The Dynamic Value Draft @ Baseball Manager

Since publishing “What is the best type of fantasy baseball draft for me?” I have received several questions about “dynamic value drafts”. Managers that primarily play rotisserie or point leagues have never heard or played fantasy baseball using this draft format. My purpose with this article is to explain this draft format in more detail. I will use questions from readers as a starting point for the discussion.

What sites use the “dynamic value draft” format? The only site that I have found that still uses the “dynamic value draft” format is Baseball Manager (BBM). This site has been in operation since the early 1990s and touts itself as the longest running fantasy baseball game on the Internet.

Why was the name “dynamic value” used to describe this draft format? One of the unique things about this draft format is that the managers for an individual league determine the salary of each player by a sequentially ordered draft list. It is “dynamic” because the values are not known prior to the draft. The draft engine determines the salaries of each player based upon their collective ranking by the league managers. The draft engine then processes the draft using those same draft lists. I have seen some very interesting draft strategies that both influence player value(s) and the subsequent drafts. See the draft strategy question below for more details.

Your article said that players are drafted one position at a time. How exactly does that work? Each league drafts starting pitchers followed by outfielders, first basemen, second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, catchers, and relief pitchers. Most leagues choose to spread these individual position drafts over the course of eight (8) nights. This allows managers to adjust their strategies in between each positional draft based on factors like draft order, remaining budget, anticipated player values, team needs, etc. Many BBM managers refer to the mornings of draft week as the “eight (8) days of fantasy baseball Christmas”. It is like unwrapping presents each morning. Although most managers apply strategies to narrow the possible list of players they will draft, you really don’t know until you look at the draft results the next day. Sometimes you “get your guy”. Sometimes another manager uses a strategy you weren’t expecting and you end up with a player you weren’t expecting. At the beginning of the draft, every manager has an opportunity to target any player. Your ranking of players and positional budgets, combined with anticipating the actions of other managers, will ultimately decide whether you truly “get your guy”.

How many players are drafted at each position? Six (6) starting pitchers, relief pitchers and outfielders are drafted. Two (2) first basemen, second basemen, shortstops, third basemen and catchers are drafted. Drafting multiple players at each position each night creates some interesting strategy opportunities. See the draft strategy question below for more details.

How is draft order determined? For the first positional draft, starting pitchers, the draft order is determined randomly. Total remaining budget determines the draft order for the other position drafts. The team with the most budget remaining always picks first. An interesting twist that makes the dynamic value draft much different from a traditional snake draft is that draft order is reset after each team selects a player. For example, let’s say that team A picks first because they have the most money remaining prior to the outfield draft. Team B picks second with one million dollars less than team A. Thus, team A will get the first pick and team B will pick second. If team A picks a player that is more than one million dollars more expensive than the player that team B picked, they jump in front of team A when the draft engine picks the second player for each team in the outfield draft. You’ll notice that I didn’t say that team B has first pick for the second player because it is possible for one of the other eight teams to jump ahead of them if they drafted an even cheaper player that resulted in their total money remaining to be greater than team B. The ordering of a manager’s draft list not only impacts player values and their draft picks, it also impacts draft order for each positional draft and within each positional draft.

