I like to refer to ottoneu as dynasty-lite. If you’re looking to make the transition from 12-team keeper leagues to deep dynasty, ottoneu is an excellent intermediary step. Or, if you want dynasty-like features without the need to keep tabs on every 17-year-old with a flash of talent, ottoneu is the format for you.
Today, I’ll offer some advice to ottonewbs* (not to be confused with ottonoobs**) to help with adjusting to the platform. I will assume you have some keeper and auction league experience. If anything is unclear, there are multiple ways for you to reach out to me with clarifying questions – i.e. the comments, twitter, and weekly chats. Additionally, I don’t plan to discuss the various scoring settings. Since arbitration is already completed, we’ll skip that too.
*An ottonewb is, simply, somebody who is new to ottoneu and thus likely to make unnecessary mistakes.
**An ottonoob is somebody who never improves, either because they’re a troll or just plain ol’ bad.
***Insofar as I’m aware, this is not an accepted difference between the spellings of newb and noob. Let’s just carry on.
In my opinion, the most difficult aspect of any new platform is learning the interface. For all the detail involved, ottoneu keeps things fairly simple. Each league has a home page, team page, players tab, and trade options listed on the header. There’s also a square button for the internal messaging service.
For the most part, everything is fairly intuitive. In the team tab, there are a few important sections. During the offseason, you can use the Roster Organizer to visualize and track your keeper and cut decisions. Anything you do here is hidden from other owners. It’s a wonderful tool to have built into the platform. Any winter rosterbating will be done via this page.
Cut day is January 31 at which point the organizer loses some relevance. It’s still helpful for understanding your draft needs. Once the draft is complete, you’ll want to stick with the main lineup tab. The bottom of the page helpfully lists you games played and innings pitched paces. It’s very important to hit your caps while maximizing the value of every game played. Expect to optimize your lineup on a daily basis.
There are two ways to search for available players – the built-in engine and a specialized FanGraphs page. Both are easy to find via the Players tab. The Trade tab brings you to a Trade Block which helpfully emails the entire league (if they have messaging turned on) when you make changes. The easiest way to propose a trade is to visit a rival’s team page then select on the Initiate Trade page on the right. Rival team pages will list helpful things like their trade block.
Auctions and Budget
Ottoneu is an auction-based game built around a fixed $400-per-team budget. Money can be loaned or borrowed for a single season, but the rostered pool is limited to a total of $4,800. To acquire a freely available player, you must draft them or select them via a two-day free agent auction.
The draft application requires focus and effort. There are many idiosyncrasies such as the ability to skip your nomination turn (most leagues manually disallow this). The player pool can be difficult to browse so you should go in with a deep list of target players. Helpfully, if your draft isn’t too early in the season, you can peruse the results of other ottoneu drafts to find the players who have slipped through the cracks. Watch out especially for new Japanese, Korean, or Cuban pitchers (they’re usually filed under UTIL) as well as weird names. You’ll get used to looking out for Ryan Gennett or Charles Blackmon.
Post-draft, the aforementioned two-day auctions are used for free agent additions. You’ll get an email whenever a new player is put on the block. While it’s possible to do some streaming with a little forethought, there are strong disincentives to doing so. You should put that strategy in your back pocket. It’s only useful for late-September emergencies. Since free agent acquisitions are governed by the same $400 budget as the draft, it’s usually a good idea to save a few dollars for use in-season.
Whenever you cut a player, you’ll immediately get half their salary back. For example, cutting a $30 Matt Carpenter last season would have yielded an instant $15 boost to your budget. When a rival picks him up, you’ll receive the other $15. When players are cut, there’s a one-day claiming period. The team with the fewest points gets priority. Players are claimed at full price (i.e. $30 for our imaginary Carpenter). Once a player clears waivers, they can only be placed on auction for at least half their former contract value. In other words, the cheapest Carpenter can cost to his next owner is $15.
If nobody picks up your cut Carpenter, you’re allowed to re-auction him after a month. You can either keep him yourself for $15 or cut him again. You’ll get another $7 back, and he’ll cost at least $8 in his next auction. It’s important to continuously bolster your budget by re-auctioning these sorts of players. Injured players – especially pitchers – are the most common big-ticket examples.
For many fantasy players, there is a reflexive instinct to tank when taking over an existing failed roster. Ottoneu is designed such that tanking is unnecessary. In fact, it’s often detrimental. Due to the arbitration process, it’s difficult to stockpile long term keepers. A pure prospect approach usually yields a couple spiked players every season. These are then instantly hammered with arbitration allocations. (For more on arbitration…)
In a closed system like ottoneu, finding value is always important. League champions often squeeze over $550 of production out of their $400 budget. In a vacuum, you want a bunch of $50 talents on $10 salaries. In practice, those players are rare. They’re also hard to identify ex-ante.
My preferred approach is to acquire as many expensive star players as possible. The offseason – especially late-January – is a great time to nab these monsters. Successful rivals usually add substantial loans during the season. When winter rolls around, they have to pare back their roster to below $400 – usually by discarding expensive players for the best offer. This is the time of year you’ll see a $3 Austin Hays turn into a $55 Nolan Arenado.
If you inherit a terrible roster, your first act should be to inquire about slightly overpriced studs on overburdened rosters. Don’t be afraid to be stingy. Hang onto your preferred cheap players. Your rival will feel like they’re getting something for nothing. You’ll be getting a roster backbone at (probably) below-draft rates.
Rostering expensive players also forces you to be thrifty in future auctions. It’s the $1 to $3 breakouts who create roster value. While an $18 Adam Eaton can be a useful complementary piece, there’s no point saving money for him. Even if he has an excellent season, he can’t produce much surplus for you. Better to put that money (times four) into landing Mike Trout.
In addition to regular FanGraphs content, there is a popular ottoneu community on Slack. It’s a great place to access helpful resources or discuss strategy and tactics. If you’d prefer a smaller community, I also run an ottoneu channel on Discord (available for all patrons).
You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam