We’re back! Each week, the 94 members of Tout Wars will be asked a question, with the responses shared here. With Tout Wars weekend upon us, we asked the Touts:
How are you approaching the uncertainty of the universal DH in your drafts?
Derek Carty (RotoGrinders, @DerekCarty): It’s insane that we’re two weeks away from Opening Day and there is still uncertainty about the DH. For now, I’m just assuming that there will be no universal DH and hoping for the best. If they change things up a day before Opening Day, I’ve configured THE BAT so that it won’t be too much trouble switching everything back to a universal DH
Michael Rathburn (Rotowire, @FantasyRath): planning on no universal dh in 2021
Fred Zinkie (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @FredZinkieMLB): I’m with Michael — assuming there won’t be a DH in the NL this season. As someone who is in the NL Tout league, it’s a big deal for me! If they switch to a DH at the last minute, I will be caught by surprise and will wish I drafted a little differently. But at some point, I felt like I needed to pick a side of the fence and move forward.
Brad Johnson (Patreon/BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): Honestly, I thought this was already definitively decided. The players said no. Nor do they have any reason to cave at this late juncture. It’s already too late for their constituents to possibly make a few more bucks in free agency. The only holdouts I see saying it’s still possible are out-of-touch shills for ownership. The biggest barrier seems to be that ownership *wants* something for it. That tact could have worked in 1998 when any well-known veteran could cash in on free agency, but nobody’s falling for it now.
Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): I’m approaching the season expecting no NL DH. The market might have over-reacted to that expectation by dropping some defensively challenged NLers, but if they can hit, they’ll play somewhere, so maybe a buying opportunity here or there. I might also pip up the value of NL pitchers, who get another year of easy outs from opposing nine-holes.
Ron Shandler (RonShandler.com, @RonShandler): I can only go with what is known and that currently is no DH. It doesn’t matter with the BABS system anyway because skill is rated in broad strokes and playing time can be changed by simply switching a “M”id-timer to a “F”-timer. The key variable is the impact on the marketplace, but there won’t likely be enough time between a Go-DH decision and Opening Day to get a read on that.
Ryan Hallam (Fighting Chance Fantasy, @FightingChance): While I am still hopeful, at this point I am going forward as if there will be no DH in the National League. You’d think the owners would want it to keep pitchers away from hitting and you’d think the players would want it to prolong careers and have another high salaried player, but it is not looking good right now.
Brian Walton (CreativeSports2, @B_Walton): I do not consider the DH for 2021 to be an uncertainty. The rules changes from the upcoming season have already been enacted. I’ve heard nothing that gives me any confidence a last-minute change back to the DH in the National League this season (or any other immediate rules changes) will be made. NL teams are already having pitchers bat in spring games in preparation for what could be the final season of pitchers batting.
Brent Hershey (Baseball HQ, @BrentHQ): I’m preparing as if there is no universal DH; just one less thing to have to factor into my rankings and draft prep at this point. I don’t put anything past MLB, but seems like to implement a change such as this at this stage of the offseason is unlikely.
Tim McLeod (Prospect361.com, @RunTMc59006473): I’m with Brian. I’d be totally shocked if any changes are made between now and opening day.
Scott Engel (Rotoballer, @scotteTheKing): I am proceeding as if there will not be one. Really good bats such as the one of Dominic Smith will find room in the lineup and I will still value him as a quality choice. I am really not expecting it at this point.
James Anderson (Rotowire, @RealJRAnderson): It doesn’t really seem like there is any uncertainty anymore, so I’m operating as if there will be no universal DH. Guys like Dominic Smith and Jesus Aguilar/Garrett Cooper are sliding enough in drafts right now that if the universal DH were to get added at the last minute, it would have a legitimate effect on the competitive balance of fantasy leagues that have drafted in the last month.
Matt Williams (NBC Sports Edge, @MattWi77iams): I believe you have to prepare as is there is no DH in the National League at this point. As far as hitters go there is not a ton that would change for me other than a select few players, but that is the way I feel you have to operate. I may use the possibility of a DH as a mid-late round tie breaker between similar hitters for at-bats. The biggest difference for me is giving that slight boost to NL pitchers.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): While I agree with the sentiment reverting to universal DH is unlikely, until I see a pitcher fail to execute a bunt on opening day, I’m holding out hope. That said, my rankings assume no DH, which pushes up some mid and lower tier NL pitchers as well as affecting some hitters as already discussed. I may try to draft someone like Edwin Rios late since, unlike Dominic Smith, his playing time is dependent on the NL DH, at least in mixed leagues. If it turns out pitchers will continue to foul off bunts with two strikes, I’ll drop Rios.
