Written by: Ray Butler
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365
What a week.
The sports’ world has never experienced a three day stretch like the stretch it just endured. With Spring Training officially suspended and the regular season pushed back at least two weeks (it will be end-up being longer), baseball fans wait with bated breath to hear/read about a concrete plan from Major League Baseball as to when baseball activities will continue.
With the coronavirus just now beginning to rear its ugly head across the United States, there is simply so much unknown as to when the virus will be contained or largely eradicated. Consequently, it’s impossible to know just how much of the 2020 MLB regular season—if any—will be lost as we await the return of safe preparation and playing conditions across the country. This is an extremely fluid and dynamic situation that no baseball analyst or expert has ever experienced. News will evolve in the coming days, rendering some of the things you’ll read below increasingly important. Others might become increasingly less important. That’s the impossible difficulty in projecting this unprecedented situation.
A delay of regular season baseball is fairly black and white for currently-injured big leaguers—the layoff drastically boosts the outlook for many high-profile players across the sport (I’ll dive into these individual outlooks below).
Of course, a delayed 162-game regular season will be drastically different operationally than a delayed, shortened regular season. These effects will be most felt in fantasy rotations, since a shortened season would narrow the gap of workloads between workhorses and non-elite starting pitchers. That facet may be the most important to nail down once we have a concrete picture of what the altered 2020 season will look like.
The conversation is much less ‘cut and dried’ for the prospect landscape. There’s been a lot of talk across the Twittersphere and other social media platforms about alterations of service time considerations with a shortened season, but a decrease or diminishing of teams prioritizing the Super 2 and other manipulative timelines seems unlikely given the language of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, especially on teams with no prayer of making the playoffs this season. If the regular season in shortened, this would subsequently mean top, MLB-ready prospects on bad teams might not carry the redraft value for the 2020 season we once thought they did.
Instead, if the season is eventually shortened, fans and fantasy baseball players should hope contending or bubble teams rightly prioritize the importance of each, individual game throughout the regular season, which would likely lead to the acceleration of promotions amongst a handful of top prospects across the sport. The teams that quickly come to mind are the Padres and White Sox amongst others.
Below, I’ve detailed how the baseball delay affects each of the MLB’s 30 teams individually. My goal was to assume absolutely nothing, but to use logic and level-headedness to outline the effects of the layoff on individual players and prospects. Some of the takes below will be extremely obvious, others will be more underrated.
I’ve tried to be as thorough and exhaustive as possible, but I’m sure I accidentally omitted something along the way. Feel free to tweet me at @Prospects365 if you think I missed something of obvious importance.
Let’s get started.
If this article plays a role in your preseason preparation for the upcoming redraft and dynasty season, please consider donating to our future success.
Depending on the length of the newly-devised regular season, Shohei Ohtani could potentially impact fantasy pitching rotations for a greater percent of the season than was originally projected pre-coronavirus. When evaluating Jo Adell this offseason, I got the sense that the Angels ‘service timing’ an extra year from their prized outfielder was a simple convenience that falls under the genuine fact he needs a bit more experience versus minor league pitching before officially becoming an everyday big leaguer. Assuming nothing changes with service time rules, Adell will still likely begin the season in Triple-A. With an extra month or so of healing/rehabilitation time, I’m hopeful Brandon Marsh is now able to return to the minor league playing field early in the regular season.
The delay is fantastic news for both Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez, who many not miss any game time if Opening Day is pushed back to May or June. It was probably unlikely Alvarez would have missed much time anyways (he battled sore knees throughout Spring Training), but a mild lat strain would have likely forced Verlander to miss at least the first few weeks of the original regular season. This is big news for fantasy players, since both Verlander and Alvarez are top-50 players regardless of format this preseason. If the regular season is eventually shortened, the arrow will certainly point up for Lance McCullers Jr. The explosive right hander is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, so his innings limit will be less restrictive for fantasy players if the season is shortened. The delay in the start of the regular season also puts a sudden halt to one of the more intriguing Spring Training position battles, with Josh James, Austin Pruitt and Framber Valdez duking it out for the title of 5th starter in Houston.
