Fibonacci’s Budget: A Strategic Approach to Dominating Auction Drafts
The beauty of fantasy baseball auction drafts is flexibility and opportunity. Since owners are untethered from a draft position, gems like Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw are in play for everyone; all an owner has to do is pay. Many theories have emerged regarding auction drafting, and most would agree that the most important principle to follow is, ‘Be ready to buy when an opportunity arises.’ I would certainly agree with that, but I wonder: what happens when you buy too often and too early? Or when you end up wasting leftover dough at the end of a draft?
Today I’m going to share a budgeting strategy that has helped me tremendously when approaching auction drafts. This strategy allows owners to buy players throughout the draft without ever having to 1) worry about going over budget, 2) finish with any unused cash, or, most importantly, 3) sacrifice flexibility. Because this system is rooted in Fibonacci Numbers, I’ll call this method ‘Fibonacci’s Budget.’
If you don’t recall why that name sounds familiar, that’s ok. He was an 11th-century Italian mathematician who introduced the recurrence relation: Fn=Fn-1+Fn-2 where F1=1 and F2=1. If that doesn’t make sense of ring a bell, he’s the nautilus shell guy whose sequence looks like this: 1,1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 …, and you can find more info here. Now let’s apply this concept to auction drafting.
The Fibonacci Budget Method, hereinafter the Method, works with a few assumptions in mind:
- Values can be found in every price range
- Spending flexibility is crucial throughout a draft
- It’s important to spend a competitive amount of cash early
- It’s equally as important to have more than your opponents late
- You don’t want any money left over
- It’s more fun to participate throughout the entire draft
As the saying goes, ‘money is power.’ This method works by ensuring that you have the ability to compete with anyone because you’ll always have at least as much money as most competitors. The keys to success with this method are as follows: budgetary discipline, patience, preparation, adaptation, and $2 or $3 Snipes (which I’ll talk about later).
To illustrate this method I will use Yahoo’s 12-team auction settings, since their $260 auction budget inspired this method. Also, Yahoo’s default settings seem to be the standard against which all other formats and league settings can be measured. (It’s probably the place where a lot of us broke into fantasy). Here are the standard settings of Yahoo auctions:
- $260 Budget
- 23 Roster Spots to Fill — 18 Starters, 5 Bench
- Initial Maximum Bid of $238
It was that $238 Maximum Bid number that led me to this strategy. While 238 is not a Fibonacci number, 233 is. Fibonacci numbers follow the Fibonacci Sequence and, again, “are characterized by the fact that every number after the first two is the sum of the two preceding.” The Fibonacci numbers we will be using are: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 and 233. With these helpful numbers as guides, our draft budget is basically already planned.
|Spend (Average/Player)||Budget Remaining|
|1 & 2||$89 ($44.5)||$171|
|3 & 4||$55 ($27.5)||$116|
|5 & 6||$34 ($17)||$82|
|7 & 8||$21 ($10.5)||$61|
|9 & 10||$13 ($6.5)||$48|
|11 & 12||$8 ($4)||$40|
|13 & 14||$5 ($2.5)||
I know you’re thinking, ”What are you going to do with that extra 35 bucks?” Here’s what I like to do with at least $15 of it:
|15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20||12 ($2)||$23|
|21, 22, 23||3 ($1)||$20|
Remember those $2 and $3 Snipes I mentioned? Rounds 15 through 20 are dedicated to snagging players while other owners are desperately trying to nominate their favorite sleepers to take home quietly. We all know most people don’t nominate players they like until the end of the draft when they have no other choice but to nominate players for $1 and hope they win the bid.
One thing that’s great about the $2 and $3 Snipes approach is that it ensures you have a chance to snag the sleepers you want. These snipes are often possible because so many owners have blown their cash early using the ‘Stars and Scrubs’ approach. While that can be a very effective system, it does not offer a lot of flexibility late in drafts. Another bonus of our Method is the satisfaction of buying up guys for $2 or $3 that another owner was anxiously hoping would last until the very end.
You’ll notice that rounds 21 through 23 are dedicated to the value-based approach of $1 sleepers. These guys will likely live at the end of your bench, and perhaps not for long, so it doesn’t hurt to buy the conventional wisdom at this point while taking home a few lottery tickets.
If you’re asking, “What about the $20 you have left over?” then I want to commend you for asking a great question. Consider this $20 your Flex Spending Account. This $20 is yours to spend however you wish throughout the draft. It is your “Just one more dollar” money in a showdown, or use it to grab a player you absolutely have to have. Tuck it away and keep an accurate tally as you draft.
