Fantasy Baseball 102: Auction Drafts

If you’re like me, when you first heard as a noob that you had a $260 auction budget to stock an entire team of 25 players, you thought: “That’s impossible. These people are high.” Well, apparently some of us are high, but that’s besides the point. Yes, you can stock an entire team of major leaguers with the weekly food budget of a family of four and you will (they shop at Whole Foods). If I told you that your auction budget was $260,000,000, you’d say, “Oh sure, I can do that.” Now, you’re the LA Dodgers or the NY Yankees. Well, just eliminate the extra zeroes and there ya go. You can do it.

This is more a how-to than the strategy behind a draft, although I do give you some tips. You really need to come up with your own strategy. In the next installment, I’ll provide you with some links to help you come up with your own, but I can’t give away my own. I’ve already said too much.

What is a Snake Draft vs. Auction Draft?

If you’ve never played before, you’ll hear a couple of terms tossed about: Snake and Auction draft. Just so you know the difference, in a Snake Draft, every team drafts in order. In other words, if there are 12 teams, each team is randomly given a spot in which to draft. The team which draws the first spot logically drafts first and so on. When all 12 teams have drafted in Round 1, the order flips in a serpentine fashion. The team that drafted in the 12th spot in Round 1 will draft in the 1st spot in Round 2. In other words:

Round 1: 1-12

Round 2: 12-1

Round 3: 1-12

Round 4: 12-1

And so on…

The problem is this. Say you’re in the first round. You have your heart set on Andrew McCutchen. He is your precious. Those brown eyes, that sense of humor, that .OPS+. He is perfect. You Must Have Cutch. You are in the 11th spot. The 9th pick has gone by and no one has picked him yet! Woohoo! You got him! #10 makes his pick… and Andrew McCutchen and his beautiful brown eyes are gone. FUCKETY FUCK FUCK. Damn you Team 10! Damn you to hell for eternity and your children too! Cutch is mine!  Okay, it’s a bit harsh, but you know, it’s Cutch. (Seriously, the team who drafts lasts statistically is at a disadvantage even though they are compensated with another immediate pick.)

No one can resist me.

An Auction Draft stops this scenario. You can have your Cutch and no one has to go to hell as long as you’re willing to name your price. Each team is again given a random order but this time, it’s to bid on a player. When your turn is up, you pick a player and a bid. Everyone else can also bid on that player too, so… it is on.

Let’s break down the ESPN auction screen so it’s not so mysterious.

Below is ESPN’s Mock Draft screen. It looks identical to a real Auction Draft screen. The teams appear across the top of the screen. As you can see, the software has randomly selected me to bid 5th. The software will highlight your team a golden yellow color. (The little blue circles around the other teams indicates that they are bots.)

Screenshot 2016-02-13 at 9.30.55 PM

The auction has not started yet. On the upper left hand of the screen, you can see the countdown. Draft begins in 2 minutes, 13 seconds. Do NOT CLICK AUTOBID under the countdown. I did that once by mistake when I did not have any pre-set settings and it drafted someone who was really injured. I was NOT HAPPY. Stupid HAL.)

There are 10 teams in this draft. The software defaults to who it projects to be the top ranked players. Heyyyy, Mike Trout. You can do your own rankings prior to the draft. You can re-sort during the draft by clicking on any of the columns–R, HR, RBI, SB and so on. It will not change the order of the computer’s rankings, but it will change how you view the players. You can also do a Nomination Queue. Instead of automatically nominating the next player from the computer’s pre-sort if you haven’t highlighted anyone, the computer will nominate for bidding the player from your queue. Drag the player’s name to the area on the screen on the lower right hand side (it has a red box under it). If someone else nominates the player however, the player will disappear from your queue.

If you are looking for a particular position, you can filter by Position on the left hand side of the screen. If you are looking for a player on a particular team, you can filter by Team. Across from that, there is another drop down tab labeled Show. You can sort by 2016 Projected Stats, 2015 Stats, or Player News. (I strongly encourage you to do a Mock Auction Draft to play with all the settings.)

The software will alert you when the auction begins. The first team clicks on the player of his choice from the Player list. His name and face appear on the screen. In the following screen shot, the third team up (confusingly named Team #7) was making his pick. You can tell it’s the 3rd team up because there is an arrow next to the team.

