Cow Tippers, Vultures, Hoarders, and Scarcity Junkies
As we here at Fantasy Knuckleheads get prepared for our staff auction draft this weekend, it seems an appropriate time to address some auction tips. Auction drafts are more difficult than standard serpentine drafts. They usually last longer, and you have to stay sharp and focused from beginning to end.
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The plus side to doing auction drafts far outweighs the pesky “stay focused” side though. In a serpentine draft you will see the players you want get, well, snaked, right in front of you, round after round. You become frustrated, and start grabbing guys you don’t really want because you were putting so much positive thought into getting the guy, that tool right in front of you snagged with 11 seconds left on the clock.
Fantasy Draft Truism: The more you have invested in the next player in your draft queue, the greater the odds that said player will be taken by the manager who picks just before you, and the more likely that said manager will wait until the clock has almost completely wound down before grabbing your guy– as if to say, “well I didn’t really want the guy YOU so desperately wanted, but I GUESS I’ll settle for him. Have a nice day.”
In an auction draft you have a shot at every player. In theory you could draft your perfect team. Of course, most of the other bidders in the draft think Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez both belong on their perfect team too. So with that in mind you have to approach an auction draft with a game plan and a strategy uniquely different than your typical snake draft.
Most auction drafts start with a salary of $260 (though your league may be different). With this money you must field a full team of players including your bench. This means a team with 22 players (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, Util., SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, RP, P, P, P, plus two bench spots) allots you just under $12 per player. So spending $80 on Albert Pujols may not be the best bet.
There are various philosophies on how to manage your auction draft.
Them Crooked Vultures: Some managers like to drop the meat of their money on 3-4 elite players early to get “who they most want,” then piece together a serviceable team around them by vulturing players late when managers are focused on filling need positions and a solid performer goes dirt cheap because the other teams can’t afford him or use him. This is the scavenger approach.
Another set of managers go with the all or nothing approach. They spend it all on big names until they are literally down to $1 a player left, then wait to the end of the draft to fill their holes.
Then there’s money Hoarder. This manager likes to hang onto the cash while everyone else goes on spending sprees. The idea here, is to get huge bargains later in the draft, and have plenty of mine left to outbid anyone as the draft gets late.
The Scarcity Junkie: This manager likes to pay whatever it takes to get the elite guys at the thinnest positions, sometimes buying two with the idea of making someone else pay through the nose for a spare later. The idea is to get top guys at thin positions and fill your roster out with bargains at deeper positions later in the draft.
The Cow Tipper: This manager likes to throw out guys early that they don’t really want, in hopes others will waste their money on them. They tip the big beef onto the board early, waiting for the sharks to go into a spending frenzy. The idea: throw the hamburger to the dogs and let them fight over it, then wait for the Filet Mignon later.
There are pros and cons to all of these methods. If you spend the money early getting the big guns, you may well overspend and leave yourself hurting later when you desperately need to fill a whole, and have to settle for a $1 guy.
The hoarder may get to the end of the draft and have lots of great deals, but now catalyst to push the team to the top, and a chunk of money left over.
The scarcity junkie may have the best catcher, shortstop and second baseman in the game, but the price may have been overwhelmingly steep, as all the managers bid higher on thinner positions.
The Cow Tipper caveat: don’t do this late when many managers are down to little money. You may get stuck with a guy you don’t want or need. Even at $1 player can hurt your team by eating up a roster slot.
Auction drafts, like any other are about, balance, research, and patience.
In the early goings, try not to get caught up in bidding wars over the biggest names. Set a ceiling for yourself on how far over the average auction value you are willing to go for elite names, and stick to it. If a guy like Pujols is got an AAV of $38, you don’t want to be the guy who spends over $50 on him. And likely, someone will.
Now the draft values. I go into every draft with the idea of keeping a balanced spreadsheet. If I over pay buy a few dollars on one player, I want to find a bargain somewhere else to balance him out. You’d be surprised how many bargains you might find even early on.
If you have a player or two you REALLY must have, be prepared to pay the price, but know you’ll likely be settling somewhere else to make up for it. The nice thing about an auction draft is a guy you really want may not even come up for bid until others have overspent early. Cha-ching.
The glories and pitfalls of the middle rounds: This is a time where great bargains can also give way to bad decision making. Many managers start to feel desperate because they missed out early in the draft so they begin overbidding on everyone just to fill their roster. By the same token this is also where some decent deals can be had as other teams focus on positional need. Pitchers are often found below value here.
Some thoughts on drafting starting pitchers in an auction draft. You will likely spend about 75% of your payroll on offense. It’s wise to get one solid pitching ace, then round out your teams with upside guys, and the late bargain steals. However, you don’t want to go into the red overpaying early for a stud everyone else wants too. When Tim Lincecum comes up in the first 30 minutes of your draft, you know he’s going to be overpriced. Don’t blow your payroll on SP’s when you can usually buy them later with petty cash. This is the one position most likely to see DL stints. Target the hurlers who have excellent control and solid K/9 ratios.
Closers. You hate ‘em don’t ya? They will usually be overpriced early on, and some solid save guys will be available late. Remember, in an auction draft the players are chosen at random by managers to bid on. Not based on the website’s perceived value. Mariano Rivera may not get pulled from the hat until 3 hours into the draft process. If you’re drafting for a keeper league, it’s even more important to play it conservative here, as later in the season when teams are losing, you can bolster your closers through timely trades.
The scarcity problem: It’s nice to get a top guy at a thin position. In fact, having a couple of guys at thin positions is preferable. There is perhaps no more important place to be aware of sleepers, and high-upside players than at these positions. Rather than get into a bidding war over Chase Utley, know about guys like Gordon Beckham, who won’t hurt you and may just out perform expectations.
Sleeper obsession: Just as there are elite guys all managers will want to bid on (The Pujols factor), there are “sleepers” that everyone in the league are going to be after too. So it’s just as important, not to get caught in a bidding war over that “sleeper” who COULD be a stud this year. A sleeper is only useful to a fantasy team if you get him on the cheap and he out performs his initial value.
Do your homework in advance and make a cheat sheet with dollar values. This is more important in an auction draft than a standard draft. In a regular draft there’s no chance a guy like Jake Peavy’s going to come up in the 22nd round, but in an auction draft that can happen. A savvy manager knows there are guys like that out there at all positions. Knowing the depth of quality performers at the various positions will put you in a better place when deciding if you want to raise the bid on another player. Know how many $10, $20 and $30 players are out there at each position.
A final thought: it’s okay to overpay for the guys you really think will make your team the best. Just remember not to massively overpay, and limit the guys you over pay on. Balance is a key component to auction success.
Some thoughts from our own Ray Tannock:
Doing your homework is absolutely paramount to an auction draft, as well as any draft for that matter, but where does the information come from? Now, for stats and the like, you can go anywhere (although I highly recommend coming to Fantasyknuckleheads.com for all your needs…shameless plug isn’t it?) but when it comes to dollar value, you don’t have to look any farther than your own league.
As in any other drafting formats where you have Player Pre Draft-Rankings, in auction you have Pre Draft Player Values. Now, while this seems incredibly obvious, you’d be surprised how many people DO NOT use this tool, even if it IS just for knowing the various price tags.
- You have the ability to exclude players from the list allowing you to focus on specific names.
- You have all the time in the world to go through various different approaches.
- You can customize every last detail and so much more.
So for those of you who are brand new to all of this, or just the wisenheimer who thinks he doesn’t need to use this wonderful tool, be smart and utilize the Pre Draft Player Values…you’ll be happy you did.