LABR Mixed Draft Recap: You Won’t Believe How Many Pitchers Went In The First 3 Rounds!
The nervous sweats turned into drooping eyelids as the 2016 LABR Mixed League Draft neared 1 AM. A draft that started at 8:30 PM with excitement and anxious spirits, now pushed the mettle of many owners. These late rounds are where champions are made… or not.
In 2015, well over 40 players from the last four rounds ended up worthless… and that's being a bit forgiving, allowing for relievers with decent peripherals. Even erring on the generous side, only 33 percent of the last 60 picks had even modest value. But wait! As Jeff Erickson showed last year with his Mike Trout-Chris Sale-Bryce Harper start, champions come don't from the first few rounds either. Last year's first round included Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gomez, Adam Jones, Miguel Cabrera, Anthony Rendon and Troy Tulowitzki. All failed to return first round value with Jones topping the list in the 40s for hitters, or fourth-round value. In fact, only Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Paul Goldschmidt, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista matched their first round cost in value. That's a mere 33 percent, and it's still under 50 percent if you want to argue that Jose Altuve and Anthony Rizzo checking in with Round 2 value was good enough. Or conversely, if you want to argue that Stanton and Cabrera would have been locks if not for injuries, you still get seven players. Those are just ifs and buts, and if they were candy…
So when are champions made?! Truthfully, it's throughout the draft and then with continued work afterwards. It sounds cliché, but it's true. For some statistical proof, here's a look at last year's top players and their corresponding draft cost.
Picks in Range
% Picks in Range
I chose the Top 40 hitters for two reasons. First, it was a selection of top-end hitters, or those who reached at least $20 in value. Second, it reached midway into the fourth round giving us just about 50 draft picks for comparison.
At season's end, only three of the Top 12 were actually drafted in the Top 12 of hitters. Then there were just two more in the Top 13-25 drafted as such. To clarify why 3+2=7 is because that's not actually a true addition calculation. There was one 13-25 range player taken in the Top 12 and three Top 12 taken in the 13-25 range. So, in the Top 25 overall we had nine total, or 36 percent. Nearly two-thirds of the Top 40 players from 2015 came at a significantly lower cost.
Additionally, out of the Top 40 hitters, only nine had a higher draft cost than their final ranking. You can see the average draft cost for each range, and the Top 40 jumped over 59 spots from their draft spots on average. On top of that, 10 players improved by 100 or more spots, including two over 200 and one over 300.
We need to include pitchers, especially with the Fantasy Baseball landscape shifting from the old idiom of "wait on pitching" to "grab elite starters early." For comparison, last year's draft had 14 pitchers off the board in four rounds with two being closers. This year, 14 were off the board before the end of Round 3 with nine starters taken in that round. Three more came off the board in Round 4 and another nine in Round 5 for a total of 26, including three closers.
Do the numbers back up the idea of pitchers, especially starters, being more reliable and worth the draft cost this year?
Picks in Range
% Picks in Range
|Top 12 Overall||84.3||249||65.9||1||8.3%|
|Top 25 Overall||142.0||440||125.2||2||8.0%|
|Top 26 SP Only||149.6||440||130.4||2||7.7%|
|Top 16 RP Only||203.2||440||144.7||0||0.0%|
|Top 42 Overall||166.3||440||136.7||8||19.0%|
As with hitters, there was a reason for the player range. I initially chose all pitchers that returned $12 or more, aiming for the Top 40 again, but depending on your exact calculation, some of the pitchers could gain or lose a dollar-ish. Instead of chopping the list in the middle of the $11-plus/$12 results at 40 to match hitters, we're rounding up and going with 42.
No matter the cutoff, the picture is uglier. Every level has a higher average pick value, standard deviation and lower percent of picks in the range. Uh oh. Hey guys, can we run that LABR draft back? So much for my "let's see how two stud pitchers and an early closer" strategy! More on that below.
As an aside, that "440" number is for undrafted players. The total amount of draft picks was 435, so I tacked on a few since none would have been 336, but they're undrafted and any number would be somewhat arbitrary.
The funny thing is that we didn't even need to get out of the Top 25 overall pitchers to hit an undrafted player. Jeurys Familia was the top undrafted pitcher, finishing 13th overall with Marco Estrada the top starter at 21st overall. Heck, Clayton Kershaw is the only "real" guarantee here, as he is the only pitcher with a draft cost and final value inside the Top 25 – he was third in both ($40 final value), which also matched the top hitter's value (Bryce Harper). Heck, Max Scherzer, who finished as the fifth best pitcher and 13th overall player, was the next highest draft pick at 25th overall ($30).
