Tradition has it that the defending champ will call out the first player in a live auction. Mike Trout for 20! He goes for 43. Next. Mookie Betts for 34. He goes for 42. Next. Jose Ramirez for 30. Wait, this isn’t a draft. Deciding who to throw out next for bid is not a simple exercise. Yes, if it were your mother-in-law it would be easy for some of us. Some may just look at the next player on his list at the position he wants to fill and call out a name. There are going to be moments in the process that a little strategy can go a long way.
In case you haven’t done an auction format draft, here are a few basics. In order to call a player out you:
- must have an open roster spot at his position and
- you can’t bid more than your max allowed bid (which equals your remaining budget minus the number of roster spots you have left to fill minus 1).
You must always have at least one unit remaining for each roster spot. So, if you have 23 units left and 5 spots available the max you can bid is 19 ( 23 – (5-1)).
How do you decide on who to throw out there? Do you call out the higher priced players first? Do you only call out players that you want (or don’t want) on your team? How much do you start the bid for? This is where having some poker experience can help.
You cannot do the same thing consistently and be successful in an auction. If you only call out players that you’re going to bid on until the end, the room will quickly realize that and drive up the price as they know you want that player. Change it up. Let’s say you already have Anthony Rizzo, but still have your utility or corner spot open. You see that there are still 7 teams that haven’t filled their first base spot. Call out Jose Abreu for 10 and let the room go from there and drop out of the bidding.
Now if for some reason the auctioneer starts to say going once and you think the price is so low that you can’t pass up a perceived bargain, then of course jump back in. Make others in the room spend some of their budget on a position that you have already filled so that there is less money out there when you have to bid on a need.
What about players you don’t want? That’s another way to make others spend their budgets, so call those players out at varying times. You can safely stay in the bidding until a certain point and then drop out, or you can just call him out and never bid again. If it’s someone you don’t want, start the bidding at a point that is low enough that you know someone else will bid on him. Can it happen that you bid and you hear crickets? It can, but if you do this carefully it shouldn’t happen to you. And if it does, remember, all players have some value, and since you started low, you may have just gotten a bargain.
Another strategy is to only call out players you don’t want. This will keep the room guessing on what players you are seriously bidding for since you never go after ones you call out but bid on varying others from your opponent call outs. This is probably the only thing you can do consistently without tipping your hand. There will be a point in the auction towards the end that you’ll have to start throwing out players you want. Remember, if you call out Seth Lugo for a buck and no one else bids, he’s yours. This rarely happens early in the auction, although there are people who will call out a speculative player early and hope no one will bid on him.
Last year one of my relief targets was Drew Steckenrider. I thought I might be able to wait until the end when most people had one unit per player left and throw him out there hoping to get him for the bare minimum. Well someone called him out very early hoping no one would be willing to spend on that speculative reliever that early in the draft. I bid on him, but lost out as he went for 4 units.
Keeping track of everyone’s rosters is a must in order to be on top of whom to nominate for your next bid. Usually everyone takes a turn calling out the next player so you have time in between your call outs. As it gets closer to your turn, take a look at the rosters. Obviously early in the auction there won’t be many situations that scream out at you where you can take advantage of either position scarcity, or making the last two guys left who need a shortstop spend money on the last decent one left. Yes, you won’t be calling out someone at a position you need, but someone else will eventually call out that player you’re targeting.
The end of the auction is just as important as the beginning. Although you have only low unit players left to bid on, there is always one or two pretty decent ones that slip through the cracks. When you notice someone like this, circle them but don’t call them out. See who else in the room needs a player in that position or who still has that valuable utility spot left. What are their max bids? What’s yours? Wait as long as you can on those that slip through. Someone else may call them out, but if you’ve noticed, and restrained on spending so that you can take advantage of a bargain, you’ll be in better position to win the bid.
When it comes to the dollar players at the end you are at the mercy of those who may call out the player ahead of you, and those that have more than one unit per player left to bid. Always call out someone you want if you are down to one unit per player, but always have pivots ready at this point to call out on the next go round. Never call out someone you don’t want at this point in the auction. There is no guarantee you’re going to hear 2 when you call out your mother-in-law – then you’re stuck with them.