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Few things are more demoralizing than showing up at the draft room and discovering that you’re selecting 11th in a 12-team league. It’s really the worst. And, except letting your blood boil, there’s really little you can do while the top talent dematerializes from the realm of the available. You’re left running implausible permutations on your head-abacus where the player you covet somehow slips down the draft board. Inevitably, that player goes one spot ahead of you and you’re left scrambling. There is a way to circumvent this depressing situation, though:
Auction drafts are the egalitarian brethren of snake drafts: everyone is given an equal budget and afforded the opportunity to bid on whomever they please. Never again can anyone voice displeasure about watching Ryan Braun and Mike Trout sign on with another squad; you, or your terrible money-management skills, are solely to blame. Watching your favorite player don a rival’s imaginary jersey no longer has anything to do with computer randomization or your friend’s paper-plucking-from-a-hat skills. You always have a chance to bid an extra dollar on any player.
Auctions level the playing field. They’re fair. Plus, they’re unbelievably more fun. People love bidding on… anything. How do you think Storage Wars become such a hit? (Whatever happened to Storage Wars, btw?) It creates instant competition between your league-mates, and as with blackjack, the action never relents. Just spend until your fictional bank account is dry.
There’s no proper strategy to employ in an auction that guarantees a victory at season’s end, but follow these steps and at least you won’t finish in last place.
Preparation: Not Just for Nerds Anymore.
Mocking, as in bullying? Bad. Mocking, as in simulating your draft beforehand? Good. Mock drafts are an essential component of purchasing a championship team. Assuming you’re not going retro and doing an in-person auction draft, figure out which site you’ll be drafting on and acclimate yourself with their software and interface. Knowing how to find players, monitor other teams’ rosters and remaining cash at a moment’s notice has greater value than getting Paul Goldschmidt for $17.
They’re All Mocking You.
Since you’re already doing a mock, use that time to discover the minute details you’ll need to know during the actual draft. Whichever site your league is using for the draft will have its own custom set of rankings somewhere on the screen. Regardless of how each individual drafter values players, inescapably, they’ll defer to the site-provided listings in a pinch. Getting a sneak peek at the site’s dollar values prior to the draft will allow you to find discrepancies between what the site lists and the value you’ve assigned to a player.
You can also give yourself a leg up by scrolling through the list of players, 1 through 250. Every site ranks players differently and some names you hold in high regard may be buried in their arrangement. Last year, I loved Yoenis Cespedes and made a point of drafting him for every team. In Yahoo!’s draft rankings, he was listed deep into the 100s. Why does that matter? Well, people, by and large, hate effort, so they just end up nominating whichever player is currently the highest rated of the remaining options. The longer the draft persists, the cheaper players are going to sell for, so if you find a bunch of players buried in the rankings, you can – almost – bank on getting them at a discount because no one else will have saved the appropriate wad of cash.
The last thing to take away from a mock draft is the starting budget. The standard for fantasy baseball is $260, but sometimes, if you have a ruthless commissioner – like me – they’ll tamper the default starting budget to prevent you from deferring to the website’s assigned values. So know your budget going in, and remember to adjust for inflation.
Be a Capitalist.
Saturating the market will eventually lead to lower prices. This is basically all I remember from my first-year economics class. Everyone at your auction will value players differently. So running your competition out of money in the early stages will create a better buying window for you. This year, I have no interest in Josh Hamilton, but that’s just me. Someone in the draft (hopefully, several people) will hold him in high regard, and he’ll go for 20 to 25-percent of someone’s budget. The faster you can nominate the players you don’t want, the less money your opponents will have to spend on the players you do want.
Who Are You Drafting With?
Knowing the other members of your league and their tendencies is critical for success. Are two of your rivals gigantic Tigers fans? Then throwing out Prince Fielder or Victor Martinez as early as possible will lead them to overpay. Are you nervous that Josh Johnson can’t stay healthy for more than 10 starts? He’s another name that’s bound to create a bidding war. If you can get into your opponents’ heads, you can be the catalyst that whittles their budgets away.
Be Mindful of Your Budget.
Auctions are all about value. If you can pay below market price for the first 20 players nominated, do it! That’s unlikely to be the case, though. Traditionally, the first wave of players put up for bidding at the outset will sell for inflated prices. Overpaying for two guys early won’t kill you; doing it for four or more will. But remember, spend all your cash – you can’t take it with you.
This is the area of auctions that generates the most problems. Always remain an active bidder, even on players you have no interest in. Most auction neophytes make the mistake of only bidding on the guys they want. Don’t be so predictable! Mixing in a slew of bids on every player will throw others off your scent, and it allows you to price enforce. Just be wary of playing chicken on a player you don’t like whatsoever. That’s how you get stuck with Gio Gonzalez for $43 while Adam Wainwright sells for $18.
There’s a tendency among all drafters to start bidding in $1 increments once a player reaches a certain price. Vary your bids. Be unpredictable. Bump the bidding by $3 after a string of $1 increases, and the sudden boost in price may freeze your opponents.
Finally… Pay Attention.
Staying engaged for the duration of the auction is a struggle, especially towards the finish. If you can keep focused throughout, you’re bound to steal a few players while your competition is off checking emails until it’s their turn to nominate. Be sure to have coffee and/or Red Bulls in stock.
Photos via Getty