Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: Prepping for Late Start to 2020 MLB Season

SI Fantasy answers all of your pressing fantasy baseball questions for the 2020 season. This week, we delve into how the delayed start to the season affects fantasy drafts and some player rankings.
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The start of the 2020 MLB season is delayed indefinitely as the world tries its best to slow the spread of COVID-19. That means the start of fantasy baseball season is also delayed, but it's a little different. Early drafters may already have their team in place, while others have no idea when their league will schedule the most exciting day of the year. 

SI Fantasy hasn't forgotten about all of you fantasy baseball players out there. We're going to answer the most pressing questions you have throughout this extended offseason. We asked for your questions via Twitter or email. If you have a question we didn't get to in this article, reach out to us there.

Q: Should I be prepping for this season differently because of the delay? - Taylor

These are truly unprecedented times, so it's difficult to give an exact answer to this question. We don't know when the season will start or how many games teams will play when it does. The best course of action is: Don't make any drastic changes only because of the delay. 

Trust your pre-delay evaluations and pay attention to players rehabbing an injury. Nobody knows how the extra time will affect certain players, so don't upgrade or downgrade any healthy players. Injured players will get a slight boost (particularly if they were dealing with mild-to-moderate injuries), but be mindful of giving too much of a push up your rankings because injury-prone players will still have that characteristic when the season starts again. 

If he plays whatever a "full season" becomes in 2020, I have Alex Verdugo ranked as my No. 129 overall player and my No. 30 OF in standard 5x5 leagues. In a traditional 162-game sense, I have him projected for 80-17-75-7-.300 over 550 at-bats. Those numbers will need to be prorated over however many games the 2020 season is, assuming Verdugo's back issue doesn't linger past the new Opening Day. 

Note: Check out the video at the top of this article if you want to hear more about why I believe Verdugo is a breakout candidate this season.

Q: Is there any player you're more likely to draft now than if the season started on time? - Jameson

Justin Verlander. At one point this offseason I had him as my SP2, behind only Gerrit Cole. But news of him being shut down due to a lat strain was concerning. Spending a late-first or early-second round pick on an already-injured pitcher is a recipe for disaster. 

He's since had groin surgery that will sideline him for six weeks, but he'll likely be fully healthy whenever the MLB season starts again. There's no other reason to be concerned about Verlander, as he continues to put up Hall of Fame numbers year in and year out. He's currently my SP3 and I'd be comfortable taking him as high as the end of the first round. My projection over a 162-game season: 17 W - 3.20 ERA - 1.02 WHIP - 270 SO - 207 IP

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It's tough to say Judge will get a big boost because he was already being drafted so high (ADP 45.4). However, starting the season on time and pain free is a tremendous boon for the 27-year-old. 

Judge is the 16th outfielder off the board right now and I'd take him as high as OF10. I discussed this in my best-case scenario for him a couple weeks ago (along with fellow Yankees Giancarlo Stanton and James Paxton), but a full season that looks like this is very possible: 105R - 40HR - 98RBI - 6SB - .265 (525 ABs).

Q: Is Taijuan Walker worth drafting in a head-to-head, 12-team, 5x5 league with extra time off? - John

Short answer: No. I'm not ready to buy back in until I see a good chunk of injury-free innings from Walker. That means, aside from maybe a late-season streaming start, I won't roster Walker until at least 2021. He's worth a flier in very deep leagues with a lot of reserve spots, but the majority of fantasy baseball players can ignore him during drafts. 

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