Decide to try an auction draft for the first time this year? You’ll be glad you did. Auction is actually my favorite draft format because of the added element of strategy, but also because it is absolutely fair. If you want Miguel Cabrera on your team, you can guarantee you get him--if you pay the price. And if you want Esmil Rogers...well, you’ll probably get him in any format.
So while draft auctions can be a blast, they are definitely a different animal than snake drafts. If you’re doing your first one, I encourage you to try some mock drafts just to get a feel for things, notice trends, etc. Just like snake drafts, there are a number of team-building strategies that will depend on your GM style--I’m not delving into those here. However, I have made a list of general auction drafts tips that work for any team you’re trying to build:
Make tiered position lists
You don’t know when each player will be nominated. Eight 2B could be off the board before a 1B is drafted. A sleeper outfielder could be nominated before Mike Trout. This makes it difficult to know how to value different guys across the spectrum--unless you came prepared. Place each position on your draft cheat sheet into “tiers;” noting where there’s a dropoff in talent from say, the top three SS, then the middle 6, etc. This way, as players fly off the board, you’ll know where the talent disparity stands in your mind. If there is just one guy left in your A-tier of 3B, maybe you’re willing to spend that extra $2 to ensure you have an elite 3B. Or, if the A-tier passed and you have 10 guys in the B tier, maybe you wait to snag your 3B and try to get one at a discount.
Nominate the guys you don’t want
You want your opponents to spend their money early and often. Especially on guys you have no intention of drafting. Bringing down their budgets early will allow you to pounce in the middle rounds. If you think Ian Kinsler will be a bust this season, nominate him and make someone else spend money on him. Along the same lines, start nominating guys at positions you’ve already drafted. If you got Robinson Cano, you won’t need another 2B for awhile--so start making your opponents shell out cash from their own budgets.
If someone is on Autopick, nominate the guy who just tore his ACL
This is kind’ve a sketchy move, but hey, our goal is to help you win. Most fantasy sites do not quickly update pre-draft player values with recent injury news. Autopick teams are programmed to bid accordingly with the stated player value, and do not know that player has now become worthless. If Albert Pujols is valued at $56, and gets hurt that day, make Autopick shell out that $56 and cripple its budget on a worthless player.
In an auction format, many GMs tend to bid with emotion. A longtime Yankees fan sees Derek Jeter available and has to have him. Even aside from team loyalty, the names that the media talks about are going to cost a few more dollars than everyone else. Hot prospects or sleeper picks can actually overbid their value in auction drafts because everyone thinks “oh I’m going to be cunning and draft this player,” and then they get into a bidding war and overplay their hands. Be disciplined and focus on the stats to properly value players. Also, know your league--if I’m playing with a bunch of my Indians-loving friends, Jason Kipnis will probably cost me a few more dollars than in most leagues.
Spend your money
Many auction strategy articles advise you to embrace a balanced approach. And I absolutely agree. But some new players don’t quite understand what “balance” means. Saving your money so that you can spend $5 each on your last few picks is pointless. These bottom-barrel picks are more likely to be dropped than become valuable contributors to your team. Your last picks should all be of the $1 variety where you’ll just trying to get lucky. It’s much more valuable to spend those extra few bucks to land a premium player that will be on your roster all year long. Oh, and you definitely don’t want to be the guy in the draft who didn’t even spend his whole budget--that’s just embarrassing.
Armed with these tips, you should be able to hold your own in your first auction draft. Again, I highly recommend practice, as these drafts require a very different thought process and player evaluation. Good luck and happy bidding!