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Collette Calls: AL LABR Review

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at theprocessreport.net. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.

This week's column is more of a potpourri of sorts rather than focusing on a particular player. The recipe of this mix will be reactions to the AL LABR auction Sunday in Phoenix and looking at a few aspects of the auction. If you would like to view the overall results before reading, you can do that here. If you would like to see the sequential order of the bids that can help explain some of the pricing, go here.

In order to best understand the pricing from the auction, it is helpful to understand the dynamics of the room. Defending champ Larry Schechter, who won the league on the final day when Jefry Marte hit a home run, runs his valuations out to the cent, has published a book on his methods and has a resume littered with expert league titles. Shawn Childs of NFBC fame and Greg Ambrosius always have a base of seven players they want to build around, and they will spend to get those players. Our own Clay Link was in the league for the first time, and I speak from experience when I say the new guy in the league always spends aggressively early, and Clay was no exception. The Colton and Wolf team has its Rules of Engagement and SMART system that it mostly followed to a T, but when it did not win the bid on Robinson Cano and won the bid on Kendrys Morales, my mind was blown.

I was not able to hang around for the entire auction, so my thoughts on the prices are based on what I saw online as I followed the draft and listened to SiriusXM, but I did bow out before any of the experts had a chance to get on the air to explain what they were doing.

The Speedsters

Jose Altuve ($45), Mike Trout ($42), Jean Segura ($26), Elvis Andrus ($23), Lorenzo Cain ($21), Kevin Kiermaier ($20), Tim Anderson ($20), Jose Ramirez ($20), Byron Buxton ($19), Carlos Gomez ($18), Rajai Davis ($17), Jarrod Dyson ($16), Jacoby Ellsbury ($15), Brett Gardner ($14), Leonys Martin ($14), Yoan Moncada ($14), Kevin Pillar ($11), Cameron Maybin ($9), Ben Revere ($9), Mallex Smith ($8), Melvin Upton Jr. ($7), Delino DeShields Jr. ($3)

There was a point in the auction were several teams were bereft of speed, which led to this tweet from me:


I do not think anyone particularly overpaid to acquire the speed that was left at that point in the auction, but what does stand out is that there is really no "cheap" speed in the American League. Just four players with the potential for 15-plus steals went for less than $10 and each has a lot of question marks. Remember, speed is more scarce in the AL than it is in the NL this year, but from the looks of it, only Tristan Cockcroft and Steve Gardner could be classified as "punting" steals. We now have two sets of data from expert reset auctions for AL-Only players LABR and the AL-Only Auction that CBS sponsors. Here is how the prices for the players mentioned above compare in each league:

PLAYERLABRCBS
Jose Altuve4546
Mike Trout4246
Jean Segura2625
Elvis Andrus2320
Lorenzo Cain2125
Kevin Kiermaier2022
Tim Anderson2023
Jose Ramirez2025
Byron Buxton1915
Carlos Gomez1821
Rajai Davis1718
Jarrod Dyson1616
Jacoby Ellsbury1518
Brett Gardner1412
Leonys Martin1415
Yoan Moncada1411
Kevin Pillar118
Cameron Maybin914
Ben Revere98
Mallex Smith81
Melvin Upton Jr.71
Delino DeShields Jr.32

The market thus far has put steals into a few tiers:

Tier 1: Altuve, Trout
Tier 2: Segura, Andrus, Cain, Kiermaier, Anderson, Ramirez
Tier 3: Buxton, Gomez, Davis, Dyson, Ellsbury
Tier 4: Gardner, Martin, Moncada, Pillar, Maybin
Tier 5: Revere, Smith, Upton, DeShields

The Closers

Aroldis Chapman ($23), Zach Britton ($21), Edwin Diaz ($19), Ken Giles ($18), Roberto Osuna ($17), Craig Kimbrel ($17), Kelvin Herrera ($17), Cody Allen ($15), Alex Colome ($14), Andrew Miller ($14), David Robertson ($14), Francisco Rodriguez ($13), Sam Dyson ($12)

My initial reaction was I was not surprised there were two >$20 closers, but that one of them was Britton. He is coming off one of those historically awesome seasons, so some regression has to be expected, and I thought Diaz or even Giles would be that other $20 guy. The closers are tiering out as expected, but I think it is useful to see how much the closers and their setup guys are going for:

TEAMCLOSERPRICESETUPPRICE
BAL Britton 21 Brach 2
BOS Kimbrel 17 Thornburg 1
CWS Robertson 14 Jones 8
CLE Allen 15 Miller 14
DET Rodriguez 13 Rondon 2
HOU Giles 18 Gregerson 4
KC Herrera 17 Soria 0
LAA Street 1 Bedrosian 8
MIN Kintzler 4 Perkins 2
NYY Chapman 23 Betances 9
OAK Madson 5 Casilla 3
SEA Diaz 19 Vincent 0
TB Colome 14 Boxberger 0
TEX Dyson 12 Bush 5
TOR Osuna 17 Grilli 0

