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Thursday 23rd Nov 2017

Major League Baseball’s adjustment to the disabled list, reducing the minimum stay from 15 days to 10 for 2017, is leading to more players being shelved than ever before. According to MLB data, during April, the total of 10-day DL moves this season was 177, compared to 149 15-day DL stints a year ago.

Is it a good thing or bad?

Many MLB managers seem to like it. In an AP story dated May 8, 10-day DL backers quoted include Giants skipper Bruce Bochy and Reds manager Bryan Price, citing positive benefits for player and team.

Interestingly, Bochy’s toughest competitor, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have been accused by some of gaming the new rule to juggle their seven-man rotation. Critics believe the Dodgers are liberally applying the 10-day DL to skip a rotation turn for selected pitchers to give them additional rest, while creating phantom injuries as justification, if necessary. Under the prior rules, a pitcher would have to miss at least two starts over a 15-day period out.

For their part, the Dodgers are unapologetic, welcoming MLB scrutiny while clearly leveraging the new rule to their advantage.

But what does this increased traffic on and off disabled lists mean to fantasy owners in 2017?

The level of interest may vary simply based on the league format, as all DL stays are clearly not created equal.

Some leagues feature disabled lists of a finite size, which may require careful roster balancing, while others have unlimited DL usage. Certain leagues allow in-week moves of a disabled player out of the lineup and a replacement in – if a legal substitute is among that owner’s reserves, while other leagues prohibit any mid-week changes.

I compete in leagues of all those flavors and more. While I have my opinions, I wanted to lead with the views of three friends, who also happen to play in and administer leagues in which I compete.

They are Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Famer Ron Shandler of ronshandler.com, USA TODAY Sports' Senior Fantasy Editor Steve Gardner and Masterball’s own Todd Zola.

Here are answers to four questions posed to all three analysts, with my remarks following.

1) In standard redraft leagues, do you believe in fixed numbers of DL spots, having none or unlimited use and why?

Zola: “I'll say unlimited, but I don't have a strong preference. We're all playing with the same inventory; tell me what the rule is and I'll plan accordingly. That said, I've played in very few leagues with a set number or reserves, all of them shallow mixed leagues where the available pool is deep so tossing back an injured player doesn't hurt as much.”

Shandler: “I have always been a proponent of unlimited DL spots. You get hurt enough by losing a player but I see no point in doubling the pain by forcing an owner to pick and choose which hurt players he can keep.”

Gardner: “I haven’t really thought about restricting the number of DL spots in LABR, simply because we’ve always had an unlimited DL and most of the leagues I’m in have an unlimited DL as well.”

Walton: “Perhaps the restricted-size DL league subset is small. I hope so, as I agree with Ron. Don’t kick owners when they are down.”

2) Has your thinking on the DL matter evolved over time? Why or why not?

Shandler: “Nope. Pretty much always felt this way. There are enough things in this game that are out of our control. Don't handicap our ability to manage our roster even more.”

Zola: “My thinking really hasn't evolved, primarily due to the limited exposure to DL limits. That is, I have very little hands-on experience to shape my thinking.”

Gardner: “My feelings on the DL issue have evolved somewhat over the years, and not just because of the new 10-day DL. The one change that makes more and more sense to me is capping the number of DL spots in deep AL- or NL-only leagues because the waiver wire is so incredibly thin, especially among hitters. Forcing owners to make the tough decisions – whether to wait on an injured player or cut him because a roster spot is needed immediately – is probably a better test of managing ability than just being able to stash all injured players on the DL until they return.

“The DL shouldn’t be a place to stockpile players just to keep them away from opponents. However, I’m sympathetic to the owners who just have horrible luck during the season and lose a number of their best players to injury. It does seem like a pretty heavy penalty to be forced to cut a $20-$30 player because all DL slots are already taken.”

Walton: “Steve comes at this from an interesting angle. Many weeks in AL- and NL-only leagues, the busiest free agent hitter might have logged just 10 or 12 at-bats the prior week. Slim pickings, indeed.

“Having said that, though, I admit that I have targeted injured players in drafts solely for the purposes of stashing them on the unlimited-sized DL until ready.”

