(*) ROTISSERIE: 2023 NL-LABR Dennis recap

At First Pitch Florida, we held the USA Today LABR auctions. I play in the NL. For those unfamiliar, it is a standard 5x5 format, NL-only, 12 teams, 6 reserve slots with some quirky reserve rules. Here is my offense post-auction:

(HQ projection)           AB  R   HR RBI  SB  BA  $
======================   === === === === === === ==
Realmuto (PHI)           533  79  24  89  18 275 26
Casali (CIN)             205  33   8  29   0 250  1
W.Myers (CIN)            464  63  19  75   7 258 16 [1/o]
E.Escobar (NYM)          440  56  19  66   1 258  6
L.Wade (SF)              424  61  20  57   4 248  6 [1/o]
V.Grissom (ATL)          482  60  19  50  21 269 23 [2/s]
T.Estrada (SF)           510  66  16  62  14 261 16 [2/s]
H.Kim (SD)               528  66  13  70  12 254 13 [3/s]
N.Castellanos (PHI)      576  87  30  87   5 283 21
J.McCarthy (ARI)         505  72  13  57  33 253 21
L.Gurriel (ARI)          481  57  18  65   3 285 14
M.Conforto (SF)          450  75  20  72   5 267 14
J.Fraley (CIN)           417  60  18  59  11 247  6
N.Jones (COL)            370  62  12  62   5 253  6
=======================  === === === === === === ==
projections                  897 249 900 139 261 $189
targets                      800 230 800 110 260 $180

Typically, my strategy is to spread the risk across the offense without targeting specific players and letting the bargains come to me. Spreading the risk for me typically is across a budget of $200 in this format, but in recent years, hitting the minimum innings pitched threshold has been a challenge that has forced me to tank ERA and WHIP in-season. This year, I took $20 from offense for pitching for a $180/80 split going in.

$26 is too much for me to spend on one player. But J.T. Realmuto (C, PHI) is a nice value add when you consider the two-catcher pool and some of the terrible stat lines some teams will be forced to roster. I like the added steals he provides and the larger number PAs, as well as keeping the BA up. I had him valued at $28 and I was happy bidding stopped at $26, but it did force me to adjust the budget across the entire offense as I had expected to spend far less on catchers. I ended up with four hitters over $20, which caused some problems for me in the back end. Jake McCarthy (OF, ARI) was not a target at all, but I jumped into the bidding with his seemingly certain playing time and nice HR/SB projection. Vaughn Grissom (2B, ATL) feels full value at $23 and again it was the attraction of HR/SB that got me there. I have been acquiring him in most of my leagues to date and it makes me think I might be overvaluing him or at least understating the playing time risk. For me, I don't see Orlando Arcia (MI, ATL) as a major threat to Grissom's playing time. But if he is, Grissom will be getting regular reps in AAA and I have Arcia on my bench to cover this problem. The fourth player over $20 is Nick Castellanos (OF, PHI). Do I think he will get 30 home runs? Unclear, but I do think he will be a lot closer than others seem to think. I did not expect to roster him at all but when bidding stopped at $21, I felt pretty happy about it.

One thing that I tried to roster was a number of players with some PA upside versus their projection. This may seem weird to say about a $1 catcher, but Curt Casali (C, CIN) backs up Tyler Stephenson (C, CIN) and the Reds have publicly stated that they want to give Stephenson some breaks at DH and 1B. And the injury history is pretty well documented. Does it mean Casali will get 400 PAs? No. But it does give him a chance to beat the projection and grab a handful more counting stats. Others who I felt had PA upside versus projection: Wil Myers (1B/OF, CIN), Eduardo Escobar (3B, NYM), LaMonte Wade (1B/OF, SF), Lourdes Gurriel (OF, ARI), Jake Fraley (OF, CIN), and the combination of Nolan Jones (OF, COL) with reserve pick Elehuris Montero (OF, COL) in the Rockies outfield. Even if there are just incremental additions to the total PAs, it will mean some added counting stats.

I also tried to roster position flexibility. This is a very deep league and typically there is very little worthwhile in the FAAB pool on the hitting side. Having two options at 1B, two at 3B, two at second base, three at shortstop, and three extras at outfield is a very helpful thing if there is just one useful bat out there, because I will be able to move players around to accommodate that acquisition. This was enhanced by the two reserve list bats I acquired as well.

Here is what Montero and Arcia are expected to provide:

(HQ projection)           AB  R   HR RBI  SB  BA  $
======================   === === === === === === ==
E.Montero (COL)          464  49  16  55   2 247  R
O.Arcia (ATL)            310  40  13  48   1 244  R

If this is a true competition between Montero and Jones, the loser will likely end up in the minors. I will be able to start the winner and reserve the loser. The only way this does not happen is if Montero wins the competition but Jones remains on the roster as a bench player. That will create problems for me as I would have to keep Jones active to keep him under LABR's quirky reserve rules. Something for me to watch and decide if it goes wrong. If it goes right, though, I can have the one getting the PAs active without losing the other, and I can switch them out in-season if the team changes it's mind.

