Ask Rotoman: How Do I Value Keepers?

I’m new to an AL-only keeper league.This is the first year we’re keeping players (was a full redraft last year). How does one calculate inflation? In general, when the delta between salary and projection is about the same, should one keep the higher-priced player since the player pool will have fewer five-star players available and their prices will be that much higher?

Delta Dawn

Dear DD:

There is a formula for calculating the inflation rate going into an auction with keepers. I’ve screwed it up enough in the past that I’m going to be careful here, but let’s try this:

Take the your total league budget ($3120, traditionally) minus the expected cost of the frozen players, that is their par value, and divide it by the actual cost of the keepers subtracted from $3120. The result is your inflation rate.

For instance, let’s say you had $624 worth of talent frozen that was going to cost $312. That gives you $312 of talent that isn’t being paid for. Using the formula above you will have $2808 dollars chasing $2496 worth of players, inflating the price of the remaining available players by 11 percent. That’s in a traditional roto league, with 12 teams on a $260 budget.

But simply increasing the bid price of all players by 10 percent isn’t going to reflect how your league spends those inflated dollars. A savvy league will spend the extra money buying the most attractive available players, generally starting pitchers and five-category hitters or the most productive sluggers.

When deciding who to keep the question for you is what each player will go for in the auction. If Bo Bichette can be kept at $31 this year and you judge his straight value to be $38 (he earned $40 last year, and he cost $37 and $39 in LABR and Tout Wars respectively) you would have an inflated value of $7. That’s the number that would go into your inflation rate calculation.

But on auction day how much will he really go for? A 10 percent bump gets him to $42, but should he stop there? For the best players in a league that understands inflation I think not. Better to spend an extra dollar and get the league’s premiere shortstop than spend an extra dollar to pick up Cavan Biggio at 10 percent over his draft prices of $10. Right?

This doesn’t mean you should always keep the more expensive player as your own keep, if both have the same discount this year. Given your team configuration, the quality of your keeps in relation to the quality of other teams, and your strategic approach to this year’s auction, it might make sense to have more money than more tied-up talent, but all other things being equal keeping the rarer talent does make the most sense.

One other point. What happens when a league doesn’t understand inflation is that teams marshall their money, don’t spend up for the best players, and end up competing for the middlin’ players when they realize all the choice talent is gone.

Or they leave money on the table, unspent and immediately worthless in the usual leagues. (Some leagues have a formula for converting unspent draft dollars into FAAB, which can be a strategic aim but also rewards auction day incompetence.)

The fact is, understanding inflation and tracking how it shows up during your auction will give you a terrific edge. It’s well worth figuring out how many inflated dollars there are in your league and then apportioning them to the players you value most in your pre-draft list. Then, during the auction, keep a rough count of how much prices are running ahead or behind your budget. If they’re running ahead you know that bargains are coming, and if they’re running behind it’s time to get shopping.

Good luck!