2020 Fantasy Baseball: NL-Only LABR Auction Recap

Our very own Shawn Childs participated in the LABR for the tenth straight fantasy baseball season and here he shares his thoughts on the results of the NL-Only auction.
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After spending four days in Florida to compete in the League of Alternative Baseball Reality for the tenth straight season, 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.

The “fun” side of the 2020 auction season comes from the National League player pool. The top end of the inventory for hitters and pitchers is loaded with elite options. Four outfielders went for over $35 – Ronald Acuna ($42), Christian Yelich ($41), Mookie Betts ($39), and Juan Soto ($37) while the fight was less than expected for the best starting pitchers (Jacob deGrom – $38, Max Scherzer – $34, and Walker Buehler – $34).

I was surprised 1B Pete Alonso ($28) didn’t draw more interest. 1B Cody Bellinger ($41), 3B Nolan Arenado ($39), and SS Trea Turner ($40) drew plenty of attention. RP Josh Hader ($21) finished as the top closer off the board, but the bidding failed to reach my projected value ($25).

During the auction, the bidding ran deep at the top end of both middle infield positions.

The initial plan for the National League involved one elite base stealer – Trea Turner or Victor Robles. The timing of each player would be critical to this decision. I set a target on Rhys Hopkins at first base for $26. The goal was to roster either OF Juan Soto or 3B Nolan Arenado as a high average bat with power while keeping an open mind about OF Mookie Betts.

The rest of the offense had a wider path, depending on how the foundation of hitters came out.

On the pitching side, saves were a secondary consideration with RP Kevin Ginkel and RP Ryan Helsley being the top closer in waiting options for our plan. I wanted to roster as many Dodgers starters as possible, but I didn’t want to fight for SP Julio Urias due to his lower ceiling in innings pitched.

Live Action

Four of the first five calls came from the top of the outfield and starting pitching pool. Derek Van Riper snatched up the first two players called out – Ronald Acuna $42 and Max Scherzer – $34. Then Jacob deGrom ($38) and Cody Bellinger ($41) were auctioned.

I secured SS Trea Turner for $40 as the ninth player called out and Walker Buehler ($34) three players later. I missed on OF Mookie Betts ($39) and OF Juan Soto ($37) went higher than I planned to spend. After a push to $38 on 3B Nolan Arenado, Derek Carty pushed him to $39 reluctantly.

The dropdown in elite bat led me to OF Bryce Harper ($33). I planned to sit back, and wait for values and make a push for Hoskins. My co-manager Greg Ambrosius' knee knocked me into acquiring 3B Kris Bryant for $26, which was a fair price.

The thought of Clayton Kershaw as a number two starter was quickly dashed after he was called up for $20. I had both David Price ($18) and Julio Urias ($15) as possible options. When Madison Bumgarner was up for auction, I asked Greg if he trusted him to stay healthy over Price. We decided to take the chance at 200 innings for $13. Price ended up going for $15 and Urias went for $14.

Two calls later, I had to overpay for Hoskins ($28). Looking back, it would have made more sense to take a shot on Alonso for $29 (one dollar over his winning bid).

After not bidding for a couple of rounds, 2B Gavin Lux ($16) and C Francisco Mejia ($7) made their way onto our roster.

Gaining an edge at the second half of the player pool led to no players added for five rounds. At 12.6, someone called out Dustin May. I thought we stole him for $4 while overpaying for SP Alex Wood ($6) later in the auction. I made sure to add SP Tony Gonsolin ($2) as well later in the auction.

Here’s the full roster:

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My Hitters

Based on the early start on offense, I’m excited about the two choices at the catcher position. I wanted 3B Jake Lamb as my corner infield option or at DH, but I called him out one round too early for $1. Colton and Wolf quickly picked him up for $2. Lamb has 25/75 upside with some batting average if he returns to his pre-injury form. I expect him to out-duel 1B Christian Walker for at-bats at first base for the Diamondbacks.

2B Mauricio Dubon was a target at middle infield with the idea of getting an undervalued five-category player. He has three seasons on his minor league resume with 30 or more steals, plus a jump in power in 2019. The Giants starting lineup is full of weak options giving Dubon a chance to hit first or second in the batting order all year.

The outfield looks messy while also having sneaky upside. Ian Desmond still makes a ton of money, and he’ll have a window to prove his worth in 2020. If he regains some of his speed while receiving 450-plus at-bats, Desmond will be well worth his price point ($5).

Austin Riley ($5) will move to corner infield once he plays five games at third. I viewed him as the last upside bat at the backend of the outfield pool, and I would have pushed all in if I had to late in the auction. Riley has plus power while needing to do a much better job making contact with the Braves.

Yoenis Cespedes ($5) has a professional bat that belongs in the Mets starting lineup if healthy. He looks motivated to get paid, which makes him the right kind of gamble to fill one of the backend outfield spots.

I added Harold Ramirez ($1) late in the auction with the idea of pairing him with Matt Kemp in the reserve rounds. Hopefully, they add up to 450 at-bats with 15-plus home runs.

The auction flow allowed us to have enough money left to buy Yasiel Puig for $7. We also invested in him in the American League for $6. The NL team needs him more.

Josh Naylor has the bat to develop into an everyday player at 1B or OF. His swing points to a great foundation in batting average with the skill set to add more quickly to his game. If Will Myers is shipped to another team, Naylor should be the player most rewarded.

Overall, the infield is competitive with one stud in the outfield. Stolen bases could be at more risk than power.

My Pitching

I’m hoping I locked up a minimum of two starting pitching spots for the Dodgers between Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Alex Wood, and Tony Gonsolin. If all arms make the major league roster out of Spring Training, I could also pick up some vulture wins and productive innings out of the bullpen. If Wood pitches well and May works his way into the starting rotation as well, wins, ERA, WHIP, and Ks will be in good shape at the top end.

Mitch Keller ($7) has explosive upside if he can throw more strikes. I expect WHIP risk this year, and wins could be tough to come by in Pittsburgh.

Between Madison Bumgarner ($13) and Joey Lucchesi ($6), I should have 375 serviceable innings with help in strikeouts and WHIP.

Kevin Ginkel ($2) was our flier at some saves. I made a mistake crossing off RP Ryan Helsley in the auction rounds. I thought he went for $3 to Brian Walton, who covers the Cardinals. The player made sense for him, and I had him penciled in on that team before the auction started. The player that was called out was OF Adam Haseley. Let’s just say I was sleeping at the wheel, and Helsley went early in the reserve round.

With my last $1 for a pitcher, I went for SP Eric Lauer while knowing I’d rather take a flier on SP Bryse Wilson. I gambled that Wilson would be an option in the reserve rounds. Eric Karabell swooped in a few picks later to buy Wilson for $2.

I focused on the Braves’ starting rotation with the first two picks in the reserve rounds – SP Sean Newcomb and SP Kyle Wright. SP Luis Patino and RP Seranthony Dominguez were my other two choices for my bench at pitcher.

I expect to be competitive in four pitching categories while having enough assets to trade for a closer early in the year. Ideally, Newcomb lands a starting job and pitchers well, which should create some trade value.

Auction Highlights

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For more game-breaking advice from Shawn Childs, a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ, subscribe to FullTime Fantasy. Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription & gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

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