While the negotiations between the MLB owners and players continue to drag on, hopeful fantasy baseball players remain vigilant in their pursuit of a 2020 championship.
If you already have drafted and your league stubbornly insists on letting it stand, you should be vehemently working the phones for trades to adjust your roster for the dramatic changes a truncated season will bring to your strategy. If you have yet to draft or your league has wisely offered a re-do, your strategy adjustments need to be tested.
Some may scoff at the notion of mock drafting, but in a year where no one knows what to expect, understanding public perception is paramount to your success.
The fantasy baseball draft landscape has seen some significant changes over the past three months. If you were drafting in February, an early attack on starting pitching was preferred by most, and the upper echelon of starters was depleted before the end of the third round of a 12-team draft. Nevertheless, an industry mock draft that took place just this past week tells a much different story.
The public still seems to view Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom as first-round picks, and Walker Buehler continues to hover around the early second round. But for the first time in years, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander have seen their average draft position (ADP) drop by more than a dozen picks.
Previously coveted arms such as Mike Clevinger, Luis Castillo and Zack Greinke are also falling. In a truncated season, a pitcher going from 32 to 18 starts crushes his value, and high-level offensive production — such as strong stolen base totals or a high home-run-to-at-bat ratios is much more valuable.
As the value of starting pitching takes a tumble, recent mock drafts are showing the perceived increase in the value of closers. A shortened season reduces the risk of a closer losing his job, as there are fewer opportunities for saves to be blown. Can it happen? Of course, but managers who have established ninth-inning firemen are likely to lengthen the leash even more, given the circumstances.
Elite closers such as Josh Hader and Aroldis Chapman have maintained their ADP over these past few months, but the next tier of closers — relievers such as Taylor Rodgers, Ken Giles and Hector Neris — have seen their ADP climb proportionally. That increase continues through the tiers until, finally, we are starting to see set-up men like Aaron Bummer and Emilio Pagan taken a round or two earlier as well.
With the game of baseball on hold for so long, casual fantasy players aren’t paying enough attention to the strategy changes needed to win. Those who remain disciplined and vigilant are going to reap the benefits once the season gets started. The season may not be as long, but true fantasy champions working their strategies in mock drafts right now, just consider this another part of the grind.
Howard Bender is the VP of operations and head of content at Fantasy-Alarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 5-7 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy baseball advice.