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Ultimate Guide to Fantasy Baseball Auction Drafts (2021)

by Dan Harris | @danharris80 | Featured Writer
Mar 18, 2021

Fantasy baseball auctions, or salary cap drafts as I’ll call them going forward, can be intimidating. With a snake draft, everyone knows what to expect. Oh sure, some players might go a few rounds before or after their average draft position. But, for the most part, if you do enough mock drafts, you’ll know what to expect.

But a salary cap draft? I mean, it could be anything. The top few players could each go for $60 of a $260 budget. Players who often go off the board right next to each other in a snake draft might have a $10 difference in a salary cap draft depending on when they’re nominated.

It’s madness. It’s bedlam. And it’s the most enjoyable way to draft a fantasy baseball team. Seriously (and this is not hyperbolic), I haven’t met a single fantasy baseball manager who has tried a salary cap draft and not enjoyed it. Not one.

But, if you are going to take the leap into the deep end of the pool that is a salary cap draft, you need to be prepared. Get extra swim lessons. Wear some floaties. Add some darned flippers if you must. But make sure that before, during, and heck, even after your salary cap draft, you are absolutely prepared.

Here, I’ll break down how to prepare for and execute a successful salary cap draft, from creating your values to knowing when and how to adapt during the draft. But in the end, your salary cap draft strategy can largely be boiled down to one simple goal:

Leave your draft with more value than anyone else.

Now, there’s more to it than that as we’ll discuss herein, but that’s pretty much what you’re shooting for. One overarching goal: value.

Of course, there are several steps and nuances that go along with achieving that goal. So, let’s begin by walking through the five big categories of salary cap draft preparation and execution:

  1. Generating Salary Cap Values
  2. Roster Construction
  3. Nomination Strategy
  4. Budget Management
  5. Bid Strategy
  6. Dominating the End Game

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Generating Salary Cap Values

What does leaving your draft with more value than anyone else mean? Well, in most leagues, everyone starts with $260 in salary cap dollars. If everyone acts as a rational consumer, they will all spend their full $260 (and, outside of keeper leagues, you always should). Your goal is to spend your $260, but walk away with significantly more in value. $300. $320. $360. Whatever it is, your goal is to get a ton more value than $260 and, if possible, more value than anyone else.

Ok, that all sounds good, but how do you measure that value? And that’s where the first step comes in – generating salary cap values.

That doesn’t mean just creating values. If I tell you that Gio Urshela is worth $40 in a salary cap draft, well, there’s a salary cap value for you. I mean, it’s insane. But it’s a value.

No, you need to have values you can trust – otherwise, even executing the rest of your strategy flawlessly won’t mean much.

In a perfect world, you’d come up with your values by creating your own player projections, combing through your league history to calculate standard gain points (that means how much any single statistic – run, RBI, strikeout, etc. – is worth in the standings in your league based on the league’s history), run a replacement value for each position, and then hibernate like a bear for six months to recover from that massive undertaking.

I create my own player projections and go through that entire process. I will also be honest with you and tell you that unless you work from home and have a flexible schedule or hate your friends and family or dislike The Karate Kid (because that means that you’re insane), you should not be doing this. It’s an incredible amount of work and, given the alternatives I discuss below, is not worth it.

These alternatives to creating your own dollar values based on projections are called auction or salary cap draft calculators. Nearly every website that offers fantasy baseball services has its own calculator, into which you can input your budget, how many teams are in your league, the type of league, etc. The calculators then spit out values tailored to your league’s parameters. So, for the most part, it does a lot of your work for you.

But remember: salary cap draft values are derived almost entirely from player stat projections. Every single run, home run, RBI, earned run allowed, win, and steal that you project for a player influences that player’s value. And so, whatever calculator you choose, you must feel comfortable with the projections that go into that calculator.

If you have a site where you feel comfortable with the player projections and the model that created them, that’s great. You should feel comfortable relying on that site’s auction calculator values.

You are reading a FantasyPros article written by the Editor-in-Chief of the company, so if you want to discount what I’m about to say, you can certainly do so. But my personal recommendation is to use the FantasyPros auction calculator, and it’s for a pretty simple reason – I know you can trust the player projections.

