How will the MLB 2020 rules change and will a 60 game season affect Fantasy baseball?

The players made it official Tuesday, validating the 60-game timeline imposed by Commissioner Rob Manfred by signing health and safety protocols. In other words, baseball is back, but it’s back like we’ve never seen it before. Some rules have changed, both to counter the possible spread of COVID-19 and to account for a hasty and considerably shorter schedule.

Here’s a summary of everything we know (thanks mainly to reports from Jayson Stark and Bob Nightengale) and their impact on Fantasy Baseball:

  • Players will perform for testing on July 1. Two days later, Spring Training 2.0 will begin. The acceleration process will come quickly, in other words, although this second spring training will not look much like a normal spring training, which consists more of training than games. The teams will have enough players on hand to carry out scrimmages within the squad, but they will establish their own schedule and the data will be practically non-existent. We will all rely heavily on reporters, especially when it comes to managers who evaluate players and strategies.
  • Players will report to their major league venues (with the possible exception of the Blue Jays, which are subject to a separate federal government). That maddening scenario in which each team would play the season in their spring spot will not take place, meaning that fortunately we won’t have to adjust our rankings for the Cactus League arcade environment.
  • MLB may relocate teams for health and safety reasons as necessary. We cannot assume, then, that a player’s environment will remain the same throughout the season, adding another unknown variable in a season packed with them. Would a team simply move to its spring location, as the Blue Jays are likely to do? Possibly, but with the way things are looking in Florida and Arizona right now, other minor league venues could be hosting major league teams.
  • The season will begin on Friday, July 24 and end on Sunday, September 27. We are talking only in a month. Altogether, it’s 9 1/2 weeks, at least two of which Head-to-Head fantasy leagues will presumably have to devote to their playoffs. Obtaining more “decisions” from those first 7 1/2 weeks so that a team is not at the mercy of unfavorable confrontations will be essential. Having each team face two or three opponents each week is one way to do it. You can also consider breaking up the season into smaller scoring periods instead of just moving on to Monday’s lineup locks.
  • Each team will play 60 games in 66 days. It’s just over a third of a typical season, which Eno Sarris’s research shows might be enough time to determine a legitimate winner, but it won’t be enough to get things balanced on an individual level. You’ll see atypical performances on both the high and low ends, with an unusually warm or cold start that has the potential to make or break a season.
  • Of those 60 games, 40 will be against the same division and 20 will be against the corresponding division in the opposite league. To break it down further, each team will play their division opponents 10 times, their opposing division rival (like Dodgers vs. Angels) six times, and their other opposing division enemies three or two times. Mainly, it’s the percentage of games within the division that will have the biggest impact on player value – teams will go from 11.7% of their schedule in a typical season against their division rivals to 16.7% in this shortened season. AL’s divisions have the defining characteristics, with AL East having the most hitting parks of any division, AL West with most of the pitcher parks, and AL Central with most of the rebuilding teams.
  • Players can choose not to pay if they are considered high risk. This one actually has the potential to turn Fantasy Baseball on its head. If a qualified player gets paid anyway, could he choose to sit alone as a precaution? Do we know who would qualify? David Dahl, for example, since he is missing a spleen, but we do not have the complete medical history of all the players. Players living with a high-risk person would not automatically be online to receive full payment, according to The Athletic, although teams are free to exercise their own discretion. It’s worth noting that among the many players with a pregnant wife is Mike Trout.
  • The schedule does not include double heads, as Jayson Stark points out. There was a time when plus Doubleheaders were thought to be an appropriate way to fit more games in a shorter span, but recent health warnings suggest that players are better off limiting their exposure to each other. We’ll still see some unorthodox launch strategies, but more because of the reduced build-up time and shortened schedule than because pitchers don’t have enough built-in break time.
  • The DH will be in force even in the National League. There was some confusion on this point on Monday night, but preventing pitchers from batting falls under the health and safety umbrella. It will increase the projected ERA for each National League pitcher, mixing the rankings up a bit, but it will also create new opportunities for cool hitters like Dylan Carlson, Austin Riley and Wil Myers. Chris Towers offers some suggestions on who might benefit.
  • The rosters will expand to 30 players for the first two weeks, then drop to 28 for the next two weeks, then drop to 26 for the rest of the season (September included). Remember all the talk of a possible palooza with the next expansion on the roster for a shorter season? Yes, we may have gone a little ahead. For most of the season, the rosters won’t expand at all, and during the time they expand, those additional spots will likely be used in the arms of the bullpen since pitchers aren’t going to fully stretch yet. It seems to be the main point, in fact, given that if one prospect isn’t good enough to make the team straight, a couple of weeks of part-time play is probably not enough to change hearts and minds.
  • Each team would have a group of 60 players to choose from, 40 of which are already determined by the 40-man roster. Any one of those 60 players who are not on the major league roster would form a squad of taxis that would operate somewhere near the minor leagues, presumably holding scrimmages to get ready for the game. It will allow teams to continue developing their best prospects while maintaining a supply of game ready injury replacements.
  • Up to three taxi squad players could travel with the team, but one would have to be a receiver. Obviously, this rule is in effect should an injury replacement be needed on the road, but it would also mean that a few select prospects would have an opportunity to work with the major league club. It could lead to some useful ideas.
  • The transaction freeze ends on Friday at noon ET, so we can all watch with bated breath as Yasiel Puig finally chooses a team. Or more as one finally chooses it. If you are a National League team with a DH need, you have the potential to make a sizeable contribution still, but most lineup positions throughout the league are already taken into account. Jim Bowden suggests the Giants as a possible destination, which would be great for Puig’s playtime (although perhaps not his power potential).
  • The negotiation deadline will be August 31. Yes, exchanges will apparently still be one thing, although it’s worth asking if a player would need to be quarantined before joining his new team. A significant move seems unlikely with stagnant prospect development and an uncertain financial future, but as open as every playoff career still seems to be at that point, the deadline might surprise us.
  • The IL for all players will remain only 10 days, meaning teams could continue to use it simply to skip a pitcher’s turn in the rotation, as the Dodgers in particular have a habit of doing. However, presumably we will see less of that, with no reason to protect tickets for a shorter season.
  • All additional entries will begin with a runner at second base until one team wins. It’s not a sudden baseball death and it still allows games to go on indefinitely, but the likelihood of one team or another bringing that runner home at any inning should avoid the kinds of marathon games that wouldn’t be good for your health. no one in this environment.
  • Position players are free to pitch again. Does it have a real consequence in Fantasy Baseball? No, but the league was looking to crack down on this growing practice, imposing strict limitations on how and when a position player could pitch, making it a matter of some concern. However, teams can’t afford to give away games, with just 60 on the board, so they’ll probably go the extra mile to keep things competitive even if it seems like they’re getting out of hand.