Collette Calls: My 2022 AL LABR Team

Collette Calls: My 2022 AL LABR Team

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

The notes tell me this was my 11th year participating in a LABR league, most of which were in the mixed league format when Paul Sporer and I tag-teamed as owners while doing long-form podcasts for The Sleeper and The Bust Podcast. This most recent one felt like 11 years all wrapped up in one as it felt like the toughest room in the 11 years. Maybe it was the fact the draft took six hours due to a couple of process and technical glitches or that I was leaning on a heating pad and anti-inflammatories to deal with back spasms that are not going away this weekend. I walked in with a plan, but things quickly changed, and while I feel better about this team than last year's squad, I do recognize it needs some work on the pitching side of the ledger. This review will be both of my own team and process as well as some insights and thoughts on the salary cap draft as a whole. First, my team as I stepped away from the computer after six hours of drafting Friday night:

Nomination Order

PLAYER

MLB

POS

PRICE

4

Rafael Devers

BOS

3B

34

10

Vladimir Guerrero

TOR

1B

40

33

Adalberto Mondesi

KC

CI

25

65

Logan Gilbert

SEA

SP

14

77

Willie Calhoun

TEX

OF

7

78

Nathan Eovaldi

BOS

SP

14

79

Tarik Skubal

DET

SP

11

101

Yandy Diaz

TB

UT

11

113

Jordan Montgomery

NYY

SP

12

120

Paul Sewald

SEA

RP

9

125

Andrew Benintendi

KC

OF

21

137

J.P. Crawford

SEA

SS

13

149

Anthony Santander

BAL

OF

11

150

Eric Haase

DET

C

6

151

Jo Adell

LAA

OF

13

166

Tommy Pham

---

OF

5

191

Rougned Odor

BAL

2B

6

233

Zack Collins

CWS

C

1

245

Demarcus Evans

TEX

RP

1

248

Taylor Walls

TB

MI

2

256

Matt Brash

SEA

RP

2

272

Michael Lorenzen

LAA

SP

1

274

Josh Staumont

KC

RP

1

RS1

Matt Thaiss

LAA

1B

0

RS2

Tim Mayza

TOR

RP

0

RS3

Brent Honeywell

OAK

SP

0

RS4

Phil Maton

HOU

RP

0

RS5

Brett Phillips

TB

OF

0

RS6

Cody Thomas

OAK

OF

0

I had intentions of being a factor early in the draft because simply put, there are little to no values in this room. Each owner knows every player in the player pool, and since nearly every participant writes or discusses their strategies, likes and dislikes on a weekly basis, there are also no secrets in the room. I do not come into the room with specific player names to target and instead prefer to bucket players into groups, so I am targeting a profile. I enjoy participating in all player bids and pushing things up to a point where I am comfortable with the final price should I get stuck with the player early in the draft, which is what I did to get Devers as the fourth player nominated. The strategy worked just fine until I ended up with the second player in the same bucket because I misread the situation with Guerrero. To that point, every player had gone above my projected values based on how I set my strategy in the software:

PLAYER

BID

My Value

Jose Ramirez

42

38

Liam Hendriks

26

20

Bo Bichette

37

31

Rafael Devers

34

33

Randy Arozarena

27

24

Gerrit Cole

37

32

Marcus Semien

26

25

Raisel Iglesias

23

17

Cedric Mullins

29

26

Clay Link is normally in this league, and he loves Vlad like a son, and typically rosters him every year. James Anderson is in the league this year for the RotoWire team, but I did not factor him into the decision to put the $40 bid on Vlad, which was my specific value for him. I expected the historically aggressive Shawn Childs and Greg Ambrosius to go the extra dollar or even Glenn Colton or Rick Wolf to go the extra dollar. The latter had already purchased Bo Bichette while the former team had yet to make a player purchase. Silly me to not yet know the NFBC team was planning on cornering the market on every 0-2 year player in the draft and the bidding stopped after I manually input my $40 bid, jumping up the previous bid of $32. Ten players in, and I was already forced to change my plans because I had purchased two players from the same bucket by jumping to the wrong square on the Jump to Conclusions mat:

At this point, I had a decision to make: essentially punt any chance of finishing in the top half of steals and build what I could around that power base, or lean into the spending and see what Mondesi would cost me. Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN pushed me to my limit with Mondesi as I had decided $25 was going to be my final price in determining how the rest of the plan would play out.

