Fantasy Baseball: Auction Draft Strategy

Fantasy Baseball: Auction Draft Strategy

Let’s be honest, auction drafts can be intimidating even for experienced players. In a snake format you can at least use ADP data to get a pretty good idea of which players will be available when it’s your turn to pick; in an auction you never how things are going to unfold. Further, unlike a standard draft there’s no time in between picks to plan ahead; you’re always on the clock. Every dollar counts and each decision has lasting ramifications on your roster flexibility. Most importantly you must be ready to change your strategy and adjust at a moment’s notice.

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Now all of these factors are also the reason why auction drafts are so exciting, not to mention the most fair. Why should you be limited by a randomly generated draft order when you can instead give each team a chance at selecting any player? And remember, the key to being successful in an auction isn’t trying to predict what will happen, it’s having the flexibility to adapt to what does happen.


Below are some of the strategies and guidelines that have proven successful for me and made my experience enjoyable and exciting rather than stressful.

Prep Work

  • Create values
    • Make a spreadsheet that shows how you value each player. If you don’t want to start from scratch, most sites will have a sample chart that you can adjust based on your league size and budget. You can also use this as a starting point and make modifications based on your own rankings. Keep in mind however that you’re working with a fixed amount of money (# of teams in your league x team budget) and all the values you assign to players must add up exactly to this total. It’s expected that you’re going to have some players at $0.
  • Utilize tiers
    • Each position has tiers, which are used to indicate when the drop-off between two players who are ranked consecutively becomes significant. For example, in the current 3B rankings Arenado, Bryant, Donaldson and Machado are all comparable players however the difference between those four and the 5th ranked 3B is considerable. The easiest way to identify this is when there is a large gap between two players in the overall ranks, yet they’re slotted very close together at their respective position.

Spending Habits

  • Don’t be cheap
    • Remember you lose everything you don’t spend. You should still try to stick to your pre-draft values, but if all the top players at a position are going for more then you expected you have to adjust. Waiting it out and focusing solely on mid-level options can work occasionally, but it’s a risky strategy for two reasons. First, if everyone else overspends on elite guys you’re going to get these players for cheaper than expected and likely have some leftover money. Or worse, if multiple owners take this approach you’re going to get stuck significantly overpaying. Second, mid-tier players obviously have less upside and more inherent risk so it’s generally preferable to at least have a few dependable studs you can rely on.
  • Save some $ for the end
    • Everyone has a few $1 players they really like. However, if you leave yourself say only $5 for your last 5 spots you’re now at the mercy of the nomination order. You can’t bid up if anyone else throws out the guy you want or if they go to $2 on your nomination. Personally, when it comes to my last few players I like to keep around a 150% ratio (ex. If I have 4 spots to fill I want to have at least $6 available).
      • Assuming you have the ability, a small trick that can be useful in these situations is throwing the player out at $2. At this point others are less likely to go to $3 and it also prevents you from having to go there if they were to top your standard $1 bid.

Finding Value

  • Nomination Strategy
    • The first player to get nominated at a position often goes for the best value. The reason for this is that the market has not yet been set and thus owners don’t have a comparison point. Additionally, most teams are reluctant to spend a large chunk of their budget within the first few minutes of the draft. This won’t always be the case, but it helps to remember that understanding psychology and perception are especially important in this format.
  • Understanding tiers
    • I mentioned tiers in the prep section and they truly are the key to making sure you spend your money wisely. When you see a player about to be sold for several dollars less than others in that same group, it’s usually a good spot to jump in. Conversely, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is assuming you’re going to get a great value by waiting for the last player in a given tier. If multiple teams take this approach a bidding war will ensue and that player will often end up going for as much if not more than the best options in the group.

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