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Fantasy Baseball Drafts: Overwhelming Superiority of Auctions

I’ve taken part in many fantasy drafts in my time. I’d like to think that I’ve learned from every one of them. One thing that I’ve undeniable taken away?

When it comes to fantasy baseball drafts, the auction is far and away the superior method. Why? Plenty of reasons, and reasons behind those reasons. What’s that, you want some specific examples?



– 1. Bidding Wars

There is nothing — I repeat, NOTHING — that a snake can offer that comes close to a good ole bidding war. The closest it can offer is someone taking a player he really doesn’t want to keep his rival from drafting that guy. It’s cute and all, but it doesn’t stand up to a bidding war.

Best of all, there are all kinds of bidding wars that all have their unique charms.

  • Bidding war over a good player 

All owners bidding are legitimately targeting this guy. Who really wants Mike Trout the most? Better yet, who really wants that sleeper — like Khris Davis or Avisail Garcia the most?

You’re not only thinking about the player you’re bidding on, but the future players that you will have to bid on.

  • Bidding war to mess someone’s bankroll up

These are common, especially if there are a few guys in the league who really don’t like each other that much. Or maybe they’re best friends, but two of the better owners in the league and trying to hinder each other.

Say some marginal player like Desmond Jennings is selected. Realistically, even the $14 in ESPN’s Draft Kit seems a bit too high and everyone bidding on him knows it.

It basically turns into some freakish hybrid of Chess and Chicken. When are you willing to walk away and let the other guy have him without trying to bid the price up? If you drive it up one more time, will he walk away and stick you with Jennings for $18. There’s nothing that feels better than winning one of these, and nothing that feels worse than losing one.

  • You can have him, but not for that much bidding war

We’ll shift gears a little bit here and talk about a specific league I’m in. This is a keeper league and I’m entering the draft with a decent (not great) budget and one of my keepers is Miguel Cabrera. Realistically, I’m not looking at third base in the draft. (Note: I’ve also got Paul Goldschmidt, so Miggy’s pending 1B eligibility does little for me.)

One third baseman that will be available in the draft is Josh Donaldson. If some owner about to land Donaldson for a cheap price, I may be inclined to drive the price up.

  • Maybe I foresee a bidding war a little later when we’re both going for a player we need.
  • Maybe I just don’t like the idea of him getting Donaldson for that cheap and want him to spend a few more bucks.

But there’s something else to consider here. In that same league, I am in need of a center fielder. What if the guy bidding for Donaldson has Mike Trout, or Andrew McCutchen, but a few picks down the road, sees that I’m about to land Jacoby Ellsbury for cheaper than he should probably go for? Wouldn’t he be inclined to return the favor? If I’m thinking about that, maybe I think twice before driving Donaldson’s price up.

If I do drive Donaldson up and he returns the favor on me with Jacoby, you know what we have? We have a rivalry.

Why are those so important?


– 2. Keeping Non-Contenders Active

The auction actually works to do this in a few different ways, but we’ll start with the rivalry bit we just covered.

Rivalries can happen in any kind of league, but for the reasons we’ve already gone over, an auction is an excellent breeding ground for them.

If you’re in a 12-team league, you’re probably looking at about 3-5 teams in July that will have a realistic chance to win. Where does that leave the rest of the 7-9 guys? Basically, playing spoiler. They can’t win, but they can impact a category that will have a lot of say in who wins.

If one of the people who can win is a rival, the non-contender is far more likely to stay involved, just to spite the guy who got the better of him in the auction.

Think about it this way. If one real life rival is out of a pennant race, it at least appears at times that they try a lot harder against their big rival than they do against the team the rival is competing with. I’ve noticed it on both sides of the Los Angeles Dodgers/San Francisco Giants rivalry, as I’m sure plenty of people in the northeast have noticed with the Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees rivalry.

A team may be out of it, but they’re going to do everything they possibly can to make their rival’s road to the playoffs as rocky as is humanly possible.

The same thing can apply in fantasy baseball, and anything that maximizes the owners who stay active all year is a good thing. The auction does that because of the rivalries it breeds, but for one other reason, too.

Time: Auctions take a lot longer than snake drafts, about three times as long. If you’ve sat through an auction, it’s a lot harder to walk away in the middle of July because of the time and effort that went into it.

I don’t want to say that can’t happen in snake drafts, but it’s a lot easier to walk away when you started the season with a quick, 45-minute draft than it would be if you started with a three-hour marathon.

On that note, do not try to use time as a reason that snakes are better. On paper, yes, it should be easier to schedule a snake draft than an auction draft. But if you’ve ever been an LM, you know that it doesn’t work that way in practice. Scheduling the draft is the hardest thing I do as an LM every year and I know I’m not alone.


– 3. Dumb Luck Out, Strategy In

Last, but certainly not least, we have this factor.

If you’re in a brand new league this year, why should the guy who gets Mike Trout on his team get him only because he drew a the biggest straw, his name was drawn out of a hat, or your provider randomly chose him as the No. 1 pick?

In what way is that more equitable than the guy getting him because he simply wanted him more than anyone else?

There’s something else to consider, here, too. In an auction, if you draft a Trout or Miguel Cabrera, you’re inheriting a big risk. Yes, you’re landing a dominant player, but I can promise that you’re also spending a HUGE chunk of your budget to get him. What exactly is the gamble being taken by the guys who do nothing more than land the first two spots?


Auctions are in no way easy, but if someone came to me and wanted my advice on starting a fantasy league, I’d tell him to make it an auction draft. When it boils down to it, they’re superior to snake drafts in several ways, and inferior in none.

Tags: Auctions Fantasy Baseball Drafts MLB

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