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As they like to say in high society, let’s dispense with the damn pleasantries. This is Bret Sayre and my second year in LABR mixed, what an honor it is to be invited, this is a tough draft room of experts, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. If you’re reading a fantasy article at Baseball Prospectus you know what LABR is. Let’s dive right in.

Last year, Bret and I finished 14th out of 15 teams. Some of this was due to an unfortunate, never-ending run of pitching injuries and some of this was due to a series of Hail Mary passes we started throwing in June, with the mindset that it is better to shoot for first than hit the ball down the middle of the fairway, play for seventh or eighth, and mix your sports metaphors. These are also excuses, which I hate almost as much as I hate losing.

In our pre-draft strategy sessions this year, Bret and I didn’t come up with a specific plan but we did agree on a few takeaways for what we generally wanted to accomplish.

  • Try to get a younger roster with more upside. Our core was fine in 2014, but we wound up with a few players who were older and had limited ceilings. I love Chase Utley and Jayson Werth, but we wanted to draft more players with a core level of production but also some breakout ability.
  • Don’t reach past our comfort zone on starting pitchers. Jose Fernandez wasn’t a mistake last year, but once he went down our entire team went down with him (and Bret and I still believe that we would have had a chance had he stayed healthy). If an arm fell in at value in the first 3-4 rounds fine, but given how aggressively starting pitchers had been going in mocks, I suspected our first pitcher would come in the eighth or ninth round.
  • Grab two top-10 closers. Last year, we missed out on the big names and took a combination of Jim Henderson (12th round), Nate Jones (15), and Jesse Crain (17). Yuck is an understatement. I wanted to either grab more certain relief commodities or—failing that—speculate much later than rounds 12-17.

We had the 15th-overall pick for Tuesday night’s draft, which meant that we were on the wheel and would get to double dip in every round except the 29th and final round. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The long wait between picks makes it harder to express a preference, but the upside is that you can really dictate the composition of your team with two back-to-back picks.

Below is the round-by-round, blow-by-blow. The full draft results are here to give a composite picture of what we were looking at.

Rounds 1/2

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

1.15

Troy Tulowitzki

SS

12

12

16

Felix Hernandez

2.16

Ian Desmond

SS

15

17

18

Troy Tulowitzki

I decided to share composite rankings so that you could see cases where Bret or I were significantly higher on a player, and ADP so that you could see if we were off base according to the market. “ADP Recommends” shows the highest rated player by ADP at the time of the pick (and as of yesterday’s published NFBC rankings).

After studying the draft board and where players were falling, Bret and I decided to double-dip on shortstops unless one of the top players on the board fell. Jose Bautista was the guy who came close to dropping, but when he was taken at #14, our plan became a no brainer. Our composite ranks had Felix tied with Desmond, but we wanted the offense early. The thinking on two shortstops was that Desmond was a strong hedge for Tulo and we would also jam up some of our competitors who might be looking for a shortstop in the second round. I also liked the idea of not going with an outfielder/not feeling like we would have to be stuck playing the position game early if we took three outfielders in the first four or five rounds.

Rounds 3/4

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

3.45

Justin Upton

OF

29

38

30

Justin Upton

4.46

Albert Pujols

1B

50

32

52

Dee Gordon*

 

*Early ADP had Victor Martinez higher, but I removed him from this discussion.

I don’t love Justin Upton and am probably more concerned about him in Petco than most, but I couldn’t believe he fell to us. Johnny Cueto was taken one pick before Upton by Bobby Colton of Rotowire, which curtailed a discussion Bret and I started having about grabbing a pitcher in the fourth. Pujols is my guy, and despite his advancing age I see another 25-home-run/100-RBI year. Gordon was someone I kept downgrading in my ranks until I knew we wouldn’t get him; Bret was already down on Gordon. The steals should be there, but it could be a pretty empty package surrounding those bags. We felt there were better stolen-base values coming later.

