The baseball season reboot is underway with teams participating in their summer camps as they gear up for a 60-game schedule.
There’s a lot to digest with only a couple of weeks before Opening Day, so we need to hit the ground running. Prior to the season starting, I wanted to take a look at general strategy for the shortened year along with spotlighting players to target in your drafts and those to stay away from.
For now, we will look at general strategy.
The 2020 fantasy baseball season is no longer a marathon
I’m not breaking any news here. When more than 100 games are not being played, the sense of urgency is heightened. Fantasy baseball has always been about patience and being rewarded for the daily grind. That will not be the case in 2020.
I bring this up because the mentality has to change, and that can be difficult for people. Fantasy owners need to have the fantasy football mentality where we may have to overreact and make drastic decisions. There is literally not enough time to allow a slumping hitter go two to three weeks to figure it out. We can overcome that in a 162-game schedule, but it will be nearly impossible in this format.
Fantasy owners should not be afraid to use their Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) early in the season on players who could make an immediate impact.
Starting pitching strategy
There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to starting pitching strategy in the reboot season. Fantasy owners can either invest heavily in the top arms since they know those pitchers will perform at a high level, or they can draft pitchers later and build their roster with more bullpen arms.
I lean on the side of building my pitching staff with bullpen arms and using my early draft picks on hitters. After 60 games last season, no starting pitcher threw 100 innings and most had fewer than 13 starts.
I don’t think it’s wise to use an early draft pick or pay a high amount in an auction league for a player who will impact your roster 13 times at the most.
If we dig deeper, teams are going to be extremely cautious early in the season with how many innings they allow their starters to pitch in a game due to the length of time they have been away. This is always the case at the beginning of the year, but with full spring training we see pitchers get stretched out earlier. Time is not on the side of teams before the regular season, so they will be relying on the bullpen more.
Finally, multiple teams have already said they will seriously consider using a six-man rotation, especially early on. Again, this does not bode well for our starting pitchers to make the impact we need.
Combine the limited innings a starting pitcher will throw, the strategies teams will implement in terms of relying on the bullpen more — especially early in the season — and six-man rotations, and that leads me to not investing in the top arms in 2020.
I think this is important — and this is a bigger issue with fantasy baseball overall — but leagues need to adjust their rules in 2020. The fantasy baseball community refuses to adapt, which is frustrating, but if there is a time to do it, this is the year. Major League Baseball has implemented the universal designated hitter and has changed how extra innings will be played. If MLB understands that there needs to be tweaks for this season, then fantasy baseball leagues can do the same.
Keeper leagues should be put on hold. Those leagues should have a regular draft with the entire player pool and resume in 2021 with the same keeper values that would have been used this year.
National League- or American League-only formats should combine both leagues to extend the player pool.
Head-to-head leagues should be the standard format in 2020. Fantasy football is so popular because of this format and every week being so crucial in our march toward a championship. Fantasy baseball lacks this with the rotisserie style, but we have a chance to capture that. The season is only nine weeks, so leagues can create two divisions and then have the final weeks of the season be the playoffs.
There’s no doubt fantasy owners will be hanging on to every pitch knowing they can’t afford too many losses.
With multiple players already opting out, others saying they still haven’t made a decision and a few who have tested positive for COVID-19, fantasy leagues need to be flexible in order to have as fair and enjoyable experience in a very trying time.
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