How are player salaries determined? As stated above, the managers within a league dynamically determine player values based upon player draft order. Each league has ten (10) managers. If Tulowitzky is ranked first by every manager for the shortstop draft, he would be valued at 5 million dollars ($500,000 x 10). If he was ranked second by every manager, he would be valued at 4.5 million dollars ($450,000 x 10). Each position lower in the rankings subtracts $50,000 from the value of the player. The combination of the values of each player for all ten (10) managers determines a player’s salary. The minimum salary for any player is $100,000 ($10,000 x 10). Any player ranked outside of a manager’s top 10 is given a salary of $10,000 from that manager. Let’s look at a typical scenario in a first base NL draft for a player like Helton from Colorado. Five (5) managers ranked him 9th while the five (5) other managers ranked him 5th, 7th, 8th, 11th and 13th. We would add $20,000 ($10,000 x 2) to his salary for the 11th and 13th rankings, $300,000 for 5th, $200,000 for 7th, $150,000 for 8th and $500,000 ($100,000 x 5) for the five (5) rankings of 9th. His total salary would be set at $1,170,000 for whatever manager ended up drafting him. The salary valuation method outlined above is used for all the infield positions (1B, 2B, SS, 3B) and catcher. Starting Pitchers and outfielders are similar. The difference is that the top 25 players are awarded a salary over $10,000 from each manager. Instead of reducing player salaries by $50,000 for each reduction in ranking, player salaries are reduced by $20,000. Thus a pitcher ranked 2nd by all 10 managers would have a salary of $4,800,000 ($480,000 x 10). An outfielder ranked 19th by all 10 managers would have a salary of $1,400,000 ($140,000 x 10). Relief pitchers are the same as starting pitchers and outfielders in the sense that 25 players are assigned a salary over $10,000. The difference for relievers is that the max salary for any reliever is $2,500,000 ($250,000 x 10). Each reduction on a managers draft list reduces a reliever’s salary by $10,000. Thus, a reliever that is ranked 2nd by all 10 managers would have a salary of $2,400,000 ($240,000 x 10).

How does the draft engine decide who gets which player? Once player salaries and draft order is determined, the draft engines drafts a player for each manager based upon their ordered draft list and their positional budget. For example, let’s say that Manager A set his second base budget at 2.5 million. The draft engine would look for the highest ranked available player on their draft list that has a salary of 2.4 million or less. Why 2.4 million you might ask? Because $100,000 is always reserved for future picks within each position. Since two players are selected in the second base draft, $100,000 is reserved for the second pick and 2.4 million is available for the first pick. If Jeter is the highest ranked player on Manger A’s list that is under 2.4 million dollars, he is selected. If his dynamic salary was 2.1 million, Manager A will have $400,000 available for his second pick.

What are some of the draft strategies that veteran managers use to draft their team using a dynamic value draft format? I asked this question on Baseball Manager’s discussion board. I have highlighted several strategies that managers use below.

  • Use a minimum position budget (3.5 million) for Starting Pitchers – The Poolboy stated “the trend has been to minimum budget SPs and position for a balanced offense with a top 3 or top 5 pick among position players” (remember that remaining budget determines future round draft order). UMP stated “low ball the SP round so not to be picking near the bottom of the key offensive rounds.”
  • Remove as many free agents as possible – Bruno stated “if the majority of the league goes with min caps, don’t be afraid to spend on hitters. Remove as many potential free agents as possible”. Any player that is not drafted by a manager during the draft is available to managers after the draft as free agents with a minimum salary of the dynamic value that was set for that player during the draft.
  • Try to draft a key offensive player – Adam Shaw stated “A good strategy in AL used to be to go for A-rod but this year everyone will probably be gunning for Pujols/Fielder/A-gon & a great 2B, 3B.” Managers tend to use minimum salaries for starting pitching and outfield if they want to have the most remaining money for the first base draft.
  • Maximize the production you get for the money you spend – Humin’bird stated “in some cases it’s prudent to spend money on a top 3 player at a position, but you’ll wind up with a weak backup probably. If you can get two reasonably productive players for the same money as a top 3 player with a weak backup then you might come out a bit better. One of your two reasonably productive players might have a career year, whereas the top player might get hurt and leave you with nothing”.
  • Use sleeper picks to spread out your draft dollars for SP, OF and RP – Many managers choose to move one or two players up their draft list as “sleepers”. If the manager used a budget of 3.5 million for starting pitchers, a sleeper may allow them to spread their dollars between more than just a few top 25 players. Assuming that one manager’s rankings are similar to another, a straight draft list is more likely to result in the selection of a player that barely fits within their established budget. Subsequently, the next players will need to be very cheap to fit within the remaining budget. A sleeper allows a manager to select someone at a lower dollar value which will leave more money for later picks. Three 1 million dollar pitchers may give you better results than one 3 million dollar pitcher and a bunch of $100,000 guys.

The strategies that managers use in this draft format are only limited by their imagination and courage on draft day. If they mess up, they could end up with a team that needs serious help in free agency to compete. If they do well in the draft, they could start the year in a very strong position.

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