Rounds 5/6

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

5.75

Adam Wainwright

SP

43

66

51

Adam Wainwright

6.76

Charlie Blackmon

OF

70

52

70

Nelson Cruz

Bret is a believer in Wainwright’s health and his ability to return near-elite value. I’m a little wary, but even had I been drafting by myself would have taken him here without hesitation. He’s more likely to put up 140 great innings and get hurt than put up 200 replacement-level ones. Some people don’t like Blackmon—and I get why—but Coors-aided stats are Coors-aided stats. I’ll take the power/speed combo in the sixth round. Cruz would have been another way to go here, but I prefer the all-around, broad base of stats to Cruz’s power, which will be sapped somewhat by Safeco. Blackmon was actually the third highest player by ADP, so he wasn’t a reach here by that standard. Bret lobbied slightly for Joey Votto but since we had Pujols already and only one outfielder, Blackmon made a little more sense.

Rounds 7/8

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

7.105

Gerritt Cole

SP

80

79

85

Josh Harrison

8.106

Jake Arrieta

SP

86

78

105

Gerritt Cole

We did not anticipate double-dipping on pitchers—or using three of our first eight picks on pitchers—but that was exactly how things played out. We both liked Cole and ADP agrees with us heartily. Arrieta was the guy we were both high on and we thought he might wind up as our seventh or eighth round ace. To have him as our no. 3 starter was a boon we were not expecting. If you have to ask why we don’t like Harrison, this means you didn’t read third-base week and/or don’t listen to the podcast, and this makes me sad.

Rounds 9/10

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

9.135

Jacob DeGrom

SP

93

101

111

Mark Trumbo

10.136

Lucas Duda

1B

125

76

131

Kris Bryant

And now four pitchers out of our first nine picks! This wasn’t how we expected the draft to go at all, but at this point we loved our front four and felt this would allow us to commit to a hitting-heavy draft the rest of the way. As you can see, Duda is my guy. I think the power is repeatable and with the downgrade across the board in power I’ll take 25-30 home runs from my second corner infielder all day long. Trumbo is a similar player and I could see the arguments for him, but I’m not a Trumbo believer. I can also see the arguments for Bryant, but in the 10th round, he seems like a stretch.

Rounds 11/12

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

11.165

Denard Span

OF

N/R*

128

176

Javier Baez

12.166

Wil Myers

OF

134

146

156

Fernando Rodney

*Bret only ranked his top 150

For the first time in the draft, we took players who weren’t at the top of our board. I had actually moved Span down at the 11th hour because I felt I was overvaluing speed across the board, so this was a case where I adjusted to the realities of the draft (steal guys were going much higher than we thought they would) and addressing a need. Myers was Bret’s call, but as you can see by my ranking he was definitely a bargain in this slot. At the time, I felt that perhaps we were reaching needlessly for our fourth outfielder, but given how things shook out I’m happier with this pick in retrospect than I was at the time.

Baez really fell. Another LABR expert told me after the draft that he was surprised Bret didn’t push for Baez over Myers, but Bret told me afterwards that he was only “mildly” interested. Baez fell late in the 13th round to Jake Ciely of Roto Experts, which I think is an acceptable risk. For all of my Baez wariness, I would have taken him if he fell back to us at the end of the 13th.

We discussed Rodney for five seconds before collectively groaning. Closers flew off the board far faster than we thought they would and if we didn’t take Rodney it was very likely we were going cheap late. I was fine abandoning my two closer-notion as long as we didn’t commit to repeating last year and taking two crummy closers in the next 3-5 rounds. Similar risks would be there in the 18th round or later.

Rounds 13/14

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

13.195

Chase Headley

3B

N/R

151

218

Michael Pineda

14.196

Brett Lawrie

2B/3B

N/R

152

217

Garrett Richards

Clearly, I’m much higher on Headley and Lawrie than the market is right now, although Bret also endorsed these picks. I have been taking Headley two or three rounds later than this in mocks, but some of the drawback of the wheel is that you have to express your preferences or die. We didn’t want to get caught in the position we were caught in last year when we had to reach for Trevor Plouffe late for our first third baseman. Lawrie is the perfect post-hype candidate in my mind; I love players who were getting drafted in the fifth or sixth round in prior drafts going this late.

