PBR - On Friday night I participated in an auction with 11 other baseball writers from across the country. These early auctions often are a good place to practice strategies and observe trends, thus better preparing you for more meaningful (cash) league drafts in March.

League Details: We used Yahoo's default league settings - 12 team auction with a salary cap of $260. Standard 5x5 rotisserie scoring.

My Strategy: I went into this draft knowing I was going to punt the save category. I figure so many things change during the regular season at that position that picking up a closer or two off the waiver wire in the middle of the season shouldn't be too difficult. Yahoo's roster setup is a little odd as it forces you to have at least two SP's and two RP's - knowing this, while punting saves, I wanted to make sure I got two stud starters that would give me production in every category. I figured I could fill the rest of the pitching staff with low-risk players that were solid and cheap. Offensively, balance was important - if I picked up a slugger with power than I wanted to make certain I drafted a speedster that hit for average. I wanted a balanced team, not necessarily balanced players.

I had three sets of projected dollar values handy throughout the draft. Being the first auction of the season, I wanted to avoid getting involved in bidding wars so I could see how closely the final sale prices correlated to the projections I was using.

What Actually Happened: I was surprised at the prices some of the top-tier players were going for early on. Miguel Cabrera was the first player auctioned and went for $53 - I had him projected at $35. Matt Kemp went second for $53 - I had him projected at $42. I didn't think any player would break $50, not to mention two.

I kept true to my projected values, drafting Justin Verlander at $36 (projected $42) and Felix Hernandez at $34 (projected at $32) as my two starting pitchers. Dee Gordon was tossed out early and I tapped him at $8 (projected at $16).

The Good: I was happy with the pitching staff I pieced together behind Verlander and Hernandez, especially considering I spent just $12. I also think I bought nearly 80 steals with the $8 I spent on Gordon and the $7 on Coco Crisp.

The Bad: Even though he cost me only $1, I got burned with Russell Martin. I wanted a backup catcher and saw three other teams still needed a starter. At this point I had my eye on Molina who was still sitting on the board, so I tossed Martin's name out with a $1 bid thinking someone would bite and fill an empty roster spot. Unfortunately, no one bit and I got stuck with Martin. Molina eventually went 11 picks later for $2.

Starting Lineup: Wieters, Fielder, Pedroia, Gordon, Ramirez, Hamilton, Cruz, Crisp, Alonso and Espinosa.

Bench: Martin, De Aza, Trout and Vicedo.

Pitchers: Hernandez and Verlander as SP's, Collmenter and Pestano as RP's, Holland, Volquez, Jurrjens and Worley as my other four active pitchers. Oswalt, until he signs with a team, will be on the bench.

Final Grades: I looked at several projections and graded each player in various categories. I then took the letter grades and normalized them the same way you would with a GPA on the 4.0 scale. The starting lineup appears to be balanced, which is exactly what I was aiming for with grades of "B-" for HR, "B+" for Runs, "B" for RBIs, "C+" for Stolen Bases and "B-" for Batting Average. Together, the grades equaled a "B-" for a 2.8 out of 4.0. I did the same for the bench and came out with a "C" average at 2.0. Keep in mind, these grades may seem low but my goal was to put a balanced club together - meaning Dee Gordon's projected home run total (likely between 0 and 3) equals just as much in the grading as Prince Fielders projected home run total. Using this system, it would be rare to ever see a team approach "A" territory unless the league is extremely small.

The pitching staff projects nicely with a "B" for Wins and Saves, "B" for Strikeouts, "B+" for Earned Run Average and "B" for WHIP.  The overall GPA came out to a 3.1 out of 4.0 for a "B".

Phillies Drafted:  Ryan Howard $14, Chase Utley $17, Jimmy Rollins $13, Roy Halladay $41, Cliff Lee $35, Cole Hamels $29, Jonathan Papelbon $17.

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