3) In the leagues you administer, have you seen any impact of the 10 vs. 15-day MLB DL this year? If so, what?

Zola: “Not really. I think the 10 vs. 15 argument is overblown. Yeah, the Dodgers are playing with a 26-man roster, but other than that, there's just a handful of players put on the 10-day DL staying fewer than 15 days.”

Shandler: “More players are on the DL but it is not clear what percentage of them would still have gone on a 15-day DL. There have been some cases when the timing of the MLB DL move was such that it came too late to place a player on the fantasy DL but the 10 days would end too early to justify putting the player on the DL during the second week when he could return to action that week. It seems to require more owner insight into the injury prognosis and what the MLB team is planning to do. Not easy.”

Gardner: “There seems to be a renewed interest in the disabled list with MLB teams liberally using the new 10-day DL. It seems to have resulted in more fantasy owners having to guess whether or not their players will be back when they’re eligible, when previously there seemed to be enough time to feel more confident about a player’s status when 15-day stint was over.

“I think that’s what’s causing the most consternation among fantasy owners, not the fact that more players are going on the DL. In the past, I’d bet a lot of the same players would remain on an MLB team’s active roster in case they recovered sooner than expected.”

Walton: “Ron and Steve hit on the roster management issues for fantasy owners trying to gauge what an injured player’s situation really is. I would like to give fantasy league owners increased flexibility in this more challenging environment.”

4) If there has been any impact, is it enough to consider future rules changes in your leagues?

Gardner: “I’m definitely not in favor of changing the rules during the season. But I’ll probably poll LABR owners this offseason about limiting the number of DL spots in the future. Maybe a maximum of 3-5??

Shandler: “I've gotten into some spirited discussion on my site with readers in leagues with limited DL spots. But opening up that rule seems to resolve all those issues.”

Zola: “No -- and I'd argue against any changes based on this one season. As suggested, this is a goofy year with respect to injuries. It's not the 10-day DL - more players are getting hurt. I don't like to make any changes based on one season which should prove to be a blip.

“The most important aspect of the fantasy DL is for it to be separate than the reserve list. It's already bad enough you have an injured player, it's worse if you have to decide whether to keep the player, taking up a reserve spot or release him. In essence, the rich get richer. Not only does a team devoid of injuries have their active roster at full strength, they have stronger reserves, or perhaps the ability to stash a minor league prospect.

“If I could change one rule with the NFBC, it would be adding a separate DL to the 7-man reserve, especially because the NFBC allows Friday activation for hitters,” he said.

Walton: “When all is said and done, we have differing priorities. Ron remains in favor of unlimited DL sizes, while Steve is considering limiting them in –only leagues, and Todd wants to separate injured and reserve players. In my leagues, I may push for mid-week roster change capability in 2018 and beyond to help owners better navigate through the choppier DL waters.”

No matter how you feel about the DL subject personally, it is always a good idea to take your league’s temperature throughout the season and be ready to engage your peers on potential changes for next season.

In closing, I would like to thank Ron Shandler, Steve Gardner and Todd Zola for participating in this discussion.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

Earlier this week during the daily Scout Fantasy Show from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. ET on SiriusXM Fantasy, hosts Adam Ronis and Dr. Roto were discussing in-season rules changes.

Specifically, the question was posed as to whether league commissioners should be allowed to alter rules during the season. When the topic was opened up to Twitter exchanges, the modifier was added, “or is that too shady?”

Here is my take. No commissioner of any league should have the power to enact rules changes on his/her own at any time. After all, they are in charge of regulating leagues, not serving as dictator.

In 99.9 percent of leagues, the commissioner is also a competitor. From this is where the “shady” comment comes. Whether it could be proven that a proposed rule change would actually benefit a particular owner or not is immaterial. The commish needs to remain completely impartial at all times – and that includes perception.

If your commissioner disagrees with that, you need to find a different league in which to compete.

On Twitter, one follower, CheckerBDMafia, left the door open, based on the situation.

“Generally no, but if a mistake was made&vote =yes. Had waiver wire set wrong. Was allowing worst team to get every player instead of rolling,” he tweeted.

