12-Team Auction Mock Draft (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
The auction format seems to grow in popularity every year in the fantasy baseball community, and it’s easy to see why. Instead of randomized draft slots and hoping for the right players to fall to them at their spot, fantasy managers can identify and assign values ahead of time and head into the auction with a plan. Luck is still involved, the auctions give fantasy managers much more control over their strategy.
I’m constantly experimenting with new fantasy baseball strategies, especially when it comes to auctions. This year, I’ve been doing a ton of mock auctions to both try out those strategies and to see how I am valuing certain players against other experts in the industry. The great thing about using the FantasyPros Draft Simulator for these mock drafts is that you’re drafting against teams that are based on the current FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings, so the decisions those teams make are based on expert opinions in the industry right now.
For this experiment, I completed a 12-team mock auction draft for a standard 5×5 format. Let’s first take a look at the team and I ended up with, and then we’ll walk through the general strategy, where things went wrong, where things went my way, and how things look overall.
While not necessarily a firm rule for me, I try to keep an eye on my budget allocation and end up somewhere in the 65% range in favor of hitters. For this auction, I had two primary goals in mind. I wanted to land at least three Top-15 starting pitchers for under $75, and I wanted to build a balanced lineup without spending more than $35 for any single player. High-end starting pitching is at a premium this season, so I wanted to have a clear plan to focus on the top of my rotation. A few weeks ago, I wrote about why I’m focusing on starting pitchers early this season. That piece was focused mostly on standard snake redraft formats, but the main arguments still apply: there is a clear fall off after the top few tiers of starting pitchers this season, and finding value in the middle rounds is going to be harder than in recent seasons, especially because of the shortened 2020 season.
I wanted to find bats with power/speed potential who wouldn’t kill me in batting average, but I didn’t want to break the bank on a superstar and then hope for the best with $1 fliers. So, I targeted my aces early and often, bid on bats that I wanted (but stayed patient and conservative), and looked for places where I could get “my guys” for a fraction of the price that I personally value them at. A couple of examples of this last point are Alec Bohm and Ryan Mountcastle. I’m the president of the Ryan Mountcastle fan club, and getting him for $4 is an absolute steal if I’m right about him. And I wouldn’t have paid more than $5 for Alec Bohm, but he has the potential to be worth more than triple the $3 I paid for him this season, if not more.
The strategy I laid about above sounds well and good, but it’s easier said than done, obviously. I was able to land my aces and find some value, but I did stumble along the way a few times. My biggest early mistake was “accidentally” landing Xander Bogaerts for $28. I had already drafted Bo Bichette and, while I like Bogaerts as a player, we were still pretty early in the auction, and I didn’t need him. His price was jumping up quickly, and I thought he would land somewhere over $30. I got a little too cute in trying to bump up his price for others, but everyone stopped after I put a bid in at $28. In the end, I have Bogaerts as a $30 player this season, so this isn’t the end of the world. But allocating $62 to two shortstops early in an auction isn’t a strategy I would recommend.
My other mistake was leaving $10 on the board. I did a really good job of finding bargains and building a balanced team, but I could have used that $10 elsewhere. I like Tommy Pham as a $3 buy, but I could have upgraded there. The same could be said for Aaron Civale ($2) and Triston McKenzie ($3). I like both players, and they’re both really good pitchers for the back-end of my rotation. But would I have been better off spending some of that money and my remaining $10 on another closer? Probably.
As I alluded to above, my big win was being able to execute the plan I had coming into this auction. I didn’t overpay, and I was able to grab three top-tier starting pitchers for under $75 in Aaron Nola ($27), Jack Flaherty ($24), and Zac Gallen ($21). My biggest buy was Bo Bichette for $34. And while that is definitely a premium to pay for him, he’s a player I really wanted. My other two big guys on offense were Kyle Tucker ($29) and Xander Bogaerts ($28). We already touched on Bogaerts above, and I’d feel better about that decision if he played a different position and wasn’t going to tie up my utility spot most nights. But he’s still a good player for a good price. As for Tucker, I was willing to go to $30 for his potential, and I ended up getting him for just under that.
This auction played out a little weird towards the middle and end of my budget. I had three roster spots and $24 left while no other team in the auction had fewer than nine open spots or more than $40. This wasn’t intentional but did allow me to get aggressive in pursuing my final three spots. I was prepared to outbid the field for my preferred third closer, Ryan Pressly, but I didn’t have to. With the other teams still trying to find bargains for their dwindling budgets, I was able to get Pressly for under his suggested value.
At first glance, my lineup may look like it has some weak spots. And that’s true, somewhat. If you look at my starting lineup and see Alec Bohm at first base, Mike Moustakas at second base, Yoan Moncada at third base, and Tommy Pham as a starting outfielder, there is some risk there. But if you look closer, I built intentionally built in a bunch of lineup protection throughout the auction.
I eliminated some of my risks with a versatile crop of hitters based on the eligibility listed. The three bats on my bench right now are Tommy Edman (2B/3B/SS/OF), Trey Mancini (1B/OF), and Nick Solak (2B/3B/OF). All three are eligible in the outfield and the infield, and I plan to rotate all three into my lineup based on matchups even if they don’t have to step in due to injuries or slumps. And even among my projected starters, Bohm is 1B/3B eligible, Mike Moustakas is eligible at 1B/2B/3B in this league, and Ryan Mountcastle is 1B/OF eligible. I took some gambles by building my lineup with a number of players that I believe in more than the consensus, but I hedged my bets.
The FantasyPros Draft Analyzer gave my draft a 93 out of 100 and projected me to finish near the top of the standings, with my pitching leading the way. This is actually a little bit better than I expected since I knowingly went against the consensus many times. But what you’ll also see if you look at the details below and sort by “Starters vs. Bench,” I’m the only team in the league that is Top 4 in both. This confirms what I have just mentioned above: the team I built through this auction is deeper and more balanced than it is top-heavy, which is exactly what was I aiming to accomplish.
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Mike Maher is an editor and featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive, follow him on Twitter @MikeMaher, and visit his Philadelphia Eagles blog, The Birds Blitz.