Jennifer Piacenti (Fantasy Alarm, @jenpiacenti): At this point, you have to draft assuming there is no universal DH. However, it is creating a lot of value in later rounds for players that could get a bump if a DH is added. Obviously Dom Smith is a big name that comes to mind. He has now fallen so far in drafts that I am scooping him up everywhere. If his bat is hot, the Mets will have to get him in the lineup either way, and if the NL decides to use the DH, it almost feels like a cheat code. If I am debating between two players in later rounds with identical projections, but one is an NL player with DH upside, I am leaning toward the NL player.
Nick Pollack (Pitcher List, @PitcherList): I’m not anticipating a universal DH, though it does make for some interesting final round options if you anticipate a possible last-minute change. In a 12-teamer, you’re likely to drop that final pick within the first week and chasing someone like Avisaíl García or Gavin Lux may be fruitful.
Nando Di Fino (The Athletic, @nandodifino): I’m rolling with the old Shandler adage (paraphrasing): Draft talent, not the role. If there’s a DH, awesome — all my NL bats will be that much more valuable and that skill I drafted will be on display. If ithere is no DH, I just remind myself that this is a very long season following a very short season. There are going to be injuries, there will be instances where a player’s talent will push him into a starting role. In short, NL DH will be a nice bonus, but I’m picking up values anyway, as stocks on players like Austin Riley are falling lower than normal because people are drafting assuming it’s DH or bust.
Larry Schechter (Winning Fantasy Baseball, @LarrySchechter): Is there still uncertainty? I thought it’s almost certainly a settled issue? I’m assuming no DH in the NL.
Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): Treating NL as if no DH. If that changes, I will need to be ready to pounce using FAAB, because more PAs will create opportunities.
Shelly Verougstraete (Dynasty Guru, @ShellyV_643): I’ve been assuming there would be no universal DH this entire draft season. We’ve seen players like Dom Smith and Avisial Garcia falling in drafts and I have been trying to scoop them up. I’ve also adjusted NL pitchers as there will have more opportunity to pick up an easy strikeout from the opposing pitcher. I have also adjusted NL leadoff a bit. If they will be consistantly hitting behind the pitcher, it really could limit their already limited RBI opportunity.
Vlad Sedler (Fantasy Guru, @rotogut): I’ve been drafting under the assumption that we won’t have a Universal DH and would be surprised if the script flipped at the last minute. Were it to actually happen in 2021, I’d simply be cognizant of it in FAAB. Had it actually been implemented, good-hitting NL catchers like Will Smith would have been drafted higher.
Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): I’ve been assuming for the last couple of weeks that there won’t be a DH in the NL. For a couple of batters, such as Dominic Smith, I’ll use the small possibility of the DH as a tie breaker when comparing a couple of batters, but that’s about it.
Bret Sayre (Baseball Prospectus, @BretSayreBP): It’s always easier to assume something won’t happen and then adjust if it does, but right now it seems like there’s not a particularly realistic path to an NL DH. In it’s simplest form, it’s a problem that can be addressed via the waiver wire since it will just widen it overall. In the meantime, I’m slightly downgrading overcrowded NL offensive situations like the one in New York, Los Angeles and San Diego as a preventative measure.
Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): I am currently drafting off of a no NL DH assumption. The probability of MLB having it is low at the moment, and gets lower with each passing day until opening day. But the bigger question is – what is the market doing? From what I see, the market is also pricing and drafting off the assumption of no NL DH. The question then becomes – should you bid a drop higher (or reach a little higher in snake drafts) on batters like Dom Smith or Will Smith that could pick up extra ABs? Technically, if their values would increase by $5 with a DH, and there is a 10% proability of that happening – sure, go the extra 50 cents. Essentially, I’m okay if you want to use the NL DH uncertainty by a tie breaker. But on an expected basis, there isn’t much of a projected value increase to make it worth it to think about. What about pitching? For starting pitching, the relative values of AL pitchers might move $1 vs NL pitchers – so I suppose, if in a snake draft you have two identically profiled and priced pitchers, you should take the AL one now as the tie-breaker. But that won’t happen often enough to really make it worth it to think about, and there are other more pressing tie breaking factors nonetheless. The bottom line is that the work involved in adjusting for NL DH uncertainty isn’t worth the effort at this point mid to late March.