Let’s examine how this Method might shake out in practice.
The Method in Action: A Model 12-Team Draft
(Note: In the following model, I will use the exact totals of player prices and will not round up or down. The reason is simple: after a few instances of rounding up or down, the difference will be negligible to the final example’s outcome. I want to focus more on the caliber of player you’ll be able to acquire at each level, rather get bogged down with specific names.)
Picks 1 & 2 for $89, or $44.5 per Pick:
|Player||Average Cost / Complementing Value|
|Mike Trout||$55.6 / $33.4|
|Jose Altuve||$54.6 / $34.4|
|Nolan Arenado||$51.6 / $36.4|
|Paul Goldschmidt||$50.5 / $38.5|
|Mookie Betts||$50.5 / $39.1|
|Trea Turner||$49.1 / $39.9|
|Clayton Kershaw||$48.4 / $40.6|
|Bryce Harper||$46.9 / $42.1|
|Max Scherzer||$45.8 / $43.2|
|Charlie Blackmon||$44.5 / $44.5|
|Kris Bryant||$43.3 / $45.7|
|Giancarlo Stanton||$44.1 / $44.9|
|Chris Sale||$40.9 / $48.1|
|Carlos Correa||$39.0 / $50.0|
|Corey Kluber||$37.9 / $51.1|
|Aaron Judge||$37.9 / $51.1|
|Freddie Freeman||$35.4 / $53.6|
|Joey Votto||$33.8 / $55.2|
|Anthony Rizzo||$33.7 / $55.3|
|Francisco Lindor||$33.6 / $55.4|
|Manny Machado||$33.6 / $55.4|
The $89 that the Method gave us for the first two selections might not have looked like much, but as you can see, only the top five players cost over $50 in Yahoo Auctions and therefore would require buying a second player from a lower tier. This would be similar to drafting the same players in a Snake Draft.
However, if your first two players are at the Kris Bryant cost-level or lower then you’ll actually be spending less than you budgeted. You’d be able to pair Bryant with one of Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Sale, Carlos Correa, Corey Kluber, Aaron Judge, Freddie Freeman, Joey Votto, Francisco Lindor, Anthony Rizzo and Manny Machado and still be under budget.
Remember: if you decide you’d like to go after Trout at $55.6 and want to pair him with Kris Bryant at $43.3, that is perfectly fine. You do have $20 to play with. If you bought Trout and Bryant you would still have $10 remaining from that $20 Flex Account. If you decide to buy Trout and Altuve, the game’s most expensive players, you’d still only be $1.20 over budget. This is possible to make up for later, but I would not recommend letting your flex cash burn through your pocket immediately. No method can make up for a lack of discipline.
The important thing to note is that you are free to select two of the game’s top tier players without worrying about going over budget. In fact, this is all part of the plan.
For this example, let’s draft Nolan Arenado for $51.6 and Freddie Freeman for $35.4 for $87. We are currently $2 under budget and still have $20 in our Flex Account.
Picks 3 & 4 for $55, or $27.5 per pick
This is where patience comes into play. After you’ve bought your top two studs, you’ll need to sit back and wait until the next tier of players go on the block. Waiting between tiers can be a challenge, but again, the budget works by allowing you to target players at every level. Since you’ve already got two guys in your pocket, you’ll need to have faith in your selections and wait for buying opportunities later.
From this tier, I’ll select Gary Sanchez for $32.5 and Brian Dozier for $24.9 at a total cost of $57.4. I am now 40-cents under budget, with a Flex Account balance of $19.6.
Picks 5 & 6 for $34, or $17 per pick
Again: patience is necessary as another tier goes off the board. I’m feeling very good right now, even without a single outfielder or starting pitcher. Fortunately, there are plenty of attractive options at this price range. Again, I am going for two of them.
I’ll select Khris Davis for $18.1 and Aaron Nola for $18.3 for $36.4. Again, over budget slightly, but safe with a reserve of $17.2.
Picks 7 & 8 for $21, or $10.5 per pick
I’ll take my boy Kyle Hendricks for $14.1 and Jean Segura for $14.8 for a total of $28.9. I like both these guys enough to dip into my reserve budget significantly here, but I still have $9.3 to play with.
Picks 9 & 10 for $13, or $6.5 per pick
Prices are falling quickly now. I’ll take a couple of cheap fliers on Kyle Schwarber at $5.3 and Jameson Taillon at $4.5. These two will cost me only $9.8, replenishing $3.2 to my reserve which is back to a healthy $12.5.
