RotoWire's AL LABR Team

Last night, I drafted our AL LABR squad. For those unfamiliar with the League of Alternative Baseball Reality, the format is 5 x 5 12-team AL only league with 2 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 1 CI, 1 MI, 5 OF, 1 U, 9 P, 6 reserves. $260 budget. Here's my squad:

Pos Player $
C Matt Wieters 15
C A.J. Pierzynski 9
1B Adam Dunn 26
2B Ian Kinsler 28
3B Brandon Inge 7
SS Derek Jeter 23
CI Chris Davis 1
MI Cliff Pennington 12
OF Josh Hamilton 30
OF Alex Gordon 9
OF Michael Saunders 5
OF Desmond Jennings 6
OF Scott Podsednik 6
U Travis Hafner 4
P Jon Lester 27
P Clay Buchholz 16
P Gavin Floyd 10
P Michael Pineda 11
P Jeff Niemann 6
P Justin Masterson 5
P Nick Blackburn 1
P Kyle Gibson 1
P Darren O'Day 2
R Mike Gonzalez 0
R Jesse Litsch 0
R Michael Taylor 0
R Travis Buck 0
R Tyson Ross 0
R Daniel Cortes 0


Some observations: A lot of the players I liked going in turned out not to be bargains. Alex Rodriguez at age 35, coming off a down year, still went for $37, so I let him go. Manny Ramirez - who I think will do fine on the Rays - went for $16, despite the power outage in Chicago last year and his 39th birthday arriving in May. I was in on the bidding for both, but once a good deal of the profit margin evaporated, I dropped out.

I bought Jon Lester for $27 early and thought this was a good price for an elite strikeout pitcher on a team that significantly improved its defense this offseason (Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are gold-glove level defenders, and the health of Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia should also be a big lift) and that should offer plenty of run support. But after Felix Hernandez ($30) and C.C. Sabathia ($26), several other top AL starters came at a significant discount: Justin Verlander ($21), Jered Weaver ($21) and David Price ($20).

I also bought Clay Buchholz for $16, despite peripherals (120:67 K:BB in 173.1 IP) that did not support his strong cosmetic stats (17 wins, 2.33 ERA). Normally, you might expect significant regression, but like Lester he'll benefit significantly from the improved defense and run support, and his raw stuff (94.1 mph fastball) portends a better strikeout rate as he matures (Bucchholz won't turn 27 until August). Incidentally, as a Yankee fan, it's makes me ill to have to root for those lowlifes.

I typically like to buy failed post-hype mega prospects, and so the Royals' Alex Gordon ($9) who tore up Triple-A last year, the Orioles' Matt Wieters ($15) ? the light bulb could go on at any point ? and the Rays' Desmond Jennings ($6) - he's hardly had a chance to fail, but his stock slipped last year as he played through injuries ? fit the bill. Jennings might not be up until June, but if he rakes at Triple-A, he should be a full-time player for four months and could steal 25-plus bases in that span.

I was aggressive in buying Seattle rookie Michael Pineda ($11), but he had a 76:17 K:BB ratio in 62.1 Triple-A IP, plays in cavernous Safeco Field and has perhaps the best defense in baseball behind him, especially now that the Mariners have moved Chone Figgins back to his natural third base and signed Brendan Ryan (arguably the top infield defender in the game). I'm hoping Pineda breaks camp with the club, but even if he comes up in June, he should earn that.

The one purchase I regret is Josh Hamilton for $30. I was price enforcing, i.e., making sure someone else didn't get him at the bargain price of $29, and was fairly sure someone would go up to $31. Hamilton batted .359 last year and hit 32 homers in 133 games en route to an AL MVP award, so he can roll out of bed and earn that amount. But he apparently has trouble rolling out of bed (.819 OPS during the day/1.121 OPS at night last year, .762/.967 for his career). It could simply be a coincidence, but given his history, it adds some risk. I'd rather have bought B.J. Upton for $29.


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