The FantasyPros auction calculator relies on Zeile Consensus Projections (named for Todd Zeile), and are based on aggregated projections from several major sites and projection systems. While one projection system may feel that this is the year Raimel Tapia smacks 30 home runs, you don’t really need to worry about outliers like that when you’re dealing with aggregated projections. As with the Expert Consensus Rankings, why would you rely on just one expert opinion when you can rely on the average of several reputable sources?

In other words, unless you want to be a hero, this is the easiest step in your salary cap draft prep. Find an auction calculator with projections that you know you’re comfortable with (and I’ve extolled the virtues of the FantasyPros auction calculator enough because I know what goes into it and trust its methodology- but just make sure you’re comfortable with the projections of whatever you use), put in your settings, and boom. On your journey to walk away from your salary cap draft with way more than $260 in value, you now know how you’re measuring that value.

More specifics on generating salary cap draft values

All salary cap draft values depend on the percentage of your budget you want to devote to hitting vs. pitching. Suppose you want to spend 80% of your budget on hitting. Well, chances are, in your auction, you’re going to feel like you got amazing values on your hitters but that every pitcher is incredibly overpriced. So determining your budget allocation, or split as it’s more commonly called, is key.

You’re not going to like this, but the correct split is . . . whatever your league turns out to be using. In other words, if you find there are a ton of bargains for pitchers, you’ll need to adjust accordingly during your salary cap draft because your split is just not the same as what the majority of your league-mates are using.

But, there are some guidelines to which you can adhere when you first create your values. The general standard is anywhere between 65%/35% and 70%/30% for a hitting/pitching breakdown. Personally, I tend to go with a 68%/32% split, which seems to be how my leagues play out, but I’ll vary the split by year depending on how the values strike me knowing what I do about my leagues. (Note: For now, the FantasyPros Auction Calculator lets you choose splits in increment of five, so you can go with either  65%/35% split or a 70%/30% split. From my salary cap drafts this year, the general consensus in 2021 is closer to 65%/35%).

Also, before your salary cap draft, take a look at how the salary cap drafts in analyst leagues, including Tout Wars and LABR, have played out. If the split has been 65%/35% throughout, that’s probably a good place to start.

Seriously, that was easy, right? You have finished your first step toward dominating your salary cap draft, and we’ve barely broken a sweat. Nothing to it.

Roster Construction

Ok, we’ve got some reliable auction values! Now what? Well, now we need to craft a rough plan as to how we will be able to build a roster that is worth way more value than the money we spend.

What does roster construction not entail? It does not mean to plan to spend x number of dollars on your shortstop and y number of dollars on your catcher. That’s unnecessarily limiting and, frankly, just a poor strategy.

Instead, roster construction consists of three components: 1) building your spending plan, 2) identifying your target players in advance, 3) setting statistical goals.

Building a spending plan
Let’s again start with explaining what a spending plan does not mean. It does not mean “I’m buying Juan Soto for $60 and Jacob deGrom for $42 and Starling Marte for $23.” Negative, Ghostrider. You can latch onto specific players with a strong grip in other sports where there aren’t as many roster spots, but you need major flexibility with baseball.

What does a spending plan actually mean? It means that, in advance of your salary cap draft, you should build a general outline for how you think you’ll be breaking down your purchases. Again, this does not mean allocating your purchases by player or even by position in advance. If you do either of those things, you are setting yourself up for failure if even the slightest thing goes wrong.

Here is an example of what I mean. In one of my leagues, we play with 13 hitters and nine pitchers (there’s no second catcher, for which I am eternally grateful). In preparing for my salary cap draft, I used my usual 68%/32% split, meaning I was planning to spend $177 on hitters and $83 on pitchers. Here is what my hitting plan looked like:

Plan Player Purchased
35
28
25
21
19
16
12
10
4
3
2
1
1
$177

I had a similar breakdown for pitching, but with nine slots totaling $83. But this is it – my spending plan for the salary cap draft. As I purchased a player for the money allocated (or closest to that slot), I wrote his name in the “player purchased” column. Easy-peasy.