I consider this neither a rules change nor an exception. This action is simply fixing a problem caused by a human error. Hopefully, this league’s correct waiver rules were spelled out in the league’s constitution.

Commenter Mike_Santulli has been there and done that – and wished he hadn’t.

“I've done that as Commissioner looking to improve the league but only caused problems. Vote on a change for next season,” Santulli tweeted.

Mike has it exactly right – the second time. The ideal timeframe in which to consider a rules change for next year is this year, when the problem situation is fresh in everyone’s mind. However, even if passed now, it has to go into effect next season – in every case.

A league in which “dsfsoxfan” is a member has already made an in-season change here in 2017. I disagree with it for philosophical reasons, but see why it was done.

“Just had one this year with the DL spots in a dyno league. Expanded the DL due to the massive number of DL's,” he tweeted.

With the change of the minimum MLB disabled list stay from 15 days to 10 this season, 25-man roster churn has intensified. According to ESPN data from March 31 through May 14, MLB DL stays are up 16.2 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. (If you click on the link, you can also read about how at least one MLB club is manipulating the new rule to essentially play with a 26-man roster.)

Still, the only way I would support what dfssoxfan’s league did is if the in-season vote was a true 100 percent in favor of change. And in how many leagues would every single owner agree on anything?

To be honest, I would actually first try to talk them out of having a finite number of DL spots in the first place. I believe any limit, which by definition is arbitrary, unfairly penalizes team owners with bad luck. But that is a topic for another day.

I agree with my final quoted commenter, TheFFLCommish - I think.

“If a loophole is found, it should be closed. All leagues should have a constitution and the commish should have a "best for league" mindset,” he tweeted.

Let’s break this remark down into its three components.

Yes, all leagues should have a constitution – no exceptions. If one is needed, you can find scores of examples on the internet. Pick one as a base and identify the changes you need. While you are at it, make sure your rules also clarify whether the support of a simple majority of owners is required to enact a rule change or if a higher percent is desired.

Yes, every commissioner should have a mindset to do what is best for the league, but let’s get real. No commish is perfect. Complicating matters is the reality that they are league competitors, too. The very best place to be in is to have every situation already covered in the rules. That way, the commissioner is like the Maytag repairman – all dressed up with no place to go.

On the other hand, if your commissioner is having to make a lot of hands-on decisions during the season, it tells me your league constitution is weak.

To come full circle, TheFFLCommish’s first comment is the one about which I am unsure. Loopholes do need to be closed - but just make sure you enact the change for next year.

(Listen to @ScoutFantasy from 7-9 a.m. ET on @SiriusXMFantasy.)

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

Generally speaking, annual draft leagues handle prospects in one of two ways. Either league rules allow minor leaguers to be drafted at any time or the constitution requires players to reach Major League Baseball before they are eligible for pick up.

Even in the latter case, rules may be less restrictive on draft day. At that point, season-opening rosters are not yet in place, so which players are major leaguers and which are not is unclear.

In terms of the two major industry leagues, Tout Wars adopted the former model, while LABR follows the latter case.

Making matters even more challenging in LABR is the fact that the drafts are among the very earliest, traditionally held on the first weekend in March.

Past history has shown that in many of these leagues, one cannot wait for top prospects to be called up to the majors. In LABR, any owners who wanted to be proactive had to make their decision at the start of March. Or even if their favorite prospect was bypassed by others on draft day, there would surely be an expensive bidding war when the player was finally called up.

In preparation for drafting, the questions we asked ourselves were along this general theme. How many prospects do I want to draft and how many can I afford to hold among my six reserve spots until they are eligible in the league (in other words, when they are called up and prove they are worth starting)?

In my two years in the league, my observation has been that owners cannot even wait until the reserve rounds of the draft if they want to roster the brightest prospects. Some bidders have been willing to spend several dollars on minor leaguers whose contributions were coming later in the season, at best.

Now that we are a month into the season, I thought it would be interesting to see which prospects were taken in National League LABR in early March and how they are doing. Listed first are those who went in the auction, followed by reserve choices.

