Auction Strategy Overview
In the Fantasy baseball market, there are many different formats and league sizes, especially in auctions. I’ve played in AL and NL leagues with 12 teams plus 15-team mixed leagues. Each league could also have keepers or trading, which changes the value of all players during the auction. Over the last 15 seasons, I’ve played in the high stakes Fantasy market where there is no trading, which puts the pressure on a Fantasy owner to come up with a winning plan before the auction.
When doing an auction league with no trading, a Fantasy owner has a small margin for error. No other owner is going to be knocking on your door looking to take your third closer off your hands. If your team is out of balance, you can’t trade hitting for pitching or even speed for saves. You can win an auction many different ways, but many owners can lose the battle during the auction due to a poor game plan or even foresight. Every year the player pool will change slightly. Your job as an owner is to evaluate the inventory and come up with a plan you can execute at the draft table. If you come away with enough pieces to the puzzle, you can manage your way to a championship.
Whatever game plan you decide, you must be ready to adjust if you don’t get your key players. A common mistake Fantasy owners make is hoping the players they want don’t get called out early. It sounds good in principle, but the problem is all the other good players are coming off the board while you are sitting back holding your money. If you wait and miss on your targeted players, you will have limited options left to build your team.
It is important to get your key players called out as quickly as possible. If you want a player in the auction and you think he is the key to your team winning, I would want to call him as soon as possible. By doing this, you find out how much he is going to cost you (higher or lower than your predicted price point) or if you need to start looking for someone else to build your team around. The quicker you know where you stand on key players; the better chance you have of executing your plan or adjusting on the fly.
For example, let’s say I wanted to build my team around Mike Trout and I believed he has a chance at 30+ HRs and 20+ SBs with a target value was $43. If I miss on him, I will need to find another player to fill some of his skill set or make a major adjustment to another stud player that will force me to find a different combination of players behind him. Maybe I drop down to J.D. Martinez as my lead bat with a target of Byron Buxton as my number two batter to get me in the game in speed if a miss on Trout. If Martinez is called out before Trout, this plan would have one fewer elite option to build around.
The other option is not missing on your targeted core player or players by overpaying with the theory of making up the lost dollars later in the auction.
During the auction, it is important to focus on your game plan early while not worrying about how the other owners are spending their money. I see a lot of Fantasy owners get aggravated when one or more Fantasy owners hold onto their money. They are so concerned that this owner or owners will overbid them on a key player they want later in the auction. If you spend $185 on ten players and the other owner has spent $40 on two players, he is eight players behind you. He will think he has all the power in the world with the big stack, but the truth is someone will always be bidding against him. Each of the other owners will need players also. He will be competing with at least one owner most of the time for each player when he tries to fill his roster, which will force him to pay full price or a premium on some players even in the middle part of an auction.
When you sit down at the draft table to do the auction, your best opportunity for players could be the first couple of players called out. It is important to understand each player’s possible value while being ready to fire as soon as the auction starts. If you sit back and wait, you might miss on a discounted player or possible stud. I know $33 player might not sound like a discount, but that same player might go for $38 if he was called out a couple of rounds later in the auction.
Another common mistake is waiting for the best player left on the board. You will see this happen a lot late in auctions. No one wants to call out a player because they want him as cheap as possible. Four or five owners are sitting back just waiting for the right time to add this player to their team. When he’s called, all of their hearts are broken. This player usually cost the winning owner a few more dollars than expected. You can use this to your advantage at certain positions during the auction. If you like two or three guys about the same, say at second base, I will try to buy the first option of these players called out. By doing this, you avoid overpaying for the best “available option” left later in the auction. Many times this happens to the last speed option or even a closer.
When the auction starts, I don’t care what money any other owner has until I get down to about $60. Each owner will need to spend at least $200 on the nucleus of their team. The other teams will catch up to you when they start their filling roster spots. When you get down to $60, you need to put on the brakes and start looking for players who are bargains. The more disciplined you are, the better chance you will have of getting the players you want. If you can shut it down totally when you get to $35-$40, you will have the leverage in the end game. You will need almost every player to have fewer than $20 to hold an edge over them in the late game.
Winning an auction league comes with a strong game plan followed up by execution. Every owner in the auction will know the players and come up with similar evaluations. When you try to implement your plan, there will be battles for key players. You will win some and lose some. You just hope you win the right ones. I would much rather lose with a team I like than lose with a team with players I didn’t want.