Screenshot 2016-02-13 at 9.34.13 PM

(Edit: @longfootlefty brought up an excellent point. I did not explain that big red BID BUTTON accurately. I re-wrote the following paragraph since his comment.)

Team #7 picked Josh Donaldson and his initial bid was $1. To do a manual bid, you enter your bid in the text box labeled Manual Bid, then click the yellow BID button. Your other option is to click the red BID button labeled with ESPN’s suggested recommended amount. For Josh Donaldson, that means your initial bid is $37. You can do that, but it’s usually a high amount. If you don’t want to waste time, go ahead–I’m not your momma–however keep in mind that if you bid low, you might get a bargain. Bid low and let the other players bid the player up. Once that initial bid has been placed, that BIG RED BID BUTTON turns into a +$1 button. If you want to bid for anyone in an increment of $1 higher than the previous bid, you click on that big red Bid button. It becomes very useful. You want to bid quickly. You don’t have much time if you’re interested in a player. You can also enter a manual bid if you want to increase in an increment higher than +$1.

There’s a total of 25 seconds to bid on any player. It’s hard to see, but the next bid was $5, followed by a $12 bid. Another team then bid $17 on him at the 19 second mark. If someone bids on any player within the final 9 seconds, the clock resets to 10 seconds, giving someone else an opportunity to bid on the player. There is no “sniping” allowed (aka bidding at the very last second and allowing no one else an opportunity to bid).

The software will warn you when time is about to expire (Going Once, Going Twice, Sold). As a newcomer, I don’t recommend muting the software, although you will get so tired of hearing that voice. It’s a good warning, and the software alerts you when it’s your turn to bid. It’s one night. Just try to deal with it.

Beware of the yellow PASS button. If you click that, you can no longer bid on that player. There is no warning–Are you sure you want to pass on this player? If he’s a piece of shit, okay, but… just beware. I like to keep my options open. Remember all the purposes of bidding.

So can I bid $260 on one player because I’m a smart-ass?

The software will not allow you to run out of money if you bid like a moron, as I did in this mock auction:

Screenshot 2016-02-13 at 9.49.15 PM

I paid $100 for Cutch. Oh yeah. I got him. I told you, he’s mine. Remember, the budget is $260. I have now spent $100 on Cutch and $40 on Bryce Harper. To summarize, I have spent $140 on 2 positions. That leaves me $120 to fill the rest of my roster spots. I’m in a little bit of trouble. It’s tough to see, but at the very top of the screen shot, there’s a tab that says “Maximum Bid.” When I click on that, the very helpful people at ESPN tell me that I can do one crazy bid of $98 and then the rest of my bids must be $1 each to fill out the rest of my roster spots. I just gave you a great example of how not to bid on auction night.

Again, the software will not let you go broke. You cannot bid $260 on one player. Do not try. It will say “Maximum bid $236.” I tested it to be sure. So, if the maximum bid you can make on any one player before you have spent any of your money is $236, that would leave you with $24 for the rest of your auction. One dollar for each of the rest of your roster spots. If you do this, I will drive cross-country to wherever you live and smack you, you eediot. 🙂

On the far right hand of the screen, you can select other teams and see how they’ve drafted from a drop down list. I wouldn’t worry too much about that during the draft. Focus on your own team.

Should I save money from my auction and use it for my budget during the season?

@happytwinsfan asked a great question. Does it roll it over into the season for his free agency budget? Will chaco send us a refund check? Sadly no. You will lose your money. Spend every dollar of that $260 during your auction or as close as you can come. You do not want to have a dollar left.

Should I do a mock auction?

Have you been listening? Yes, I strongly encourage you to do a couple of mock auctions beforehand to get comfortable with the software and to make sure the software is compatible with your computer. Find a 10 or 12 team mock auction draft, preferably roto, but for the purpose of getting comfortable with it, it doesn’t really matter. Just get the feel. Here’s the link. Play with all the features.

We can also schedule a couple of mock drafts too. Remember to draft a little silly during your mock draft. This is not the time to show off. Do not give away your strategy. The purpose is to get comfortable. (Although, as you get close to show time, you might want to do a dry run with strangers to see if your strategy is functional.)

Also, you may have noticed there is a space on the bottom on the screen for chatting, so if you want to talk during the draft, you can. I have found there is very little chatting during the real draft. Mock drafts with friends, sure. But during a real draft, focus. Ignore anyone who tries to distract you or tries to rush you into making a decision.