Not surprisingly, I did not purchase every one of my hitters for the exact price listed in the spending plan. So, to the extent the player costs more or less than the money allocated in the nearest row, I would make the change, and then make sure I changed another row(s) in the opposite amount so that my total always stayed at $177. That allows you to adjust your budget on the fly.

As we’ll talk about in a second, by the time you get to the auction room, you should have a general sense of the group of players who are likely to be populating your chart. But truly, having a spending plan is all about feeling comfortable, even when you need to adjust it during your salary cap draft. Because if you do wind up spending $42 rather than $35 on your biggest purchase, you can EASILY just take $7 away from your other planned offensive purchases quickly.

In other words, your spending plan not only allows you to go into your salary cap draft with a strategy, but it also lets you easily adjust without panicking, even if your strategy changes during the auction. I also highly recommend using our auction assistant to do most of the work for you.

If not, use Excel to build your spending plan and using a formula – that way, when you change the 35 to a 42 after that purchase we just discussed, your $177 will automatically change to $184. Then you can easily just tweak the rest of your planned purchases to get that number back down to $177.

More specifics on building your spending plan

There is no right or wrong way to plan to spend your salary cap dollars. The breakdown of expenditures in my chart above represents how I like to build my team in one particular league. If you want to go heavier on your bigger purchases or spread your money around more, that’s perfectly acceptable. Other than the old $165 for the big purchase and then 12 one-dollar purchases, you’re fine. Don’t do that. Just an analyst tip.

Identifying targets
You remember earlier when I said that by the time you get to your draft room, you have a general sense of the players most likely to fill in your spending plan chart? That brings us to our next talking point – identifying targets.

Like almost everything else regarding your salary cap draft prep, this is pretty much about one thing: value. Before your draft, you need to spend time looking at your values and determining who you think you value more than your league-mates do.

In 2019, Joey Gallo came out extremely high in my salary cap values in one of my leagues, and I knew there was no way anyone in the league would pay close to that price. I included him on a list of targets and, sure enough, got him for a $10 discount when he came up in the middle of the auction when most of my league-mates felt comfortable with their power.

In essence, that is your goal: to purchase players for much less than their value and consistently do it throughout your draft. Your target list is there to have a general sense of who is most likely to meet that criterion.

Most often, your targets are going to be obvious to you after looking at your values. For example, when a player has a value much higher than you would have thought he would have (like Gallo for me in that example), he’ll probably be a target.

You should also check values from other websites and publications because people in your league probably get their values from those same sources. If a few magazines are saying a player is worth $7, but you have him valued at $18, he will probably be one of your targets.

So, of course, creating reliable values is the biggest key, but identifying targets in advance is critical. Having a list of players who you are confident can be purchased at a discount is really what allows you to walk out of the draft room with far more value on your team than anyone else.

But none of the elite players will be discounted at my salary cap draft! Do I forego bidding on those players?
Excellent question, anonymous reader. The answer is, without question, NO. It’s true that many of the top talents in fantasy baseball (and sometimes that extends through to the second round even) will likely go for more than they are worth. So, if you’re looking for a big discount, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

But you don’t need to hit a home run with your discounts on every player. You should be prepared to pay full price or, gulp, even go beyond your values for the top-tier players. But going into the draft, you’ll almost always find players who you have valued at or close to their likely price at your draft. Those are your targets when it comes to the elite players. Other than that, just monitor the bidding on all the top players, and strike when and if you can.

Am I limited to just my targets?
No, of course not! Your target list is just there as a guide, but you almost certainly will (and should) end up with plenty of players not on your target list. Discounts come at random times and with random players, so don’t be locked into the guys you’ve identified pre-auction. Be ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.

Setting Statistical Goals
You’ve got your values, your plan, and you’ve identified your targets. There’s one more step to constructing your roster: setting statistical goals.

