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Scott Pianowski

Tip Drill: Joy of the gavel -- auctioning like a pro

Scott Pianowski
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After the runaway success begrudging reader acceptance of the Tip Drill series last summer, we've decided to bring it back for the baseball draft season. Look for a couple of TDs every week, and as always your intelligent disagreement is most welcome.

I dig fantasy auctions. I've collected some ideas about them over the years. Today, we'll discuss them, and then we'll have a Q and A afterwards. Refreshments will not be served.

• Keep your strategy flexible. Sometimes you walk into an auction and everyone starts spending like crazy, from the opening gun. Okay, sit back and wait it out. But it's not that unusual to see conservative bidding early, too, especially in more-sophisticated leagues. In those instances, you want to be an early spender. At the end of the day your path will depend more on what's happening while the bullets are flying, not a strict set of rules and regulations you tie yourself to before the process even starts. Go ahead and sketch out a "Draft/Auction Plan" if it makes you feel good, but do it in pencil. Be ready to audible if necessary.

Vary your nomination style. Don't let your opponents get too comfortable knowing where you're coming from, keep them guessing. A lot of my early nominations will be the best available players I don't want, but that's not an every-round mandate. Sometimes I'll nominate a player to help me define a position's cost, or the worth of a stat. Sometimes I'll try to sneak a sleeper through. It's always cute to throw out the secondary part of a handcuff before the primary part, just to see what happens. Sometimes I want the name I'm throwing into the fray, and sometimes I don't. Don't fall into a pattern.

• Shallow leagues are about stars, deep leagues are about depth. There's really only one strategy that works in a mixed-league auction with limited teams: stars and scrubs. Push as hard as needed to get those top-shelf studs; don't worry, the $1 leftovers will still be pretty good. Shallow leagues are about Hanley Ramirez, not Edwar Ramirez.

Things shift if you head to an AL-only or NL-only league where you have to fight off 11-13 opponents for talent. In those groups, depth becomes the focus, and your roster is more defined by its weakest players, not its strongest ones. My roster construction in this sort of group is middle-heavy with a lot of buys in the teens, and I tend to shy away from $1 players in this format (more on that later).

• Record early, jump late. When a name player comes out early on for a buck, there's no need to jump in with your $2 offer. The player will go a lot higher than that, anyway. Use that time to update your cheat sheet, consider your current needs, calibrate what that player's expected haul will be worth, etc. There will be plenty of time to enter the bidding as needed.

Later in the draft, the rules change, in part because valuable players might be going for just a handful of bucks. Be ready to be first to say "$2" after that initial opener if it's something you want, need, etc. You can do the accounting later; in the endgame, he who bid-hesitates is lost.

• Keep your utility spot open as long as you can. Obviously there are times to break this rule – if you get a killer price on David Ortiz and feel you have to take it, okay, fine. But position flexibility is almost as important as financial flexibility as the endgame approaches, and having a free utility spot will be a fantastic asset assuming the player pool still has some goodies left. Buying a couple of multiple-position players during the auction also ties into this theme, and will help you in the late innings.

• In a deep league, you need endgame leverage. The biggest mistake in AL-only and NL-only auctions comes when an owner shrugs and accepts the "$1 max" tag for the endgame. It's a silent killer. You still have to go through the burden of the nomination, and it's a battle you can't win; nominate anyone good and your bid gets trampled, nominate anyone bad and you're stuck with a stiff. Tied to this point any time you can let an opponent "win" a pricey bid that spends up all of their extra cash, it's a good idea to step aside and let them have the player. Now they're stuck in the $1 rut and you never have to worry about them again, provided you've left yourself with a slush fund.

That's a peak inside my playbook – let's hear some of your tips, Yahoo! nation.

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