Clave and I recently had a bit of a conversation, trying to figure out if the Astros move to the American League next year will impact fantasy baseball. See, with 15 teams in each league, we’re going to have interleague play every day next year, meaning when American League designated hitters go to National League parks, they’re going to have to ride the bench, or play in the field.
This is what Clave said to me as part of that exchange:
I think the that a fantasy implication of that could be player eligibility. There will be inter league play every week now, meaning depending on home park, we’re having teams supply or eliminate a DH. If a team like KC is in a NL park, don’t you think they put Billy Butler at 1B? They won’t just drop his bat. So do they stick Hosmer in LF and does he get enough reps to gain eligibility? What to do with Papi?
At the time, this logic made a lot of sense to me. My only real comeback to refute that was that primary DH’s will tend to go to first base or the outfield, which are traditionally the deepest fantasy positions. See, I had seen the 2013 schedules, but hadn’t really spent a lot of time breaking them down. I have now and I can definitively say this: I don’t know what you’ll read when you’re preparing for the draft, but don’t let the year long interleague play trick you into thinking that these players will become more valuable.
Let’s take a look at the two examples that Clave cited, Billy Butler and David Ortiz. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Butler remains on the Royals through 2013, and Ortiz does the same in Boston.
|Boston Red Sox NL Games||Kansas City Royals NL Games|
|May 29 – at Phillies||April 5 – at Phillies|
|May 30 – at Phillies||April 6 – at Phillies|
|August 19 – at Giants||April 7 – at Phillies|
|August 20 – at Giants||April 16 – at Braves|
|August 21 – at Giants||April 17 – at Braves|
|August 23 – at Dodgers||May 29 – at Cardinals|
|August 24 – at Dodgers||May 30 – at Cardinals|
|August 25 – at Dodgers||August 2 – at Mets|
|September 24 – at Rockies||August 3 – at Mets|
|September 25 – at Rockies||August 4 – at Mets|
That’s it. Ten games in NL parks for Butler and Ortiz. In every league I have ever played in, it takes at least 10 games at a position to gain eligibility there in the season. So, they would need to play every one of their team’s NL games in the field, and at the same position. Even if that happens, Butler won’t pick up eligibility until August. Ortiz wouldn’t pick it up until the second to last series of the year.
Thinking back to the 2012 draft, I often heard people boosting the value of Miguel Cabrera because they knew that he’d pick up third base eligibility early in the year with Prince Fielder in town. Now, Cabrera’s value wasn’t bolstered a lot as he’s a potential top pick anyway, but I heard similar things the year before with Kevin Youkilis moving over to third base in Boston to make room for Adrian Gonzalez (now, of course, both are gone).
That’s just not going to happen this year. The positions these guys will likely play are probably not positions that need a lot of bolstering, and it’s very doubtful that they’ll even play enough games there to pick up anything anyway. If they do, the change won’t come into effect until late in the season.
If you’re looking at guys who might have their values bolstered a bit, look at guys like Buster Posey. This year, he has often played first base or been on the bench for the starts of Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito. Now, for a few more games a year, the Giants will have an extra place to put his bat, making it quite a bit easier to get him off of the catcher’s position. Fewer games in the crouch and taking foul balls off of the body will only help his offense.
But even at that, catchers with the overall hitting ability of Posey are extremely rare, which should bump his draft stock up on its own.
So, as far as real baseball goes, the Astros moving to the American League will give things a different look. You’ll see teams you’re not used to seeing quite a bit more. But if your fantasy season is over and you’re already looking ahead to 2013, wondering how the changes are going to impact player’s fantasy value, I don’t know what you’ll hear next spring at draft time, but the changes won’t impact fantasy baseball one bit.