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March 7, 2014

Fantasy Auction Values

Second Edition

by Mike Gianella

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Last week, I unveiled my Rotisserie-style, 5x5 bid limits for AL-only, NL-only, and mixed leagues (all 12 teams) for 2014 at Baseball Prospectus. I also presented some very rudimentary guidelines for how to use these bids. While these guidelines are helpful, there are always some frequently asked questions that come up every year that I would be remiss if I didn’t address.

Why use bid limits at all?
There are a few schools of thought that make a strong case against using bid limits. Earlier this week at KFFL, Lawr Michaels of Mastersball wrote a terrific piece arguing against using bid limits at all. A few years ago, Chris Liss of Rotowire wrote an equally terrific piece arguing against both bid limits and projections. This is the part of the program where you might expect me to vigorously pound my chest and passionately argue against Michaels and Liss and conclusively prove that they are idiots.

Thing is, Michaels and Liss are the complete opposite of idiots, which is entirely the point. Michaels and Liss have been playing in highly competitive expert leagues for over two decades, and have been experts for even longer than that. When you have this level of knowledge and experience at your disposal, go ahead and do it the way Liss and Michaels do it. This isn’t tongue-in-cheek or meant as a barb toward Michaels and Liss; rather, it is intended as a compliment of the highest order. If walking into a room with no prices or rankings works for you and you can succeed with this method, congratulations. You are an expert on a par with Michaels and Liss and one of the best fantasy baseball players in the world. If, however, you’re not quite this good yet, you might want to consider using some sort of hierarchy to rank players.

This isn’t to say that all experts don’t use some sort of bid methodology or projections. In his recently released book Winning Fantasy Baseball, Larry Schechter outlines a draft preparation construct that uses bid prices, and other experts do the same. While I theoretically could conduct a fantasy auction without bid limits, like Schechter, I find that having them at my fingertips helps me a great deal during my auctions.

Do you simply bid your bid amounts at auction?
Actually, my goal is to spend less than my suggested bid limits as often as I possibly can. The bid limits for every format in this article add up $3,120. If you buy all 23 of your players for a par price, you will buy a $260 team and you will finish sixth or seventh in a 12-team league. Your goal is to try to cram as much value as you possibly can onto your roster.

But you’re trying to build a team based on the best statistics, not the best bid limits, right?
Of course! This is one of the biggest objections that I hear year in and year out about my methodology, and it drives me bonkers!

The bids are constructed taking each player’s potential statistical contributions into account. I’m not randomly assigning bid prices to players based on how many Phillies I want to own or who shares my birthday or who the best guys in the clubhouse are. Every bid limit is mostly a representation of what I think a player’s statistical worth will be, with a little hedging built in for issues like playing time, position scarcity, rookie uncertainty, etc.

If I have done my job right you will be able to use my bids and put together a team of players who are mostly $1-2 under my recommended bid limits. Chances are good that you will have a contending team and in a non-expert league there’s a good chance that your contending team will turn into a winner.

I followed your bid limits to the letter and I wound up buying a power-heavy team with no speed and no saves. Clearly, your bids don’t work in the “real” world of auctions.
The bid limits are designed with a general auction framework in mind. If you are in a longstanding keeper league where closers go for $25-30 and it is impossible to trade for a closer during the season, adjust your bids up on the closers available in your auction. Just make sure to move money away from other players so that your total pool of dollars to spend equals $3120.

Sometimes you will have an auction where the league’s usual spending trends go right out the window and you have to adjust on the fly. This year’s LABR auctions provided two useful examples of how even if you have a solid list of bids at your disposal you still might need to adjust on the fly in order to maximize the value on your roster.

LABR AL saw fair but expensive prices early. Using my recommended bids, you could have rostered plenty of value throughout the auction but would have had a difficult time spending your full $260. In a scenario like this, I would recommend paying a par bid price for a top hitter or top pitcher instead of simply waiting for bargains and running the risk of leaving $25-30 unspent. If you see most of the $30-plus hitters going for prices $3-5 over your bid limit, jump in on a hitter who goes within one dollar of your bid limit in either direction. This will maximize your ability to capitalize on bargains later.

LABR NL saw a significant number of bargains early. In reading the multiple recaps of LABR, some experts bemoaned the difficulties they had trying to adjust and how they “had” to overspend in the middle of the auction. I suspect this happened because some experts use a “tiered” pricing approach, where if one player is purchased for $30 or more another player cannot be purchased over that price, even if the price is spectacular.

If being rigid in your thinking and refusing to spend early is a bad idea, the same theory applies in the opposite direction. There is absolutely nothing wrong with adding multiple $30-plus players to your team if the prices are right. As long as you don’t go too far and push yourself into dollar derby too early, you will succeed if you maximize your potential for bargains in an auction where the majority of owners are being too cautious.