Ray Flowers (Fantasy Guru, @BaseballGuys): The leadership of MLB is rudderless. Would it be a ground shaking change if they flipped to the DH last minute? Not really. That said, it would be an absurd decision to pivot to the DH at this point. My working assumption is that what we have now is what we have. If MLB wants to screw real world teams by moving the proverbial goalposts at this late date, what can we do?
Michael Florio (NFL Network, @MichaelFFlorio): I am acting as if there will not be one. That means at times passing up on a player due to playing time concerns, but I’d rather go in another direction and the player end up getting ABs due to the DH being implemented, than drafting a player, hoping we have it, and then not. It also boosts NL pitchers.
Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus, @MikeGianella): There’s not much I can really do about it now as nearly all my teams have been drafted. The only somewhat serious answer I can give to this is stop playing in leagues for money, particularly high stakes leagues. If a casino changed the rules of blackjack in the middle of a hand, I’d be well within my rights to ask for my money back if I lost the bet.
Michael A. Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): I am going on the assumption that there will not be a DH in the National League since we are a couple weeks away from Opening Day and nothing has been determined. This does affect my draft strategy with certain players such as Dominic Smith who will clearly be affected by the absence of the DH. It also does increase the value of NL pitchers slightly with the caveat that there is greater concern for their health since they will have to hit and run the bases. The overall impact on draft strategy is limited to the handful of players who were on the fringe of playing time, so it should not change too much in terms of preparation.
Tim McCullough (Baseball Prospectus, @TimsTenz): I’ve only got one draft left, so it’s sort of moot now. Up to now I’ve basically ignored it, thinking it wasn’t going to happen anyway.
Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, The Process, @jeffwzimmerman): I’ve been assuming no NL DH for weeks and making sure the leadoff hitters (fewer RBIs) and lower end NL hitters (fewer Runs and SB chances) get downgraded.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (ESPN, @SultanofStat): I don’t think you can reasonably prepare for a last-minute rule change to reinstitute the DH in the National League, even if MLB made it clear last year that they’re fine making such decisions. It’s such a small likelihood — and unfair from a competitive standpoint — that I think I’d do my teams more of a disservice preparing for it happening than by going with the odds and letting someone else take the chance they’ll benefit when/it if happens. Though I will say that Dominic Smith dropping two full rounds in the NFBC ADP in March compared to January makes him a bit of a bargain.
Jeff Erickson (Rotowire, @Jeff_Erickson): I was late in giving up the ghost on a universal DH, but I’m moving forward as if we won’t have it, because there are so many CBA-related obstacles towards us getting it back this year. I updated RotoWire’s projections to decrease playing time for select NL hitters (e.g. Dominic Smith, Will Smith, Seth Smith or any other Smith’s that are DH’s or have DH’d before), and to increase the strikeout rates for NL pitchers and lower their projected ratios. If they announce on March 26th that they’ve re-added the universal DH, so be it, I’ll scramble accordingly. I still have eight more drafts remaining, including one on 3/31.
Glenn Colton (Fantasy Alarm, @GlennColton1): At this point, I think we have to assume there is no DH in the NL. That said, I think this creates bargains on good hitters without defined roles. In LABR NL, we picked up a $3 Rios. As Ron Shandler is often heard to say, draft skills not role!
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Hmm, maybe I should have asked how everyone is adjusting for the reports of a softer baseball. Oh well, there’s always next week.
Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): I’m not planning on there being a DH in the NL. Dominic Smith will struggle to get 250 at bats. Matt Carpenter is useless, probably would be with DH too! Softer ball will cut down a few home runs!
Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): Hopefully everyone drafted as if there will not be a DH as this seems to have been happening. Those late round hitters in the NL who would DH and now players like Dom Smith will be forced to play out of position (LF) in order to get his bat in the lineup everyday.