The next phase was to address the pitching, and that did not get off the best start either. I tossed out Triston McKenzie as the 53rd nomination, and the bidding quickly narrowed down to the NFBC team and myself, but I dropped out at $10 and quickly regretted that once I then spent $14 to acquire Logan Gilbert the next time around the room. These pitchers were my other bucket of wanting one of the two similar skills and upside; I would have happily taken both, but diving out too quickly on the former cost me to spend $2 on the latter. I value Gilbert more than McKenzie, but not $4 more. I took a break from pitching to sneak in a value grab in Willie Calhoun at $7, which was $3 below my value for him. Calhoun is someone I have high hopes for this year should he remain the projected leadoff hitter against righties this season.

I got back into the pitching with back-to-back wins of Nathan Eovaldi and Tarik Skubal to build a foundation in strikeouts with Skubal coming in right at my price while I had a slight discount on the final Eovaldi price. At this point, I made the decision to fill my utility spot by acquiring Yandy Diaz since 1B/3B/CI was occupied with my first three purchases. Diaz gives me the dual eligibility at the corner and an immediate replacement for the pending Mondesi injury (we all know it is coming), so I can then move any hitter into the UT spot. I came back to pitching once again get Jordan Montgomery, who I refuse to believe will have 17 no-decisions again this season and pitched better than his 6-7 record indicates. I made my first reliever purchase with Paul Sewald as I could no longer avoid shunning the bullpen and went $3 over my value for him because of the delay. The overall relief prices were higher than normal for this league, which also pushed up some of the other speculative prices on unsettled bullpen situations as well. 

125 nominations into the auction and the dropoff of the outfield pool in the AL became noticeable. I then decided to get aggressive in grabbing what was left and acquired Andrew Benintendi, Anthony Santander, Jo Adell and Tommy Pham. Benintendi was someone a few folks in the room were targeting and I ended up going $2 over my value for him, but was happy to get the rest under my prices, especially Pham should he sign with an AL team. I worked in Crawford and Haase in this stretch, but neither came at any discount. The endgame saw me needing two middle infielders, a second catcher and to fill four spots of my pitching staff. I grabbed Odor for previously stated reasons and I am positive nobody else in the room really wanted him for more than $2, but it was clear I did. After losing out on several attempts at a second catcher that exceeded my $3 max bid, I settled on Collins but was happy to get Walls to fill the middle infield spot as he should gain in-season flexibility and his elite defense and switch-hitting abilities should keep him on the major-league roster.

The bullpen was slim pickings toward the ends. Demarcus Evans was someone in my queue for the reserves, but the clock was sped up toward the end and I didn't get to the nomination quickly enough which then put him in play for me. I like the pitcher, but he was not someone I intended to spend budget on. It worked out in the end as I was able to get the pitcher I wanted in the reserves for the spot anyhow. I bid $2 on Brash thinking the NFBC team would top it as they had done with just about every other 0-2 year player, but they passed. Brash has quite a bit of upside, but I doubt he opens the year with the club. I was happy to get Staumont for $1 late in the game as he should be in the mix for saves in Kansas City while Lorenzen is someone who could have any role on the Angels staff with his stuff and abilities should they once again come together at the same time. 

The reserves are an important part of single-league LABR leagues because these are the only players who can be freely moved into the active roster and once again reserved should you need a roster spot. Some teams use all spots for pitchers whereas I went in with two specific targets in mind. I wanted Brett Phillips for his speed and as a Pham insurance policy should the latter not sign with an AL team, giving me something to put in that roster spot. I wanted Thaiss as my eventual extra catcher once he gains in-season eligibility at the position while giving me someone I could also use at CI or 1B in a pinch because in-season FAAB for position players mostly comes down to any player with a pulse. Cody Thomas is a purely speculative play assuming Oakland starts divesting itself of its pending expensive assets and gives the older prospect a chance much like the Cubs did with Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom last year. The pitching side of the reserves went to more reliever speculations in Mayza, Maton and Honeywell. Each of them was covered in my Bold Predictions series for why I like them.

It is rare that someone comes out of an auction with the perfect team and has no qualms about what they did despite whatever that person says to others after. I certainly had an imbalance on this team with $195 spent on offense and 47 of my projected 66 points on that side of the ledger. The projected standings had me top four in everything but average on offense while bottom five in every pitching category. When one team is that unbalanced, there is usually another in the same position the other direction and that was the case with defending champion and my good friend Ian Kahn. Kahn had a dominant pitching staff with an early purchase of Gerrit Cole, but then found himself rostering Robbie Ray at $21, who he valued higher and was not comfortable letting go at such a value to another team. He then sat back and strategized to adjust his spending to get whatever power he could find with a reduced offensive budget, and after grabbing Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Josh Donaldson and Luke Voit, he spent the rest of the auction grabbing most of the speed buys. His final ledger showed him in the top two of every pitching category except wins while his offense was bottom four in every category except steals. His final split in the projected standings was 25.0/53.5.

