My understanding is that most fantasy baseball players prefer to play the NFBC serpentine draft format over auctions, and even simulation leagues, like Diamond Minds, Scoresheet, and Strat-O-Matic.
Trout is yours, if you want him
While I can understand the straightforward snake draft is a little easier on draft day, I am one of those who believes that playing a lot of formats makes us better players in each of those formats, respectively, as well as adds insight to all the other setups.
Aside from being able to strategize in more ways by price enforcing and exploiting the nomination process -- both of which I will get to -- an auction is that true fantasy baseball bastion of democracy and capitalism in that every participant gets a chance to own every player (within the constraints of his or her roster, that is).
In other words, in an NL-only auction format, anyone who is willing to pay the price for Ryan Braun can own him.
This past weekend I was in New York for the American League Tout Wars auction, my third auction of the year, and since the other two represented the only other possibilities (NL LABR, and the XFL, which is a mixed auction format), and since most owners who indeed have auction leagues will be holding their drafts in the next 10 days or so, I thought I would share a few guidelines I try to follow when playing the auction game.
- Make up a mythical roster: I admit, I don't really care about ADP and projections aside from what I realistically think a player will cost and produce, but I never go into an auction without a basic roster that includes a $2 to $3 player like Brandon Crawford or Scott Sizemore, along with a $1 pitcher or two. The reason is that AL and NL formats present a much leaner player and reserve pool, meaning an owner must roster a few guys of that ilk. But, I always go in with an outline of what might be for every prospective roster spot I have.
- Don't be afraid to wait to buy your guys: In LABR I did not make a buy until the 43rd player nominated, and in Tout I waited into the third round. I have a couple of reasons for this, the first being after the other owners have dug into their wallets, they are a little more cautious about spending an extra buck or two. The other is patience does pay off (as I hope you will see further down the paragraphs).
- Don't nominate guys you want until you have to (with an asterisk): One reason for this patience is if you have a realistic roster and prices, you can wait 'til someone else brings the player up. This at least gives the illusion that your bidding interest might be arbitrary. But, it also reinforces that, though the leagues may not have as many available players, there are still around 280 players in the pool after the first 40 have gone. Meaning there is no reason to panic if everyone else has two or three guys and you have none. By the way, an exception is to nominate a reliever like Sean Doolittle in the first or second round. In doing so you can fill a spot with a dollar player as the rest of the league is likely waiting for Mike Trout's name.
- Do nominate guys you don't really want: Nominate as many potentially pricey players as you can as often as you can, especially if they are not on your mythical roster. That is the surest way to get your league mates to spend their money, and that gives an advantage.
- Be wary of price enforcing: Price enforcing is bidding up the cost of a player who seems to be going for less than what is perceived as market value. Do not do this unless you are completely willing to roster the player at hand. Of course, another guideline is never to let a player of value get past you, but bidding up to force the issue on someone else can backfire and muck up any plans you may have.
- Hold out enough end game money to control the board: Try to hold out $30-$40 for the end game and obtaining your last handful of players. There are always some nifty end game bargains, and the ability to outbid the other owners and purchase virtually all the players you really want is a distinct advantage.
- In mixed leagues, it is OK to pay a premium for stars: In AL Tout last weekend, Trout went for $40. In the Mixed Tout, shortly thereafter, he went for $43. That should not happen in a mixed format. You should be willing to spend an extra $10 or so to get a few of the real studs, the reasoning being there will be enough everyday starters in the pool by the end game that things balance out. In other words, a player like Cody Ross might be a fifth outfielder you can get for $2, and couple with $50 for Trout, that is serious production from two guys at a total of $52.
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About Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com
Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.
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