The bid limits I provide are recommendations for your auctions, not gospel truth. You should adjust prior to your auction if your league is idiosyncratic and you should also adjust if events during your auction force you to adapt. I am confident that the framework I am presenting is strong, but I am not naïve enough to believe that this framework is one-size-fits all for every auction or provides a hedge for every imaginable contingency. In the end, how well these bids work in your auction will depend primarily upon you.

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Auction Values,  Auction

23 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links


Mike, how are these adjusted for larger leagues? 14-teamer to specific.

Also, how are these impacted by reserve rosters? If I have a five-man bench, and can add players throughout the season, does that change the bid limits?

Mar 07, 2014 03:19 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

Hi Buck:

I have been getting enough questions about this topic that I'm just going to post a separate piece on Monday instead of answering it 10-15 times in the comments section every time I update this.


Mar 07, 2014 06:42 AM


Mar 10, 2014 18:47 PM
rating: 0

14 teamer is a mixed, if that makes a difference.

Mar 07, 2014 03:20 AM
rating: 0

In a 12 team, 15 keeper per team league. Thinking of keeping Miggy again at 54$, big time inflation in this league. Good move?

Mar 07, 2014 04:29 AM
rating: 0

Seems like it to me.

Mar 07, 2014 05:12 AM
rating: 0

Well, you're looking at about a 15% premium.

In my keeper leagues, inflation is at least this much, often more. Inflation also seems to be higher for the best players. So for me, it's a clear yes - keep him.

Mar 07, 2014 06:23 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

Mixed or only? I'd probably keep him either way if the inflation is 40% or above, but in a mixed league this is a better play given the variability at the bottom of the pool.

Mar 07, 2014 06:44 AM

sorry it is a mixed league. also, Is miggy's value higher this year compared to next year with his last year with 3b eligibility? or is he that good his Pos doesn't matter?

Mar 07, 2014 08:12 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

Definitely worth keeping with inflation at that price in a mixed.

Miggy gets a slight downtick next year for me because of position but I'm talking about maybe $1 or $2. He's an elite, top shelf talent and should be for another year or two.

Mar 07, 2014 10:39 AM

Can anyone link me to some good OBP-league prices? Google is letting me down...

Mar 07, 2014 06:16 AM
rating: 1
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

I haven't put together any bids for OBP leagues yet but you can take a look at my 2013 values using OBP in the spreadsheet below.


I haven't put my together OBP bids for Tout Wars yet, but will certainly provide them when I do. To be honest, this is probably going to impact all of 20-30 players at most; I'm not adjusting players $1 in one direction or the other for OBP, which isn't quite as variable as BA but still variable.

Mar 07, 2014 08:07 AM

Mike, is there any way for you to highlight biggest gainers / fallers somehow? Difficult to see how this changed from the earlier version and that would be helpful. Even if in comments or the article itself. Thanks!

Mar 07, 2014 06:56 AM
rating: 1
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

Nearly all of the adjustments are due to reality checks from having prices that were out of whack with CBS/LABR, with a few exceptions (Cole Hamels news)

AL Hitters
Chris Davis +2
Prince Fielder +3
Adam Eaton +3
Yan Gomes +3
Avisail Garcia +2
Raj Davis +4
Kendrys Morales +2
Josh Willingham -2
Daniel Nava -4
Yunel Escobar -2
Lonnie Chisenhall -2
David DeJesus -4
L.J. Hoes -2
Craig Gentry -2
Andy Dirks -3
Alex Presley -3
Ryan Hanigan -2
Jeff Keppinger -2
Marc Krauss -6
Aaron Hicks -2
Michael Choice -3
Nolan Reimold -2

AL Pitchers
Justin Verlander +3
Felix Hernandez +2
Matt Moore +2
Danny Salazar +2
A.J. Griffin +2
Dan Straily +2
Drew Smyly +2
Chad Qualls +3
Michael PIneda +4
Josh Fields +2
Michael Stroman -3
Scott Feldman -2
Edward Mujica -2

NL Hitters
Marcel Ozuna +3
Andre Ethier +3
Cameron Maybin -5
Cody Asche +3
Alexander Guerrero -2
Juan Uribe -3
Seth Smith +3
Cody Ross -2
Dee Gordon +4
Didi Gregorius -2
Josh Satin -2
Luis Valbuena -2
Brandon Barnes -2

NL Pitchers
Steven Strasburg +2
Cole Hamels -4
Michael Wacha +3
Matt Garza +2
Jhoulys Chacin -3
Jorge de la Rosa -5
Brandon McCarthy -2

The ups and down on the mixed bids have more to do with reflecting the hierarchy of the bids than with any specific commentary on these players.

