LABR Mixed League Preview

Just call us the Tampa Bay Rays, Arizona Diamondbacks, Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies.  The fantasy experts league LABR (hosted by USA Today) is expanding in ’12 to add a Mixed League and I’m one of the lucky 15 owners who have been chosen to take spot in the new group.  While the competition’s main leagues will continue to be the AL and NL-only formats that complete their auctions in early March way out in Arizona, the Mixed League will kick off this year’s festivities with an online draft on Saturday, February 25that 7pm EST. The draft can be followed live at mockdraftcentral.com Fantasy owners with some time on Saturday night should check out this draft, since expert leagues are a great way to assess player values and draft strategies each season. As with any experts league, the competition from this group should be fierce.  Just take a look at the competitors and the websites they represent and you’ll see that the depth of baseball knowledge will be second to none (owners are listed according to the draft order that will be used in the 25th).

  1. Mike Podhorzer – FanGraphs.com
  2. Tom Trudeau – Bloomberg Sports
  3. Fred Zinkie – MLB.com
  4. Drew Silva – Rotoworld.com
  5. Tim Heaney – KFFL.com
  6. Bobby Colton – SportsGrumblings.com
  7. Todd Zola – Mastersball.com
  8. Steve Gardner – USA TODAY
  9. Derek Van Riper – Rotowire.com
  10. Doug Anderson – RotoExperts.com
  11. Rudy Gamble/Grey Albright – Razzball.com
  12. Ray Murphy – BaseballHQ.com
  13. James Quintong – ESPN.com
  14. Clay Davenport – ClayDavenport.com
  15. Jonah Keri – Grantland.com

My name popped out of the hopper third, which is a pretty good spot in this season’s pecking order if you ask me.  Without divulging too much about my plans, here’s my guess on how the first round shakes out in most ’12 leagues:

Picks 1-4: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp, Troy Tulowitzki

There’s no consensus number one pick this year.  Those who crave 40-40 potential will roster Kemp, while owners who value consistency should snag Pujols.  Cabrera’s new third base eligibility has made him an intriguing option to be taken number one. Tulowitzki will rarely go first overall, but his dominance at the shortstop position means that some owners will take him with the second or third pick. This is why I’m happy with pick three, as two of these studs will automatically fall in my lap.

Picks 5-9: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Robinson Cano

Any one of these names could creep into the fourth spot, likely ahead of Tulowtizki, but it’s more likely that they will populate the middle of the first round.  Bautista’s insane power and multi-position eligibility makes him a great choice, while Ellsbury could be this year’s top overall player if he can repeat his ’11 numbers.  The consistent excellence of Gonzalez, Votto and Cano make all three a great way to start off a roster.  The old expression, “you can’t win your league in the first round, but you sure can lose it”, applies here.  It’s hard to imagine Cano or the pair of first basemen letting fantasy owners down.

Picks 10-15: Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez, Evan Longoria, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Prince Fielder, Curtis Granderson, Hanley Ramirez

As we head deeper into the opening round, it becomes harder to project each specific selection.  However, this group of eight names should cover the options for the final six spots.  Ramirez is the biggest wildcard.  After establishing himself as a top-five pick early on in his career, his sloppy ’11 performance and widely reported bad attitude will force fantasy owners to hesitate before shouting his name this time around.  Owners chasing upside will look no further than Upton. In recent seasons Longoria, Pedroia, Kinsler and Fielder always pop up somewhere in the first 20-25 picks and that type of consistency is valuable.  Similar to Ellsbury, Granderson would be a valuable pick at his current ADP if he can come close to matching his ’11 numbers. Picking on the end wheel isn’t a bad spot this year, as an owner can start things off with two quality bats from this group.

I used the NFBC average draft picks to map out the first round.  The LABR will use rules that mirror the NFBC events (which are great contests for those of you who are ready to join ultra-competitive leagues).  This one major difference in LABR is that trading will be allowed.  The presence of trading will allow these creative competitors the luxury of building an imbalanced roster if they so choose, knowing that they can make deals to shore up weaknesses later on.

It should be a fun ride and it all starts Saturday night!

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