Since I'm always curious to see how the other half lives, I checked out the American League CBS Sportsline draftwhich was held the day before the N.L. draft I participated in last Thursday.
One thing I like about drafts is that they give you a good idea of what the pecking order is going to look like in your auction come late March/early April. I'll talk more about that later. What I was most fascinated by was the 3rd pick overall in this draft.
Joe Mauer. Not Vlad Guerrero or Carl Crawford or one of the 10 other hitters who had better Roto values last year than Mauer who were left on the table. But Joe Mauer.
Personally, I think Mauer is an extreme reach at #3. But he is an object lesson in the effect scarcity can have on a draft, versus the limited effect it has in an auction.
To think of it another way, let's say that Mauer was the third most expensive player in your start-up auction. That means he probably would be about a $38 player. Would you pay $38 for Joe Mauer?
Most likely not. Scarcity is offset by risk, and catchers run the greatest injury risk of any hitter on the diamond. Even Mike Piazza in his golden days seldom went past $35 in most serious non-inflation leagues due to the chance that he might get hurt and miss the season.
The other thing that happens in an auction is that the $38 you spend on Joe Mauer makes it more likely that you're: 1) taking a loss on a hitter and 2) keeping you from buying Crawford, Vlad, Vernon Wells or one of the outfielders who probably will earn more than Mauer.
It's clearer when you're putting down auction dollars what will happen if you overspend on a position. You're in the hole, and even a savvy endgame pickup at DH or your last OF spot won't save you. Whereas in a draft the snake might still have a few decent OF left when it comes back to you.
Even a draft has its limitations, though. The team that drafted Mauer, MLB.com, has an OF of J.D. Drew, Casey Blake, Wily Mo Pena, Marcus Thames and Billy Butler. Given the available talent in American League outfields, I don't have to look at the rest of this team's roster to guess that he's most likely going to fall short on offense, unless Butler comes through in a big way.