Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft: 15-Team LABR Style (2022)
The LABR Draft is not for the faint of heart. It is, in no simple terms, a test of depth. Between the large rosters — 29 players will be drafted — and the 15-team format, we will easily eclipse 400 players drafted.
Essentially, this forces us to constantly mitigate risk. Under normal circumstances, I condone aggressive actions during a fantasy draft. This is not “normal circumstances.”
The other noteworthy element is that, unless you specifically practice LABR-style drafts, you may have an ADP list that doesn’t apply. Players who are generally available in the fifth round may become third-round selections here. This is why we practice, though, and the Mock Draft laid out here should help frame your mindset of what could be expected.
The lineup for this 15-team draft is 2 C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, 5 OF, UTIL, 9 P, 6 BN, and conducted using FantasyPros’ Draft Simulator.
I had to keep my mind open to all possibilities drafting in the middle of the 15-pick first round, but I’ll gladly take the first pitcher of the group and not worry about how I can find my SP1 later. This is similar to what I did in my “Middle Pick” Mock Draft — where I loved the results specifically because of the balance the draft slot allowed, and I have the same reaction here. It’s only the first round, of course, but I hate starting my teams with any shred of uncertainty or lack of value. Neither is the case with Cole.
To this point, I had not selected Ozzie Albies in any fantasy drafts. To this point, I also found myself chasing stolen bases toward the end of almost every draft. I’m prioritizing speed a little more here, but the reality is that Albies will help in every category, and to get that production from the second base position is tremendous in this deep of a league.
Others Considered: Manny Machado (3B – SD)
In the introduction of this article, I wrote about how players will quickly appear to be available in rounds earlier than expected. I suggested this may happen around the fifth round. I was wrong. I started to see it in the second round, but it wasn’t until my third pick that I felt the difference. I cycled through three players I wanted to select here and, in standard drafts, it was sometimes possible to end up with two-of-the-three. Not here. Ultimately, I went with Francisco Lindor for his speed and rebound potential. I’m trying to get ahead of the stolen base player pool.
Have we forgotten about the hype that surrounded Eloy Jimenez over the past few seasons? I hope so! I hope that the incredible buzz around him died down to the point where I could select him in the middle of the fourth round and not feel like I am paying a premium. The upside is still there, and he will play the entire season at only 25 years old.
5.8: Edwin Diaz (RP – NYM)
The lengthened draft is certainly going to affect how to handle some positions, and I suspect that closers will be among the most impacted. Because of that, I want to get ahead of the anticipated “run” and select one that should be near the top of the relief pitcher rankings by the season’s end. Edwin Diaz has had his moments in murky water with the New York Mets, but he is easily one of the top closers in the sport.
Others Considered: Jose Berrios (SP – TOR)
6.8: Jose Berrios (SP – TOR)
I couldn’t get myself to push another starting pitcher in front of a closer in the last round, but I am thrilled that Jose Berrios made it back to me. I’m always a believer in Berrios because he is one of the most stable and consistent pitchers in the game. The argument against him is typically that his ceiling is lower than some other options, but I know what I’m getting with Berrios. I’ll target pure upside somewhere else.
Others Considered: Frankie Montas (SP – OAK)
I strongly considered drafting Franmil Reyes (RF – CLE) here because I can see that my team is light on power and he’s one of the top sources of home runs, but I continue to question why Cody Bellinger is falling so low in drafts. I understand some of the concern as he was unable to recover his batting average from 2020 — and destroyed it last year — but are we that much more confident in Reyes than the former National League MVP? I’m not, and I’m targeting the return toward Bellinger’s mean with this pick.
Others Considered: Franmil Reyes
Jared Walsh has started to make his way onto more of my rosters as the preseason has progressed, and it’s because he remains an underrated power bat at this point in the draft. His dual-eligibility is also enticing, and he’ll bat in a lineup with Mike Trout (CF – LAA). I wouldn’t pay up to draft him, but I’m thrilled with Walsh at the right draft price.
Others Considered: Clayton Kershaw (SP – LAD)
9.8: Clayton Kershaw (SP – LAD)
The fact that Clayton Kershaw took a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers likely means that the team is hesitant to commit further, but the former Cy Young winner also felt comfortable with his former organization. It’s unfortunately clear that Kershaw is not the dominant force of years past, but he’s one of the best pitchers of a generation and is the ninth player added to my team — and fourth pitcher overall. That’s a risk worth taking.
10.8: Alex Verdugo (OF – BOS)
Dating back to his time as a prospect, there was no doubt that Alex Verdugo could hit for batting average. Now five years into his Major League career — with the caveat that the first two were extremely abbreviated — Verdugo has put together three consecutive campaigns hitting at least .289. The knock on him is his relative lack of power, but he’s not completely lost in the home run department. His 162-game average points to 15 home runs, six stolen bases, and a healthy .290 batting average. I’ll take it.
