Auction Season is Underway

For years, Valentine’s Day meant one thing to the rest of the world (hearts and love and such things) and another to me: the final few days to prepare for my annual ottoneu auction. Then I met my wife, and suddenly those “such things” took precedence…but this year, she is in China for a couple weeks and so I returned to my roots, and spent the last few days preparing for ottoneu.

My first auction of the year commences on Sunday, as we kick off season one of the Better FanGraphs Staff League (not to be confused with the Other FanGraphs Staff League). With $400 to spend on 40 roster spots, having a solid plan in place for Sunday is going to be crucial, so at the risk of my competitors seeing what I have in mind, I am going to lay out my plan here – and next Thursday we can see how well I stuck to it.

This league will be my first foray into the FanGraphs Points scoring system, and for many of my competitors, this is their first year playing in an ottoneu league, so I am not sure what to expect. Because of this, I intend to hold back from early in the auction. I won’t pass on a steal, but I am not going to go out of my way to win anyone in the early going, until I can get a sense of how players are going to be valued.

Last year, I got burned in a newly formed league when I grabbed a couple players early on that I really wish I hadn’t paid for. I spent $15 on Jesus Montero, which turned out to be way more than most other prospects, and spent $43 on Roy Halladay, who ended up being comfortably the highest paid pitcher. Waiting a round or two likely means passing on some top-tier talent, but it also means I’ll know what I am up against before I start shelling out big bucks.

In general, I expect to be more willing than my competitors to spend on prospects. From years of playing ottoneu, I have generally found that when it comes time to make mid-season trades, the top stars get traded for the top prospects. If I have to pay a couple extra dollars to nab Jurickson Profar, I think it will pay off later in the season.

Looking to offense, there is a real opportunity to grab value in guys with doubles power. In a traditional 5×5 league, a HR is far, far more valuable than a double: you get credit for a HR, a R, and an RBI, in addition to the impact on batting average. A double gets you part of a run, might get you an RBI (although not one that a HR wouldn’t get you, as well), and, of course, no HR. Even in an ottoneu 4×4, the HR gets you credit for a R, a HR, and double the value of a double in SLG. But in a points league, a HR gets you 15 points, while a double gets you 8.5. The run and RBI are erased. A 40-HR, 25-2B hitter is still more valuable than a 25-HR, 40-2B hitter, but the gap closes. I’ve never liked Billy Butler in fantasy, but this format really plays to his strengths, and there are others like him.

I covered this in my FanGraphs+ article (ottoneu Strategies for Every Setting), but I fully intend to fight Ben Duronio for the RP who qualify as SP, some of whom he identified yesterday. Without giving away the details from the FG+ article, the average relief inning is far more valuable in a points league than the average inning from a starter. If I can supplement my rotation with 2-3 RP that don’t take up RP slots, I can maximize my RP innings, and score some cheap points.

My RP platform has another plank, though, one which runs slightly counter to what I laid out on this very site just three short months ago. While the gap between a save and a hold in this scoring system is minimal (5 pts vs. 4), it is easier to get bunches of saves than holds. Last year 19 relievers accrued 30+ saves, and seven more broke the 20 save barrier. Meanwhile, only seven RP got to 30 holds, and only 21 got to 30. There were more RP with 40 saves (8) than with 30 holds. What I wrote in November still holds true – there is just no sense in paying $15+ for Jonathan Papelbon or Mariano Rivera when you could get a full bullpen of very, very good middle relievers for the same price – but I might loosen up the purse strings a bit for a closer under $10.

Finally, I’ve identified a few “sleepers” – guys I would be very happy to have in my daily lineup but I don’t expect to cost a ton. I own a number of these players in the original ottoneu league (Mike Carp, Lucas Duda, Scott Sizemore, among others), and I think they are key to building a solid roster. You can’t afford a stud at every spot, so finding guys who fill lineup holes on the cheap is key.

Having said all of that, one of the hallmarks of a Chad Young auction is a complete inability to stick to a plan. We’ll see how I do this week!

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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.

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B.E. Earl

I used to love the auction format, but lately I’ve been missing the old drafts more and more. They were so many highs and lows with each round. “Oooh…I was just about to take that guy” was heard just as often from my as it was from my draft mates.

Last year, I tried something new and did little to no auction prep. I just jotted down the players that I wanted. Every time it was my turn to select a player, I just picked someone I didn’t really want and let everyone else have it. When it came to the players I wanted, I had the upper-hand because the rest of the league over-paid for players I didn’t want anyway. I wound up with nearly all the players I wanted and plenty of cap room to sign free agents and make big trades during the season. The strategy mostly worked as I finished in second place in a H2H playoff league, but with a little luck here and there I could have pulled it off.

But the auction itself felt anti-climactic. And the drafts were always the most exciting day of the fantasy year. I dunno. Each format has their own strengths and weaknesses.


I wish I could do that in my auction league. My league has a special provision where the person who nominates the player abstains from bidding, and then they get final say on whether they keep him at that price or give him up. Makes it kind of a hybrid draft/auction league, which in turn makes nominating people you don’t want a pretty poor strategy.


If you were nearly able to hose an entire league just based on your ability to change the order in which 1/12 of the player pool is nominated, you are either the greatest auction drafter to walk the face of the earth, or were playing against some of the most easily manipulable managers I’ve ever heard of.