We were both part of a LABR panel in the BaseballHQ First Pitch Virtual Forum on Saturday and both owned up to being unhappy with the imbalance of our team due to unplanned moves early in the auction and jokingly suggested we should get together soon and work out a trade. The joke became reality soon thereafter when Ian called me on the phone to get talks moving. One of the things I love about Ian is that he is old school and discusses trades over the phone. Remember those days? He does not mess around with random trade offers out of the blue via the league website; he texts you asking if you're free to talk and then you talk on the phone. He is also an incredibly fair trader and is looking to help his team as well as the other party's and is not trying to squeeze out a one-sided win in everything he does. After all, he is The General, and he opened with a solid offer on paper: Gerrit Cole for Vladimir Guerrero.

The offer passed the sniff test for me, but I had reservations because I felt like it put my team back into the same position as last year's draft where I did not have enough offense. Ian left a voicemail late Saturday amending the offer to Cole and Luke Voit for Vlad and Jordan Montgomery, which I found Sunday morning while drinking my final decaf coffee of the week. When I heard his message, I had one reaction:

I don't have a particular affinity for either player, but adding a bat to the equation led me to dive more into the numbers to see if the offer would bring the balance to both teams. Thankfully, RTSports leagues integrate with our MyLeague toolset, which allowed me to input the deal against the RotoWire projections to see what the tool thought of the deal and use it as one of the inputs in my decision whether to accept the offer. On a personal note, kudos to the team for incorporating these tools into the site for subscribers. This was the first time I had ever used the trade analyzer and I was very impressed with how great it functions. The tool spit out the following impact on league categories:

STAT

IMPACT

Runs

32 runs to Ian

RBI

22 RBIs to Ian

Homers

11 homers to Ian

Steals

3 steals to me

Strikeouts

104 strikeouts to me

Wins

5 wins to me

ERA

1.05 runs to me

WHIP

0.26 WHIP to me

The projected splits for each of our teams came more in line with how we would have preferred to leave the draft with my team at a 38.0/39.5 split and Ian's with a 36.5/41.0 split. Both the inputs from the trade analyzer as well as making the changes in the draft software validated my initial thought: I need to make this deal. The other factor in play is the pending FAABapalooza we will have in LABR once the lockout ends and players quickly sign with teams. We will have a free agent run before the season for the following 12 players should any of them sign with an American League club:

Note that nine of the 12 players are hitters, and both of the starting pitcher options have orange to red flags on their 2022 health. Ian could have chosen to sit idle and wait for that FAAB period and look to make the move on one or more of the bats while bidding on the players in an auction format from our $100 FAAB budget for the season. I could have taken the chance on one of the starters or signed a bat to flip for a pitcher myself before the season because there are a few teams short on offense in the projected standings. Ian's final action in the negotiations was a smart one: asking the other party to send the offer over through the site. This put the next step on me to actually send the offer and allow him another chance to think it over before making a decision.

I know from a conversation after the deal was completed he has some trader's remorse because it brought my team up in the projected standings more than it improved his team in the standings. At the end of the day, both of our teams are more balanced and we both feel better about the final results of our draft. I am not familiar with the entire history of LABR, but I doubt a deal has ever been pulled off within 36 hours of the draft and I'm confident there has never been one of this magnitude. 

Best of luck to my friend as he looks to repeat as league champ while I once again search for that elusive LABR title.

LABR By The Numbers

I pulled down the nomination order from the auction over the weekend and put it into a shared doc should you be interested in reviewing the results in that fashion. While playing with the data, I found some particular matters I found interesting and wanted to share them here with you.

My values vs the final price:

Teams With the Highest Total of Rostered Players Which They Nominated:

Team

Nominated & Purchased

Eno Sarris

10

Me

9

Larry Schechter

9

Dave Adler

9

James Anderson

7

Greg Ambrosius/Shawn Childs

7

Teams With the Most $1 Players:

Team

$1 Players

Me

4

Eno Sarris

4

Todd Zola

4

Greg Ambrosius/Shawn Childs

3

James Anderson

3

Teams With the Most $2 Players (topping $1 buys or nominating $2 players to eliminate max bidders):

Team

$1 Players

Rick Wolf/Glenn Colton

10

Tristan Cockcroft

8

Todd Zola

6

Steve Gardner

6

Bret Sayre

4

Me

4

Average Salary By Position (does not factor in players at multiple positions)

POSITION

AVERAGE SALARY

Catcher

$6.46

First Base

$14.52

Seccond Base

$11.24

Shortstop

$16.04

Third Base

$12.00

Outfield

$13.55

DH (Reyes & Sheets)

$12.50

Starting Pitching

$10.16

Relief Pitching

$7.63

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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