Mixed Hitters
Prince Fielder +4
David Wright -2
Yan Gomes +3
Adam Eaton +2
Daniel Nava -3 (removed)
Josh Willingham -2 (removed)

Mixed Pitchers
Justin Verlander +3
Stephen Strasburg +4
Adam Wainwright -3
Jose Fernandez -3
Felix Hernandez +3
Madison Bumgarner -2
Zack Greinke +2
Gio Gonzalez -3
Matt Moore +2
Hisashi Iwakuma -2
Edward Mujica -2 (removed)
Cole Hamels -6
Danny Salazar +5
Michael Wacha +5
Jarrod Parker -3

Mar 07, 2014 10:36 AM

Earl Oakes -1

Mar 07, 2014 16:32 PM
rating: 1

Question: what's a good way to factor in these bid limits for keeper decisions? For instance, for my 5th keeper I'm leaning towards Cano at $33. That's only $2 of value relative to the bid limit, and it's actually -$4 relative to the $29 he earned last year. But in order of your master list, he'll actually be the second highest available player after Miggy, which means with inflation he'll easily go for $40+.

But I have some other options with more surplus value: K. Seager at $2, G. Holland at $8, Ellsbury at $28. Relative to their inflated prices, I think all 4 (including Cano) are roughly $10-ish below what they'll go for, so if I'm saving the same amount of auction-day dollars from each player, do I then go for the one with the highest-projected absolute value? Which would actually be Ellsbury, but I'm constitutionally incapable of dumping a power-hitting MI for a SB-centric OF.

Mar 07, 2014 09:33 AM
rating: 1
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

Keeper inflation has an impact when judging a hitter somewhat more expensive than his raw bid price versus a $10 hitter who is slightly undervalued. But in the example you provide, it probably wouldn't make much of a difference.

Without inflation
Cano -1
Seager +19
Holland +13
Ellsbury +4

With 25% inflation
Cano +5.6
Seager +19.4
Holland +14.6
Ellsbury +9.6

The more expensive the player, the more "valuable" he is due to inflation. This is because the player's salary is "protecting" you from inflation in the auction. If you throw Cano back, that $33 in your auction will bring back $26.4 in value, whereas if you throw Seager back, that $2 would bring back $1.6 in value. Given Seager's overall worth, this is moot. This would only come into play if you had a player with a $2 salary worth $5. In this example, even though Cano is below par pre-inflation and the hypothetical $2/$5 player is undervalued pre-inflation, Cano would be a better freeze due to the inflation rate.

Mar 07, 2014 10:57 AM

Awesome article. Very useful and looking forward to the Monday Column. Funny that the experts were bemoaning the unpredictability of the auction format. I'd have assumed that an expert would be prepared for a variety of scenarios and adjust accordingly.

Mar 08, 2014 11:24 AM
rating: 0

For those of you who are wondering: what about my non-5x5 league?

What I am trying this year, is I ran the PFM with 5x5 and with my league settings. I did a spreadsheet that calculated the % difference between the two. That permits me to multiply the values Mike gave to get adjusted numbers for my scoring system. How good is it? I have no idea.

It does not seem to be an irrational way to adjust the prices though.

Mar 08, 2014 14:37 PM
rating: 0

This is my first year using BP as part of my draft preparation (though I've read the site a lot over the years). As a newbie I have a basic question about how Pecota dollar values should be used. My problem is that I see a LOT of values that are WAY off from Mike Gianella's bid prices or LABR results or any other similar sources. For example, Pecota has Danny Salazar at $3.20, while Gianella has him at $15. Ivan Nova ($3.67 vs. $11) and Corey Kluber ($3.12 vs. $11) are two more egregrious examples, and there are many others for both pitchers and batters. If I used Pecota values at my draft I'd be way out of touch with the market, and likely doomed to failure. Yet Pecota is clearly meant to be used for valuation since dollar values are provided. So what am I missing here?

Mar 10, 2014 13:11 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

I'm going to have to address this in a separate article. I've been getting a lot of questions like this, and I don't think an answer in a comments section can do this topic justice.

Mar 10, 2014 13:36 PM

Mike's values are useful and grounded in reality. PECOTA's may be "technically accurate" but may not correspond to prevailing market realities.

Mar 11, 2014 10:42 AM
rating: 0

and by 'realities' do we mean the local fan who will unabashedly overbid for hometown heroes? Prospect-prowling experts who are more inclined to bid on a guy one year too early instead of wait one year too late?

Seems to me that 99 per cent of fantasy advice and the attempt to make a science out of salary prediction and 'value' needs to be adjusted to understand the vagaries of each league.

Mar 11, 2014 20:34 PM
rating: 0
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