Auction Draft Strategy: Using Rankings Tiers To Your Advantage

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Conventional fantasy baseball rankings are pointless. There I said it. A set of tiered rankings, on the other hand, now that makes a lot more sense.

What a simple numerical set of rankings (from one through let's say 300) fails to account for is the skills and production gap between the players it is ordering. But tiered rankings help close that gap, especially for auction league drafts.

Our society is obsessed with lists, rankings, countdowns, you name it, and they’ve ranked it. The craving for fantasy baseball rankings rivals only that of Ron Swanson’s hankering for bacon and eggs. Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have.

 

Using Tiered Rankings for Auction Uncertainty

To be honest, I don’t have a problem with rankings. I have a problem with how some fantasy owners use them on draft day. Instead of focusing on a broader spectrum of issues, I’m going to narrow my focus down to one specific area of strategy, how to use tiered rankings to your advantage in auction drafts.

One of the most fun, frustrating and complex elements of an auction is that any player can be nominated at any time. The potential that Danny Salazar may get nominated before Clayton Kershaw is what makes auction drafts so unique.

You literally have to be prepared for anything at anytime. Having players rankings into tiers is your best preparation, so that you can make smart and quick decisions in the heat of the auction draft moment.

 

Gauge the Market Value of Players

If I have a group of 10 pitchers all ranked in the same tier, I want to bring them up on consecutive nominations.What this enables me to do is roughly determine how the rest of my league mates are valuing the pitcher at the high and low end of this tier, and project how much the rest of the pitchers in the tier are likely going to cost.

In my experience, this strategy works much better for starting pitching than any other position. For example, if I think Julio Teheran is the best starter in my third tier grouping of pitchers, and Hyun-Jin Ryu is the least valuable of the 15 arms, I want to bring up Teheran first and then Ryu immediately after on my next turn.

Not everyone is using the same rankings obviously, but I’m looking to gauge the market in the most effective way possible. Fantasy owners are constantly searching for value on draft day, and I’ve found that this strategy gives me a good baseline to determine what everyone else in the room thinks about this tier of pitchers, and then enable me to target the best values when they come up in the remainder of the auction.

 

Position Scarcity - Don't Overpay, Avoid Bidding Wars

Another way to use tiered rankings to your advantage is to recognize when there is a significant drop off coming at a position. I’ve seen it before, and trust me, you never want to be the guy stuck, essentially punting a middle infielder spot, when you realize that you missed out on virtually every quality option on the board.

Due to the high variability of auction drafts and the order in which players are nominated, often times it will get down to the point where there are limited options remaining at a position. Sometimes one name will stand out above the rest. At this point, you have to make the call to either target and acquire that specific player, potentially overspending and losing value to do it, or risk getting stuck with a much worse option and essentially punting the position altogether.

You never want to overpay for any player and often times the worst bidding wars come when there is one “elite” closer or shortstop left and three (or more) teams in the market for their services. Unless you have taken the time to break your rankings down into tiers ahead of time, it can be difficult to notice on the fly when the talent pool in a particular tier is shrinking. If you notice, for example, that there are only two pitchers left in a particular tier, you don’t want to wait until there is one left and jump head on into a bidding war.

Using tiered rankings to gauge the market value of players you believe will produce a similar return on investment, and avoiding bidding wars, are the two biggest reasons to take the time and spice up your conventional rankings before heading into your auction this spring.