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Thread: 2020 Anatomy of an Auction Draft (Very Long Read)

  1. #1

    2020 Anatomy of an Auction Draft (Very Long Read)

    The Prelude:

    Once again, it's that time of year. There is no opening day...no MLB games being played...and, for the first time in our league's history, we're doing a virtual draft, with all owners participating via Webex. But everyone is excited to make this happen, as it is one of our favorite days/weekends of the entire year! Two of our previous 12 owners had conflicting draft schedules for the fifth time in six years (even though we tried to set our draft date two years in advance to avoid such issues), and the league provided them an ultimatum. They moved on, and we now have one returning owner (first time back in ten years) and one brand new owner...thus bid dynamics would be slightly unpredictable.


    League Overview:

    We play NL-only Ultra with $280 budget; 12 teams; 25 active: 13 Hitters, 10 Pitchers, 2 Super-Utility; 15 reserve - 3 of which can be minor league exempt players whose salaries do not count against the $280 cap; 5x5 with OBP; unlimited roster moves; $100 FAAB; and an in-season salary cap of $290 + (week x $10). There were some interesting players tossed back at (for our league) reasonable prices, including A.Eaton $23, Hendricks $23, Bumgarner $21 and Samardzjia $4. A lot of owners seem to want to maximize auction dollars and draft flexibility. Half the league has at least $170 available to spend (one had $223 for 17 players)...although one has only $69 for 12 players.
    I too tossed a couple of players I liked, but wanted back at cheaper prices - S.Marte at $46 and G.Polanco at $25. But we'll see if that was really a good idea.


    My Team:

    I have a decent keeper list, earned via some previous minor league exempt players that are now in the majors, and a dump trade that relegated me to last place last season. One owner has an insanely good keeper list, and my goal is to be both smart and opportunistic during the draft. I rarely spend more than $20 on any one pitcher, but this year, I won't let that limit me. I often target certain types of hitters (power/speed combos), but this year, I'm committed to being more flexible. It's going to be hard to totally change my tendencies, but I hope to alter them enough to put myself in better position to win. My keepers going in were as follows:

    1B: P.Alonso $8
    SS/MI: N.Ahmed $9, M.Rojas $1
    OF: Acuna $22, Cespedes $9, V.Robles $8, B.Reynolds $7
    SP: G.Richards $7, J.Cueto $3, M.Fried $3, C. Smith $2
    RP: R.Wick $3, D.Hudson $3, D.Pomeranz $1
    MLE: M.Dubon, S.Hilliard, H.Greene

    That's 14 keepers for $87, but I have a cap penalty of -$8 to my $280 (finished below the points minimum last season) leaving me with a total auction budget of $185 for 11 players. My team has a lot of value, and is the second best overall keeper list...but I have some obvious holes without an upper tier SP, nor closer, going in. For comparison purposes, here is the best keeper list, the Dream Team:

    C: W. Smith $7
    1B/3B: R.Hoskins $15, I.Happ $12
    2B/SS/MI: G.Lux $1, K.Newman $2, K.Huira $8
    OF: Soto $15, Bader $1, Grisham $8, Senzel $5, Winker $5
    UT: A.Riley $5
    P: Flaherty $12, Gallen $17, Yamamoto $5
    MLE: Kieboom, Ginkel, Patino

    On offense he only needs one C, one CI and one UT...to go with seven pitchers. And he has $162 to use on those ten players. That's going to make him tough to beat.



    My Plan:

    Based on my needs and who's available, I went in with the following outline of a draft plan:

    1. Get two big hitters, one who’s a 3B (target: Kris Bryant) and another who's either a CI or OF
    (target: S.Marte), for a combined $80-$85. Note the top tier of 3B available are Arrenado, Bryant, Machado and J.Turner. After that, you're stuck hoping for bounce backs from Jake Lamb, Carpenter and Gyorko. That's not appealing at all.
    2. Get two good starting pitchers for a combined $40-$45 (initial targets: Syndergaard & Price...but replaced Syndergaard with K.Hendricks, post injury)
    3. Get a solid closer for $20-$25. If I missed on getting one of the better SPs, get two closers, instead. (targets Yates and/or Jansen)
    4. Get a mid-tier hitter with upside for $18-25 (target: G.Polanco...backup plan A.Garcia or K.Calhoun)
    5. Get one good catcher for $8-$12 (target Navarez...backup plan d’Arnaud) and Vogt for $3 - $5
    6. Fill in the 2B slot with a $1 player that can be replaced by M.Dubon who is MLE
    7. Fill the second UT slot with either a cheap potential closer (target S. Oberg) or a SP with upside (target Drew Smyly), and fill the remaining CI or UT slot with a cheap power hitter (target Kevin Cron)

    I calculated inflation at around 50% for hitters and 33% for pitchers, for an overall inflation of ~44%. Little did I know that the early prices would be even worse than expected.


