In years past, I didn't go into AL-LABR with a specific budget for each position (other than a hitting/pitching split). But with the recent homer/K binge, combined off-season player movement, it’s becoming more important in deep NL- and AL-only leagues. So, as in 2018, I went into the auction with a budget—and player targets—for each position.

With more power to go around, there’s no need to spend big on HRs, being available at lower cost later in the auction. While Ks are up, fewer starters are going deep into games, so the big IP/K guys are costly—and necessary. These issues effect what you spend…and where.

When I used this strategy last year, it worked well, as the BaseballHQ team stayed in the mix for the title after the All Star break. But injuries and ineffectiveness plagued my team in the second half, resulting in a fourth place finish. But the approach proved sound, so I took it for another spin.

Budgeting in an AL-only league

Values discussed here are from RotoLab, using a Stars-and-Scrubs approach with a 70% hitting/30% pitching valuation.

The breakdown of talent in the league helped create the spending goals:

C ($10) – 9/1
CO ($45) – 25/15/5
MI ($70) – 30/25/15
OF/UT ($67) – 30/15/15/5/1/1
SP ($55) – 25/15/10/3/2
RP ($13) – 10/1/1/1

This, of course, serves as a framework; auction dynamics dictate whether the strategy is viable. In redraft leagues such as LABR and Tout, early bidding on stars usually exceeds expectations.  While waiting out the over-spending will produce bargains in the end-game, it’s a balancing act—waiting too long results in bargains that won’t give enough stats to be competitive. With that in mind, I felt comfortable going a bit over value in the early going to roster a $25-30 stud.

Catcher and 1B devoid of high-priced targets

The pool of AL catchers, shall we say, ain’t pretty. Only two guys, Gary Sanchez ($16) and Salvador Perez ($13) stood out from the pack. And the latter succumbed to ligament damage before the auction. I planned to avoid the Sanchez war.

First base, generally, serves as a position to spend for top talent. But not 2019; the top target—Edwin Encarnacion ($25)—may not even be in the AL much longer. Plenty of depth, though, with 16 players projected to earn between $10-20. My big spending at CO more likely would come from the hot corner.

Stars shine in MI

Old timers like me recall the time when MI resembled a wasteland of roto talent, but with seven players projected to earn $29 or more, and eight more projected to earn over $19, that’s clearly no longer the case. I expected to spend big at MI.

Outfield/UT deep and talented

Outfield is deep; player #60, Daniel Palka at $4, hit 27 HR last year. The top two players in the league, Mike Trout ($43) and Mookie Betts ($40) would likely come out early and go for more than value. I’m uncomfortable tying up that many dollars in a single player, so I sat out on these guys. The goal was to roster one of the guys in the $25-35 range.

No more cheap staff

I used to be an ardent supporter of a cheap staff, but with the general top-heavy SP distribution in an “only” league, you need a K-stud or two to be competitive. I expected to be out on pricey Corey Kluber ($35) and Chris Sale ($37), aiming instead to roster a K-guy in the $25 range (Severino/Bauer/Snell) along with a mid-teen pitcher.

For relievers, I planned to avoid top-level closers, looking to grab a second-tier guy (Jose LeClerc?) for $10 or less. There are also plenty of teams with unsettled closer situations, so I’d speculate and grab some backup guys for a few bucks.

Free agents at the LABR auctions

LABR has a draconian rule: MLB free agents can be taken in the auction, but if the player signs in the opposite league, he gets dropped from your roster. Feeling lucky, punk? Then bid on Craig Kimbrel ($20) or Dallas Keuchel ($17).  Not willing to assume the risk for those guys, but perhaps I’d take a chance on lower-priced free agents.

The team

Here’s how the Baseball HQ AL-LABR team looks.

Pos      Name           Team    Sal   $R   
===  ===============    ====    ===   == 
C    Garver, Mitch       MIN      3    5
C    Murphy, Sean        OAK      1    0
1B   Bauers, Jake        CLE     13   17
3B   Andujar, Miguel     NYY     22   24
CO   Healy, Ryan         SEA      7   13
2B   Mondesi, Aldaberto   KC     30   29
SS   Bogaerts, Xander    BOS     29   26
MI   Gurriel, Lourdres   TOR      9    9
OF   Pillar, Kevin       TOR     14   17
OF   Bruce, Jay          SEA     12   16
OF   Mancini, Trey       BAL     11   15
OF   Hernandez, Teoscar  TOR      9   12
OF   Garcia, Avasail     CHW     12   16
UT   Choi, Ji-Man        TAM      4   13
SP   Carrasco, Carlos    CLE     30   29
SP   Bieber, Shane       CLE     16   15
SP   Fullmer, Michael    DET      7    6
SP   Fiers, Mike         OAK      7   10
SP   Mengden, Daniel     OAK      3    8
SP   Barria, Jamie       LAA      6    6
RP   Colome, Alex        CHW     10    6
RP   Herrera, Kelvin     CHW      4    4
RP   Norris, Bud         TOR      1    0
RES  Fry, Jace           CHW      0    0
RES  Grossman, Robbie    OAK      0    0
RES  Britton, Zach       NYY      0    0
RES  Gonsalves, Stephen  MIN      0    0
RES  Davidson, Matt      TEX      0    0
RES  Bleier, Richard     BAL      0    0


How did the budgeting go? The budgeting went well, and I mostly hit my target costs. I never did get the $30 OF, due to inflated costs and my early spending on MI. But the lack of a stud OF allowed me to spread the money around on more players. My $62 OF/UT has a projected value of $89.

I did spend more on pitching than I thought I would, but that came about due to auction dynamics. As I got down to my last few open slots, I had $28 left to spend on a catcher ($1 goal for my second C), corner, and four pitchers. Grabbing Healy for $7 left $20 to spread among four pitchers (if I didn’t want to leave money on the table). Hence, the $6 bid on Jamie Barria—that bid froze out all but one other owner, so I knew I would likely get him. It's not a keeper league, so getting him this late proved more important than the cost.

Offense: The Mondesi grab raised some eyebrows, since the Baseball Forecaster advises “CAUTION.” RotoLab, using the slightly tweaked BHQ values, had him valued at $29, so going over by a buck on an early nomination didn’t seem like a big gamble. Other than catchers, this offense should produce across the board, projecting to earn 50 of a possible 60 points.

Starting Pitching: I didn’t expect to spend $30 on Carlos Carrasco, but when three of my ~$25 targets went for $33 each in rapid succession—Severino, Verlander, Cole—I realized I had to jump in to avoid being frozen out of the top tier. Right after Bauer and Snell went for $29, I grabbed Carrasco.

After reading the output of many of my competitors, I felt Shane Bieber would be well out of my $15 price range…but nobody topped my $16 bid. Now I’m a Belieber. My top two went for more than the $40 I hoped for, but with top starters going well over value, I considered it an acceptable cost.

Relievers: In hindsight, cornering the market on White Sox closer candidates was probably not an ideal strategy! With the lower-end projected closers going for $13+, I decided to spread the costs around somewhat. And I’m sad to say I have no special insight on Bud Norris; he's a dart throw at a late-inning reliever in front of closer Ken Giles.


This auction shows that budgeting for each position in an “only” league can work well, as long as you’re willing to react to auction dynamics as needed. RotoLab puts this team in first (good thing, since it used BHQ projections!), but also shows that the pitching needs help (mostly in Ks and saves).

But there are no medals to all participants. Time to play out the season and bring home another title for BaseballHQ.

Click here to subscribe

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