Welcome back to my Fantasy Baseball Auction Strategy series! It’s recommended to read Part I first, located here. (And the now released Part III here)
Here in Part II, we’re going to talk about the Auction draft itself and keeping your bearings as players are nominated and bid for. We’ll also talk about nomination strategy and avoiding bidding wars, which could potentially lead to unnecessary overspending on players. Lastly, we’ll talk about some key differences in strategy as we approach the end of the auction.
Early Spending and Observations
The nomination order has been set and the auction has begun! As the auction gets underway, you will notice that some managers will start out very tentatively, sitting back to observe spending habits and watch managers “set the market”. The first few players nominated are usually some of the most elite players available, so it’s very easy to watch a few nominations go by, make a mental note of their price, and decide to hop in once you’re comfortable with what pricing to expect. It’s better to get some information regarding the economics of the room and prevent ourselves from overspending early, correct? Not so fast. We should know what economics to expect if we prepared correctly.
It’s a good idea to always be proactive, and not reactive, in an auction room, and this is our first example. We have our game plan ready to go; I would recommend NOT sitting back and instead jump in right away with bidding if these players are within the scope of your Game Plan. Who has ever benefitted from slowly wading into the swimming pool or slowly taking that band aid off? Putting other managers to the test early on may result in them yielding to you a few bucks sooner than they normally would, on an elite player no less. These managers will not yield so easily later on as the pool of available players and production begins to dry up. There is a decent likelihood that those first five or so players nominated will go for more fair prices than players nominated afterward, simply because there are fewer managers in on the bidding and more managers still “getting used to the water.”
Once every 12 or 15 players (depending on league size), it will be your turn to nominate a player. Generally speaking, you want to nominate players that you’re NOT interested in; the idea is to make other managers spend money on the player you nominate, and then one manager will have less money later on to bid against you on players that you ARE interested in. The more they cost, the better, although early on, every available player that could be put up for nomination is going to cost a good chunk of money, so no matter who you nominate, you’re going to get managers to spend.
While the generic nomination strategy is fine, these early nominations are unique in that they can give you some early access to information as to how the rest of your roster build is going to go. I like to throw out some polarizing players, such as Adalberto Mondesi (elite speed threat), Salvador Perez (top catcher), or Josh Hader (top RP). If I’m IN on these guys, it’s important to know as soon as possible if they’re going to be on my roster, because of their unique position and/or statistics they provide, so I can plan the rest of my roster build around them. If I’m OUT on these guys, then great, these nominations fall in line with our generic nomination strategy. Early on, managers aren’t going to know if you’re in or out on players that you’re nominating; most likely they are going to assume you are out on these guys, so it’s not a bad idea to mix things up once in awhile to keep other managers guessing. Mixing up the starting bid with your interest in these nominations is also a good idea.
As the auction continues on, you’ll notice that money will be flying out of the room as everyone is getting comfortable with prices and the spending. It’s fairly common to see that the price from your projections is a few dollars less than what the players will actually go for. This may be frustrating to some, as it would seem as if you aren’t getting a “good deal” on ANY of your purchases. First instinct would be to sit out these rounds of overspending and swoop back in when no one has any money left; the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” approach. You’ll be able to get all these players later on for cheap because no one will have any money left! Seems like a genius idea!
Unfortunately, these “good deals” (players going for a few dollars less than projections) don’t come around until much later than you think in the auction; think like after Round 10 in a snake draft kind of late (120 or 150 nominated players deep). By that time, you’ll be sitting on way too much money and you’ll have no above-average players left to spend it on. Could you build a competitive fantasy baseball team if you could only make most of your picks Round 10 or later? Likely not. It’s better to overspend a bit early and have a few extra $1 players on your roster at the end than leave the auction draft with a full roster of players and $10 left unspent. You can’t take it with you! Use every single dollar.
In order to keep myself in check, in the early portion of the auction, I try to have an average amount of funds left compared to the rest of the managers. Having the most money can leave you susceptible to overspending on riskier talent in the middle of the auction; having the least amount of money handicaps your flexibility in the next phase of the roster-building process. Pace yourself; having your Game Plan handy will help with this.
Mid-Auction Spending and Observations
At this point, you’ve purchased a handful of players that have helped establish your team base from a statistical standpoint. Rows are beginning to be crossed out on your Game Plan, as well as players from certain positions that may have been de-prioritized due to said team base. It’s important to keep an eye on positional and statistical tiers; this is where you can expect bidding wars to take place.
When talking about statistical tiers, I’m mostly talking about speed threats and closers that usually get drafted towards the middle of snake drafts. At this point in the auction, there may be a few teams short on speed and looking for a quick fix; a nomination of Myles Straw, Akil Baddoo, or other “flawed” speed threats may result. Same thing with saves and players such as Mark Melancon, Blake Treinen, and Corey Knebel; these are likely the last of the “safe-ish” sources of Saves. Multiple managers will be in on the bidding for these guys and they will likely go for more than they should. This is the type of overspending you should be trying your best to avoid; it’s never a good idea to back yourself into a corner where only a specific type of player can help you, as someone else is likely to be in the same situation as you. Again, instead of being reactive and having to be in on the bidding for these players, we need to be proactive and roster some saves and speed beforehand (if that’s within your roster construction plan).
