Will Your League Make Otani a Two-Way Player in 2018?

Even if you and your league mates agree on how to reflect Shohei Otani’s stats in 2018, you also need to ensure your league management system can support it. Finish the job by writing the rule on how your league will handle two-way players – before it becomes an issue.

On Friday, there was great news from Japan for fantasy baseball owners. It was confirmed that Shohei Otani will be made available to Major League Baseball clubs through the posting process this off-season. His current team, the Nippon-Ham Fighters, is sure to receive the $20 million maximum posting fee from MLB clubs anxious to secure the services of the 23-year old. Next will be many teams willing to empty their international signing bonus coffers, followed by Otani’s decision – assuming that is how the yet-to-be finalized updated posting process is defined.

Otani was already considered the top free agent by many this winter and now, his odds of playing in MLB in 2018 have increased considerably. Rumors suggest the pitcher/outfielder is most looking for an opportunity to be a true two-way player, even more so than money, which will likely be restricted by the terms of the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement.

A recent New York Post article quotes one MLB general manager predicting that Otani’s signing club could move to a six-man rotation to keep him on a schedule like in Japan. As part of his negotiations, he may express a preference to be in the offensive lineup for two or three of the days between starts.

While the dreams of potential Ruthian feats from Otani just around the corner fill our heads as aspiring 2018 fantasy league champions, reality may soon slap us in the face – if we are not proactive.

Before you decide what you will do regarding Otani’s scoring in 2018, you must understand what will be possible.

Will your fantasy league scoring system be able to accommodate a true two-way player and exactly what options will your stats providers make available to you?

An example

In two of my major industry leagues, the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) and Tout Wars, our league manager is the always excellent onRoto. The firm has built a strong reputation for being able to implement custom rules requirements smoothly.

I contacted one the firm’s founders and my National League Tout competitor Scott Wilderman for an update on their plans for Otani. As I hoped, they are all over it.

The net of what I learned is that onRoto is doing what I believe is the right thing. Scott and the staff are going to provide every reasonable option for 2018 leagues on how they want to deploy Otani. From this menu, each league can select its favored approach prior to the season.

They are:

  1. Hitter only.
  2. Pitcher only.
  3. Two completely distinct Otanis. Both the hitter and pitcher can accrue stats in the league. A team could own one Otani or both.
  4. Both the hitter and pitcher are separate players, but they are tied together. So they are drafted as one and only owned by one team. They can be activated separately, but would go on the DL together, traded together or cut together.

The devil can be in the details

Like an onion, peeling back each layer exposes another. Specifically, option 4) just above has several variations related to roster usage.

4a) Even though the two Otanis are tied together, each Otani uses a roster spot, either as a starter or reserve. His owner can start one, both or neither.

4b) The two Otanis count as one player for purpose of total roster size – unless they are both active at the same time. So if one Otani (or both) are benched, one of them would not count against the owner’s roster limit.

4c) Only if both Otanis are reserved would his owner be allowed an extra reserve.

As I discussed this topic back and forth with Scott over many emails, I expressed support for 4a) and concerns about the others.

My take is that the decision that Otani is two players should be the guide. Specifically, if an owner has the option of receiving the benefit of the stats of the two Otanis, I think he should always be required to use two roster spots for them, too, whether one or both are active or not. Giving an Otani owner an extra reserve (in any situation) seems an unfair advantage.

Ultimately, I backed off, as I get that the intent of onRoto is to provide all reasonable options for leagues to make their own choice.

The more I think about it, the more I appreciate it. No matter which way a league wants to go, as long as the rule is explained to all owners before draft day, they all can take whatever roster usage twist into account when deciding how much to bid for/how soon to draft Otani.

Just to be clear, the only option onRoto is not planning to allow is for an owner to accrue Otani’s stats as both a hitter and a pitcher from just one active roster slot.

Your call to action

You and your mates will need to get together and decide if the simplest solution is the best for your league, or if you want maximum flexibility, or perhaps somewhere in between. I know in at least one prominent national competition, a declaration has already been made that Otani will be a pitcher only in 2018.

For those who do not use onRoto, now is the time to seek out your stats provider’s plans for supporting Otani in 2018. If this matters to you and the answer you receive is not to your liking, you may even want to consider a switch. My urging is for you to take the time to check. Do not assume all providers will give you what your league wants come March.

For those of you who are league commissioners, it is time for you to be proactive. If you follow my simple three-step recommendation, you will be ready for whatever Otani delivers in 2018:

  1. Contact your stats provider to understand what is possible.
  2. Make an early decision and communicate it to your league.
  3. Write a “Two-Way Player” section to reflect the ruling and include it in the league constitution as soon as possible prior to the 2018 season.

I must explicitly draw your attention to number three above. Don’t ever stop with making a decision. Write it down!

I repeat – always put into your constitution rules changes at the time the decisions are made. If you stop at step #2, you are only asking for trouble.

I speak from experience. Right now, in one of my industry leagues, we are going back through several years of emails to reconstruct a prior decision. We apparently agreed via notes, but never put the rule change in the constitution – so is it binding or not? The message is to not be like us – finish the job!

Normally, I recommend a one-year waiting period for any alterations to league constitutions to go into effect, but can make an exception for an immediate change when 100 percent of the league agrees. (Again, ideally this exception process should be noted in your constitution.)

With Otani’s arrival imminent, you can take action now. Do not wait until spring.

No matter which way you go with Otani in your leagues, I hope you find this information of value. Now, get out there and use it!

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 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. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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