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Roundtable: 2020 Strategy

Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Fantasy Roundtable, where the Rotoworld Baseball staff will have a free-flowing discussion about a topic du jour. The back-and-forth between the five of us occurred via email, but we’ve repurposed it in an article for your enjoyment. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, anyway.

Ryan Boyer: We have learned in 2020 that we can’t count on anything happening according to plan. However, we are a couple weeks away from what is supposed to be Opening Day. We’ll get into strategy for the 60-game season later, but first let’s focus on how you’d recommend fantasy leagues are handled to account for the shortened season.

One obvious change to me comes with head-to-head leagues. It just doesn’t make sense to me to determine a champion based on 7-9 weeks of matchups (depending on how long your playoffs are). Is the answer to have multiple matchups per week? Scrap the playoffs entirely? Or should you just change your format?

Potential changes in standard roto leagues are less obvious, I think. How is your league handling things?

D.J. Short: For this year, I’d probably switch from head-to-head to standard roto. This year is going to be random enough as is to invite even more randomness like having multiple matchups per week. One of the good things about head-to-head is that it keeps people more engaged over a 162-game season. In theory, that shouldn’t be an issue with a 60-game season. It’s only two months we are talking about here. I know some people are getting creative with head-to-head alternatives, but I don’t think you need to force it.[[ad:athena]]

Drew Silva: Rotisserie-style scoring has always been ideal for baseball, and if anything good can come from this mess, maybe it’s that head-to-head commissioners will be convinced to make a permanent change to roto.

I’m in one dynasty spending league that is completely scrapping the year and doing a brand-new draft leading into 2021. You can keep players at what their price points would have been in 2020. I fear, as a fantasy writer, that we may come to find that as a common strategy. But I also get it in the current climate, with many big names on draft boards currently missing from summer camp for “undisclosed reasons.” It’s hard to stage a fantasy season when you don’t know where your players are or when they’ll be returning.

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Christopher Crawford: I’m in one dynasty spending draft, and we’re currently discussing how to go about how to handle things. I’m also in a dynasty format where we advance a player’s round each year, and I believe we’re going to just pause that, which is the right call; this year is just going to be too bizarre to treat it like a normal one. It also seems like this is the year to play with scoring changes; while you only are going to get a 60-game sample size -- if that -- it sure makes some sense to see how you like playing in certain formats compared to others. Things are weird. It feels callous to say you should “embrace” that, but, I certainly wouldn’t besmirch anyone who tried to make this as enjoyable as possible.

Silva: I don’t mean to be a downer. I think daily fantasy action will be way up, and roto leagues will be fun in a turbo-poker kind of way. It’ll be great entertainment if they can pull this thing off.

Boyer: I’m with you on DFS, Drew. While there is inherently tons of variance with DFS, it isn’t really changed much by the shortened season.

One thing I’ll add to round out this discussion is eliminating wins/quality starts as a roto category this season. I think most everyone is expecting a good number of starters to go 3-4 innings initially, perhaps for multiple starts. Quality starts might be few and far between, and lots of wins are going to be vultured by long relievers no one drafted. Innings pitched probably makes the most sense as a replacement category.

On a related note, I find myself pushing starters down my rankings for the reason I just mentioned. The exception would be guys who had been in line for curtailed workloads who now will be cut loose.

What are some strategy changes you guys are making?

Matthew Pouliot: The concern about pitchers being that limited in their pitch counts might be overblown... it’ll be the case for some, but it seems like many pitchers managed to keep their arms in good shape during the lockdown and will be ready for a pretty normal workload when things get started. That said, with 10-13 relievers on pitching staffs initially and managers treating every game with extra importance, teams are probably going to be extra aggressive in pulling starters anyway. I wish MLB would make it so that starters only had to throw three or four innings to qualify for a win this year.

I’ve had a few ideas for win vultures I’d like to target, but with everything still so fluid, it’s rather early to make those calls. One of Ross Stripling or Dustin May is probably going to end up in the Dodgers rotation in place of David Price, yet the other might be more valuable for fantasy purposes because of the win factor. Yusmeiro Petit in Oakland seems like a good bet. The Yankees’ Chad Green and the Cardinals’ Daniel Ponce de Leon are a couple of others to consider.

Silva: I don’t think my draft strategy will be all that different. You still want the best players available and you still want a well-rounded roster that is capable of delivering high-level production for each scoring category. It’s just that this year, high-level production might come from some unknown sources. There is plenty of evidence of non-elite players performing at elite levels for one-month and even two-month stretches. I might be more inclined to take a chance on a guy who suddenly gets hot, even if there’s no evidence that it’s sustainable over the long term. But that’s more of a waiver wire thing than a draft thing.

One little wrinkle that will be on my mind going into this new world of summertime drafts is that players on AL Central and NL Central teams seemingly stand to benefit from MLB’s geographic-oriented schedule. Less travel, more Tigers and Royals and Pirates. I’m giving a small boost to pitchers and hitters in the Central divisions. Finally, the Midwest rises!

Short: And to finish up here, more draft talk. What do you do with leagues you drafted this spring, especially with some notable players beginning to opt out?

I’ve heard of some leagues where folks are picking 10 players to keep and redrafting the rest. It sounds interesting to me. And a fun exercise, at least if everyone accepts the fact that randomness is likely to determine everything. Still, is it worth the trouble?

Crawford: I like that idea. I know that most of us are in a league together where I drafted Chris Sale before he opted for Tommy John surgery, I sure wouldn’t mind a do over in that league. It also seems like if you’re doing a slow-draft you’re going to have to make that decision in a hurry with under two weeks to go until the regular season starts.

As for draft strategy, I think you might be able to find some pitching “steals” because of the concerns being overblown, as Matthew points out. Ultimately it’s all about BPA, and if the best players on your board are hurlers, I don’t think you should avoid them. Heck, I would say the top arms might even have had value added, but I might be crazy.

Short: Yes, I think you still want three things: Pitchers in good situations, volume, strikeouts. Cole, deGrom, Scherzer, and Verlander still stand out above the rest and I wouldn’t change them much at all.

Boyer: The non-keeper leagues I’m in all have elected not to redraft, with the reasoning basically being “it’s not ideal, but we’re all in the same boat.” Although, I suspect the real reason is “we don’t really feel like figuring out a date that works for everyone.” Ha. I think it makes sense to redraft wherever it’s possible. It also makes sense to come up with a revised payout structure in the event the season isn’t completed. If we reach a certain number of games (the numbers I’ve seen usually are in the 40-45 range), the payout is X% of the pot and the rest is returned. Anything short of that and everything is refunded.

You guys might be right that I’m too worried about pitcher workloads. I do think there will be a handful of guys that the rule won’t really apply to, and the guys D.J. mentioned certainly might qualify. That could potentially make them even more valuable than they were this spring, although it’s not easy to peg all the guys that fall into this bucket. Perhaps we will get some illuminating comments from their respective managers that will clarify things.