Draft prep: Auction strategies

Don't forget to check out our Mock draft product this preseason! It's a great tool to use to see which players might be available when you pick in many varieties of leagues!

The highway is not always the best way. Some of the best restaurants and scenery are located off the beaten path in America. And when it comes to Fantasy Baseball, some exciting moments can be found off of the Straight Draft highway. Take a winding tour down Auction Avenue to see a different view of Fantasy Baseball.

Straight drafts are certainly the norm for most leagues, and a ton of strategy is involved in any format, but auction strategy is an entirely different animal. And now that we have a partnership with FantasyAuctioneer.com, you too can experience the thrill of an online auction.

In a straight draft, you are pretty limited by what everyone else is doing. Period. The fact that you have the eighth pick means you are limited by the players drafted in the seven spots above yours. In an auction, you and your salary cap are the only things preventing you from taking any player available.

You want Alex Rodriguez, Johan Santana and Jose Reyes? You'll likely have to spend nearly $150 of your $260 salary cap, but you can definitely do it. You'll just have to be happy with a starting lineup that is also filled out with the likes of Jason Schmidt, Kevin Youkilis and David DeJesus.

Auction setups

If you are thinking of starting up a second league to go with your straight draft league -– definitely consider making it an auction league.

An auction league is still the same Fantasy Baseball league once the seasons begins. But getting to the start of the season is much more fun. You need to have a relatively good grasp of player values and you need 8-14 owners to get together for the dispersal of said players. (Consider finding someone in our message boards to fill out your league.)

Each owner gets $260 to purchase 23 players, and then you finish with a six-round reserve draft. That's old school Fantasy Baseball!

Set what you think is a reasonable price for the top 276 players (23 players, 12 teams) you expect to get drafted, and try to use that as a gauge. Or you can use our auction values to start with. But remember that once the first few players go off the board, you should mentally adjust your values. If the stars are more expensive than you initially expected, then you know there will be some bargains later on in the draft.

Try to separate players at each position into tiers, and then work on getting the cheapest players (not always the lowest-rated) in the highest tiers possible at each position. For instance, Hanley Ramirez, Reyes and Jimmy Rollins might be your top tier at shortstop, so work on getting the cheapest value of the three once they go up for auction. Want a cheaper example? What about second-tier third basemen like Chipper Jones, Garrett Atkins and Aramis Ramirez? Granted, the third player to go might not be the cheapest, since others might value that one higher than the other two, but generally, you should know that they will go near the same dollar value (probably around $20 in a mixed league auction).

For each dollar you save in one of these tiers, you can pick up a better bargain later in the draft. You'll begin to see a shift in prices after about 80-100 players are off the board. That's the Fantasy fulcrum when the values of players shifts and some of the stars slipped through the nomination process and begin to go at cheaper rates. Try to save money so you can take advantage when this happens, but make sure you still get at least a couple high-price players for around the money you budgeted early on.

Since there are 23 players to draft in an auction, it's not like a Fantasy Football auction, where the superstars are few and far between.

You can afford to let Albert Pujols go for an exorbitant price because there's a good chance you'll get a solid first baseman for around half the price, to go with maybe a solid outfielder that you used your surplus on.

Good with Microsoft Excel? Set up a spreadsheet for your league -- or at least one for your team that keeps track of how much you have left in your budget for hitting and pitching, or even for outfielders in general. If you use FantasyAuctioneer.com, they show you on the top left corner how much your maximum bid available on any player. That's calculated by subtracting $1 from your total available salary dollars for every player open roster spot, then adding $1. In other words, if you had $10 left and five open roster spots, then your max bid would be $6 -- ($10-$5)+$1.

Live auction strategies

Don't get caught with money on the table. You don't want to be so cautious and frugal, waiting for bargains that you end up either spending $52 on Joel Pineiro. (That actually happened to an opponent a few years ago because he didn't want to leave $50 on the table at the end of a horrible auction.) Once you realize you have more money than everyone else, start taking advantage by stealing the players you want and bullying everyone else around. But realize that you'll also soon find yourself as the "bullied" once you spend that surplus.

Don't nominate a player you want early on. Get those star players out there that you aren't especially fond of because you want your opponents to burn money on those players while they still have plenty of cap room. Or if you just drafted Reyes, and you are comfortable in steals, nominate Carl Crawford or Chone Figgins, knowing that the available stolen bases are fewer -- and money is still aplenty.

But as you head into the final half of your auction, only nominate players you want -- and for just $1. Let someone else bid him up. It's not that important to make the auction eight seconds shorter by nominating a player for $10, only to see no one else bite. You might have been able to get him for $3. Don't nominate someone you don't want -- since everyone else might agree with you that he stinks.

