Draft Strategy: Preparing You For Your Auction Draft

Alex Fast compiled advice from a handful of PitcherList staff writers so you can be prepared heading into your auction draft.

Auction drafts are an entirely different animal from snake drafts. On one hand, they’re lots of fun. You have the entire player pool available to you, there’s no fear of getting ‘snaked’ or ‘sniped’, you can compose the roster that you want, etc. On the other hand, they can be long, arduous and require a good amount of preparation. In order to make auction drafts appear a little less intimidating, I reached out to several writers at Pitcher List. Together we’ve come up with some tips that you need to know for your upcoming auction. Let’s kick it off with pre-draft strategy.


Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.

Study. Read PitcherList articles. Listen to podcasts. If you’re feeling adventurous, make your own projections. Know who you are interested in spending money on and who isn’t worth it. Know where hitters are batting in the order. Know who has made the rotation and where in the rotation they are. Don’t focus on the top guys, you likely already know what there is to know about them. Focus more on the middle tier guys and low tier guys. Find who has the highest ceiling and floor. Know who sets up the closer on the terrible teams. Know who is close to losing PA’s to a prospect. Knowledge is power in the auction and there’s no ADP to save you.


Know Your League’s Ins and Outs

If it’s a points league: are pitching and hitting valued about the same or does pitching get the edge a bit? Are strikeouts punished? Is it more of an OBP league or AVG league? Are holds allotted any points or are saves the only important stat for relievers? Once again, knowledge is power. You need to know every nuance to your league in order to give yourself the most advantage. 


Brandon Lundberg: Know The Auction Prices From Last Year.

This also falls into the prepare category but I wanted to give it a bit more attention. If you’re in a new league that does an auction draft, go into the league’s history and see how people have bid in the past. This will not only give you a good idea as to what the market looks like but it will give you a sneak peak into the spending habits of your fellow owners, too. To pitchers tend to be overvalued? Is there a premium on power? 


Austin Bristow: Know Your Percentages.

Ron Shandler frequently discusses this. Know what percentage of your budget you’d like to spend on pitchers and what percentage you’d like to spend on your hitters. The industry standard seems to be about a 67/33% split in favor of hitting but, remember, know your league. If pitching is a bit more vital, shift that split accordingly.


Nick Pollack: Set Your Limits & Stick To Them.

This step will make your draft so much easier. If you don’t know how much you’re willing to spend on your targets, you’re leaving room for yourself to be in serious trouble at the end of the draft. If you create bands for yourself – “I want Machado for $25 but I will go up to $30 for him” – for all of your players, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to field the team you’re looking for. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself overpaying on guys you want with no money for the later picks.


By now you can see we’ve sort of established a through-line when it comes to pre-draft strategy: prepare. Think of it like a baseball game. Spend BP working on your swing, because when you’re in the batters box, you don’t have time to think about a thing. That is to say that auctions can move quicker than you think, and if you’re spending time researching guys last minute, you could very well be losing your guy to a more prepared bidder. Let’s look at some tips you can use during your draft:


During The Draft

Austin Bristow: Never Nominate A Player That You Want.

This is one of the most pivotal rules for auction drafts and one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen newcomers make. The logic behind this is you want to make your fellow owners spend their money. The more they spend, the less they have, the more budget you have to acquire your guys. Therefore, you want to…

Nic Gardiner
: Nominate the studs that you’re not interested in.

Not a believer in Robinson Cano because you’re targeting Ozzie Albies? Think Stanton is going to be a bit of a bust? Nominate them. There will be plenty of owners in your league who disagree with you and who are willing to go $20 – $40 to prove it. Now if you want to get really crafty…


Nominate Top Catchers Early

I absolutely love doing this early in the draft. I personally have no interest in spending a lot of money on big name catchers. As a result, my first nomination is always a Buster Posey, Gary Sanchez, Wilson Contreras type. Since it’s so early in the draft, the market isn’t really set and owners eager to get high-end catchers will spend way too much money on these guys. These owners are immediately at a disadvantage where as you have more money for your guys. The caution against all of the above however is…


Don’t nominate a player you would hate being stuck with for a $1

PitcherList reader and Patreon supporter Rob Z put it perfectly in a recent conversation when he said, “Always have in the back of your head: CRICKETS. You never want to throw a player out there that you don’t want and hear complete silence. Especially near the latter half when some people may not even be able to bid on certain players.” Man, do we have a smart readership, or what! 


Dave Cherman: Be Patient. Don’t Get Caught Up In The Excitement.

I’ve been doing auctions for a while now and they still absolutely terrify me. You have an unprecedented amount of agency that makes this a vastly different experience than a snake draft. The one thing I’ve learned though is that patience is always rewarded. There are always great deals to be had at the end of the draft and the guy who has just a few dollars more than every other owner in the last two rounds is in a very enviable position. One way for me to gauge how patient I need to be is…


Brandon Lundberg: Keep Track Of Everyone’s Max Bid Is.

