SPECULATOR: 60-Game Roundtable, Part 1

Buckle up! This 60-game season (with BUDS still well in mind) will be a wild ride.

We're jumping right into it this week with a four-part Speculator series that taps into the collective wisdom of the BaseballHQ.com staff. The goal here simple: to give you as many perspectives as possible on all things short season—from league rule changes and pitcher strategy, to prospect values and more—so you can start scratching together that 60-game draft plan.

We posed a number of questions to our staff over the weekend and given the volume of responses, we're breaking it into thirds (plus an extra goodie). Here's the schedule:

Tuesday: Rule changes to consider; prospects for 2020.

Wednesday: Starting pitcher strategy; advice for leagues that have already drafted.

Thursday: Closers; other draft prep considerations.

Thursday night, 8pm ET: I'll be hosting a LIVE STREAM to wrap it all up for BaseballHQ.com subscribers! We'll bring on several staffers throughout the hour-ish-long show to dive deeper into their responses, and you'll have the opportunity to ask questions LIVE throughout the exclusive event. We'll post the private subscriber link in Parts 2 and 3 along with a landing page on Thursday. Hope you can join us!

And with that—let's skip to it.


Question 1 — What types of rule changes should your league consider to account for the shortened season?

Phil Hertz: First and foremost, leagues need to determine/announce how many games need to be played to count. Does it need to be a full 60 games, or would 45 or 50 be enough? The last thing you want is to have a fight about payoffs if 60 games are not played. I also think no minimums make the most sense. We have no idea how things are going to play out.

Josh Paley: Our league is considering doing a redraft for one year as a couple of owners don't want to use players for just 60 games. Apparently, this is worth discussing as they are passionate about it.

Two things are for certain: it's bound to be a crazy year in your fantasy league in 2020, and you'll need a guide. Subscribe to BaseballHQ.com!

Kris Olson: My keeper leagues that had not yet drafted are all "mothballing" rosters and pulling together "one-off" contests for 2020. Most seem to agree that ditching Wins in favor of Innings Pitched is the way to go in what is shaping up to be a wacky year for Wins (though some owners want to embrace that wackiness). One league is considering banning trading for simplicity's sake. While I know a lot of leagues are scaling down FAAB proportionally, I don't think that's essential, unless there are in-season cap implications. Also probably need to add an IL spot or two to rosters that use them, as I expect players to be sidelined fairly regularly after positive COVID-19 tests.

Matt Cederholm: My sense is that most leagues don't consider 60 games a "real" season and are skipping 2020 (perhaps playing a one-off in the meantime). However, if you ARE having some sort of season, I would suggest eliminating IP minimums, especially in 5x5 leagues. We don't know what SP usage will look like. Also, change Wins to IP (same reason). Change Saves to Saves+Holds. Position minimums to 3 games.

Doug Dennis: There are many things that one can do that will unintentionally create winners/losers based on roster construction in keeper leagues, so I would be wary of doing things that tip the balance to favor some teams over others. In redraft leagues, I would consider redrafting again, and as close to the season start as possible, with any rules tweaks well known, in advance.

Nick Richards: Two things our keeper dynasty league is doing: 1) If the season ends prematurely before we can crown a champ (H2H with playoffs), the season does not count and everyone's fees roll over to 2021 -- important to get that understanding in place BEFORE the season begins; and 2) We normally have no Injured list, but we are creating a temporary COVID list, unlimited, to allow replacement for sick or quarantined players, but with the understanding that this list goes away when the season ends, so you have to drop those guys.

Bob Berger: My long-time (31 years) NL-only keeper league drafted in March. We've decided to freeze those rosters and roll them over for 2021. We will play 2020 by drafting one-season only teams from scratch. The debate now is whether this season will be inscribed on the plaque. :-)

Matt Dodge: My AL-only keeper league held its 36th season auction draft (and first one online) in March, and we are going forward with only minor tweaks for such things as trading deadlines. We are polling the membership on possible reduced entry fees and whether there will be a minimum number of actual games played to generate payouts (or if not, return said entry fees). Owners uninterested in this sprint season can sit out, and we will freeze their rosters to retain the 12 owner player pool depth. Players who sit out or hit the IL for COVID19 can be cut for additional FAAB $ but will be ineligible to be re-FAABed in 2020 if they change their mind and go back to playing in 2020.

Patrick Davitt: Re IP minimums, my first thought was to pro-rate to GP (my league is 1,000 innings, 60 games is 37% of a full season, 37% of a 1,000-IP limit is 370 innings). If the season runs shorter, adjust. Re keepers: I'd either go with a one-off redraft for this season only, and then resume 2021 with the keeper league; or I could see playing this year with the kept rosters, but not counting the season toward contracts. A player who is S1 this year stays S1 next year, and so on. A player due an option call this year would still have to decide on a long-term or play-out, but again 2020 wouldn't count.

