ROTISSERIE: AL-LABR: New approach for a new reality

“The times, they are a-changin” – Robert Zimmerman, aka, Bob Dylan, Nobel laureate.

As award-winning (and ex-crooner) Ron Shandler pointed out in the introduction to the 2018 Baseball Forecaster, the baseball landscape is a-changin’. This was also the theme at the recent BaseballHQ First Pitch Forums, entitled “Adapt or Die.” (OK, it was “Adapt or Lose,” but the former sounds more dramatic).

So, how to adapt to the new reality in a 12-team “only” auction league?

Blah blah blah home run

If you’ve not noticed, there were a lot of balls leaving the yard last year. 6105 homers in 2017, as compared to 4186 HRs in 2014. Everyone’s working on their launch angle these days. Kris Davis and Nelson Cruz hitting HRs, no big whoop…but Joey Gallo with 41 HR? 38 for Justin Smoak? Heck, Yonder Alonso had 28.

What that means—there’s so much power, you don’t have to pay much for it in 2018 auctions. Even in deep leagues like LABR, there will be power on the waiver wire. But history shows us it won’t be at every position; typically, DH/1B/OF types dominate the landscape. Skilled MI and C are unlikely to make up much of the pool, so it’s best to focus auction resources there and deal with deficiencies in the OF and CO via free agency or trade.

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Speed to burn—or not

Bet nobody in your mixed league was crushed when Jarrod Dyson and Ben Revere signed in the National League. But there aren’t a lot of reliable speed sources to go around in AL-only leagues, so losing 25+ SB guys hurts. Having Dee Gordon helps, but he will cost a ton. Speed’s become a scarcity, and needs to be treated as such.

Positional Flexibility

With the general lack of C/MI help on deep league waiver wires, positional flexibility helps immensely. In formats like LABR, where players are eligible at their 2017 draft positions throughout the 2018 season, multi-position qualifiers make it easier to acquire help.

Rotation anchors a thing of the past?

On the pitching side, yes, strikeouts are numerous. But compared to days past, they’re being spread among more pitchers. With the recently-installed 10-day DL, starters can be rested‚—missing only one start—to keep their innings down. In 2010, 45 pitchers topped 200 IP; in 2017, only 15 did. Of those, only five had over 200 Ks. So prepare to spread Ks over more pitchers heading in 2018 drafts.

Difference from previous AL-LABR strategy

Due to the wealth of cheap power, I made it my goal to spend $193 on offense, using a Stars and Scrubs approach. I’d focus more on speed, and make sure to roster solid MI, CO, and C. Scrubs would be in the OF/UT to take advantage of the anticipated free agent pool.

As for pitching—my weak spot in 2017 was starting pitching, with ERA, WHIP, and Ks lacking. So the budget went up, spending close to $70 rather than the usual $40-50. Ideally, I would also avoid guys with health grades of D or F. The focus would be on obtaining two high-IP, high-K starters for $40 or less. That eliminates the expensive Kluber and Sale,focusing more on guys like Severino and Archer. It also meant skipping the top closers and trolling the waters with more risk-guys like Treinen for $10 or less. The balance would be spent on middle relievers with high IP and Ks at low cost.

Spending goals:

C ($20) – 13/7
CO ($45) – 25/15/5
MI ($60) – 30/20/10
OF/DH ($68) – 30/15/13/5/3/2
SP ($55) – 25/20/6/2/2
RP ($12) – 9/1/1/1

Free agents at the LABR auctions

Dealing with the (still)-large pool of major league free agents was a topic of concern at the March 3 auction. The LABR rule is that free agents can be taken in the auction, but if the player signs in the opposite league, he gets dropped from your roster. That explains the low acquisition cost of a player like Jake Arrieta, since bidding on him involved a certain amount of risk. While I was not willing to take the chance on Arrieta at the expected cost, I’d take a chance on lower-priced free agents.

The team

Here’s how the Baseball HQ AL team looks. $R represents the values in RotoLab (70% offense/30% pitching, with a slight shift to Stars and Scrubs for valuation). Mayberry grades/scores included as a reference.

