The LABR Mixed League draft is nearly here – Tuesday, Feb. 11 – and I’m flattered and thrilled to take part in my inaugural season. LABR – League of Alternative Baseball Reality – is the longest running expert’s league, and originally consisted of some guys you might know. Peter Gammons, Keith Olbermann and Bill James are just a few of the experts who once participated and hoped to make it big one day. After all, they’re no Jake Ciely.
I’ll be sharing my thoughts all season long, but I figured, “Why not give the readers some nuggets ahead of time?” Now, it’s rare that any of your drafts or leagues will resemble this one, and that’s not to disparage or mock yours. It’s simply a fact. When you have a league of 15 experts, each hoping to prove that his collection of tissue and synapses are bigger and better than the rest, it’s going to be a different animal.
It starts with the draft, as some of the lesser discussed players will have a much higher draft position than current ADP trends show. Continuing into the season, you’ll find players stashed on benches with an ownership percentage below one in the majority of leagues. I want to talk about the first area of difference, though. You know those “players” by a different name… “sleepers.”
Personally, I loathe the term, as I much prefer “undervalued players.” In this day and age, there are no sleepers anymore. Anyone spending just a few hours reading in March can uncover a bevy of articles and breakdowns on the 2014 sleepers. When you have that much analysis on any player, you can hardly call them a sleeper. Maybe when the game was played via snail mail and newspaper box scores, sleepers existed. Not anymore.
So what do Fantasy Baseball owners do nowadays? Typically, you find owners drafting said players earlier than normal with the expectancy that other owners are targeting the same players. This is where an owner can ruin their team. Let’s do a “for instance” so you can better understand.
There is a popular sleeper with an ADP of 114 (Round 9) for 2014. You love everything you read about the guy and really want him on your squad. The draft is rolling along, you’re in Round 7 and now you start worrying that other owners are thinking the same. There are proven and upside players on the board, but you are so worried that you jump and take him in Round 7, using the . No matter how you spin it, that was a foolish move.
Owners will immediately argue and proclaim, “But he could break out and easily provide seventh round value!” Pump those brakes guys! Let’s say your sleeper does break out and finish around the 90th best player. What value did you gain by drafting him there? None. You spent a pick equal to the value you received. Let’s back up a second, because truthfully, you actually lost value. “But wait, you just said I received equitable value?!” Not really. By drafting a player two rounds earlier than where you could have drafted him, you missed out on additional value from the player you could have picked in Round 7. When it comes to Fantasy Baseball – or any Fantasy Sport for that matter – you don’t win by getting what you paid for; you win by paying for less and getting a greater value in return. Basically, just as with stocks, you succeed by making a profit.
Let’s take 2013 as an example. Desmond Jennings finished as the 90th best player. Moving down the list by 12, we have Matt Dominguez at 102 and Nick Markakis at 114. Instead of having Jennings, Dominguez and Mr. Sleeper (with the same ADP as Markakis), you ended up with Mr. Sleeper, Dominguez and Markakis. So, you lost the value difference of Jennings to Markakis. And that assumes you received that 90th pick value. If your sleeper fails to live up to the hype, you’ve lost even more.
As you head into your drafts, don’t get caught up in the sleeper hype. Sleepers are “sleepers” for a reason: the players are risks, where the upside could return better value, but they are still risks. Stick to your projections and rankings. Drafting value is exponentially more important than grabbing the “next big thing.”
I’ve included the draft order for the 2014 LABR Mixed League, courtesy of Steve Gardner from USA Today, who is both a gentleman and a scholar. I’m less than thrilled with the 13th pick – what the heck Steve? – but, hey, I could be Jeff Erickson… ouch.
2014 Mixed LABR Draft Order
1. Todd Zola, Mastersball
2. Craig Glaser/Bradley Ankrom, Bloomberg Sports
3. Ray Murphy, Baseball HQ
4. Bobby Colton, Rotowire
5. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY Sports
6. Tim Heaney, KFFL
7. *Bret Sayre/Mike Gianella, Baseball Prospectus
8. Rudy Gamble/Grey Albright, Razzball
9. Mike Podhorzer, Fangraphs
10. Doug Anderson, DFS Edge
11. James Quintong, ESPN
12. Fred Zinkie, MLB.com
13. Jake Ciely, RotoExperts
14. Jason Collette/Paul Sporer, Towers of Power Baseball Hour podcast
15. Jeff Erickson, Rotowire