Auctions are perceived as a superior way to determine fantasy skill since each owner has the opportunity to bid on every player. This requires owners to fill their rosters while operating under a predetermined salary cap.
The rules of thumb
Before developing a draft strategy, you need to understand what affects player value. For instance, it's commonly accepted that batters - particularly those that contribute in all five categories - are more a little more valuable than pitchers.
In a 5x5 league, batters contribute in more cumulative categories (runs, home runs, RBI and stolen bases) than pitchers (wins, saves and strikeouts) do. It's also riskier to depend on pitchers since they tend to be more injury-prone and inconsistent. Wins and saves are affected by the hurler's team a bit more than the batting categories - many a fantasy owner has bemoaned a blown save that deprives his or her starter of a win.
Positional scarcity drives up the price of top performers at shallow positions. Elite players at scarce positions often go for a higher dollar amount than comparable players at other positions. It's easier to find value in a cheap player at a deep position. The theory is that when you spend less on a deep position, you'll still receive adequate production from that spot and have more dollars available to target elite performers at scarce positions.
If everyone took that approach, though, others would lose out, and someone would be stuck with a pricey middle infielder. Look to maximize your return, and always be flexible.
The rules of the league
Become familiar with your league's structure. Know if it's a 5x5 or 4x4 league; that changes player values. If you play in a head-to-head league, you should know that power hitters are more dependable than base-stealers.
Players with future value go for a little to a lot more money in keeper leagues and dynasty formats than they do in single-year leagues. It's not a bad idea to throw a couple of extra dollars at an emerging player who may be approaching his prime.
By the same token, many bidders are wary of spending money on an aging veteran whose keeper value is diminishing. These vets may become bargains who fill out your roster nicely and make the difference in a championship run. No one says you have to keep a player just because you acquired him in a keeper league.
Deep setups magnify factors like positional depth. Top performers go for high dollar amounts. Simultaneously, your auction dollars can end up spread thinly.
If you want to acquire top players, particularly at scarce positions, you may need to overpay. As a result, it's not worth paying for many such players. You'll have to be extremely accurate when targeting undervalued players and sleepers. If you acquire several high-dollar players early, you may be hesitant to go the extra dollar or two it takes to land players you need. Some prefer to build a roster of midlevel players because many of them have a good chance of outproducing their bid amount, too.
The rules of strategy
You have to develop and implement a strategy. Construct a cheat sheet, as you would for a serpentine draft, but assign each player a dollar value range. This gives you visible tiers - much like tiers on a serpentine cheat sheet - for what you're willing to pay for each player. Dollar ranges will overlap, thus letting you know whom you value at roughly the same price.
Many auction strategies have snake-draft counterparts. You can, for instance, elect to "punt" a category. If you were to punt stolen bases, you wouldn't spend any money on players who specialize in steals. This strategy means you'll essentially need to dominate all other categories to be competitive, however, and leaves little margin for error in other areas.
Well-known strategies dictate a specific approach to budgeting. For instance, the LIMA (Low Investment Mound Aces) plan proposes that you spend a very limited portion of your budget on pitching (by targeting arms with breakout potential based on skills evaluation) and use the bulk of your cash on proven batters. Such strategies have proven effective to varying degrees, but as with all approaches, you have to be flexible. All strategies have flaws, but they present worthwhile tactics that you can incorporate, even if you don't wholly subscribe to them.
It's often best to strive for a balanced team and avoid overspending on top players. If you can acquire them at good value, they are worth considering, but otherwise, you are likely to leave yourself with little to spend on the balance of your roster. Know which players are undervalued and target them. Some sleepers will be overvalued. If your projections are accurate and you can acquire a couple at low prices, though, you will make up the money you spent on proven, quality players.
The rules of engagement
You may have perfected your strategy, but you have to be ready to adjust to situations. Auctions require more preparation than serpentine drafts. You must devote more time to assessing value because you're not investing one pick but rather a potentially large portion of your budget. A dollar in one direction or another can make the difference.
Control the board
Usually, it's not wise to invest in players who command the most auction dollars. Such players are worth considering if they can be purchased at value or they're central to your approach and don't cost much extra. If you land multiple high-priced players, you will have less to spend on the rest of your team. This will handicap you in future bids and sometimes force you to give up on mid-tier players or sleepers you targeted.
To elude that situation, remember that many bidders are anxious to spend their money. You'll often be surprised by some of the players who go cheaply near the end of an auction. If you seek value in midrange players, it will allow you to evade other debilitating scenarios in auctions.
Avoid bidding wars
You shouldn't get caught up in bidding wars. The excitement of a heated exchange of dollar figures, especially on high-dollar players and hyped sleepers, can cause fantasy owners to lose sight of the goal, which is to manage the budget.
There is a fine line between a bidding war and a serious battle for a worthy player, though. Recognize when the current bid on a player is quickly approaching or has surpassed his dollar value range to steer clear of this error in judgment.
Be aware of inflation
Several factors cause players to spike in perceived value. Your fellow fantasy owners almost certainly view certain players or positions at prices differently from how you do. If you encounter bidders who seem to be infatuated with certain players or types of players and spend lavishly on them, you have to adjust accordingly. Look to spend less money on second-tier performers in those areas while getting deals in others because those owners will no longer have the resources to compete for them.
When viable options at a position are off the board, remaining players who are perceived as acceptable will naturally go for more. No one wants to be stuck with the worst options. Therefore, it is crucial that you recognize where the drop-off is well before it occurs. Seek a player at the position before the well is nearly dry to avoid overpaying for less viable talent.
If you're targeting a sleeper, you must be confident in your projection and have an alternate plan in case someone else is targeting the same player. In an auction, you must be prepared to walk away without the player you targeted if he becomes too expensive.
In keeper and dynasty leagues, especially those without escalating salaries, inflation is likelier because owners often carry over players who are below market value. They can afford to overspend on other players. Hopefully, you do as well, so that the inflated values will become relative.
Spend your money
Many points urge you to exercise caution when bidding on players. That is sage advice, but you have to be willing to pull the trigger when the time comes. It does no good to have cap space remaining at the end of your draft. Granted, if you spend $13 more than your projected value on a player, you didn't manage very well. On the other hand, if you exceed your projected value by a couple of dollars because of shifts that took place in the auction or because your considered him vital to your plan, you should come away feeling that you invested your money wisely.
Hunt for bargains
Almost everyone spends money on big-name players, but the owners who find $1 to $5 gems set themselves apart. Take a chance on one or two potential diamonds in the rough, especially in keeper and dynasty leagues. If you find cheap gold in a dynasty league, it can serve as part of your team's foundation for years.
It cannot be stressed enough: Knowing the players you can acquire who will likely outperform their auction dollar value will go a long way toward a successful auction.