Experienced auction players are very familiar with the concept of inflation in keeper leagues where bargains on some of the very best players mean there are more dollars chasing the available players than there should be. But in actual practice, how do some of the very best players deal with an auction with very high inflation?
The league I am referencing held its NL only auction yesterday – still almost three weeks before opening day. We can do that because the definition for those eligible for both the auction and reserve draft allows for players on the forty man roster and not strictly major league versus minor league. Both Todd and I, with our partners, play in this 12-team league composed of some of the best high-stakes players in the country. So it is not an easy thing to fight through the jungle to get your team. Witness the fact that with only $58 spent on my eight keepers (the max – some would have to keep less) I though that my $202 of auction money would put me in very good shape.
I wasn’t even the team with the most dollars to spend – there was someone with $215 and another with $216, and five teams with more than $200. The poorest team had $132 to spend. Minor leaguers (each team gets only three) have $5-salaries, and that means players like Jason Heyward, Cameron Maybin, Tommy Hanson, Andrew McCutchen and Colby Rasmus contribute to the heavy inflation. But so do players bought for $1, $2, or $3 in the previous year’s draft. Teams can only keep an active player for three years, so some rotation of the player pool is automatically enforced.
But heading into this year’s auction, only Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez would be among the top-10 available hitters. However, most of the top pitchers would be in the pool – nine of the top 11 starting pitchers.
My team kept three hitters – Kelly Johnson, at $20, Colby Rasmus at $5, and Chris Snyder at $4. I also had Buster Posey on my minor league roster and would activate him for $5 but obviously chose to do that post auction so I could buy any $1-catcher and then put Posey in that spot.
Now I would need to buy four more pitchers and eleven hitters.
But what kind of budget should I consider?
I thought both Pujols and Hanley would go for close to if not over $50, even if neither were projected to earn over $42. But very high inflation does not necessarily mean you can go spend $50+ on the best players without cutting yourself thin at other positions. Sure you could plan to buy several $1- or $2-players, but in a sharp crowd that would likely mean you had several unproductive slots amongst your 14 hitters. And with 12 teams each having seven reserves and three minor leaguers, you would be hard pressed to cure your ills with the available free agent pool. One other note – there is NO trading in this league.
I prepared two basic budgets – one that would pay up to $50 for Pujols or Ramirez and one that would have my highest hitter in the high $30’s and adding a good, not Tier-1 starting pitcher for $20+.
Twenty-two percent inflation would suggest that Pujols would go in the low $50s and Ramirez in the low $40s. Not even close my friends. When the smoke cleared in the first round, Pujols went for $60 and Hanley for $58. So they weren’t on my team – now what?
I needed a lot of everything on the hitting side and would just have to try and zig and zag – and like you will in a few weeks, I would have to make some bets on certain players. Unfortunately we sometimes don’t really get to choose which number we want our money to ride on. Below Pujols at first base the next best available players would be Carlos Pena or Adam LaRoche. Miss there and after James Loney you would be in the Lance Berkman, Ty Wigginton, and Lyle Overbay tier. It was worse at shortstop where below Ramirez there was Jimmy Rollins and then a severe drop to Jason Bartlett and then an even more severe drop to Alex Gonzalez or Yuniesky Betancourt.
While not a big believer in Rollins putting up anything close to 2007 numbers, I was relatively happy to roster him for $26, where I might have paid for actual value or have a dollar or two of upside. I was even happier to roster Carlos Pena for $19 – well my power side was, my BA gremlin was in for a long day. LaRoche actually went for $20 which would have been fine – who knew in advance, but Loney was clear up to $17.
And then I did a lot of waiting, hoping to catch players at/near value – Raul Ibanez ($13), Alfonso Soriano ($16), Bartlett ($14), Placido Polanco ($9), and Overbay ($6) helped give me the flexibility to reach later for players I had to get – Andres Torres ($25) and Mike Morse ($16) and to move $5 to the pitching budget where I added Tim Hudson ($18), Derek Lowe ($8), Johnny Venters ($8) to handcuff Kimbrel and then have some extra to reach for Tim Stauffer at $12.
Here is the whole roster:
C – Snyder (4) & Kottaras (3) with Posey waiting
CI – Pena (19), Polanco (9), & Overbay (6)
MI – K. Johnson (20), Rollins (26), & Bartlett (14)
OF – Rasmus (5), Ibanez (13), Soriano (16), Torres (25), & Morse (16)
UT – Juan Miranda (9) [who can be moved to CI if a reserve is productive enough]
SP – T. Hudson (18), D. Lowe (8), Stauffer (12), Kennedy (10) & De La Rosa (2)
RP – Kimbrel (10), Storen (5), Kuo (2), & Venters (8)
Reserves – K. Wood, J. Arredondo, Lannan, & K. Kendrick
Glad to answer questions on price points for any player on the message boards.