FB203: Basic Auction Principles

05/20/2007 11:37 AM - 

FantasyBaseball.com University Series
Contributed By: Bryan P. Douglass

The fantasy baseball enthusiast has a plethora of choices and options to consider when starting or joining a league, and it is easy to see how it can become a bit mind boggling. One aspect of the experience many often take for granted is considered by many to be the most enjoyable: the draft. With so many decisions and alternatives to be considered, the thought of enhancing the draft experience is easily overlooked. In this offering from FantasyBaseball.com’s Fantasy University , we will look at a system of league drafting that could raise the level of enjoyment and gratification for each and every member of your league: the auction draft.

The Auction Draft

The process of the auction draft is fairly simple and, if organized and structured properly, can serve as a positive stepping stone to a long and enjoyable fantasy season. The premise of the auction draft is to eliminate the advantages that may arise from the structure of the traditional draft. There is no need to determine a draft order, the hardships and rewards often resulting from this arbitrary draft order are eliminated, and every owner in the league has the opportunity to obtain each and every player available from the MLB pool of talent.

Let’s take a look at how the typical auction draft is administered, and we’ll bring some suggestions to your attention along the way to encourage the flow of procedure.

The first step, like almost any fantasy draft, is to determine a date and time when all of the league participants can engage in the draft. A live auction draft is the ultimate experience in fantasy drafting, and while it is capable to employ an auction draft that occurs over a prolonged period of time, it is much more enjoyable if the entire draft can be done at one sitting. You will find the average auction draft does last longer than the traditional draft, so make sure your league mates are aware of this and allot enough time to provide for a relaxed and pleasurable atmosphere.

Next, it is important to lay out a few crucial ground rules. There needs to be a fixed time limit allotted for participants to submit their bids. Once a bid is placed, each owner will have this time limit to place a higher bid. It is important to insure this time limit is enforced. The auction process is time consuming as it is, and allowing bidders to take unlimited amounts of time to make up their minds will only prolong the entire event and could lead to unnecessary complaints and ill-will between league participants. A nomination order needs to be determined. This is not a “draft order” as you will use in a traditional draft. Each owner will take turns nominating players for bidding, and any interested buyers can join the process after this nomination is made. To assist the progress of the procedure, it will be important for each owner to follow this order, and every owner must submit a nomination when their turn to do so arrives. Allowing any owner to nominate players at any time will only lead to disorder and wasted time. The same can be said for “passed” or “refused” nominations. Every owner needs to nominate a player when it is their turn to do so, and outlawing the use of a “pass” will assist the flow of the auction. Finally, a single person needs to be nominated to administer the draft. It is beneficial to find an arbitrary person to fill this role. Though a league participant can do this, the process tends to run smoothly if this person is not involved in the league at any other time. An arbitrary draft administrator can enforce the rules of the draft without accusations of favoritism and can objectively determine the winning bidders for each player. Regardless of how the draft administrator is chosen, it is important to set a tone of structure and organization. For the process to progress with ease and equality, all rules need to be strictly enforced.

Once the setup is complete and the participants are gathered and informed, the draft itself is simple. Each owner is given an equal budget and a number of roster spots to fill. Typically, a 23- to 25-man roster is used with a budget in the range of $260 to $300. The nomination order is set, and the draft administrator opens the floor to the first nominating owner. This owner will nominate a player for bidding. This nomination can be opened with any starting bid amount, but, typically, it is wise to start at the minimum dollar bid ($1 for instance) and let the other bidders take the bidding from there. Once the original nomination is made, the floor is open to any and all bidders. This process continues until the highest bid on that player is reached. Once a high bid is submitted (the pre-determined time limit is reached without the submission of a higher bid), that player is awarded to the winning bidder, and that cost is subtracted from their budget. This process continues until all rosters are filled.

