FB302 – Auction Theory and Strategy

05/20/2007 5:11 PM - 

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

During your sophomore season at FantasyBaseball.com’s Fantasy University, we presented lesson FB203: Basic Auction Principles, a general overview of the components of the fantasy baseball auction draft and an introduction to the fundamental strategies of the procedure.

We have entered the junior season of your university experience, and in this offering we will turn our attentions to the theoretical stratagem you may choose to employ in your auction draft. The use of these tactics requires a high level of concentration, heightened attention to the details of your draft as it happens, and awareness to the decisions of your opponents as well as the news and events taking place in the professional game of baseball.

They will also require a gambler’s mentality. There is a greater sense of risk involved in these approaches, and it is important to raise your level of patience as much as any other aspect of your personality. It is possible to employ these methods to achieve an elevated level of success, yet it is also an excellent opportunity to introduce an elevated level of uncertainty. A composed mind will handle all of the new obstacles that arise with ease and confidence.

Let’s take a look at some of these theories and methods.

Tracking your Opponents’ Rosters

In the midst of an auction draft, it is easy to fall into the trance of chasing your own goals and desires. You may find more useful information in the moves your opponents are making. There is a plethora of useful knowledge to be gained by tracking the decisions of the other owners at your auction draft.

The knowledge of realizing your opponent’s needs as the draft progresses is valuable for several reasons. For starters, if you study the prices of players already claimed in your auction, you may project, within reason, the probable cost of players you may desire that have not been nominated. This will allow you to enact minor adjustments and changes with ease, and you may even start to formulate variations in your plan of attack for the coming rounds.

You will also find this knowledge useful when attempting to target certain players from your wish list. If you can track the players that have been selected from various cost levels and positions, you can predict how players coming up later in the auction will be bid based on the needs of others for those values and positions. Once the top commodities from the coming year are awarded, those teams with needs at those same positions will place a higher value on similar players that will be nominated later in the draft. You can use this knowledge to make judgments about these players you may desire, and you may also consider options for these situations before you actually have to make those decisions.

Likewise, this information can help you target “inflatable” players, or players that will be needed by others, allowing you to drive up the cost of those players. For instance, if the top 5 catchers are off of the draft board, and there is one owner seeking to join that group with a certain name, you can bid on this player, despite your lack of interest, to inflate the price of this commodity for your opponent. You will gain an advantage by taking money from your opponent’s wallet, but be careful. When using this strategy, it is possible to finish as the winning bidder if your opponent bows out prior to your anticipated stopping point. Be prepared to accept a player, at a higher cost, that you may not desire.

Inflation: Good and Bad

Inflation, and deflation for that matter, in an auction draft can occur for a wide variety of reasons. News, rumors, speculation, perspectives, injuries, trades, conjecture: all of these can drive the price of a player up or down. The situation of the draft and the needs and desires of the owners in an auction draft will play a huge role in the rising or falling costs of players as well. These events can be used to your advantage.

The primary goal of any owner should be knowledge. You need to know what is going on with the players you are dealing with in these drafts before you decide to commit your financial resources on their production. There are plenty of sources to obtain the news, events, and rumors surrounding these players (and you happen to be visiting one of them now). Make sure you are aware of these sources and put them to use.

As we have already discussed, there is also vast knowledge to be gained from knowing your opponents and the consequences of their actions during the draft. We discussed how an owner can “force” inflated costs on players with selective bidding strategies. There is also an opportunity to deflate the cost of a player. During the early rounds of a draft, owners have a tendency to nominate big-name players while getting drawn to the enjoyment of the competitive bidding process these names will bring. At times, an owner can take advantage of this situation by nominating a player of a different ilk, such as a mid-range talent or a potential sleeper with an unknown value. During the late rounds of an auction draft, these players become valuable commodities as owners look to spend their last dollars wisely. If these players are nominated early in the draft, they may be bought at a bargain price as owners are often taken by surprise, they may be less excited at the opportunity to purchase this player, or they may be caught in the act of revising their plans and making adjustments based on the rapid business of the early rounds. This attempt at unconventional timing can often result in “deflation” to your advantage.

Research and the Rumor Mill

One thing to consider when attempting to project inflation and cost: keep the news and events in context. The draft occurs early in the process of the baseball season, and some owners have a tendency to overstate the news of the moment. If you like to take chances and you can objectively judge the severity of the rumors and news surrounding a player, you may use these events to your advantage. For instance, Lance Berkman is going to miss the first 3 to 5 weeks of the season with a knee injury. Some owners will drop his value for the simple fact this report claims he will not be ready to play when the season starts. If you can get Berkman at a discounted price, this time missed will seem insignificant when he his producing big numbers upon his return, and your investment will be nothing short of a victory. Keep your analysis objective, and don’t be afraid to take chances, and inflation can be used to produce positive results.

Sleepers, Speculation, and the $1 Player

We just discussed the potential to gain savings with timely nominations. While this strategy is valid, it is far from stable. The same could be said of all of these tactics. You never know what to expect, and the last thing you want to do as a fantasy owner is underestimate your opponent. You have to expect some things to go in a direction you will consider undesirable. This is why many auction participants will keep a list of sleepers and “gamble” players in the back of their notes.

With so much information available in the world of baseball today, it is hard to bring up a name you can call your own amongst baseball minds of the same caliber. Everyone has an opinion, and it is rare to find a potential commodity that is not coveted by another owner. However, this does not mean you have to throw away the thought of finding potential value at a low cost in your auction. For starters, make sure you watch for others using the tactic we just discussed: the timely nomination of a lesser-known name. Do not let these opportunities fall to others if you are interested.

Along that same line of thought, you also need to be prepared with options for those events. Preparing a list of sleepers, such as talent looming in the higher ranks of the minor leagues or guys that will battle in spring training for roster spots with the big league club, as well as a list of MLB veterans that may find a new level of success in the coming year, such as players moving positions or joining a new team or maybe even finding new opportunities provided by the movement of the competition at their position, can often prove to be one of the most valuable resources you can bring to your auction.

It is a common occurrence in an auction draft for the late rounds to be filled with owners filling roster spots with low financial means. All of these owners will be looking to buy players at a minimal cost. The key to success in these rounds is to find value with those purchases. A prepared owner will be able to nominate or bid on players many consider to be high risk fantasy options. These additions can prove to be the difference between winning and losing over the course of a long baseball season. Save a few dollars for these opportunities. While you don’t want to leave any amount of your budget on the table when the draft is done, you can still spend big on the high-level players you desire and target some of these prospects, sleepers, and risky options with careful planning and wise spending. The $1 player is cheap, but there is a place for him on your roster.

The auction draft can be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of the fantasy baseball season. There is no shortage of strategies, theories, and methods to be employed during this event, and with so many options available to you, any knowledgeable owner can tailor his/her plan of attack with preparation, concentration, and the ability to adapt to the offerings they are provided. Remember, this is supposed to be fun! Be prepared, make the most of your opportunities, and make sure the dominant goal of your draft is pleasure.

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