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THT's Fantasy Archives
Monday, February 07, 2011
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 wantMost 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 wantThe 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 fewThis 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.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:12am
Searching for guys to like is so easy to do. Finding the heels can be a tedious task. Keeping my personal bias out of this list was quite difficult. I failed in accomplishing that particular feat. The four guys from last week all had much larger question marks surrounding them than the four I have for you today. This week's aversion all stars list has a top 10 pick from 2010, a one-time Cy Young winner, and two former top-15 Baseball America prospects. Please enjoy my cornucopia of resentment.
Matt Kemp OF LAD - Something puts me off about a guy that can flash such raw ability so early on in his career and then let that get threatened by a desire to lead a “playboy” lifestyle. Seemingly, Kemp has traded his glove and cleats for fast cars and popstar girlfriends.
I know that most fantasy baseball doesn’t take into account fielding, as well it shouldn’t, but Kemp’s UZR rating of –24.0 roughly categorizes him as the worst fielder in baseball. Now, we know that’s not the case, but it doesn’t help me like him any more.
Of his 34 stolen base attempts, Kemp was able to convert just 19 of them. That’s the most caught stealings of anybody with 34 or fewer attempts. Also, Kemp saw his strikeout percentage jump to 28.2 percent. For frame of reference, Ryan Howard’s strikeout percentage was 28.5 percent.
I don’t think it was a matter of skill regression for Kemp, but he is definitely having some focus problems. I’d rather see a skill regression or injury because you can still gauge value. When focus or love of the game comes into question, you have to throw projections out the window. Kemp is still a stud in his talent, but to be a top-30 pick, he has way too much baggage.
He and Rihanna have since split, but break-up baggage can be tough, too. Observe Pablo Sandoval’s 2010 season.
Trevor Cahill SP OAK - What is there to like about Cahill? Well, he has a solid Baseball America pedigree. His 56.1 percent groundball rate is elite. He won 18 games in 2010 without coming near the dominance he had shown in previous minor league seasons. So there could be growth in that department.
What is there to hate about Cahill? He hasn’t shown the dominance that he had shown in his minor league career. Cahill’s swing percentages all point to future problems. His BABIP was .236, which was the lowest amongst all starting pitchers. His FIP of 4.10 is a far cry from his actual 2.97 ERA. The offense of Oakland will never be good enough to propel this guy near 20 wins again. There’s no justification of a selection within the first 100 picks for Cahill, much less over the likes of Max Scherzer, Daniel Hudson and Wandy Rodriguez.
Additionally, Cahill represents the kind of fantasy pitcher that can certainly fill gaps for your fantasy team, but he’ll never be able to lead a fantasy staff. His style leads some to compare him to Tim Hudson. I see that as a reach because Huddy outperformed Cahill in most peripheral stats in 2010 and has had a much longer track record of success.
Roy Oswalt SP PHI - Unless the Phillies are going to go 162-0, one of their starters is going to have to show some vulnerability. Hamels has really come into his own of late. Doc Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball. Cliff Lee is the best-pitching pitcher in baseball. So that leaves us with Joe Blanton and Oswalt. Blanton’s limitations are obvious, but he’ll be a serviceable fifth starter.
I must first say that my “hate” for Oswalt is not going to be a statistical dislike as much as a gut feeling. So feel free to reject the following analysis, but remember—a gut feeling can be just as solid as a statistical prediction in this game of chance.
Which Oswalt will find his way onto the mound in 2011? The one that limped through a 2009 with a K/9 of 6.9, an ERA of 4.12, and a 1.24 WHIP, or the one that catapulted the Phillies into the playoffs? His cool, calm reaction to a change of scenery was inspiring. Finding an effective way to use the change-up could resurrect his dominance, which was his highest since 2001.
My irrational “hate” hovers around little things like his hit percent (Ron Shandler Fantasy Forecaster), which was 26 percent, by far the lowest of his last five years. Hit percent helps to mitigate through lucky and unlucky hits. Anything sub-30 percent is considered on the lucky side, and vice versa, anything over 30 percent tends to show some misfortune for the pitcher. I’m also not sold on the strikeouts. A reversion to his career average would not be surprising.
I’m definitely not saying that Oswalt shouldn’t be drafted. Furthermore, I’m not debating his stable skill set. He might fit in with a safer fantasy player. For me, I’m projecting a line of 13 W/3.51 ERA/1.20 WHIP/140 K. A line like that is very comfortable, and a manager could feel content to get that from his 100th pick.
I just see so many “riskier” guys that present a much more interesting statistical offering. All the guys I mentioned that should be taken over Cahill should be taken over Oswalt as well.
Elvis Andrus SS TEX - When the Atlanta Braves handed the Rangers their farm system for a year of Mark Teixeira, I couldn’t eat for days. Gone was Neftali Feliz. Out went Salty. Goodbye, Matt Harrison. Arguably the best prospect in that deal was a little shortstop named Elvis. He was fast and displayed an excellent glove. Andrus has matured in the Ranger system, and his promise manifested itself in 2009. His six HR and 33 SB at age 20 had us all salivating as to what he could one day become.
2010 painted a different Andrus than what we saw in 2009. His power literally disappeared. He had no home runs, only 15 doubles, and a measly three triples in 670 plate appearances. Even with the increase in plate appearances, Andrus’ stolen base total dropped from 33 to 32 in 2010. This was mainly due to a lack of efficiency on the basepaths, as he was caught stealing 15 times.
To say that’s unacceptable is being nice. A speed guy who doesn’t steal a ridiculous amount of bases, doesn’t hit for a decent average, and has absolutely no power is still being drafted at spot No. 71.8, ahead of a host of other players that will out-accumulate him in 2011. Maybe the Braves knew something that I didn’t. Stay away for 2011 at least.
Last on my hate list is the month of February. Now that the Super Bowl is over, we will all be force fed ice hockey, the Miami Heat and Dick Vitale for the next 28 days. Only a glimmer of pitchers and catchers reporting remains. The blah days of February must be approached like the guys on this list. Just close your eyes and let them pass by.
Here’s to March.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:11am
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