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The No-Plan Plan: Prepping for a Year One ottoneu Auction

Many people believe that fantasy leagues are won prepping for the auction or draft. Having a plan, being ready to execute, and then following through can make all the difference.

But any time I have started a new ottoneu league, I have intentionally NOT planned. Well, that isn’t exactly true, but the No-Plan Plan is far less defined than how I approach any other league.

Going into most auctions or drafts, you have only 23-26 roster spots to fill and almost all of those players will be in your lineup daily. You can’t afford too many misses, you only get a flyer or two, and you need to make sure your lineup is set top-to-bottom, because it can be difficult to fill holes later in the season, unless you have depth somewhere to trade from.

But ottoneu is different, and 40 man rosters offer a ton more flexibility. In my experience, coming into a first year ottoneu auction, with 480 players set to get drafted, having too defined a plan limits that flexibility and denies you the opportunity to react to the landscape as it develops.

This is not to say that you should have nothing in mind when you sit down. Preparation is still the key, but you are prepping so that you don’t need a plan, rather than so you have one. I know many owners like to have lists or target players, a roster (or partial roster) they hope to fill out. But not me.

You want to start by deciding on projected prices for players, giving you a benchmark to see who is going over and under market price once the auction starts. Particularly in a new league, you never know how people will bid and if you show up thinking you want to target, for example, Prince Fielder, you may end up overpaying for your target when a Freddie Freeman or Paul Goldschmidt not only costs less but goes for less than your expected price.

Next, you want to identify lower-tier starters that you would be happy to run out everyday. For example, I am a big Ike Davis fan this year, and I am perfectly happy to use him as my 1B in most leagues. But his market price is likely to be that of a bottom-end starting 1B or perhaps a decent Util, rather than getting up there with the guys I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Guys like Davis allow me to pass on the big dogs if their prices get to high.

The idea here is not to target Davis (or your choice for that slot) but to allow yourself to be cautious in other bidding. If you think Prince is worth $40 and you can get him at $30 – go for it. But when all the 1B are coming off the board, you also don’t want to panic.

That said, another piece of prep work is to identify positions where you WILL want to panic. Maybe you look at the lower end 2B and don’t see anyone you are all the comfortable with (I, for one, think Dustin Ackley and Scott Sizemore could have good seasons, but not so strongly that I am willing to bank on them starting at 2B for me), and if that is the case, then you may in fact want to panic if the last 2B you like is about get bid higher than you expected. Part of the value of a $400 cap is that it gives you room for a reach or two, while still being able to fill out your roster. Maybe you have to pass on a prospect, or an over-hyped sleeper because of the extra $5 you spent on Robinson Cano, but you will still be able to build a lineup you’re happy with.

Deciding whether to spend the big bucks on multiple top players is another call that has to be made in auction. A stars-and-scrubs approach can work well in ottoneu, but it works better if the early bidding is tight and the stars are going cheap. If you can get a couple starts for $10 less than you expected, and another couple at $5 less than you expected, that opens up $30 additional to spend, giving you the flexibility to fill out your roster. But if people are spend-happy early and the bidding goes crazy on those stars, you may not be able to afford enough stars to win, and you may be passing on some great values on the second-tier players, who will go cheap if the stars use up too much cap space.

Finally, spend some time with two groups of players: Review the top 100 prospect lists and try to identify a handful of players in the middle of that list who could be in the top 20-25 next season. Those guys come at a huge discount ($1-$2) compared to the current top 20 ($8-$10) and considering they will only cost $2-$3 next year and will likely have high trade value if they develop as you expect, you are getting much more bang for your buck.

And look for part-time players with the potential to be valuable guys in a platoon. You won’t be used to having enough roster space to use these guys effectively, but ottoneu’s 40 man rosters make that possible.

Now, I am sure you are finishing this and thinking, “Chad, this plan is no plan at all.” True…but it will work.