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
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.
Send your news and stories to us email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and WhatsApp: +447747873668.
Before you go...
Democratic norms are being stress-tested all over the world, and the past few years have thrown up all kinds of questions we didn't know needed clarifying – how long is too long for a parliamentary prorogation? How far should politicians be allowed to intervene in court cases? To monitor these issues as closely as we have in the past we need your support, so please consider donating to The Climax News Room.