Unprecedented pitching depth, mid-tier outfield scramble highlight NL LABR draft
One year ago, the fantasy industry analysts gathered in Florida for the League of Alternative Baseball Reality had no idea what was about to transpire. Sure, the drafts are always unpredictable, but the coronavirus pandemic that hit the nation in full force the following week – and eventually delayed the start of the MLB regular season until late July certainly made LABR weekend seem like ancient history.
But the results still count, and Derek Carty of RotoGrinders entered the elite group of three-time LABR champions with a down-to-the-wire victory over Baseball HQ’s Doug Dennis as only four standings points separated the top four teams.
As times change, so too must fantasy baseball. So for the first time in history, LABR took its auction-style National League and American League drafts online in 2021.
Jacob deGrom, who will get the opening day start for the Mets, tops an extremely deep group of National League starting pitchers in 2021. (Photo: Mary Holt, USA TODAY Sports)
Carty had the honor of the first nomination and wound up winning Trea Turner for $40 to get the evening started. Turner didn’t end up being the league’s most expensive player – that honor was shared by shortstop Fernando Tatis and outfielders Ronald Acuña and Juan Soto at $41.
By the end of the first round of nominations, Mookie Betts and pitcher Jacob deGrom joined Turner at $40 as the spending hit top speed almost immediately.
NL #LABR results in chronological order (thx @SteveAGardner) https://t.co/vmASK9dLy9
along with a couple of graphs pic.twitter.com/QaRCY8kkWm
DeGrom was far and away the most expensive pitcher in the league. The NL has much more top-end depth among starters than the AL, which may have been why runner-up Yu Darvish went for $28, Walker Buehler for $27, and the trio of Jack Flaherty, Luis Castillo and Aaron Nola for $25.
The depth was even more apparent with 32 starting pitchers commanding salaries of $10 or more. That’s the most in NL LABR in at least a decade, and most likely an all-time record.
Closers, which NL LABR participants traditionally tend to downplay anyway, didn’t generate much excitement outside of a $20 Josh Hader and a somewhat surprising $17 Kenley Jansen.
NL LABR:Full draft grid
After waiting last year until the draft was one-third complete before rostering his first player, Baseball HQ’s Dennis struck early with Mets closer Edwin Diaz for $16 as the second nomination overall. But true to form, he conserved the bulk of his resources for the later stages when he had a sizable bankroll advantage.
#LABR Salary Cap Check for HOUR 4! @DerekCarty [email protected]@glenncolton1 [email protected] [email protected]_GianellaBP [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected]_Walton [email protected] [email protected]@Shawn__Childs [email protected] $51 https://t.co/l3Qa4HbFGF
However, a few others joined Dennis in waiting until late to attack their favorite targets. As a result, several unexpected bidding wars broke out as teams scrambled to fill their final outfield spots.
Raimel Tapia ($18 – to CreativeSports' Brian Walton), Garrett Hampson ($15 to The Legend, Lenny Melnick), Harrison Bader ($15 – to SiriusXM adio hosts Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf), Joc Pederson ($14 to my USA TODAY team), David Peralta ($14 to Fantasy Alarm's Howard Bender) and Bryan Reynolds ($14 to Dennis) all attracted considerable interest before Dennis filled his final roster spot with Gregory Polanco for $13.
Elsewhere on the hitting side, the middle infield spots were popular spending targets, even beyond Tatis and Turner at short. Trevor Story ($36) and Francisco Lindor ($31) were top-tier selections. And seven players eligible at second base, plus three additional shortstops, commanded salaries of at least $20.
Final #LABR NL draft board from last night (with reserves)
Follow the NL League of Alternative Baseball Reality all season long at rtsports.com/labr-nl and follow Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner
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