Arik Florimonte: In our H2H pts league, my co-commissioner and I identified three main issues: fees/prizes, "keeper" points (our way of limiting determining keepers), and what happens if the season doesn't finish. We decided that the year does count against service time. We have already drafted, so if we froze contracts, we would have to go a full year without any keeper points being allocated, and then draft again, which didn't make sense. We imply ruled on that one, but if we get any protest we'll open it to a vote. The question of whether fees are refunded has been put to a vote (currently 5-3 in favor of playing on). Finally, we decided that if the season goes <4 weeks, we'll refund all money anyway. If it goes less than 8, we'll crown champions based on total points, and if got >8 but <10 (i.e. we start but don't finish playoffs), we'll split the prize money between the teams that are in the running.

Dave Adler: So much for the 35th-anniversary auction in my AL-only league! We're freezing rosters for a year and doing a one-off just for fun. We considered adding the NL-East to our draftable players, but that was nixed by the Luddites. Definitely a decrease in IP minimums.

Ryan Bloomfield: My home keeper league (we auctioned in March) is voting this week to either, 1) play out the season and honor contracts as-is, or 2) play it out "for fun" — no payouts, rule changes, etc. — and freeze all contracts for next year. I'm voting for #1. Wins will be total chaos in 2020; change that category to IP if you haven't drafted yet!

Harold Nichols: Home keeper league requires 12 games played to add a new position. In a shortened season that may need to be changed.

Jock Thompson: First an attitude recalibration; enjoy whatever baseball we might get, consider playing w/ reduced or no payouts. Eliminating Ws for IP is a must, unless you indeed want to embrace the luck factor. If your keeper leagues were set to play when everything was shut down in March, freeze those contracts into 2021. (Ryan Bloomfield is a really smart guy). Take your owners' temperatures; if some want to pass on 2020, assimilate that into any game/rules you might consider.

Bill McKnight: I'm commissioner for two head-to-head points leagues, and I have recommended that we use a strategy of every team plays every other team each week rather than actually using the head-to-head. We're also cutting the playoffs down from 3 weeks to the final 1.5 weeks. We're also prorating the fee, or even possibly eliminating it.

Andy Andres: How about moving W and Sv together? W to IP, Sv to W+Sv+Hlds? This helps the fantasy games respond to trends in pitcher usage that we are seeing recently, and will likely be the best time to convince leagues to try it out.

Greg Fishwick: Most have been covered—For leagues using QS, drop or replace with IP (or even W). Reduce IP/AB/PA minimums to 30-33%. In-season eligibility to 3 games. H2H play all (or at least multiple) teams each week (or shorten series to M-Th + F-Sun) and/or expand W-L to include each category (whether points or rankings) if now just 1 W-L/week; consider eliminating or using tournament-style playoffs. Allow FAAB and trading, freeze contracts in place at end of 2020 for 2021. Consider lowering league fees/payouts to 33-50% of usual; 40+ games an official season, <40 = refund or rollover to 2021. Unlimited or vastly expanded IL. If normally no bench, draft 3-5 reserves and allow immediate replacement of players placed on MLB IL and/or FAAB 2x/week (e.g., Sunday and Thursday nights).

Chris Blessing: I don't want to play in dynasty or keeper leagues this year. I hope many of my leagues freeze for 2020 and we'll come back in 2021. My home keeper league has suspended the season and started a redraft league for a quarter of the buy-in with categories like SB%, IP, and H + SV being added. It's a big change for these folks. I love it.

Brant Chesser: Like many have said, many of my keeper leagues have frozen the league for 2020 and opted for a redraft league. We will pick back up our keeper league in 2021 with our 2019 rosters. In H2H leagues, we chose to have multiple matchups per week or play Roto standings for one year.

Alain de Leonardis: Whatever your typical number of bench slots--especially if they're usually limited to 5-6--double it. I wouldn't even bother with extra IL slots, as there might be a truly unprecedented number of injured and sick players. In terms of categories, consider ditching W for IP, SV for HD+SV. Most of my keeper leagues have either been frozen entirely (put on ice while an alternate redraft league is established/drafted with a reduced buy-in) or have decided to at least freeze contracts for a year, if applicable.

Alex Beckey: I think the greatest emphasis needs to be placed on lineups and transactions. With COVID-19 testing, it's very possible that players will be held out for at least a few days, if not a few weeks. COVID-19 could also end a season (or a career) - let's hope not! However, I think it's important to be able to adjust rosters accordingly. I would recommend daily lineup changes for a shortened season and increasing the injured list to accommodate COVID-19 and smaller injuries that could have a bigger impact on teams with fewer games. Additionally, I would recommend roster sizes (the number of bench players and injured players, etc.) be proportionate to the frequency of transactions. For example, a smaller bench might necessitate daily transactions, whereas a larger bench may be more appropriate for infrequent or no transactions.


Question 2 — Does your outlook on the redraft value of top prospects change at all for 2020? Are you pushing up certain prospects for the 60-game sprint?