We know we’re looking for discounts, of course, but even the most discounted team won’t do us much good if we’re projected to have 485 steals, but just 25 home runs, or 300 saves with only 20 wins. We need to make sure we’re building a competitive team, too.

So, in advance of your salary cap draft, take a look at your league history, or at least the standings from the previous year, and note what it took to get the highest score in each category. At the end of the auction, your goal should be to have a team that is projected to be close to (or surpass) those numbers in every category.

Note that this is a lofty goal, one that is rarely attainable. They are guidelines, and they are not meant to be absolute. It’s fine to shoot for an excellent, but not a top, score in every category: i.e., shooting for at least a 10 in every category, rather than a 12. I personally like to shoot for the stars because it keeps me acutely aware of my weak spots during the draft, even if I rarely reach the goal.

As with the spending plan, I’d advise you to make a chart in advance. Here’s a sample for hitters in the league I mentioned above from a few years ago:

Name R HR RBI SB AVG
C
1B
2B
SS
3B
MI
CI
OF
OF
OF
OF
OF
UTIL
Current Total 0 0 0 0 .000
Target 997 261 990 171 .280
Needed 997 261 990 171 .280
Avg. Needed Per Player 77 20 76 13 .280

As you purchase a player, input his name and his projected stats into the appropriate category. This will allow you to see, as the salary cap draft progresses, how your team is looking and what stats you might need to be focusing on going forward (i.e., if you’re looking great in steals but horrible in home runs, maybe pass on that Adalberto Mondesi bid even if it’s a bargain).

I will again recommend using the FantasyPros auction assistant or Excel here and putting in the appropriate formulas because that will automatically update your total stats, what you need from your remaining players, and what the average remaining player needs to look like.

Again, chances are, you aren’t going to hit all your targeted stats, but rare is the league where anyone actually sweeps all the categories. This is much more about giving you a goal and allowing you to have a good sense of where your weaknesses are as the draft is going on.

Some more specifics on setting statistical goals
I cannot stress enough what I said above: statistical goals are just guidelines to keep you on track during your draft. You should not be obsessively trying to reach them or sacrificing better all-around production in an attempt to hit a goal in a single category.

Remember that even the best player projection is just that: a projection. Plenty of players will reach a 75% or greater outcome in the range of their projected statistics, others 25% or less. So don’t be married to the numbers or your goals.

Putting it into practice

 

Here is an example of my roster construction plan from a salary cap draft I did several years ago. You’ll notice several things about the plan:

  1. Excel formulas throughout, including one that reminds me that the total of all my purchases must equal $260 (more on that below in budget management);
  2. A place to put in my acquisitions, both for budget purposes and projection purposes. At all times, I know how far I am away from my statistical goals and what I need to average per my remaining player.

If you use the FantasyPros Auction Assistant, it will do most of the work for you. But this captures everything you need to have prepared before your salary cap draft.

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Nomination Strategy

Perhaps nothing confounds fantasy managers more than how and when to nominate players during their salary cap draft. Do you nominate players that you want? Do you nominate players that you don’t want to get others to spend their salary cap dollars? Do you nominate low-value players to try to sneak them through at the right moment?

The answer is yes.

And therein lies the rub. The answer is all of those things and none of those things – because your nomination strategy depends entirely on where you are your salary cap draft.

The Early Nominations
Remember what we talked about earlier: identifying your targets and being willing to push a bit for the top-tier players if you must. Well, usually, you’re going to have one or two first- or second-round players who you think your values give you a shot on. And if you get one of those players, then you have a pretty good sense of how the rest of your spending will go.

But what if you don’t? What if you wait and wait for your targets to be nominated, and then, when they are, they go for $5 or $6 more than your values? In the meantime, you’ve let some other bargains go because you’ve been planning on a large expenditure that you never wound up making.

Almost without exception, my first nomination is a top-tier player who I’m targeting (unless I have already won the bidding for that or some other player). If I like my value on Mike Trout and think I can get him, then I need to know whether that’s going to happen. And I need to know early.

Once I’ve made the one or two larger purchases that put my plan in motion, there are one of two strategies I employ. The first is to nominate players who should command hefty bids but in whom I am uninterested. This is the classic “get salary cap dollars off the table” strategy, and when in doubt, it’s never the wrong way to go.