Position-wise, you should have an idea of where these tiers exist and try to avoid bidding on the last player nominated from them. For the 2022 season, below are some examples of some positional tiers developing, per NFBC ADP:
I picked these tiers because these are likely the last group of players that managers will want as their starters. If the league requires a CI or MI position, managers may try to buy two from this area. Unlike snakes, where it’s good fantasy advice to grab “whoever is cheapest” from a certain tier, the last player nominated from a tier is actually likely to cost the MOST. This seems counterintuitive, as fewer managers may be in on the bidding. However, it only takes two to start a bidding war, and likely someone else will also be willing to pay up for that last player in a tier. Keep an eye on these players as they’re being nominated and the tier begins to evaporate. While they all should cost relatively the same (within a few bucks), it’s likely that the last player or two nominated from these tiers will be the most expensive.
Throughout the auction, each player you put up for nomination should have a reason behind it. Early on, we wanted some information. Here in the middle, where there are clear positions and statistics you do and do not need, most of the time you want to lean toward the generic strategy of nominating players you don’t want, with a few players that you like mixed in.
Since we’re talking about keeping an eye on positional and statistical tiers, it’s a good idea to keep this in mind when nominating a player at this point in the auction. If there is one player remaining in a certain tier, feel free to nominate them. Bidding wars are fun when you’re not involved! If we’re trying to extract as much money out of the room with our nomination, putting up a player who may be highly sought after is a good choice. Each nomination can be a domino that falls and takes the auction in a whole different direction; you never know what kind of future spending you’re going to influence with each nomination.
As we transition from the middle of the auction to the end, take some extra time to see where others are at in terms of their remaining funds. This is about the time where players will start going for less than you project them to, simply because some managers are out due to budget and some managers are out if they have a certain position or category need already filled. At this point, you can start allocating your remaining dollars to specific open roster spots, while referencing the end of your Game Plan. Prioritize positions that you need, especially any starting positions that you haven’t filled yet.
While planning out funds for the remainder of your open roster spots, remember that it’s ok to have a few (or more!) $1 players; these are likely to be your first churn and burn spots when working with the waiver wire. By the time the auction is over, upwards of 20% of the total players drafted may cost $1. That means for a roster of 30 players deep the average team will have 6 $1 players. That seems like a lot, and if you can believe it, there will be a few teams with many more. These teams likely overspent early and were subject to players no one else wanted at the end of the auction while filling out the remainder of their roster. Don’t be one of those teams!
Unlike the end of the early part of the auction, this is the point where I would prefer to have more money than less. If most teams start living in the “dollar days”, it’s nice to have an extra buck or two available to bid on certain players.
Finishing Touches on the Auction
This is the point of the auction where players are going for $5 or less. If you have that extra money, you should be able to bully other managers here and there for players that you want. If you haven’t already, figure out your max bid, and figure out the max bid of other teams. This can be calculated by taking the amount of money you have left, subtracting the number of empty roster spots that you have left, and adding one. This number is your max bid. For example, if you have $11 left and five roster spots to fill, (11-5) + 1 = 7. $7 is your max bid; your five remaining players could theoretically cost you $7, $1, $1, $1, and $1.
All that really matters toward the end of the auction is what everyone’s max bid is; luckily, if you are drafting online, this should be displayed somewhere with each manager and calculated for you. Keep this in mind as you bid against other managers; you will know exactly how much money they can possibly spend on the player you are bidding for. If your max bid happens to be higher than the other manager, and you are comfortable and can afford to do so, it’s smart to jump bid right to their max. Let’s say Manager X has a $4 max bid, and a player you are interested in is nominated for $1. Manager X says “$2!”. You should say “$4!” and not $3, simply because Manager X can now no longer bid. If you would have said “$3!”, Manager X likely says “$4!”, forcing you to go to $5 instead. Saving that extra dollar here and there is really important in this portion of the auction.
Nominating players at this point can be tricky. It makes sense to nominate players for $1 and hope someone goes for them. If no one else wants them, you’ll be stuck with them for $1, so be sure to nominate players that you would be OK with rostering if this scenario occurs. If you’re stuck with only $1 bids, this is how you add players to your roster (as I alluded to in the previous section). If you happen to have a $2 or greater max bid and everyone else has a $2 or $1 max bid, you can nominate a player for $2 and roster them automatically. If you and everyone else is down to $1 max bids, whomever you nominate will be added to your roster automatically; the auction essentially turns into a snake draft, with managers taking turns picking players. Eventually managers fill up their rosters and the number of managers picking players begin to dwindle. Once everyone’s rosters are full, the draft is over.
While reading and preparing for the auction is great, actually being in one is where you’re going to learn the most the quickest. Managing your budget from the beginning to the end is only going to come easier as you experience different situations you find yourself in. Looking back at a completed auction roster is always fun because it usually looks much different than a snake roster, for the reasons I talked about in Part I.
When it’s your turn to pick in a snake draft, you choose the best player available based on your roster construction; normally you don’t have a say as to who is available to you. In an auction, I tend to feel a little more attached to my players, as I specifically sought them out, bid, and fought to roster them. It just feels different than drafting them in a snake, I’m not sure how else to explain it. I hope you experience this attachment as well, as it is a very cool feeling to have as the baseball season gets underway.
Stay tuned for the third and final part of this auction strategy series, as I do a case study on the NFBC and their auction leagues. We’ll take a look at how to best build your bench in these leagues, as the benches are built entirely from a snake draft; all of your auction money goes toward your starters. Until then, happy drafting and Game Planning!
Photos by Alexander Schimmeck/Unsplash and Tingey/Unsplash | Adapted by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)
I’ve been doing auctions for almost 15 years and I can honestly say this series was still helpful. Thanks for the good stuff!
Thanks Jose that means alot! Not enough talk about auctions out there!!