2020 Fantasy Baseball: AL / NL Auction Hitting Strategy

Specific fantasy baseball strategies should be undertaken in AL-Only and NL-Only leagues given the smaller player pools. Shawn Childs shares his thoughts on the subject.
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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 that will give me a high batting average with power (.300/30/100). The second player needs to offer some home runs, a high average, 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.

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 or 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 will push to $190 on offense in many seasons due to the added depth of batters from the DH position.

Eight Foundation Bats

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

Each season I study the offensive 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 his or her lineup. Most likely, every team will have three holes (part-time players) in their starting 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 are building 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 a few 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 come up with two or three bats that could get full-time at-bats for minimal 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 is given a starting job when the season starts.

Finishing the Backend of Your Roster

Most owners in an AL or NL auction league are afraid to take a zero in their starting 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 Joe Adell was going to get called up early in 2020, it would make more sense to put him in your starting lineup and take a zero than to draft a weak backend outfielder with no real upside in at-bats for $1. Most likely a player with part-time value can 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 get regular at-bats at some point in the season? This decision is tough because the once-a-week player could get more at-bats if there were an injury that created more playing time.

I would look for three or four upside players to fill the backend of your pitching staff and add to your weaker spots on offense.

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 on who you want for your core batters on your team, do some research and try to find a completed auction where players are playing 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 of player’s value in the 2020 auction season. By knowing how much money players are being bought for, you will be better prepared to build a strong nucleus of hitters. You shouldn’t be surprised at the draft table. A good player is going to draw a lot of interest. If you want him, you should be ready to make your winning move.

For more game-breaking advice from Shawn Childs, a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ, subscribe to FullTime Fantasy. Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription & gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.