Skip to main content
Publish date:

2021 Fantasy Baseball: AL / NL Auction Hitters Strategy

When selecting hitters, specific strategies should be undertaken in AL-only and NL-only leagues due to the smaller player pools

When you start to game plan for an auction, a fantasy owner needs to separate hitting from pitching. Each area is 50 percent of the game, but you will have to find a blend of spending that fits your game style. 

My Core Batters

When game planning your hitting base, a fantasy owner needs to identify the key players to build the foundation of their offense. Your core could be three or four players depending on how much you want to invest in each player. I look for three players to start my hitting team. I want one player to give me a high batting average with power (.300/30/100). The second player needs to offer some home runs, a high average, and plus stolen bases (.300/10/60/40). The last option will be a balanced player (.300/20/80/20). 

Note: Each season, the talent pool in pitching changes along with injuries. When there is elite depth in the pitching pool, a player hitting .280 may be the new .300. In 2019, there was a surge in power, which led to a regression in overall pitching stats. Last year, with the season only being only 60 games, a fantasy owner will need to rely more on the previous full season played to evaluate player profiles and potential category targets.

Hitting Budget

You can divide up your hitting budget any way you like and come up with your blend of hitters. I want to build a base in all the hitting categories, and I'm willing to pay for it. I will spend $90 to $100 on three to four players. Each year the players will change, and a fantasy owner will need to adjust their plan to the changing inventory. In most seasons, the starting point for spending on offense would be $180 of $260. In an AL-only league, I sometimes push $190 to the offensive side of the equation due to the added depth of batters due to the DH position. 

Eight Foundation Bats

When deciding on your key players in a single league auction, a fantasy owner needs to develop a plan to roster a C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, and three outfielders. These eight players will be the core of your team.

Each season I study the offense player pool at each position. I determine the three core batters I want to target in the auction. The next step is deciding which positions have the most depth and weakness. I'll formulate a plan for spending at each position that gives me the best chance to fill my categories. At the same time, I identify potential values and breakout players. 

Player Pool

In the American and the National Leagues, there are 15 teams in each league. 

With each team having nine starting hitters in the American League, it leaves a pool of 135 starting players divided by 12 fantasy teams (11.25 potential starters per roster). Each fantasy owner will have between 10 and 12 starting hitters in their lineup. Most likely, every team will have three holes (part-time players) in their starting fantasy lineup. Out of those 135 starting slots in lineups, there are probably a dozen or so players who don't play every day. 

In the National League, the breakdown is even less. There are 15 teams with eight starting hitter roster spots, which breaks down to 10 starters per fantasy roster. Every fantasy team could have four holes in their starting lineup in an NL-only league. 

When you build your roster, you can put your holes (low at-bat players) anywhere in your starting lineup. As the season goes on, you hope to fill some of your low productive spots from your bench or the waiver wire.

Core Spending

Depending on your budget plan, a fantasy owner will spend between $150 to $170 on your eight-core players. You will need patience to execute the end game and find two or three bats that could get full-time at-bats for short money. When you fill out your remaining hitting spots, you need to look for players who will get the most at-bats or young players with upside. The player who will get the most at-bats might not be the player who earns a starting job when the season starts. 

SI Recommends

Finishing the Backend of Your Roster

Most AL or NL auction league owners are afraid to take a zero in their staring hitting lineup. Sometimes it is better to buy an upside minor league player in the auction rounds rather than risk losing a potential impact player in reserve rounds (bench players). 

Purchasing a low upside player with playing time risk doesn't make a lot of sense in the long run in fantasy leagues. For example, if you thought OF Jarred Kelenic would get called up early in 2021 (or even start the year in the majors), it would make more sense to put him in your starting line up and take a zero than draft a weak backend outfielder with no real upside in at-bats for $1. 

A player with part-time value can most likely be found on the waiver wire or rostered in the reserve round. Which is more important; a player playing once a week or a player who could play get regular at-bats at some point in the season? 

This decision is challenging because the once-a-week player could get more at-bats if an injury created more playing time. 

I would look for three or four upside players to fill your roster's backend while understanding the waiver wire will help fill some of these voids.

Get a Feel for Each Player's Value

A fantasy owner will be more successful in an auction by developing a solid game plan before the auction. When you decide who you want for your core batters on your team, do some research and try to find a completed auction where players play for real money. The flow of players will be different, but you can get a feel for public opinion. 

The LABR auctions in early March give fantasy owners some insight into player's value in the 2021 auction season. 

Knowing a player's market value will help understand the pre-team building process better. A fantasy owner can use this info to game plan the nucleus of their hitting roster. 

You shouldn't be surprised at the draft table by any player's value. A good player is going to draw a lot of interest. If you want him, you should be ready to make your winning move.

READ MORE: 2021 Fantasy Baseball Hub

Take your game to the next level with an SI Fantasy+ subscription. Get insights from Michael Fabiano, Shawn Childs, and the entire fantasy team all year-round.

Take your game to the next level with an SI Fantasy+ subscription. Get insights from Michael Fabiano, Shawn Childs, and the entire fantasy team all year-round.