    The Opening Round:

    One of our resident Dodgers fans, Mr. $223, has the first throw, and he calls out David Price, which helps me immensely. In some years, the first throw is often the best early bargain. I recall reading that Price feels so much better and has regained full feeling in his left hand, after wrist surgery to remove a cyst. He's moving from an AL hitters park to an NL pitchers park, and looked overpowering (10Ks in 4 IP) in his early ST starts. I hoped he might be slightly undervalued because of his recent struggles before the surgery. My draft software values him at $23 and I stay in the bidding, the whole way, feeling a sense of exhilaration when no one is willing to go to $24. This fit my draft plan, has me feeling good from the beginning, and turns out to be a very good buy, based on what was about to happen with pitching prices.

    The second toss was Arrenado, whom I liked up to about $45 - $48. He wound up going a bit high at $50 but that wasn't unusual. The next toss was Syndergaard, who went for $12, which was a nice buy for a team looking toward the future. And then, the insanity occurred.

    When it got to the next toss, Betts, the bidding floodgates were opened. He quickly shot past $40, and even past $50...and people were egging the bidding to keep going higher (we have a process by which people drop out of the bidding process, then often comment on the remaining bidders to drive up prices). When it reached $59, everyone encouraged, but couldn't get the remaining bidder to go to $60...but that was still $4-$5 higher than I expected (Betts inflated value was $55, going in).

    The owner who had $223 needs everything, but starts off spending big on closers, buying Yates at $30. The Commish starts with $179 to spend on 10 players, and exercises his muscle buying Goldschmidt for $41 and Harper for $55. On my throw, I toss Bauer, whom I'm avoiding like the plague. I have him valued slightly below Price, right around $21...but I don't trust him in Cinci. When he goes for $27, I feel even better about my opening buy. Mr $223 buys his second closer, spending $26 for Edwin Diaz, whom I figured would have been discounted further after last season's fiasco. And the Commish spends $26 for MadBum, whom I had valued at $20. Then Urias is thrown, and I'm thinking of making this buy, as I like his potential for a solid return, especially in a shortened season. Yet the Arrenado owner (another Dodgers fan) bids him up to $23, beating out Mr. $223. So it's looking that there won't be any bargain buys in this pitching tier, for neither closers nor SPs. The round ends with umjewman picking up Baez for $42. I was right there near the end, but, I convinced myself to wait, because I needed a CI more than a SS...and wanted better OBP. That was my first mistake, and would go on to become a recurring theme.

    Rounds Two and Three:

    Mr. $223 tosses Villar, but passes on going the extra buck and Dream Team buys him for $41. I like him in the $27-$30 range, so I stay disciplined...but wonder if I should have just spent the money. Then as I'm going through these thoughts, Dodgersfan throws Marte. Here is my weakness, personified. Good power, better speed, and moving to a hitters' ballpark. That's a recipe for success that I like, so I'm going to chase him. I want him around $40-$43, and most people drop out in the low $40s. Bidding is getting deliberate and measured, and when it creeps to $45, I bring myself to say $46...the price at which I tossed him back. Unfortunately Dodgersfan goes to $47, and I can't bring myself to pay more, so he's gone and I'm a bit bummed. Within the next five picks, Mr. $223 buys Castillo $38, Nola $39 and Jansen $30. He's purchased the two best available SPs and three best available closers for $163, and his keepers were Bueller $12, S.Gray $13, and D.May $1. He has the best pitching staff money can buy, but it only leaves him $60 for twelve players, nine of which have to be hitters. Good luck with that!

    In the meantime, Dreamteam is building upon his squad, using his strong draft budget to grab J.Turner $27, Kyle Hendricks $28 (I REALLY wanted him for $22-$24), and R.Iglesias for a whopping $29. He knows he's overpaying, but he doesn't care...he wants to leverage his war chest to accumulate relatively dependable production. Returning owner snags Tommy Pham for $40, and while I bid up to $39...I can't bring myself to got to $41. Then, with A.Bradley going for $23, the last solid closer is Doolittle, and I figure he's worth my spend, since I already have D.Hudson. I pick him up for $21, which is right at his inflated value...and also snag C.Blackmon for $42, which is just slightly above his inflated value. So far, despite the crazy pricing, the auction is going swimmingly. And now the fun begins.

