Fantasy Baseball 2020: Roto Rankings, Draft Strategies for 60-Game Season

Fantasy Baseball 2020: Roto Rankings, Draft Strategies for 60-Game Season

Atlanta Braves center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) reacts after popping out to second baseman Ozzie Albies during a practice baseball game, Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

John Bazemore/Associated Press

Fantasy baseball is almost back, but it won’t be business as usual for the foreseeable future.

With MLB set to play a condensed, 60-game schedule, this will be a fantasy campaign like no other.

How should owners respond? On one hand, it’s probably best not to overthink it. There are some strategic changes to consider, but for the most part, the best real-life players remain the best fantasy options.

After laying out our latest top-50 rankings for rotisserie leagues, we’ll examine three strategies worth exploring for your upcoming drafts.

Top 50 Roto Rankings for 2020

1. Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves

2. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

3. Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

4. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

5. Mookie Betts, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

7. Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals

8. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals

9. Gerrit Cole, SP, New York Yankees

10. Alex Bregman, 3B/SS, Houston Astros

11. Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies

12. Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets

13. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

14. Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox

15. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves

16. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Los Angeles Angels

17. Bryce Harper, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

18. J.D. Martinez, OF, Boston Red Sox

19. Jose Ramirez, 3B, Cleveland Indians

20. Justin Verlander, SP, Houston Astros

21. Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals

22. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

23. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs

24. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres

25. Starling Marte, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

26. Walker Buehler, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

27. Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies

28. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals

29. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox

30. Jack Flaherty, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

31. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

32. Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets

33. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

34. Gleyber Torres, SS/2B, New York Yankees

35. Manny Machado, 3B/SS, San Diego Padres

36. Shane Bieber, SP, Cleveland Indians

37. Austin Meadows, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

38. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays

39. Nelson Cruz, DH, Minnesota Twins

40. Luis Castillo, SP, Cincinnati Reds

41. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs

42. Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves

43. Yordan Alvarez, DH, Houston Astros

44. Ketel Marte, OF/2B, Arizona Diamondbacks

45. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs

46. Patrick Corbin, SP, Washington Nationals

47. Jonathan Villar, 2B/SS, Miami Marlins

48. Max Muncy, 2B/1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers

49. Eddie Rosario, OF, Minnesota Twins

50. Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Draft Strategies

Devalue—But Don’t Neglect—Pitching

Pitching is inherently volatile. Even the top arms in baseball can only have so much control while hurling a small object close to (or more than) 100 miles per hour.

That volatility will only increase in this shortened season. A 60-game sample often isn’t enough to separate great pitchers from also-rans. If the 2019 campaign had ended after 60 games, Gerrit Cole would’ve carried a 3.94 ERA, while Zach Davies posted a pristine 2.20.

Beyond the normal fluctuations, there’s also the fact pitchers don’t have the same warm-up process as normal and might not be afforded their typical workloads.

These are all reasons to lower the price you’re willing to pay for pitching, but don’t neglect the position entirely. There’s a chance this actually widens the gap between the elite and the others, so you might want to grab a couple of top arms if the price is right.

Prioritize Power-Speed Combinations

It’s next to impossible to win a fantasy title right now without power. MLB hitters combined to crush a record 6,776 homers last season. The record they broke—by 671 long-balls—was set just two seasons back.

It’s getting even more difficult to find stolen bases anywhere. No one swiped 50 bags last season, and only three players—Mallex Smith, Adalberto Mondesi and Jonathan Villar—stole more than 37.

With power a necessity and stolen bases scarce, any chance to address both categories with a single selection is probably worth your while. That’s part of the reason Mike Trout has so often been regarded as the best overall option in fantasy. It’s also why we’re even more excited about Ronald Acuna Jr. (78 combined homers and steals last season) and Christian Yelich (74) than Trout (56) this season.

While we wouldn’t recommend reaching for a lesser hitter just to add steals, grabbing an elite performer who can nearly carry that category by himself makes the rest of your draft so much easier.

Trust the Prospects

Fantasy owners don’t usually need encouragement to take interest in prospects, but even then, you might want to dial up your enthusiasm for this season.

Service-time manipulation could be (mostly) out the window, at least among clubs trying to compete. Since teams are operating on a prorated schedule, the impact of keeping a top prospect down longer than necessary is magnified. Plus, teams can’t claim players need more reps against minor league competition when there is no minor league season.

If the chances are greater for prospects to get playing time, they could also be greater for those players to produce fantasy-relevant numbers. Recently promoted players often have a leg up on the league before their scouting reports are distributed. Just last season, Austin Riley was shot out of a cannon in mid-May (nine homers in his first 18 games), then Aristides Aquino upped the ante during an August promotion (11 in 16).

If you’re rostering a top prospect who surges into his pro career during a 60-game season, that could be enough to secure your playoff spot or even net you a fantasy title. As long as your leaguemates aren’t driving prospect prices through the roof, you should take an aggressive approach toward youngsters with a good chance to crack the big leagues sooner than later like Luis Robert, Gavin Lux and Dylan Carlson.

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