Drafted

Ty Blach, RHP, San Francisco – Lenny Melnick, $1.
I was even tipped off by a Bay Area friend that Blach was a great end-game stash in NL-only formats, but did I get him anywhere? No, I did not. In this league, Lenny Melnick did and was rewarded when Madison Bumgarner had his unfortunate dirt bike mishap and Blach moved from the pen into the rotation.

Alen Hanson, IF, Pittsburgh – Bob Radomski, Sandlot Shrink, $1.
One of the beneficiaries of Jung-ho Kang’s troubles with the law opened the season on the Pirates’ 25-man roster, but has done little with the bat. Hanson’s line through 22 games is .171/.216/.286/.502.

Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers – Greg Ambrosius/Shawn Childs, NFBC, $2.
This looks like a brilliant purchase by the NFBC team. Though Adrian Gonzalez’ injury opened the door a crack, Bellinger’s play in his big league debut blew it wide open. The early pick as NL Rookie of the Year.

J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia – Ambrosius/Childs, $3.
I drafted Crawford a year ago and held him all season, only to get nothing, Odds are much better the shortstop will make his MLB debut in 2017, though he needs to step up his hitting first. Over the first 29 games at Lehigh Valley, the 23-year old’s line is a disappointing .167/.286/.196/.482.

Koda Glover, RHP, Washington – Ambrosius/Childs, $2.
On the surface, Glover’s 5.03 ERA in his first 19 1/3 MLB innings last season suggested nothing special, but the NFBC duo saw the unsettled closing situation in the Nation’s Capital and got what already appears to be a nice bargain.

Gavin Cecchini, SS, Mets – Steve Moyer, Yakkertech, $1.
How can anyone argue with taking Mets infield reserves, especially based on what we have seen since draft day? Cecchini is off to a so-so start with Triple-A Las Vegas, batting .254 with two home runs and nine RBI in 30 games, but he received “The Call” on Monday.

Jae-gyun Hwang, 3B, San Francisco – Moyer, $3
The infielder was a trendy draft pick based on a good pedigree from a decade of play in Korea. Hwang did not make the Giants’ roster out of spring camp, however, and has a .293/.320/.379/.699 start at Triple-A. Further, the 29 year-old has yet to go deep through 28 games. Still, with the Giants struggling, the call could eventually come.

Reserves

Dylan Cozens, OF, Philadelphia – Melnick
The Phillies outfield prospect is struggling mightily in his Triple-A debut, with a slash line of .178/.256/.346/.602.

Yefri Perez, 2B, Miami – Melnick
Coming off a decent stint in the Arizona Fall League, the 26-year old was asked to repeat Double-A. It is going poorly with the bat in the early going, as evidenced by his .120/.270/.152/.422 line through 27 games at Jacksonville.

Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh – Eric Karabell, ESPN
This is a long-term hold. Given Kingham is likely not going to return from his Tommy John surgery until the second half and would need to reestablish himself at Triple-A, September might be his only shot to provide anything in 2017.

Steven Brault, RHP, Pittsburgh – Karabell
Karabell’s second speculative choice of a Pirates pitching prospect has a 3.52 ERA and a 31/15 strikeout to walk count in his first 30 1/3 Triple-A innings this season.

Destin Hood, OF, Miami – Brian Walton, Mastersball
Though Hood has four homers and 17 RBI to go with a .255 average over his first 30 Triple-A games this season, he has the misfortune of playing behind arguably MLB’s best outfield over the first month in the Marlins’ trio of Ozuna, Yelich and Stanton.

Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia – Walton
The second baseman drew positive reviews early in camp and now has seven homers and 19 RBI to go with a .959 OPS in his first 27 games this season. However, Kingery is still at Double-A, making the chances for 2017 contribution shaky.

Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets – Walton
My third speculative buy was partially based on Smith’s power potential and part on my lack of confidence in Lucas Duda. The former Mets first-rounder is off to a nice start with Triple-A Las Vegas with 21 RBI in 33 games and a slash line of .326/.378/.470/.847.

Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia – Ambrosius/Childs
The first sacker is off to a great first month-plus at Triple-A with eight long balls and 21 RBI in 31 games. Hoskins’ slash line at Lehigh Valley is a lusty .330/.412/.631/1.043. Ahead of him, both Tommy Joseph and Brock Stassi are struggling. It should only be a matter of when.

