Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of the article posted Tuesday, Jan. 7, on expanding auction leagues. Read Part 1.
Prior to the Draft
Your first task involves understanding the economics of a draft. In an auction draft, the perception of worth is the most significant factor. First, collect a number of magazine and online dollar projections for the upcoming season. Get copies of past rosters and salaries from your league. Compare the relative values with the commercial projections.
If your league is a keeper league, you'll need to break down position availability for your draft before you set your dollar values. Figure out how many players will be available at each position, breaking pitching into starters, closers and middle relievers. Scarcity will drive the value up. Then for each free agent, set your top dollar figure.
Draft Strategies: Keep it simple your first year. Of the numerous approaches to the game, pick one and stick with it. Your learning curve will be steeper.
Your Budget: The rule of thumb is 60/40 for offense and pitching. Other budgetary strategies have been developed from 50/50 to offensive or pitching extremes. The foundation of success, however, is adherence to whatever choice you make. How else will you learn what works?
Power? Two- and three-category players are attractive. Know what's available and what will be in demand. If you can get 40 homers and 150 RBIs from three $10 outfielders, don't spend $30 or $40 on the All-Star stud. Dividing your power between players is preferable if for no other reason than potential injury.
Speed and Batting Average? Each year, maybe half a dozen players will steal more than 40 bases, and their combined batting average is usually at least 10 points above the league average. Another dozen or so players will swipe between 20 and 39 at a batting average at about league average. There is usually a pocket of several dozen players that steal between 10 and 19 bases with a combined clip above league average. If 160 steals and a .280 BA are needed to compete in your league, consider drafting from the bottom half of base stealers. It might be cheaper than spending the bucks on a few of the top six base stealers.
Get Some Saves: One stud closer will make you competitive, but since only a dozen or so stoppers have 20-plus saves in each league each year, he'll be expensive. However, you'll find more than three dozen setup pitchers and part-time closers with between four and 19 saves.
The 20-game winner is difficult to predict, and the few who are most likely to achieve that are expensive. Even ERA is almost as difficult to project. In fact, much of the research suggests focusing on strikeout-to-walk ratio as the most reliable indicator of success for starting pitchers. But remember, there are reasons the No. 4 and No. 5 starters are cheaper than the staff ace.
How Many Starters? Certainly enough to fulfill any minimum innings requirement. Beyond that, every strategy has been tried. And they've probably all been made to work somewhere. Pick one and make every effort to stick with it throughout your draft.
The Balancing Act: A fifth-place finish (in a 12- to 14- team league) in every category should put you in the race for the first division. You've got two simple approaches to winning through mediocrity...
- Spend the dollars for a power stud, a premier speedster and a closer who'll get 30-plus saves. Then wait for the final third of the draft for the $5-$10 starters, middle relievers and offensive players to boost your stats.
- Target the midrange players in every category and don't spend more than $20 for anybody. And don't overspend in any category or at any position.
Draft Day Suggestions
Prior to the end game, never bring up a player you want. Put up players to fill positions on other rosters. That's how you can control the other GMs' budgets. And it makes it more difficult for the veteran GMs to figure out your strategy.
At the start, if prices are above what you projected, be patient. A lull will come. If they start below what you've projected, don't be afraid to grab a player you feel is undervalued.
Keep the following simple charts:
- Projected dollar value for each player at each position.
- Track what each player goes for.
- Track your budget for each position.
- Track position availability.
- Track everybody's salary situation.
Spend all your money. Having $10 left over at the end is $10 you could have used for that pitcher you really wanted.
The Home Boy: It's a game, and it's fun to own your favorite players, but veteran GMs will take advantage of an owner who allows his MLB team loyalties to affect his bidding or trading.
Lost in the Past: Like the Home Boy, you can bid on whomever you like, including the aging star. But you may find that age and declining base skills adversely affect performance (and your enjoyment) more than the joy of following Cal Ripken Jr. as his career wound down.
Star-Crazed: Three- and four-category players are expensive. Let the other GMs have them, unless of course one comes up during the lull in spending. If he's undervalued, grab him. He will be fun to watch all year.
Too Much Fun: Remember, it's easy to get lost in the energy of draft day. Don't get caught up in what anybody else is saying or the players they bid on. Pick a strategy and keep to your budget. You'll learn more and have a better chance of finishing in the money.
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