FLEX Pick: $12.5 Available
I’m feeling good about my team at this point in most areas. One category I absolutely don’t want to forget about is Saves. One of my favorite players heading into this season, Raisel Iglesias, was just nominated. There’s no way I’m letting him get past me. I take him for $7.5, leaving me $5 of breathing room.
Picks 11 & 12 for $8, or $4 per pick
I’ll take another Cub to play in the outfield with Ian Happ at $4.7 and Jon Gray for $3.0. The $7.7 total is 30-cents below budget and adds to our Flex Account, and puts it at $5.3.
Picks 13 & 14 for $5, or $2.50 per pick
Matt Olson looks good here at $4.8 and so does Trevor Bauer at $3.2 for a total of $8. I went over by $3, but am safe with $2.3 in the tank.
After 14 Picks my team looks like this:
|C- Gary Sanchez||SP- Aaron Nola|
|1B- Freddie Freeman||SP- Kyle Hendricks|
|2B- Brian Dozier||RP- Raisel Iglesias|
|3B- Nolan Arenado||RP- N/A|
|SS- Jean Segura||P- Jon Gray|
|OF- Khris Davis||P- Jameson Taillon|
|OF- Kyle Schwarber||P- Trevor Bauer|
|OF- Ian Happ||P- N/A|
|UTIL- Matt Olson||Bench- 5 Spots to Fill|
Now comes rounds 15 through 20 where our plan had us targeting players for $2 and $3. Again, we’re trying to snipe guys that the Stars and Scrubs crew have been hoping would be $1 steals. However, I am still feeling a little nervous with only a single relief pitcher. Time to make a move.
Picks 15 thru 20 for $12, or $2 per pick
15) Andrew Miller for $3.3
16) Arodys Vizcaino for $3.9
17) Garrett Richards for $2.1
18) Kenta Maeda for $2
19) Cesar Hernandez for $2
20) Chad Green for $1
For $14.3 I added some quality assets. Of the elite late-inning arms I selected, only Vizcaino really has the potential for saves, and even then his grasp on Atlanta’s closing duties is tenuous. However I will take what I can get from him, and I know that Miller and Green will deliver elite ratios and lots of Ks, which I love. I was also able to add two quality starters with upside in Richards and Maeda, and a valuable leadoff hitter in Cesar Hernandez for next-to-nothing.
The amount I went over budget ate up the rest of my FLEX account, but I’m feeling comfortable approaching my final two picks. I’ll use these next two picks attempting to select some $1 bats to fill out my offense.
Picks 22 and 23 for $2, or $1 per pick
22) Mitch Haniger, $1
23) Randal Grichuk, $1
Wouldn’t you know it? Both of these guys I was targeting were forgotten by my league-mates, and I was able to add some depth to my offense with a couple of lottery tickets. My final roster looks like this:
|C- Gary Sanchez||SP- Aaron Nola|
|1B- Freddie Freeman||SP- Kyle Hendricks|
|2B- Brian Dozier||RP- Felipe Rivero|
|3B- Nolan Arenado||RP- Andrew Miller|
|SS- Jean Segura||P- Jon Gray|
|OF- Khris Davis||P- Jameson Taillon|
|OF- Kyle Schwarber||P- Arodys Vizcaino|
|OF- Ian Happ||P- Chad Green|
|UTIL- Matt Olson||Bench- Trevor Bauer|
|UTIL- Cesar Hernandez||Bench- Garrett Richards|
|Bench- Mitch Haniger||Bench- Kenta Maeda|
|Bench- Randal Grichuk|
First the negatives:
Yes, this was a model draft created in a shallow vacuum.Yes, there will be players I drafted who will be bought above their average price by aggressive owners, and I did not account for this. Also, I understand that there are many possible variants to auction drafts and league sizes, settings, etc. which will heavily impact how league-mates pursue players.
All of this is true. These findings are not meant to exemplify every outcome. I was merely hoping to illuminate a helpful and effective system for budgeting in auction drafts, especially those with $260 budgets. Of course, Fibonacci’s sequence is not limited to the numbers we discussed. And again, the system works because it offers flexibility while also offering helpful benchmarks to mind throughout your draft.
I wanted to show that drafters can abide by Fibonacci’s Sequence to gradually work their way through a fantasy draft with positive results. As I have shown, it is possible to draft a team with two top-tier studs while also acquiring solid assets at every level of a draft. With Fibonacci’s numbers as a guide, it is also possible to budget one’s auction cash while still maintaining the flexibility that allows owners to consistently go after players you’re targeting. Finally, as I have shown, it is a system that ensures owners who abide by its steps will not finish the draft with any unused auction money.
