There are a few days each year that I look forward to, and my live fantasy baseball auction draft is one of them. If you’ve never done an auction, especially one in person, you are missing out. Watching your leaguemates sweat out whether to bid $20 on Carlos Carrasco after you bid $19 in a 15th-floor conference room on Sixth Avenue is priceless. The scratching of heads, the sighs, and the flipping of papers all add to the fun of the day.
For those who are new to auctions, I will cover some of the basic concepts, then go into some different strategies to use.
Each team is given a budget, traditionally $260, to bid on 23 players. Your bench is filled by a snake draft of however many rounds you decide from the remaining players after the auction is over. Someone is chosen to start the bidding and will nominate a player to be bid upon. Bidding continues until everyone else passes on increasing the bid further. When doing an auction online, there is a timer that will start after each bid, which serves as your auctioneer.
You will have to keep track of how many dollars you have left and how many players you still need to fill out your roster. Teams can’t nominate a player they don’t have room for, and they can’t bid more than a certain amount, as you must have at least one dollar left for each unfilled roster spot. So, if you have $15 left and four roster spots, your max bid is $12, which would leave you with $3 for three spots.
Fantasy Baseball Auction Strategy Tips, Advice
AUCTION VALUES vs. PRICING
When you look at draft guides to research how much you should spend on players as you begin your draft prep, you will notice all sites refer to it as auction “values”. These are predictions of the portion of the $260 that the player’s stats will be worth. My approach is different. The only players that have value are the ones who will be bid upon. If the player will not be bid upon, then his value is zero. Also, players can’t have a negative “value” in my opinion. You don’t get a refund if you bid on those players. In a 12-team league with 23 players on each roster, 276 players will be selected. These are the only players that will have a value in my system. If you add up all the values, it will come out to $3,120 spent (or however much the total teams multiplied by your starting budget comes out to).
I have been doing auctions since 1991, and by sticking to this, it has allowed me to be very successful in my auction drafts. I can come close to predicting what each player will go for in my auction. Is it 100 percent accurate? Of course not. You cannot predict what order players will be nominated. A player who you might not have valued highly could be the last player in a tier to be bid upon. This can drive his price up.
Prepping for your auction is the most crucial step to being successful. This exercise is much easier in a league that you are in year after year, as you learn how high your leaguemates will go on certain players. In an online league where you are with random players, it is difficult to accurately predict the player pricing, but most people will tend to stay relatively close to what you find in draft guides. Some sites, such as the NFBC, will track average auction values, and these can serve as a guide to their auctions.
The first step is to rank your players by position. When you have the 276 players ranked who you would bid on, then you should assign what you are willing to pay for them. Put your initial price down for each player, then add them all up. How close are you to $3,120? Keep adjusting until it’s $3,120. When you are done, you will be going to your auction with a tool that will make it easier for you. You will instantly know if a player is a bargain or if he’s way overpriced and you should drop from the bidding.
This step is especially crucial in keeper leagues. No site can know who is kept in your league and for how much. When choosing keepers, most will keep players that were acquired at bargain prices. This will change the prices of the players who are up for auction. For instance, if 36 players are kept at an average discount of $10, that’s $360 that must be added to the remaining 240 players. It doesn’t matter what their “value” is, their “price” has just gone up and you have to figure out how to divide that amount between the remaining players.
Another way to prep is to create a budget. When I develop my values, I usually budget 65 percent for hitting and 35 percent for pitching, so that’s about $170 on hitting and $90 on pitching. Some go further and break down how they will spread out that amount amongst the 14 hitters and nine pitchers. It’s up to you how you want to spend your money. Some go top heavy and get several top-tier guys and a bunch of $1-5 players; some like to acquire multiple players in the $10-20 range for a more balanced team. The beauty of an auction is that you can have both Mike Trout and Jacob deGrom on your team. This would never happen in a snake draft.
There are several ways to skin this cat and none are wrong, but one thing you should never do is leave your auction with any money left over! This is a cardinal rule, and if you have money remaining at the end you were not aggressive enough on some of your bids.
You should nominate players you either really want or have absolutely no interest in. With the latter, the goal is to sap your competition of as much as possible so you have less competition when bidding on players you actually want. The important thing here is to vary what you do throughout the auction. Do not let your opponents know whether it’s a player you want or not. At the end of the auction this is hard to do, as you don’t want to get stuck with a player you don’t want, even for just a dollar bid.
You should also vary how much your opening bid is. If you nominate Mookie Betts and you want him, start the bidding near what you are willing to spend. This will eliminate a lot of people bidding who aren’t interested. If you don’t want him, start relatively low (and don’t be the annoying person who starts a $40 player at a dollar) and allow multiple people to jump in. Then, of course, do the opposite later in the draft.
You also need a plan for when to spend your money. Some like to load their team up early; others like to let their competition spend first in the hopes of finding bargains later on. Waiting on bargains as a strategy has its pitfalls. Many times what happens is that there will be multiple people going after that last good reliever or starter and this will drive up the price. Good bye bargain!
Although there are always players I’m targeting, it’s rare that I end up with them in an auction as much as I’d like to. I like to pounce on “bargains” early in the draft. One year I was targeting someone in the $40 range and Freddie Freeman was nominated. I had him priced at around $38. I wasn’t really interested in Freeman, as I was hoping to get a first baseman like Jose Abreu in the $20 range, but I stayed in the bidding as it started around $20. When I heard nothing after I bid $31, I was very happy. Getting Freeman at $31 allowed me to spend a little more than I had planned on someone else. Doing this early in the draft pays benefits later on.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to $42 on someone you have priced at $41. A dollar or two either way is going to be in the range for each player. What is important is to track how the draft is going and whether you’re consistently in the black or red. What do I mean by that? You have meticulously set a price for each player. After each player is drafted write down “+2” if he went for $2 more than your price or “-2” if lower. As the draft moves on, adding these pluses and minuses will let you know how much money is out there compared to what you have projected. As the number gets more positive, expect relative bargains to come later. As the number gets more negative, the prices will rise, as there is more money out there than you expected.
Another thing to keep an eye on is how much money each team has left to use and which positions they need to fill. If you’ve done an auction before, you know that this will play a role into your nomination and bidding later in the draft. Make sure you update each team after each pick. If you do an online auction, your site does it for you.
1. Auction day is a top five day of the year!
2. Prep by creating your own pricing, especially in keeper leagues.
3. Vary your bidding and nominations. Allowing your opponents to read you is not good.
4. Don’t be tied to certain players. I know you really wanted Walker Buehler, but when you can get Jack Flaherty for four dollars cheaper than you expected; pounce.
5. Keep track of how much over/under your prices is being spent. All $3,120 will be spent (or however much the total teams multiplied by your starting budget comes out to), so if players are overpriced early, then they will be underpriced later and vice/versa.
6. At the end of the auction when dollar players are common, don’t nominate players you don’t want.
7. Try not to get into bidding wars for that last stolen base guy or closer. The price will always be higher than you wanted.
8. Never, ever, leave an auction with money left over.
9. Never, ever, leave an auction with money left over. (No that’s not a typo, it’s that important).