My eleventh chance to compete in the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) was an online experience. The software experience worked well, except for us continuing to force players into other positions with only a DH qualification. It’s time to reflect over the American League roster and give some insight on my decisions within the auction and the pre-game prep work.
Foundation Game Plan
Heading into this year’s LABR auction, the plan was to buy one ace plus target SS Bo Bichette and DH Yordan Alvarez.
We had a similar strategy in 2020, which ended in a disaster due to losing $85 of players via injuries or issues tied to Covid and the shortened season.
Ideally, we wanted to land an edge player with speed. Our first choice was OF Kyle Tucker ($29). He looked to be a half-season ahead of OF Luis Roberts ($32) while knowing Robert’s salary would also be top-shelf. I was even tempted to make a run at SS Adalberto Mondesi ($34) to set the foundation in speed.
On the pitching side, a second-tier starting pitcher was in the plan while keeping an open mind on saves depending on our spending.
The first six players called out almost hit our projected values on the number. Mike Trout ($41) and Gerrit Cole ($40) went for full value while falling short of their 2020 values (Trout – $43 and Cole – $43).
The spending held form with our prices for most of the auction. Even with a couple of owners holding back their spending to find bargains, there was always a fight for second-tier talent with minimal players slipping through the cracks.
Our first buy was SP Shane Bieber ($41). His price was a dollar more than Cole, which was only due to when he was called out. By rostering Bieber, the goal is to control ERA and WHIP while expecting to get out of the box with plenty of strikeouts.
I wanted to get DH Yordan Alvarez on the bidding table early to see the level of interest, plus allow us time to shift gears to another player if needed. We picked Alvarez up for $24, which was $5 cheaper than 2020 and $1 over our listed value.
Our next huddle was securing SS Bo Bichette. Bidding was active, but we able to add him for the mere investment of $35.
After adding RP Nick Anderson ($13) and 3B Yoan Moncada ($26), we sat tight looking for some speed or a discounted player.
OF Andrew Benintendi ($18) went for a premium ($4 over our price). We decided to focus on OF Ramon Laureano ($23) as our top outfield hitter while hoping to secure some steals.
Surprisingly, SS Carlos Correa fell to us for $20. SS Marcus Semien ($25) was the next player above him in the bidding at his position, and SS Jorge Polanco went for $17.
From that point in the action, we had $74 to buy 16 players.
The end game of this auction was the most difficult to execute in my time playing in LABR. There were pockets of buying power that was quickly given away when adding a player or two for short money over the expected price point.
In the end, we bought our two targeted catchers (Francisco Mejia – $7 and Chance Sisco – $3). Both players offer upside, but Mejia probably went over our budget at that time of the auction.
I had no problem rostering 2B Rougned Odor for $4. He has plenty of batting average risk, but Odor will help in runs, home runs, and RBI while also chipping in for a few stolen bases.
1B Nate Lowe ($7), OF Josh Naylor ($2), and OF Yoshi Tsutsugo ($2) were players in our game plan. We were lucky to have the overbids on Naylor and Tsutsugo late in the auction.
The offense has upside while having questions with multiple players in batting average. The backend of the roster lacks the speed upside needed to compete. 2B Tony Kemp may help in this area off the bench, but a trade is most likely needed to address stolen bases at some point in the year.
RP Joe Jimenez ($1) wasn’t an ideal shot at a second closer. I called him out in a round when I needed to buy time and take a shot on a player I was willing to roster. The Detroit bullpen is a mess, and Jimenez has done nothing to warrant another chance. At the same time, he is disposable if he struggles. RP Codi Heuer (R) will be his first cover if we need to drop Jimenez.
We had a range of five to six starters for a second starter that fit our spending budget. When SP Eduardo Rodriguez ($12) was called out, the dropoff looked pretty severe.
The combination of SP Triston McKenzie ($8), Casey Mize ($4), and Michael Kopech ($2) all offer a high ceiling, but innings could be an issue in 2021.
SP Reynaldo Lopez (R) will cover Kopech if he doesn’t land a starting job. SP Mike Foltynewicz ($2) made sense as one of the last starters bought in the auction.
I expect SP Matt Manning ($1) to be in the majors by June. SP Chris Flexen will be his cover early in the year. The deep flier came on SP Grayson Rodriguez (R).
Saves could be an issue if RP Nick Anderson ($13) can only secure a split role in the ninth inning. At the very least, he will help our ratios while adding value in strikeouts.
The pitching staff has enough pieces to be competitive if multiple young players live up to expectations.