Very, very tasty. Not only does a shortened season greatly increase the value of Jesús Lúzardo in redraft leagues, but a delayed Opening Day also means A.J. Puk might begin the season healthy after all. Both southpaws will be on an innings limit in 2020, but a shortened regular season would go a ways to negating the negative impact those restrictions would have on your fantasy rotations. Conversely, I assume the delay is bad news for Chris Bassitt; the right-hander will undoubtedly make starts at times throughout the 2020 regular season, but Puk returning to full health before the eventual beginning of the season would likely relegate Bassitt back to his role as ‘long man’ in the Athletics’ bullpen. The delay doesn’t really impact this final point whatsoever, but we’ll have to wait a bit longer to see the outcome of Oakland’s ongoing second base battle between Tony Kemp, Jorge Mateo, Franklin Barreto, Chad Pinder and Sheldon Neuse. At least one of Mateo and Barreto will be a member of another organization by the time Opening Day finally rolls around.
I only have one share of Teoscar Hernandez, but I find myself glad his groin will be able to fully heal before the regular season officially begins. I’m loaded to the brim with Trent Thornton shares, so I’m selfishly hoping to the layoff doesn’t lead to Shun Yamaguchi ‘finding something’ that leads to Toronto slotting him into the final slot in their rotation over Thornton. If you’re a Blue Jays fan and find yourself incredibly bummed about regular season baseball being pushed back, simply be still and know this is simply delaying Vlad Guerrero Jr. from inevitably taking over the world in 2020.
Lots to sort through here. I’m heavily invested in Cole Hamels this fantasy season, so I’m optimistic the delayed start to the regular season means the left-hander will miss very little or no time once Opening Day finally arrives. Neither Cristian Pache or Drew Waters are viewed as ‘ready’ for everyday, big league playing time from an offensive standpoint, but a shortened regular season *might* mean we don’t see either in Atlanta until 2021. Sean Newcomb and Felix Hernandez are viewed as the favorites to land the Braves’ final two rotation spots in Hamels’ absence, though Brian Snitker and Alex Anthopoulos will have an interesting decision to make on who gets bumped once Hamels is ready to return. Smart fantasy money is on Austin Riley winning the third base job to begin the regular season, though his ongoing battle with Johan Camargo is officially on hold until baseball revs back up again.
Those who are holding out hope for Luis Urías in dynasty leagues will be quick to tell the delay in regular season baseball likely means the infielder will be ready for Opening Day, and they’re right. But swing-changer Orlando Arcia had 5 home runs in 29 Spring Training plate appearances prior to its suspension, so I’ll be interested to see how Craig Counsell and David Stearns choose to handle the shortstop position once Urías returns to full health. Eric Lauer was expected to begin the regular season on the injured list thanks to a shoulder impingement, and only time will tell if a delay in the regular season will alter those plans. My personal-favorite position battle of Spring Training featuring Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta has been temporarily put on hold, though it’s hard to overstate how good both right-handers had been prior to the preseason being put on hold.
If the regular season is shortened, wouldn’t it impact Dylan Carlson‘s chances of ‘breaking camp’ as an everyday big leaguer? Especially for a Cardinals team who won’t have the luxury of fielding unbuttoned lineups in what should be a highly-competitive NL Central. We also have to wait to see the outcome of the closer battle in St. Louis; Giovanny Gallegos is assumed to be the favorite to land the job, but there is a little bit of sharp money (and high stakes shares) on dark horse Ryan Helsley as a sneaky, 9th inning option to begin the season. Kwang-Hyun Kim is currently viewed as the favorite to land the final rotation spot to begin the season.
A fairly quiet situation here, though I suspect a shortened regular season would really play a role in forcing the Cubs’ hand on Nico Hoerner‘s big league role for the 2020 season. Jason Kipnis is currently projected to be the Chicago’s Opening Day second baseman, with Ian Happ manning centerfield to begin the season. Both figure to be on short leashes, especially with Hoerner waiting in the wings and the Cubs needing to win as many games as possible this season, especially if the length of the regular season is decreased. In deeper leagues, I’m a little sad post-hype pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay will likely have less of an impact at the big league level this season than I originally anticipated.
