For those of you that have never given an auction league draft a try, I highly recommend that you do so this year – there are still plenty of public leagues looking for fantasy managers. Yahoo Fantasy Baseball has free live auction drafts for the first time and I joined a random league yesterday and participated in the auction draft. It’s also designed to help those who are uncomfortable with auction values, as the draft program tells you A) The estimated player’s value, as well as B) The average going rate this draft season.
In this draft we had a 10-team league (with a $260 budget) and three managers failed to show up, which was disappointing because it meant we had to battle three automated picks. The evil computer bid hard and fast early in the draft with one team snapping up Tim Lincecum ($47), Roy Halladay ($41), Ryan Howard ($36), Chase Utley ($33), and Evan Longoria ($33). That, of course, is a lot of money to spend on five players on a 21-man roster and it ended up with 13 $1 players.
My player nomination approach was fairly simply. I tossed up players I had little-to-no interest in as an effort to get the fantasy managers to blow their cash in bidding wars. I also looked to get the mangers to fill up at certain positions so that when the player that I really wanted came up, many of the teams had already filled that spot.
The most expensive player taken was Albert Pujols at a whopping $55. I did not get involved in the bidding. My top five spends were Upton, Ian Kinsler ($27), Grady Sizemore ($24 – I think he’ll rebound and be a steal), Jimmy Rollins ($20), and Joey Votto ($22). My biggest over-spend was $11 for Jason Heyward but I left $14 on the table at the end of the draft so I feel pretty good about the gamble.
I did not worry too much about pitching; my big man in the rotation is Ricky Nolasco ($17) and I grabbed Joakim Soria ($11) as my closer. My worst pick was wasting $3 and a roster spot on Ben Sheets, but to be honest I was trying to push the bidding and no one bit… so I only have myself to blame. The biggest blow is that I wanted to use that roster spot for a $1 buy on sleeper Ian Kennedy. I also ended up with too many first basemen with Votto, Derek Lee (for $18, which I considered good value at the time), and Carlos Pena ($5 was too good to pass up, yet again).
As a thrifty shopper, I was also thrilled to get Curtis Granderson ($14), Scott Baker ($7), Matt Garza ($3), Carlos Quentin ($2), Elvis Andrus ($2), Dan Uggla ($2), and John Danks ($1). You can round my roster out with Pablo Sandoval ($19), Mike Napoli ($1) and David Aardsma ($6). I ended up with a good mix of speed and power even though I went with well-rounded players rather than wasting space on one-dimensional sluggers (Pena, aside) and hollow-batted speedsters.
The one player I really, really wanted and didn’t get was Brett Anderson. I was laying in the weeds on him for the entire draft and he didn’t get nominated until the 18th round. I was feeling pretty good about it, as I had $23 in my pocked with two players left to get and I was OK with spending $1 on the other spot (a reliever… it would have been Kennedy). I had Anderson for $3 right up until four seconds before the bidding expired and then a bidding war ensured with my now least favorite person in the world and I lost Anderson at $22 (about double his estimated value). Garza was a pretty good consolation prize, and a steal for three bucks.
If you’d like to share any good auction draft stories, feel free to post ’em… and if you have any auction draft questions, feel free to ask.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.