    umjewman picked up R.Ray for $21 (whom another owner could have kept for $18), and that's too high for my taste. Almost all the pitchers in my target range are going $3-$6 more than I'm willing to spend. At that point, I decide to look towards a cheaper starter with upside, and shift my target to Chris Archer, hoping that he'll discard the Searage sinker approach, and go back to what made him successful in Tampa. Meanwhile, umjewman and I are going head to head, bidding on Machado. At $39, I bow out, deciding to wait on Kris Bryant, as I still prefer the OBP. Then Rizzo comes up, and he'd be an excellent fit at CI...great OBP...solid power...just what I need. But I remind myself of the back injuries, and decide to pass, yet again. What in the world is going on with me? Why am I not pulling the trigger when I should? It's because, while I tell myself I'm trying to make opportunistic purchases, I'm actually falling into my old pattern of waiting on certain guys I'm targeting.

    Navarez comes out, and, while I like him at $12 - $14, the bidding goes all the way to $18. L.Weaver is somewhat interesting, and goes for $20, just above his inflated value. Another mistake...maybe I shifted my focus to Archer a bit too early. Votto goes for $24 and Braun for $17...then Dreamteam buys Stroman for $23...the same price as Price. What in the world is going on, here??? Being patient is helping me avoid some of these pricing potholes, but it's also making me miss out on several opportunities. And, of course, umjewman throws Bryant, whom he knew I was waiting on. It turns out, a couple of the guys looking towards next year are also in on him. The bidding shoots past my $42 target price, and I have to go all the way to $48 to drive out the other owners. With one pick, I just undid much of the good work I did with my first three picks. My team is still in good shape, but Arrenado at $51, Rizzo or Baez at $43...or Machado at $40 were probably better buys, although there's no guarantee I'd have gotten any of them at those prices. While that price wasn't optimal, the base of my team is set, and I have $51 remaining for seven players.



    The Middle Rounds:

    In the fourth round, I snag Alfaro at C for $12 and Archer for $10. Now, five of my six SPs are solid strikeout guys, and I’ll see if I can augment them in the end-game or the reserve rounds. I should have 90-95% of Washington's saves, and Wick as a possible closer if Kimbrel is as done as Chancellor thinks he is (I certainly hope so). I still need a solid mid-tier hitter with upside, and my eyes are set on Polanco, who has power, speed and the lowered expectations from the recent injured seasons. But again, by waiting on him, I cost myself W.Myers $20, A.Garcia $17, AJ Pollock $14, Akiyama $17, Joc Pederson $15 and Daniel Murphy $15. I also let Oberg pass when the bidding went up to $8 (from the $1 W.Davis owner...a wise buy on his part). By the time I finally threw Polanco in round 6, one other owner was determined to snag him, a former RJer who's had Phineas to Ferb (PtF), and Mr. X. as handles. Per his admission, in the past he's deliberately bid me up or stolen a player he knew I wanted, just to mess with me. I'm not sure why, and I don't know if he was doing that again...but I bid all the way up to $24 when my max bid was $25. Once again, I didn't want a player for the price at or above where I could have kept him...and, when he said $25, I shifted my focus to the CI pool. I took a flyer on J.Aguilar for $8, hoping he can regain his 2016-2018 power stroke. It's now time to tinker around the edges, and see if I can get back at PtF.


    The End Game & Reserve Rounds:

    Unlike in some previous years, my combination of hesitation, discipline, and irrational waiting left me with considerable dry powder for the later rounds. I brought back C.Taylor at MI for $6, which projects as a good buy. I grabbed S. Vogt as a power option for my second catcher. Then I splurged on two lottery tickets...one on R. Tapia $5, a player PtF did an end game snipe on me, two years ago (I already have S. Hilliard as an MLE, so I've backed up my Blackmon buy...and have upside if Dahl gets hurt and/or Desmond continues to stink), and the other on Lewis Brinson $3 (though I didn't get Harrison to back him up, as he went in the first reserve round, three picks before I would have taken him). Unfortunately, grabbing them with my UT slots prevented me from taking pitching flyers on Smyly and Mahle.

