The shortened season in 2020 is really making analysis for the 2021 Fantasy baseball season even tougher than usual. And it's not just because the small-sample size from last season makes it much harder to know which of last year's breakouts were real, who really got worse, and what was just a cold or hot streak, though that's obviously a big problem. And one that isn't easily solved.

However, arguably an even bigger problem is the impact it is going to have on pitcher usage in 2021. When drafting pitchers for your Fantasy team, you want them to have a good ERA and WHIP and K/9, obviously, but you also want to see a proven ability to hold up to a full season's workload as a starter. A pitcher who made it through the previous season while racking up 200 innings is going to be more valuable than one who didn't, all other things being equal. The problem is, nobody even got close to 200 innings in 2020. Lance Lynn led the majors with 84 in 13 starts. 

How many teams are going to let their pitchers jump from 70 innings to 200 from one season to the next? Veterans who have done it before should get plenty of leash. But there aren't many of those, and they generally cost so much in drafts that you can't count on getting more than one or two of them on your team. That means you're going to have to rely on the likes of Max Fried, Tyler Glasnow, Corbin Burnes, Ian Anderson, Chris Paddack and others for a lot of your starting pitching needs, which means your Fantasy team's inning share probably going to be a lot lower than in the past. 

That means those high-volume pitchers are potentially even more valuable than ever. The average Fantasy team in 12-team Roto leagues on CBS Fantasy in 2019 had right around 1300 innings pitched -- 1,305, to be exact. Assuming two closers in the lineup at any given time for every team on average, that meant you were averaging right around 170 innings for seven starter spots. This year, that average might be closer to 150 or even lower, which could drop the average innings pitched for a Fantasy team by as much as 100 to 200. In a practical sense, that means your very good, high-volume pitchers should take up proportionally more of your total pitching stats, increasing their impact. 

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Your team ERA is based on how many runs your team gave up and how many innings they pitched, and a pitcher who throws 200 innings will have more of a positive influence on your team ERA than one who threw 170 even if they have the same ERA. If, in 2019, the rest of your rotation threw 1,100 innings with a 4.00 ERA, 200 innings of a 3.00 ERA would drop your team total to 3.849; if the rest of your rotation threw 950 innings instead, that 200-inning, 3.00-ERA pitcher would drop your ERA to 3.827. That might not sound like much, but in 2019 it would have been the difference between a fourth-place finish in the average 12-team league and a fifth-place finish. 

Of course, the counter to that is also true: If the total number of innings your team throws is lower, a 150-inning pitcher will never have more value than this season. The bar for what qualifies as an impactful pitcher should be lower than ever in 2021. That means those Fried/Glasnow/Burnes/Anderson/etc. types should be more valuable than usual despite concerns about their workload. While I'm still wary of paying for those pitchers if you can get a high-volume pitcher with similar production for a similar cost -- this is why I'm out on Walker Buehler as a top-10 pitcher -- it does make it easier to overlook that particular flaw if everything else a pitcher does is good enough. 

It also makes getting creative with which pitchers you target easier. Guys like Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin for the Dodgers may not be in the rotation on Opening Day, but they'll probably get to 100-plus innings between multi-inning outings, spot starts and time in the rotation when injuries crop up. Their floor is higher than usual because of the expected workload concerns across the board, and they obviously have very high ceilings if they do end up in the rotation for most of the season. That upside probably isn't being reflected in their draft costs, as Gonsolin is SP71 in ADP at 243.0 overall, while May is SP56 at 191.8. 

Which brings me to Alex Reyes. Reyes will pitch out of the bullpen in 2021, but Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said the team is envisioning a role where he can throw 100 innings, with the eventual goal of having him compete for a rotation spot in 2022. That will likely feature plenty of multi-inning opportunities, but it will also allow Reyes to go max effort more often. 

If a 150-inning starter is more valuable than ever, it stands to reason that a reliever who gets to 100 innings could be pretty valuable, too. And Reyes could be a dominant one. He's thrown just 72.2 innings in his major-league career due a variety of injuries that have derailed the once top prospect, but he has a 2.48 ERA with 81 strikeouts in those 72.2 innings. 

Reyes is already throwing easy upper-90s heat in spring training, as he averaged 96.9 mph and touched 98 in his most recent spring outing, during which he struck out three in a scoreless inning. The stuff that made him one of the best pitching prospects of the last year is still there, and he's throwing all four of his pitches already in the spring as well. He could be a legitimate sub-3.00 ERA pitcher, and it's not inconceivable that he could strike out 125 to 130 batters even if he's limited to 100 innings. That strikeout total may not be far off what someone like Fried or Zach Plesac might give you in 150 or 160 innings. 

He probably wouldn't have much value in a H2H league, but in any category-based format, Reyes could be a viable part of any team build, especially since you can almost certainly wait until the first pick of the reserve draft or later to target him. 

And this argument applies to plenty of other players, both in Reyes' role and different ones. Triston McKenzie may not open the season in Cleveland's rotation, and he probably won't throw more than 120 innings, but if he's as good as I think he will be, he could be extremely valuable. The same goes for elite non-closer relievers like Devin Williams, Nick Anderson and potentially James Karinchak, plus the Reds group of intriguing options like Amir Garrett, Michael Lorenzen and Tejay Antone. If you can get elite ratios from a high-volume reliever or low-volume starter, that might be more valuable this season than the volume someone like Dallas Keuchel, Chris Bassitt or Marco Gonzales might give you as starters. 

And, of course, anytime you're talking about elite relievers in non-closer roles, there's always the potential that they'll become closers at some point. Garrett is fighting for that job right now and could be first in line for it even if he isn't named the closer on Opening Day; Williams and Anderson could be the next man up for their teams as well. And Reyes … well, the Cardinals are hoping Jordan Hicks comes back from Tommy John surgery and pitches well enough to lock down the closer job, and if not, Giovanny Gallegos could get the job done, as well. But, if they falter, maybe the team decides to turn to Reyes for the role, giving him a high-leverage role to pitch in in anticipation of him being one of their key rotation pieces moving forward. 

Either way, given the unique set of circumstances we're facing heading into the 2021 season, it's worth considering what these kinds of pitchers could do for your team. MLB teams are going to have to get creative with how they use their pitches, and you should be preparing to do the same for your Fantasy team.