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So-Called Fantasy Expert: Auction Do’s and Don’ts

David Gonos Staff Writer March 21, 2012 3:54PM EST
Have you ever gone to an estate sale? Where a speedy-talking auctioneer sells pieces of furniture and antiques one by one to the highest bidders? If you have, you most likely walked out of there with an elephant table, an Ugly Dickshot baseball card and a pair of bookends from the 1920s. You’ll also know that auctions get your blood flowing and are much more intense than a regular straight draft.

The 2012 Tout Wars auctions happen this coming weekend in New York City at the Sirius/XM Studios. This will be my eighth year in the Tout Wars Mixed League, and I figured now was a great time to talk auction strategies.

Fantasy Baseball auction strategies are much different from straight drafts – especially if you are doing a live, in-person auction rather than online. Several services are offering auctions as a way to fill your rosters, and while it can be more convenient to do it online, it’s definitely not as fun as in person.

In a straight draft, you’re only able to draft the players that are available to you when your pick comes up. But in an auction draft, you can purchase the top four players in the league if you want. Granted, you’ll have a bunch of $1 players (scrubs) filling the other 19 spots in your Rotisserie lineup, but still. You have the freedom to bid on whomever you like – it’s like going to a restaurant and ordering the lobster as an appetizer, the steak for the entrée and sushi for dessert. (I’m so bad at analogies, it’s like I’m a giraffe bouncing on a trampoline. (See!?!))

If you are thinking of starting up a second league to go with your straight draft league -– definitely consider making it an auction league.


Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

Bryce Harper is a great candidate for an early nomination, hoping to get people to overbid on a high-profile player while they still have money.
Photo Credit: BrianMKA

Acting Out Some Auction Action

Set what you think is a reasonable price for the top 276 players (23 players, 12 teams) you expect to get drafted, and try to use that as a gauge or you can use our auction values to start with. Remember that once the first few players go off the board, you should mentally adjust your values. If the stars are more expensive than you initially expected, then you know there will be more bargains later on in the draft.

Try to separate players at each position into tiers, and then work on getting the cheapest players (not always the lowest-rated) in the highest tiers possible at each position.

For each dollar you save in one of these tiers, you can pick up a better bargain later in the draft. You’ll begin to see a shift in prices after about 80-100 players are off the board. That’s the Fantasy fulcrum — when the player values shift and some of the stars that slipped through begin to go at cheaper rates. Try to save money so you can take advantage when this happens, but make sure you still get at least a couple high-price players for around the money you budgeted early on.

Good with Excel? Set up a spreadsheet for your league — or at least one for your team that keeps track of how much you have left in your budget for hitting and pitching, or even for outfielders in general. Some league services will even show you how much your maximum bid is for any player. That’s calculated by subtracting $1 from your total available salary dollars for every player open roster spot, then adding $1. In other words, if you had five open roster spots and $10 left, your max bid would be $6 or ($10-$5)+$1.



DO: Nominate players you don’t want early on in the draft – especially players that recently have injury news scaring you away completely. Chase Utley will be my first nomination. Get him out there early so people can spend money, while you sit back and wait for players you want. Another thought is to nominate a player like Bryce Harper, who will start the season in the minors, but could be intriguing enough for a few owners to get into a bidding war on.

DON’T: Jump bid for no reason. Just because a $25 player is crawling upwards from a $1 nomination, be patient. Go $1 at a time. Let someone else jump the bid up by $10 or more. Worst-case scenario is a little time passes and you eventually get your player at a good price, or you bow out. By jumping the bid up, you risk overbidding on a player you could have gotten cheaper.

DO: Get a couple superstars early. Don’t save too much money, or else you will find out the bargains you saved for are TOO cheap. Then guess what happens?

DON’T: Leave money on the table. As the draft is winding down, and you realize you have a chunk of money, and all that’s left are some $1 and $2 players, then don’t be afraid to bid high on your FAVORITE cheap player, just to make sure you get him (and you won’t be mad at your unspent cash). When you have more money than everyone else late in the draft, start bullying and nominating players for $3 and $4 rather than just $1.

