This article is part of our Rounding Third series.
Yes, it's true, baseball is indeed back! We're going to have a 60-game season, with players reporting to "summer training" on July 1st, and the season beginning on either July 23 or July 24. News is going to be coming fast and furious going forward after a lengthy dearth of player news over the last three months. We'll have updated projections, cheatsheets and Roundtable Rankings coming soon, in addition to a slew of feature articles on how to address this sprint season. But here are a few of the topics we'll be following.
1. Details of Game-Play - here's a great FAQ from MLB.com - read the whole thing, but here are some highlights:
- We will have a universal DH. This has been the topic of speculation during this lockdown in our community, so it shouldn't catch you off-guard now. But be on the lookout for stories from the teams confirming who might benefit from the extra playing time, much like this one from Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. Make sure to pay attention both to who will be getting more at-bats *and* to what that means for NL starting pitchers.
- There still is a trade deadline - it has been moved from July 31st for August 31st. It remains to be seen how willing teams will be to trade, and the logistics of trading prospects that aren't playing minor league games will be tricky at best.
- The playoff structure will remain the same - five teams from each league. The lack of an agreement between the owners and players prevented an expansion of the playoffs at this time. That might increase the number of teams willing to sell at the deadline.
- We'll have 30-man rosters the first two weeks of the season, and 28-man rosters the next two weeks, which means we'll probably see more platoons early on. It'll be harder in deeper leagues to find players with regular at-bats.
- When games go to extra innings, MLB will adopt the minor league rule that begins the inning with a runner on second base. Terrance Gore and Tim Locastro, rejoice!
- MLB will have a special COVID-19 injured list for players that test positive. Otherwise, all players (pitches and hitters both) will go on a 10-day IL, rather than 15 days for pitchers as originally planned for 2020.
2. Players Who Test Positive for COVID-19
Some players have already tested positive for COVID-19, and it's going to happen more in the future. We already know that Charlie Blackmon and two of his teammates on the Rockies have tested positive, there are at least five Phillies players and one Blue Jays player that have already tested positive. As we've seen with the PGA Tour, this is going to be an ongoing issue.
3. Shohei Ohtani Status
We speculated whether Ohtani might be used differently in a shortened season - perhaps with the Angels deciding to eschew having him pitch. That won't be the case - from the Orange County Register's Jeff Fletcher:
If you play in a daily moves league, that's great. But if you're playing in the NFBC (more on that later), you still have the same dilemma. Do you use him as a pitcher or as a hitter that week? It's going to be very difficult to use him as a hitter, unless the timing falls perfectly that you get the full benefit of at-bats over the Friday-Sunday stretch, and use someone else for the Monday-Thursday stretch. Still, it's good news that his rehab is going along well, and that you could use him as a pitcher.
4. Mike Trout
Trout's wife is due to give birth in August for the couple's first child, and he's been very vocal about wanting to be there for the birth. What I don't know is how long he'll have to be away to attend that. There was a tweet by Bob Nightengale that suggested players will get full pay for a three-day paternity leave, with other protocols in place in case of a complication. But I still wonder - will certain locales require a 14-day self-isolation period to leave the team's "bubble," or will the Angels have to have Trout serve that when returning? I think that question isn't fully answered yet, and the answer still might change as our response to this virus continues to change. Fred Zinkie and I discussed that issue on the Tuesday RotoWire podcast. But the general takeaway is that with only 60 games, every missed game takes on a greater meaning. I can't put Trout in my top-3 any longer, and I might have to severely discount him if he has to miss 15+ games (25% of the season!).
There's also the small chance that Trout or anyone else simply opts-out of playing this season. Of course, we'll be on top of those announcements if/when they come in over the next week or two.
One of the big casualties of this lengthy shut down is the vast majority of NFBC events this year, at least in current form. All of the RotoWire Online Championship drafts that have already been completed will be refunded, though there will be a rebooted championship with new drafts, at a different price point. None of the Main Events have been drafted, but they're going to refund all of those entries and have a different event, also at a lower price point. I'm still going to play in the updated contests when they become available - I still believe that much in the product.
This next week should bring with it a slew of injury updates from players like Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Willie Calhoun and many others. If they're at full capacity, great. If it looks like a player won't be ready for the start of the season, he's almost certainly going on my "do not draft" list. With a 9-10 week season, you simply can't afford to carry a player that's going to miss a couple of weeks if you don't have an IL list to stash him.
Those are just some of the main issues to pay attention to as we ramp back up to speed - but let us know, what else should we be looking for? What other topics would you like us to cover? Let us know in the comments.