It’s hard to find much worth mentioning with the Diamondbacks and a delayed Opening Day, but I did think Daulton Varsho was a bit underrated from a draft and hold standpoint prior to the news of the regular season being pushed back. That pipe dream remains intact if decision makers choose to play the entirety of the regular season, but any sort of shortened season likely means the 23-year-old will be left to destroy the Pacific Coast League for most—if not all—of the 2020 season. Also, Zac Gallen is still not guaranteed a spot in Arizona’s Opening Day rotation.
Any type of shortened regular season would be great news for any member of the Dodgers’ rotation not named Clayton Kershaw or Walker Buehler. David Price and Julio Urías come to mind specifically, especially since both would have been managed very carefully in a 162-game season. Grey Albright name-dropped Urías in a tweet about the impact a shortened regular season would have from a fantasy standpoint this season. Conversely, this has a negative impact on other Dodger pitchers, namely Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Ross Stripling. While the latter two will likely have a bullpen role at the big league level on Opening Day, a shortened season would certainly have a negative effect on May’s big league workload this season. I also wonder about a shortened regular season increasing the odds an oft-injured player like Justin Turner connecting the dots on a fully-healthy campaign, but then I quickly realize a hypothetical injury would have an even bigger impact on a shortened season than it normally does.
So, just spitballing here, but if this drags out until May, people won’t be able to stack their fantasy teams with guys who are going to get 220 IP. I know this might be blasphemy, but, if Gerrit Cole gets 140 IP and Julio Urias gets 120 IP, are they that different?
— Razzball (@Razzball) March 13, 2020
A few nuggets for the Giants instead of any huge news. A shortened season would certainly have a negative impact on whatever volume you were expecting from Joey Bart this season (expecting a tangible impact from Heliot Ramos was likely a pipe dream anyways). On a smaller scale, it would also have a negative effect on the big league innings we’d see from Logan Webb in 2020, especially since he’s projected to open the season in Triple-A and the Giants would have no reason to alter that plan if the quantity of regular season games was decreased. In better news, a delay is helpful for Tyler Anderson in his rehab from knee surgery in June. It was possible he would have been ready for Opening Day anyways, but now it’s possible he’ll slot at the backend of the Giants’ delayed Opening Day rotation. If this were the case, I think he’ll provide tremendous value away from Coors this season. Keep that in mind moving forward.
Other than Max Scherzer, Mike Clevinger might be the best pitcher who is most affected by the regular season delay. Clevinger was already throwing after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this preseason, but a month delay almost certainly ensures he’s at full strength when the season begins. He’s my staff ace in a lot of places, so I’m not complaining. For the many folks who read this who play in save + holds leagues, Emmanuel Clase will miss far less time than was originally projected following a strained upper back muscle diagnosis back in late February.
It’s been a slow-burning rehab for Mitch Haniger following multiple ailments last season and this offseason, so I assume he still won’t be ready for Opening Day, whenever it transpires. However, both the delay and a hypothetical shortened season are helpful for the outfielder, since he’ll now miss less time and make an impact for a greater percent of the regular season. I assume he’ll become a fantasy buy for many folks once we receive a concrete plan of important dates. The Mariners are going to be bad and he projects to begin the season in Triple-A regardless of the length of the delay, so I’m down-ticking Justin Dunn‘s big league outlook for 2020. There are folks within the industry who fully believe the Mariners are ready to aggressively promote Jarred Kelenic regardless of how bad the big league team is, so I’ll be interested to see how they handle their prized outfielder if both the big league and minor league season is shortened. Austin Adams has been one of my favorite injured list stashes of the offseason in leagues that value holds, and an Opening Day delay certainly means he’ll miss less of the regular season than was originally anticipated. Hurry up baseball, I’m very ready to see Justus Sheffield‘s new and improved attack plan throughout the regular season.
