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Hope continues to build that MLB and the Player’s Association will come to an agreement that will allow for baseball to return. As we await the official word on the 2020 MLB season, it does appear that any live action would involve a shortened campaign. To help you prepare for fantasy baseball drafts, we’ve asked our writers for their advice when it comes to drafting ahead of a shortened MLB season.
Q: What is your top fantasy baseball draft tip for a shortened season?
Wait on elite starting pitching
“What? How can you ‘wait’ on elite players? They’ll already be off the board, right?” Well, that was the case two months ago, but now Julio Urias’ elite 100 innings are now the same amount as you’ll get from Aaron Nola, who is primarily being drafted for his durability. You can load up on top-notch hitting then build a staff like Tyler Glasnow, Jesus Luzardo, Julio Urias, Lance McCullers Jr., Luke Weaver, and Rich Hill for pennies.
– Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)
There are certainly notable impacts of the shortened season, such as pitchers with inning limits and players who had been dealing with injury concerns rising in value. But in the end, the best advice is to just not overreact. Over a 17-game stretch in April and May last year, Mike Trout slashed .220/.390/.356 with one home run. Every player goes through rough stretches, but those stretches are going to get magnified in a shortened season. Although there will be players who don’t regress to the mean because of the lack of time, trying to guess which ones those will be is a fool’s errand. With minor tweaks, try to treat this as much as a normal season as you can.
– Dan Harris (@danharris80)
Look, we have no idea what a 2020 season will be like. Some variables — such as where they are playing games — will eventually get answered, but we won’t know everything in time for drafts. For instance, what if some players decide to stay home? Has that player who is recovering from an injury been able to rehab effectively? Who has only been playing MLB The Show for the last three months because they don’t have a home gym? Also, a lot of weird things will happen if we slice the sample size in half. Just think of everyone who had one amazing half and one awful one last season. Although I’m typically a cautious drafter willing to gradually accumulate value with each pick, I’d alter my approach to take on more upside. There’s really no such thing as a safe pick in such uncharted territory, so embrace the volatility and swing for the fences.
– Andrew Gould (@AndrewGould4)
Consider a deeper bench and more opportunities
Rosters will expand, probably to 30 with taxi squads. Guys that once may seem marginal may get platoon chances or increased at-bats. Mike Ford and his left-handed bat in Yankee Stadium comes to mind. Expand your thinking to consider a deeper bench and more opportunities.
– Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff)
Target the young pitching
This is a little unfair because it aligns directly with the single-biggest concern I had entering 2020. Still, it fits too perfectly to ignore. We have an outstanding crop of young arms ready to take their respective next steps for this upcoming season, but almost every one of them had a potential innings limit. Now, that innings limit is either removed or less detrimental. Every pitcher has an innings limit, and it brings the 200-inning arms much closer to the pack. Now, players like Jesus Luzardo, Mitch Keller, and Zac Gallen are on even ground with the pack. Their talents can push them ahead.
– Mario Mergola (@MarioMergola)
Monitor injured players who are rehabbing
We are getting a significantly shortened season, and with that comes a lot more boom/bust variance. We truly do not know how players will respond to ramping up again in a mini-spring training, how they’ll handle playing in empty parks, and how teams will manage rosters given the shortened season. One way to navigate through the uncertainty is to monitor players working their way back from injury. Guys like James Paxton, Jordan Hicks, and Aaron Hicks will likely still come at a bargain relative to their skill level since a lot of your league-mates will have tuned out baseball news. Identify the guys working their way back who are projected to play a full season and make them targets in your draft (or make them waiver-wire targets if you’ve already drafted).
– Carmen Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse)
Be ready to adjust
Hopefully, one day in the near future, we will receive official word that Major League Baseball is coming back. Once this happens, it’s going to feel like a sprint to get ready for the fantasy season. Sure, a lot of the groundwork has been laid. For example, we know that Fernando Tatis Jr. probably can’t uphold his BABIP from a season ago, which makes him a risky pick in the second round. We had all offseason to dive into player profiles like that. However, once we know for sure what a condensed 2020 baseball season will look like, it’s going to be a mad rush to determine what it means for fantasy purposes. Potential factors will include expanded rosters, a universal DH, divisional realignment, and possible ballpark effects. We might think we know what it all means ahead of time, but we probably won’t. Once we start figuring things out when play resumes, it’ll be vital to be willing to adapt. We’ve never had a situation like this before. It will be fun and it will most certainly be different.
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)
Grab the hot bats
In most years, I’m big on waiting for larger sample sizes before I relinquish valuable assets for breakout players without strong track records (think August 2019 Aristides Aquino). In a shortened season, however, the need to “win now” has never been greater for fantasy managers. If a guy is having a strong two-week stint, acquire him via trade or the waiver wire, even if it means you would “lose” the transaction in a typical season. There’s no time for patience in 2020 fantasy baseball. For once, we’re looking at a sprint, not a marathon.
– Daniel Comer (@DanComer404)
Load up on bats and wait on pitching
A shortened season could mean more six-man rotations, scheduled bullpen days, and some of the best starting pitchers could even start off as five-inning eaters. I would grab the most reliable bats and stockpile on the best position players. Drafting pitchers who can give five-solid innings on most occasions (Lance McCullers, Julio Urias, Jesus Luzardo, Rich Hill) is the route I would take. Target closers earlier than usual, as the shortened campaign means fewer chances for closers to lose their jobs. The season will have many uncertainties, so don’t overreact and see how things play out. Knowing what everyone else knows now, you should draft safe, reliable hitting, pick closers a round or two higher than usual, and wait to draft starting pitchers.
– Brad Camara (@beerad30)
Don’t be afraid to cut bait
Typically, we preach patience in fantasy baseball. Statistics will often regress to the mean, and players have time to find their grove over the course of the season. However, a shortened season will limit the opportunity for players to rebound during the year. With the season looking like it will feature half as many games as normal, the fantasy season is inherently truncated as well. Fantasy owners cannot afford to fall behind in Roto leagues or pick up too many losses in a H2H league. I am not suggesting that you send a slow-starting Franciso Lindor or Trea Turner to the waivers, but you may be forced to ditch your sleeper picks a little sooner than you would in a traditional season.
– Shane Bryant (@ShaneBryant31)