The second is to nominate players I have valued at $1 or $2 but who I wouldn’t mind rostering if I got stuck with them. This is a viable strategy early in salary cap drafts for two reasons. The first is that, other than perhaps during the first few nominations, early bidding in salary cap drafts is often fast and furious. Everyone has available salary-cap dollars, and the concerns over the impact of significant bids do not yet reveal themselves.

And because fantasy managers are unconcerned about their budget early in the draft, that means that a player you have valued at $1 or $2 is likely to go for $4 or $5. That may not sound especially impactful, but any amount of dollars spent beyond value is a win for you.

The second reason to nominate $1 or $2 players early is that there’s almost no downside. Either another manager spends well over his value or, if it throws everyone off, you wind up rostering a player you like for a minimal price. By the end of your draft, you’re going to be crossing your fingers and hoping that you can win the bidding for one of a handful of $1 players with your meager available budget. Locking in a cheap player early in the draft is actually a huge boon.

The Mid-Draft Nominations
If you’ve been in a salary cap draft before, you know they can be divided into quarters, at least generally. As mentioned above, bidding is often inflated in the first quarter, as managers have dollars to burn and premium players are widely available. Discounts are few and far between in the early going.

But, after the early frantic bidding that occurs, things hit a bit of a lull. During this second quarter, fantasy managers often rein in their bids, suddenly concerned about their budgets after wildly spending.

Here, in the second quarter, is when you want to nominate players that you’re targeting. There will be discounts aplenty at this stage, and it’s the time when you’re most likely to be able to acquire a player for far less than your value. It’s also when you want to be sharpest, even when you’re not nominating. I’ve made frequent purchases on players nominated back-to-back, in the middle of trying to reassess my budget.

In the third quarter of the auction, however, things usually reset. The playing field has leveled again, and managers no longer feel quite as restrained by their budgets, particularly with the player pool beginning to get drained.

It is here that you should rarely nominate a player you are targeting (with one exception that I will discuss shortly). Instead, because the vast majority of players will go for at or above their projected value, you’ll want to nominate players who you aren’t particularly interested in but who are qualified enough to command significant bids from other managers.

However, the one exception is when you see a position you need to fill getting thin in a particular tier. For example, suppose you need a shortstop, and the three remaining players in your “startable” tier are Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, and Dansby Swanson. Your values suggest you might be able to get Correa at a discount, but with the bidding hot and heavy in the third quarter, you’re thinking about sneaking him through.

Don’t. Instead, nominate Correa at your first available chance. As in the first quarter, you’ll need to know whether or not your instincts are correct, and you’ll be able to acquire him for a reasonable price.

But second, your chances of acquiring Correa are actually higher if you nominate him early, rather than trying to wait it out. The reason is that managers won’t be as hard-pressed to bid on Correa if they know they have alternatives such as Baez and Swanson available. If the latter two are purchased earlier, then the bidding on Correa will be higher, as he’s the “last guy” in a tier.

So, to recap your nomination strategy:

  • First-quarter: Nominate the higher-priced player(s) you want. Once you’ve made your larger purchase(s), switch gears and nominate premium players who you won’t be bidding on or $1 or $2 players who you’d be willing to end up with at that price;
  • Second-quarter: Nominate your targets. Bidding is likely to be restrained as the other managers re-calibrate their bids in light of budget constraints, leading to opportunities to acquire players at a discount;
  • Third-quarter: Generally nominate players you don’t want, as prices will likely be inflated with managers saving their salary cap dollars in the previous quarter. But if you’re targeting someone at the end of a tier, nominate him rather than trying to sneak him through later.

End-of-Draft Nominations
Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast strategy to deploy when you’re at the end of your salary cap draft in terms of nominations. It depends entirely on your budget and situation. But I’ll address it more in the last section about the end game.