There’s no doubt Major League Baseball made the correct decision in suspending Spring Training and pushing back Opening Day, but there’s was a tangible disappointment inside Marlins camp when the announcements were made. Several young players had made notable strides this preseason, and it felt like there was audible sigh when their progress was halted. Lewis Brinson is currently viewed as the favorite to be Miami’s starting right fielder on Opening Day, but a shortened season would have a negative impact on Monte Harrison‘s 2020 big league outlook. With a more conservative approach, Harrison had slashed .364/.481/.450 with three extra base hits and six stolen bases in 27 plate appearances before Spring Training was suspended. In non-young player news, Brad Boxberger had been fantastic this spring. and the Marlins were really excited about the avenues their offseason lottery ticket signing were in the process of opening. Elieser Hernandez was likely slated to begin the season in the bullpen (expanding on that fact will only make me mad), but it’s fairly obvious he has potential to be the second best starting pitcher (behind Caleb Smith and, yes, ahead of Sandy Alcantara… yeah, I said it) in the organization sooner rather than later. Personally, I really like the direction Miami’s organization is moving. Let’s hope they can rekindle the momentum once baseball activities rev back up.
Countless jokes abound regarding the Mets being the in-house favorite to be the team with a player who suffers an at-home, non-baseball injury during the delay, but we already know the layoff will help Michael Conforto fully recover from the oblique injury he suffered recently while making an awkward catch during Spring Training. The delay should also help Dellin Betances make the necessary preparations to break camp with the Mets; the right-hander had been brought along slowly this offseason and preseason following multiple injuries last season. Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha are all under the impression they’ll begin the season in the Mets’ starting rotation. Unfortunately, there’s only two slots for three pitchers. I assume it’ll be Wacha who’s relegated to the bullpen, but we’ll have to wait until baseball activities resume to know for sure.
I’ll start with the obvious: a delayed start to the 2020 season regular season will almost certainly mean Max Scherzer is able to fully overcome the side ailment he’s been dealing with lately. As a top-5 pitcher across all fantasy formats, this is obviously huge news and shouldn’t be taken lightly for a team whose pitchers were still logging innings in November of last season. I’ve tweeted my frustration with this last point, but it’s already going to be a huge travesty when Joe Ross is named Washington’s fifth starter over Austin Voth prior to Opening Day. It’s really going to stink if the regular season is shortened and Voth isn’t able to log the meaningful long man/spot starter innings that would allow him to maintain any semblance of fantasy value this season.
The collective best wishes and good thoughts from the baseball world have been sent to Trey Mancini, who recently had a malignant tumor removed from colon. I’d like to think the delay will help Mancini’s overall value for the 2020 season, but instead, I’m simply hopeful he’s able to return to full strength and is back on the field at any point in the future. Kick cancer’s ass, Trey. A shortened season likely means Ryan Mountcastle‘s big league volume in 2020 gets a slight bump down, though Mancini’s unfortunate absence will likely help Mountcastle secure a consistent role once the Orioles promote him to the big leagues. DJ Stewart will likely miss less of the regular season than was originally expected thanks to the delay, though his role with the Orioles will remain cloudy thanks to the team’s underrated outfield depth.
Garrett Richards has been an extremely popular late-round pick in fantasy drafts this preseason. If he can stay healthy, it’ll be hard to imagine a path in which those selections don’t hit pay dirt if the regular season is shortened and Richards’ workload restriction doesn’t mean as much anymore. MacKenzie Gore might still start the season in Triple-A, but I can’t help but wonder if a shortened season accelerates his timeline to San Diego a little bit, especially since the Padres figure to be competing for a Wild Card slot this season and every game will carry added value in this scenario. My many redraft shares are giving me the eyeballs emoji right now. The layoff will also allow Tommy Pham continue rehabbing his ailing right elbow. I’m not sure if there’s any delay that’s long enough to keep him at 100% throughout the grind of a regular season, but hopefully he’ll be closer to full-strength by the time Opening Day finally rolls around. Lastly, us Trent Grisham proponents (I was a bit late to the show but I’m there now with three redraft shares) will have to wait a bit longer for our emphatic victory lap.