Pos      Name           Team    Sal   $R   Mayberry
===  ===============    ====    ===   ==  ============
C    Zunino, Mike        SEA     13   12  5123 33  ADD
C    Castro, Jason       MIN      4    5  3313 30  ACA
1B   Smoak, Justin       TOR     17   17  4035 60  ACD
3B   Ramirez, Jose       CLE     28   28  3455 85  ABF
CO   Gonzalez, Marwin    HOU     16   18  3245 60  ABF
2B   Walker, Neil        FA       2   13  3035 55  DBB
SS   Andrus, Elvis       TEX     22   24  2455 80  AAC
MI   Cozart, Zach        LAA     13   19  3345 75  DCD
OF   Rosario, Eddie      MIN     22   20  4345 80  ABB
OF   Mancini, Trey       BAL     15   17  3335 70  ABF
OF   Reddick, Josh       HOU      9   14  2335 65  CBC
OF   Jones, Jacoby       DET      1    9  3405 60  ADB
OF   Smith, Mallex       TAM     12   16  1525 65  CCA
UT   Moss, Brandon       OAK      1    6  4213 30  BBB

SP   Severino, Luis      NYY     26   24  4405 85  ABD
SP   Bauer, Trevor       CLE     15   14  2305 60  AAA
SP   Montgomery, Jordan  NYY      9    9  1203 21  ACA
SP   Lynn, Lance         FA       3   11  1205 45  FBB
SP   Minor, Mike         TEX      6    8  1303 24  FDF
RP   McHugh, Colin       HOU      3    3  2201  7  FAA
RP   Herrera, Kelvin     KC      10   12  3330 36  ACC 
RP   Brach, Brad         BAL      8   13  2430 33  ACA
RP   O’Day, Darren       BAL      2    3  3510 12  FCB

RES  Andriese, Matt      TAM      0    1  1203 21  DCA
RES  Dozier, Hunter      KC       0    2  5203 30  AFF
RES  Pauino, David       HOU      0    1  3401 11  CDC
RES  Gonzalez, Miguel    CHW      0    4  0103  3  DBB
RES  Hendricks, Liam     OAK      0   -1  3400  0  CCA 
RES  Smith, Joe          LAA      0    2  5400  0  DCB

Mayberry score breakdown:

Batting   PX  RSpd  xBA  PA    MM
=======   ==  ====  ===  ==   ===
Actual    43    37   40  64   848
Target    37    23   32  54   600

Pitching  xERA   K  Sv  IP    MM
========  ====  ==  ==  ==   ===
Actual      19  28   7  22   323
Target      17  27   5  25   320


How did it go? Mostly according to plan. I did spend a bit more on pitching than I expected, but I got solid MIs, decent Cs, plenty of speed and positional flexibility, and some good starting pitching. Once I had a few players in the $20s, it became obvious that spreading the money around on players priced in the teens would be more effective than overpaying for more high-priced guys, so I did move away from S&S a bit.

Offense:  With a $178 hitting/$82 pitching split, I didn’t spend as much as I expected on offense. But with solid MI/CO anchors and positional flexibility, I’m set up well for the season. Plenty of speed to trade, enough power, and a good BA. RotoLab shows the team with 54 points out a possible 60 in the projections. While I kept an eye on the Portfolio-3 tiers, I didn’t eliminate players from consideration if they didn’t fit well. While I did get some low-reliability guys, they’re mostly A-health grades.

Starting Pitching:  I wanted two of Severino, Archer, and Bauer for $40, and even though I went a buck over, I’m pleased with the pair I got.  I did well with xERA and Ks; RotoLab projects this staff to garner 45 of 60 pitching points. But I put more into pitching than expected, weakening the offense a bit.

Relievers: In general, never draft two closers, but when Brad Brach stalled at $7, I decided to go another dollar and pile up some projected saves.

Reserve rounds: The cupboard was pretty bare by this time, but I was happy to roster Andriese as a reserve, because I can stream him (the only way to use non-DL reserve spots in LABR is to draft them in the reserve rounds).


I put together the team I envisioned—and this team is set up well to compete in 2018. Plenty of positional flexibility, speed to spare, a high-K pitching staff, and roster spots where I can more easily access power in the free agent pool. Now, to play the season and see how it all plays out!

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