There are many ways to prepare for an auction draft. Look up the auction values on your favorite website, hit print, and take the sheet of paper with you is a way to guarantee a losing season. Taking the time to rank and place your values on the 276 players likely to be bid upon in a 12 team/23 player league is the way to go. It takes time. It takes adjusting after your 18th ranked pitcher starts barking about his elbow 3 weeks into spring training and is shut down. Do you still bid on him? What price are you willing to pay for a bid and stash? Who’s value has just risen by the number of units that player has fallen? Is it his replacement in the rotation or is it the 4th starter on another team that was number 277 on your list? The dynamics of an auction just leading up to it is fascinating.
Once you have your rankings and values, I believe a very important step in assuring you have a well-balanced team that will compete for the title is to set goals for each category in your scoring system. What did it take to get in the top 5 of each category? 280 HRs? 1400 RBIs? 120 SBs? 90 Ws? 1.13 WHIP? Once you have these targets, try to assemble a dream team that will get you there with the constraints of your budget. Is it 260 for 23 players or is it 232 for 20 players after your keepers? Doing this exercise will give you a realistic look at what your roster can look like. You’re not going to have Betts, Trout, Scherzer, deGrom, Jansen, and Kimbrel on your team unless you do a stars and scrubs strategy which most likely won’t meet your category targets. Be realistic.
Based on the historic 65/35 split for pitching and hitting, you will be spending 169 on hitting and 91 on pitching. That’s an average of 13 per hitter and 10 per pitcher. So for every 43 unit Mookie Betts, there are three 3 unit players out there to balance out the average. Auctions are won when these 3 unit players outperform their expectations. You don’t win by Mookie Betts achieving his 43 unit value over the year. I’m not saying it’s not important to have Betts on your team. What is important in an auction, like the early rounds in a snake draft, is that you don’t whiff on your high price players. How many do you go after? That’s the puzzle. Some will go after two or three stars spending 100 of their 169 on just three guys and then looking for bargains with the remaining 69 units/10 players. Even then, it’s a task as to how to spread out the 69. Others may want 5 players in the 20 unit range. It’s up to you to see if you can achieve the numbers needed to win in either scenario.
In a mixed AL/NL league, there will be no absolute scrubs on your team (well maybe a starting pitcher or two). Even the one unit players will have value, so having 6 units left to spend on your last 6 players is not a death sentence, but make sure you are able to meet your goals for each category. Just remember that banking on certain players for one unit is not feasible (I’ll cover that in another article). Play around with different players and combinations. Never, and I mean never, go into an auction saying you have to get that one player. In a snake draft you can do that knowing your draft slot, and if that player is there, you snag him. In an auction, if you have your sights set on Lindor, and you have him budgeted for 38 and someone else gets into a bidding war with you, and now you have to decide if you pay 40 or higher for him….let him go. Again we can get into the subtleties of auction bidding here. Do you bid 40? You rationalize and say it’s only 2 more. Okay 40! Now he says 41. Dammit! Do I go 42? If you do, you are spending 10% more than you planned on him. You are looking for bargains on draft day. You don’t go to the car dealer and say I’ll pay 33,000 for that 30,000 dollar car. There are other cars that can get you where you’re going. Let him go!
If you do the exercise of making a few teams of varying players and prices that satisfy the stat categories, you’ll see that you can get there in many different ways. This will make your auction a less stressful and successful one.