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For someone who enjoys fantasy baseball as much as I do, having the good fortune of participating in the CBS expert-league auctions the past few years has been a great experience. After 20 years or so of playing fantasy baseball, in countless leagues and scoring formats, having the opportunity to compete against industry experts is quite a treat. CBS is the first expert league to auction, before LABR and Tout Wars, which I enjoy, as I am not tempted to be persuaded in my player valuations by referencing the results of those other auctions. Sure, there are hours upon hours of preparation involved for an auction so early in the year, but the time spent is well worth it if you’re able to hoist the trophy at the end of the season.

While my drafting strategies will vary slightly from year to year depending upon my valuations at each position, I typically stay with the same basic premise: Construct a well balanced team. I am not a believer of dumping any one category, so I will always draft at least one closer as long as his cost is not above my sheet price, grab speed when the value presents itself, try to add a couple of 180-strikeout pitchers, and avoid adding more than two players who can drain my AVG.

After completing my AL player valuations and bouncing a few thoughts off Nick Shlain, who has covered the AL-Only Landscape for our BP readers over the past two months, here was my rough idea of how things would play out:

I would probably not own a $20 SP
Having participated in these auctions, money tends to fly fast and furious in the early couple of rounds, as if everyone has somewhere else to be. Listen, I love Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, and Alex Cobb this year, but with the lack of elite pitchers in the AL, I had a feeling these upper-tier arms would go for a hefty price. I will be targeting some lesser arms I am high on and hoping that when the dust settles, I could pick my spots and get them at below-par prices.

My hitting budget might surpass $200
Yes, I do like to draft a well balanced team, but the AL pitching pool is just so thin that I was struggling to come up with a scenario where I spent more than $60 on pitching. I am pretty firm when it comes to sticking to my sheet prices and felt the pitching scarcity would drive up the prices for the mid-level starters, leaving me to target pitchers I think have upside in the lower tiers (i.e. Nate Eovaldi, James Paxton, Bud Norris, Justin Masteron, Trevor Bauer) on the cheap along with short relievers with solid ratios. Again, not ideal, but I refuse to overpay for pitching.

I will most likely invest most of my hitting dollars on my infield, and have a light OF, possibly even a dead spot.
One of my goals in every auction is to do my best to have an everyday player at each hitting spot. It’s certainly a challenge to buy 14 everyday players and still have some semblance of a serviceable pitching staff, but it can be done (I have seen Mike Gianella accomplish this on a few occasions). However, much like the pitching in the AL, the quality outfield options were equally sparse. The upper-tier guys would most likely be called out early and soar past my sheet prices, leaving me to price-enforce the mid-level players I was not interested in and try to find some OF value plays late. There is always a chance a price-enforcement backfires and you’re stuck with a guy you are not enamored with, so I would make sure not to price-enforce past my par price. I had quite a few target infielders, so my goal was to get as many of those players as I could and figure out the OF when necessary. I also rarely target catchers, so there was a good chance I would dollar out my second catcher spot with a backup backstop.

I will not target players who do not have a proven track record of earning potential.
I believe George Springer is a fantasy star in the making, but I am not paying top dollar to see it this year. There is so much hype surrounding Springer—he seems to be the shiny new toy everybody wants—it seems unlikely he will provide a profit this year. I am not interested in the reigning Cy Young Award winner, either: I would like to see Kluber do it again before plunking down elite money on him. Players like Danny Santana, Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Steven Souza, C.J. Cron, Rougned Odor—they are all enticing plays based on potential, but I will take my chances on a less-sexy player whose upside may be limited, but who is a steady earner.

I will own Mark Buehrle and I will not own A-Rod
Buehrle is a favorite of mine, even in 5×5. He is a lock every year for 200 innings, 13 wins, and a decent-enough ERA to get you $7-$10 in 5×5. Moreover, he is always a bargain in 5×5 because of his K/9 rates. As for A-Rod, I think he is toast and would not bid more than $1 for his services.

Okay, so that was the thinking heading into the auction. Here’s how things went down….