Folks will hype up what the regular season delay will do for the outlooks of stars like Justin Verlander Max Scherzer, Aaron Judge, Mike Clevinger, Blake Snell and Giancarlo Stanton amongst others, but I think I’m most happy about Andrew McCutchen being one of my most-rostered players this draft season, especially since most of my shares came at a discounted price. I assume the delay might allow him to return to full strength by the time Opening Day rolls around, which means he’s been an absolute steal in drafts since it was originally announced he wouldn’t be ready for the original start of the regular season. I’m very interested to see what the delay does for Alec Bohm‘s 2020 outlook, especially since he’ll likely have to dethrone Jean Segura (it was originally thought Scott Kingery would be on the chopping block, but it’s looking like he’ll be the Phillies’ everyday second baseman this season). I can’t help but think we’ll see less of an impact from Bohm at the big league level this season than was once anticipated. The delay will help Spencer Howard fully overcome the minor knee ailment he suffered at the beginning of Spring Training. The Phillies certainly need help at the backend of their starting rotation, so I could see them accelerating the right-hander’s timeline a bit if the season is shortened. However, it’s important to keep in mind the fact he’s only pitched 30.2 innings at the Double-A level and missed a huge chunk of last season with a shoulder injury. With both Bohm and Howard seemingly knocking on the door, it’ll be interesting to witness how the Phillies will now handle their prized prospect duo in 2020.
I swear as I was drafting this article, I had “???” as the original write-up for the Pirates, since there’s very little news regarding how this roster is impacted by the delay. It is good news for Steven Brault, who suffered a shoulder injury early in Spring Training. I assume Derek Holland will still be the front runner for the 5th slot in Pittsburgh’s Opening Day rotation, but I’m hopeful Brault still receives a lot of volume this season. He’s far more interesting than the Dutch Oven moving forward, even on a team that won’t be very good. Neither were going to make a huge impact in the big leagues this season, but a shortened season would lead to a down-tick in 2020 MLB outlooks for both Ke’Bryan Hayes and Oneil Cruz. I’m guessing it would all but eliminate Cruz’s already-small chances of debuting later this season.
Every season, the industry conveniently forgets Corey Kluber has a career March and April ERA of 3.91, easily the highest of any month in the regular season. He’s a zero-share guy for me this season, but I’m intrigued to see how the delayed start to the regular season affects him, especially if his traditional slow start correlates with the cold weather in March and April. The layoff is also great news for Willie Calhoun, who is currently rehabbing from a fractured jaw and subsequent surgery after being HBP by Julio Urías during Spring Training. If Calhoun is ready to return or near return by the time Opening Day finally rolls around, it would likely be bad news for Nick Solak, who figured to be the OD left fielder for the Rangers sans Calhoun. Solak will likely shift to a utility role once Calhoun returns. If your league is deep enough that it rosters middling middle relievers who don’t attain saves or holds, Jesse Chavez might be ready once a new date for Opening Day is determined,
A few different people have mentioned to me how much a shortened season would help Brendan McKay, but I’m not sure I agree. He’s going to start the season in Triple-A regardless of the length of the regular season, and he was a redraft fade for me anyways thanks to his genuine struggles at the big league level last season, Tampa Bay’s reported desire to utilize his bat at some point this season and the starter/bulker depth the Rays already have at the big league level. I think McKay will have a role on the Rays at some point in 2020, but I actually think a shortened season would undoubtedly hurt his volume. Regardless of the impending length of the regular season, the delay will help Blake Snell get built back up as well as give him some time to iron out the kinks in his mechanics and arsenal. If you were able to snag him later than his 2020 ADP following the elbow concerns, kudos to you.
If Chris Sale‘s elbow truly is intact, the extra time for build-up and preparation leading up to Opening Day is gigantic news for him and the Red Sox. I’m still approaching the situation with caution, since this ailment is now longstanding and Boston likely won’t push their prized left-hander to play at anything less than 100% while they’re not contending, but this is huge news for the countless early round shares that were drafted pre-elbow news. The layoff also ensures Xander Bogaerts and his Spring Training ankle ailment are able to begin the season at full strength, though I suspect he would have played the discomfort anyways. Alex Verdugo is a good player who will eventually lessen the blow from Boston’s questionable trade of Mookie Betts. A delayed season certainly improves the odds he contributes to the Red Sox this season, though I suspect there’s a chance he plays very little prior to 2021. A shortened season might keep Nathan Eovaldi‘s workload from being restricted in any way in 2020.
