Although not ready to offer up an estimated date, I fully believe that Major League Baseball will have a 2020 season as we’ve seen with the KBO. And the shortened schedule gives fantasy managers a couple of reasons to try some alternative draft strategies.
First, the altered nature of this season will create unusual fantasy values. And second, the shortened season is the perfect opportunity for managers to try an oddball strategy that they have never been ready to commit to in a real league under normal circumstances.
For those who are willing to think outside the box, here are seven alternative draft plans for 2020.
Go heavy on hitting
This is perhaps the least unusual strategy on the list, although it’s become less popular in recent years. With a lack of quality pitching across baseball of late, managers have been more willing to pay up for stud pitchers in the early rounds. But pitching is going to be an absolute mess this season. Even the best hurlers may open the season as five-inning starters after an abbreviated Spring Training. And a condensed format will encourage some teams to employ a six-man rotation, regularly use spot starters, or schedule bullpen days. Managers could load up on the best position players in the early rounds before assembling a pitching staff with mid-tier arms, hoping to manage their pitching on the fly.
Focus on hitters and closers
A modified version of the previous plan would be to load up on hitters at the expense of starting pitchers while not neglecting saves. A shortened season gives closers fewer opportunities to lose their jobs, which may result in more stoppers being able to meet expectations. Managers could start their draft with a half-dozen hitters before grabbing at least two of the elite closers. And for the reasons mentioned in the previous section, they can avoid starters until the middle rounds in hopes of riding the wave as managers piece together their starting staff.
This oddball strategy has nothing to do with the unusual nature of the 2020 season. I have been a proponent of punting saves for several years, as I have often employed this strategy and finished atop my league. Closers are a frustrating venture, and by avoiding them altogether from draft day to the end of the season, a manager can focus all their resources on hitters and starters. This strategy is more valuable in leagues that use FAAB, as the limited resources for adding free agents must be managed. Those in leagues with a waiver wire are better off to compete in all categories.
Go heavy on pitching and punt steals
Another way to combat the uncertainty of pitching in a shortened season is to try to rise above the chaos by grabbing a few of the elite arms who can separate from the rest of the pack. But there has to be some give and take with this plan, as managers can’t expect to be competitive in all hitting categories after using most (or all) of their early picks on hurlers. Steals are by far the most predictable of the offensive categories, which makes it the easiest one to punt. Managers could start their draft with three or four stud starters before grabbing a couple of elite closers and then launching into several rounds of grabbing power hitters who possess little speed.
Punt batting average
When managers punt a cumulative category such as steals or saves, they are resigning themselves to finish last in that area. But the volatility of batting averages makes it possible to punt the category on draft day, catch a few breaks and finish with a few surprising points. Hitters tend to see their batting marks fluctuate from month to month, and a shortened season gives those fluctuations less time to even out.
Managers could draft a few Miguel Sano types and end up with a better-than-expected average. And of course, by getting some low-average sluggers at a discount, managers open up opportunities to load up on other skill sets in the earlier rounds.
Draft an entire team under age-27
A condensed schedule is going to be hard on baseball players’ bodies. Some players already struggle to appear in six games per week, and they may be asked to regularly navigate seven-game weeks during a season in which baseball is going to cram in as many games as possible in a shortened time frame. Logically, the younger bodies around baseball will have an easier time handling the workload, playing in a high volume of games, and reaching their fantasy potential. Managers could try to capitalize on this line of thinking by setting an age cap of 27 years old for all their draft picks.
Load up on one team
As was discussed in the batting average section, oddball statistics will have less opportunity to even out during a shortened season. This draft strategy is the season-long variation of the common DFS strategy where managers grab a handful of players from one team in hopes that they all succeed together. Managers could try a fun strategy of loading up on players from a lineup that they predict will do surprisingly well in 2020. Everyone is high on hitters on the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers, but a team like the Blue Jays, Rangers, or Padres could provide a major profit if their lineup clicks and exceeds expectations.