With the background work done in Part 1 and Part 2 now is the time to actually decide how you are going to approach draft day. There are two main types of drafts and two types of leagues I am going to cover in the series in Part 3. As you can see Part A is the auction draft and Part B, which will be up in a couple days, will focus on the snake draft and we will end the week with Part C, which will talk about how to utilize these approaches when talking about a Head to Head League compared to a straight Roto League. Each kind of draft and league requires a unique approach and way to "target" players as well as finding value.
In the auction draft your goal is to purchase players for equal or less than the amount that they are going to give you in return when you reach October. Each player is an investment, and just like any investment you want a positive return when it is all said and done. If you can buy a player for $2 dollars on draft day and he returns you $12 in October, then you have accomplished what everyone in your draft wants to do. If you can do that with 4 or 5 players, you probably are going to win your league.
Rule #1 - DO NOT LEAVE MONEY ON THE TABLE
This is more of a pride rule, like "Don't strike out in slow pitch softball," to save face and if you are not playing in a keeper league where your last guy has potential, bid all you have left on your final player, that way your league mates can't ridicule you for years to come. I have learned this from experience and why the next year I had a $11 Jose Mesa as a middle reliever.
Rule #2 - Decide on Your Strategy
This is a very important step, even before you choose your "target" players. Dave Potts outlined the two major auction strategies in his "Basic Auction and Strategy" article. Just about any other strategy that is out there is derived from either the "Stars and Scrubs" approach or the "Spread the Risk". Each one can be successful if executed correctly, but historically the "Stars and Scrubs" approach works well in Only leagues with the shallow player pool and "Spread the Risk" in a deeper pool of players in a mixed league.
Other strategies that seem to be utilized better in an auction draft more so than a snake are Ron Schandler's LIMA Plan and its variations. The reason for this is you can throw out a player at anytime of the draft to be bid on. You should work this to your advantage and consider it part of your strategy. If you are targeting a first basemen in the mid-price range, like Lance Berkman, you probably don't want to introduce him until some of top dollar guys are off the board. This helps you in two ways - first you know that most other teams have already spent some of what is in their pockets and second they don't need a first baseman anymore, probably dropping Berkman's price.
Throwing out low dollar end game players early would seem like a good idea, but is usually counter productive. People are more likely to take a gamble and go the extra dollar when they see they have $225 of their budget left than they would when there is $25.
Finally you will have to overpay for a player if they are the last one left at their position with their skill level and you probably should. This is why it is very important to track other teams and the depleting player pool. If you take my Berkman scenario above, you want to make sure the next best first basemen after Berkman isn't Paul Konerko, because that would actually inflate Berkman's price because multiple people would want Berkman instead of Konerko.
A perfect example of this took place in my NL-Only auction last year. The Outfield player pool was getting to the end of the second tier and the drop off came after Andre Ethier. I had only rostered one outfielder so far of Cory Hart at $27. Remember, going into 2009 Ethier was viewed as a $17-$20 player at best. I ended up going $25 on him because I did not want to be stuck with four third tier OF on my active roster. It worked out okay and Cory Hart ended up my bust instead, but this goes to show how a player can inflate or deflate in value depending on when he is thrown out to be bid on.
Rule #3 - Target your Players
The greatest thing about a draft auction is if you want a player you can have him. If you want to build your team around first basemen Albert Pujols then you can. If you want to have a potential 30/30 player as your cornerstone, then go get shortstop Hanley Ramirez as there is no one stopping you but yourself. If you are playing in a 23-man roster league I would suggest picking out 3 to 4 infielders at each position, 10 to 12 outfielders and about 20 pitchers (SP, RP and CL) that you would be comfortable owning, all within varying dollar ranges. Now you are not limiting yourself only to taking these players, but it is good to have a combination of players at different positions that will allow you to reach your desired team mix.
Rule #4 - Building Your Team
Now that you know what kind of strategy you are going to utilize and which players you are interested in it is time to build your team. By combining what you have decided on Rule #2 and Rule #3 this aspect will kind of guide itself. Remember that you want a balanced line-up and finding the players that will perform for more than what they are bought for will make your team a winner. If someone is thrown out there and you reach the crickets point at a lower price than what you think that guy is worth then adapt and adjust either who you are targeting or how you are going to build your team so that you can get this guy on it.
Rule #5 - Adjust and Adapt
The last part of Rule#4 leads me straight into Rule #5. There is no rule more important when preparing for an auction than Rule #5. This rule is really more for draft day, but the best strategy you really can have is a fluid one. If you go into the draft with your dollar values of what players are worth and won't/can't adjust them as the draft goes on, you will not go the extra dollar on enough guys leaving your team with just scrubs and money left on the table.
In 2008 I did not successfully follow Rule #5. I did not think that going the extra dollar on first basemen Derek Lee was worth it because I saw him as a $25 player and the bid was at $26 already. Instead, I had to settle for Todd Helton at an inflated $17 and ended up leaving $10 on the table. If I would have gone the extra dollar, I would have had Derek Lee at first base and ten more dollars to spend on my pitching staff. Bargain shopping is okay, but you will get to do that at the end of the draft. Accept the fact that you are going to have at least one $1 player on your team and be okay with it. You would rather drop a $1 player in week 2 than a $5 player that didn't allow you to "get that guy".
I do not think that there is a way to learn how to compete in an auction draft without partaking in a few. You could follow all the above rules perfectly and still have a terrible draft if you do not grasp the concept of the auction. Experience is the only way to ensure you know what you are doing, so when Part 4, Practice-Practice-Practice, gets posted early next week make sure you read up. Just remember an auction draft is to chess what a snake draft is to checkers. If you are playing checkers at the auction table you will lose.