Andy Behrens (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @andybehrens): At this stage, I feel like the only people who see uncertainty regarding the universal DH are those who produced stat projections assuming it would be in place — and they really don’t want to have to re-do the forecasts. But I can see no reason to think the N.L. will have the DH this season. It’s a win for half the pitchers in the pool and a huge loss for a handful of hitters. It’s particularly rough for the N.L. catchers we’d assumed would pick up DH at-bats.
Adam Ronis (Fantasy Alarm, @AdamRonis): Nothing would surprise me with baseball at this point. We saw last-minute changes last season. With the season two weeks away, I am going under the assumption that there will be no DH in the National League.
Alex Fast (Pitcher List, @AlexFast8): I was a little bit pessimistic that this was going to be put in place due to the politics of the situation so luckily planned as if there wasn’t going to be a universal DH. So close to the season, I’d be surprised if we saw a pivot. That said, I’m really curious as to what this does for Ozuna’s value and production. Will having to make defense a focus hurt him at the plate at all?
Toby Guevin (BatFlipCrazy Podcast, @batflipcrazy): I have been drafting as if there will not be a DH in the NL and I’d be highly surprised if we saw a change so close to the season, particularly given the current relationship between the players and owners. It impacts a handful of bats directly with fewer PAs, but the way many teams handled the DH last year it seemed like most teams used it as an opportunity to give their better hitters a break from playing in the field as opposed to having a single player who benefited. From a pitching standpoint, it certainly helps NL pitchers, but since the NL was better offensively than the AL last year and the fact pitchers don’t go as deep into games anymore, I’m not sure it will have as significant of an impact in making NL pitchers that much more valuable.
Derek VanRiper (The Athletic, @DerekVanRiper): At this point, it seems highly unlikely that the DH is coming back for the NL in 2021, so I’m reverting back to pre-2020 bumps for NL pitchers. Fortunately, there are only a handful of situations where one player was set to receive a massive upgrade in playing time as a result of the extra hitter spot becoming available, and a lot of the adjustments I’m making for hitters are increased risk of job loss in the event of a prolonged slump. I think the Mets, Braves, Nats, Dodgers and Padres were the teams best suited to “handle” having the extra plate appearances available, and now guys like Dominic Smith, Austin Riley, Josh Bell, and Gavin Lux have more narrow paths to keep near-max volumes of playing time as a result.
Ian Kahn (The Athletic, @IanKahn4): I am moving forward with the idea that we will have no DH in the National League. This does shift values for me, as there will be players like Dom Smith who will not receive nearly as many at bats as would be expected if we had the DH. There is also the question of how it shifts values for pitchers. It seems obvious that the NL pitchers should be helped, but, the fact that they will have to take at bats and occasionaly run the bases will hurt them. Getting out of the routine of strickly focusing on pitching always seems to cost pitchers the inning after they are on base. So yes, no DH to face, but the downside is also there. Looking forward to the time where Dh is universal. I believe it is better for the game.
Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm, @RotobuzzGuy): While MLB could obviously turn things upside down, without warning, I am assuming there is no universal DH for this season. Players who could have potentially filled the role for their respective teams will be treated no differently than they were in years past. I am also leaving my pitcher rankings alone since the NL hurlers will likely be facing pitchers still.
Brian Entrekin (Benched with Bubba, @bdentrek): I still would not be shocked if MLB dropped the universal DH at the final hour, but for now we proceed with the pitcher hitting in the NL. When it comes to drafts I use the NL without a DH as a tie breaker for starting pitchers I am debating between. I give the bump to NL pitchers in the situation. For hitters it hurts a lot of catchers and some others we expected to see some DH time, so they slide down the rankings a little.
Zach Steinhorn (CreativeSports2, @zachsteinhorn): By now, I’m assuming there won’t be a universal DH, and this actually makes draft preparation easier since it is the familiar format. Last year was especially tough since we all drafted thinking that there wouldn’t be a universal DH only to learn a few months later that there would be. I’ll follow my usual approach of opting to take the NL starting pitcher over the AL option when the decision is close.
Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): I am assuming the universal DH won’t exist. I could only imagine the uproar if MLB suddenly decides to bring back the NL DH again this close to the season opener!