There are a number of strategies regarding how to spend your money in a fantasy auction. Some like to spend heavily on high-end players, some prefer to spread the wealth and focus on acquiring a core of $20-ish players. For some, reserving enough money to be king of the dollar days is integral.
Whatever your strategy, the common goal is to have control of who winds up on your roster. Therefore, one of the drivers of your budget allocation strategy should be to put your money where your opinions are. If you have strong preferences among the high-priced players, spend early and freely to get your choice. But if you prefer to have your pick of sleepers and later-round players, make sure you save enough money to do so.
One of the trappings of the barstool fantasy chatter is that you may feel as if you have to have very strong opinions on every player, and particularly on the marquee players. I reject this notion. Counter-intuitively, one of the hallmarks of a well-studied owner is that some decisions don’t matter as much as others. It’s okay to decide you want a top-tier first baseman, but not have super strong preferences among them.
In an auction league, you have to back your opinion with dollars, and each dollar you put up to acquire your choice of player should represent your relative strength of opinion in favor of that player versus a counterpart. Keeping this in mind helps elucidate the value of ranking players in tiers or grouping similar types of players.
For example, while I see both Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez individually, I also see them similarly as cornerstone outfield assets. In an auction setting, if you were to ask me which one I like better, my answer would probably be “whichever one I can get cheaper.” I’d rather have the $4 (or whatever) between their costs than have my pick of the two.
The reason why I often decide “I’d rather have the money” is that the leverage of each extra dollar you hold increases as the overall pot of money in owners’ hands dwindles (provided you don’t wildly mismanage your funds). So, the dollar you save by making the frugal choice among the elite players can give you substantial control over the player pool in the middle and later rounds. If Cutch and Cargo have seasons as expected, having one as opposed to the other is unlikely to be the reason you win, but correctly identifying a $2 breakout star turns exponential profits.
All things equal, I usually prefer to have the extra dollar to pay $2 for my sleeper than the choice between two similar elite options I both like.
This is not to say that the examples I used in this post represent the only, or the absolute correct, way to allocate your funds. You may have a very strong opinion on some of the highest ranked players, or even a strong opinion between two seemingly similar players. If that’s the case, vote with your dollars. I simply want to reiterate that sometimes the decisions made between high-end players have actually the least impact overall. If you can avoid losing your league on your three most expensive players, you’ll be in a position to contend.
When studying the player pool, make note of your strongest opinions. Consider whether they cluster among high-end, mid-tier, or low-price players. From there, make sure you use your “discretionary” dollars in the areas of the auction where your opinions are strongest, not simply where the prices are highest.