The results are a fun-filled draft void of favoritism. Every owner has the opportunity to obtain any player on the market. You don’t have to miss out on your favorite players due to your draft position and the level of competition is almost equal to (and often higher than) the experience you will enjoy during the season.

Basic Auction Draft Strategies

Dollar Values
Amongst all of the valuable information you will find in the fantasy baseball market, one resource for the auction draft participant you will encounter is a list of Dollar Values. Dollar Values reflect a general value you may associate with a certain player for use in auction-style drafts employing a salary cap structure to create a roster. It is an estimate of how much this player may cost in the typical auction draft.

Dollar Values are a great asset during these drafts as it allows the user to set preliminary spending limits on players they will target in the draft. With these values, a fantasy owner can formulate a draft strategy, determine targets for the draft as well as other options in those cost levels and positions, and devise a general idea of how their draft may unfold. These values may also provide insight into the actions other owners may take during the draft, allowing you to set reasonable expectations for your own desires and targets (we will look more into the aspect of tracking the rosters of your opponents in Fantasy University Lesson ( FB302: Advanced Auction Theory and Strategy. )

One more noteworthy aspect of Dollar Values to consider is the system from which they are derived. Users of Dollar Values need to remember these are only estimates, and the probability of fluctuation from these values is high. Some players will be more expensive than their estimated Dollar Value, while others may be obtained for a lower price, depending on the events and aspects of the particular draft. One should also consider the parameters of the Dollar Values they are employing. Your league’s settings may differ from those employed to determine the Dollar Values you are using, and you should adjust accordingly.

Dollar Values are an excellent tool for the auction draft participant if used in the proper way and in the proper context.

Targeting and Tracking Your Commodities
Every participant in your draft is going to have a small list of players they consider to be the elite of the coming fantasy year, and those targets will be the most expensive commodities of the draft. There are also solid players at the lower financial ranges that will be desired by many. You can benefit (and the entire draft will benefit as well) from deciding before the draft which players you are going to target, listing desirable options at various levels of cost for each position, and tracking these players as they are drafted.

There will be a large number of players available for bidding in each auction. The key is to know which players you desire. Before the draft, make a list of players at each position you would like to own. You should also have these players separated by Dollar Value, listing players at each position and grouping those players further by expected cost. This will allow you to track how you are spending your money both by position as well as by financial tier. It is crucial to fill your positions and spread your talent throughout those positions, and this type of tracking will allow you to do so while also allowing you to adjust to the financial implications the draft will provide.

For instance, let’s say you have just bought Alex Rodriguez early in your auction draft for $32. You now have your third baseman as well as one of your high-cost commodities. If you employ this type of “tracking system,” you will realize (a) I need to find a bargain at third base to backup this starter, (b) I need to target desires at other positions as well as at other levels of cost, (c) I can now refrain from bidding on other options as a result of this purchase, and (d) I can adjust my strategy to include the cost of this purchase. If you have a list of desired players and options at each position and each level of cost, this is done with ease during the draft, and as an added bonus, you can now allow others to battle over players you no longer have an interest in purchasing as a result of this decision. You have eliminated lost time created by bidding on players you don’t actually want (though sometimes this is desirable, but we will attack that topic in lesson FB302: Advanced Auction Theory and Strategy) and you have eliminated unnecessary stress from the experience by being prepared and making necessary adjustments on the spot.

The $1 Player
At some point during the draft, you will have the opportunity to pick up some players at the lowest costs available ($1 to $4 or so). This normally happens at the end of the draft when each owner is nominating lower level guys to fill the remaining roster spots. It is an excellent opportunity to obtain players you may desire and is also a great option to fill some roster spots. It is wise to save a few dollars for this time in the draft. Sleepers, prospects, and “gambles” have a place in any fantasy league, and this is the place to pick them up in an auction draft. Once again, we will discuss this topic in greater detain during Fantasy University Lesson FB302: Advanced Auction Theory and Strategy.

