Positional Eligibility Matters
The Tigers announced, through GM Dave Dombrowski, that Victor Martinez will not catch in 2013 as the Tigers plan to let Alex Avila and Brayan Pena handle the tools of ignorance. This decision has a whole bunch of fantasy implications that need to be investigated an understood, so I will use V-Mart as my primary discussion point on positional eligibility before listing a whole series of other players who may or may not be worth an extra bit of emphasis on draft day because of the positions on the field that they are, or aren't, qualified for in the fantasy game.
(1) If V-Mart doesn't catch in 2013 and only suits up at DH what does that do to his positional eligibility in your fantasy league? Usually we just look back to the previous season and see if the guy played 20 games at a position. If he did, then we just lock him into eligibility for that position. However, Victor didn't play a single game last year after he injured his knee (he tore his ACL and had surgery. Current reports suggest that he should be good to go for Opening Day). Does that mean he will only be DH eligible in 2013, or does your league do what I think is the correct thing to do which is to look back at the last season the player actually appeared in the big leagues? If we take that tact and look back at 2011 we find that Martinez did appear in 26 games as a catcher and therefore should be catcher eligible in 2013. This is a vital question to answer – where does Martinez qualify in 2013? As a catching option Martinez is a potentially elite play. As a DH only player he's merely a solid option. Huge difference in value as a result of where he qualifies.
(2) If he really isn't going to catch, what happens in interleague play when the Tigers face an NL club? Obviously he isn't going to play first base with Prince Fielder there. Does that mean when the Tigers are forced to play an “NL game” that Victor will merely be limited to pinch hitting duties? Does that negate the potential benefits he should derive from being a full-time DH since he won't be able to start for stretches of time? Also, how will he respond to being out of the starting lineup for days at a time when the Tigers face those NL clubs? A few points to consider when it comes to evaluating the expected levels of production that one should expect from Martinez in 2013. Obviously, there's a lot to think about with a guy like V-Mart beyond what should one be expecting from his bat (I would assume that he will return as a very impressive hitter, though what exactly that means is a tad uncertain. I'd be looking at his 2010 effort as my baseline, and in that season he hit .302 with 20 homers and 79 RBIs. Don't forget that the 34 year old sat out an entire season last year, and that is significant even if many will try to minimize its importance).
Here are some other key players to think about in terms of how their positional eligibility effects their value. Remember, the standard for most leagues is 20 games played at a position the previous year.
Mike Aviles is only shortstop eligible after appearing in two games at second and one at third.
Jose Bautista will only qualify as an outfielder in 2013 after appearing in only one game at third and four at first in 2012.
Brandon Belt appeared in only four games in the outfield losing eligibility there.
Emilio Bonifacio plays all over the place and he should do the same thing for the Blue Jays in 2013. Here are his games played totals from last season: outfield (51 games), second base (15 games). So much for his second, third and shortstop eligibility from '11.
Billy Butler appeared in only 11 games at first base in 2011 causing him to be DH only eligible in 2012. He rectified that situation by appearing in 20 games at first in 2012.
Chris Davis lost third base from his ledger (zero games), but he is still eligible at first and the outfield.
Edwin Encarnacion is only first base eligible in 2013. He suited up just one time at third base last season.
Adrian Gonzalez fell just short of qualifying in the outfield with 18 games in right field.
Mike Morse appeared in only one game at first base.
Trevor Plouffe has a nice power bat but he qualifies only at third base (95 games) heading into the season. He should be a starter in the outfield for the Twins in 2013, but he appeared in only 17 games in the outfield, four at second and one at short last season.
Martin Prado appeared in 119 games in the outfield, 25 at third, 13 at shortstop, 10 at second and four at first base.
Hanley Ramirez appeared 98 times at third and 57 times at shortstop. Don't forget that also means that he is eligible to fill the middle and corner infield spots.
Mark Reynolds appeared in 108 games at first but only 15 at third base.
Kyle Seager qualifies at third base (138 games) but not at second (18 games, 14 starts).
Mark Trumbo may or may not qualify as a first baseman for you. He appeared in 21 games at first base last season but only 16 as a starter. Does your league use starts or appearances as the benchmark? Make sure you check it out.
Michael Young appeared in 41 games at first and 25 games at third base. He was only a second sacker 16 times.
Ben Zobrist is a money play in 2013. Not only does he produced impressive numbers at the dish, but he also qualifies at second (58 games), outfield (71 games) and, here's the kicker, shortstop (47 games). That ability to fill three roster spots is golden and certainly bumps up his value substantially, especially in deeper leagues.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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