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Fantasy Baseball Auction Strategies: The Big Unknown

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First off all, let me just say that I’m completely unbiased. I call ‘em as I see ‘em. You can trust me. Take it to the bank. And I say that Auction Day is the best day ever. Why, you may ask? Well, young grasshopper, because of all the things you don’t know going in. 

 
  • You don’t know which players will be coming up for bid first
  • You don’t know who will be bidding against you on any player
  • You don’t know where potential bargains will become available
  • And to top it all off, in most auctions, you don’t know the bidding tendencies and preferences of your competitors

But that’s what makes it fun.

So what do we need to do? Like most things in life, don’t worry about the things you don’t control. Instead, focus on things you can do to improve your odds. That takes us to…

Be An Active Bidder

First, and I know this seems simple, but you need to bid on more than just the players you like. If you don’t, as soon as you do enter the bidding, your other competitors will know you’re serious and won’t hesitate to bid you up on your favorite players. This is a tricky one, though, because it’s very possible to bid too much and end up with a guy you really don’t want. To combat this, choose to get in on players you could use and wouldn’t mind getting. And because you have a good idea of the general costs, conveniently drop out of the bidding at a point when it would be a bargain should you win. So if you have a player with a market value of $19, and you are OK with him but don’t truly want him, make your high bid $15 or $16. That way at least you get a bargain if you’re the winning bidder. Don’t be a price enforcer (i.e. “Gary Sánchez is a bargain at $3 – let me bid $4 to make them go to $5.”).

How Much Should You Keep Tabs on the Overall Market?

Most in-person or online auctions will have an easy way to see everyone’s dollars remaining and high bid. The high bid is important because a team that has a lot of players won and significant dollars left is more dangerous than another that might have more dollars unspent because they have only won a couple of players. However, I recommend not focusing too much energy on this aspect of the auction – the main thing for most of the draft is whether you are getting players you want, whether you are over or under budget and how the bidding is proceeding. Being highly aware that two teams have $200, one has $175 and another three have $150 is not overly helpful information – until the very end of the auction (we’ll get into that later). More importantly, keep an eye on the overall bidding – are managers going heavy early or holding back? This is because you want to be as different as possible. If most are spending early, try to hold back to some extent (don’t fail to get any top players, of course), while if others are holding back, you might get a couple of early bargains. For most auctions (there are plenty of exceptions I admit), the very beginning of an auction is a little less competitive for the few early top players – it is usually possible to get a first-round type player for just under his market value as everyone gets warmed up (and also most participants realize that they can’t get two really high-priced guys so they tend to give way if someone is determinedly bidding for a particular player). Phase two of most auctions is the most competitive (and the largest part of any auction) as most of the $15-30 players are nominated. This is where it is extremely helpful to know your fallback positions should you run into heavy competition for a target. Always know the cheaper options on the board and where you can save money instead of bidding $5-8 over your target price.

 

Other Bidding Strategies

Here is some other auction strategy I’ve used in the past:

  • When a manager purchases a closer who may not be on entirely solid ground, as soon as possible, bring his handcuff up for bid. What may have been a $1 reliever now becomes a $5 pitcher because that manager wants save insurance. This year that might be Taylor Rogers once Camilo Doval has been acquired, for example.
  • On the higher-priced players, it can really help (believe it or not) to make sure your bids hit round numbers on players you want to acquire. These are mental hurdles people are hesitant to go over. Let’s say you want a solid closer and have your eye on Devin Williams. The bidding hits $18. Instead of bidding $19, jump to $20. Many owners will not go $21 in that scenario. It’s often worth the extra $1 to you.
  • This might seem insignificant or unhelpful, but try to vary your delivery or intonations when you bid. When I first started doing auctions, I would immediately bid up a player and have a very determined tone when I wanted the guy – that of course was a dead giveaway. Instead, you can look bored, study your phone, wait a few seconds, then throw out a higher number. The more you can throw your competitors off track the better it is for you.

Nominations

I like to nominate players at positions where I already have some strength. Of course, you can’t bid on players if you don’t have a roster spot open, but say you have Freddie Freeman and you’re not going to get a second pricy first baseman — why not start the bidding on Pete Alonso and Paul Goldschmidt? Keeping your utility slot open as long as possible really helps here.

The End Game

I understand this is controversial, but I like to create a budget and hold to it, with the last five players at $2 each. Almost everyone will get down to $1, and at that point you can get the last few players you want. Of course, this is difficult — do you really want to give up on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. because you are $1 short? Of course not – you go the extra dollar there and aggressively adjust your budget to account for that lost dollar. This will eventually cause you to lose out on some players, but try to hold onto this plan as long as you can. Once everyone has only $1 per player, the auction becomes a snake draft, and you will be limited by your order in the draft room. Try to avoid that as long as you can, because as a smart fantasy baseball player, you have spent the time and identified the inexpensive players you want and don’t want to just cede them to the opposition. One other note is that in the NFBC and other two-catcher formats – you need to fill your active roster before you start on your bench … and often your bench by rule is a snake-style draft requiring no budget allocation. So you will need to pay at least $1 for that second catcher and will have to hold off on your seventh outfielder until the bench rounds.

Things to Remember

An auction has more going on than any snake draft. There are a ton of distractions and things you can pay attention to. Try to focus on the most important information – your target list, your budget and the players available. If you stick to the plan and adjust your budget as you spend more or less, you will get a good team, and most importantly, you’ll have the most fun! Remember that: Fun is why we play this silly game anyway.

Good luck.

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