    As I finished a bit earlier than others, I mapped out my reserve strategy. My focus was to grab a few strikeout pitchers, a closer longshot, minor league replacements for Dubon and Hillard, and some hitters who might luck into PT. Unfortunately, with my late pick (based on last year's dismal finish), other owners grabbed J.Rojas, A.Almora, M.Harrison and K.Cron, before it got to me...and then on the turn I lost out on S. Beer. Those were all targets at the top of my list...but I still managed to snag a few potentially useful players. Here's my post-auction roster (picks are bolded):

    C: J.Alfaro $12, S. Vogt $4
    1B/3B/CI: P.Alonso $8, K.Bryant $48, J.Aguilar $8
    2B/SS/MI: C.Taylor $6, N.Ahmed $9, M.Rojas $1
    OF: C.Blackmon $42, Acuna $22, Cespedes $9, V.Robles $8, B.Reynolds $7
    SP: D.Price $23, C.Archer $10, G.Richards $7, J.Cueto $3, M.Fried $3, C. Smith $2
    RP: S.Doolittle $21, D.Hudson $3, R.Wick $3, D.Pomeranz $1
    UT: R.Tapia $5, L.Brinson $3
    MLE: M.Dubon, S.Hilliard, H.Greene

    Reserve Hitters: C.Owings, P.Ervin, D.Dietrich, K.Farmer, L.Morrison, K.Broxton
    Reserve Pitchers: D.Holland, T.Cahill, C.Estevez
    Reserve Prospects: R.Mauricio, H.Bishop, Jose Garcia


    My draft software currently projects this team in second place with 79 points (51 hitting, 28 pitching). Dreamteam projects first with 92.9, The Commish projects third with 74, and Returning Owner projects fourth with 72.5. The path to first requires improving slightly in OBP, getting slight upside to WHIP/ERA via performance or trade, and adding a second closer to increase saves. It will take some significant work to accomplish, but at least there are options. Now let's hope there is a season to be played...and we'll see how it turns out.

    If you've made it this far, thanks for reading and indulging me once again, as I take a walk through my auction experience. If anyone is interested, I'll attach a spreadsheet with draft rosters and auction bids, later in the week.
    Last edited by ThatRogue; 04-05-2020 at 11:47 AM.

  2. #2
    love the format!

    good read in these trying times
    have entered 37th yr in 11-team-only NL 5x5 in 2021 after a year off
    won in 2017 15 07 05 04 02 93 90 84

    rebuilding

    SP Nola 32, SGray 16, TWalker 10, Gant 2, KHKim 2, AWood
    RP Givens, Doolittle, Floro
    C Stallings 2, Casali 1
    1B Vogelbach, 3B Segura 17, CI Fuentes 13, 2B Maton, SS TTurner 44, MI Gregorius 17
    OF Blackmon 32, Pollock 17, Cain 14, Bader 1, Daza 1, UT Votto 10-IL
    IL/min - Ps Carrasco 16, Neidert 5, Soria 4, Price 3, Graterol 2, Knebel; Hs Solano 2, ERios 2, DuFowler

  3. #3
    Nice storytelling, Bryant buy was way too much but what can you do in the spur of the moment

  4. #4
    Great writing job!

    Hitting prices were brutal. Yeah, Bryant was an overpay, but at that point, you can't take it with you. Of the other four you brought up, in an OBP league, I'd have pushed further on Rizzo and maybe one bid on Arenado (though, I agree with your thought that he'd have likely just gone for a couple bucks more). But it's hard to see the forest for the trees when all the trees are behaving like insane Ents. And Bryant at the top of the order in an OBP league could be pretty studly. OTOH, Aguilar at $8 is a high risk/high return move I like, Vogt at $4 is great, and CTaylor at $6 is really good. Price at $23 to lead off was a solid buy, too.
    I'm just here for the baseball.

  5. #5
    Welcome to the Big Leagues, Kid
    Join Date
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    Just a correction with your wording - you made it sound like I tossed Ray at 18 and then overpaid at 21. I didn’t throw him back - it was solely an overpay!

  6. #6
    Hall of Famer
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    Fascinating read and fascinating draft. I wonder, however, if Syndergaard is such a great $12 buy for a rebuilding team. He might get very few innings next year (normal return time is 12-18 months, which makes it iffy), and he's a free agent after that---and this is NL-only.

  7. #7
    Thanks for writing this up! I would like to see a better SP in place of Archer -- maybe Urias for $25+? Where would the $ come from? Replace Blackmon with a mid $20s hitter - or maybe just Myers or Avi Garcia. What you did is probably a better bet though.
    I like the Bryant purchase over Rizzo etc. Also the Brinson and Aguilar bets at those prices. The Tapia pickup was brilliant because you have Hilliard. As much as I love Hilliard, I see Tapia getting the strong side platoon. Might take a Dahl or other injury for Hilliard to shine.
    https://www.mlb.com/news/raimel-tapia-adds-muscle-2020 ... the Tapia AB's I saw in spring training has me believing.
    Last edited by NL Only; 04-02-2020 at 01:39 PM.

