2-Way Players – Here to stay? If so, what does it mean for Fantasy Baseball?

Brendan McKay - photo credit Bryan Green on Flickr

I am fascinated with the reemergence of the 2-way player and I feel that it could be called upon sooner than most people think. Another team on the precipice of this revolution (in addition to the Angels with Shohei Ohtani) will be the Rays. They are leaning towards this because of the drafting and development of Brendan McKay (2017 1st round pick) and Tanner Dodson (2018 CBB pick). The Rays were bold last year with the bullpen start days (Openers) and ended the 2018 season top 10 in WHIP, SLUG, OBP, BAA, K/9, HR, ERA, ER, and shutouts.  I would say that is a success. It does help that they had the 2018 American League Cy Young winner pitching every 5 days.

I could foresee the Rays going with 3 “Ace” type starters and going with 2 bullpen starts to round out the rotation, assuming they can find three SPs.  The 2 bullpen starts would be taxing based on the normal composition of the MLB roster. Typically, teams will carry 12 to 13 pitchers with 5 being starters and 7-8 being part of the bullpen.  The idea for the bullpen days is to have your RP go through the lineup only once, meaning, at best, they would need 3 pitchers for those games but, with the opener, would plan on using 5 pitchers that day. Assuming your traditional starters go 6 innings then you would need approximately 2 relief pitchers to finish out those games. Using quick math, that would mean for a 5 day stretch you would need to use 16 bullpen arms. You could manage that number in an ideal world but we all know that injuries and fatigue set in the longer the season goes on and occasionally some players just can’t get make it through the inning, meaning additional support will be needed.

This brings me to my original point.  If you constructed your roster with your typical 12-13 pitchers and then built up your team with a few 2-way players you would maximize your payroll and roster flexibility. You could have a bullpen arm start the game and once you take the lead have your biggest bat throw an inning or two for a superior defensive replacement. The options are endless and it would be more like a real-life game of chess.

But what does the emergence of the 2-way player mean for fantasy baseball? I would say for the short term you would avoid most of the players that would not fit in your traditional scoring format. I think that long term the format would have to change.  You would have to account for the hitting and pitching stats of every player regardless if they are a traditional 2-way player. Going to this type of system would give you increased value for success 2-way players if you were to start snatching them up now. Anyone in a fantasy league with me stop reading now. I know that in my fantasy leagues I am snatching up the 2-way players so I can to prepare for the inevitable rebirth!

Also, it’s imperative that you understand your league’s scoring system and lineup settings. A 2-way player like Ohtani was so much more valuable in a daily lineup league on a site like Fantrax that has him both P and Utility hitter. You could move him back and forth whenever you wanted. On the other hand if you’re in a weekly lineup league, his value wouldn’t have been as high since you’d have to choose pitcher or hitter for that week. Then there’s another example – how Yahoo! treated Ohtani. They decided to make TWO different Ohtani players, one hitter and one pitcher. If you wanted to get both stats you had to draft (or own) both Ohtanis.

Fellow Prospects1500 staffer Jake Wiener ranked 2-way players Brendan McKay as the 3rd best prospect and Tanner Dodson as the 23rd best prospect in one of the deepest minor league systems. Check out his entire Tampa Bay Rays 2019 Top 50 here.

Snippets from the article by @GatorSosa regarded the above-mentioned Rays prospects:

Brendan McKay, LHP/1B
Age: 23 (12/18/1995)
2018 Highest Level: A+
78.1 IP, 2.41 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 11.8 K/9, 1.6 BB/9
.214/.368/.359, 6 HR, 0 SB, 18.2 BB%, 21.5 K%
McKay was one of the best pitchers and hitters in the country for three seasons at Louisville, winning the John Olerud Award Two-Way Player of the Year Award each year before being drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. Brendan has a diverse arsenal with elite accuracy, and although his fastball often tops out in the early-to-mid 90s, a healthy combination of cutters, curveballs and an improving changeup complement his primary offering and has kept hitters guessing at the plate. He’s has been lights-out on the mound so far in his professional career, and while he’s had his fair share of struggles at the plate last season, he still displayed advanced plate discipline with an impressive .846 BB/SO. There is room for improvement with the hit tool for sure as it has lagged behind so far in his professional career, but we’re looking at one of the top LHP prospects in all of baseball. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rays take their time with McKay, allowing him to continue to refine both tools before a call-up to The Show.