Brett Phillips, OF, Milwaukee – Ambrosius/Childs
Another solid choice by the NFBC team is producing well at Triple-A Colorado Springs, with six homers and 26 RBI in just 25 games. Phillips’ slash line is .304/.390/.565/.956.

Cody Reed, LHP, Cincinnati – Ambrosius/Childs
The lefty has made just one start, which was a disaster, but his numbers have been ok in six outings out of the Reds pen. A red flag is 15 walks to go with 15 strikeouts in 14 innings. Reed’s overall ERA is 6.43 with Cincinnati this season.

Ozzie Albies, 2B/SS, Atlanta – Moyer
The top prospect and native of Curacao has a so-so start with a line of .254/.289/.389/.678 through 30 games. Of concern is 30 strikeouts against seven walks. Albies has stolen nine bases in 10 attempts.

A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington – Moyer
After eight underwhelming starts for the Nats last season and a rotation ahead that looked locked down, Cole was a spring afterthought. Now, barely a month into 2017, Cole is back up and delivered a strong six-inning, one-run season debut last Saturday.

T.J. Rivera, IF, Mets – Moyer
The infielder proved to be a nice fill-in for the injury-racked Mets in 2016 and though he did not make the roster this Opening Day, looks to reprise his role again in 2017. It is only 177 career MLB plate appearances, but his .325/.364/.481/.845 line could help any NL league fantasy roster.

Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado – Moyer
With Ian Desmond back, Tapia may have to wait longer to get an extended chance. He is just 0-for-7 with the Rockies this year, but has been raking at Albuquerque with 20 RBI in 24 games and an eye-popping line of .405/.436/.595/1.030.

Time to take a break!

To be honest, until I got into it, I had no idea we had rostered this many rookies and prospects. I have profiled 21 players - and I am only halfway through the 12-team league! Next time, I will pick it up with the rest of prospects taken by NL LABR owners on draft day.

Hopefully, there are a few players here who you can grab and use – when your league rules allow, that is!

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

As introduced last week, we are taking a look at the early 2017 performances of the rookie-eligible players selected on draft day in National League LABR. These players were rostered during the first week of spring training contests, so much has occurred since then – some good and some bad.

In Part 1, I highlighted 21 players, but only made it halfway through the 12-team NL LABR league’s initial rosters. Here, we will pick up the rest, starting with those who were offered up for bidding in the main auction draft, followed by the reserves.

Drafted

Austin Barnes, C, Dodgers – Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, $1
Though the former Miami prospect remains a reserve, his 52 plate appearances here in 2017 is already a new career high. Barnes also has a career-best .511 slugging percentage with two-thirds of his hits having gone for extra bases. In a two-catcher NL-only league of 12 teams, simple math tells us at least nine backup catchers will have to be active at any point in time. Barnes looks like he was a good end-game choice.

Amed Rosario, SS, Mets – Gardner, $1
As the infield injuries mount, the most recent being the move of Asdrubal Cabrera to the disabled list, the questions at Citi Field increase. When will Rosario be promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas? Well, the Mets say he is not ready, sliding Jose Reyes over to short and using Cabrera’s roster spot on a reliever. Still, expect Rosario to make his MLB debut after his Super Two risk passes, likely by mid-season.

Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego – Derek Van Riper, Rotowire, $11
The outfielder was handled a bit oddly last September, with a guessing game as to whether or not he would be added to the Padres roster. Despite just getting 35 MLB at-bats from the 21st on, Renfroe’s 14 RBI in 11 games and impressive minor league pedigree made him a popular pick in drafts this spring. It has been tough sledding in 2017, however, as he is batting just .218 with a 27.2 percent strikeout rate. On the positive side, the 25-year old has seven home runs and 17 RBI through 40 games.

Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh – Van Riper, $1
Meadows’ off-season outlook seemed to be tied to the on-and-off trading saga that ended with Andrew McCutchen remaining with the Pirates. Yet when center fielder Starling Marte went down last month, it was not Meadows who received the call. To be fair, it was not warranted. Meadows’ poor results at Triple-A to date, including a .221 batting average in 295 plate appearances over this year and last, suggests more development time is needed.

