ROTISSERIE: NL LABR 2018 (What was he thinking?)

This past weekend I was in Phoenix for the early-March NL-LABR auction. It is 12-team, 5x5 roto and old school, complete with still using batting average instead of OBP and a six-man reserve list and ancient rules such as active players cannot be reserved unless on the disabled list or in the minors. League jumpers can be kept; players out for the year can be turned in for their salary in FAAB. Those are the basics.

For the past several years, I have used the same $230 hitting/$30 pitching strategy with solid success that includes a first and a few second place finishes. But not this year. 2017 was a year that saw an explosion of power, a significant decrease in rostered innings as teams deployed more relievers and starters on average had lower IP/G. These factors had to be accounted for. Additionally, stolen bases did not really decrease, but compared to all of the cheap power available, became relatively more valuable.

Because of these differences, because FAAB allowed me to either get quality middle relief or horrible starting pitchers (but not both) and because of the in-season difficulties that my 2017 team had in rostering innings, I decided to change strategies to try to get enough steals, but importantly, enough innings. I set out to try to roster offensive players who would come back with some power and some steals across-the-board, but also shift about $30 away from offense to pitching in the hopes of rostering two additional starters, then use the other $30 on the balance of the pitching staff. So a $200/60 split.

As always, I try to spread-the-risk on offense and do not roster superstars or scrubs if I can help it. And in pitching, I go for five starters, one closer and then whatever I can get with the remaining three slots. When I deployed a $230/30 strategy, I would try to burn all six reserve slots on pitchers (quantity helps). But with $200/60, I thought better to open up possibilities to maximize value acquired for roster flexibility and for later moves.

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Here is the team I purchased:

DRD NL-LABR           $ HQ$ ADP  AB  R   HR RBI  SB  BA
==================   == === === === === === === === ====
c  Realmuto (MIA)    15  16 101 545  66  15  61  10 277
c  AuBarnes (LA)      8  11 186 329  48  12  46   7 279
1b W.Myers (SD)      25  20  67 547  83  28  78  19 256
3b Dietrich (MIA)     6   7 496 502  66  16  62   1 254
ci McMahon (COL)     13  18 328 501  52  19  68   8 287
2b Owings (ARI)      12  16 228 586  55  14  63  22 260
ss B.Crawford (SF)   11  11 335 562  66  16  83   4 260
mi Am.Rosario (NYM)  12  20 236 613  82  13  64  21 273
of S.Marte (PIT)     30  29  51 581  84  15  62  37 281
of Ozuna (STL)       27  26  48 596  85  27 103   2 301
of Cespedes (NYM)    26  21  94 534  83  31  85   2 285
of Renfroe (SD)       7   8 303 416  50  26  60   2 250
of Winker (CIN)       7  12 321 452  52  16  47   3 282
ut G.Parra (ARI)      4  13 346 391  53  10  54   5 291
total               203 228    7155 925 258 936 143 2738
DRD NL-LABR           $ HQ$ ADP  IP  W Sv xERA WHIP   K
==================   == === === === == == ==== ====  ===
sp Hendricks (CHC)   16  22 117 189 12  0 3.56 1.13  167
sp Alx.Wood (LA)     15  16 114 145 11  0 3.42 1.18  139
sp Ryu (LA)           7   9 341 145  9  0 3.84 1.27  128
sp Nova (PIT)         3   7 352 174 11  0 3.94 1.29  132
sp Flaherty (STL)     3   9 365 152  9  0 4.05 1.24  126
sp Lynn (FA)*         3   9 227 181 12  0 4.27 1.33  158
rp A.J.Minter (ATL)   3   5 413  65  3  2 2.86 1.12   97
rp Madson (WAS)       2  10 410  65  6  7 3.09 1.06   65
cl Ziegler (MIA)      5   4 354  65  2 16 3.76 1.31   41
total                57  91    1181 75 25 3.59 1.23 1053 
DRD NL-LABR           $
==================   ==
res A.Toles (LA)      R
res Descalso (ARI)    R
res S.Rodriguez (PIT) R
res Sherfy (ARI)      R
res Ad.Morgan (PHI)   R
res K.Glover (WAS)    R

You can judge this for yourself. projections vary from other sites, of course. But BHQ has my team earning $319 from the get-go ($310 if Lance Lynn (RHP, FA) goes to the AL). I'll take that on March 4. All of the offensive numbers project very well, as one would expect from a $200 offense. But the xERA and WHIP projections would also be in the hunt for league lead. Wins would be ok, and strikeouts would need some work. Saves are always a work-in-progress—but saves always come into the league. These projected totals would have earned 98 points in 2017—second place by 2 points. That means nothing on March 4. There will be injuries, trades, craziness. There always are these things.

The thought process was that I would not spend more than $25 on offensive players. I obviously violated that idea with three outfielders over $25. I felt that I needed to find steals and I committed to overpaying if I had to do that to get them. I overpaid for my first player, Wil Myers (1B, SD) because of the steals. I got Starling Marte (OF, PIT) fairly early and had him right at $30 on my board. What followed was an in-auction adjustment. I thought position players were going relatively cheap, while pitchers were commanding a premium and I jumped in. I rostered Marcell Ozuna (OF, MIA) and Yoenis Cespedes (OF, NYM) pretty quickly and in doing so, committed to a much different plan than I had expected, knowing I'd have to scramble to find at-bats with the money I had left, or I would have to steal from my pitching budget.

When Kyle Hendricks (SP, CHC) fell into my lap at $16, I decided to continue with the pitching plan and just hope to find offense. And that's how I ended up with this roster. I mentioned Lynn earlier. Obviously it is a risk to roster a 50/50 free agent. But at $3 I could not pass on the chance to get him—if he has a 33% chance of coming back to the NL, it is an even bet. I grabbed Derek Dietrich (3B, MIA) at $6, even though I had no intention going-in of getting someone ranked that low. But having already blown the budget, I needed ABs, and Dietrich qualifies at 3B but is expected to be the starting LF for Miami. Ryan McMahon (CI, COL) is a risky player to grab, but felt like a steal at $13. He just needs to get the projected ABs to pay out. Amed Rosario (SS, NYM) is a bigger risk—especially since he already has a knee thing. But his BHQ projection is juicy and it was hard to pass at $12. So there is much more risk than my usual offense.

I have four starters with a projected xERA under 4.00 and a projected WHIP under 1.30. I could not be happier about that. Jack Flaherty (RHP, STL) does not have a rotation slot yet, but the projection anticipates that he will. I am a big fan of my three-man pen. I had thought I would roster Drew Steckenrider (RHP, MIA) for $5. I was surprised to get Brad Ziegler (RHP, MIA). I am not sure that I would rather have Ziegler than Steckenrider, and you see that in my past columns. But a named closer for $5 is worth the gamble and the Ziegler BPIs are not all that much worse than Kyle Barraclough's (RHP, MIA) BPIs. Ryan Madson (RHP, WAS) is a reasonable hedge against Sean Doolittle (LHP, WAS) injury. A.J. Minter (LHP, ATL) is a strikeout machine and I needed his strikeouts and his xERA/WHIP combination.

One place that I usually make certain is that I have roster flexibility on offense so that I can roster pitchers with the reserve slots. No such luck this year. So I grabbed three position players to cover me at least a little with positional flexibility. I also grabbed three quality relievers (there were many to pick from) in the reserve round. The flip side—there were only a couple iffy starters during the reserve phase, so if you are planning to get some starters in the reserves in NL, plan accordingly.

I'll let you know later how this team fared. If you have questions in the meantime, I am happy to answer them below or over on Twitter.

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