Earlier this week, Tout Wars made a couple of announcements for the upcoming fantasy season. First, I found out who my competitors would be in the Mixed League as the third and final lineup for Tout Weekend was set. Additionally, rule changes for 2012 were announced, and one of those changes is quite dramatic and unique.

Prefacing these rule changes, the Tout crew wrote:

We’ve always looked at Tout Wars as an incubator for new ideas about how to play fantasy baseball. The game is a living thing, and we take seriously a responsibility to try out new rules that we think have an opportunity to be of use in other leagues.

Well, Tout Wars has certainly made good on that claim this year with what I can consider to be the biggest rule introduction in years, perhaps the biggest since the fantasy world shifted from 4×4 to 5×5:

Starting this season, in all three leagues, we’re converting the fifth outfielder slot into a place for any player on the team’s roster, playing any position, including pitcher. Hitters will contribute as hitters, pitchers as pitchers. Micah Owings contributions will come from the mound, not the batters box.

The new lineup slot will be known as the “Swingman” position, and its introduction brings up a lot of very interesting strategic considerations. Here are the most obvious of my options, as I see them:

  • Bolster my hitting stats by plugging in a slugging first baseman, DH, or outfielder
  • Try to rack up some extra wins and strikeouts with a starting pitcher
  • Draft an extra closer to make sure I win saves
  • Buy whoever comes at the biggest bargain, whether he be a hitter, starter, or closer
  • Mix and match each week

That’s a lot to consider, and to be honest, I have no idea which direction I’m going to go. I’m tempted to simply play it by ear and see which types of players come at the biggest bargain on draft day, while also taking into consideration how my roster is being constructed and where my categorical weaknesses figure to be.

I could also pre-decide to go cheap with it, select high-upside players with my reserve picks, and hope someone breaks out. With five lottery tickets to work with in this scenario, it may very well be worth it to gamble on one of them paying out and putting the extra money into a better player at another position that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the cash for.

Another option would be to skimp on closers on draft day in the hopes of snagging an April-minted closer off the waiver wire (someone in the mold of 2011’s Jordan Walden and Sergio Santos), paying whatever it takes in FAAB to get one. That would be risky, though, as these new closers aren’t always the most skilled bunch or the most secure in their jobs (look at the Cardinals’ revolving door of closers last year), and it would mean parting with a large chunk of my FAAB budget very early in the season, potentially hamstringing me for the remainder of the year.

In a similar vein, I could funnel the money I would otherwise allocate for the spot into a premium player at another position and play an elite set-up man as my Swingman at zero cost (they come free off the waiver wire in-season). This would help my ERA and WHIP, but it might force me to take too much of a hit by having one fewer hitter and not getting the Win and Strikeout benefit I’d get from using a starting pitcher in the slot (or the Save benefit from a closer).

For the two years that I’ve played in Tout Wars Mixed, I’ve had the hardest time competing in wins. Wins, of course, are a very fickle statistic, and it doesn’t help that there are so many starting pitcher options in a league of this (relatively shallow) depth, even on the waiver wire. One way to help compensate for my struggles here and to take advantage of said depth would be to stream two-start pitchers each week and plug them into my Swingman position.

All in all, there’s a lot to take into consideration, and I don’t see a clear-cut best path to take as of this writing. What do you guys think of the new rule, and if your league implemented it, how would you go about filling your own Swingman spot?