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2013 Draft Prep: Al Melchior's Auction strategies

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More Auction strategies: Nando Di Fino | Scott White

Real baseball isn't played on a level field. Big-market teams often have the luxury of snapping up the biggest stars, while small-market teams have to be a little wily in order to compete. By contrast, Fantasy auctions allow all owners to start off with the same budget, but that doesn't mean they can't play their own version of "Moneyball."

While no owner has to overcome a massive deficit in financial resources when they come to the auction table, if they don't find a way to maximize the value they get from their budget, they won't enjoy the sweet taste of "Yoohoo" at the end of the season. As in the real game, part of finding value is identifying players who are undervalued and underappreciated by most other owners. Everyone has their method for finding sleepers and hidden gems; for years, I have relied on the method developed by Ron Shandler that views players through the lens of skill indicators (i.e., strikeout and walk rates, both for pitchers and batters) rather than through surface stats like batting average or ERA. Whichever tools you prefer, it's important to come prepared with a long list of players whom you expect to get on the cheap.

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Value is also about supply and demand and timing. While every auction is somewhat unique, a general pattern that I have observed is that in the early going when the supply of viable players is greatest, owners get some of the biggest bargains. (However, you don't always want to go cheap in the early portion of the auction, and I'll explain why below.) A successful auction, then, not only depends on knowing which players you want to target but also knowing when to make your move.

It's not always clear as to when is a good time to break out your wallet, but these four strategies can at least give you some guidance on when to pull the trigger on bidding the extra dollar or making a nomination. There is not just one way to have a successful auction, so this is far from a comprehensive list of time-tested strategies, but they comprise a method that has worked for me.

1. Go a little extra on elite talent

However much you think you want to spend on particular players, when it comes to players who are far ahead of the field at their position, spend a little bit more. For example, when Joey Votto is nominated in an NL-only draft, it's worth your while to go as much as $10 over your budget for him. Not only can you practically be assured that Votto will perform at a very high level, but there is no one else in the NL who is likely to come anywhere near that level at his position. The same logic holds for Miguel Cabrera (in any format), Ryan Braun (in any format), Matt Kemp (in any format), Clayton Kershaw (in any format), Justin Verlander (in any format), Craig Kimbrel (in all Rotisserie formats), Jose Reyes (in AL-only leagues) and Buster Posey (in NL-only leagues). Some may feel comfortable adding Mike Trout to this list as well, though his limited track record would prevent me from going more than a few dollars over budget on him.

The key to making this strategy work is to find sleepers either in the early or late portions of the auction. Once you have anchored your roster with two or three high-priced elites, you can make up some of the budget deficit you've created by targeting players whom you perceive that other owners are undervaluing. A scan of our current average draft position rankings can give you a good sense of which players are generally being undervalued.

2. Come prepared with a list of sleepers you can get cheap, either early or late

To make your aggressive approach with elite players work, you will need to come prepared with a list of players whom you think you can win with bids that are below your budget for them. This list should be deep enough, so that if you either miss out on some of them or you underestimate others' interest in them, you have a Plan B. Not only do you need to be ready with a long list of names, but you need to start pursuing them -- nominating them, if necessary -- either in the early going or late. In the middle of the auction, the tiers of quality players start to thin out, and this is where many owners will wind up going over budget. Middle-tier players like Freddie Freeman, Aaron Hill or Pedro Alvarez often represent the last acceptable option remaining on the board, so it's easy to go a few extra dollars on them despite your best intentions. If you think these players could bring you good value in the early going when there is less of a mood of desperation, toss them out for nomination.

3. Let other owners outspend you during the middle portion of the auction

If you execute the first two strategies, you will probably enter the middle portion of the auction with one of the smaller remaining budgets. While it may be tempting to fill in the rest of your roster while there are still some solid players left to be taken, for the most part, this is a good time to sit back and watch the other owners empty their accounts. That is not to say that you should sleep on this portion of the auction, as you still have to be on the lookout for potential bargains. It's just that they could be much harder to find, so you need to resist the urge to get in a bidding war over middle-tier types. Make the occasional exception if you need to, but the overall theme of this portion of the auction should be restraint.

4. Mix up your nomination patterns

As mentioned above, sometimes you will need to nominate potential bargain players early, so that you maximize the chance that they remain bargains. However, you don't want to telegraph your intentions when you make a nomination. Use a variety of methods in selecting a nominee. On some occasions, you can scan the remaining options at a position that you've already filled and select the player who you think will go for the greatest value, thus taking some dollars out of the draft room. Other times you can throw out a player you'd like to have for $1, but one you're not attached to so that you won't feel the need to counterbid if someone goes $2 on him. Other times, just make a random selection.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Red Sox designate Drake Britton for assignment
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:10 pm ET) The Red Sox designated pitcher Drake Britton for assignment Friday, clearing a roster spot for pitcher Alexi Ogando.

Britton appeared in seven games with the Red Sox in 2014, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out four batters and walking two. He posted a 5.86 ERA and 37:38 K:BB ratio in 58 1/3 innings with Triple-A Pawtucket.


Peter Moylan 'doing fantastic' in return from Tommy John
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Free-agent pitcher Peter Moylan indicated Friday that he's "doing fantastic" in his return from his second Tommy John surgery, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"I’m doing fantastic, mate. Dropped 35 pounds," Moylan said. “My goal is to be 100 percent by end of spring. Ball is coming out great, though. Probably have to throw for some teams right around the start of spring to gauge interest, but there have already been some nibbles, which is encouraging."

