's festivities began.

This hopefully doesn't come off as a list of complaints—these are first-world problems for sure—just a reminder that our little hobby can always serve as a much-needed escape from the real world. Hanging out in the draft room with industry friends and interacting with the Twitter crowd was therapeutic. I sure needed it, even if the second half of the draft was spent on the floor of a dark hotel bathroom (pictured!) so our kid could fall to sleep.

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As for the draft itself, here's how the squad turned out from the 11th pick, then we'll pivot with some macro-level thoughts that hopefully help your own draft prep:

Hitter            Pos   MM CODE  Rd
================  ===  ========  ==
Trevor Story       SS  4535 BAA   1
George Springer    OF  4255 BAF   3
Tim Anderson       SS  2445 BBD   4
Anthony Rizzo      1B  2155 AAD   7
Mike Moustakas  1B/2B  4245 BAB   8
Alex Verdugo       OF  2255 BCB   9
Wil Myers          OF  4335 BBD  10
Austin Nola         C  3235 ACD  13
Justin Turner      3B  3355 CBA  14
Yasiel Puig        OF  3243 ACB  18
Avisail Garcia     OF  2135 CBD  19
Bryan Reynolds     OF  2245 ABF  20
Danny Jansen        C  2333 ACC  21
Brandon Belt       1B  3235 BBF  23
Niko Goodrum    2B/SS  3415 BBB  25
JaCoby Jones       OF  4425 DDC  27
Yandy Diaz         3B  2155 CCB  28

Pitcher                 MM CODE  Rd
===================    ========  ==
Aaron Nola             4405 BAC   2
Aroldis Chapman (RP)   5530 DBB   5
Zach Plesac            2203 ACA   6
Craig Kimbrel (RP)     3530 CCC  11
Zach Eflin             2303 DBB  12
Jordan Montgomery      2203 FDB  15
Ryan Yarbrough         2103 ABD  16
John Means             1203 CBB  17
Matthew Boyd           1303 AAC  22
Luis Severino          2301 FCA  24
Michael Lorenzen       2301 DCA  26
Roberto Osuna (RP)     4300 DCC  29

A few quick takeaways, both positive and negative:

A boring old HQ-style start. Check those Mayberry Method reliability grades for my early-round hitters: "A" and "B" almost everywhere in the first ten rounds for Health and Experience. Avoiding landmines is a paramount objective for me early in drafts; hopefully the high floors built into Story, Nola, Springer, Anderson, Rizzo, and Chapman minimize the odds of an early bust.

A pair of closers with a job. There are few things more miserable in our game than scouring the FAAB market every week searching for saves. I still might have to do that if Kimbrel struggles, but I feel good walking away from the table with a pair of established closers with firm grips on their job.

Pounding mid-round hitters. Notice the gap between my SP2 (Plesac, Round 6) and my next pitcher (Kimbrel/Eflin, Rounds 12/13). Very much by design, as there are far more bats than arms that I like in those middle rounds. My biggest regret in this draft: not taking "UP" lister Joe Musgrove in the 10th instead of Wil Myers. Every team has holes in a 15-team league; mine is the middle/back of my rotation. 

Not enough positional flexibility. If the 2020 season is any reminder, we should plan for a rash of players out due to COVID/contact tracing, at least early in the season. In a weekly league like LABR, the best way to combat that is to stock up on multi-position bats so you're able to field a team each week. Goal: not met, as Moustakas and Goodrum are my only players with multi-position eligibility.

Now for some broader observations that you can hopefully take into your own drafts:

The yellow brick road

A term dubbed by The Athletic's Derek VanRiper on the heels of our First Pitch Arizona Speakers Draft for the long string of pitchers (colored yellow on draft boards) going in the Top 25-30 picks. LABR followed suit with a slew of starters in the middle of the second (note: the order of second-round picks snakes from right to left):

Ray Murphy also picked up on this giant cluster during the draft, noting there isn't an obvious pecking order within much of this group. There are cases to be made for (and against) each second-round pitcher, though I'm a firm believer in the pitch mix changes and IP stability of Aaron Nola. The takeaway: if you're going to fish in this pond, do your research and have a firm plan in place for your second-round pitcher. I'll be revisiting the picture above in September, as the hits and misses here will make or break several drafts.

