Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Which players will benefit most from an altered MLB season?

Fred ZinkieYahoo Fantasy Contributor
Yahoo Sports

Despite all that our world is facing right now, the odds are high that Major League Baseball action will return at some point in 2020. And while we do not yet know a start date, we can expect that the season will hold far fewer than 162 games and could include teams playing more than the standard average of six games per week.

[Prep for MLB's return: Create or join a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball League]

For those who want to get ahead of the competition, here are the groups of players who will see their fantasy stock rise in a season that will be less of a marathon than we are used to.

Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Verlander, and more injured players

This is the most obvious group of beneficiaries. Players who were expected to begin the season on the IL will now have weeks or months to regain full health before the new Opening Day. Pitchers such as Justin Verlander, James Paxton, and Miles Mikolas now have the potential to be part of their team’s first trip through the rotation. The delay will also help a pair of supersized sluggers in Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, who were both expected to miss multiple weeks.

Aaron Judge could be ready to help your fantasy team by the team the new Opening Day comes. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Aaron Judge could be ready to help your fantasy team by the team the new Opening Day comes. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Top prospects like Nate Pearson, Jo Adell

At this point, we don’t know how Major League Baseball will handle service time for 2020 rookies, but no matter how the new deadlines are arranged, teams will likely be more aggressive in promoting their youngsters. Organizations know that getting additional early season wins will be even more impactful in a shortened campaign. And the possible expansion of the postseason field will result in more teams believing they have a chance to play meaningful games in the fall. Prospects such as Nate Pearson, MacKenzie Gore, Jo Adell, Nick Madrigal, and Dylan Carlson could begin helping fantasy teams shortly after the season begins.

Young position players

A condensed schedule will take a toll on everyone, but the youngest and healthiest players are the best equipped to deal with a multitude of seven- or eight-game weeks. Those who need days off in a traditional schedule are destined to miss an even higher percentage of games, and most players who fit into that category are on the wrong side of 30 and/or have a lengthy injury history.

Managers don’t need to avoid veterans, but this is a great year to use age and health history as the first tie-breaker on draft day.

Jesus Luzardo, Chris Paddack, and pitchers with innings limits

A few young hurlers who were expected to have their innings capped will now be part of every rotation turn. The A’s will be fine with Jesus Luzardo making roughly 20 starts, while the Astros no longer need to cap the innings for Lance McCullers Jr. Chris Paddack will now get a fair chance to be the top starter in the NL, as he has every opportunity to match the innings total of the established aces.

Matthew Boyd and pitchers who rack up strikeouts

Sticking with hurlers, those who rack up strikeouts are better draft investments than those who get most of their value by producing low ratios. Starters should have an appearances total in the range of 20 rather than 30, which means that a few subpar outings are going to weigh more heavily on their final ERA and WHIP. We tend to see significant month-to-month ratio fluctuations from starters in every season, and fewer months means less time for these fluctuations to even out. Low-strikeout starters such as Kyle Hendricks lose a bit of value, while swing-and-miss hurlers such as Matthew Boyd get a boost.

Skilled setup men

Talented players who typically work the seventh or eighth inning could be more valuable for two reasons. First, a condensed schedule could lead to managers spreading out their save chances when they arise in bunches. Second, managers are going to feel the pressure to have immediate success in 2020 and may have a quick hook with marginal ninth-inning men who get off to a poor start.

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Players without a capable backup

The shortened schedule will force managers to make tough decisions on players who get off to slow starts. While we are used to managers sticking with veterans who struggle during April, we could see those same skippers bench those who have a poor initial month in a shortened season. Of course, managers will be quicker to make a change if they have a viable alternative. Players will need a successful start if they have a top prospect nipping at their heels or are on a team with quality depth. The players in situations without a strong alternative are safer fantasy options.

Multi-position players

A condensed schedule will force managers to use many lineups in order to get their players appropriate rest. This is a great year to take a chance on a skilled utilityman, as he could find his name on the lineup card virtually every day. Additionally, having players with multi-position eligibility will allow those in daily leagues the freedom to constantly shuffle their lineups and maximize their games played. Players such as Tommy Edman, Jon Berti, and Asdrubal Cabrera are among the players who could be mixed-league contributors despite not sitting atop their team’s depth chart at any position

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