As the fantasy baseball draft season begins ramping up, there’s a lot of debate among players in your league – and among fantasy baseball experts – over which draft style is best to implement for your league. Some people in your league will no doubt have a strong preference… while others won’t really care (that is, until they believe they got screwed by the format you selected).
To help answer some questions you may have about certain draft formats and to weigh the pros and cons of each draft format, you have your friendly fantasy baseball experts at Fantasy Baseball Dugout. Below is a break down of the two most common draft styles – fantasy baseball auction draft and fantasy baseball snake draft – in hopes to help you choose which type is best for your league.
What is a fantasy baseball player auction draft?
This draft style has been popular over the years in offline roto drafts, but auction drafts have become increasingly popular over the last couple years online. Auction draft formats online used to be a premium service only, but major game providers like Yahoo! and ESPN have begun offering this draft format for free, making it available to the masses and more commonly used.
In a fantasy baseball auction draft, league owners are provided with a salary cap (normally in the $250 to $300 range) that they are required to spread out to fill a complete fantasy baseball roster (usually 20 players at minimum). During the draft, each owner gets to select a player to be put up for auction, in a structured order, and bidding on the player follows until the highest bidder “wins” the player for his/her roster.
Auction drafts are great to use in big leagues (14 owners or more) with a complete MLB player universe, or in smaller leagues with AL or NL-only player universes (10 teams or smaller). Keeper leagues or leagues that have been around for many years also work great with auction drafts because the best players are often already off the board in keepers and because owners in established leagues often get tired of “always drafting last.”
Because of their comparative complexity to snake style drafts, auction drafts are usually not recommended for leagues with a large group of inexperienced fantasy baseball owners or online leagues created with a hodge podge of owners who don’t know each other. Be aware of the dynamics of the people in your league before you choose this draft style.
What is a fantasy baseball snake draft?
Snake drafts are the most common style of fantasy draft being conducted online. In most cases, the roster of league owners are randomly sorted into numerical order for selecting players (1-10 or 12 or 14, depending on league size). The draft order then alternates each round. So, a fantasy owner who selects first overall in the first round will select last in the second round, then first in the third round, and so on throughout the remainder of the draft. Likewise, the player who selects last in round one has the first pick in round two, last pick in round three, etc.
Most people don’t know this type of draft is actually called a “snake draft,” but if you think about it, the fact that the draft order “snakes” from round to round, it kind of makes sense.
While “winning” players for your roster is a lot of fun in fantasy baseball, the majority of owners are probably going to prefer snake drafts in fantasy baseball. Managing the money in auction drafts and knowing how much to bid on players is tough for a lot of people to get accustomed to (even experienced fantasy baseballers, I’ve learned), and the convenience of knowing where you’re going to pick each round is good for a lot of owners. Snake drafts are easy to manage and move at a slower pace than auction drafts, too. This pacing allows owners time to strategically watch the draft board and make their selections accordingly.
On the flip side, anyone who’s ever lost out on their top sleeper for the season one pick before their turn or lost a value pick they had been bird-dogging for 10 minutes in a snake draft probably prefers auction drafts. Even if you’re bad at managing your money in putting a team together, auction drafters at least have the ability to control their own destinies – something that can’t be said for snake drafters.
If you are a first time league commissioner or a first time fantasy baseball owner, you should probably play in a league that has a snake draft – for your own sanity and best chances of success. Auction drafts are a lot of fun, but they can be overwhelming for first time owners who already have a tendency to “screw up the draft” and hold up snake drafts, which often have time limits for picking a player.
On the other hand, if you’re an experienced commish who runs a keeper league or a hosts a group of extraordinary fantasy geeks each year who have tired of the snake draft, there has never been a better time to switch to auction style. If you choose to do an auction with a group of first timers, however, just make sure everyone knows all the rules going into the draft. It will be more fun for everyone involved if everything is explained upfront, instead of during the draft.