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Our First Fantasy Auction Draft - What I Learned

The Crawfish Boxes held their first Fantasy Auction draft. What chaos ensued? Read on to find out.


Tuesday evening, we siphoned four hours out of our busy lives and spent that time participating in the TCB Auction League draft. It was my first auction draft, and although I'd prepared assiduously by exercising my spreadsheet skills to their utmost, I was unsure what to expect. Mock drafting is a useful exercise - except in auction drafts. See, in Yahoo! auction drafts, any manager who does not show up has his team auto-drafted by the computer. And the computer's bidding strategy seems to go something like this:

$Average_Going_Rate X 110%

So if Yahoo!'s projected value for Jose Altuve were $38 (which it wasn't), but Altuve is getting drafted at $40 on average (he wasn't), then the computer automatically bids $44 for Altuve when he comes available (which is absurd). Given that most mock drafts consist of two real people and ten auto-bidding computers, I was unable to find out if practice indeed makes perfect. It would be like learning how to hit a Jose Veras fastball by asking your mum to lob underhanded whiffle balls to you from twenty feet away.

So I made my spreadsheet and planned my budget. My idea was to force myself to not overpay and to spread my money so that I bought a couple players for about $30, a handful for $20, then bargain-hunted for the rest while everybody else overpaid.

Then the draft started. Mike Trout was the first player nominated. No problem; I had no intention of fishing for Trout, who is unlikely to repeat his top-50-all-time 10.5 WAR season in 2013. His projected value was $52. He was drafted for $68, or 30% higher.

Uh Oh.

Some managers paid big bucks to land Top-20 players. Braun and Cabrera also went in the $60's. Five players went in the $50's, and a dozen went for over $40. Keep in mind that out of 1,500+ players available, only Trout and Cabrera were valued at above $50, and them only barely. All of a sudden, I questioned my plan. By the time I got around to bidding on a player, would it be too late? A couple teams ran into this issue, and waited so long to bid (including two auto-drafted teams, oddly) that they wound up with over $100 remaining at the end of our draft from our starting $260.

With this amount of reckless government-level spending, I had two choices: jump into the fray or stick to the plan, only slightly adjusted.

I decided to take a page out of Jeff Luhnow's methodology and said, "To heck with everybody else. I have a plan, I made it for a reason, and I'm going to follow it." The only adjustment I made was, instead of planning to spend $30 on players who were valued at $25 (for example), I would now spend $30 on players worth $20. That way, I was still overspending by 30% like everybody else, but by limiting myself to players worth around $20 (players generally ranked between 40 and 75 in a standard draft) I would be able to spread my budget farther.

I liked the results. Here is the link to the league, and you can judge if my plan worked to give me a competitive team, or if there is another team whose draft strategy obviously worked better than mine.

Everybody seemed to enjoy the draft, and I have a new appreciation for that type of draft. Auction drafts take a little longer than standard ones, but they allow managers who do some work ahead of time and plan their budget to gain an edge. I'm a capitalist type of guy - those who work hardest should be rewarded! During the draft, several of us chattered in a Google+ Hangout, making snide remarks about the picks. Here are some of our favorites:

  • $27 - Jose Altuve: $1 less than Ian Kinsler and $3 more than Jason Kipnis. Brandon Phillips ($20) and Aaron Hill ($21) look like bargains.
  • $9 - Matt Dominguez: Same price as Mark Teixeira, Lance Berkman, Wandy Rodriguez, and Neil Walker. Speaking of...
  • $9 - Neil Walker: Best pick of the draft. If I'd had a need for a 2B (I grabbed Kipnis earlier), I'd have gone up to $20 for Walker.
  • $25 - Chris Carter: For comparison, Adam Dunn went for $15. Other similar sluggers: Mark Reynolds $1, Carlos Pena $1, Brandon Moss $2, Justin Maxwell $3
  • $6 - Philip Humber: Same cost as Chris Johnson, Mike Minor, Leonys Martin, and a handful of closers. From that standpoint, it makes sense. Until you look at the list of pitchers who went a lot cheaper. there are a bunch of them. How about Ryan Dempster or Andy Pettite for $2?
  • $14 - Lucas Harrell: Jon Lester, Eric Hosmer, Chase Utley, Matt Wieters, and Martin Prado all went for $14, too.
  • $13 - Bud Norris: So Bud went cheaper than Lucas, in a league where K/9 is a stat. Yup.
  • $1 - Brandon Barnes: Good for Brandon for being drafted in one Fantasy league in the history of the world.
  • $4 - Brad Peacock: If he starts all year, this could be a really nice pick. Big if though.
  • $4 - Jose Veras: There were several closers that went cheaper, but there were a boatload that went for three times this cost also.
  • $2 - Jason Castro: (This was me!)
  • $1 - Brett Wallace: This is a steal.
  • $1 - Tyler Greene: Uh....?
  • $11 - Ryan Doumit: My least favorite pick of the draft, and this was only the 38th player nominated out of 400. I don't get it.

So what did I learn? I learned that in an Auction Draft, the best strategy is to make a plan and stick to it, but be willing to make small changes to accommodate for an unpredictable spending market. Somebody should put me in charge of the Federal Budget.