DO: Pay attention to whom you bid against. When you win a player, make a note on which owner you beat for which player. This will come in handy in-season when you are looking for trade partners. You know, right off the bat, that this person valued this player as you did – more than anyone else in the draft. That means you should be able to get great value in return.

DON’T: Spend big on catchers or closers. Getting two catchers among the top 12 is much cheaper than getting a stud catcher and a top 25 catcher. Plus, you’re two catchers will outdo the other two in stats. And you’ll have cash to spend elsewhere. As far as closers go, the position is too volatile to spend big money on them. Grab two closers after the superstars are off the board. Remember this: One third of all saves in most seasons are earned by pitchers that aren’t drafted in most mixed leagues!!!

DO: Nominate stars left in the positions you already own (early in the auction). In other words, if you just won Adrian Gonzalez for $30 – nominate Joey Votto as soon as you can. You don’t want other people getting bargains on guys later on just because the money is gone. You know you can’t use Votto, so make someone else spend their money while they have it. The same strategy goes for when you pick a stolen base king, and you want to make sure other people spend money for their stolen bases too. Also, in a live in-person auction, you can even say, “You can’t let Votto go for just $29! He’s waaay better than Gonzalez, who I just spent $30 on!” And this helps guilt people into bidding more. Maybe.

DO: Only nominate players you want late in the draft – and for just $1 (unless you are in fear of leaving money on the table, which should not happen!) Don’t try to scare people away from bidding with a big, bold $25 bid on a player, even if you think that’s his value. What’s the best-case scenario? You get him for $25? Start low, and let the bidding happen naturally. Best-case scenario there is you get him for less than $25.

DON’T: Be afraid to spend a couple bucks for a player you are dying to have. Yes, you are costing yourself a couple dollars at the end of the draft, but if you manage your auction well the rest of the way, you should be able to rebound easily.

DO: Chill out after you get a few superstars. Let everyone catch up to you and hopefully pass you in money spent, while you get ready for the bargains.

DON’T: Have the same bidding style each time. Bid quickly on some players and wait a few seconds on bidding on other players. It sounds dumb, but if you have the same cadence at all times, people can tell when you are about to fold and bid you into submission.

DO: Remember the power of NINE! If you are going back and forth with bids on a player, and you are approaching $18 or $28 for a player, go right to $19 or $29 with your bid. There’s something psychological about going into that next set of 10s. Think about it: Prices in stores are always $19.99 or $29.99 – never just $20 or $30.

DON’T: If you want to spend little on pitching, make sure you nominate high-end pitchers early to get the most money spent on them. But later on, only nominate pitchers you don’t mind winning.

DO: Bid $2 on players you really want late in the draft, since it will be tougher for you to bid $3 (if someone bids your $1 bid up to $2).

DON’T: Sit near the chatty, obnoxious guy. He will distract you, and you will miss out when someone else nominates your sleeper. By sitting away from him, you force your opponents to sit near him — so it’s a win-win!

DO: Get your second catcher before everyone else does, since they will be spending close to the same amount you will, but you can have your pick.

DON’T: Be distracted by chatting in the draft room (or in the live draft).

DO: Be ready with players to nominate, whether it’s in an online queue or at a live auction. Think about whom you want off the board a few steps ahead.

DON’T: Use the Plus-$1 button in an online auction. Don’t be lazy and just keep clicking Plus-$1 in a bidding war because an opponent may jump the bid up by $10 – and then boom, you just accidentally bid $11 more than your last bid. Just type in your bid each time – it’s not that strenuous.

DO: Bluff once in a while. Talk up players you don’t want and keep quiet about players you do like. If you talk up a bad player that is currently being bid on, you’ll drive down the salary. Let two opponents battle each other back and forth, burning up salary, on a player you don’t want. That will make the players you do want cheaper.

An auction is like a poker game, full of strategy and unsavory people! Keep your cards close to the vest and don’t go all in on a rookie!

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