The Budget
If you break down the financial numbers of the typical auction draft scenario ($260 for 23 players), you have $11.30 to spend on each position. Of course, this isn’t going to happen. The key is to devise a financial plan, target your players of choice, consider the ramifications of those actions, consider various options and alternatives for the unknown, and react accordingly.

Many successful auction bidders will enter the draft with a “rough budget” plan. They will have an idea of what percentage of their funds, give or take, they intend to spend on various positions and cost levels. Some participants like to spend big on one or two top-shelf names early, leaving them to spend creatively in the later rounds of the draft. Other owners will be more frugal with their budget, spending big only once, turning their attentions towards value and safe spending as the draft progresses in an attempt to spread their talent and wealth throughout their roster. No matter what your plan is during the draft, it is important to set goals that will allow you to adapt to the offerings of that particular draft.

Your top-tier fantasy players are going to reach prices at or over $30 in this scenario. Every team will have one or two of these guys. Therefore, it is the moves that come after these expenditures (and the planning you’ve done prior to the draft) that can bring success. No matter who you target, there are likely to be other owners sharing your desire to possess that particular player. It is important to remember your game plan, and that game plan should include room for adjustments and options for alternative targets. You need to have a personal “value limit” for these players, and if the price of those commodities goes higher than your value limit, you can either adjust your plan to accommodate for that cost or you can seek other options. If you know where and how you want to spend your money, you should be able to enjoy the auction while achieving your goals.

Code of Behavior

Patience is a Virtue 
If there is one common piece of advice you will receive from all sources concerning auction drafts, it is the importance of patience. An auction draft done properly will move quickly and there will be plenty of opportunities to allow stress and anxiety to control your actions. Things never go as planned, and when those events unfold in a negative manner, you need to be able to think clearly and make adjustments and decisions quickly before the opportunities pass you by. There are countless strategies other owners will employ to compromise your decisions and financial status. The owner with a good plan, positive outlook, and patient mind will easily adjust to the events of their draft, and often come out of an auction draft with a smile.

Table Etiquette
Before we leave this lesson on the basics of fantasy baseball auction drafts, we should discuss some of the common rules of etiquette you will encounter during your experience.

Any successful fantasy owner understands knowledge is key, and knowledge shared is often an opportunity lost. While you are sitting at your draft, it is wise to keep the table talk to a minimum. Don’t give up any information you may have about a particular player or situation. Any advantage you can gain on your opponent is worth its weight in gold (and giving out bogus information is a quick way to become an enemy).

During the draft, it is wise to avoid being the participant that consistently waits until the last second, just before the draft administrator proclaims a winning bidder, to submit another bid. This will happen from time to time, but doing it on purpose or with a noticeable consistency will aggravate everyone involved (it will also prolong the time it takes to complete the draft). Make up your mind and go with it.

Be prepared. You will find those owners that bring a library of reference material and spend most of their time thumbing through notes and figures are often the ones who leave with disgruntled friends and a bad draft experience. A prepared owner with a set agenda and a noticeable confidence will insure the entire group enjoys the time together (and will find success more often than not).

Keep your comments to yourself. No one likes a know-it-all, and there will be plenty of moves you like and more than a few you don’t. Either way, those opinions and comments are better left in your head. You don’t want any of your league mates to leave with a negative impression, so leave the commentary at the curb.

There should be no sharing or trading of funds. You would think this goes without saying, but events may arise in which two owners attempt to strike a deal allowing them to trade or share financial resources during the draft. These actions will compromise the authenticity of the draft and should be avoided and deterred at all costs.

Following these simple courtesies will allow every participant to gain the most from the draft. Those owners choosing the break these unwritten rules of the auction draft often become the target of malicious bidding strategies and will often find themselves as the league outcast not only during the draft, but also during the long baseball season. Act like you’ve been there before. You will have left a positive impression on your league mates, the draft will move quickly, and you will all maximize the enjoyment you can gain from the experience of the auction draft.

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