Fantasy Baseball 2020: What to expect in 2020?
The season officially began last night, but most teams will be making their debut today or tonight. So, now seems as good a time as any to finally address fantasy baseball in 2020. Those of you that have been following the site know I haven’t been focusing on the here and now for awhile. Part of that is by design. I honestly thought the here and now would never get here. However, I have organized a few thoughts about how the current state of being will affect fantasy baseball this year.
Questions about format
There is only really one question that matters as it pertains to format: free or not free. I play in a few leagues every year and none of those leagues treated the abbreviated season in the same way. Some leagues switched formats because a head to head format didn’t make any sense. Some of them kept it the same and just went about it the best way they could. Either way, that’s not the question that most fantasy players ask themselves going into the season and it’s not the most interesting question now.
The most important question is whether I should play in a money league/contest or not. Honestly, I can’t answer that question for you in even the best of circumstances. That depends on each individual person and their comfort level with gambling. I remember playing in a local golf tournament and getting paired up with a guy I’d never met. He immediately asked how much we would be playing for that day. Then I think he introduced himself as Bill. That wasn’t an enjoyable round for me. My tolerance for gambling is pretty low.
However, you should remember one thing. If any expert tries to tell you they know how this season will go they are full of something. None of us really know what we are talking about right now. If you aren’t an expert and you want the chance to beat one then this might be your best chance. Experts win because they do the research, understand trends, and know how data can help them over a 162 game schedule come out on top. All of those things go out the window in a 60 game sprint.
How do the expanded playoffs effect the season?
I think the biggest effect on the season will be the trade deadline. You can usually split the baseball world into thirds in a traditional season. There are ten playoff teams. So, a third know they are in the playoffs or have a really good chance. A third know they are out of the playoffs, and the other third has to make up their mind along the way. At any time by late July you could have an equal number of buyers and sellers. That always makes the trade deadline a little fun.
This year you have more than half of the league already in the playoffs. You could imagine maybe six or seven more teams thinking they have a legitimate chance to get there. That leaves only six to eight teams that know they will likely be out of the hunt. When you have upwards of 20 teams wanting something and only a half dozen in position to sell, that changes the dynamic dramatically.
In a shortened season that means most teams will put their best foot forward. Usually, the bad teams have given up by midseason. There will be fewer bad teams by that definition and even then they will have more incentive to at least give it the old college try. Independent of factors like illness (COVID), injury, and fatigue, you will see regulars playing more often for competitive purposes. Plus, the universal DH will likely keep guys in the lineup more often as well. National League teams in particular will likely use the spot as a way to rest regulars, but keep their bat in the lineup.
My Best Guess
It seems hypocritical to come out and give advice right after saying I had no idea of exactly what would happen. So, take this as an educated guess and nothing more. It would seem logical to say that the group most effected by this format will be the pitchers. They didn’t get a full spring training and the shortened season could turn strategy into more of a tournament style of baseball.
So, if I were to focus my energy on anything in terms of my fantasy squad it would be to make sure I have as strong a regular lineup as possible. That also means having quality backups at as many spots as possible. We will likely see more injuries and time lost for COVID than we have in past seasons. For instance, Juan Soto and Clayton Kershaw were scratched right before their openers because of COVID and injury respectively. I imagine this will be a common occurrence.
The successful fantasy owners HAVE to watch the waiver wire and pay attention to the news more closely this year than in seasons past. There will be more adjustments than ever before. It also means that the winner will be the luckiest player and not necessarily the best player. Of course, this could be comforting or unsettling depending on your point of view.