Auction Assets: What I Bring to an ottoneu Auction

I have heard from a handful of ottoneu players who have already auctioned, but for most of you, auction season is just kicking off, myself included. We are just a few weeks from Opening Day and Tuesday evening I’ll be sitting down to my first auction of the year.

And when I sit down, I’ll be organized. I’ll have two computers open (probably overkill, but it makes things easier). I’ll have almost everything closed down – no extra browser windows, no chat windows, maybe Twitter (but only so I can post updates and keep you all in the know). What I will have with me is five excel spreadsheets, four browser windows, and some snacks.

The snacks are neither exciting nor helpful, but the eight windows open on my two computers will give you a good sense of how I handle an auction.

Auction Draft Page
This stays open the whole time and is rarely, if ever, covered by another window. More than likely, one computer will be dedicated to keeping the auction window visible. The biggest mistakes I have made in past auctions have come from missing a name (particularly late in auctions, when a guy can scoot through in 15 seconds).

FanGraphs
Sometimes you want to take a look at a guy’s track record or projections. Sometimes you need a reminder of a prospect’s level. Sometimes you just want to assure yourself you are not making a mistake by bowing out of the bidding. And when you need that quick stat-check, FanGraphs is the place to do it.

Google Search
For when you need to check in on an injured player or have depth chart concerns.

ottoneu League Page
This is keep open in part because, as the league commissioner, I want to be able to make changes – undo player adds when something goes wrong, for example – without having to leave the draft page. You can also use this to check other team’s rosters, which can be useful in understanding who your competition will be for certain positions.

Hitter Rankings and Pitcher Rankings
I keep my hitter and pitcher rankings separate, so this accounts for two spreadsheets. I basically just have lists of players, sorted by auction value, with tiers marked off and interesting free agents highlighted. For a great series on how to set your rankings, check out the three-parter from Jeff Zimmerman from this past week.

Prospect List
I covered my approach to prospects last week, and when I show up to the auction, I always have my compiled prospect list, with the guys I am most interested in highlghted. When any prospect is brought up, I can check where he is on my list, any notes I have on him, and make a decision on a bid.

Roster and Targets
I am sharing these last two spreadsheets, because the second one is probably the single most important thing I have at the auction. The first tab at that link is my current roster for the original ottoneu league, position by position, including dollars allocated where I intend to spend them. The second sheet lists the 12 spots I have to fill with dollars allocated to each. Each row has space for targets – the 4-5 guys I want to bid on for each slot – and a place to add the name of the player I acquire and the price I pay for that player.

The highlighted cell tells me how much of my cap space I have used, and there is one row for every open spot on my roster, so I can quickly see how many more spots I need to fill. The “allocated” cell keeps track of how much money I am putting towards each position, allowing me to update my plans mid-stream. Say I get the top SP I want for $40? Or say I can’t get any of the top-tier SP (there will only be 2-3 available in this league) and I need to adjust? I can quickly shift my allocations and move forward.

The last note, is the “other” rows on the two tabs. I always have a couple players who do not fit into any specific role on my team. Matt Dominguez is a good example. I have him because I am high on his potential. I think there is a chance he can break out this year and, if he does, I’ll have some options to move another 3B. But he isn’t my starter or my backup, nor is he a prospect. So he sits there. On the second tab, the “others” allow me to grab interesting players at a low price even if they do not fit my needs. Having $13 allocated to my last three spots means that if a 3B I love goes for $7 instead of the $15 I think he is worth, I can grab him. Or if a second OF makes sense, I can snag him, without throwing all my plans off.




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Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.


27 Responses to “Auction Assets: What I Bring to an ottoneu Auction”

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  1. Jeff Zimmerman says:

    Crap, I was hoping you would show up with a handle of Jack tomorrow night and bid like it was 2009.

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  2. Brad Johnson says:

    Thanks for saving me about 5 minutes of prep time with those spreadsheets :)

    I was going to work on an article like this later today, so you preempted that need too.