Tanner Dodson, OF/RHP
Age: 21 (05/09/1997)
2018 Highest Level: A-
.273/.344/.369, 2 HR, 8 SB, 8.9 BB%, 15.2 K%
25.0 IP, 1.44 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 1.8 BB/9
Drafted No. 71 overall in this past year’s MLB Draft, Dodson is another two-way prospect in the Rays system. His athleticism is obvious and it has allowed him to be successful in both facets of the game. Similar to the organization’s other prominent two-way player, Brendan McKay, scouts have noted that his more dominant position may be on the mound. Unlike McKay, Dodson seems destined for a future in the bullpen, as that how he’s been utilized by the Rays so far in his professional career. For a team that has experimented with using an ‘opener’ and ‘bulk guys’, Dodson could be a great fit in either role. I could also see the hit tool developing with additional reps, making him even more interesting in the future for an
innovative organization.

Check out these tweets regarding McKay and Dodson:

Here are some other organizations with 2-way player development:

Fellow Prospects1500 staffer Andrew Rhodes ranked 2-way players Jared Walsh as the 25th best prospect and William English as the 33rd best prospect in the Angels minor league system.  Check out his entire Los Angeles Angels 2019 Top 50 here.

Snippets from the article by @A_Rhodes77 regarding the above-mentioned prospects:

Jared Walsh, 1B/OF/LHP
Age: 25
2018 Highest Level: AAA
Walsh has shown to be a good hitter in his minor league career, and he continued to show that hitting ability during 2018 across 3 levels. He has good plate discipline and showed great power this past season with 29 home runs. There is also an interesting development with his career as the Angels have started to develop him as a reliever and experiment with his ability to be a two way player. He is able to get his fastball up to 94 and has a power curve. His path to the big leagues is blocked as the Angels are stocked at first, so barring injuries he should be at Salt Lake all season. ETA: 2019

 William English, RHP/OF
Age: 18
2018 Highest Level: Rookie
The Angels believed so much in what Ohtani did that they decided to draft a player who has shown an aptitude to do it as well. English is an athletic outfielder, he has good speed and a good arm from pitching. He has decent bat speed at the plate and shows some good raw power. On the mound he possesses a 88-91 MPH fastball with a curve and changeup as his secondaries. If he continues to concentrate on being a two way player his ceiling is that of a 4th outfielder and middle reliever. ETA: 2023

Check out these tweets regarding Walsh and English:

Prospects1500’s Scott Greene has Trey Ball as the 51st ranked prospect for the Boston Red Sox. Check out his entire Boston Red Sox 2019 Top 50 here.

The snippet regarding Trey Ball from @Scotty_Ballgame‘s article:

Trey Ball, LHP/OF?
Opening Day Age: 24
2018 Highest Level: AA Portland
2018 stats: 34 G, 1 GS, 4-4, 7.58 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.15 K/BB
Ball, who fell off my Top 50 last year, finished off a disastrous 2018 with some ugly stats. So why the change of heart? The 2013 1st rounder is supposedly getting a chance to go two ways and try his hand in the outfield. He played two games as DH to close out last season (went 1-9 and logged his first pro base hit). Now I’m a little intrigued and want to give him a chance. MiLB.com had a nice article about Ball’s transition a couple weeks agoETA: unsure

Do you have comments about any other 2-way players? Add your thoughts below in the comments section, or let me hear your take on Twitter, @stoffer81.

Stoffer is an avid baseball fan who grew up in the heart of Braves country, but felt he never really fit in until the Marlins came along and then it was game over. He has been playing in deep dynasty keeper leagues for 20+ years and only plays in leagues where there is a prospect component. He currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida, which is the perfect place for him because it's home to the Jumbo Shrimp, the Marlins' Triple-A affiliate.

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