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Rounding Third: RotoWire's NL LABR Team

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He's also in the FSWA Hall of Fame. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

RotoWire's NL LABR Squad

We got together to draft in the 20th annual LABR drafts in Phoenix last weekend; Chris Liss drafted our AL squad, and I drafted the NL squad. You can read Chris's write-up of his team here. This league is a 12-team, NL-only league with a 23-man active roster, and we all had a $260 budget to spend.

One thing that struck me about this draft, compared to the AL draft and compared to many other industry leagues, was the willingness of nearly everyone to spend early and often to build a somewhat top-heavy roster. Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf did their usual thing, but among those that also built their roster in a similar fashion were's Eric Karabell, the Sandlot Shrink's Bob Radomski, the NFBC's Greg Ambrosius, and … me. I've frequently employed a spread-the-risk approach in these leagues in the past, but the last two major expert drafts (AL Tout Wars and this one) have featured me going with more of a top-heavy approach. I still see the expert community undervaluing the top players more often than not, and can't resist the urge to profit from that. So when I found myself with less than $100 of my budget remaining after my first eight players were rostered, I was initially concerned, until I saw multiple teams in the same boat. Instead of being locked out of a lot of mid-tier values, what happened was those that had saved their money found the inventory wanting. The NL has more stars than it did in the past, but it's also a top-heavy circuit.

You can see the overall results here: NL LABR.

Pos Player $ Comment
C Yadier Molina 21 I'm a believer that Molina's breakout at the plate over the last two years is for real. I wanted to get two of the top five catchers, with the thought that there's a severe drop-off after that, pending what you think about Brian McCann this year.
C Wilin Rosario 18 It's possible that Rosario was an overpay, but it's hard to overlook the power. Will having a new manager help his playing time?
1B Freddie Freeman 25 All the good young NL first basemen were priced up - Goldschmidt (27), Craig (26), Ike Davis (25) and Rizzo (23). I wanted one from that group, was ok, not great with the price.
2B Chase Utley 17 This is the healthiest that Utley has been in three years. I'll bet on the skills holding up.
SS Pete Kozma 2 This was an endgame purchase; obviously Rafael Furcal wasn't out for the season yet, though Kozma is hardly a shoo-in for the job.
MI Mark Ellis 5 This was early in the draft - maybe my worst purchase, as there's no profit potential here, just early guaranteed playing time.
3B Pedro Alvarez 15 In contrast, I thought this was a really good buy. Batting average of course is a problem for Alvarez, but I'll take 30 homers for $15, with the potential for more.
CR Daniel Descalso 2 The world needs ditch-diggers too - at least Descalso should get 300+ at-bats before Kolten Wong is ready.
OF Giancarlo Stanton 36 The first player out of the chute. I understand the counting stats argument, but if there's a player in the NL with 50-homer potential, it's Stanton. Went for $39 in CBS's NL-only expert auction earlier in the week.
OF Andrew McCutchen 34 This was a price enforced buy - he was stalling at $33 for Glenn and Rick, and he went for less than Bryce Harper. Don't love the buy, but I'll take it without complaint, too.
OF Gregor Blanco 8 Nate Ravitz cost me two extra bucks with my transparent need to add some late speed.
OF Mike Baxter 2 Once again, in an NL-only league with only a couple of bucks to spend, you'll take playing time in nearly any form.
OF Alex Presley 1 I'm hoping that there's some Last Year's Bum potential with Presley. At least he's at the easiest to replace position.
UT Donovan Solano 3 He won't hit .295 again, but he also should run a little bit more than last year.
P Roy Halladay 20 I liked this a lot better before his fastball was clocked 87-89 mph this week. I'll be watching him closely this spring. That said, in deep leagues like this you need to find a potential avenue for profit somehow - if Halladay hasn't fundamentally changed as a pitcher because of last year's injury, there's still potential for $10 of profit. However, this was my limit - I would not have paid $22.
P Jon Niese 9 With even a little bit of better luck on balls in play and with his strand rate, Niese could be my best buy of the draft. He was the first player we bought after a long tech-related delay (in fact, he was nominated before the delay, and we paused to fix it first). I thought he might go 3-5 units more.
P Hyun-Jin Ryu 5 Overweight Koreans are the new inefficiency.
P Chad Billingsley 2 I'm a little skeptical that Billingsley will make it through the full season healthy, but he doesn't have to do much to earn this price.
P Wily Peralta 2 He was better in the majors than at Nashville, albeit in a short sample. High strikeout, high walk potential.
P Robbie Erlin 1 Erlin is my favorite “wait until July” prospect in the NL. When he came back from an elbow problem late in the year, he was dominant.
P Scott Feldman 1 This drew a collective groan from the rest of the room when I bought him, and not in a good way. But I liked the signing - he's a good candidate for the move-to-the-NL bump.
P J.J. Putz 17 On one hand, he was a $1-2 more expensive than some of his peers, other than Sergio Romo. But on the other, I think he has job security, protected by his contract extension. No, Heath Bell doesn't scare me.
P Brandon League 14 Sure would have been nicer at $12, but the same theory applies - no matter how awful it was for the Dodgers to give him that contract, it gives him a modicum of security absent a complete blow-up.
R Henderson Alvarez Once you hit the reserve rounds, generally you're looking for prospects or starting pitchers, though occasionally you look to find a temporary replacement for an injured or minor league player. I thought Alvarez was one of the better alternatives out there among the remaining starters.
R Eric Stults Stults has a good shot of beginning the season in the Padres' rotation. He and Erlin actually could be swapped for each other later in the year.
R Greg Dobbs Insurance in case Kozma gets sent down (in which case I could move Descalso over to shortstop).
R Gorkys Hernandez Played well in the Venezuealan Winter League - it wouldn't be a stretch for him to find playing time in left or center field.
R Bryan Morris Our Pirates beat writer John Toperzer predicted on-air a couple of weeks ago that Morris would lead the Pirates in saves by the end of the season - good enough for me to throw a next-to-last reserve pick on.
R Yasiel Puig Puig has a high ceiling and a potential path to playing time in left field with Carl Crawford unlikely to be ready for the start of the season. If he holds his own then, maybe he could force his way into a platoon with Ethier in right field after Crawford returns. Or he could stay in Double-A all season long.

Overall, I should do well in the hitting categories, especially in terms of power. My batting average and stolen bases are the shakiest of the five offensive categories. There's a lot of volatility in my starting pitching - but then again, that's the nature of that particular beast.