Fantasy Baseball: How to Survive an Auction Draft

Fantasy Baseball: How to Survive an Auction  

In fantasy sports, players can be categorized into three generic manager profiles:

  1. The guy who prepares for the draft then coasts through the regular season
  2. The guy who wings the draft then scours the free agents like a lion looking for lunch (this guy also tends to send ridiculous trade offers that a 4 year old would decline)
  3. The guy who does both

In an ideal world we would all be Manager #3. We would prepare meticulously for every draft, read player updates all day long and make the best possible moves for our team each week. But, there’s this thing called reality. Most managers have jobs, families, commitments and other life-things that get in the way of sports. I’m not saying that it is acceptable; I just understand the reality of it.

Obviously I can’t teach you how to manage a team with dedication. That has to come from within. What I can do is help you become Manager #1. Your consistent effort and willingness to put in the time will help you become Manager #3. Please don’t be Manager #2. They rarely win leagues and when they do, they make everyone else upset.

Step #1: start your research today.

I quickly learned in college that the way to ace exams was to study throughout the course of the semester, so that when Finals came you didn’t have to cram. What I failed to do was execute what I had learned. I crammed and crammed and crammed until my brain was about to explode from over-memorization. This lead to inconsistent test scores. The same can be said for your fantasy teams. Just because you go into the draft with a list of sleepers that you memorized an hour before doesn’t mean you will remember them, or their respective value, when the time comes. You need to be organized, quick on your feet/keyboard and most importantly adaptive.

Preparation should be simple. If you like sports, which you do if you’re reading this and/or playing fantasy baseball, then it shouldn’t be difficult to listen and read about the sport. There’s now an abundance of reading material out there, all with varying opinions you should consider. Be careful only reading one site’s material. Data is easily manipulated to tell the story of the person writing it. Trust me, I’m a writer. Podcasts and sports radio are two tools that are still underutilized.

Step #2: prepare your budget.

Whether you make a conscious effort or not, we all budget in some way, shape or form. As a kid you budget your time. As an adult you budget your finances. As a fantasy manager you should budget your auction spending. Don’t go into the draft like a kid in a candy shop or you’ll end up crashing from too many Pixy Stix. There are endless ways to budget your money, but here are a few examples:

Assume the auction budget is $260 (the “standard” budget for baseball)

  • High-level Splits – $180 on lineup and $80 on rotation. This gives you plenty of flexibility and minimizes restrictions. Once you set your values for each, break them down further (i.e $100 for 2B, SS and 3B).
  • Specific Splits - $5 for C, $30 on 1B, $15 on 2B, etc. With this strategy you can either budget your money for a solid starting lineup, with $1 replacement level bench players, or spread your money across your starters and your bench. I prefer spending 90% of my budget on my starters and hoping to get some cheap steals/breakouts at the end. 
  • Pre-value Players – $55 max for Trout, $53 for Cabrera. This is the most time consuming and the most valuable. Here’s a very useful tool for your baseline. What one expert thinks Trout’s value is could be very different to you. If you are an Angels fan, Trout may instantly be $5 more to you. The numbers are relative; don’t let a valuation throw you off from a player. Mock drafts will help you establish your max value. When a player is nominated, the easiest way for you to establish your max value is to figure out when you stop bidding. Do some mock drafts and jot down notes of when you stop bidding on players.

Step #3: execute the draft.

You now know all of the sleepers and busts from doing your research. You have a pristine budget laid out in front of you that details how you will spend every last cent. You’re ready for the perfect draft, right? Your first auction draft is like kissing a girl for the first time. You’ve practiced on pillows, dolls and whatever other random object you could find, but now it’s gametime. Your lips touching her lips in an extremely awkward initial sensation that you hope you don’t completely botch.

Moving past the creepy teenage metaphors, here’s a nifty tool I use while drafting to make sure I am staying balanced and on track towards my statistical goals:

Position

Runs

Home Runs

RBIs

Average

SBs

C

x

x

x

1B

x

x

2B

x

x

x

3B

x

x

x

x

Table 1: when you draft a player, mark off what categories he will help you in.

The x’s represent a significant statistical contribution to that category. My cutoffs for each are:

  • Runs = 90+
  • Home Runs = 20+
  • RBIs = 80+
  • Average = .290+
  • SBs = 20+

You can use your own cutoffs if you’d like or keep the ones I have laid out. Here are my pitching cutoffs for reference:

  • Wins = 13+
  • Ks = 170+
  • Saves = 30+ (more on this later)
  • ERA = < 3.50
  • WHIP = <1.20

Whether you are punting categories or going for a well-balanced team, charting what statistics each player contributes the most to will help you balance your team. Adapting to the draft is critical to success. The draft isn’t full of 85 mph fast balls directly over the plate. It’s full of curves that will test your ability to think quickly and react to what is going on. There are drafts where the top 3 guys go off the board $15 more than what you thought they would. Now every player after that is valued against those top guys. Now you need to bump up your values for the top 30-40 players.

General Rules of Thumb:

  • Don’t spend all of your money in the first 2 rounds. You’ll severely restrict yourself when the good deals start coming.
  • Don’t wait too long to get a stud. It’s basic Supply & Demand. Once 8 out of the 10 studs are gone, numbers 9 and 10 become hot commodities.
  • Don’t spend money on (most) relievers. Unless your league uses settings that bolster the value of closers, they aren’t worth the money. Guys like Kimbrel and Chapman help in more than just saves, so you can justify spending on them. But for the rest of the closers, grab a couple for cheap and hope they keep their jobs.
  • Don’t get caught with someone you really don’t want. Everyone likes to bump up the price on their buddy a bit, but when you try to bump up the price of someone else who is bumping up the price, you’re not going to be a happy camper.

Follow me on Twitter @MoreThanFantasy and let me know if you have any other strategies, insights or questions about auction drafting.

5 Comments

  1. Mark

    February 28, 2014 at 8:29 am

    Never could grasp , WHY, you give less of a % , say 35% of my $300 Salary to pitching. Pitching gets 5 categories as well. I have done in the past 3 years ALL RP’s, as well as 2 other owners. We have done well. This year I am going back to 7-8 SP’s and 2-3 RP’s for my 10 Pitchers. Good Read

    • Aaron Marcotte

      February 28, 2014 at 8:35 am

      Hey Mark, thanks for the comment. You make a good point. I think it’s based on the manager’s preference. I am a SP streamer, so I never place a high premium on starters. Sure, I always pickup 3-4 solid pitchers but they are usually in the $10-$20 range. I also go for a lot of sleepers such as Alex Cobb of last year. Streaming pitchers wins me W and K’s almost every week, so as long as I keep my ERA/WHIP down with some aces and RP’s I usually win a minimum of 3/5 cats each week.

      I definitely understand spending a lot of money on stud pitchers if you don’t want to stream or take the risk on sleepers. Personally, I just believe that 30-40 HR guys are more valuable than a 15 win, 200 strikeout guy.

      • Mark

        March 2, 2014 at 1:07 pm

        What is Streaming pitchers ?

        • Aaron Marcotte

          March 2, 2014 at 1:51 pm

          Streaming is used in H2H and you pick up a pitcher, who has a good matchup, that starts the next day. Normally you get 3-5 moves per week meaning you can get 3-5 extra starts out of your rotation.

  2. Mark

    March 2, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I assume streaming is used for Head -to- Head ?

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