March 6, 2013
Expert-League Auction Values Breakdown
While we have spent a bit of time these past few weeks discussing drafts, we are now moving into the auction season. Within the past few days, both CBS and LABR (League of Alternative Baseball Reality) conducted their AL- and NL-only auctions, each of which brings something unique to the table for those preparing for auctions.
The CBS auction is the first expert auction of the spring, so those players do not have any other dollar values to lean on for their preparation other than what their own projections or the projections from the website they work with show. LABR had that honor for many years, but it is still the longest-standing expert league, having celebrated its 20th anniversary over the weekend. Many of the LABR players also participate in Tout Wars later this month, which allows us to see how those experts react to a variety of possible events. If injuries strike key players between the two dates, we see where the market shifts on them and their expected replacements. It also allows us to see if those owners adjust their projections on players after seeing how the market viewed the early bids. Lastly, as someone who has tracked both auctions the past few seasons, I have found that the final dollar values in Tout Wars closely align with those from the other two auctions.
We’ll begin with the AL CBS and LABR auctions, and you’ll find information gleaned from the NL auctions later in this article.
Both leagues are set up with the same parameters: 12 teams, $260 budgets, and the standard 5x5 categories with batting average rather than on-base percentage. The only difference between the leagues is that CBS has a seven-man reserve roster while LABR gives owners only six bench spots.
In all, $3,120 is available for teams to spend on a 276-player total, but surprisingly, the CBS participants left a combined $38 on the table. Leaving money on the table is a forgivable sin in a keeper league, where you are more concerned about future salaries than current ones, but it is not something you should ever do in a reset league. The self-doubt of money not spent earlier in the auction when you are left holding dollars at the end will haunt you all season. This is something to watch if you are a first-time auction player, because I have seen novices leave as much as $60 on the table in their first year of auctions after multiple years of draft-style play.
For the most part, participants in both leagues allocated their budgets evenly
Recently, I reviewed how the combined auctions in LABR and Tout Wars from 2012 came to an even 70/30 split for hitting and pitching, respectively. In 2013, the two expert league auctions produced an aggregate 71/29 split, as LABR experts spent exactly 29 percent on pitching while CBS experts spent 29.2 percent.
It is important to note that dollar values between two similar auctions often do not provide an apples-to-apples comparison. The main reason is that players are not nominated in the same order, and eventually, auction-specific dynamics such as positional scarcity or excess funds kick in. After all, I have sat in an expert auction and watched someone spend $19 on Nick Punto, because he needed speed and Punto was the last player on the board projected for double-digit steals.
With that said, there were 26 players in LABR who went for at least $4 more than they did in the CBS auction. Maicer Izturis serves an example of the effects of auction dynamics, as he went for $12 in LABR compared to just $3 in CBS. Vinnie Pestano went for $7 in LABR mostly because of the recent injury news surrounding Chris Perez, but he went among the reserves in the CBS auction. Other players who went for at least $5 more in the LABR auction were Jarrod Dyson, Mitch Moreland, Brian Roberts, Carlos Pena, Joe Nathan, Josh Donaldson, and Chris Getz.
There were 25 players who were at least $4 more expensive in the CBS auction than they were in LABR. The biggest margin belonged to Hisashi Iwakuma, who went for $13 in CBS and just $5 in LABR. Other players who went for at least $5 more in the CBS auction include Jacoby Ellsbury, A.J. Griffin, Jemile Weeks, C.J. Wilson, Gordon Beckham, Ernesto Frieri, Michael Brantley, Jose Reyes, Jose Altuve, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Peavy, and Aaron Hicks. Note the difference in the quality of the names on those two lists—it occurred because CBS-auction participants were more aggressive with their spending on offense than their LABR counterparts.
In terms of dollar amounts, here is the quantity of players that went at each dollar benchmark:
On the NL side of things, owners in both leagues did a good job of spending their cash, with just $3 left on the table in the CBS league and $2 remaining in LABR. Similar to the AL auctions, the spending breakdown by position was fairly even across the NL CBS and LABR auctions, as shown in the chart below:
The biggest difference came at pitcher, where owners spent $42 less in the LABR auction. The difference is perhaps due almost exclusively to the audacious strategy employed by Baseball HQ’s Doug Dennis. He spent just $24, or nine percent of his budget, on his nine-man pitching staff, topped by a $6 bid on Wade Miley. It will be interesting to see how he handles his in-season bidding and if this imbalanced strategy can yield the desired results.
Compared to the American League, we see slightly more spent on pitchers and outfielders. This makes intuitive sense for senior-circuit pitchers, who are slightly more valuable than their junior-circuit counterparts due to the fact that they face each other instead of tackling designated hitters. As for the extra spending on NL outfielders, this is simply reflective of the fact that the senior-circuit pool contains more of the top outfield talent. Taking a look at our OF rankings shows seven of the top 10 outfielders in the NL.
Now, let’s look at the biggest gainers between the two drafts and try to determine if the increase is due to change in value or simply auction dynamics (or both).
Of the five biggest gainers in LABR, three reside on the squad run by a familiar face: Derek Carty. After nabbing Clayton Kershaw early for $32, he spent his money cautiously thereafter and had plenty of funds to burn through at the end of the auction. Thus, Stewart, Arenado, and Schierholtz all ended up on his squad at significantly higher prices than they required in the CBS league. Schierholtz and Stewart appear to be players he simply unloaded cash on, especially in light of Stewart’s quad injury and this tweet from Derek. On the other hand, Arenado is a player whose value has risen over the past couple of weeks, thanks to his stellar spring training play. Although I don’t expect Arenado to break camp with the big-league club, his impressive performance could merit a promotion to the Rockies by early May.
The biggest gainer, Adams, may carry thunder in his bat, but he’ll need an injury to Allen Craig or David Freese to garner playing time in the majors. Both players are admittedly injury-prone, but regardless, Adams isn’t the type of player you want to be spending more than a few bucks on in an auction this year. Pennington appears to have been underbid in the CBS draft and then overbid in LABR. If he can stave off Didi Gregorius for most of the year, he’ll likely return value in the high single-digits.
Now, it’s time for the five players that saw their values decrease the most between the CBS and LABR drafts.
Lombardozzi cost his buyer $6 in LABR and wasn’t even nominated in the CBS auction. His disappearance in the latter is difficult to explain—I wouldn’t pay more than $1-2 for the backup infielder, but he certainly deserved a look. Crawford’s decrease was almost certainly due to the recent setback with his elbow. The drop in Carpenter’s price is interesting, especially compared with the rise in Adams’ cost, because it signals a feeling that Adams is leapfrogging him for a reserve-infield job. Lynn and Niese were snagged for a bargain rate in LABR, but those were probably flukes that won’t be repeated.
As with the AL auctions above, to view the bids placed on all of the players, you may visit this online worksheet. (Note that players with a $0 price for the CBS league were taken in the reserve rounds.)
Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @jasoncollette