No Universal DH: How MLB’s Decision Will Impact Fantasy Baseball

Last Updated: Mar 12, 2021

No Universal DH Fantasy Baseball Impact: The Game Day asked some of its fantasy baseball writers to answer some of the biggest fantasy baseball questions ahead of the 2021 season.

How would MLB not having the universal DH change your fantasy baseball strategy for 2021?

JOSH SHEPARDSON: I’m erring on the side of using the DH rules as a tie-breaker between similarly-talented pitchers in opposing leagues. American League (AL) hitters totaled a 99 wRC+ in 2018 and 2019 with a 21.9 K% and 23.0 K%, respectively, according to FanGraphs.

Comparatively, National League (NL) hitters tallied a 94 wRC+ those two years with a 22.6 K% in 2018 and 23.0 K% in 2019. The lack of a DH in the NL will also force gamers rostering AL designated hitters to plan ahead in-season when the DH’s team visits NL parks.

It’s not a reason to devalue someone like Nelson Cruz now, but it’s an inseason consideration nonetheless.

TAYLOR TARTER: I don’t think from a fan standpoint it hurts things. It certainly makes it better for National League pitchers this year; they once again get to face the pitcher as an opposing hitter.

I also like seeing pitchers hit, even though many people do not; that is what sets the National League apart from the American League, and it’s what makes interleague games interesting.

FRANK AMMIRANTE: The absence of a universal DH impacts NL starting pitchers, catchers and fringe starting hitters. NL SPs get a bump in value because they’ll once again get to face the opposing pitcher.

Use this as a tiebreaker when debating between two similarly valued pitchers, like Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow. NL catchers get a slight downgrade because they won’t be able to DH on their days off.

This is bad news for highly valued catchers like J.T. Realmuto and Will Smith. I wouldn’t consider drafting them at their current costs because their projected plate appearances have decreased.

Lastly, it affects fringe position players significantly because they’ll no longer be able to play every day. Players like J.D. Davis of the Mets and Edwin Rios of the Dodgers lose a ton of value due to the lack of the DH.

No Universal DH: How MLB's Decision Will Impact Fantasy Baseball

Despite the MLB not utilizing a universal DH, some players such as New York Mets third baseman J.D. Davis could still provide fantasy baseball value. (Credit: USA TODAY Sports)

JUAN CARLOS BLANCO: NL pitchers certainly get a general upgrade on their fantasy outlook. A viable hitter is eliminated from every non-interleague lineup they face, at minimum.

ERA, WHIP and strikeouts could all inch back up this year with more pitchers getting that “free square” they can attack directly and leverage to tread lightly with No. 8 hitters, for example.

Conversely, supply theoretically shrinks, especially in NL-only leagues, on viable hitters to draft. There’s also a bit of a downgrade on certain players who typically hit out of the latter portion of lineups in proximity to where the pitcher would usually slot in.

KEV MAHSEREJIAN: The lack of a Universal DH is BRUTAL for deep-league drafters who love those unfortunate poor-fielding hitters whose bats profile extremely well. Most of the time, if a bat is good enough, it finds its way into the lineup but that takes consistently above-average play.

I’m still drafting J.D. Davis despite the Mets’ reported interest in bringing in a better-fielding 3B. At the right price, you can look past the DH. For pitchers, yes, it is better to face a pitcher than another competent hitter but if I like an AL pitcher significantly more than NL, the DH will not sway anything. If you’re deciding between two starting pitchers, more often than not, choose the arm who’ll won’t have to face a DH most of the season.

A lot of these 2021 Fantasy Baseball Draft Tips apply to in-season play, too. Use this insight to create the best daily fantasy baseball lineups and picks for the 2021 MLB season.

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