Josh Hader, SP, Milwaukee – Doug Dennis, BaseballHQ, $4
Milwaukee’s top mound prospect is progressing at Colorado Springs, not an easy place to pitch. On the positive side, the 23-year old has 36 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings, but the 24 walks and nine home runs yielded have to be addressed before Hader will be deemed ready for the bigs.

Josh Bell, 1B, Pittsburgh - Dalton Del Don, Yahoo Sports, $19
Last season, Bell was just two at-bats short (128 of 130) of losing his rookie eligibility. What we have seen in 2017 in comparison to his 2016 debut is a lower batting average and higher strikeout rate, but more power. He will need to step up his play to provide a solid return on that $19 investment, which is certainly quite possible.

Reserves

Rio Ruiz, 3B, Atlanta – Van Riper
With only struggling Adonis Garcia ahead of Ruiz, Atlanta’s starting third sacker’s move to the disabled list with an Achilles injury last week could have opened the door for the prospect, but that did not happen. Instead, Johan Camargo was called up to sit behind Jace Peterson, who is moving over from second. Ruiz’ struggles against left-handed pitching is what appears to be the holdback, despite him swinging a hot bat overall at Triple-A. My guess is that if this was later in the season, we would see Ruiz now.

Amir Garrett, SP, Cincinnati – Dennis
Doug Dennis lives in the Queen City and as such, is to be trusted on his choice of Reds. After being taken in NL LABR, Garrett impressed in spring camp and made the rotation to open the season. After a month of being bombed, though, the 25-year old was returned to Triple-A, but he will be back to face the Cubs on Thursday. Despite the bumps in the road, Garrett remains one of Cincinnati’s best five starting options.

Jeff Hoffman, SP, Colorado – Derek Carty
The Rockies’ top take in the Troy Tulowitzki trade has yet to make his mark. Hoffman did not make the team this spring and was passed over when Jon Gray was injured. Still, the right-hander was called up to make a spot start last week and performed credibly against the Dodgers at home (three runs in 5 1/3 innings). When all is said and done, however, any pitcher who makes half of his starts at altitude will be a “rocky” choice. Add to that the fact that LABR does not allow streaming of pitchers and it is a challenge to see 2017 value for Hoffman in this league.

Brock Stewart, SP, Dodgers – Carty
Injuries caused the 25-year old to be pressed to the majors early, as he made five starts for the Dodgers last season. However, a lingering shoulder injury that surfaced this spring has kept Stewart on the disabled list all season to date. There is no clear return date for the talented lefty.

Grant Dayton, RP, Dodgers – Carty
Well, there is quite a pattern here, with Derek Carty having taken three NL West pitchers among his reserves. Unlike the other two above, Dayton is a lefty reliever who was coming off a strong 2016 debut. After making the club this spring and pitching well early, the 29-year old suffered an intercostal strain last month. Struggling following his return, Dayton was sent down to Triple-A earlier this week.

Tyler Beede, SP, San Francisco – Del Don
The 23-year old reported to camp as one of the combatants for the fifth starter job, but not only did not make the Giants, he was also passed over when Madison Bumgarner had his unfortunate dirt bike-related injury. Through 36 2/3 Triple-A innings this season, Beede has an uninspiring 26 strikeouts to 14 walks and a decent 3.68 ERA. His time will surely come soon enough.

Socrates Brito, OF, Arizona – Del Don
The last profiled player has undoubtedly the worst luck. After stints with the Diamondbacks the last two seasons, Brito seemed positioned to play a greater role in 2017, likely as the fourth outfielder. However, early in spring training, the 24-year old suffered what sounds to be a very painful injury – an “open dislocation” of his left ring finger. Surgery and a move to the 60-day disabled list followed. Perhaps there will still be time for Brito to contribute in the second half.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

When I stay on point at least, the primary focus of this column is fantasy baseball rules. One of my frequent messages is the importance of anticipating issues and addressing them before they become a problem for your league.