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    • Chad Young says:

      Be curious to know what else you bring or what you bring that is different. I can’t imagine we take the exact same approach to auction night!

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        It’s pretty similar, my layouts are a little different than yours and less organized. Rather than use 2 computers, I set up a dual monitor with a 32” screen which lets me keep 4-8 documents visible at a time (depending on what I need/size). I’ve used two laptops in the past and always have trouble using the wrong keyboard and mouse.

        Generally, I try to internalize as much as possible before the draft. The more I can focus my attention on the draft room, the better I am at executing a plan.

        The post below is probably the main difference, I build out a list of every player I wouldn’t hate myself for owning by position, then I whittle it down into scenarios and add price ranges.

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  3. Brad Johnson says:

    One thing that I do for draft prep, I review the entire free agent player universe player by player. In ottoneu, the best was to do that is to open your auction early and filter by position with “show minors” and “free agents only” checked. I only have RP left for that Tuesday auction Chad referenced.

    That won’t work for everyone since not everybody follows the majors and minors as intently as I do. If you can’t pick out a short list of targets from a long list of names only, you can use the Free Agents link in the Ottoneu header. It takes a lot longer because it’s split by level, but it comes with the necessary stats.

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  4. LarryA says:

    Thanks. I just copied the spreadsheets

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  5. LarryA says:

    Is there any reason for leaving 1 or 2 spots open after the draft? Also, is there a definitive answer for how much money to have after the draft?

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    • Chad Young says:

      Spots? No. If you really think there is no one worth grabbing, it isn’t the end of the world to leave with an empty spot, but you really don’t gain much value except some extra time to figure out who you want, at the expense of all the other teams getting guys before you.

      As for cash, I try to leave about $5-$8 if I can, but I also see saving cap space as secondary to building the team I want. I’d rather got the extra dollar on 2-3 guys I want and have only $3-$5 is that is what it comes down to.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Just to share my two cents, I like to keep a spot or two open if the players on the board don’t really add anything to my roster. The most obvious scenario for this is if you budgeted some amount for prospects and then found that all the guys on your list went for more. More prospects will arise throughout the season. Danny Salazar and Alex Wood come to mind as examples from last year. It’s perfectly reasonable to wait for those players to make themselves known.

      Keep in mind, there is a cost associated with cutting players, which highlights the other scenario where it makes sense to not roster a player. If you’ll probably cut a guy later, why pay for him now.

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  6. blackoutrestrictions says:

    Question about the draft/FA software – Is it in any way possible to search for players based on ownership percentage or cost averages based on other leagues? I certainly haven’t found it in the past year in either the FA or drafting software. Ottoneu has that “recently added” banner that flies by from other leagues, but this seems to be mostly a curiosity where the information can’t really be used in any kind of systematic way. The bottom line is that it is nice to have a sense of what a player or prospect is worth or how much they are owned – something that most fantasy sites provide. It certainly helps on draft day as a raw way to sort – esp near the end of drafts. Am I missing this somewhere?

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  7. James R. says:

    Does anyone do any of their own research anymore. Used to be able to get an edge by work and prep. Now its just at the click of the mouse. They even tell you who to pick and in what order. In our Roto league (26yrs) we recently voted to allow laptops, tablets. But still no auction day internet connections. Unless to settle an eligibility dispute or something similar. When the league started all transactions were done by telephone. And the league bought the Secretary a message machine. We received standings weekly by mail. And we are not just a league of old farts, we have 20/ 30 yr old members. Signed, Old School.

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    • Bruce says:

      And we didnt know the standings until someone added up the stats from the end of season Baseball Weekly

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    • jfree says:

      We used to dream of playing fantasy baseball in a league. We had to play with roadkill in the middle of the highway. And when we got finished playing, we’d bring the roadkill home for dinner, get sent off to the mill to work a 20-hour day, walking 15 miles each way – uphill. The only time we saw a computer was when we were going to bed and were forced to watch an endless loop of Hamster Dance until we died and then were revived the next day to go play with roadkill.