Grissom/Arcia is a classic battle that I will definitely want Grissom to win, because he is so much more valuable to me at the plate. But at worst, he'd be in the minors for some short time early and Arcia would be active and playing until Grissom is deemed ready. More likely, Grissom wins the job and Arcia is superfluous.

All in all, I spent $189 and if HQ projections were the gospel, I grabbed $234 in value or +$45. We all know that is never the case, but we hope for upside from a few to offset injuries and mistakes. Even if the $189 returns $189, the position flexibility, the hedges of Montero with Jones and Arcia with Grissom, the upside value with more PAs than projected for several batters, all collectively gives some comfort that the numbers could stick and make this somewhat boring list of names into a upper tier offense in this format.

Now let's turn to the more problematic pitching staff:

(HQ projection)           W Sv  IP    K   ERA WHIP  $  xERA
======================   == == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==  ====
M.Mikolas (STL)          11  0  181  133 3.68 1.13 10  3.81
M.Stroman (CHC)           8  0  160  137 3.66 1.16 10  3.45
M.Kelly (ARI)            10  0  174  155 3.83 1.20 10  3.88
A.Wood (SF) (L)           7  0  131  127 4.05 1.21  8  3.49
M.Wacha (SD)              9  0  131  120 3.71 1.20  4  3.89
C.Cavalli (WAS)           7  0  116  111 3.96 1.28  3  4.06
G.Gallegos (STL)          4  9   65   79 3.32 0.94  3  3.39
A.J.Puk (MIA) (L)         7 11   73   82 3.33 1.10  6  3.37
R.Helsley (STL)           4 21   73   86 2.84 1.04 17  3.59
=====================    == == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==  ====
projections              67 41 1104 1030 3.66 1.15 $71 3.44
targets                  70 60      1130 3.40 1.15 $80 3.40

Let's just say that there are no aces, no twos, no threes. Just an amalgam of bleh starters covering the necessary innings. This group will definitely fall backwards in wins and strikeouts and also likely fall backwards in ERA and WHIP. This will take work in-season. The good news is that the projections are within striking distance if I can add a starter nearer the top or get a great year from someone here (looking at you Alex Wood (LHP, SF) and Cade Cavalli (RHP, WAS)). Non-awful starters were long gone by the reserve round and I was unable to get anyone additional. Furthermore, if someone stinks, I will be forced to cut him sooner than later or lose that potential "staying close until a solution presents itself." I will almost certainly be trying to make a trade in-season and it will likely be steals for a starter.

I rostered three active relievers and I am fairly happy with them. Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley (RHP, STL) is higher quality than I typically roster for saves and will help with ERA/WHIP. Having Giovanny Gallegos (RHP, STL) is a nice hedge in case Helsley falters and Gallegos will grab the saves when Helsley gets a night off. Lefty A.J. Puk (LHP, MIA) will merely be in the mix early on in Miami. But Puk is projected to have the best skills in that pen, if he can just stay healthy.

I did manage four solid relievers in the reserve rounds:

(HQ projection)           W Sv  IP  K   ERA WHIP  $ xERA
======================   == == === === ==== ==== == ====
P.Strzelecki (MIL)        6  0  51  62 3.00 0.96  R 3.00
L.Sims (CIN)              4  5  58  74 3.72 1.26  R 3.80
D.Lamet (COL)             2  5  65  85 3.88 1.26  R 3.36
Y.Almonte (LA)            0  0  29  34 3.41 0.90  R 2.67

Peter Strzelecki (RHP, MIL) is not a household name, but he has a tremendous skill set with a 32 K% and 23 K%-BB% giving him a projected 0.96 WHIP and 3.00 xERA. He is the second best skill set in Milwaukee behind only Devin Williams (RHP, MIL).

Similarly, Lucas Sims (RHP, CIN) is second to Alexis Díaz​ (RHP, CIN) in Cincinnati if he could just stay healthy. Sims is projected for a 31% K% and 20% K%-BB% for a 3.72 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He could grab a number of saves if he can stay available.

Dinelson Lamet (RHP, COL) is the best skill set in Colorado—better than Daniel Bard (RHP, COL). Lamet also struggles to stay healthy, but if he can, that 32% K% and 22% K%-BB% could see him grab the saves role and run with it.

For the Dodgers, everyone is on Evan Phillips (RHP, LA) and Daniel Hudson (RHP, LA) and even Alex Vesia (LHP, LA), and rightly so. But Yency Almonte (RHP, LA) is projected for a 32% K% and 30%(!) K%-BB% for a 2.67 xERA and 0.90 WHIP projection. You never know with a skill set like that.

Obviously, the hope with these four is that one of them gets a useful role and creates value that can be traded to help the starters.

Follow me on Twitter at @dougdennis41

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