2020 Fantasy Baseball Short-Season Strategy: Pitchers
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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 (a 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.
As if they aren’t unpredictable enough year to year, we have to reevaluate our approach to pitching in a condensed season. 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.
For the past week, the fantasy baseball Twitter community has been rejuvenated, and each analyst has had their take on how to approach pitchers in the draft.
Being in uncharted territories with this season, we won’t really know which strategy is the right strategy to take until it plays out, but if you don’t like the below approach, there’s no harm done. There’s plenty of great takes on how to go about pitching, especially from Eno Sarris of The Athletic and Alex Fast and Nick Pollack at Pitcher List.
But the strategy that, after spending a lot of time breaking it down and looking at the options, makes the most sense in my book is to target pitchers who are going to give you quality innings.
That means in your standard category-based league, you wait on pitching and fill out your hitting for the first six or seven rounds. The thought process is that in a shortened season, you’re going to have your hitters playing the majority of the time, whereas you may get 10 or 12 starts total from your pitchers. In those starts, you may have a few that go only three or four innings, especially in the early going.
The initial thought process with a condensed season was that pitchers like Julio Urias, Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk or any other young pitcher would be more valuable because they won’t be on innings limits. And that’s true, to a point, but with a shortened Spring Training, the teams are also going to be very careful with their pitchers who need more time to build up their arms.
So that leads us to a boring strategy, but an effective one.
Load up on hitters in the early going, and rely on pitchers like Madison Bumgarner, Charlie Morton, David Price, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda, Matthew Boyd, and other veterans who won’t need as much time to build up their arms.
Roster Management Strategy
Usually, for points-based leagues, your entire bench should be comprised of pitchers to take advantage of two-start weeks. This year, it’s true for category-based leagues, too. Each and every start is going to be crucial, and it’s going to be easier to fill a starting lineup each week than it fill fill out a formidable rotation. Everyone will be hunting pitching this year, so even if a hitter in your lineup gets hurt, the replacement-level bat will be easier to find off the waiver wire than a replacement-level arm.
The one interesting aspect that I haven’t been able to crack yet is how to go about building a bullpen for fantasy. I’m of the thought that teams in real life are going to turn to their bullpen early and often, especially if they have a great bullpen, than in year’s past since there’s less room for error.
But how will that change the way teams use their closer? Will you see teams using their typical designated ninth-inning guy in the high-leverage situation in the eighth more? Will they work multiple innings more, which means fewer total appearances over the course of the year?
You should look to draft one closer you are sure will get the saves – someone like a Roberto Osuna comes to mind – where his real-life team is unlikely to turn it over to anyone else. Someone like Josh Hader gives pause because he’s been so valuable in the past as a multi-inning arm, that the Brewers could look to shorten games with him in the seventh and eighth before turning the ninth inning over to Corey Knebel.
With the other reliever spot, it’s almost preferred to find someone who can help me with ratios and strikeouts as a middle reliever instead of taking a closer who you aren’t confident will hold down the job.
It’s going to be a weird, yet fun year to trade. Pitchers are usually harder to acquire each year, but that’s going to be the case more this year than in any other.
The one thing you can try to take advantage of is managers who are impatient due to the shortened year, and won’t tolerate a few shaky outings from a pitcher.
The veterans above are the guys you should target in the draft, and you should look to acquire them or pitchers who fit the same mold as them in deals, too. The earlier the better with the trades, of course, so that you can try to get more than a few starts out of them.
- This is not the year to go with the sexy pick. Good, not elite, but good, boring pitchers are a great way to be competitive in pitching.
- Grab one true closer and one elite middle reliever.
- Look at pitchers who need a good performance and will throw and throw and throw in order to increase their stock. Think Garrett Richards, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda.
- Change your league to innings pitcher instead of wins or quality starts this year, and make sure you’re using saves plus holds.
- Have fun and experiment. It’s a weird year for everyone. Embrace it.