I would probably not own a $20 SP
I called that one correctly. I came close, spending $19 on Hishashi Iwakuma, but he was my biggest pitching investment. Sale ($32), Felix ($30) Price ($29), and Kluber ($27) were all called out early, and I passed. My sheet price on Felix was at his bid, but it was too early for me to sway from my bid values. Iwakuma was sitting at $18 and I was targeting him, so I was okay with getting him at my $19 sheet price. I was hoping to get Cobb, and when he was called out I was involved in the bidding, but he went for $25, which was a couple of dollars more than my price. Greg Holland was the first closer called out, early on in the auction, and went for $23. During the early-round spending sprees, Koji Uehara was the second closer called out, so I was involved hoping to get a closer early at good price and be done with it. That worked, as I grabbed Uehara for $15 and proceeded to sit back on pitching for the next several rounds until I felt values could be had.

My hitting budget might surpass $200
This prediction was beginning to look like it would come to fruition as I was sitting with just two pitchers heading into the middle rounds. I had added Jacoby Ellsbury ($32), Hanley Ramirez ($28), Albert Pujols ($26), Alexei Ramirez ($19), Mike Napoli ($18), and Torii Hunter ($12), so my hitting budget was already at $135 and I had eight more spots to fill. However, I was able to grab a couple more starting pitchers below my sheet price in Derek Holland and Jered Weaver (at $12 apiece) to help shift the balance. The next big hitting purchase I made after that was Ben Zobrist at $18, and when all was said and done, my hitting/pitching split was $181/$79, which I did not foresee.

I will most likely invest most of my hitting dollars on my infield, and have a light OF, possibly even a dead spot.
My second hitting buy of the day was Ellsbury at $32, because I wanted to have at least one upper-tier outfielder, preferably with speed. After that, I focused on securing my infield and trying to find outfield values later on. I was able to stick to my game plan, getting the infielders I mentioned above and also adding a $10 David Freese to round out my dirt crew. With the OF pool so thin, I sat back while players like Castillo ($26), Calhoun ($25), and Souza ($19) went past my sheet prices and waited near the end to grab an outfielder I like this year in Travis Snider for $9. I also picked up cheap plays who should turn a decent profit in Kevin Kiermeier ($3) and Jordan Schafer ($1). Say what you want about Schafer, but he has stolen 22 bases or more in each of the past four seasons in limited time, and he swiped 30 bags in just 210 at-bats last year. If he can scrape out 300-350 AB’s 35-40 stolen bases is a possibility. While I did not build an imposing outfield, it is certainly a serviceable group, one that complements my strong infield foundation well and cost just $57.

I will not target players who do not have a proven track record of earning potential.
Well, I did draft proven veteran players for the most part, but admittedly swayed a little bit from my plan on a few players. I am a big fan of James Paxton and was targeting him despite his unproven track record. I think he can be an $18-$20 pitcher if he can stay healthy, so I had his value a little higher than most might. I ended up buying Paxton for $8 (still below my sheet price) and also added youngsters Taijuan Walker ($6), Cron ($3), and Kendall Graveman ($1). Considering the investments were minimal, I was comfortable with by bids on these less-proven commodities. All of them have decent upside, and if one or two can come through with double-digit fantasy seasons, I will be happy. I was pleased with getting Graveman in the end game for a buck; I think he could be a sneaky-good play this year.

I will own Mark Buehrle and I will not own A-Rod
I
did not buy either. A-Rod ended up going for $5, and Buehrle received his typical lack of love, going for $1 near the end of the auction. I would have bid $2, but I was already in dollar derby. Buehrle will do just fine: That is always a dollar well spent.