Budget Management

As we discussed earlier, it is critical that you have a spending plan in place before your auction. But that plan is not some unbreakable creed that must be adhered to at all costs. In fact, if you were able to spend your salary cap dollars exactly as you planned, you’re probably some sort of wizard. In which case, spending time on fantasy baseball is a little weird.

Anyway, let’s revisit the spending plan I referenced above:

Plan Player Purchased
35
28
25
21
19
16
12
10
4
3
2
1
1
$177

Now let’s say that you have Juan Soto valued at $40, and you somehow win the bidding on him at $38. Your new chart would look like this:

Plan Player Purchased
38 Juan Soto
28
25
21
19
16
12
10
4
3
2
1
1
$180

(Again, using excel or the FantasyPros Auction Assistant will help you automatically see your remaining budget).

Well, drafting Soto for $38 is a bargain per your values. But now your spending plan has you spending $180, rather than $177, on hitting. Unless you adjust, you’ll be well over your budget by the end, which will cause plenty of consternation when trying to finish off your draft.

The good news is that the adjustment can take whatever form you want. You can take the $3 from your pitching budget. Or from one of your other hitting spots. Or take $1 from three different spots, like so:

Plan Player Purchased
38 Juan Soto
27
25
20
18
16
12
10
4
3
2
1
1
$177

That’s all there is to budget management. The overall key is that you must always make sure that your completed/planned expenditures total your budget.

I always keep a note to myself in my salary cap draft sheet, which you may have seen above in my example: “Total must add up to $260.” And the first thing you should do after every purchase is ensure that it does.

Bid Strategy

As much as preparation and execution of a gameplan are key to your success, there’s an entire psychological component of a salary cap draft that is not discussed enough. Your bid strategy.

If you have ever been in a salary cap draft, then you know the feeling of hearing the words, “going once, going twice, soo . . .” just before one of your opponents swoops in with a last-second bid. It’s devastating. Many a fantasy manager has been so demoralized that he or she throws out the values and simply gets into a bidding war for the sake of “winning” the player.

Your league-mate may have just needed every second possible to decide whether to place that additional bid. But more than likely, he or she is intentionally trying to throw you off your game. And, more often than not, that effort succeeds.

As silly as it sounds, your bid strategy is an integral part of successfully executing a salary cap draft. So, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Keep Everyone Guessing
Until nearly the end of the auction, I will probably place at least one token bid on roughly 50% of the players nominated. Placing bids on several players accomplishes two goals.

The first is that it keeps your opponents guessing as to your true intentions and strategy. If you bid only selectively – say on players you are highly interested in rostering – then the rest of your league will likely figure that out. Placing even a token bid on nearly every player is a good way to avoid anyone picking up your pattern and potentially figuring out your gameplan.

The second is that it moves things along. After a player is nominated, your league takes a few seconds to assess their values, look at their rosters, etc. But when people start bidding, that process becomes rushed, and other managers may get flustered. So get in on the action early.

Jump Bid
Near the end of the bidding on any player, the bidding slowly but surely creeps up in $1 increments. $31 . . . .$32 . . . $33 . . . . And, for the most part, that’s fine.

But particularly when you near the highest bid you are willing to make for a player, try to make your last bid a jump of at least $2. If your max bid is $35, and your opponent is at $33, just jump straight to $35. Yes, you potentially cost yourself a dollar if your opponent wasn’t willing to go to $35. But it’s worth the risk because it is simply MUCH more difficult – psychologically – for your opponent to go from $33 to $36 rather than $35. That is why products are priced at $7.99 instead of $8.01.

The tradeoff for the slight loss of value is the psychological edge that often allows you to walk away with a player you might otherwise lose out on. So as the bidding is going on, try to set yourself up for your final move to be a jump bid to the maximum price you’re willing to pay.

Inflict Maximum Damage with your Bid
I mentioned that I’d throw a token bid on many players, particularly early on when more established ones are nominated. These token bids often have little or no chance of success. They’re just designed to keep your league-mates from picking up a pattern.

But other than that, be selective in your bidding when you actually do want a player. Do you remember the example of waiting until the word “sold” is almost uttered? That can have a serious impact on your opponent.

