Top-level analysis: Manfred a fan of fantasy baseball

Commissioner has finger on pulse of how game is changing for the better

Top-level analysis: Manfred a fan of fantasy baseball

As Commissioner Rob Manfred begins his inaugural season at the helm of Major League Baseball, the popularity of fantasy baseball continues to swell. Daily fantasy games and new, innovative scoring formats are just two of the latest developments embraced by fantasy enthusiasts. The Commissioner recently spoke about the role that fantasy baseball plays in engaging fans, the prevalence of analytics in baseball and the emergence of the latest wave of exciting young stars.

MLB.com: What are your overall thoughts on or experiences with fantasy baseball?

Commissioner: Baseball has long been synonymous with numbers, and fantasy baseball is an important outlet for that. This is a popular tradition with many of our most knowledgeable and loyal fans. We want fans to be entertained and engaged, and (fantasy) baseball does exactly that.

MLB.com: Youth baseball is one of your major initiatives. How much do you think fantasy baseball contributes to kids' involvement in the game?

Commissioner: MLB is aiming to find more ways to inspire children's passion for baseball. If kids are interested in fantasy baseball and stats, they could be on track to becoming passionate lifelong fans. That's exactly what we want to achieve. If tracking batting average or ERA helps kids build some fundamental skills, then we welcome all of those practical applications.

MLB.com: Each of MLB.com's top five ranked fantasy players -- Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt and Clayton Kershaw -- is under age 30, as are nine of the top 10. What does that say about the state of the game?

Commissioner: We have an incredible wave of young players in the game today. All of those players combine world-class athleticism with advanced baseball skills. What strikes me is that most of them have worn only one uniform during their careers and have signed long-term contracts, which is an outstanding development. On top of that, these are all young men who have been worthy of emulation. And I believe their best is yet to come.

MLB.com: What does it say about Trout that he has been the consensus No. 1 draft pick in all fantasy leagues over the last three years?

Commissioner: My favorite player as a kid was Mickey Mantle, a center fielder with closely-cropped hair and a blend of power, speed and athleticism. Mike bears more than a few similarities to Mickey, which is high praise. He has been not just an All-Star, but a sensation, since 2012. I believe that he will remain a tremendous ambassador for our sport in the years ahead.

MLB.com: Earlier this year, you spoke at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. How do you see advanced stats impacting the way fans enjoy the game?

Commissioner: We are lucky to have so many intelligent people in the game today. Certainly, our clubs have benefited from the expertise of their staffs for many years. Advanced stats are now more mainstream and easier to understand. It's exciting that this data has become prevalent online and even in our broadcasts. Metrics can play a dynamic role in enhancing the way that fans watch -- and, most importantly, enjoy -- games. MLB Advanced Media will be an incredible resource for us in conveying that knowledge and illustrating why events on the field happen as they do.

MLB.com: Lastly, what do you think fantasy baseball adds to the experience of being a fan?

Commissioner: I believe that fantasy baseball adds excitement and a sense of connection for millions of our fans. Participation often helps fans to learn more about players who aren't members of their favorite teams. Fantasy baseball helps develop engaged, informed fans, and that's a great thing for our sport.