Ottoneu Auction Prep

It has been a while since I shared thoughts on how I prepare for an Ottoneu auction and my process has changed quite a bit. With the lockout behind us, auctions will be coming up fast and furious in the coming weeks, so now is the ideal time to look at what I am doing to prepare for auctions this year.

The first step to preparing for auctions is to determine what values you are going to use. That can be your own dollar values, it can be the tiers I posted in my rankings series, they can be the values in Justin Vibber’s Surplus Calculator – it’s up to you to decide what values you want to use but have something to base your auction decisions on.

But be sure to account for inflation – both my tiers and the values in the baseline Surplus Calculator are for a first-year league. The Surplus Calculator will provide you with inflated values based on your league, so that is one way to find inflated values.

I prefer to account for inflation slightly more manually, as I don’t expect inflation to be applied equally across all players. Instead, I expect the absolute top-tier players to have slightly lower inflation (if Soto is $70 and you have 35% inflation, I don’t expect him to go for $95). Instead, I expect inflation to largely hit “cheap” guys with helium – that player with a $1 projection that everyone thinks is a sleeper ready to breakout will likely go for $5+.

Once I have inflated values I am comfortable using to guide my bidding, I create a tiered value spreadsheet. The tab “1372 Board” on this sheet is an example. League 1372 is the Keep or Kut listener league. It’s a first-year league, so that sheet shows non-inflated values for a 4×4 league. They are also more than a month out of date at this time, so don’t spend time analyzing the values – the point of sharing that is to show the format.

I create that sheet manually. I am sure that seems like a lot of work, but I find it to be really productive – going player by player, adding them to the right bucket, and making a final decision on what tier I want to place them in both gives me confidence in my tiers and gets me very familiar with the free-agent pool. On Monday, I have an auction for another league, and making this sheet showed me very quickly that I had no high-end SP targets – that is useful information.

The second thing I create is a “depth chart” and budget. The “649 Roster and Budget” tab on that same sheet shows what that looks like. This sheet has three sections. The far left section is my current roster. Beneath my players, in rows 42 and 43, I have total sums of my salary and total count of players. I put those in those rows so that, during the auction, I can add players and salaries and have a running update on what I have left.

The middle section is a depth chart, which allows me, at a glance, to see where I have gaps. Again, during the auction, I can add players. Looking at the current sheet, I can immediately see that I have no offensive depth – I need more OF, but I also need backups at MI. I am better off at CI – Walsh can flex to 1B as needed and my Util is a 3B.

The far-right section is a set of possible budgets. You’ll notice I have four possible budgets – I always have at least three and sometimes as many as five or six. Each plan covers the same set of positions I know I need to add at the auction, but ends with a couple “TBD” spots – roster spots where I can be opportunistic and grab a player who is a good value even if they don’t fit a need. This might be an extra SP, a prospect, or a position I have already filled. It’s anything that might improve my roster but falls outside the plan.

The goal here isn’t to have a plan I’ll execute against, but to have options. My first plan on this sheet is for a $75 Soto. That seems like a great plan and great fit for my team. But if Soto goes to $80, I need to adjust. That might mean paying $80 for Soto if I think he’s worth it, and then adjusting the prices down on the other players to account for it. It might mean bailing on that plan and moving to the second plan (or third, or fourth).

In addition, the names in those plans are not specific targets so much as examples of targets. If you look at my tiers on the other sheet, you can see that I have Kolten Wong in the same tier as Jean Segura and Luis Arraez, and a tier below a series of other 2B. If another one of those 2B comes up at a good price, I am not waiting on or prioritizing Wong – I’ll just slot another player at a good value into that spot.

The purpose of creating the budgets is to see what is feasible. Remember how I mentioned my Monday auction that has no elite pitching? If I need pitching in that league and try to create a budget with a $50 starter, I’ll quickly find I can’t do that. Which means I need to find a plan with a handful of $2o SP. But if that handful of $20 SP all go for $40 (because other teams plan on paying up for an ACE and there is no ace to pay up for), I need an alternative, perhaps where I double-down on my offense. I rarely actually execute any of the plans I make, but end up with an amalgam of multiple plans. Having all those plans makes it easy for me to see my options and pivot as the auction goes on.

During the auction, when I win a player, I make three quick updates to my sheet, all on the second tab:

  1. In the yellow cells in columns A-D, I add the player’s name and salary, so I have a running roster.
  2. In the blue cells in columns E-M, I add the player’s last name, so I have an updated depth chart
  3. In the orange cells in columns P-Q, I add the player’s name and salary so I can see how my actual results are coming together compared to my budget options.

On the first tab, I delete players once they are nominated, so the sheet gets less full as I go, and I can see who continues to be available at each position and tier.

With those updates, as the auction goes on, I can continuously adjust my thinking and planning, and I am always ready any nomination.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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1 year ago

Great stuff. I have a very similar sheet for my drafts, but with fewer buckets — no $3 bucket for example.

I generally try to keep my attention inside the draft room once a draft starts. I refine my watchlist there and don’t reference auction events back to the spreadsheet. Maybe it’s time to set up something a little more intelligent.

The Strangermember
1 year ago
Reply to  Henry

I also use a similar sheet. I think when it comes to in-draft updates, the biggest thing for me is keeping track of who’s available. On my spreadsheet I gray out everybody who’s been drafted (I don’t want to delete anybody, they’re all linked with projections and dollar calculations). Otherwise I go in wanting a $20 OF, miss out on a few names, and realize too late that there’s nobody left I’d pay over $5 for. But if you take the time to build out a robust watchlist in the draft room, it probably serves the same purpose. I do also find value in updating my depth chart as I go, just to make sure I fill all my major needs and pick up enough depth.

I hear you on keeping attention in the draft room, though. It’s hard to wrangle the spreadsheet without missing any of the bidding. I usually try to take a minute to catch up when somebody I have no interest in gets nominated, and when it gets to the point where it’s just $1-3 guys left I mostly give up on the spreadsheet except to do a quick lookup if I can’t remember how I valued somebody.

One thing I’ve been trying to figure out how to capture is the positional premiums that get paid in my league. By my math, replacement value is virtually identical at every position except catcher. But year after year, SS-eligible players go for at least $5 more than I think they should, and 1B-only players go cheap, because that’s just the traditional positional bias. So if I stick to my values, I end up with a really unbalanced roster and a replacement level SS. Part of me says that’s fine – points are points, and if I have to start a $1 SS to bank surplus value in the 1B/Util spots I can live with it. But I’m wondering if I’m missing something?