Phil Hertz: Depends on things like the size of a reserve list. Leaving aside the value of prospects for future years, I suspect few prospects will have a big impact and don't forget many prospects don't thrive at first.

Josh Paley: It seems like most MLB teams will be carrying multiple top prospects to make sure they get work. That would push up the value of such players.

Matt Cederholm: As I understand it, the modified rules mean that there's really no gain to manipulating service time. So if you think a prospect can contribute, he's worth drafting. At the same time, a struggling rookie is going to have a much shorter leash, and even a top prospect is a 50/50 bet to succeed in his first time up.

Kris Olson: Best I can tell, this issue is very much in flux, and different teams may handle this very differently. In theory, some top prospects could be on the active roster after about a week without the team forfeiting a year of control. But early reports suggest some teams may be content to have prospects as non-playing taxi squad members, at least for a while. Scour the internet for player-specific news for as long as you can.

Doug Dennis: Unless they have a job right away, I am not on prospects for 2020. Too many 4A players in play to speculate.

Nick Richards: Many will be on the player pool, but how many of those will play (as opposed to getting development work)? The key prospects to get are those on bad teams for which that prospect might be more talented than a veteran retread. If that bad team suddenly has a hot week or two, they are in the playoff hunt, and now the pressure will be on to play the most talented starters, even if it's a rookie.

Patrick Davitt: A lot of managers tend to prefer "known" players, and this year could amplify that. A prospect who struggles will be punted tout de suite, as my Irish relatives say, which should raise the stock of more seasoned guys and really raise the stock of the stars.

Matt Dodge: My remaining drafts are for 2020 only league redrafts (no keepers), so prospect playing time is too speculative for me.

Dave Adler: If you've not drafted yet, wait as late as possible. When regular players opt-out, that might leave room for some stud prospects to get their time in the sun. Ie, if Mike Trout sits due to family reasons, Jo Adell's value skyrockets. A spring injury to a Tiger starter, one of their close-to-the-majors SP could get a shot. Etc.

Jock Thompson: In Keepers format, obv won't draft prospects just looking at 2020. But yeah, certain names are more interesting than others. So much of everything (including this) depends on how players emerge from July health-wise.

Bill McKnight: I hear people speculating that teams will let the pups eat with the short season, but I'm not buying it until I see proposed depth charts start changing.

Greg Fishwick: Based on MLB owners' recent revenue antics, I don't believe there will be much difference in their use of prospects. IOW, service time manipulations will prevail.

Chris Blessing: If I'm drafting right now, my last few picks will likely be on prospects I believe will get some play due to being the next man up in their organization depth chart. I guy like Adell, as Adler mentioned, or someone like Ryan Mountcastle, where they suddenly become valuable due to circumstances beyond anyone's control. There will be opportunities for young pitching prospects to shine. However, I like some mid-tier guys over the big names in 2020. Would I draft them? Probably not. I may be steaming SP like never before anyway.

Brant Chesser: I am not pushing anyone up, but I am willing to roster one or two prospects with a shot at decent PT (top-ten guys). During the middle of drafts, I would rather have veterans/players with PT.

Alain de Leonardis: Agree with Brant. I'm not usually interested in drafting prospects in redraft leagues, as those leagues tend to be shallower and reward drafting PT rather than speculating on a bunch of players that may just clog your reserves for months before even having a chance to pay off. I'll be more willing to draft the very top prospects in redraft leagues this year, as they probably won't have to wait 4-6 weeks before getting promoted from the taxi squad to the starting 30.

Ray Murphy: I think I'm more interested in pitchers than hitters, because some teams (especially rebuilding teams) may want to make sure some of their top arms get their IP. I'm interested in how the Tigers handle Mize/Manning/Skubal in particular. Of course, there's still risk that they get rocked, so I'm not chasing them THAT hard...

Alex Beckey: I tend to look at the organization's history and projected place in the standings. For example, Atlanta, Washington. and Kansas City seem to have little hesitation about promoting young players (Ronald Acuna, Jr., Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Adalberto Mondesi, etc.), and Pittsburgh seems to be making wholesale changes this season, however, teams like St. Louis and the New York Yankees generally seem to be much more conservative in promoting and playing young players. Of course, position plays a big part in my mind as well. Catchers usually need more time to develop. Pitchers tend to move faster, but do not always have ample playing time opportunities. Perhaps one of the biggest key metrics for me is a position player's defense. Usually, that can be a telltale sign of faster promotion, especially in the National League.

Brent Hershey: I think how clubs will deal with this will be very team-specific; in other words, this will NOT be a one size fits all situation. Trying to ascertain for each club how they might handle this—their perceived chance of winning at the beginning, the start the team gets off to, etc—is what I'll be looking for. And once we get to the last month or couple of weeks, plans may change. Trying to be on top of or ahead of that curve will affect how I choose to roster or not roster top prospects for 2020.


See you tomorrow!

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.