ADP liked the double pitcher-dip in this slot. This is where talking four starters earlier meant that we weren’t interested in filling out our arms this quickly. Bret and I discussed some non-Pineda/Richards pitchers in this slot but stuck with our plan of augmenting the rest of our infield.

Rounds 15/16

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

15.225

Derek Norris

C

N/R

258

225

Jhonny Peralta

16.226

Jered Weaver

SP

N/R

163

197

Santiago Casilla

We needed a catcher, and Norris was the last guy with any kind of upside on the board. He was one of my catchers to avoid during catcher week at Baseball Prospectus, but at this slot I think he’s okay. With a different draft, I would have been wary of taking Weaver, but I wanted at least one high ceiling/moderate floor guy before dipping into speculative plays later in the draft.

Peralta was a guy I thought about as early as the 14th round. He was a pretty good value in my mind in the 17th round for Steve Gardner of USA Today, particularly because LABR rules allow you to take guys and stash them on reserve before filling out your roster. Stashing Peralta on reserve would have hurt a competitor on offense and opened up trade possibilities later. Ultimately, I agreed with Bret that catcher was too much of a necessity to pass up with Norris.

We discussed Casilla, but with no closer on our team yet I wanted to stick to our late RP strategy. I figured we would get at least one closer or quasi-closer, and I’m sold on the idea that Casilla and Sergio Romo split the saves in one way, shape, or form.

Rounds 17/18

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

17.255

Curtis Granderson

OF

N/R

203

245

Pedro Alvarez

18.256

Dexter Fowler

OF

N/R

224

271

Francisco Rodriguez

This was another case where I wasn’t particularly excited by these picks at the time but in retrospect they look much better. I had a slight preference for Alvarez over Fowler, but could see why Bret wanted an all-around player in Fowler over a high-end power but low batting average proposition in Alvarez, given our team’s batting average risks Duda and Granderson. We had filled out our offense except for second catcher, and I liked it a lot.

ADP once again spits out another reliever. This time it’s a closer candidate in K-Rod. Imagining our team with Rodney, Casilla, and K-Rod instead of some of the arms we got makes me feel much better about eschewing closers. Maybe we’ll take one or two spec plays later, but I’d rather pack value on the team and play the FAAB wires or trade for someone.

Rounds 19/20

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

19.285

Jenrry Mejia

RP

N/R

322

232

Josh Hamilton

20.286

Aaron Hill

2B

N/R

234

282

Joe Mauer

Here is the point of the draft where rankings went from mattering somewhat to not mattering at all. We wanted a relief flier and Mejia fit the bill. Bobby Parnell should get the job when he is healthy, but that could be in April, in June, or never. I like Mejia’s value here (shut up! I know we have a lot of Mets!). We had talked about Hill as a late round guy to sneak and here he was. He’s a nice additional hedge for Tulo/Lawrie/Headley in terms of injuries/ineffectiveness.

Hamilton ranks higher in ADP because some of his value was pre-injury, but unlike V-Mart I’m comfortable leaving him here. If he has any bounce back in him at all, I could see someone reaching from him in the 19th. Not all upside is tied to youth. Bret mentioned Mauer as a possibility instead of Hill, and I think if we didn’t have our offense filled already I might have been amenable.

Rounds 21/22

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

21.315

Pat Neshek

RP

N/R

N/R

446

Trevor Plouffe

22.316

Jarred Cosart

SP

N/R

225

372

Yusmeiro Petit

Not much to talk about here. Here’s hoping that Cosart can master some semblance of command and take advantage of his great groundball tendencies and his great pitchers’ park. Neshek is a hedge against Luke Gregerson but even if Neshek doesn’t close I dig streaming quality relievers if you want to play matchups with your weaker starters.