In all, there were 24 pitchers (13 starters) with a draft pick over 100, of those 15 (eight SP) over 200, eight over 300 (three SP) and five undrafted (two SP). Not only can you find pitching late, you can find it on the waiver wire even in 15-team, 29-round expert leagues! Those numbers certainly defy the 2016 industry shift to taking pitching early… and that's with using last year as a basis for reasons why. If anything, last year only further proved you should wait.
There is a high amount of variance in drafts. The ratio for busts (or at least, significant lost value) to good value with picks is 2.8.6-to-1. In other words, there are nearly three lost-value picks for every valuable pick. And that's just with the hitters. For pitchers, that number jumps to 5.25-to-1. Based on last year's LABR draft, you have a one in six chance of picking a pitcher that returns his value. Those are pretty poor odds. Or look at it this way; you're playing Russian roulette with a revolver containing five bullets. Bet you don't want to take that chance do you? Why would you even consider taking a pitcher early then? You don't want to get completely left out and ignore all of the top pitchers, but you can wait until into the late 20s for starters and grab a duo from the likes of Tyson Ross, Michael Wacha, Jordan Zimmermann, Garrett Richards, etc. and never spend more than a seventh-round pick.
I find it hard to argue against a duo of Ross and Wacha with a Ryan Braun/Lorenzo Cain and Francisco Lindor/Freddie Freeman upgrade over Jacoby Ellsbury and Ian Desmond just to get Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez instead.
While there is variance all throughout the draft, you significantly decrease your overall risk by drafting hitting early and looking for potential upside in pitching later.
Okay… this was supposed to be more of a LABR recap with several lessons to learn from the draft, but this is clearly the most important takeaway: don't take pitching early! Now, for the actually (brief) recap and other tips for winning your league.
You can find the entire draft via this link.
|1.08||8||Giancarlo Stanton, MIA||16.08||233||David Wright, NYM|
|2.08||23||Jose Bautista, TOR||17.08||248||Brad Ziegler, ARI|
|3.08||38||Matt Harvey, NYM||18.08||263||Domingo Santana, MIL|
|4.08||53||Nelson Cruz, SEA||19.08||278||Yadier Molina, STL|
|5.08||68||Felix Hernandez, SEA||20.08||293||Jimmy Nelson, MIL|
|6.08||83||Aroldis Chapman, NYY||21.08||308||Pablo Sandoval, BOS|
|7.08||98||Jason Kipnis, CLE||22.08||323||Jerad Eickhoff, PHI|
|8.08||113||Ian Desmond, TBA||23.08||338||Joey Gallo, TEX|
|9.08||128||Carlos Martinez, STL||24.08||353||James Paxton, SEA|
|10.08||143||Glen Perkins, MIN||25.08||368||J.P. Crawford, PHI|
|11.08||158||Joc Pederson, LAD||26.08||383||Josh Bell, PIT|
|12.08||173||Brandon Belt, SF||27.08||398||Hector Olivera, ATL|
|13.08||188||Curtis Granderson, NYM||28.08||413||Carlos Perez, LAA|
|14.08||203||DJ LeMahieu, COL||29.08||428||Jonathan Gray, COL|
|15.08||218||Kenta Maeda, LAD|
I have the POWWWAAAH!
I was hoping Giancarlo Stanton fell to me in the first round. The man was on pace for 55 home runs, 95 runs, 136 RBIs and even eight stolen bases. His injuries have been flukes, so it's not as if he's the true definition of injury prone. Jose Bautista was the best player on my board by quite a bit, and I couldn’t pass on the value. I jumped into the starting pitching pool with the rest, and Matt Harvey has Top 5 upside, especially given what he did last year coming off Tommy John surgery. I get the concerns with Nelson Cruz, but a .270-.280 AVG with 40 home runs and 90/90 R/RBI? You can't ignore that in Round 4. So much for my team speed!
More concerns! And I understand them with Felix Hernandez – decreased fastball velocity, career innings count, etc. – but in Round 5, I gave myself a leg up with two stud pitchers, even if Hernandez only repeats last season… or so I thought. Refer to the opening of why this looks to be a mistake, even though I love my next pick of Aroldis Chapman. With his 100-plus strikeouts, I just added a 1/2 of a SP. I'd do backflips if Ian Desmond lands in Colorado. Glen Perkins' struggles were injury related, and he's reportedly 100 percent. You had to pay a king's ransom to nab Joc Pederson in the first half of last year. Mark McGwire told him to hit for the fences and is fortunately no longer the hitter coach, plus the Dodgers played Pederson nearly every day in the first half as a rookie. Pederson is still the same 30/20 major-upside player we all fell in love with last season, and while his average will never help, it was about this time that I decided AVG might be a lost cause for my team.
