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Players Helped Most by MLB Delay (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 19, 2020

Manager Aaron Boone has sounded optimistic about Aaron Judge being ready to go when the season gets rolling.

It’s a new day and we still have no real idea of when the baseball season will start. For us avid fantasy baseball fans, this is a very tough time. One thing that does not have to be on hold indefinitely is your fantasy draft, so we are going to continue to help you dominate it.

The delayed season changes the outlook on the fantasy season a ton. It is almost certain that games will not be played until at least late May, which means it will be basically impossible for the league to have 162 games this year. It’s hard not to be bummed about all of this, but we can at least use it to our advantage by identifying some players that are in a better spot for fantasy purposes with the delayed and shortened season.

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Injured Players

The delayed season most benefits players who were going to miss time at first, but now might not. Let’s talk briefly about all of these players.

Giancarlo Stanton – Of the Yankees’ trio of studs that were slated to miss the start of the season, Stanton is the safest bet to not miss time. He was only looking at a matter of weeks missed, so only a setback or different injury will keep him out of the Opening Day lineup for the Bombers. While this does not change the fact that he has missed all kinds of time in recent years with a barrage of different injuries, Stanton should be near the top of your projections in home runs and RBI.

Aaron Judge – This one is less certain than Stanton, but Yankees’ Manager Aaron Boone has sounded optimistic about Judge being ready to go when the season gets rolling. There is still an outside chance of rib surgery for Judge, which would push his return back into June or July. However, it seems more likely that he will be ready for Opening Day at this point. Judge is a top 40 pick on my ranks.

James Paxton – Mid-May was the best-case scenario for Paxton, and now that same time frame is the best-case scenario for any player. I don’t think you can pencil Paxton in to pitch in the Yankees’ first series, given that he still has a bunch of rehab to get through cleanly, but his outlook is certainly much better with the delayed season news. I would draft Paxton as a top 30 starter right now.

Justin Verlander – The ageless wonder had groin surgery this week which would have, under normal circumstances, delayed the start of his season six weeks. If he has a normal recovery time he has a great shot at being the Astros’ Opening Day starter. His injury was close enough to the announcement of the delay that he wasn’t really given time to fall in drafts, so there is probably not value to be found here. However, I don’t see a real reason to not draft him as a top-five or six pitcher.

Mike Clevinger – Clev was flirting with top five at the SP position for awhile in drafts, but his mid-February knee surgery had him plummeting. He was trending in a positive direction before any of this stuff happened, and now he seems like a lock to pitch one of the Indians’ first two games. The fact that the injury was to his knee and not something involving his throwing arm also gives reason for optimism, so I’m fine with drafting Clevinger as a top 10 SP again.

Shohei Ohtani – Really the only reason to not make Ohtani a top 30 player in daily lineup change leagues was the fact that he was not going to pitch until the middle of May. Assuming his rehab goes well, he will be in the Angels’ rotation all season. He is likely to just pitch once a week and not every fifth day, but the value you get by getting a hitter and a pitcher with one roster spot gives him an unmatched upside. I am drafting Ohtani in the first three rounds in leagues where I can use him as both a pitcher and a hitter.

Griffin Canning – Canning was a guy going very late in drafts but was touted as a possible breakout pitcher this year. Then the news hit that he had serious-sounding elbow injuries and he fell off everybody’s draft boards entirely. However, it is sounding like he will avoid surgery and could find his way into the Angels’ rotation to begin the year. He should be incredibly cheap in drafts right now and is a great guy to spend a late draft pick or a couple of auction dollars on.

Innings Limits

Jesus Luzardo – The Athletics’ young phenom threw just 55 innings last year and 109 in 2018. That gave everybody a lot of pause thinking Luzardo would make it anywhere near a full season pitched in 2020. Right now, it is seeming like throwing 150 innings will you get pretty close to the league leaders. That is awesome news for Luzardo who has legitimate top 10 SP upside now. I am not going to fault anybody for drafting him in the first five rounds, especially if you’re in a keeper league.

A.J. Puk – Same story with Luzardo, but with more downside given his moderate control issues (3.8 BB/9 career). He also had a bit of an injury scare in spring training but all the reports came back positive, so it is looking like he will be in the Athletics’ rotation to start the year. His career-high in innings pitched is just 125, and that was in 2017. I would say 140 innings is a best-case scenario for Puk, but he is being drafted very late, making him a nice value.

Julio Urias – The 23-year-old has never topped 100 innings pitched (in all levels combined), and he threw just 79.2 innings between AAA and the bigs last year. The Dodgers gave him an early commitment to be their fourth starter, but it was still pretty unlikely he would make enough starts to be an impact fantasy pitcher. Now 130 innings should be enough to give him the opportunity to be a top 25 starter if everything goes right. He has posted very strong numbers consistently in his career, so I am comfortable with drafting him as a top 40 starter, and you can get him pretty late in drafts.

Players on Really Good or Really Bad Teams

Chopping 40 games off of the season will make the standings a bit tighter as October approaches. This will likely result in some stud players either not being rested in preparation for the postseason, or not being shut down early because their team is long out of the race. We have seen this be a bit of a problem with teams like the Dodgers, who have not really needed to put their best team on the field over the last few weeks of the regular season. There is a lower chance that a team wins their division by 20 games this year, which does change things slightly for fantasy.

Coors Field, Maybe

This will only be a consideration if the new schedule results in the Rockies playing more games on the road than at home. The home/road splits have just been astounding for the Rockies, especially recently. Playing six to ten more games on the road than at home would hurt the fantasy values of guys like Arenado, Blackmon, and Story significantly, and vice versa. You likely will not actually know the schedule while you are drafting, but it is worth taking a look at when it does come out. After seeing what happens you can either buy or sell Rockies’ hitters.

Established Closers

This one may be a stretch, but a shorter season gives closers less time to lose the job and may make managers more hesitant to mess around with their roster. Anybody who has the exclusive closer job for their team now may have better odds of keeping it all season. I am still not going to pay for saves, but it could be a slightly better idea now than before.

This is unprecedented territory we are in. While I have done my best to think of every way to use the delay to our advantage, it is very likely that I missed something. Hit me up on Twitter with any additional thoughts you have, it’s not like you have anything better to do!

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Jon Anderson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jon, check out his archive and follow him @JonPgh.