This is the part of the draft where people start rolling the dice on rookies and ignore guys like Plouffe. He was a bargain but we didn’t need offense. Petit could be an awesome contributor for San Francisco but at the moment seems to be on the outside of the rotation looking in.

Rounds 23/24

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

23.345

C.J. Wilson

SP

N/R

265

358

Andrelton Simmons

24.346

Jurickson Profar

2B

N/R

N/R

422

Drew Stubbs

I obviously loathe Wilson’s WHIP, but the hope is that there is some potential for bounce back. If not, Wilson is our seventh starting pitcher in a mixed league and will get cut early if he isn’t performing. Profar is Bret’s pick all the way. I am expecting very little from Profar in 2015, but you know what? Sometimes it’s fun to take a guy like this. At this point given what we had done so far, I prefer players like Profar to blah choices like Simmons. If we had gone in a different direction, Stubbs would have been an interesting platoon partner for Blackmon, but I find this type of move far more appealing in daily-lineup leagues.

Rounds 25/26

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

25.375

Andrew Heaney

SP

N/R

293

343

Kurt Suzuki

26.376

Noah Syndergaard

SP

N/R

N/R

328

Noah Syndergaard

We decided to double dip on young pitchers. Bret and I both like Heaney and think he could make an impact this year, even it is “only” as a mid-tier starter. Syndergaard is clearly the higher ceiling guy. Although the Mets rotation is jammed, if Syndergaard gets off to a fast start, he will force the question in Queens.

In the hypothetical “ADP Recommends” column, Suzuki would have been our first catcher and we would have drafted Syndergaard anyway.

Rounds 27/28

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

27.405

Anthony Gose

OF

N/R

285

346

Casey Janssen

28.406

Anthony DeSclafani

SP

N/R

N/R

600

Rafael Soriano

Gose is my guy and DeSclafani is Bret’s. Take your fun upside spec picks here. Life is short. I like Gose’s 40-steal upside. Bret thinks DeSclafani could be a mid-tier guy. Who is to say either one of us is wrong in the grand scheme of things?

ADP recommends more relievers.

Round/Pick

Player

Pos

Bret

Mike

ADP

ADP Recommends

29.435

Welington Castillo

C

N/R

N/R

398

Shane Victorino

I could have taken Francisco Cervelli but figured the upside on Castillo if he is traded is better.

So that was about 2,900 words of a round-by-round breakout. How does the team look?

Pos

Player

C

Derek Norris

C

Welington Castillo

1B

Albert Pujols

2B

Brett Lawrie

SS

Troy Tulowitzki

3B

Chase Headley

CO

Lucas Duda

MI

Ian Desmond

OF

Justin Upton

OF

Charlie Blackmon

OF

Denard Span

OF

Wil Myers

OF

Curtis Granderson

UT

Dexter Fowler

P

Adam Wainwright

P

Gerritt Cole

P

Jake Arrieta

P

Jacob DeGrom

P

Jered Weaver

P

Jarred Cosart

P

C.J. Wilson

P

Jenrry Mejia

P

Pat Neshek

R

Aaron Hill

R

Jurickson Profar

R

Anthony Gose

R

Andrew Heaney

R

Noah Syndergaard

R

Anthony DeSclafani

(Insert the obligatory: “Yay! I like our team! We’re so great!” comment here.)

But, yes, I do like our team. The pitching is solid at the first four spots, which gives us enough flexibility to cycle out everyone from Cosart on down if they fail. The offense looks very solid with the exception of the second catcher, but on the whole there is balance combined with the young upside we were looking for. The only disappointment was the lack of a closer tandem, but given the rest of the roster, we can learn to live with this.

As always, the season has to play out. But I like what we did. Drafting with Bret for the second year in a row helped. We played off of each other’s strengths much better this season than we did during 2014 in our inaugural go round.

Are we going to win? Who the hell knows? LABR is filled top to bottom with legit, first-rate competition. But I like what we did. We’re not finishing 14th again. We’re going to make some noise and let it rip.

Enough of this never ending winter. Let’s get this thing going.