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    • paulnako says:

      Your sentiment is not wrong, but I’d argue putting in your own work and prep is more of a competitive advantage than ever.

      I put in a lot of work this year building on Chad’s approach for establishing Ottoneu auction values that included writing an R function to aggregate projections and spit out a report containing everything I needed. I had a great draft over the weekend and it was wholly apparent a few others in the league were sticking straight with Ottoneu’s average values, which is an obviously flawed and lazy approach as outlined above.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Before I was an “expert” I used to get pissed when my hard found sleepers turned up with high rankings in Yahoo. For example, Matt Cain’s personal trainer tipped me to pick him prior to his breakout season. But then he was going with a Yahoo ranking in the 8th round, so I never had a shot.

      That’s one of the things I like about Ottoneu is that it forces a lot more prep, even if there still is some hand holding.

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  8. Belle of the League says:

    Thank you for confirming that I’m not crazy…
    Let me rephrase that. I’m the “commissioner” of a points based, keeper league with an auction draft. I also run multiple computer systems (4 monitors) with similar spreadsheets and open access to data from Rotographs, Google for injuries, etc.
    Like you, I also need to keep an eye on the League Page in case we encounter a problem.
    Thank you for the spreadsheet format. I’m going to use it. Mine was similar, but much more complicated with multiple tiers for each position.

    BTW Contrary to some of the comments from some of the writers (present writer excluded) who assume that older users are not as capable as the “kids” when it comes to technology, I challenge them to hand build systems with better components than the ones I assembled….and I am your grandmother.

    To James R and Bruce. Thanks for reminding me of the beginning of this obsession. I started playing over 20 years ago with a bunch of actuaries from competitor companies. It was a live draft and standings were calculated and sent out weekly from the Commissioner.
    My current league is entering its 4th year and is an interesting mix of guys ranging in age from 25-65 and located in the US, Canada, and New Zealand.

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  9. Baltic Fox Has Cold Paws says:

    I’m new to auction drafts so there’s one thing I’m interested in: what about bidding up a player that you’re really not interested in? What’s the strategy on that? How close to the value of a player do I get before I drop off?

    Let’s say that Oswaldo Arcia is nominated in a 10 team AL only league. I check the average price he’s going for in that format for a league that size and find out he’s worth $11. But the only two guys bidding for him have reached a price of $9 and the clock is ticking. Do I bid $10, even if I don’t need his power, and hope that I can trade him? Or is this a proven failed strategy?

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    • Chad Young says:

      I am not a fan of the strategy of bidding up to bid up. Now, if you think, “I don’t want Arcia, but I need an OF and at $10, he’s a deal,” that is different. But if you are literally thinking, “I am bidding $10 and I really really hope I don’t win,” I dislike that approach. I never want to make a bid that I hope loses. Sometimes I end up bidding up players I didn’t intend to bid on because their prices are low, but it is always because the price is so low that I actually want the guy at that price.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      I wouldn’t play chicken with anyone if you’re new to this, but every auction has a few moments where price enforcement is necessary. I don’t shy away from being the enforcer. Last year in a Yahoo league, I won an $18 Carlos Santana and $26 David Wright simply because bidding stopped and I decided to enforce. It threw my plans for a loop, but I loved both players at those prices.

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  10. James R. says:

    Bid up a player once who I didn’t need or want and guess what? There was an eerie silence after my bid. I got the player cheap, then got rid of him asap. Of course I lost out on a better player in that spot that I could of competitively bid on. Outfoxed myself. However I still employ this strategy, with the knowledge of position scarcity and the needs of the other owners.

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  11. Teddy Wolvesevelt says:

    Hey Chad, so I’m a little confused about Sheet 1 on the spreadsheets: I understand how you have $119 under “open” but not how you have $119 under “accounted for.” Is it because there aren’t any dollar values attached to your players in the cells with their names?

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