As we started this exercise, I began by stating my basic premise before each auction is to build a balanced team. Here is the end result, so you can be the judge:

Pos

Player

Salary

C

Kurt Suzuki

$1

C

Christian Vazquez

$1

1B

Albert Pujols

$26

2B

Ben Zobrist

$18

SS

Hanley Ramirez

$28

3B

David Freese

$10

CO

Mike Napoli

$18

MI

Alexei Ramirez

$19

OF

Jacoby Ellsbury

$32

OF

Torii Hunter

$12

OF

Travis Snider

$9

OF

Kevin Kiermaier

$3

OF

Jordan Schafer

$1

DH

C.J. Cron

$3

P

Koji Uehara

$15

P

Hisashi Iwakuma

$19

P

Derek Holland

$12

P

Jered Weaver

$12

P

James Paxton

$8

P

Taijuan Walker

$6

P

Wade Davis

$3

P

Kendall Graveman

$1

RES

Matt Dominguez

RES

Brandon Finnegan

RES

Jeremy Guthrie

RES

Gordon Beckham

RES

Tommy Hunter

RES

Kyle Crockett

RES

Carson Smith

Overall, I think I was able to construct a well balanced team. I have a projected starter at 12 positions on offense, and I expect Snider to see the majority of time in RF in Baltimore and Schafer to earn his keep with his speed. The key to my offense is the health of Hanley and Ellsbury; if they both see significant time on the DL, my season could be in shambles. I am hoping for 140-plus games apiece from both of them, and if they reach those totals, I should be just fine. Napoli and Freese are coming off injury-plagued seasons, but I am expecting slight bouncebacks from both. If Cron can get enough playing time, 15 home runs could be a reachable figure, and I would be ecstatic with that production for $3. I should have plenty of speed to be near the top of the SB category, and tried to avoid batting-average drains, so I can stay near the top in that category as well. I am a little worried about Kiermaier, as I am not a believer in him this year, but I could not let him go for $2. My pair of $1 catchers will suffice and should not hurt my overall AVG while providing ample production in counting stats.

As for my pitching, I was actually pleasantly surprised with how my staff turned out. I was able to buy every pitcher except Iwakuma below my sheet price and was pleased to add Holland and Weaver to settle nicely behind Iwakuma. Paxton and Walker provide nice upside, and I was also fortunate to add two of my favorite relievers this year in Uehara and Davis. Both earned $20 in AL-Only 5×5 last season and combined to strike out 189 batters with a sub-1.00 WHIP. Even in limited innings, these pitchers can really help your ERA, WHIP, and strikeout totals.

After losing a lead that I had held onto for most of the season a year ago, only to fall short in the end and finish in second place, I have extra incentive to come back with a vengeance in the CBS AL-Only league this year. It’s certainly a long season, and a lot can happen between now and September, but this team has the potential to make another run at the title. I am really looking forward to see how this all plays out.

Thank you for reading

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jacquehamed
3/02
Really appreciate the effort in this constructing this article. Helps me greatly. Any chance you can provide the entire draft result?
Slyke18
3/02
Hi jacquehamed, Thanks for reading the article....I am glad you found it helpful. Here is the link to the CBS AL-Only auction results: http://fantasynews.cbssports.com/fantasybaseball/story/25083577/draft-prep-12-team-al-only-roto-auction
jacquehamed
3/03
Greatly appreciated
MaineSkin
3/02
How much did Bauer, Hutchison and Gausmen go for in the auction?.
Slyke18
3/02
Hi MaineSkin, Hutchison went for $14, Gausman for $11 and Bauer for $5. The link above will take you to the auction results.
jfranco77
3/02
How in god's name does Wade Davis only go for $3 in an AL-only league? Wow. Really not a fan of your catchers but I like a lot of your buys (Snider, Paxton, Davis, Iwakuma, Freese)
Slyke18
3/02
Hi jfranco77, Yeah, there typically is not a lot of love shown for non-closer relievers, even in mono leagues. Andrew Miller did go for $5, and Davis should be a bargain at $3. Clippard went for $9, but his price was driven up based on the speculation he'll close in Oakland while Doolittle is out. As for my catchers, I'm not the type to spend much on catching, so was fine with my $1 backstops, but they are what they are. I do like Snider and Paxton at those prices and hoping they can turn a tidy profit.
anderson721
3/03
I'm shocked that there were at least 2 people who wanted Arod at any price.