Into the Great Wide Open: 2020 Fantasy Baseball, MLB return

I’ve been at this fantasy baseball thing for a while. My playing predates email and the Colorado Rockies. When I first logged a sports or fantasy byline, Yahoo didn’t exist. I’ve seen a few things.

There is nothing that adequately prepares us for 2020. That’s true on the baseball field, and certainly in everyday life.

Baseball hammered out an agreement Tuesday, and that’s encouraging news. We love baseball. We miss baseball. Life is better with baseball.

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

Of course, there are a ton of questions that go along with this; good questions, even strange questions. Nobody has a lot of good answers right now — certainly not me.

So consider this piece the first step in wherever this 2020 MLB journey takes us. I’ll share with you my initial thoughts and ideas, for whatever they’re worth.

You are free to agree or disagree with anything here, as usual. And heck, I could have a new set of ideas in a few hours. This is the most fluid season we’ll ever see; it’s all a work in progress.

Yes, I’m going to play 2020 fantasy baseball

Sure, a 60-game season is funky as hell. Yes, it’s going to lead to strange samples and some massive flukes. But it’s still baseball. It’s still fun to watch it, root for it, try to figure it out. If they can get this plane off the ground and keep it airborne, I want a seat.

That said, my keeper league is taking a hiatus

The one long-running keeper league I play in (lots of love, 01824) long ago decided to put things on a one-year hiatus. It doesn’t seem right that a team could build up pieces for 2020, and then have it come down to a short season without the normal cadence, rhythm, and length.

Smaller entry fees feel right

For the 1-2 private leagues that are yet to draft, I am going to suggest we play for smaller-than-usual entry fees. It’s fun to have skin in the game. It’s nice to have something to win past bragging rights. But with the season almost feeling like an extended tournament, my instinct is to play for less in the middle.

(One of my good friends is already asking me to reconsider this. Maybe he’ll twist my arm. We’ll see.)

And if you play for money, have payout contingencies ready

We still can’t be sure if the season will start on time, a month from now. No one can know if MLB can successfully play out its 60-game target. My first idea on league payouts is to return whatever percentage of a season that is played, past some reasonable pre-determined number; if 30 games are played, my leagues would return 50 percent of the designated prizes. After that, I’d give everyone their entry back. (If we miss the minimum, full returns.)

I’m certainly not here to make the rules for anyone. If you’re in a private league, you have to decide with your group what feels right.

Generally, I prefer lighter DL slots, but not this year

Given the obvious health uncertainty clouding the entire league, this should be a year when fantasy leagues consider extended benches and/or flexible disabled-list rules. MLB players could obviously be sidelined from out of nowhere; heck, maybe an entire team could be forced off the field. Let’s make sure we give fantasy players bountiful options and lots of pliability.

The leagues I run will draft right before the July 23 open

Normally I prefer an early or middle-draft; let’s reward the fantasy players who can connect dots quickly. But given how much is unknown right now, the later dates feel more ideal. Yahoo has open dates available, from now until the end of July. I will steer my leagues to the weekend in front of the July 23 reboot.

I probably won’t make radical strategy changes tied to the universal DH

There are some obvious takeaways, of course. The NL has more position-player at-bats to play with. That’s nice. The NL pitchers no longer have the automatic-out opposing pitcher to face, although the hitting pitcher was already on the way out. It’s not like complete games are common these days, and most teams try to shield a starting pitcher from too many trips around an order.

Still, the NL will have a different tilt. We’ll see a different style, but I don’t think it will be a cannonball splash.

If you don’t go for seasonal, there’s always DFS (and gaming)

Maybe this 60-game business doesn’t do it for you, but you might feel differently when the ball is in play. Maybe this is a year when DFS (or gaming, where it’s available) is more your speed. You can dial in or log off at any time, play a day here, skip a day there. Maybe engage for one weekend, then get off the grid a weekend later. DFS will never replace seasonal for me, but I’m glad it’s around. And I expect gaming and player props to become a fun part of the fantasy landscape this decade.

We have a solid month to reconfigure player pools, draft strategies, sleepers, and busts. And no one can say for sure that baseball’s season will be played — or even started. But I’m all for staying positive when there’s a good reason to do so, and that’s how I feel today. Baseball’s back, and that’s a good thing.

Everything else, we can figure out as we go. Starting now.

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