Moylan underwent the procedure last March after receiving a non-roster invitation from the Astros. He's throwing from about 70 percent strength off a mound and in the process of deciding whether to sign a a deal in the near future or after the season begins. He hopes to resume pitching in the big leagues by midseason at the earliest.

Moylan has made 309 appearances since debuting in 2006, compiling a 21-9 record, 2.80 ERA and 213:121 K:BB ratio in 276 innings.


Braves' Shelby Miller: Sinker is 'going to take me to the next level'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Braves starting pitcher Shelby Miller had an up-and-down season with the Cardinals in 2014. He began the season by going 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA before going 2-7 with a 5.11 ERA over his next 16 appearances (15 starts).

Miller, however, was able to finish the season on a high note, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and .190 opponents' batting average over his final seven starts. Miller attributes his success down the stretch to incorporating a sinker into his repertoire, per FOX Sports South.

"I said I'm going to throw some of these, and we'll see where it's at," Miller said of a conversation he had with catcher A.J. Pierzynski before an Aug. 23 start against the Phillies. "It felt good so we just went with it. I started throwing it literally within three days. It's a good pitch that I picked up quick.

"I still need a lot of work with it. I need a lot of work with all my pitches. There's all sorts of ways to get better. But I think that's definitely a pitch that will help me be more efficient and take me deeper into games. That's [the sinker] going to be a huge pitch for me this year that's ultimately going to take me to the next level. Not only that but kind of mixing it all together, becoming more of a complete pitcher more than a thrower."

Miller added he will also begin to work more on his changeup, which he threw just 2.2 percent of the time in 2014, per FanGraphs.com.

"I know [Braves pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] has been known for changeups," Miller said. "A lot of great pitchers have come through this organization, [and] that's a pitch I would love to pick up. I want to be able to throw it more consistently, [and] have a little bit more confidence in it."


Scott Baker agrees to minor-league deal with Yankees
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:16 pm ET) The Yankees agreed to a minor-league deal with pitcher Scott Baker, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. If Baker makes the major-league roster, he will be paid $1.5 million.

Baker made 25 appearances (eight starts) for the Rangers in 2014, going 3-4 with a 5.47 ERA. He had 55 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings.


Rockies designate Jayson Aquino for assignment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:24 pm ET) After completing a two-team trade Friday, the Rockies decided to designate Jayson Aquino for assignment, the team announced.

Aquino spent 2014 bouncing around the minor league, pitching in 18 games with a 5.13 ERA in 107 innings pitched. He went 5-10 with 83 strikeouts in stints with both Double-A Tulsa and Class A Modesto.


Report: Red Sox express willingness to trade Edward Mujica
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:22 pm ET) The Red Sox have expressed a willingness to trade reliever Edward Mujica, a source told FOX Sports. The right-handed reliever is set to make $4.75 million in 2015.

Mujica, who was an All-Star with St. Louis in 2013, went 2-4 with a 3.90 ERA and eight saves in his first season with Boston in 2014.


Orioles 1B/OF Steve Pearce agrees to $3.7M salary for 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:16 pm ET) The Orioles avoided arbitration with outfielder/first baseman Steve Pearce, agreeing to a $3.7 million salary for 2015, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Pearce reportedly filed for $5.4 million, while the Orioles reportedly offered $2 million.

Pearce is coming off his best season as a major leaguer, batting .293 with a .373 on-base percentage, .556 slugging percentage, .930 OPS, 21 home runs, 26 doubles and 49 RBI in 102 games.


Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is 'staying put'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:57 pm ET) A team source told CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman that Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is "staying put."  Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich told FOX Sports earlier in the week that it is "highly, highly unlikely" Tulowitzki will be traded before opening day.

Tulowitzki, who has been linked to trade rumors involving the Mets this offseason, is under contract through 2020 on a six-year, $118 million deal. He is also recovering from August hip surgery.


Red Sox agree to deal with pitcher Alexi Ogando
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:52 pm ET) The Red Sox have agreed to a deal with pitcher Alexi Ogando, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is a one-year, $1.5 million contract, which includes $1.5 million in bonuses, according to USA Today.

Ogando has been a free agent since being non-tendered by the Rangers in December. Ogando made just 27 relief appearances in 2014 due to an elbow injury. He went 2-3 with a 6.84 ERA.

Ogando, who was an All-Star in 2011, also has experience starting at the major-league level, going 19-12 with a 3.40 ERA in 48 career starts.


Braves trade RPs Hale, Schlosser to Rockies for two minor leaguers
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:42 pm ET) The Braves traded pitchers David Hale and Gus Schlosser to the Rockies on Friday in exchange for catchers Jose Briceno and Chris O’Dowd.

Hale went 4-5 with a 3.30 ERA in 45 relief appearances for Atlanta in 2014. He struck out 44 batters and issued 39 walks in 87 1/3 innings.

Schlosser made his MLB debut in 2014, going 0-1 with a 7.64 ERA in 15 relief outings for Atlanta. He struck out eight and walked six in 17 2/3 innings.

Briceno hit .283 with 12 home runs, 23 doubles and 50 RBI in 84 games for Class A Asheville in 2014. He has a career .280/.433/.776 slash line over five minor-league seasons.

O'Dowd hit .271 with five home runs, 27 doubles and 48 RBI in 113 games between high Class A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa in 2014. He has a career .260/.362/.689 slash line over three minor-league seasons.


 
 
 
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