This is the second piece in a series focused on equipping fantasy managers with the tools they need to pick their optimal fantasy baseball league. The first article was titled “What fantasy baseball game should I play?” It focused on choosing a fantasy format based upon personal interests and format characteristics. The next step is to choose the type of draft you want. Five questions will be presented to guide you to a draft format best suited to your interests. Before we get to the questions, I need to give a brief history of the different draft formats. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the types of fantasy drafts available, strengths of each and also the weaknesses.
The oldest, and most common, fantasy draft is a serpentine draft. You may also hear it called a snake draft. Each manager is assigned a draft position (1 to X). The person in the first position picks the first player in the first round and the last player in the second round. The last manager chooses the last player in the first round and the first player in the second round. This back and forth selection of players occurs until all rosters are filled. The first fantasy baseball serpentine drafts were conducted using pen and paper in the early 1980s. Computer based software automated the process in the 1990s. Most serpentine drafts today use web based draft rooms. All rotisserie and most point leagues offer the serpentine draft format. With time limits on individual draft selections, serpentine drafts tend to take the least amount of time to complete compared to other draft formats. They also tend to be the easiest from a preparation perspective. Some managers can simply load their draft lists into the web draft room along with some basic position draft rules and let the system select their players. The negatives of a serpentine system are that draft order significantly influences player selection and it just isn’t all that exciting.
In the early 1990s, dynamic value drafts were introduced. You may also hear them called contract drafts. Each manager ranks the players on positional draft lists. The system asynchronously processes the draft lists, typically one position each night. Player salaries are set dynamically based upon manager rankings and players are selected for each manager based upon their draft list ranks /salary cap. The order that players are selected is determined by the amount of money remaining for each manager. For example, six starting pitchers may be selected on one night. At the beginning of the first SP selection, Manager A has the most money remaining. Thus, he picks first from his draft list. If the first player on his list has a value (based upon the ranking from all manager lists) that fits within his established position cap, the system selects that player for his team. After all managers have picked their first SP, the selection order is determined for the second SP based upon the updated order of most money remaining. After all SPs have been selected, the draft results are delivered to each manager within a draft results web page. The only site that uses this draft format today is the simulation league Baseball Manager. The negative of this format is the asynchronous/daily nature of the draft. The positives are the unique challenge of managing dynamic player valuations, a positional/global salary cap and multiple positional drafts over the course of a week. Another positive is that a manager is not tied to a specific draft order. If they want to get in a better draft position for the third base draft, they can choose to spend fewer dollars on players at second base and shortstop to bring their draft order up since it is based on remaining budget.
Over the last 10 years, auction drafts have become extremely popular. In an auction, each manager has a certain imaginary cap they can spend (i.e. $260) on a certain number of players (i.e. 26). Each manager nominates or introduces a certain number of players within a given timeframe or order. Once a player is introduced, all managers can bid or make offers on a player. The highest bidder signs the player to their roster. Most rotisserie and point leagues offer auction drafts in addition to their standard serpentine draft formats. However, auction drafts come in many flavors. Real time auctions typically resolve bidding one player at a time. Extended auctions resolve bidding X hours after the last bid on that player. Regardless, auctions will always take longer than a traditional serpentine draft. There is also a much greater chance that the competitive balance within an auction league will not be as consistent due to the complexity and strategy that each manager must employee. An auction draft does tend to be more exciting than a serpentine draft and does require more preparation and strategy. That being said, an auction draft also allows you to go after any player you want. Everyone has a chance to sign the number one overall player.
So…, without further delay, the questions that you need to ask yourself when you want to choose a fantasy draft format are as follows:
1. What fantasy format have you chosen to play?
a. Rotisserie – You can choose between serpentine and auction.
b. Simulation League – Dynamic Value Draft @ Baseball Manager.
c. Head –to-Head point league – You can choose between serpentine and auction.
2. Do you want to draft real time or extended over a period of days?
a. Real Time – You can choose between serpentine and auction.
b. Extended – You can choose between serpentine, auction or dynamic value
3. What is more important to you – simplicity or access to all players
a. Simplicity – Choose a serpentine draft
b. Access to All Players – Choose an auction or dynamic value draft
4. How important is strategy to you within a draft?
a. Shut up and Just let me pick my players – Serpentine draft
b. Strategy is Important – Choose an auction or dynamic value draft
5. What is more exciting to you?
a. Finishing the Draft – Choose a serpentine draft.
b. Hand to Hand Conflict for your player – Choose an auction draft.
c. Opening up Christmas presents for 8 days – Choose a dynamic value draft.
Hopefully these questions have helped you choose the fantasy draft format that best fits your needs. Feel free to offer comments if there are other things that you found important when making your choice of draft formats.