Once you win a good player at a certain position, try to nominate any players that are better (or equal to) that player. Owners will remember what you just spent and they'll either have to beat it or come close to your number. Plus, it takes away their available money from what they could spend on other positions that you still need. For example, if you just won Adrian Gonzalez for $16, you want to make sure that Mark Teixeira goes off the board soon, while people still have money. In a live in-person auction, you can even say, "You can't let Teixeira go for just $18! He's waaay better than Adrian Gonzalez, who I just spent $16 on!"

Change your bidding style -- bid early on some players and bid late on others. You don't want people to know if you are about to bail on a player or if you plan on bidding up another $15.

If you want to spend little on pitching, make sure you nominate high-end pitchers early to get the most money spent on them. But later on, only nominate pitchers you don't mind winning.

As the auction gets near the end, start bidding $2 for one or two of the players you really want to assure that you don't get outbid for the best of the remainders. If you are infatuated with Justin Upton and you bid just $1, he could now cost you $3 if someone bids on him. But if you bid $2, you have a much better shot at owning him. (Obvious, I know, but still a smart plan.)

Remember the power of 9, 19, 29 and 39! If you are in a bidding war with an opponent, and the price is escalating a dollar at a time, you can try to force his hand. If you are the even-number bidder, and he is odd, and the bidding escalates 15, 16, 17, then instead of bidding $18, jump straight to $19. You'll be surprised how much more difficult it is for an owner to justify in his head moving into a higher salary bracket, so to speak.

In the final few rounds of the auction, try to get your No. 2 catcher earlier than everyone else. Since most owners don't want to spend more than $1 on their second backstop, which essentially becomes like a kicker in a Fantasy Football auction, which means first come-first serve. The 16th-rated catcher can cost you the same as the 24th-rated catcher if you do it at the right time.

Live (in-person) auction tips

Find the most obnoxious, chatty character in the room -- and sit as far away as possible. His chattiness could cost you when someone nominates your sleeper and you don't hear it. By sitting away from him, you force your opponents to sit near him -- so it's a win-win!

Consider a live auction like a big poker game where bluffs and tells are important to distinguish. Talk up players you don't want and keep quiet about players you do like. If you talk up a bad player that is currently being bid on, you'll drive down the salary. Let two opponents battle each other back and forth, burning up salary, on a player you don't want. That will make the players you do want cheaper.

Live (online) auction tips

I'm not just suggesting using FantasyAuctioneer.com because we are partners with them. You can look back in my blogs for the past couple of springs and find my endorsement of that site. It's easy to use and makes auctions quick and fair. (Don't you hate finding a fair and impartial auctioneer? There's nothing more fair and impartial than a female computer voice saying, "Going once, going twice, SOLD!" I'm betting she's hot.) But since it's an online auction, there are different tips to consider.

  • The "Plus-$1 button" can be evil. In the top left corner of the draft room, there's a "Plus-$1 button" that is meant to make bidding easier. It's there for you to push and simply up the current bid on a player by one dollar. Unfortunately, that's assuming that everyone else is also bidding by just one dollar increments. Someone might go from $23 on a player, straight to $35, and when you hit the "Plus-$1 button" (meaning to bid $24), you end up bidding $36, shooting your draft budget in the foot. If you are not careful, that "Plus-$1 button" can quickly turn into a "Plus-$13 button."
  • You can set up a list of players to keep in a queue for when you are ready to nominate. It's not quite as important to do so early in the draft because good players are still near the top of the automatic queue. But later on, you'll find the time to nominate a player is limited, and you might get stuck nominating a player you don't like for $1 -- then winning him.
  • Don't get too distracted in the chat room -- especially if you have to look down while you type. That's a good way to lose out on a player.
  • Be careful with players that might be unlisted in their program. There will likely be one or two players (possibly Japanese players coming over for their first years or some lower minor leaguers) that are unlisted. The way you nominate them is to pull up the queue, go to the Unlisted player options at the bottom of the list, pick one that is on the same team the player you want is on, and a player that plays one of the three default positions it has listed. Then mention in the chat room (before you officially nominate him) who this Unlisted player represents. This takes a little time, so if you queue him up in your nomination list ahead of time, it will save you from letting the clock run down and nominating someone you didn't want.

Just like sitting at a poker table, you want to keep your cards close to your chest, your eyes fixed straight ahead and understand that what everyone else does affects what you do. Just be careful not to go "all in" on a pitcher with a sore elbow or else you'll be watching the hand play out from the sidelines.

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