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2020 Fantasy Baseball Short-Season Strategy: Hitters

2020 Fantasy Baseball Short-Season Strategy: Hitters

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Sixty games. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing, right? It’s looking like we’ll actually have baseball in 2020, assuming that the season can go on or start-up with no health stoppages (big, big assumption).

This makes us look at all the prep that we’ve done for our drafts and completely throw it out the window. We now have one-third of a season compared to the full season, so each and every game and matchup matters.

While not as unpredictable as pitchers from a season-to-season basis, hitters still change in value each year. With a condensed season, it forces you to change the way that you approach bats. I recently took part in two mock drafts with the CBS crew, both roto, and points-based, and you can take a look at the approach that 12 fantasy analysts took with the news of the condensed season.

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Draft Strategy

Whether it’s 60 games, 90 games, 120 games, or 162 games, hitters are, by far, safer to take in drafts than pitchers are just due to the injury risk. But with so few games, where the name of the game is volume, hitters get pushed up even more due to the ability to play each and every day.

That’s why the recommended approach for filling out your lineup is taking hitters early and often. Just be clear on early and often, we’re talking about the first seven or eight rounds of your draft early. You can see the recommended approach with pitching, and this strategy marries itself to it well.

It is format-specific, of course. If you’re in a points-based league, you need fewer hitters overall in your starting lineup, so you can pivot and take pitchers earlier since they are rewarded with their production per inning and tend to outscore hitters as a whole.

But for category-based leagues, make hitters your priority – especially those who will see everyday playing time.

Some hitters who get pushed up in drafts this year are:

  • J.T. Realmuto, who could conceivably catch 58 games this year, which will lead the position
  • Trea Turner, who should be a top-five pick in drafts with his all-around ability, including the potential to lead the league in steals
  • Mookie Betts, who, if you believe in contract years, has 60 games with his new team in Los Angeles
  • The elite second basemen, who are at the shallowest position and allow you to set and forget
  • High-average guys, such as Bryan Reynolds, DJ LeMahieu, and Mark Canha, as you don’t want to punt average this year

Some hitters who get pushed down in drafts this year are:

  • Mike Trout, who isn’t a clear top two pick with the expected arrival of his child in August. He shouldn’t be pushed down too far, though
  • Pete Alonso and other power-source guys. Power is going to be easy to get this year, especially in a short sprint. Focus on all-around contributions and not one-trick power ponies
  • Platoon players, such as Joc Pederson, half of the Rays, and any other player who is stuck on a weak or strong side platoon. There just won’t be enough guaranteed playing time to draft them.

Roster Management Strategy

You need to make sure that you have a good balance up and down your lineup, and it’s especially important to make sure that the players you’re rostering are players who are going to get regular playing time.

There’s also the school of thought that you should push your chips in and just go all-in on the season with high-variance, big-splash players. You’re looking at the Fernando Tatis, Vladimir Guerrero, Luis Robert, Jo Adell types of the world. It’s a weird season, so why not just go for it all?

The approach, while appreciated, is a little too risky, but it’s understandable depending on your risk-comfort zone.

If you take that approach, you will need to make sure that you are taking at least a bench player or two in case the shiny toy bombs, which goes against the entire thought process of the draft strategy.

Your bench, if you go after hitters early and often, should be comprised of nothing but pitchers – regardless of the format. Teams in your league are going to be going after pitchers on the wire nonstop, so it’s easier to replace hitters off the wire than it will be pitchers.

Trading Strategy

The simple, condensed thought is that this year, more than any other, it’s going to be a lot harder to trade for a pitcher than it will be a hitter. If you’re going to make a move like that, make it early.

If you’re looking to trade for a bat and you have an extra arm or two, it’s not a bad idea to leverage the lack of quality arms available to your advantage and get a deal that helps you fill a void.

Remember, your bats are going to play more than the arms are. Make sure you feel good about your lineup from top to bottom.

Assorted Tips

  • Draft hitters early and often, and don’t be afraid to settle for the less-than-sexy pitchers early in the draft. You’ll be able to take home the hitting categories and do enough to compete in the pitching categories.
  • Elevate elite steals guys who help you elsewhere. Someone like Trea Turner, Starling Marte, or even, gulp, Adalberto Mondesi can single-handedly win you the category for the season.
  • Don’t make power a priority. Nearly every hitter you take will be able to keep you competitive in the category, where you don’t need to sell out for a Pete Alonso, Khris Davis, Miguel Sano, or any other big power threat this season.
  • Avoid platoons. They are a headache unless you’re in a deep daily lineups league, but even then, each and every available roster spot is super valuable in a shortened season.
  • Have fun and experiment. It’s a weird year for everyone. Embrace it.

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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