Fantasy Baseball strategies for 2020: New DH rule changes NL values

Chris "Mad Dog" Russo joined Follow The Money and gave his thoughts on the MLB, thinking the home run king will hit more than 20 dingers in the shortened season.

Major League Baseball’s 60-game 2020 schedule gives us a fantasy baseball season unlike any other. Usual strategies and trends for draft preparation need to be re-adjusted or thrown out altogether. As the new cliché goes, “it’s a sprint, not a marathon.”

We’re all learning on the fly here, but here are a few of the tips I’ll be using for this unique MLB fantasy experience.

Maximize playing time
I’m as big a fan as anyone of grabbing high-upside projections for my fantasy baseball team. However, in a 60-game season this is the time to look at sure things and limit sleepers. In other words, play it safe.

Players with higher floors and lower ceilings are the way to go because if your long-shot pickups don’t pan out there won’t be enough time to recover. Also avoid platoon situations as much as possible as every at-bat counts so much more in this shortened campaign.

Downgrade National League pitchers
The implementation of the universal designated hitter means we need to look closer at which National League pitchers you draft and where. NL hurlers always had the luxury of the “easy out” in facing their mound counterpart in the batting order. A DH being introduced to the lineup means consistently better hitters at the plate.

This, of course, doesn’t affect the ranking of American League arms who are used to facing designated hitters. In general, if it’s a close call on deciding between two pitchers, I’d recommend leaning towards adding the one from the AL.

Speaking of the DH…
While National League pitchers may suffer from the addition of the designated hitter, it opens up opportunities for position players. Be sure to track NL team depth charts, as usual utility options could be looking at more regular action.

An example is Howie Kendrick of the Washington Nationals, who could see more playing time after a stellar 2019. Especially with Ryan Zimmerman opting to sit out for 2020, Kendrick’s listing as the DH starter definitely increases his fantasy value. In a normal year, the veteran would be a roving backup at first, second and third base, but now he’ll be a regular in some capacity.

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Blue Jays 2020 Fantasy Rankings
Using combined average from ESPN, CBS, Yahoo!

58th – Bo Bichette (SS)
63rd – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B, 3B, DH)
117th – Ken Giles (RP)
121st – Hyun-Jin Ryu (SP)
149th – Cavan Biggio (2B, RF)
153rd – Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (2B, SS, LF)
334th – Nate Pearson (SP)

This goes against my earlier advice of staying clear of flyers, but Nate Pearson is too good to resist. The six-foot-six 100-m.p.h. chucking rookie can be the exception to the rule because of how few times opponents will actually see him.

Maybe over a full season teams would get enough looks at Pearson to figure him out. I’m banking on the Florida native’s pro-ready raw power racking up piles of strikeouts in limited appearances. Consider Pearson as starting pitching bench depth with loads of fantasy upside.

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Recommendations for your fantasy league setup
A couple last recommendations before you draft…

● It’s exciting that baseball is back, but with all the COVID-19 uncertainty there’s no guarantee that we’ll make it all the way through to the World Series. I suggest setting a clear “point of no return” deadline of 45 games. If the season is interrupted prior to that mark, then everyone gets their money back.

● Consider including extra injured list spots. Who knows how many players might miss time due to the virus. Allowing roster flexibility will be key to keeping your league running as smoothly as possible.

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