That chart comes with a few caveats. Miller and Dellin Betances have more value than a lot of starters with their dominating ratios and strikeout totals, so even if they do not close, they are worth paying a little more for. In Miller's case, if he does get the primary closer role, he could be the most valuable reliever in the game and a top-10 AL pitcher if he gets the saves totals to go along with everything else. The group did not even bother speculating in the auction (have not yet seen the reserve picks) on the situations in Kansas City, Tampa Bay, nor Toronto while spending a buck on Jonathan Papelbon, who is not even in a camp at this time.

Tier 1: Chapman, Britton
Tier 2: Diaz, Giles, Osuna, Kimbrel, Herrera, Allen
Tier 3: Colome, Robertson, Rodriguez, Dyson
Tier 4: Madson
Tier 5: Kintzler, Street

The premium really is not there on the closers, but the discounts are not really there, either. If Madson or Kintzler can hold the job all season and compile some saves, they will have some nice profit potential, but when setup guys such as Cam Bedrosian, Nate Jones and Matt Bush are going for more than closers who have the job, it shows you where the experts are on those pitchers. If you are the type who likes to let others pay for saves, those are your two targets. You could get 50 saves with them and one of the setup men and pay the same price, or less, than someone did for just one reliever.

Shiny New Toys

Tim Anderson ($20), Andrew Benintendi ($20), Yulieski Gurriel ($16), Yoan Moncada ($14), Mitch Haniger ($9), Mallex Smith ($8), Dan Vogelbach ($8), Aaron Judge ($6)

New toys cost money, some more than others. We have three tiers of toys here with the youth/upside of Anderson and Benintendi, the power of Vogelbach and Judge, the speed of a Moncada and Smith and the overall game of Haniger. One of the factors that comes into play with shiny new toys is established veterans get eschewed by experienced players in favor of those toys. The chart below shows the toy and then some players at the same position who went just before or later in the auction:

PLAYER$OTHER1$OTHER2$OTHER3$
Vogelbach 8 Morrison 1 Smoak 3 Alonso 1
Gurriel 16 Vargas 5 Mauer 4 Vogelbach 8
Anderson 20 Semien 17 Espinosa 10 Miller 17
Benintendi 20 Gomez 18 Ellsbury 15 Gardner 14
Moncada 14 Duffy 9 Healy 13 Valbuena 2
Judge 6 Smith 5 Guyer 1 Joyce 6
Haniger 9 Reddick 8 Dickerson 9 Maybin 9
Smith 8 Upton 7 DeShields 3 Burns 1

Vogelbach, like the others, will be in a platoon situation in Seattle. He has some upside, but Logan Morrison is someone who has a track record in the majors and was quietly effective last season in AL-Only leagues after he got past his 0-for-April start to the season. The big thing with Vogelbach, besides his size, is the gap in projections between what the systems have for him and what fans think he will do at FanGraphs:

PROJECTIONSGPAHRRRBISBAVGOBPSLG
Depth Charts723011035351.243.334.408
Steamer843361137381.246.339.406
Fans (14)1164671761661.261.355.450
ZiPS1235081863621.239.329.410

Morrison's stretch after April last year is what fans are projecting for Vogelbach in 2017, but Morrison's overall numbers is where the projection systems have Vogelbach. Steve Gardner paid $8 for him while Larry Schechter grabbed Morrison out of the dollar bin. I've played again Larry for a number of years and these are the types of picks that end up being the difference for him rather than the ones on the higher end.

Gurriel is an unknown because of the limited state-side historical record and that he flew through multiple levels last year. He was taken later in the draft, but if the chase is run production upside, getting Vargas at one-third the cost could provide the same outcome. Anderson's price is tied to his speed because it is so scarce in the American League. Eno Sarris paid nearly as much for Semien this season, but there really was not a similar skillset at the position to chase. Had he decided to get the speed elsewhere, there were more affordable options at shortstop with more established track records.

Benintendi is costly in drafts, and Clay Link paid for his guy. Adam Jones went for a similar price earlier in the auction and other veterans, with their known ups and downs, went cheaper as well. If you want the new toy, that is the premium to pay. On the late speed play, people are chasing Mallex Smith, but the owners who picked up the other three options cheaper made some wise plays because there is a clearer path to playing time, and in DeShields's case, it was just last year when someone said $22 in the room for him and some idiot (me) said $23.

I could go on all day about this auction, but I'm sure some of the others on the staff will have more to say. These were the three areas that intrigued me the most heading into the auction because we Tout Wars participants benefit greatly from learning what happens in the LABR auctions, just as much as others benefit from knowing where the experts are on certain players.