Fantasy Baseball celebrated its silver anniversary in January. It was 25 years ago when some baseball-minded gentlemen met in a Manhattan restaurant called "La Rotisserie Francaise" to create our game. They set the groundwork for what has become a hobby played by many of the 15 million Americans that participate in Fantasy sports.
The original owners used an auction to disperse players, and that remains one of the most popular forms of drafts in Fantasy Baseball. Since the Internet has helped the game explode, many leagues have reverted to using a draft mostly because of the difficulties of working schedules and travel plans around an auction.
But Fantasy Baseball purists believe the game isn't a game without the auction. Where a straight draft is enjoyable and involves a certain amount of strategy, auctions incorporate using your poker face as you attempt to outwit your opponents in bidding and roster compilation. The auction gives owners an equal shot at every player in the league, unlike the straight draft. Here's a quick rundown of some auction strategies that beginners, as well as veterans, should consider.
The Price is Right
You can either go off of our auction values or derive your own. If you do your own, you should first start with projecting out every player you believe will be auctioned off. If you are in a 23-round, 12-team league, that means 276 players will be drafted. And if you have a $260 salary cap, figure on $3,120 being spent at the auction for those 276 players -- or an average dollar value of $11 to $12 per player.
Remember comparative production is what matters, not a player's total stats. In other words, you want the players who are stronger at their positions more than you want the players who are stronger overall. You want the players who do the most for you at every position, compared with their counterparts. This is a value-based drafting theory, but that player still has to be reasonably priced in order for it to be of value to you.
When assigning dollar values, figure out how many starters you think will be drafted at each position, then assign $1 to each player you feel barely deserves a bid. Then assess how much you believe the high-dollar players would go for, and adjust accordingly down to the dollar players.
Try to group players into tiers within their positions. Target blocks of similar players and do your best to get the cheapest of that group. This will ensure you don't overpay and you won't get stuck with a bare spot on your team, unless other owners continually overpay early in the draft.
Allow for position scarcity. Second base is a shallow position this season, so the curve from good to bad should be much sharper than other positions, like first or third base. The price difference between the top-rated second baseman and the 15th-rated second baseman should be much greater than the price difference between the top first baseman and the 15th first baseman.
Adjust dollar values for players you know will go higher than you rate them. For instance, are their any Mets fans in the house? If so, you'll probably want to add a dollar or two to your values for Mike Piazza, Carlos Beltran, David Wright and Pedro Martinez.
Pitchers and outfielders are different animals because you have to draft so many of each. That makes the top ones that much more valuable than the lower ones. Be careful not to overbid on pitchers, though, since even the best ones don't affect five categories, whereas the top outfielders can.
When beginning to assemble your roster, remember you want to acquire balance across your lineup. You don't want to go too hitter-heavy and miss out on good pitchers, but remember you need 14 hitters compared with nine pitchers. A good rule of thumb is to spend in a 65-35 split. Use 65 percent of your cash on hitters and the remainder on pitchers.
Set your value for a player and don't pay more than that number, at least early on -- more on that later. For the first part of the draft, you need to be disciplined when bidding. Don't get suckered into a bidding war. Don't get distracted by trash talk. Don't give up on a player if other people scoff at the bidding. Trust your values. You prepared so hard for this event, don't let second thoughts ruin that preparation.
By the time your auction rolls around, you'll have plenty of sources of information to review prices. Between our site, other sites (say it ain't so!) and magazines, you will have a decent idea of what a player's salary ceiling should be.
But it is important to only use price guides as just that -- guides. If you happen to check out a couple mock auctions or results from experts leagues, understand that without knowing the order of nomination for those players, it's tough to determine how true a player's values are.
|Mike Lowell's auction day price tag is directly related to when he is nominated. (Getty Images)|
Keep life simple. If you can use a laptop to keep track of your players, everyone else's players and money without much trouble, go ahead. But try to concentrate mostly on your budget, roster and the available players.
And the nominees are ...
Strangely enough, one of the more stressful moments during an auction is when everyone looks to you for a nominated player. Do you nominate someone you want? Do you nominate someone you don't want? What if you nominate a guy that could have been had much later, much cheaper if you only waited?
Don't fret. Here are a few items to consider when tossing out names for bid:
- Early on, nominate high-end players you don't necessarily want. Remember, the main goal here is to get others to spend their money.
- Toward the end of the draft, you will only want to nominate players you want.
- Once you acquire a top player, nominate other great players at his position to even the playing field again. You don't want bargains left on the table in a slot you have already filled.
- Nominate players early you believe will have off years or if you think others value them higher. Do you think Carl Pavano will bomb in the Bronx? Let him be your first nomination and sit back while others spend money on what you don't want.
- It is also good practice to call out favorite players of other owners, so they can open their wallets early. Try not to be obvious about it, though, since you could cause them to think they are walking into your trap ... which they are of course.
- After a player is won for a cheaper price than you expected, nominate a better player. Then goad owners into bidding him up, saying, "There is no way he should go cheaper than (insert name here)
Do thy bidding ...
Do keep track of trends. If a group of players at a position is going higher than you expected, then there will be a few players at that position available on the cheap later on.
Don't show false bravado and bid much higher than necessary just to try to scare people off. Many times other owners will bid just once more to show you they aren't intimidated, or worse, they will back off altogether, and you get a player for more than you needed to.
Do bid in the lowest increments possible.
Don't bid at the last possible second every time. If you are done with a player, stay out of it. Every now and then, though, if you feel a steal is about to be had, jump in there, but don't make it a common practice, or else you will have 11 other owners ticked off at you.
Do spend big money on big-money players. Don't get carried away with the cheapies. If there is a star player being bid on that is still under your values, don't be afraid to take him, even if he goes right to your limit on him.
Don't bid on players you don't want just because you are trying to bid up another owner. That's a dangerous practice and a good way to screw up your entire strategy.
Do scratch out a player's name on your cheat sheets once he is nominated. This is much more important than in a regular draft, since your remaining budget could be adjusted toward acquiring that one player. If he is gone, you just killed the rest of your auction.
Don't panic while others continue to rake in players early and you are left with an empty roster. Since they are overpaying for the most part, you know you will begin to reap the rewards soon. Just remain patient, count your money, then move in for the kill.
Do write down the names of the owners who you outbid on every player. That way, you already have an owner ready to trade for any player on your roster.
The watershed moment ...
In every auction, there is a watershed point where the money is suddenly gone and owners are pinching every penny as they try to pick up just one or two of the excellent players left on the board. Be prepared for that moment.
Once you sense that, you should be the most-prepared owner, ready to get any sleeper you have left on your list. The only way someone can outbid you is if they shoot their whole wad. And even that's a good thing since he is one less competitor for the rest of the bargains.
Usually leagues will take a break every hour or so. Take that time to regroup. Reassess your roster, your remaining salary and the players available. As the auction comes to a close, this is the one and only time you should consider paying more than your player values tell you. You don't want to leave money on the table if possible.
You should be all set to conquer your opponents on Auction Day. As long as you remember to keep true to your player values early on, you'll find more bargains than at the dented can aisle at the supermarket. Who says dented beets don't taste good?