Part of the reason for the early SP bonanza is the narrative that middle-tier pitching falls off a cliff. Trust me, it's true. With only a few pitchers I like going in Rounds 7-10, I made a conscious decision to instead attack hitters. Your mileage may vary, but at least take a round-by-round view of where you like certain pitchers and draft accordingly.

ADP and NFBC-centric analysis

The NFBC is undoubtedly the gold standard of Average Draft Position (ADP) data, and I lean heavily on their customizable filters throughout draft season. But like many of your home leagues, LABR is a stand-alone league with no "overall" prize (meaning you need to beat hundreds of other entries) that also allows in-season trades. This means a lot of NFBC-centric analysis, most of which is based on Draft and Hold leagues (no FAAB), that you hear/read doesn't really apply to LABR. Two examples:

You don't need to leave the draft room with a balanced team. LABR is a fairly active trading league, so you can focus more on grabbing the best player available and patch up/trade out of deficiencies later. 

You can punt a category and win your league. Punting a category is a no-no when trying to build a well-balanced overall contender, but that's not the case in a stand-alone league. If anything, the option to punt helps breed creativity in several different roster builds.

Which leads to our next point...

... a draft strategy that didn't quite pan out

I wanted to "zig when they zag" in this draft. Really did. This year, my educated guess for doing so meant hopping off that Yellow Brick Road by bullying hitting, fading starting pitchers, and since something has to give: punting strikeouts. The Fantasy Fix's Alan Harrison might've been thinking something similar. Here's a look at his roster—he loaded up on five-category bats early, doubled-tapped closers at the 4/5 turn, then took a slew of ratio-helping starters to fill out his rotation:

My draft slot didn't really facilitate this type of build—the second-round hitters available to me weren't safe enough—but it's one I've been mulling and perhaps you should too. This may be fodder for another column, but there's a healthy list of SP with a projected "punt-strikeout" profile (<9.5 Dom, < 1.25 WHIP, <4.00 ERA) at different stages of the draft.

Know your league rules

Simple advice, sure, but always worth a reminder... especially when the rules change! A few examples from this year's draft:

The 45-second clock. This was a new wrinkle to LABR this year—we previously had a 60-second clock—and one that I honestly didn't put much thought into, but made the draft FLY by. Other drafters struggled with this as well, which quickly bred a game-theory strategy of "quick picking" your player to rush the drafter behind you.

10-game position eligibility. My brain has been somewhat hardwired for seven-game eligibility (NFBC standard), so this made a difference with some players. Luckily, our projection files and Custom Draft Guide have us covered. Kudos, again, to our tech team for pulling this off.

Unlimited IL slots. Every year there are injured guys whose NFBC ADP is super late, but have hidden value in LABR when you can stash them without clogging a roster spot. This year features a trio Tommy John surgery rehabbers, recently highlighted in Matt Cederholm's BIG HURT column:

Pitcher           TJS Date   Picked by
================  ========   ===================
Chris Sale        March '20  Flowers; 16th round
Noah Syndergaard  March '20  Harrison; 18th
Luis Severino       Feb '20  Bloomfield; 24th

LABR has a pre-Opening Day FAAB run that almost serves as an extra reserve draft given the amount of news that's about to hit over the next month or so. My plan is to IL Severino and replace him with one of those spring training risers. If Severino comes back this summer, I get to treat it as a free in-season add.

For now, Severino's summer return feels like a decade away. Until then, I'm just hoping we get some normalcy (and electricity!) back at the homestead.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.