One of the things you’ll hear from virtually every fantasy pundit is that a successful draft is based on how much value you get out of each one of your picks. The first few rounds are obviously dedicated to the studs, the players on whom your foundation is built. You’re picking from the best of the best and each selection, unless you make a total bonehead move or the player suffers a debilitating injury, should produce high end value for you.
But it’s the middle to late rounds where the aspect of value becomes even more important. What you want is for your 18th round pick to give you the production of every other owner’s 10th round pick, and for your 10th round pick to equal the production of their sixth or seventh. Obviously, finding these potential bargains and breakouts can be a tough task, though, and with the massive exposure of players on the internet, keeping them a secret is a near-impossibility. So you have to get a little sneaky with some of your selections, and while I was helping to contribute to David Gonos' soon-to-be-released fantasy baseball strategy book (which should be out next week, but check over at DavidGonos.com to be sure), one of the sneakiest ways to maximize the value of your picks is to focus on multi-position eligibility.
The savvy fantasy player has been using this for years, but it’s a tactic often overlooked by the more casual fantasy owner. Simply put, you check out your league rules, find out how many games played is needed for a player to qualify at a specific position, and then find those players who qualify at multiple spots. When you draft them, do so at the thinnest position, where his cumulative stats would rank him at the top of that position. If you have an outfielder who also qualifies at second base, like Michael Cuddyer or Allen Craig once did, then you draft them as a second baseman, obviously the thinner position of the two. The power totals form either player would easily rank them at the top amongst players at the keystone, but amongst the other outfielders, they are certainly a little more “run of the mill.”
Depending on your league’s requirements, there are plenty of players out there just ripe for the pickings. Most of the big names like Ben Zobrist and Hanley Ramirez have been overexposed and will be highly sought after for both their talents, their eligibility and their marquee names, but others that fly a little further under the radar might have a few little secrets tucked away. Yes, even those that are common multi-position eligible.
Got a 10-game minimum for eligibility in your league? Well, everyone knows Martin Prado qualifies both at third base and in the outfield. But his power doesn’t really match up well in either position. But the sneaky owner knows that he made 10 appearances at second base and 13 at shortstop last year and can easily draft him at either spot where his totals would push him much further up the ranks. In one league that I am in with a 10-game minimum, I’m definitely drafting Prado at short while everyone else fights for the top guys at the position in the early rounds.
Not too many people are high on Michael Young right now, but let’s look at it from this perspective: He felt cheated in Texas over these last two seasons, giving them everything he had as well as a willingness to move around the diamond to make room for some of their young up-and-comers. But his disdain for the way he was treated became a public spectacle last spring and now he finds himself as the starting third baseman for the Phillies. He’s just the type of guy who would be driven by such resentment that he would love nothing more than to stick it to his former club with a big season. Well, his power may not be what you like at third or first, but 16 appearances at second base put him at the high end of that position’s rankings.
Marco Scutaro has played at least 10 games at each infield position save for first base. Second base for the Giants? Sure. But I’d rather use him at short. How about 18 games at second base for Kyle Seager? New White Sox third baseman Jeff Keppinger? Twenty-seven games at second base. Maicer Izturis is penciled in as the starter at second in Toronto but has 26 games played at shortstop. Jordany Valdespin could see some decent playing time this year and he has 16 games logged in at second base. The list goes on and on. You just have to dig a little for it.
How about a five-game minimum? That could make things even crazier. Mark Trumbo makes for a great play at first base and in the outfield, but personally, I’d love to use him over at third base where he made eight appearances last season. And how about Jordan Pacheco? He’s looking like the lead candidate at third for the Rockies right now, but did you know he made five appearances behind the dish? Matt Carpenter has five games at second, Jack Hanahan, should he beat out Lonnie Chisenhall this spring, has five games at short, Brett Wallace and Mike Olt have eight and five games respectively at third and Yan Gomes made nine appearances behind the plate.
And don’t think it ends with just the hitters. In leagues that distinguish between starting pitchers and relief pitchers, you’ve got a whole slew of guys out there ready to be used either way, depending on your strategy. Not loving the volatility found at the closer’s position? Then bulk up on wins, strikeouts, quality starts and innings pitched with a number of starters who also qualify as relief pitchers. Kris Medlen, Aroldis Chapman, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Scott Feldman are all starters who come to mind here as starters who also qualify as relievers. To me, that certainly increases their value, not that Medlen or Chapman needed another reason for some to draft them too high.
Obviously, it also works in reverse for pitchers. Unless Champman gets bumped back to the pen, you’re not going to be able to come by saves too often from someone who also qualifies as a starter, but if you’re looking to avoid reaching an innings maximum or need some stabilizing of your ratios while still helping in strikeouts, there are guys like Tommy Hunter, David Phelps and, if he stays in the pen, Andrew Cashner who can help. Again, it’s all about playing the position eligibility to your advantage.
So when you’re building your cheat sheets for this season, I highly recommend you take position eligibility into account. You’ll be doing yourself a very big favor. It will maximize the value of each one of your players as well as help your roster out with flexibility, something very integral to success in leagues with daily moves. Check your league rules and see your requirements. The lower the limit, the greater the possibilities.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For questions, thoughts or comments you can find him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or you can email him at email@example.com.
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