Auction League Strategies
If you have never played in an auction league before, you should go get yourself into one as soon as you are done reading this article. Auctions are a tremendous amount of fun, and they leave you a lot more freedom than a draft. If you want Mike Trout and Christian Yelich, well you can get them both, unlike in a draft. If you want to make sure you get an ace, well you don’t have to hope one falls to you. If you want to load up on the best relief pitchers, well you get the point.
Auctions also involve a lot of strategy that you don’t really get in a snake draft. Let’s assume you want to pay up for Trout and Yellich. Well, that is likely going to cost you 40% of your budget, how are you going to fill the rest of your roster? If you decide to spend on an ace, how much do you want to spend on your SP2? Decisions like this can make or break an auction strategy, so how do you set yourself up for success?
Have Multiple Values
This is a trick I learned a few years ago from a friend of mine. We got together for an auction and he had three different sets of rankings. I asked him why he would do that? He went on to explain that after each selection he would adjust his projections, and find what categories he was projected to be short in. He had one set of dollar values for power heavy, speed heavy, and pitching heavy. He was actually adjusting his values based on where his team stood in projections vs the previous years champion.
In practice, his strategy was broken down to pretty simple criteria. If he paid up for an ace as his first pick, he would use his ‘pitching heavy’ values. These values had hitters pushed up a bit but devalued pitchers some. These were not sweeping changes, just an additional dollar or two. This enabled him to ensure that he was spending his money in a way that efficiently balanced his roster.
This process doesn’t have to be as elaborate as my friend made it however. Simply taking your standard dollar value evaluations and adding a range will allow you to do something similar. For example, Adalberto Mondesi may be a $30 player by your evaluations, but if you're speed light you may want to spend $33. If you’re heavy on speed and light on power when he is nominated you might only want to pay $27. Therefore Mondesi’s range is $27-33$, and the price you are willing to pay depends on your team's needs at that time in the auction.
Have A Nomination Plan
The most common mistake I see people make in auctions is just nominating the player at the top of your board. Nominations are the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of a bidder. You can artificially inflate or deflate the value of a player. For example, if you buy Gerrit Cole and you are set to nominate, and you nominate Jacob Degrom his price will likely be artificially inflated as he is the last player of a tier. Artificial deflation can be done by doing exactly the opposite. While most people agree that J.D Martinez and Juan Soto are going to be priced similarly in an auction, Juan Soto is likely going to be viewed as the more expensive of the two. So by nominating Martinez while Soto is still on the board, you can save a dollar or two on him, because some in the room will be pinching pennies to save up for Soto.
The second is only nominating players they do not want, trying to empty the coffers of their opponents. This makes it obvious what you are trying to do and you become predictable, it won’t take long before experienced players realize that they are not going to have to bid against you. I like to nominate one player I like for every three players nominated. I find this ratio lulls some into thinking that I use all my nominations to break other players.
There are a lot of fantasy experts that preach the usefulness of tiers for all kinds of reasons in fantasy. There is no more valuable way to use tiers than in an auction. They allow you to know when there is a large drop off in expected production at just a glance. This allows you to avoid situations in which you are bidding on a player above his value due to artificial inflation.
They are also a very effective way to maximize the efficiency of bids. For example, let's assume Trout, Acuna, and Yellich are all in the same tier. If Acuna Sells for $45, the market for that tier is set, all three players should go within a few dollar ranges. If the bidding for Trout in this draft goes above $50 then you are giving the Acuna owner a distinct strategic advantage over you, by allowing them to have a similarly valued player and more available funds.
Using tiers also allows you the ability to adjust your value ranges in a draft. If you have six tiers within a position, and everyone in the first two tiers at a position are bid up over your values you can adjust your third, fourth, and fifth tiers up the requisite amount of dollars to put you in contention for winning bids, while also moving your sixth tier down with your one dollar players, because there will only be so much money spent on one position in a draft.
Being disciplined in an auction can mean a lot of things, when I think about being disciplined it is all about money management and team construction. Stick within your value ranges, if you did them correctly they should cover your needs throughout the draft, trust your work. Sometimes this means buying a couple of stars and sitting at the table and missing out on 24 consecutive nominations. Sometimes it means winning every 12 dollar player in the auction. Both of these strategies can work. The key is sticking with it even when you are buying consecutive players and when you are outbid for a half-hour straight.
Bid On Every Player
The exception is when you’re approaching dollar days and you’ve only got a few dollars left we need to be judicious with our dollars. However when you are in the beginning of a draft and in the middle game you should be bidding one every player, at least up to the bottom range of your values. Bidding on everyone might allow you to grab players on the cheap, it also doesn’t give your opponent the ability to decipher your strategy until later into the draft when your team begins to take final shape.
Do Not Leave Money On The Table
This does not mean spending five dollars on a one dollar player just to spend your money at the end. It also does not mean spending all of your money early and having double-digit one dollar players. Typically in an auction, you only want to have two to five one-dollar players. If things go correctly you should have a team full of values that you like and a few dollar players. Alternatively, you end up in a situation in which you have the two-dollar hammer during dollar days, meaning you can beat the snake portion of the auction draft (when everyone has one dollar) and grab the players you want for two dollars instead of one.
Auction drafts provide a lot of fun and a ton of excitement. They are also time consuming, make sure to set aside plenty of time for both prep and the actual auction itself. Do the work and use the tips and tricks laid out above to help you, and you will dominate your auctions and set you up well for the season. As always, feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter @Taylor_Bauer11 with any questions