Fantasy Baseball: 2016 Auction Strategy Review

Juan Nicasio Pirates

Just like Angela Moss in #MrRobot, I left myself exposed with some fatal flaws in my 2016 auction strategy while also banking some victories. Learn from my mistakes people; there are plenty to go around. I will close with a brief comment on my “overpaying” successes.

A pretty easy way to improve your process in any fake sport is to review your previous season and see what needs some work. I suggest doing this in each league regardless of your experience and level of success. That being said, this isn’t a column for the experts out there. I am a man of the people.

I recently completed my second season in an auction NL only league, my home league. It has been one hell of a ride. I was also in two other leagues and a Fangraphs reader’s league. Fear not, I will only review my home league in this space. After all, there’s only so much self-reflection one can take.

For background, it was a NINE team 5×5 Roto – NL only, $260 budget 14 batters / nine pitchers in starting lineup. Also we draft four reserves at the draft, and four remaining bench spots to be filled through Free Agent Auction Bidding (FAAB) with $100 FAAB to spend. You can keep players also, but that is not very relevant to this article.

Critical Mistake: I should’ve taken the blue pill.

Juan Nicasio – “SP” Pittsburgh Pirates

We all hear the same things when beginning our fake baseball careers. Spring training is meaningless. Don’t draft converted relievers. Well, I am here to tell you that those things can be true. And while the Ladies dig the fastball, it isn’t everything. This is where Juan Nicasio 2016 version enters the discussion.  Nicasio earned a spot in the Pirates rotation due to his killer spring performance and the absence of Worley, Happ, etc.

In case the Pirates 2016 spring training isn’t still in your nightmares like it is for me, I have included a few relevant numbers below from .

2015 Spring Training IP – 24 K 5BB 59 TBF AVG 0.189 WHIP 1.00

That works out to K rates of 40% K and 14.4 K/9IP. I knew those were unsustainable but I probably didn’t weigh that properly.

His fastball velocity was 94.4mph fastball [April average] –

What about his Innings Pitched / durability? In 2015 he had 58IP and his three year max of 168IP combined in 2013.

Pre-season ZIPS Projections – from Fangraphs:

Juan Nicasio553.981343101.79845986411.377.613.633.890.8

The bold data shows clearly I should not have counted on him for many starts or innings. In fact, he started just 12 games for the Pirates. That ZIPS guy knows his stuff.

3/30/16 Auction value FG – ($1.70)

I paid $11 on draft day to land him.

Another irony here is that I always rail against recency bias on the twitter machine. Yet here I was adding homer-ism on top of stupidity and paying $13 more for an arm when my whole strategy was based on bargain pitching. Whoops. It was one of those out of body experience where I was yelling at myself as I was bidding. #shame

How do you avoid this kind of error? That seems pretty simple, let’s use some bullet points for the PowerPoint crowd.

  • Don’t overpay significantly >$6 vs. your preferred auction value guide.
  • Use pre-season projections over Spring Training statistics.
  • Don’t overvalue (FB) velocity.
  • Don’t be homer, GD it.

I definitely made some other mistakes, but I think this one cost me the most. If you spend badly at the draft it is very difficult to overcome throughout the season.

Oh look, I found FIVE dollars!

Well, now that I showed I am capable of at least one basic mistake; let’s switch over to the positive side. I don’t want to claim a success for getting a player less than my auction price because I am not the only factor in pulling those off. As all of you probably know, you’re going to have to pay above your values to get players you like. See also inflation, which I won’t go into here. You’re welcome.

My list of players I “over-paid” for in 2016:


First off, notice that none of them are more than $5 more that my (Fangraphs) value. Marte and Hendricks were keepers so that is kind of an asterisk. However, I kept them knowing that I would’ve been willing to pay that price on draft day. Hendricks and Marte were a very large part of the reason I finished in 2nd in the league.

Carter and Realmuto I purchased for only $1 more than value. A very minor overpay, but you definitely want to be willing to go a buck or two over on players you like. Carter outplayed even the most optimistic projections, especially for his final HR total – 41.   The astute reader will note I got lucky on the players I overpaid for. I won’t argue that point too strongly, but I’d like to believe there is some skill there.

What is the takeaway here? Be willing to pay $1-$5 more for a handful of players you like. It depends on the settings in your league, but you can’t afford to overpay for more than a few guys. It is important to not get into a bidding war and later realize you spent $10 more than your listed value for a player (see Critical Mistake section above.) Saving money on a few players along the way obviously helps when you need to bid over value. I hope this brief review of my auction strategy is helpful for my fellow degenerates.

Thank you for reading.

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