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Another Look at Day One of the FanGraphs Staff ottoneu Auction

Yesterday, my colleague and fantasy competitor, Steve Slowinski, broke down day one of the inaugural auction for the Second FanGraphs Staff League, with an eye towards how his strategy played out. Today we reconvene to finish our bidding marathon, but before we do so, I wanted to take a more general look at part one.

First and foremost, despite Mr. Slowinski’s kind words, I am not sure I am as well positioned as he thinks, nor am I sure my attempt at patience was as smart as it seemed. And that is due to what I would consider some oddities in the bidding.

High Floor
I was very surprised to see how confined the bidding range was. Outside of prospects, relievers and flyers (guys who are drafted without any expectations – i.e., my $6 Justin Morneau), only 136 players were drafted so far and 68, exactly half, went for more than $20 but less than $50. Basically, at this point in the draft, if you want a starter-quality player, you had to bid at least $20. And this isn’t sustainable. With 17 non-RP starting positions in ottoneu, even if all your backups and RPs are $1, you still have only $22 per position. The average salary of the guys I would call “regular starters” drafted on Sunday (admittedly an arbitrary designation) is $23. And, as loyal reader Kadjilliounaire pointed out, even the market for low-end players was inflated. Only seven players have gone for $1, it’s clear that the average salary for a starter is going to have to be much lower than $23 – probably well below $20 – when all is said and done.

Low Ceiling
On the other end, only Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki broke the $50 barrier ($50 and $52 respectively). There are multiple players regularly kept at $50+ in points leagues (Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Tulo and more), and since keepers are (theoretically) kept below their expected value…well, let’s just say some of those guys may be steals in our league.

Positional Scarcity to the Extreme
The real shock to me, though, was how highly valued MI eligibility was. I took some heat in the comments a couple weeks back for over-valuing positional scarcity, but the run on middle infielders was impressive:

Troy Tulowitzki $52
Jose Reyes $44
Robinson Cano $43
Hanley Ramirez $42
Starlin Castro $41
Dustin Pedroia $40
Ian Kinsler $39
Ben Zobrist $34
Michael Cuddyer $26
Brandon Phillips $26
Dan Uggla $25
Chase Utley $25
Asdrubal Cabrera $22
Dustin Ackley $21
Michael Young $21
Rickie Weeks $20
J.J. Hardy $16
Yunel Escobar $15
Howie Kendrick $14
Jed Lowrie $13
Zack Cozart $9
Jemile Weeks $7
Sean Rodriguez $6
Derek Jeter $6
Emilio Bonifacio $5

That means that less than half-way through the auction, the average team has two MI, and yet only a handful of guys went for less than $20, and only 5 for less than $10. In other ottoneu leagues I’m in, starting 3 $10+ MI is definitely the exception. I have no MI on my roster, so the other 11 teams are close to filling those positions, without any real discounts among them. And some of those prices ($41 for Castro jumps out, but so does $34 for Zobrist) are really high.

At another scarce position – catcher – there were some high prices, but also a couple steals. $37 for Mike Napoli seems awfully high, but $22 for Brian McCann is a steal (especially when you look at them side-by-side). Buster Posey ($22) and Joe Mauer ($20) have steal potential, but also a lot of risk (although given the choice, I’d take Posey over Mauer at those prices). Even guys like Russell Martin and J.P. Arencibia – guys with noticeable flaws or without a guaranteed position for the season – broke $10.

Steals and Reaches
The biggest reaches are mostly related to the positional scarcity issue – the aforementioned catchers and MI. Some are only reaches relative to the competition – $49 for Joey Votto seems okay, until you realize that is $2 more than Pujols and Cabrera netted, and $9 more than Prince Fielder. $50 for Bautista isn’t bad, unless you could have had Kemp at $38 or Andrew McCutchen at $32.

Some low-end reaches include a number of relievers (Rafael Betancourt at $15, for example), and some over-priced prospects ($24 for Mike Trout seems high to me, especially compared to an $18 Bryce Harper). I don’t expect Denard Span to earn his $9, nor do I think Russ Canzler will earn his $3.

The biggest steals, of course, came in the under-$20 category. $9 for Mark Reynolds is great deal. Derek Jeter at $6 looks awfully nice compared to the rest of the MI. And I wish I had grabbed a $5 Travis D’Arnaud. But among the highest-priced were McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw ($36, compared to $40 for Tim Lincecum or $42 for Cliff Lee), and a $35 Mark Teixeira.

The Braun Question
What to do, what to do. Everyone wants to know how Ryan Braun is being handled pre-decision. In this league he went for $38.

I’ve been working on the assumption that Braun’s suspension is a 50-50 proposition. If you figure the 50-50 prop is right, a $38 value means that you think Braun is worth $46 if not suspended and $31 if suspended (or thereabouts). Seems pretty reasonable to me. Actually, having done that math, kinda wish I had splurged. A $40 bid on Braun suggests a value of $48 for 162 games and $32 for 112 games – and that seems reasonable to me.