As we await concrete decisions from Major League Baseball on how the 2020 season will be played out, we continue to publish our fantasy projections based on a 162-game season, which puts all player numbers in the most familiar context available. Once a new schedule is known or Major League Baseball starts officially cancelling games, we will adjust accordingly.
That said, since the idea of a 162-game season played over the course of 180 or so days is unlikely at this time, we've baked some assumptions into our rankings, accounting for our best guess as to how a compact schedule would affect player usage and performance. In the spirit of full transparency, here is how we are currently approaching these projections.
Hitters assigned a lower percentage of playing time
1. Regulars expected to play just about every day
In order to play 162 games, the season will need to be extended and condensed at the same time. That is, games will played into October and November with fewer off days/more doubleheaders built into the regular schedule. As such, we don't see anyone playing more than 150 games. Anyone projected for at least 85% playing time was docked between 2% and 7%, most in the 5% range.
2. Left-handed platoon hitters
About 72% of pitches are delivered by right-handed hurlers. Hence, full-time platoon lefty swingers get 70%-75% playing time assignment, depending how often they're lifted when losing the platoon edge. There is a strong chance MLB extends the bench, at least early, freeing up managers to play matchups even more. In addition, with more pinch hitters at the skipper's disposal, left-handed batters might be taken out when the opposing team is forced to stay with a southpaw reliever with the new three-batter minimum rule. It wasn't much, but left-handed platoon hitters were docked 2%-5% to account for losing a few plate appearances, most around 3%.
3. Early season beneficiaries
Players such as Mike Tauchman and Kevin Pillar were expected to receive more playing time early, filling in for teammates earmarked for the injured list to open the campaign. With the regulars having more time to heal, a small group of players was given a smaller proportion of playing time.
Hitters assigned a larger percentage of playing time
Playing time is a zero-sum game. Plate appearances taken away from one hitter need to be assigned to another. In many cases, teams were overprojected in early March, waiting for the final 25-man rosters, so no major adjustments were needed as they were baked in. Others required some tweaking.
1. Hitters expected to begin the season on the IL
2. Right-handed platoon hitters
It's not much, but with the three-batter minimum, some righty swingers could be called upon to face a LOOGY with the first O in LOOGY (left-handed one-out guy) no longer applicable. The added playing time was around only 2% on select right-handed batters.
3. Multiposition players
Even with extended benches, the ability to play all over the diamond will be beneficial, especially when the schedule is condensed (more twin bills, fewer off days). Jon Berti is an example of such a player.
Pitchers assigned a lower percentage of innings
1. Workhorse starters
With the initial schedule, some starters would have started 33 or 34 games. Added off days facilitated this effort. Even so, starters were maxed out at 32 starts. The new high is now set at 30 games started, assuming fewer off days and some doubleheaders for at least a portion of the schedule.
2. Early season beneficiaries
Arms such as Michael King were expected to fill in for James Paxton, etc. Anyone on tap for some early starts was docked a bit, though often it was negated since the workhorses opened up six to eight more starts per team.
Pitchers assigned a greater percentage of innings
1. Pitchers expected to being the season on the IL
Rich Hill is the obvious example, but any starter ticketed for a delayed debut picked up more starts.
2. Swingman starters
With workhorses losing starts, hurlers the ilk of Ross Stripling stand to pick up more spot starts.
We will continue to monitor news at the player, team and league level and adjust our projections accordingly.