Let’s take it a step further: know how much money everyone has at all times. Sounds daunting but it’s usually prominently displayed in whatever draft software you’re using. If I know that most owners have less money than I do, I know that I’ve been patient and I will likely have more value picks at the end of the draft. Or if I see that I’m spending a bit too much too soon, I know that I’ve done a poor job of being patient and it’s probably best for me to sit out a few rounds.


Know when it’s ok to go the extra dollar.

I know this seems counter to almost everything that you’ve read, but sometimes it’s ok to go the extra dollar even if it means you’re paying a dollar or so more than what you have a player valued at. What you don’t want to be is in a situation where you are left with an influx of budget in the later rounds. For example, I recently did a draft where an owner just kept waiting to spend. He never went the extra dollar and was left with the most money at the end of the draft but with no one to spend it on. Sure, he’d easily win some high ceiling guys, but at drastically inflated prices. Which brings me to my final point….

Don’t leave money on the table

This is another crucial rule to live by. You cannot take money with you out of the draft room. If you’ve walked away with anything above $3, you did not bid properly. If the option is getting your man above value or leaving money on the table, always side with the former.


Hopefully the above tips will leave you feeling prepared for your upcoming draft. I’d feel remiss however if I didn’t include one final section: Etiquette. I’ve talked to a lot of people who were about to go into an auction draft afraid that they were going to make a fool of themselves in front of their new league mates. Follow these simple rules and you’ll be just fine.



Don’t Nominate Top Guys For $1

Auctions are long. Don’t make them longer by nominating Mike Trout for $1. It’s a pure waste of time to watch Mike Trout’s price go $1….$2….$3…..$5…..$7, etc. Ben Lundberg had a great tip: if you see someone has nominated a prominent player for $1, bid them up to 80% of their value to keep things moving.


Be Quick To Nominate

A lot of leagues will allow a 25 second grace period to nominate someone. Once again, auctions are already long. Let a majority of the time be spent on bidding on players – you know, the fun part – and not on nominating them.


Don’t Autodraft

Make sure you make time for auction drafts. Block out a good chunk of your day and give it your attention. You’ll see what I mean the next time you get into a bidding war with someone who isn’t even there or when someone’s inaction causes a player to get nominated far earlier than they should have.


Still curious? Feel free to leave questions in the comment section and I’ll get to them ASAP.

Alex Fast

An FSWA award winner for Research Article of the Year, Alex is the co-host of On The Corner and host of the weekend edition of First Pitch. He received his masters in interactive telecommunications from NYU's ITP. All opinions are Alex's and Alex's alone. A die-hard Orioles fan, Alex is well versed in futility and broken pitching prospects.

8 responses to “Draft Strategy: Preparing You For Your Auction Draft”

  1. Dave Cherman says:

    I’d like to add as a caveat to the “Never Nominate A Player That You Want” rule. You should bid on those guys every now and then so your leaguemates don’t pick up on the fact that you’re doing this.

    • Alex Fast says:

      Yup! Good point. If the bids are low and they’re certain to go up, toss $1-2 in there to throw people off.

  2. Sliver says:

    Once a good player is nominated for WELL under your calculated value and there seems to be no activity, bid a $1. Maybe you never wanted Billy Hamilton on your team but having him for $4 because someone went to the bathroom or the rest of the room just went to sleep is a huge advantage you can’t pass up

  3. Kris says:

    While I agree with the rule about not nominating the top tier guys for $1 only to watch them creep slowly up to $40-50… I will always nominate those guys for $1. We had a guy in our league a few years ago try to nominate a player, and he forgot to remove the 1 from the bid. All of a sudden you see a $120 player nominated and that guys draft is ruined. That is why I’ll nominate guys for $1 and let someone else add in their own dollar value. I’m also sure beverages may have had a part in that mishap

    • Alex Fast says:

      wow. the commish didn’t allow for a reset in that instance? Cold-blooded!

      • Kris says:

        I think at the time we weren’t really sure what the commissioner tools available on ESPN were. But yeah the fact that we let the draft continue after that was pretty cold blooded!

  4. Drew says:

    I kind of disagree with the nominate guys you don’t want and here’s why- in an auction it’s all about value. If I don’t want startling marte but he goes for $10 less than I Have him valued at then Marte will be on team. Last year I did this strategy and I ended up winning guys before the guys I was targeting got nominated. I think the way to do this is nominate high value guys after you just won a high value guy. If I win Rizzo at $30 I may throw out abreu next since I Won’t be bidding on him and someone just lost. Out on Rizzo

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