Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fantasy Focus: The $50 Club?

The standard budget for fantasy baseball auction drafts is $260.  In my league, we have 26 man rosters, so that averages out to $10/player.   After participating in a couple of mock auction drafts and 1 real one, I strongly advocate going into any auction draft with a budget in mind.  You don't have to slavishly adhere to the budget.  You have to be flexible enough to take advantage of unexpected opportunities as they arise, but you also should not deviate too far from your original game plan.  

Most experts recommend spending no more than about $40 on any given player.  Last year, I made a list of 7 players I was willing to spend $40+ on and mentally budgeted one of those players.  From what I recall, those 7 players were Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista...and I can't remember the other two.  Josh Hamilton is probably a $40 plus value, but he is permanently on my do not draft list.  I ended up spending $42 on Jose Bautista who was not terrible, but ended the season on the DL and was generally not worth the $40 I paid for him.  Of the 5 names above, Braun and Cabrera were more than worth the investment while Pujols was probably nearly a break even.  Matt Kemp was a flop due to injuries.

After going through those drafts, I have concluded that I can afford to liberalize my budget to include 2 $40 players or else go as high as $50 on one elite player if I really want to.  It's just too easy in my 10 team league to get cheap value late in the draft or even to upgrade your roster from the FA market as the season progresses.

This year, it is looking like there is a tier of just 3 players who have separated themselves from the rest of the elite players:  Mike Trout, Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera.  You could make a case for Josh Hamilton, but again, he's on my do not draft list.  I'll let other players fight it out for him.  Matt Kemp is a good bet to bounce back and I would rank him as right at $40 in value.  Andrew McCutchen is probably a $40 value but not in quite the same class as the top 3.  Buster Posey deserves consideration but catchers have injury risks that other players don't have and they also don't get as many AB's.  Of course, catcher is a premium position and you might consider spending more there in order to spend less elsewhere.  That's about it.  

The question then becomes, how high do you go with the top 3?   The smaller your elite tier is, the more valuable those players become.  I believe a case can be made for spending up to $50 on one of Trout, Braun or Miggy Cab. while going up to $45 on Kemp or McCutchen. 

It is important to have a value in mind even for players you might not be targeting, because you don't want another team getting a huge bargain just because everybody is afraid to bid up.  There is a fine line between overpaying yourself and letting another manager get away with a bargain.

Personally, I would not let Trout, Braun or Cabrera go to another manager for less than $45 unless I already have one of them on my team.  Likewise, I would not let Kemp or McCutchen go for less than $40.  I will stay out of the bidding for Hamilton and hope his move to the Angels gets all the guys I play with from SoCal to get in their own bidding war for him.  I would probably not pay more than $35 for Buster Posey, much as I like him in real life.


  1. FYI, my Baseball Forecaster book, which I highly recommend to any fantasy player, noted that Kemps injury could keep him out to mid season.

    Very good advice. I have not played such an auction league, but that is plain good economics, do not overbid, but do not let the other team get a bargain. Be aware that sometimes you will end up with the guy you were trying to get your competitors to pay for for, at which point the comment about being flexible kicks in.

    1. I don't think you necessarily have to memorize exact dollar values in your draft list, but you do need to have a pretty good approximation of a player's value in mind so as not to try to force the bidding too high. You have to have a cut off and say, if the bidding goes higher than this, that's it, you let the player go to someone who is willing to pay more.

      If a player is on the board who you absolutely don't want, then you should not bid on them at all. On the other hand, you really don't want another manager getting Josh Hamilton for $20 and $25 is well worth the risk that he'll get injured or go to rehab so you have to figure out where your cutoff for Josh Hamilton being worth the risk and make sure nobody gets him for less than that. In Hamilton's case, you probably don't have to worry about it too much as there is likely to be at least a couple of managers in your league who totally discount his risk and will bid him up into the $40's.