  8. #8
    You can't spell Dahl without DL.
    I'm just here for the baseball.

  9. #9
    Welcome to the Big Leagues, Kid
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    1,852
    Quote Originally Posted by NL Only View Post
    Thanks for writing this up! I would like to see a better SP in place of Archer -- maybe Urias for $25+? Where would the $ come from? Replace Blackmon with a mid $20s hitter - or maybe just Myers or Avi Garcia. What you did is probably a better bet though.
    I like the Bryant purchase over Rizzo etc. Also the Brinson and Aguilar bets at those prices. The Tapia pickup was brilliant because you have Hilliard. As much as I love Hilliard, I see Tapia getting the strong side platoon. Might take a Dahl or other injury for Hilliard to shine.
    https://www.mlb.com/news/raimel-tapia-adds-muscle-2020 ... the Tapia AB's I saw in spring training has me believing.
    I will say, those mid-tier hitting prices were WAY less than they usually are in this league. In past years, Garcia typically would go mid-20's. I was shocked when he only went $17. Guys like Pollock, Murphy, Pederson, etc. historically top $20 in this league.

  10. #10
    Thanks for the positive feedback about the writing. It was fun to have the time to go through the exercise of documenting how things went. Now, for a few comments:

    Quote Originally Posted by chancellor View Post
    Great writing job!

    Hitting prices were brutal. Yeah, Bryant was an overpay, but at that point, you can't take it with you. Of the other four you brought up, in an OBP league, I'd have pushed further on Rizzo and maybe one bid on Arenado (though, I agree with your thought that he'd have likely just gone for a couple bucks more). But it's hard to see the forest for the trees when all the trees are behaving like insane Ents. And Bryant at the top of the order in an OBP league could be pretty studly. OTOH, Aguilar at $8 is a high risk/high return move I like, Vogt at $4 is great, and CTaylor at $6 is really good. Price at $23 to lead off was a solid buy, too.
    Brutal hitting prices is an understatement, Chance...and the pitching prices weren't much better. I also wish I had gone higher on Rizzo and Arenado, but, in the heat of the moment, I thought I'd get a bigger discount on Bryant and Polanco. As it turned out, those players also went higher than I projected and, as umjewman noted, the discounts went to players like Calhoun, Garcia, Pollock, Pederson, etc. After I got tired of waiting for prices to drop, and started spending...the prices finally came down on the third-tier hitters.

    Quote Originally Posted by cavebird View Post
    Fascinating read and fascinating draft. I wonder, however, if Syndergaard is such a great $12 buy for a rebuilding team. He might get very few innings next year (normal return time is 12-18 months, which makes it iffy), and he's a free agent after that---and this is NL-only.
    That's a good point, Cavebird...one that I had not considered. Another risk is that the Mets may non-tender him, later this year, and, if so, I could see the Yankees offering him a contract (they've coveted him for years, it seems). So even a 12 month return from injury doesn't guarantee a ROI on the $12 auction price.

    Quote Originally Posted by NL Only View Post
    Thanks for writing this up! I would like to see a better SP in place of Archer -- maybe Urias for $25+? Where would the $ come from? Replace Blackmon with a mid $20s hitter - or maybe just Myers or Avi Garcia. What you did is probably a better bet though.
    I like the Bryant purchase over Rizzo etc. Also the Brinson and Aguilar bets at those prices. The Tapia pickup was brilliant because you have Hilliard. As much as I love Hilliard, I see Tapia getting the strong side platoon. Might take a Dahl or other injury for Hilliard to shine.
    https://www.mlb.com/news/raimel-tapia-adds-muscle-2020 ... the Tapia AB's I saw in spring training has me believing.
    Yeah...an upgrade to Archer would have been preferable. Perhaps I should have gone to $21 on Luke Weaver and purchased a $1 - $4 catcher, instead of Alfaro.

    The owner that purchased Polanco had (admittedly) sniped Tapia from me two seasons ago...so there was a bit of payback involved. Thus, the Tapia buy was more of a Plan B fallback option, because, had I gotten Polanco for $24, I would have had only $5 for my final 4 players and wouldn't have been able to afford Tapia. Nor would I have gotten Aguilar, Brinson or C.Taylor, and probably would have wound up with Michael Taylor, Kevin Cron, Seth Beer, and Chris Owings as $1 end-gamers. So, although I really wanted Polanco (and if the other owner hadn't been in the bidding, everyone else had dropped out between $17 - $19) and Marte (or Calhoun and A. Garcia as fallback options), I think I'm fairly pleased with how things went...if we actually get some portion of a season in 2020.

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