Now that Yahoo! is entering its second year offering the auction draft option, more and more fantasy owners are opting for the budget-oriented alternative to the boring old snake draft. Auction drafts truly are fantastic for the fantasy baseball enthusiast. Whether you want to take “Stars and Scrubs” to a new level by purchasing Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez and Robinson Cano or you want to stock up on a deep, mid-tier roster, the auction draft gives you the freedom to pursue your fantasy dreams in new and exciting ways.
The auction draft does come at a price. First, they typically run nearly twice as long as a standard snake draft, making them a real investment in time and patience. Second, a successful auction draft almost certainly depends on having intimate knowledge of the entire player universe. And last—but not at all least—auto-draft really does not work. Not only will auto-draft ruin your team, it also lowers the quality of the draft for live bidders.
One of the most interesting dynamics of the auction draft is the nomination process. Typically, owners are free to nominate any player they want. The default nomination bid is $1, although a higher opening bid is allowed. What this means is that if nobody else bids on a player, the person who nominated him wins the round.The first pick of the draft could be Albert Pujols for $45 or it could be Mike Adams for $1. It’s up to the individual owners to decide who gets bid on and when. This brings us to the topic of today’s conversation: nomination strategy.
Unlike snake drafts, where ADP might cause you to pass on Drew Stubbs in the ninth round because you’re fairly certain he’ll still be there in the 13th, auction drafts virtually eliminate the chance that you’ll miss your favorite sleepers. The benefits of even a perfectly-executed nomination strategy are difficult to tangibly quantify. Yet a systematic approach to the nomination process could save you several dollars throughout the draft, dollars that can be used to increase your roster’s talent level.
Strategy No. 1: Never nominate a player you want
Most people figure out this strategy within the first 20 picks of their first mock auction. The purpose of this strategy is to eat up the payroll and roster space of your rivals with players that you don’t want anywhere near your roster. This, in turn, should lessen the pressure later on when players you do want are nominated.
Simply target any player you consider overrated and let your rivals go to town. This can be especially useful when you know something about your league mates. For instance, say you know that your rival has an unreasonable interest in the Yankees. Early nominations of Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Cano could leave at least one opponent hamstrung by the time your real targets are nominated.
Because many fantasy owners strive for impartial analysis, it is unlikely this strategy will accomplish much. While you may cripple the riffraff early, the other “smart” owners will reap the same benefits as you do. In fact, chances are they’re pursuing the same approach. Keep an eye out for this.
When it’s obvious owners are nominating players they think are overrated, sometimes a real asset sneaks out into the pool. In my home league last year, I thought I was going to hoodwink someone with Paul Konerko. He ended up going for a mere $3 (to an auto-drafter, no less) and put together his best campaign ever.
This strategy can be very entertaining when one owner pursues an extreme stars-and-scrubs approach. It’s not unusual for this type of owner to win five, six, or seven players in the first 20 minutes and then be forced to practically sit out the draft for the next two hours. If you manage to sneak a couple of duds onto that roster in the process, kudos to you.
Strategy No. 2: Nominate players you do want (in conjunction with strategy No. 1)
It is probably a bad idea to nominate your targets from the outset of the draft. Once everyone starts to settle in and you have established a pattern of nominating players that you really do not like, switch up the strategy and put forward a target.
You should use a very specific type of target for this strategy. Post-hype players like B.J. Upton and Vernon Wells probably work best. With any luck, your rivals will share your assumed skepticism and bid sparingly.
If you want to get the most out of this strategy, be sure to heckle owners when they win your nominated duds. Complain vigorously when you “accidentally” win your targets.
Strategy No. 3: Nominate players only you want
The purpose of this strategy is pretty simple. By stocking up on the back end of your roster early in the auction, more dollars and concentration can be focused on your expensive targets. With this strategy, you are looking for players who will cost only $1. They should be the type of player that you will happily allow a rival to take for $2 or more.
The easiest players to target with this strategy are elite, non-closer relievers. In any given week, a trio of Adams, Luke Gregerson, and Hong-Chih Kuo can be counted on to out-pitch Tim Lincecum. If you are willing to trade two roster spots and a few wins for $30-ish and superior rate stats, this might be a strategy to consider.
Other players you can target are prospects that you intend to stash (I did this with Carlos Santana last season) or potentially decent players with job uncertainty. Think of the Brent Morels and Dayan Viciedos of the world for this latter category.
The risk of this strategy is knowing when to stop. Late in the draft, you might learn that players you didn’t expect to be around for under $5 are still sitting on the board. You’ll be kicking yourself if Ryan Madson is standing between you and a legitimate breakout candidate.
Strategy No. 4: Trick your rivals into joining the party (with strategy No. 3)
This is where the draft chat could prove useful. Owners often comment on the perceived draft strategies of other owners. Perhaps they are trying to prevent a rival from building too much value without risking his own resources. For example, maybe they don’t want to own Kenley Jansen for $2, but they don’t want you to own him for $1 either.
Sometimes after you acquire a decent $1 player early in the draft, the chatters will take notice. Take advantage of their attention by nominating somebody you expect to blow up in their faces. A reliever who notoriously struggles in April could make a good target, or maybe a truly execrable fantasy starting pitcher like Livan Hernandez or John Lannan. If your league mates have taken the bait, they will spend $2 or more on a player who could do a little damage to their roster.
Don’t forget to congratulate the winning bidder for picking up such a cheap “breakout” candidate (replace “breakout” with phrase of choice).
Strategy No. 5: Bid on everybody, win few
This is not a nomination strategy per se, but couples well with strategies No. 1 and No. 2. The rationale is simple: If you are always seen to be among the last bidders for a player, including those that you nominate, nobody will have any idea when you actually want a player. This will prevent your rivals from bidding on your target just to make you pay an extra $5. Once this pattern is established, you can mix the first two nomination strategies at your discretion.
The risk in this strategy is obvious: Don’t get caught overbidding. You will catch the occasional player you did not intend to draft, although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Last year, Miguel Cabrera and David Wright both fell into my lap for $29 due to this strategy.
In conclusion, these are some useful tricks you can use in an auction draft to gain some value from your nominations. The more believable misinformation you spread via the chat feature, the easier this becomes. Readers with their own nomination strategies are encouraged to share.