Others Considered: Sean Manaea, Chris Taylor (UTL – LAD)
11.8: Anthony Rizzo (1B – NYY)
Anthony Rizzo will sign with a team and, based on where he lands, his value is likely to change. It shouldn’t be too dramatic in either direction, though, as we know what we will get from the left-handed first baseman. He’ll deliver some power and batting average and be a decent middle-of-the-order player who fits nicely into this format — where we also need corner infielders.
Others Considered: Ty France (INF – SEA)
I’ve written about — and made it a point to draft — Michael Brantley in basically every Mock Draft article I have done. That’s because I am constantly searching for a cheap source of batting average late in the draft, and Brantley stands out among his peers. In this specific format, it isn’t so much “late in the draft” — we’re not even halfway through it — but we are in the range of players that typically round out a standard 12-team draft with smaller rosters. That adds even more value to someone like Brantley, as this league will be way too deep to find an abundance of free agents who can match his production.
Others Considered: Ryan McMahon (2B,3B – COL)
13.8: John Means (SP – BAL)
I just selected Michael Brantley and wrote about how he has become a main target for me, but I could put together an identical argument for John Means. He is a top priority for me, and I continue to warn that his draft stock is going to rise as fantasy managers associate the Baltimore Orioles’ new ballpark dimensions with Means’ future production — the team pushed back its left-field fence. I’m trying to draft Means everywhere, and the depth of this league makes it a necessity to add him now. It’s probably a little later than I would have thought.
14.8: Adam Duvall (OF – ATL)
In the never-ending search for power, Adam Duvall stands as a fairly obvious, albeit risky, target. The Atlanta Braves’ outfield is crowded, but superstar Ronald Acuna, Jr. is not expected to be back until May, at the earliest. Duvall has always been one to make the most of his opportunities though, as he averages 33 home runs for every 162 games played.
Others Considered: Jo Adell (OF – LAA)
15.8: Raimel Tapia (OF – COL)
I’m starting to add Raimel Tapia to my list of sleepers I want to add in as many places as possible, and the desire to improve my batting average makes this decision quite easy. Tapia was once a well-regarded prospect, but the Colorado Rockies never seemed to find the right role for him. That changed recently, as he hit .321 in the shortened 2020 season and then batted a respectable .273 in 133 games last year. He hasn’t been spectacular — and he offers little in the realm of power — but he there’s enough to his game to think that we have yet to see the best he can offer.
Others Considered: Robbie Grossman (OF – DET)
16.8: Taylor Rogers (RP – MIN)
I was close to adding Kolton Wong here, but I remain hesitant to pass on closers in this format. It may come back to hurt me later, but I’m leaning on Taylor Rogers as the arm currently at the end of the Minnesota Twins’ bullpen. This is a pick more based on draft strategy than anything related to Rogers.
Others Considered: Kolten Wong (2B – MIL)
17.8: Kolten Wong (2B – MIL)
I wasn’t necessarily set on Kolten Wong last round, but the fact that he made it back to me with this pick makes it one of the easiest of the draft. He will initially start as my team’s middle infielder, and he should provide a decent amount of value in all categories — even if he doesn’t thrive in any one in particular.
Others Considered: Lucas Sims (RP – CIN)
We are essentially past the player pool that would have formed a standard draft, and I am just now selecting my starting third baseman. That wasn’t by design — especially since we also need to fill out a corner infield position in this format. Thankfully, Jeimer Candelario is solid enough to slide in as my starter, even if he is among the weakest of the group. He is, however, a steal at this point, as he carries the sleeper potential that comes with a double-happy hitter with a strong batting average. If he can turn a few more of those doubles into home runs — which is a fairly common trend that we see — he will easily outperform this low draft position.
Others Considered: Lucas Sims
19.8: Dylan Floro (RP – MIA)
I feel as if I have been cautious, yet proactive with filling out the relief portion of my roster, and selecting Dylan Floro here continues that trend. He will serve as my team’s third closer and, with 14 other rosters with which I will compete, I have probably now reached the end of my search for relievers. If one appears at a great value, I may add to that total. As of now, I view Floro as the last piece of the closer puzzle.
Others Considered: Sean Murphy (C – OAK)
20.8: Miguel Sano (1B – MIN)
I’ve drafted Miguel Sano plenty of times over the past few years — really, many of us have — and it’s always with the chase for power. We know his batting average is putrid, and we know that he is a risk everywhere — most notably, in staying healthy. Still, the upside is tantalizing, and he will almost always have a roster spot in this deep of a league. I’ll take the metaphorical swing for the fences.
