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How to Approach High Stakes Leagues in 2020, Part 2


While we await confirmation that there will be a season, and clarity on how it will play out, there's plenty of fantasy baseball prep work to do. Sure, it's impossible to nail down definite strategies or exact player values with so much uncertainty surrounding the season. But we can at least start to figure out how much to move the needle on players, and think about changes that we as owners need to make during the shortened season.

A few days ago, we introduced part one of approaching high stakes drafts in 2020, and now we're back with part two. A universal DH seems like almost a lock at this point, and will significantly change some values, but we won't spend too much time on that. Brian Entreken already covered some of the fallout here, and there will be surely be more discussion on the topic over the next several weeks.

There will be plenty of other adjustments owners will have to make, both leading up to draft day, and in their in-season management. Let's dig into a few of those topics now.

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Managing your FAAB budget

Owners are given $1,000 to spend over the course of a season in NFBC leagues, with $1 being the minimum bid. In 2019, there were 26 waiver periods, which averages out to $38 per week for owners to spend. In 2020, our best guess is that there will probably be 13-17 weeks in which waivers will run, which would leave owners with somewhere between $59 and $77 to spend each week.

While it may seem like basic math, it won't be that simple, and it is going to be quite an adjustment for those of us who have been playing these leagues for a long time. The amounts we have been bidding on certain types of players will need to be modified.

A two-start pitcher you feel good about or a short-term fill-in on the hitting side may be worth quite a bit more than in previous seasons. This isn't just due to fewer waiver periods naturally inflating the price, but the value they can provide over a single week will be more impactful than it normally would be. Don't be afraid to be aggressive early in the season on free agents you feel could be a long-term assets, as scooping them up early on gives them more time to make an impact on your roster. Just be smart with your bids, as there's a difference between being aggressive and careless, and you'll want to save up more money than usual for the end of the year.

Owners often have a goal in mind as to what to save up for the final month or so of the season, with $50 or $100 being among the most common numbers to get by down the stretch. In 2020, owners will want to spread out their budget, and save up more money than that, since a month will be a higher percentage of the season than usual. It won't be impossible to get by with single-digit bids over the final few weeks, but it's not ideal, as owners will likely have more money to spend (especially compared to 2019) given the shorter season.

It won't be easy striking the balance between being aggressive on the wire and saving up more money for the last month. But owners coming out of the draft with a balanced roster and a couple of seemingly reliable closers, things we touched on in part one, could go a long way in accomplishing these goals. They'll be less likely to need to blow half their budget to find the next big closer or stolen base source, making it easier to have money left at the end.

 

Impact of Expanded Rosters

All signs point to larger active rosters for 2020, with 30 players looking like a very realistic scenario. One possible outcome of the roster expansion is that more platoons will be deployed across the league, as teams will be better-suited to mix and match given their added depth. More teams may look like the Rays this season, which can be very frustrating for fantasy owners.

So how can we adapt? Since NFBC switched to bi-weekly moves for hitters several years ago, I have typically tried to keep more hitters than pitchers on my bench, in order to maximize the matchups in both halves of the week. As of now, I plan to put even more emphasis on hitting depth, as the likelihood of more platoons means offensive flexibility is of the utmost importance, especially if there are fewer off days.

Players eligible at multiple positions are a nice luxury to have, but they may be more valuable than usual in 2020. Having that extra flexibility to switch out a player who isn't in the lineup on a Monday or Friday is always a good thing, and can be more impactful in a short season.

There is another effect of expanded rosters that may be overlooked by some. With a couple of extra arms in the pen, teams may be willing to pull their starters earlier in games, so they won't have to go through the order a third time. The short season could also make it easier to push top relievers a little harder, as 2020 won't be the marathon they are used to. This could very well give the top starters more value, as back of the rotation types may fall short of five innings quite often.

 

When injuries strike

Roster spots are at a premium in NFBC leagues, as the 30-man rosters consist of just seven bench slots, and no designated IL slots. It's always tough to decide whether or not to cut bait on players looking at an extended absence. The answer may be easier in 2020, as it will be very difficult to stash injured players for long in a shorter season.

If a top player goes down for a short stint on the IL, he would obviously be worth holding on to, but if a mid-round pick suffers what looks like a six-week injury, even early in the season, it's probably time to move on. There will still be some gray area and tough decisions when it comes to injuries. But the bottom line is, owners will need to be churning their roster spots more than usual, and exercising less patience for players on the IL.

 

Starting pitcher changes in value

There are a lot of unknowns regarding what things will look like once the regular season gets underway. That makes it very difficult at this time to nail down a strategy when it comes to starting pitching. After all, we don't even know where teams are going to be playing, and park factors play a large role in determining the values of pitchers.

There are a few obvious gainers in value when it comes to starting pitching, and that is the group of arms who were facing an innings limit heading into 2020. Jesus Luzardo, Julio Urias, and Lance McCullers, among others, weren't going to be throwing a full allotment of innings over the course of a 162-game schedule, but with the shortened season, their totals are likely to be more on par with the majority of other starters.