After injuring his right shoulder in a swimming pool incident, the baseball delay likely means Eugenio Suarez will now undoubtedly have enough time to return to full strength before Opening Day. It looked like Nick Senzel was going to be ready for Opening Day regardless of when it occurred, but now there should be no worries…. at least with his current injury and subsequent return. If the regular season is shortened, it certainly affects the volume of impact Tyler Stephenson will have at the big league level this season, which is disappointing for those who are already locked-in with late round fliers in draft and hold formats (me, I’m talking about me).
With very little else worth mentioning here, allow me to throw this against the wall: does a delayed Opening Day give contending more teams another opportunity to trade for Nolan Arenado? An unexpected week of hot stove action would really allow the sport to keep the momentum that was beginning to build as Opening Day originally approached. Also, you should check out the mechanical overhaul Jeff Hoffman underwent this offseason. Late round dart throw in draft and holds, anyone?
The delay to the start of the 2020 regular season is simply a ‘dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s’ situation for the Royals. Here, that means it’ll simply give Adalberto Mondesi and Salvador Perez more time to ensure they’re fully ready for Opening Day. If the season is shortened, it likely hinders the impact pitching prospects Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar will have at the big league level this season, especially since both could use a bit more time in the upper levels of the minor leagues anyways.
All is pretty quiet from an active player standpoint for the Tigers following the delay, though it should allow JaCoby Jones to fully recover from his calf ailment prior to eventual Opening Day. With the Tigers obviously not prioritizing winning games in 2020, a shortened regular season would not be ideal for Casey Mize and Matt Manning stash shares, especially since it’s unlikely there will be any exceptions to service time nuances despite the uniqueness and lack of precedence of this situation.
Bah gawd, that’s Dick Mountain’s music! Regardless of whether the regular season is shortened or not, Rich Hill just became a larger part of whatever happens in 2020. That’s awesome news for both the Twins and baseball in general. If the length of the regular season is decreased, it certainly has a negative impact on Michael Pineda‘s fantasy outlook, since he still has to serve nearly two-months worth of a 60-game PED suspension before returning to action. Oh, and a delayed start to the regular season means Byron Buxton should officially be ready for Opening Day, whenever it finally arrives.
Michael Kopech and Nick Madrigal are the two players who stick out to me the most here, especially in Major League Baseball opts to shorten the regular season. If the regular season is only, say, 100-120 games, bubble playoff teams are less likely to ‘coast’ for the first month of the regular season with an unoptimized everyday lineups. For the White Sox specifically in this scenario, this means the chances Madrigal opens the season in Chicago increase at least a little bit. And while he’ll certainly remain on an innings restriction, Kopech will impact fantasy rotations for a greater amount of time if the regular season is shortened. I still suspect he’ll begin this season in Triple-A. A shortened season would also (likely) eliminate Dane Dunning from being a late-season contributor in Chicago.
A lot to dissect here. From a name-brand standpoint, perhaps no time will be more positively affected by the delayed start to the regular season than the Yankees. If Opening Day is pushed back to May or later, it’s feasible both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will be fully-healthy for the start of the regular season. Unfortunately, both deep leaguers and dynasty folks will be quick to point out this means Clint Frazier will likely be relegated to the bench sooner rather than later. In this scenario, James Paxton will also miss far less time than was originally expected after having a cyst removed from his lower back in February. If the most pessimistic of outlooks comes to fruition and Opening Day is slotted near Memorial Day, it’s feasible the left-hander won’t miss any regular season action whatsoever. Thankfully, I believe our Jordan Montgomery shares are safe regardless of when Paxton returns. Of course, this is a bit of a hit for those who have thrown some late-round draft and hold darts at pitchers like Jonathan Loaisiga, Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt. And that’s not to mention Domingo German, who will still have to serve the entirety of his 60-game suspension regardless of when the season begins. Regardless of whether the regular season is simply delayed or delayed and shortened, Aaron Hicks will almost certainly play a bigger role for the Yankees than was originally anticipated.
If this article plays a role in your preseason preparation for the upcoming redraft and dynasty season, please consider donating to our future success.
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365
Featured image courtesy of NBC Sports