The Kings and Queens of Dollar Days

With drafts fast approaching, it’s time to start talking auction strategies. Sometime soon, I’ll offer advice on nominations and common early bidding patterns. Today, let’s begin with the end of the draft.

Dollar days refers to the point in the draft when most or all owners can only pay $1 for a player. To be the king or queen of dollar days, one of two conditions must be met. You’re either the only owner who can bid $2 on a player, or you are the last owner left on the board. Executing either strategy has costs and advantages.

I often find myself with a couple extra dollars at the end of an auction. This usually comes about because I prefer to pay $2 for player B than $8 for Player A. For example, if I’m settling for a scrub at shortstop, I’ll take a cheaper Jimmy Rollins over the always overpriced Jean Segura. Not only is Rollins cheaper, there is a good chance he’ll outperform Segura.

When you can outbid anybody at the end of the draft, it often means three things. You probably missed an important opportunity earlier in the draft. Usually it’s an upgrade of some kind. Perhaps you had a chance to pay $18 for Adrian Beltre instead of $10 for David Wright. On the plus side, you can acquire the very best of the $1 talents. You’re also likely to finish the draft first which isn’t always a good thing.

Having a couple extra bucks at the end of the draft is particularly good for owners who don’t have deep knowledge of fringy players. If you’re not comfortable with knowing when to go with Angel Pagan or Rymer Liriano, then set yourself up as the rich man in the room. You can easily ensure you roster more reliable talents (or at least the guys you like) as opposed to whatever falls through the cracks.

At this point in the draft, owners have a strong incentive to only nominate players they want to roster. They’re doing the heavy lifting for you by finding rosterable names. Sly rivals won’t nominate their favorite sleepers just yet. If they have five open spots, they’ll probably go with their fifth favorite – just in case you snag him. In other words, don’t just bid willy-nilly on any interesting late nomination. You still have to sort out which are better than others. Aaron Altherr is superior to Yorman Rodriguez.

Intentionally pursuing this strategy is easy – just hold back a few dollars. That doesn’t mean you should pass on top talent. Instead, forego that $6 bid on Jay Bruce. He probably won’t be worth it.

Becoming the king by default is also simple. Usually, it’s whoever is the first to spend all of their excess cash. The more $1 roster spots you need to fill, the more likely you’ll become king by default. This usually – but not always – comes about via a stars and scrubs approach.

The cons are glaringly obvious. After rostering a number of (probably overpriced) good players, you’ll be left to sit on the sidelines while your rivals pay peanuts for some sneaky good sleepers. You liked Altherr too, and Jayson Werth, and how is Devin Mesoraco $1!!! Something like that is going to happen. You’ll regret not having the cash to participate.

Eventually, you’ll be all alone, nominating to yourself. What a great time to pick up that stud prospect uncontested. He totally would have cost $5 or more if nominated earlier in the draft. Unless your league is extremely deep, you’ll find plenty of unattractive starters who are just as good as the earlier $1 picks. Seth Smith isn’t a sexy acquisition, but he’s a steady, predictable platoon guy.

This approach works best when you possess a deep knowledge of the player universe. After successfully preparing for a 20-team, 45 player roster dynasty, drafting in a 12-team, 28 player roster league feels comically shallow. If you know your player knowledge falls off a cliff at a certain point, be sure to manage your budget accordingly. Leverage your knowledge where it’s strongest.

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A few comments:
1) Highly unlikely that the “stud prospect” is sitting around at $1. Those are precisely the type of guys that ARE bid up, in my experience
2) You definitely WANT to have a couple of spots open at the end of the draft – due to differences in valuation, it’s inevitable that there will be several guys you value at $5+ available for $1. If you fill up your roster earlier with $5-$10 guys instead, you’ll miss out on values without really adding much to your roster production. Better to spend those extra dollars to buy improvements earlier in the draft on guys you really like
3) I think the ideal scenario is something like $5 for 3 spots, $6 for 4 spots. You want a couple of open spots at the end, but it’s nice to have that ability to go $2-3 for one late-game target if someone else happens to nominate him first