Here is a look at some pitcher ADP in January and February:

Now let's take a look at how different things look in drafts since April 1:

As you can see, the price on Luzardo and Urias is rising, as both have moved up more than two full rounds in 15-team leagues. But will the kid gloves come off completely? Luzardo has thrown exactly five innings 19 times in his young career (including minors), but has topped that mark just twice, and he's thrown a total of 12! major league innings.

Urias, meanwhile, did reach the 5 IP threshold in three of his first four appearances in 2019, but then moved to the pen, and didn't go more than 3 IP the rest of the way. He does seem to be a lock for the rotation, but the Dodgers have plenty of depth behind him, and it wouldn't be surprising for him to spend a little time in the pen again, or to just work three or four innings sometimes.

McCullers was mentioned above, but not included in the chart, as he isn't going until pick 173, up 20 spots from his Jan/Feb ADP. After missing the 2019 season following Tommy John surgery, he was going to be ready for Opening Day even before the delay, and offers plenty of upside at his current price.

Several pitchers who were going to miss part of the season had it started on time should now have time to be ready when play resumes, or close to it at least. James Paxton and Miles Mikolas should be moving back near their pre-injury ADP, while Rich Hill (April/May ADP 287) , who underwent elbow surgery in October, may even slot into the Minnesota rotation out of the gate.

While the value of the pitchers with innings limit concerns are on the rise, one might think that those who provide a great deal of their value through volume should probably be downgraded to some extent. But guys like Aaron Nola, Zack Greinke, and Zack Wheeler, to name a few, are likely to throw more innings per start than the youngsters, any downgrade should be minimal.

Another thing to consider is that the league may adopt a tighter schedule to fit more games in over a reduced period of time, with fewer off days and more double-headers. More clarity on this front will be coming in the near future, but if it comes to pass, sixth starters may take on a larger role. Therefore, it may be necessary to give guys like Dustin May, Ross Stripling, Austin Voth, Tyler Mahle, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Chris Bassitt a bump up in your ranks, but keep in mind they could be at risk of not going five innings every time out.

 

The Rookies

While we don't know exactly what things will look like beyond the active major league rosters, it's clear we won't be seeing anything resembling a typical minor league season. Therefore, it is inevitable that teams will be handling their prospects in a different manner in 2020. Service time rules, which are unclear at this point, and a team's chances of competing in 2020 will be contributing factors in determining when players are called up, but several will certainly be up sooner than expected.

Prospects such as Jo Adell and Alec Bohm were expected to spend a decent chunk of the season in the minors, but may instead break camp with the big clubs now. If that is the case, they would probably be worth rostering, but be careful not to move them up too far in your ranks. After all, in most cases, there was a reason these prospects were expected to spend more time in the minors, and there will be some short-term bumps in the road.

On the pitching side, teams will be faced with tough decisions if their prospects were in line for more minor league seasoning. Can organizations find ways to help pitchers get the necessary development if they're not on the active big-league roster, or will they want them refining their game at the major league level, even if it means taking their lumps? Young pitchers certainly need to get their work in one way or another, or their expected workload for 2021 will be significantly impacted.

Prospects such as Nate Pearson in Toronto and Spencer Howard in Philadelphia will be a couple of the bigger names impacted.  Each situation will be different, and many will be tough to predict. We don't know what the service time rules will be yet, and that, along with a team's chances of pushing for a playoff spot, could impact when they will make their debut under these new circumstances.

Many owners are constantly on the lookout for the next big thing, and are willing to pay a high price to take a chance on the upside. While most of these youngsters will deserve to be picked slightly earlier if they are in the majors early on, the potential struggles they may endure right off the bat may offset much of the playing time increase. Be careful not to gamble too much of your draft day capital on unproven rookies, especially those being rushed to the majors.

 

Conclusion

There are still a lot of issues that need to be sorted out before we can lock in strategies for the high stakes drafts. Some, such as the parks the teams will play in, and whether or not there will be a universal DH, will have some obvious ramifications, but it's important to carefully examine all of the other variables as well.

The schedule will have a significant impact on the value of many players, both in terms of the frequency of off-days, as well as the opponents teams will be facing most often. Also, expanded rosters could increase platoons and limit the opportunities for wins of back-end starters. This could push up the value of both top pitchers and top hitters, which may point to a stars and scrubs approach in auction leagues.

Here's hoping that both the health scare and money issues between players go away enough so that we can have some sort of season in 2020. If so, drafts are sure to be very interesting and unpredictable, and it's important to analyze all of the factors that will have changed values and viable strategies leading up to draft day.

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Week 6 was relatively healthy and had no coronavirus delays, so let's just take a moment to bask in that. That said, we still saw Miles Sanders (knee) and Zach Ertz (ankle) go down, while Mark Ingram (ankle) has a bye to get healthy. Week 7 byes are Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Minnesota. Let's get... Read More


Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Fantasy GMs are to be commended for rising to the unique challenges that have unfolded during this regular season. Injuries to critical players is an unwelcome reality that occurs every year. This is also the case for backs that were expected to operate as RB1s, but have been relegated to committees. However, this season has... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


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Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More