But so, too, can waiting to enter the bidding until the very end. If two of your opponents are in a bidding war, and one finally drops out, then the other will think he’s in the clear. If you sit on the sideline until the end and then jump in, the effect can be devastating.

Many of these tactics sound trivial. But in the end, simple gamesmanship can go a long way toward salary cap draft success. Even a seasoned veteran can go on “tilt” under the wrong circumstances. You can always gain an edge with your bid strategy.

Dominating the End Game

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as being at the end of your salary cap draft with only $1 per player left in your budget. Once you reach that point, it’s a long waiting game of identifying your remaining targets and hoping that no one else nominates them first. If they do, then you’re out of luck.

Because of that, saving some salary cap dollars for the end game of your draft is critical, if you can. You’ll see in my spending plan above that I am often planning to leave myself just one dollar for my last two purchases or so. Whether it works out that way, nearly every fantasy manager will have a purchase or two for the bare minimum price. That’s nothing to shy away from.

But making sure to avoid leaving yourself with a $1 maximum bid for your last five or six purchases is critical. Having just that one extra dollar per player at the end can be the difference between leaving your salary cap draft with that sleeper you desperately wanted or a replacement player.

Watching Maximum Bids
The most important way to ensure that you are optimizing your chances for success at the end of your salary cap draft is to be aware of other managers’ maximum bids. And, in particular, how that maximum bid relates to your own.

Let’s say, for example, that you really want Lorenzo Cain as one of your last additions, and you have a $3 maximum bid. Everyone in your league has a $1 maximum bid, except one other manager who, like you, also has a $3 maximum bid. Let’s call our $3 max-bid friend Dave.

When Cain is nominated for $1, you can run the risk of bidding $2. But if Dave is gunning for Cain, he can raise the bid to $3, and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.

But if Cain is the one player remaining who you really want to walk away with, then rather than raising the bid to $2, you can jump bid to $3 right off the bat. Dave is out of luck, no matter how much he wanted Cain.

Knowing others’ maximum bids helps you to plan out in advance how to guarantee yourself a player.

Strategic Nominating
Once you’re down to your last few roster spots, your nomination strategy becomes critical. Do you nominate the $1 player you want? Do you try to get everyone to spend their remaining excess budget to ensure that you can roster anyone you nominate?

There isn’t a singular answer. Your strategy really consists of examining your opponents’ rosters closely and planning your nominations accordingly. For example, if one of the other managers in your league has no pitchers on his or her bench, chances are he or she will be looking to roster starters with most remaining roster spots. If you nominate your favorite sleeper, Mitch Keller, for $1, chances are, your opponent will take him home.

If you’re left with only a $1 maximum bid and others have more, nominate a player who you’d be happy to end up with but perhaps isn’t your top remaining target. If you wind up with that player, you’re happy. If not, then others have spent more of their remaining budget, leaving you in a better position to take home some of your preferred players.

Some Final Tips

It is OK to Shoot Past Your Values Sometimes
Value is the name of the game, but, in addition to the top players, you’re going to need to shoot past your values at various points throughout the draft. Whether you’re near the end of your draft and are desperate with extra money to burn, or your tiers are getting thin, there are times where you just have to swallow the fact that you’re going to pay more than a player is worth in fantasy.

That’s fine. You don’t want to make it a habit, but you can certainly afford the occasional overpay if you play it correctly.

You Don’t Have to Jump at Every Bargain
The most difficult part about building your team will be knowing when to let a discounted buy pass and when to pounce because there will be many discounts available. So, you know, sometimes you think Matt Chapman is such a huge bargain that you can’t pass him up even though you don’t really want him, and then later you realize that better third baseman will go for even less (I never said I was flawless, ok?). You don’t need to jump on every bargain. Feel your way through it.

And there you have it. Everything you need to know about how to prepare for and execute a successful salary cap draft. There will still be bumps along the way. But if you plan ahead, you’ll almost certainly leave every salary cap draft, having given your team a chance to compete.

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Dan Harris is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyPros. For more from Dan, check out his archive or follow him on Twitter at @danharris80.

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