As we close out 2016, we’re nearing that point in time where we look forward to what the future holds and then solidify commitments about changes we plan to make. From a fantasy perspective, there are few things to look forward to more than the annual Ottoneu auction, so whether you’re anxiously anticipating your very first or are committed to improving upon your second or tenth, preparation is everything. As in life, you rarely get the chance to make a second first impression, so recovering from a poor draft can be a challenge that plagues you all season long.
I covered the mechanics (many of which have since been upgraded) of the Ottoneu auction last year here. We’re still roughly one month from the keeper deadline (1/31), but today I want to offer some practical suggestions (especially for those new to the game) for how to begin preparing for your auction draft. If you’re thinking about playing Ottoneu for the first time in 2017, leagues are forming daily here and here.
All Ottoneu drafts are auction drafts. All Ottoneu drafts are also awesome. However, there are no mock drafts in Ottoneu, so once again, preparation is key. Feedback from first-timers is consistent: the auction moves fast. That’s said, if this season will be your first Ottoneu draft, you’re initial order of business is to ensure you actually set aside enough time to complete the auction. A typical first-year Ottoneu auction takes 8-10 hours from start to finish, so most leagues will schedule two separate evenings of 4+ hours each. The added benefit of the “break” is that you’ll have time to reevaluate your draft strategy on night two when the core of your roster is already in the books.
In the unfortunate event that your league’s auction date is set and you cannot attend, some experienced Ottoneu owners have volunteered in the past to step in as an auction draft proxy. If you need a draft proxy or want to volunteer your expertise, check out the Ottoneu community and Slack group.
Constructing a Winner
Once you’ve participated in enough auction drafts you realize that all your research, game planning, and strategy is really just preparing you to be flexible during the main event. Auctions are unpredictable, (a big reason why they are so much fun), but you still need a plan to give yourself the best chance to succeed. If you’re new to Ottoneu, one early challenge is figuring out how to most effectively use and deploy your 40 roster spots. More specifically, how do I build out these extra 17 roster spots that I have in reserve? There are many different strategies, but keep in mind flexibility over the course of a long season is critical, so you’ll want to build a roster that can meet the Games Played (1,944) and Innings Pitched (1,500) maximums by season’s end. You’ll also want to leave yourself a little bit of financial flexibility (“cap space“). I wrote earlier about both of these considerations here, and I still subscribe to this basic roster guideline if you’re drafting your first Ottoneu team:
Dollars & Sense
One of the more difficult aspects of learning Ottoneu is figuring out how to match player production to player salaries. In other words, how do I actually determine a value ($) for specific players? The reality is that everyone does it a little differently, which is yet another reason why the economic foundation of Ottoneu is so enjoyable – it forces all owners to make their own determination of player value and rewards those who maximize it in the end. In your first season of Ottoneu, the task of assessing player value can be daunting, but don’t worry – we have plenty of tools available for you in the community. Here are a few helpful resources to get you started:
Ottoneu 101: Production, Salary, Surplus, Value (Joe) – very helpful starting point hat will help define the basic economic aspects of the game you’re about to jump into.
Player Values Across Ottoneu Formats (Chad) – Ottoneu offers four different scoring formats, and Chad walks through how player value differs in each format, which can help you narrow down the right game for you.
Auction Values for Ottoneu Leagues (Chad) – Chad has done some terrific work over the past few seasons laying out his process for creating pre-auction dollar values for Ottoneu players, so this article is a great place to begin. For a much more in-depth resource, check out this link.
Ottoneu Surplus Calculator (Justin) – For experienced Ottoneu owners gearing up for their spring draft, no tool is more popular than Justin’s “Surplus Calculator”, which is updated often as new projection systems become available.
FanGraphs Auction Calculator – The FanGraphs Auction Calculator is also a nice tool, especially now that it includes some Ottoneu presets that can make the setup process much easier.
How to Create a Position Cheat Sheet in Excel (Tanner) – Super practical, super helpful.
Prospects, Prospects, Prospects
If figuring out player dollar values wasn’t hard enough, gauging the true value of prospects within Ottoneu is a whole different ballgame. As a reminder, Ottoneu functions as a perfect blend between dynasty and redraft fantasy baseball, so the pendulum of present vs. future value is swinging constantly between players, leagues, owners, and even within your own strategy. No matter where you fall in the debate, the reality is that taking a hard line on how to build out your roster and approach your future is probably the only philosophy I would guard against, because as soon as you decide to leave prospects alone (in an attempt to corner the market on affordable, productive MLB veterans like Carlos Beltran or Jayson Werth), your competitor is going to figure out that rebuilding owners might also be willing to trade David Price for Brendan Rodgers in July. Ottoneu, like poker, is as much about playing your owners as it is about building the perfect roster, so prospects and perception can play a big role. Here are a few resources to help guide the process:
Prospect Classes in Ottoneu (Brad) – Brad does a nice job visualizing the differences in evaluating prospects here by placing them in value “buckets”.
Expert Advice for Rebuilding Your Fantasy Team – Timeless, crowd-sourced advice that focuses quite a bit on the real “value” of prospects within the game.
The Secret to Rebuilding Your Fantasy Team – Hindsight is 20-20, but prospects can be so shiny, can’t they? A few of my own mistakes when being blinded by prospects.
Top 50 Fantasy Prospects – You can check RotoGraphs for regular prospect rankings in Ottoneu, but the Scorecard method might be most relevant here since it attempts to calculate prospect valuation within the context of your own fantasy league. The key takeaway is to develop a system for determining value for you so that you don’t accidentally miss the market (buying or selling).
Best Advice: Pre-Rank Your Players, by Position
Hopefully the advice above is practical, but the single best recommendation I can make in preparation for your Ottoneu auction is to pre-rank players by position inside the actual draft menu. I learned this trick from Joe, and it works so well that I’m committed to doing it in every auction going forward. This pro tip works for both the rookie owner (you can still rank players based on your preferences even if you haven’t converted them to dollar values) and the seasoned Ottoneu veteran with multiple leagues on his resume, and it will not only save you time in the draft room but should help you better execute your draft strategy too.
The draft site won’t be readily available until after the keeper deadline (and Ottoneu creator Niv Shah is actively working on some baseball enhancements), so I’ll wait to update this post with a picture of the player ranking menu in the auction room at a later date, but if you’ve gone through the process of analyzing, ranking, and targeting players as I’ve suggested in some of the ideas above, it only makes sense to go ahead and get those players pre-ranked in the proper order in the draft room, too.
Do you have other suggestions or best practices for “winning” your Ottoneu auction? Would love to hear them in the comments.
Trey is a 20+ year fantasy veteran and an early adopter of Ottoneu fantasy sports. He currently administers the Ottoneu community, a network of ~1,200 fantasy baseball and football fans talking sports daily. More resources here: http://community.ottoneu.com