How MLB’s Arizona Coronavirus Plan Should Change Your Fantasy Baseball Strategy
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News broke early Tuesday morning that Major League Baseball and the players’ association have talked about starting the regular season much earlier than expected and playing all games in Arizona until further notice. Read the full story here.
This is all very speculative, and far from set in stone, but exciting nonetheless and worth talking about. So much of baseball is dependent on the environment, so moving all MLB games to the same state in different spring training ballparks will have a big impact. Here are a few roster tips to consider if it turns out this is really happening.
Go Hitter Heavy
There are so many things working in favor of the hitters if the league plays several weeks exclusively in the Grand Canyon State. Arizona has the seventh-highest average elevation of all America’s states and territories. That plus the heat result in a big advantage for the hitters. You don’t have to look too far back into the history book to remember how hitter-friendly Chase Field was before they installed the humidor.
In addition to the environmental factors, you have the fact that the abrupt ending to spring training and the accelerated pick-up to get to regular-season games could be a nightmare for pitchers. A pitcher has a lot more specific, regimented work to do to prepare for a season than a hitter, so this crazy spring we have had is likely to give the hitters an additional boost at the beginning of the season.
Adjust Expectations on Extreme Home Ballpark Players
If the Rockies are not playing half of their games this year in Coors Field, I am not sure I want any of their hitters. While Arizona is a great place to hit, it still does not compare to Coors Field. This is a pretty obvious change, so I am guessing most of your league-mates will be on top of it, but I would be skeptical that people will downgrade hitters enough. Nolan Arenado is still a great hitter, but he should not be going anywhere near the first round if you can’t be sure he’ll see half of his plate appearances in Denver. I am significantly downgrading all Rockies hitters right now until we have more information.
On the flip-side, German Marquez will climb substantially in my ranks if this change gets implemented. He has been one of the best pitchers in the league over the last two seasons when not pitching in Coors Field, and as of right now he is going insanely late in drafts if he gets drafted at all. If you have already drafted, go check your waiver wire right now and scoop up Marquez if available.
No other park rivals Coors Field in how it affects the game, but you should probably consider having more interest in hitters and less interest in pitchers that are potentially coming out of pitcher-friendly parks (Giants, Marlins, Mets).
Roll the Dice on Prospects
Given all of the parameters required for this to work, the league will almost surely have to expand the active rosters and keep the minor league seasons suspended. I would imagine this leads to a bunch of prospects making the big league roster right from jump street. Jo Adell, Spencer Howard, Dylan Carlson, MacKenzie Gore, and several other guys are worth taking a flier on at this point.
Embrace Randomness in Pitching
There has been talk of playing two seven-inning games in a double-header to make up for lost time and try to play 162 games. While this seems a bit far-fetched, it would certainly change the game quite a bit as far as pitching performances go for fantasy. Teams would have five more innings to plan for every day, which could really change the deployment of pitching staffs in a variety of ways. The expanded rosters could counteract this, but I have a hard time imagining we will see the same rates of wins, quality starts, and saves in this kind of situation.
Even if they stick to playing nine-inning games once a day, this is sure to be a wacky beginning of the season for pitchers, as we have already mentioned. Routine dictates quite a bit for a pitcher in terms of injury risk and performance and has certainly been difficult (and will probably continue to be so) for any pitcher to get in his normal routine thus far.
This is all me basically saying “I have no idea what is going to happen.” Actionable advice would be draft the pitchers you think can handle the weirdness, but go hitter-heavy otherwise.
Have a Deep Hitting Bench
With potentially cramming games in and bigger rosters, that is a sure recipe for established hitters getting frequent days off. You will want to have an extra hitter or two on your bench to prepare for this in a daily lineup change league. You can get a volume advantage on your opponents by doing this, which will add up to more wins at the end of the season.
Pitcher playing time should be much more consistent than hitters, so I would focus on devoting most of your bench to extra bats to prepare for this crazy season we hopefully will witness soon.
Prepare for Robot Umpires
If all of this does happen, there is some chance that no human umpire is there to call balls and strikes. This would change very little in the scheme of things, but it would, in theory, take away the advantage that the best pitch-framing catchers bring to the table. It could also be a slight ding to the veteran ace pitcher who gets some extra calls from the human umpire out of reverence. This is all probably getting too cute and anecdotal, but something to think about anyways!