Salary Cap Fantasy Baseball Draft Tips | MLB Auction League Strategy | Tout Wars Recap 2023

Posted: Mar 30, 2022Last updated: Apr 4, 2022

Fantasy baseball salary cap leagues, in which you bid in an auction-style format for the fantasy production of players, is one of the most challenging and fun ways to play. There is more than one way to approach building a team, though.

Some participants in these drafts like to employ a “Stars and Scrubs” approach, in which they bid heavily on the top players and let a good portion of the remainder of the roster fall into place thereafter. Others choose to balance the roster out more throughout, and some elect to remain very patient and take advantage of late values.

The Game Day Managing Editor Tim Heaney and I put our methods to the test in the recent Tout Wars Mixed Salary Cap draft league. Tout Wars is the most prestigious fantasy baseball experts league in the industry, and Heaney was the 2018 mixed auction champion.

We’ve shared this so you can learn from viewing the draft board and dollar values. Reviewing the results of such a league should be an essential step in your draft planning process. I’ve included some select insights on my own draft strategies for this type of league below.

Salary Cap Fantasy Baseball League Rules

The Tout Wars Mixed Salary Cap draft consisted of 15 teams, with 23 active starters. The starting lineup includes two catchers and nine pitchers. There is also a six-round reserve draft.

The league uses a 5×5 rotisserie scoring system with a unique offensive twist.

Fantasy Baseball Play of the Day

Want to play fantasy baseball with prop bets? Try PrizePicks, one of our top daily fantasy baseball partners.

With PrizePicks, you can guess Overs and Unders on baseball player stats — and many more games!

Try PrizePicks with this special welcome offer: Get up to a $100 Free 1st Deposit Match with our offer code GAMEDAY.

Learn more about this game-changing operator by reading Juan Carlos Blanco’s PrizePicks Review.

On-base percentage replaces batting average, while runs, home runs, runs batted in and stolen bases fill out the other offensive categories.

The traditional rotisserie statistical categories of wins, saves, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP fill out the pitching side of the scoring system. All participants operate under a $260 “budget” of units.

Salary Cap Fantasy Baseball Strategies

You don’t have to overspend to contend.

In past years, I went the “Stars and Scrubs” route, but have found in recent seasons that a patient approach produces an optimum roster coming out of the draft. I did not spend more than $29 on any player (Luis Robert and Ozzie Albies) and liked the balance I ended up with.

Being cautious early on will put you on a path to nabbing some values in the middle-to-later portions of the draft. My patience allowed me to land Aroldis Chapman at $15, Ketel Marte at $14 and Michael Conforto at $10.

While saving some dollars, you can still get undervalued players.

The best part of a salary cap draft is being able to potentially land the exact players you want who may not fall to you in a traditional snake format. I knew I was not going to chase the most expensive players, but was willing to engage in bidding wars for some of my preferred player targets.

While sticking closely to my projected dollar values, I was able to land Roberts and Albies — my offensive anchors for power and speed — and I also acquired the rights to Dylan Carlson for $15. That was exactly what I had budgeted for him.

If I really like a player, I will go a dollar or two over my preferred price for him. I really wanted to land Carlson, as another opposing player who faced him last season told me that he and his teammates thought he was going to be “the next Carlos Beltran.”

Use different approaches for different situations.

There is a dual approach to building the roster, as you have to focus on aiming for the right categorical balance, while also being well aware of position scarcity. There are a few positions where you want to make sure you at least land a respectable starter.

First base is deep, so I chose to hold back awhile there, and landing Anthony Rizzo at $9 was satisfactory. But I could not wait past a certain point to get a third baseman, and was content to get Ke’Bryan Hayes at $7.

Catcher is incredibly thin, of course, so I wanted to target at least one option inside my top 10, and tabbed Tyler Stephenson at $11. I may have waited a bit too long for the second catcher, as Eric Haase gives me good pop at $1, but can be detrimental in an OBP league.

Going for one of the most secure closers was also a plan, as I wanted to get one of the guys inside the top 10 as well. Chapman was the ideal acquisition, and then I also went for more of a secondary target with David Bednar at $8.

I do like him as a value play, and if he does not keep the job I can always chase saves on the waiver wire, knowing Chapman should anchor the category.

Shohei Ohtani, SP and DH, Los Angeles Angels

If your fantasy baseball league treats Shohei Ohtani the pitcher and hitter as two separate players, you may be able to nab one of them at a steep discount. (Image: USA TODAY Sports)

Tout Wars 2022 Recap

Dig for discounts throughout the draft.

Shohei Ohtani is split into two players in Tout Wars, and the hitting version went for just $23 with the very first pick. It was one of the spotlight values of the draft. Eloy Jimenez was hailed as a very good selection at $15 with the 80th pick.

Study up for your fantasy baseball drafts:

Kenley Jansen went for just $14 not long thereafter. Tyler Mahle was a very good value for $10 with the 135th pick. Sean Manaea was picked for $9 soon after that.

Some of the nifty later bargains included Alejandro Kirk ($4), Ty France ($3), Aaron Ashby ($2), Jesus Sanchez ($2), Mike Yastrzemski ($1), and Nate Lowe ($2).

Aggressive money will be spent early.

While I chose to lay back at the beginning, there certainly was no shortage of high-powered bidding battles early on. Jose Ramirez and Juan Soto came off the board at $49 and $52, respectively. Bryce Harper and Trea Turner commanded $47 bids.

The bidding was frenetic on Jacob deGrom, as there was not any apparent widespread hesitation about his health. The Mets superstar drew a winning bid of $38, which was $1 less than Gerrit Cole and $2 more than Corbin Burnes.

Newly minted Dodger Freddie Freeman went off the board at $37, and his new teammate Mookie Betts was nabbed for $43 shortly thereafter. By the 41st pick, Kyle Tucker still drew a winning bid of $36.

How did last year’s champion do?

You should always pay attention to what a defending champion or consistent winner does. As much as even the average fantasy baseball player knows (many play at high levels as compared to other fantasy sports), you can always learn from others.

Defending champion Jeff Zimmerman spent $75 combined on Cole and Burnes while dropping $38 on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and $25 on Josh Hader. He was willing to spend $20 on Seiya Suzuki and $13 to get the speed specialist, Myles Straw. He did very well in the end game, getting Jesus Sanchez for $2 and Jesus Aguilar and Nicky Lopez at the same price.

Zimmerman did not go for any $40 players, and also exhibited some patience, as he only acquired one player from the 23rd to 103rd pick, an 80-pick span.


Scott Engel

Scott Engel is a Senior Sports Writer at The Game Day. Previously he was at and The Athletic. His work is also featured at RotoBaller and on Scott is a host on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. He is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Scott is a four-time FSWA award winner and a 13-time finalist. He was an Associate Editor and featured writer at and his career began at CBS SportsLine, where he was a Senior Writer and Managing Editor. Scott was the Managing Director at RotoExperts.

Related articles