The outcomes that this system provides are essential to a successful auction draft. If anything, you’ll have a lot more fun staying active throughout your draft and sniping players from guys who didn’t follow a certain Italian’s helpful guide.
This is seriously awesome
Thanks Gregory. Hope it works for you, dude!
OK, I love this stuff. I’m having troubles trying to put this model in a dynasty auction draft with 40 man rosters, but I think I have the top few tiers defined and will have sniping money for the end, so I should be OK I guess.
What’s the budget and settings on your league overall? I was hoping to see how this might or might not adapt to varying league settings. Let me know and I’ll try to make it work as well.
EDIT: Drew, see the comment below. It might be a start.
I just tried a simple division method for adjusting it to my league’s conditions: $130 budget, 20 man roster – and it didn’t work out so well. I ended up with $9.5 for 8 players. I’d love to see if it could scale better.
Hey, I’d like to try as well. What did Trout and the top tier players go for?
we all have 6 keepers, so the top level isn’t there to draw from. I think that is what is skewing everything
Same as Drew, above. $400 cap. 40 man rosters.
Hey, using our TDGx2 draft as my guide for setting positions, I put the figures in the Fangraphs Auction Calculator. I did a little figuring with the numbers, and found that the $89 benchmark we used for our top two picks was 37.4% of the initial $260 budget. 37.4% of $400 is $135, or $9 shy of another Fibonacci number: 144. I suppose you could try and start between $135 and $144, make your top two picks and work your way down. This would still allow you to draft two studs. However, I would caution that after following the same pattern for the first 14 picks, you would only be left with $36 for 26 picks. I suppose that would give you 10 $2 snipes, but it would also not allow any flexibility beyond that.
I would actually recommend the following approach: $144 for picks 1 and 2 ($72 per Pick) Betts/Arenado/Turner; $89 for 3,4 ($44.5 per Pick) Hoskins/Bellinger/Judge/Springer; $55 for 6,7,8 ($18 per Pick) Olson/Mancini/Schwarber/Albies/Happ; $34 for 9,10,11 ($11 per pick) Bruce/Carpenter/W.Calhoun/Zimmer/Haniger, etc. It might actually be hard to spend $144 on the first two guys you pick unless you absolutely have to take Trout. Still, you would get four studs guaranteed, then wait to find values throughout the rest of the draft. Anything you don’t spend of the $144 of your first two picks could be your flex. I’ll look more at this, because it will be good to test the capabilities across different formats and budgets. No matter what, in a deeper draft you’ll have to be even more selective about the players you buy and how much you’d be willing to spend on them. There will simply be many more variables when it comes to actually drafting.
Strategy sounds great, I’ve adjusted it for my 30 team, 300 budget, 21 players, 17 active, 4 bench. Ended with a flex account of $31, should I lower this and add some to my higher end picks since it only takes one guy to overspend on one top player in a 30 team league, I’d have $102 for the top two guys, $63 for the next two, and so on?
Trying to figure out to best scale this for a 20 man roster vs. 23 (for reference all 20 are starters and bench pidces are selected in a snake draft post-auction).
Thinking I would take 2 rounds from the $2-$3 tier and 1 round from the $1 and just keep the $6 in my flex budget
in re: my earlier comment, 40man roster, $999 budget, commish says that the highest setting. 20 team league. Great comments here, I’ll keep reading through them as well.
Here’s the chart I have at the moment, any thoughts? second column is number of players in that tier, third column is total spent on them and fourth is average per tier. Lot in the 11 range, but still 56 in flex account.
Fibonacci’s Numbers average
3 11 11 1
5 5 10 2
8 5 15 3
13 3 12 4
21 2 10 5
34 2 30 15
55 3 55 18.33333333
89 3 90 30
144 2 140 70
233 2 220 110
377 2 350 175
This worked very well for me. I was able to snag Jose Ramirez and B Harper in the early rounds, under budget, so I could also get Ohtani and Ocuna a little later. Then towards the end, I could go higher than others had available for value at the bottom of the roster. If nothing else, just having a chart with every slot budgeted and tracking the extra dollars put me in a good position. It’s not the model’s fault I hate spending on pitching, but at least I have assets to trade for pitching. Thanks!
big fan of this article!
what do you suggest for a 12 team, 40 man roster with a $300 budget? maybe follow what jacob posted?