We have all been in the alternative situation at one time or another. Faced with an immediate problem and a need to make a fast decision about which some will be happy and others will be upset – the league commissioner has to make a call. Since no one is completely unbiased and not everyone can win, bad feelings are almost certain to ensue.

Today’s advice is to avoid this by planning ahead in your leagues for the two-way player.

As most fantasy players know, Christian Bethancourt has become the next to serve as both a position player and a pitcher in the same season.

The Padres player is the first such case in MLB since Brooks Kieschnick in 2004, according to USA TODAY. Even then, Kieschnick, who was primarily a reliever, appeared in just three games in the outfield and four more as designated hitter that year. In other words, he did not reach fantasy eligibility as an offensive performer in most leagues.

On the other hand, Bethancourt is a catcher by trade who next took up the outfield and even played a bit of second base in 2016. His games played tally last season was 41 behind the plate, 12 in the outfield and one at second.

Therefore, to date, he qualified only as a catcher in the vast majority of leagues this spring.

The question you should be asking, however, is what to do now that Bethancourt is officially both a hitter and a pitcher?

The options

The spectrum of possibilities could go from the ridiculous to the sublime.

1) Allow the two-way player to accrue stats as both a pitcher and hitter.
2) Allow the two-way player to be shifted from a hitting spot to a pitching spot, whenever the league allows changes to the active lineup.
3) Require the two-way player to be designated as either a hitter or a pitcher for the entire season, but not both.

Let’s take these one at a time.

The realities

Since today’s pitchers are not allowed to accrue stats when they hit, it makes no sense to allow option #1 for any two-way player. End of discussion.

Option #2 is intriguing, but would require the league stats service to support toggling a player between hitter and pitcher - as often as the league allows active roster changes. In most cases, that would be weekly. More on that in a bit.

The third option is realistically where we are today. Since Bethancourt was a catcher coming into this spring, the only hope for expanding his role for fantasy value in 2017 will be if he again appears in the outfield – a reasonable possibility. Pitching is not on the table.

A true swing player

There is actually a fourth option, which could further complicate matters. Some leagues, such as Tout Wars, employ a swing position. Instead of the fifth outfielder in a standard 14 hitter/nine pitcher format, this is basically a utility player who can be either a pitcher or hitter.

The capability to toggle the two-way player back and forth inherent in option #2 would be required here, as well. In an extreme case, it might even be needed during a given week, as Tout rules allow replacing of an injured player the very next day – if an eligible replacement player is already among a team’s reserves.

Practical 2017 implementation

In March, as I prepared for drafts in my industry leagues, I asked several commissioners for their ruling on Bethancourt.

One reply was just what I did not want to see. The official said that the odds of Bethancourt becoming a fantasy factor this season were so low that it did not warrant attention at this time.

As you would expect, I disagreed, urging the league to be forward-thinking on the matter.

Ultimately, that league’s stat provider is putting in their work plan for 2018 to write the code to enable option #4 – the most flexible choice. In the meantime, Bethancourt is a catcher and will not be eligible on the mound in 2017.

Another of my league commissioners initially ruled in favor of #2, but upon checking with his stats provider, learned it could not be implemented in 2017. He was required to back track to the default hitter-only case, as well.

Yet another league’s stat service realized up front that it did not have the technology to implement the change, so proposed creating two different Bethancourts – a hitter and a pitcher – and require leagues to choose between the two for the entire season.

The real reason to get ready

When all was said and done, dealing with Bethancourt coming into 2017 was relatively easy, since he had yet to pitch. This may not be the case in 2018. Next spring, he may qualify as both a hitter and a pitcher, so don’t wait to set your league guidelines. Figure it out now - both what you want to do later as well as determining if your stats provider can give it to you.

Sure, being a two-way player is difficult, as Bethancourt learned when he went unclaimed off outright waivers recently and ended up back in Double-A.

While Bethancourt may never cut it, the MLB arrival of the Babe Ruth of Japan, Shohei Otani, may occur as early as 2018. While few care about the Padres' two-way player, everyone will soon care about the Japanese outfielder/pitcher.

So it is time to become prepared. Start working with your stats provider to ensure they can deliver the capability that you will need - and get it into your constitution.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-timeNL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

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