Others Considered: Yusei Kikuchi (SP – TOR)
21.8: Yusei Kikuchi (SP – TOR)
The Toronto Blue Jays have not hidden their approach for this season. They wanted starting pitching, and they are being aggressive with it. Yusei Kikuchi slides in as the team’s newest starter, and he has some nice potential after delivering his best season last year. He had career-best numbers in basically every major category, and he is entering his fourth year as a Major League pitcher with plenty of prior experience to help him take the next step in his development. He’s a low-risk, high-reward fantasy target in this stage of the draft.
Others Considered: Stephen Strasburg (SP – WSH)
22.8: Nick Madrigal (2B – CHC)
Nick Madrigal is batting average, but can he be more than that? It probably depends on his role with the Chicago Cubs. If he leads off, then his run production is expected to increase dramatically. If not, then I’ll take the uptick in batting average at this late stage of the draft.
Others Considered: Brandon Nimmo (OF – NYM)
23.8: Brady Singer (SP – KC)
Brady Singer is at an important early checkpoint in his career. He increased his innings total smoothly from 2020 to 2021, and he will now be asked to push the number higher. The concern, however, is that he is a projected future rotation piece for the Kansas City Royals for years to come, and they don’t want to expose his arm too quickly to an increased workload. If he were to develop on-the-fly, we would be looking at an undervalued steal in the 23rd round.
24.8: Francisco Mejia (C – TB)
I am one of many who generally waits as long as possible to draft a catcher, but this format places an added emphasis on the position. We start two catchers here, which means that I am currently behind the bulk of the league by two players. It’s not ideal, but I could not justify making the move earlier in the draft. Here, I can look for Francisco Mejia as one of my two starters with the expectation that he can hold his .260 batting average from last year — I’ll take that from the catcher’s spot.
Others Considered: Jorge Alfaro (C,LF – SD)
25.8: Kyle Gibson (SP – PHI)
We are well into the depths of the player pool at this point, but this is also where fantasy managers can strike gold. Everyone is a low-risk investment because we can simply move on from them without feeling like we wasted a pick. Kyle Gibson was one of the gems of the first half of last season but regressed hard after being traded. His real production probably lies somewhere in the middle of the two sets of numbers, and I’ll take a regular member of the rotation with some promise when I can get one.
Others Considered: James Kaprielian (SP – OAK)
I had to force myself to not take back-to-back catchers to round out my starting lineup purely out of principle, but it’s now time to complete the team by adding my second catcher. Unfortunately, Martin Maldonado will almost definitely hurt my team’s batting average, but he has enough power to slug his way into some value for a C2.
Others Considered: Bobby Bradley (1B – CLE)
27.8: Nick Pivetta (SP – BOS)
There is nothing spectacular about Nick Pivetta, but he is, like the aforementioned Kyle Gibson, a viable starting pitcher who provides depth. Most importantly, he held the lowest ERA of his career last season, and there might be some positive momentum to that. Otherwise, he’ll help compile strikeouts.
Others Considered: Sixto Sanchez (SP – MIA)
28.8: Bobby Bradley (1B – CLE)
The fantasy baseball community has waited quite a while for Bobby Bradley to arrive and, while he has been here since 2019, we are still waiting for him to “arrive.” Through 89 career games, he has a paltry .203 batting average. He did, however, hit 17 home runs. There’s the dream with Bradley, as his average scales out to 31 home runs over 162 games. Will he ever reach this mark? I’m not overly optimistic. But can he? Yes, and that’s why I’ll gladly spend a 28th round pick on him.
Others Considered: Adrian Houser (SP – MIL)
I found the final pick to be one of the most difficult. I wanted speed and batting average, but it’s not likely to land on both in the 29th round of this type of draft. I went with the best combination I could find: a hitter in Nico Hoerner who could carry a decent batting average and swipe some bases.
Others Considered: Aristides Aquino (OF – CIN)
It came together in the end.
For the bulk of the draft, I felt as if I were constantly searching for needs. Oddly enough, these “needs” felt more out-of-reach in the first half of the draft — when most of the “regular” fantasy baseball targets are selected. I expected the opposite experience, where I would match my fellow fantasy managers early and then tread water late with the additional 100 or so draft picks of depth.
This is a good outcome. It means that, at one point, depth will prevail and the gap between players in the later rounds is small enough that we can survive mistakes.
The other problem I faced was dealing with the two-catcher setup, as I completely punted the position until the last few rounds. I knew that this would put me in a difficult position, but it was also a necessity as I continued to target “needs.” The decision did not hurt me, though, as my team scored a respectable B+ from FantasyPros with a score of 89 out of 100. Most importantly, it is projected to finish 3rd out of 15, which is a welcomed outcome given the league settings.