Curtis Granderson was "I can't leave him out there at this point," while DJ LeMahieu is a sneaky source for steals and average (a bit late for the AVG though). Kenta Maeda should see more love as we near the season. He's not Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka, but his control is similar to Hisashi Iwakuma. Fangraphs likens him to John Lackey and Jose Quintana, which is a low-3.00 ERA starter with around 170 Ks. Lackey came off the board 35 picks earlier and Quintana 42. Third base is going to be a weak spot unless Joey Gallo wins a job during Spring Training, as David Wright and Pablo Sandoval might get me 160 games combined.
I also was one of the teams caught at catcher (no pun intended), as Yadier Molina might not be ready for opening day, but fortunately, Carlos Perez has nice upside as the lead for the Angels. I'm a big fan of the upside trio of Jimmy Nelson, Jerad Eickhoff and James Paxton. Plus, the rest of the late-rounders will return enormous value if they have starting jobs on Opening Day (note: Cliff Lee was a placeholder for J.P. Crawford).
2016 FANTASY BASEBALL ADDITIONAL TIPS
Reminder: Don't Draft Pitching Early
Use Tiers and Take the Last 1-2 Players in a Tier, not the First of a New One
Drafting Jason Kipnis and Ian Desmond in Rounds 7-8 wasn’t solely because I only had outfield hitters so far. They were also among the last in their tiers. I wanted no part of Jose Reyes with his off-field issues plus health concerns, Starlin Castro could see a bump with the Yankees but his cost is too high and then we're in to Addison Russell, Ketel Marte, etc. territory. The same goes for Kipnis, as the next second baseman was over 50 picks later. Don't be the owner that starts a new tier by panicking and thinking, "Oh no, I need a solid ____! Better draft one now." Taking a player at the top of tier is a big loss in value as the player at the end of said tier has nearly identical value at a cheaper cost.
Don't Get Caught in the Hype
There is no such thing as a "sleeper" these days given the amount of information available. Take note of the players several experts talk about heading into drafts. If too many people love the same underrated player, his value is going to skyrocket and ruin the potential value return. You never want to buy a player at his ceiling. Doing so means you paid for all of the risk. If that player doesn't live up to his sleeper status, you severely hurt your team because you didn't allow for a failure buffer. A good example of this is Raisel Iglesias. I'm as big of a fan as anyone, but what is his ceiling? Let's say a low-3.00 ERA, 180 IP and a 9.0 K/9 (180 Ks). That's aggressive but not excessive. That's about Jose Quintana level, who we covered earlier. Quintana was pick 178 (Round 12). Iglesias came off the board at 116 (Round 10). I rarely question the genius of Steve Gardner – don't kick me out Steve! – but he bought all of the risk at Iglesias' ceiling. The same can be said for Kyle Schwarber, Tyler Glasnow (who I really like), Trea Turner and some others.
Third Base gets Thin, Fast
Thanks to four of the Top 12 players being third basemen this year – Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant – you blink and will be looking at David Wright as your starting option, as I was. Todd Frazier, Matt Carpenter, Kyle Seager and Adrian Beltre make up the next tier. Then you have Evan Longoria, Maikel Franco with nice potential and Jung-Ho Kang coming off an injury. Then it gets scary.
That was a mere 11 third basemen mentioned, and in 12-team leagues, many teams will take two to use one at corner infield. I have always been a proponent of "best player available" drafting, but third base is the one position when scarcity might force my hand… at least going forward.
Upside is Key Late, not Known Commodities
I preach this ad nauseam during the Fantasy Football draft season, but taking a mediocre known commodity late is pointless. Point.Less.
Would you ever actually start Matt Cain? Unlikely. But, you're always going to be hesitant to drop a known fringe talent like him because he could do a bit better and someone else might pick him up and benefit. Stop it. Let the other teams deal with that frustration. You need to draft for pure upside. Take youngsters with talent who would have been in the Top 150 if they already had starting gigs. Take upside relievers that are one step away from the closer's role. Take starters with high strikeout potential that are fighting for a rotation spot or just a tweak or two away from improved control and ratios.
Main Image Photo Credit: southpaw captures
Be the first to know
Want FREE Fantasy and Gaming Advice and Savings Delivered to your Inbox? Sign up for our Newsletter.