2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Scott White’s auction tips, strategies and guidelines

We give you plenty of auction results here at CBS Sports, but it’s been a few years since I’ve talked auction strategies in this space. It’s overdue.

Here are some of the guidelines I live by:

Make a budget beforehand. Know how many dollars you have to work with, how many spots you have to fill, what caliber of player you wish to target beforehand and what you should expect to spend for it (you can find projected auction values on the rankings page). Make sure the numbers add up exactly. You may (and likely will) have to diverge from this budget during the auction, but you can quickly add or subtract dollars from positions as needed and will always know what you’re capable of doing with the money you have left.

Target genuine difference-makers. You know, those one-of-a-kind players that would give you a distinct advantage over your competition, whether it’s at a particular position or in a particular category. I’ve made it clear that I think this year’s scarcities are stolen bases and high-end starting pitchers, so that’s where I’d plan to devote most of my money. There are enough slugging third basemen that you can probably get one for cheap.

Don’t be afraid to spend for them. The math changes in a deeper league, of course, but if you’ve played in a standard 12-team league before, you know that the waiver wire is fairly robust and that worthwhile alternatives are emerging regularly. This is especially true for closers and outfielders. So lean into it. Trust that if you make a minimal investment there you’ll be able to make up for it later, and it’ll free you up to spend for what actually matters. Spreading the dollars may yield a more hands-off roster, but it also limits a team’s overall upside.

Take the pulse of the room. An auction is a living, breathing organism, and it doesn’t conform to your little plans. If you see that high-end players are consistently being undervalued, adjust your budget so that you can grab more of them. Proper auction values reflect a realistic distribution of dollars, so if fewer of those dollars are being spent on high-end players, more will be spent on the mid-tier players that won’t make as much of a difference for your bottom line.

Understand that the cheap buys come later. If someone gets cute and nominates a low-end guy who then gets a bunch of dollars thrown at him, it means that people don’t know what to do with the dollars they still have and will bid on virtually anything at that point. Nominate some of those guys yourself, but don’t fall into the trap of bidding on them.

Don’t expect to get your favorite sleepers. Is there really such a thing as a sleeper anymore? The most buzzed-about players everybody knows and everybody wants. They may know to wait until a certain point to take them in a draft, but an auction is a constant game of now-or-never. In the now, your opponents all recognize they’ve been waiting for this moment, and the bidding rises to a level where the sleeper in question isn’t such a value anymore.

Don’t be afraid to nominate a player you want. Conventional wisdom says otherwise, that you should nominate players you don’t want so that there are fewer dollars out there for the players you do. But if your entire auction strategy — or at least what’s left of it — hinges on you getting a particular player, you may waste some great buying opportunities waiting around for him to be nominated only to find out when the time comes that he was never a realistic possibility for you. You can’t revisit those buying opportunities later. Once a player is gone, he’s gone, and whatever dollars you have left don’t go into a piggy bank for later.

Leave yourself enough dollars to control the endgame. There’s nothing sadder (or potentially more damaging) than being limited to $1 bids to close out an auction. It means you can only win the players you yourself nominate, and if anyone else decides to bid on one, you have to wait through another round of nominations, missing out on other potential $1 bids, before you have a chance to nominate one again. You may keep missing and not get anyone good, which would be a devastating way to end things.

And then … control that endgame. When I get to a point where my max bid is about half my remaining budget, my entire focus changes. If someone nominates a player I want, I immediately jump in with a $2 bid and stop. If it’s one I really want, I immediately jump in with a $3 bid and stop. DON’T HESITATE. Don’t consult your notes before deciding. Know the names you’re looking for, and as soon as you see one, bid. If someone bids you up, fair enough, wait for the next one. But eventually, no one will, and you’ll actually get some good players since you’re in on everyone’s nominations instead of just your own.

So who should you yourself nominate during this phase of the auction? A player who you know you wouldn’t go $2 for but who you also wouldn’t mind having for $1. If someone else bids on him, great, that’s the goal. If not, OK, you filled a spot for $1 and can now go up to $3 on an additional player. If you’re down to your final roster spot or two and don’t want to risk blocking one with a player you don’t actually want, see what everyone else’s max bid is at that point and nominate the guy you want for that amount. Nobody can outbid you!

Honestly, the endgame is the most critical time in every auction, so if you heed any of these guidelines, make this one the one.

Happy bidding!

So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda’s huge breakout last season, and find out.

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