A few things:

  • Try to stick to your budget. Don’t get into a pissing match or let ego get the best of you. Remember your tier rankings. There is almost always someone comparable to your must have player.
  • Know how to nominate. Nominating doesn’t mean you’re going to continue to bid on the player. Remember that every dollar spent by your opponent is one less dollar in their budget. This is a game within the game. This is a very important thing for a newcomer to realize about auction drafts. The experienced players know this well.
  • Know how to allocate your resources. Have a skeleton budget at least. How much do you plan to spend on offense? Pitching? Your best laid plans may go askew, but at least have an idea of where you want to spend. Remember, while any player can get injured, pitchers are especially prone to getting hurt. We all know this as fans, but when we’re drafting our teams, we tend to develop amnesia. Kershaw or GTFO, right?

You might read that newbies shouldn’t do auctions drafts and get intimidated. Nonsense, I say. I did it my first year playing and it was sooooo much fun. I have tried snake drafts, and it’s like being asked to crawl when I have flown. If I could do it, you can too.

11 thoughts on “Fantasy Baseball 102: Auction Drafts

  1. I’ll add a bit of a counterpoint —

    Remember that big red BID $xx button that Burgie told you not to use?

    During the auction, I’ll be clicking that button probably 5x more than I click all other buttons on the screen combined. As far as I’m concerned….that is THE button.

    It’s the +$1 button.

    The reason is says BID $18 in that image above is because the current bid is $17. You can see that bit of info just to the left of that button. If no one else bid on Donaldson, then he would go to Team 6 for $17, which is a bit of a steal. So you click that big red button and now you are bidding $18.

    That button automatically increases the current bid by the lowest possible amount. Why would you want to increase it by more than that?


  2. The fantasy auction does not proxy bid. The amount you offer is the amount you spend.
    To fall somewhere between Burgy and Lefty. At times you may want to bid manually and increase a bid more than a dollar and at other times you may want to quickly bid a dollar more.
    There is some psych strategy in this. Sometime you can nominate a player and put the high dollar amount in and freeze the other bidders. Other times a dollar more turns into a bidding battle and a player goes for a much higher value.

    It is important to remember that player values may differ dramatically between managers. Get the players you want. This is supposed to be fun. Be sure to enjoy it.


  3. I take it you can only bid whole dollar amounts and could not bid say $2.50 – correct?

    What happens if you bid 0? Do you get the player if no one else bids, or is a bid of 0 verboten? Is there a counter somewhere on the screen indicating how much money you have left?

    It sounds like the last team to fill their roster get to complete their roster picking any of the remaining player(s) they want for a buck each – interesting

    What are the positional limitations? For instance I saw that espn had Sano listed as 1B. He might also be playing at 3rd, DH or even corner outfield. If you have him on your roster can you only start him at the position you drafted him for? Will his stats still count if he plays at a position in the real games different from the position he starts at in the fantasy games?


    1. 1) Whole dollar amounts only.

      2) Bidding $0 is not an option in the auction. You can make a bid of $0 to pick up players off the WW during the season though…

      3) There is a counter that shows how much total money you have left in your auction budget. It’s right above the little hat icons that represent each of the teams, and those hat icons are in a line directly to the right of the timer in the upper-left corner.

      4) Yes, if you are the last person with empty roster spots, you can fill them at $1 each. Then again, there might not be much left at that point of the auction.

      5) As for collecting stats, it doesn’t matter where he actually plays on the field.

      For example….in 2015, I used Mookie Betts as my 2B all season in my league, because he had played enough games at 2B in 2014 to carry over that positional eligibility into 2015. I still got all of his stats counted in my 2B slot, despite the fact that Betts didn’t actually play any games at 2B in 2015…but since he didn’t play at 2B in 2015, I can’t repeat that trick in 2016.

      To start the season, Sano is only listed at DH on ESPN, which means if you draft him, you can only use him in a UTIL spot on your team’s roster. That’s just to start the season. After he plays a specific number of games (I think it’s 10) at a position during the season, then he will gain that eligibility for your team. So while he will start as a UTIL-only player for whoever drafts him, he could end up with other positional eligibility as the season progresses.

      But wherever he is playing on the field (or not playing in the field as a DH)….if he’s hitting the baseball and you have him in an active spot in your lineup, you’ll get credit for those stats.


        1. A friend of my mine once said “if it’s a pain in the ass you’re doing it wrong”.

          How little did he know.


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