What’s the added value of an extra position of eligibility in fantasy baseball? This is one of the few fantasy questions yet to be answered. The prevailing wisdom seems to be it’s worth a buck or two or that it’s merely a tiebreaker. I think it’s worth more than that. Especially in the best ball world where rosters are static. I did some digging and asked some baseball minds I thought could yield a little insight.
Fantasy Alarm’s own Rick Wolf had this to say:
The value of multi-positional players has to do with the rest of your lineup. For instance, if you have Kyle Seager , Brian Dozier , and Francisco Lindor , it is more valuable to have someone who qualifies at 2B, SS, and 3B like Asdrúbal Cabrera in the end game to make sure that WHEN any of them go DL, you have a built-in replacement with one roster spot. It is a function of:
- The number of reserve spots.
- The depth of the league and what replacement value the FA pool can give you.
- The player. Don't grab a bad player who has multiple positions.
ATC’s Ariel Cohen offered, “To me, you need to calculate how often you need the extra spot - how often you will be utilizing it. If you use it heavily, then multi positional worth is more.”
FWFB’s Darius Austin added that he may value it, “Less than I used to because I think a lot more players will have it. Obviously still helps your chances of optimizing a lineup.”
Clearly, there is some importance to position flexibility in a best ball universe, like RTSports Draft Masters. My line of thinking is that a hitter qualifying at an extra position allows you to draft an extra pitcher with one less backup needed. That extra pitcher is like another out in a hand of poker. It’s not going to throw the entire game out of whack but ups your win odds some percentage. I took this idea to Derek Rhoades, who has been compiling and analyzing best ball data this offseason. His work has been with a sample of Trax10 leagues, which don’t have position flexibility in their universe but I think still add something to the conversation. My question to him was what amount of scoring do we see from your bench? He sent me this chart:
The first thing we noticed is a pretty large percentage of your total scoring is coming from bench players, which we defined as players drafted outside the starting requirements of one catcher, one first baseman, five outfielders, nine pitchers, etc. About 40-percent of total scoring on average comes off your bench and first place teams averaged about 25-percent more bench points than last place teams. That’s compared to first place team’s starters scoring 20-percent more points than last teams. So both early and late rounds matter but more ground was covered by solid benches. The next thing I noticed was that the percentage of bench hitter contribution is a pretty static 44-46 percent from first through last place. Of course, better teams have better raw points. There’s just a heavy rotation at hitting positions due to its variable nature. Bench pitchers, however, accounted for 34-percent on a first place team and 29-percent on a last place team. So league winners were more often the team who got the most out of their bench pitchers. All of this is an elaborate way to say an extra pitcher is rather important.
Working with that same sample we calculated what an extra pitcher gave you by comparing average scores by the number of pitchers drafted.
Getting to a 14th pitcher is essential in a Trax10. There are also gains with a 15th and 16th. Returns diminish after that, though I wouldn’t go as far as to advise against that many pitchers. Injuries and ineffectiveness are more rampant than ever, so a few extra pitching bullets can certainly help. Clearly, there’s a sweet spot of 15 or 16 pitchers at a minimum you need to target in a Trax10. If we take those ratios of total pitchers to starting spots at 14/9 and 16/9 (1.55-1.77) we can line it up to RTS’ Draft Masters 7 starting spots at 12-13 total pitchers (1.57-1.86). If you back up each hitter and add a second backup OF you’ve sunk seven of your ten bench spots into hitting. That leaves you with ten pitchers. You’ll need at least two players that can cover multiple positions effectively if we want that twelfth pitcher.
What is the value of multi-position eligibility? Given that more pitchers can increase your total scoring about five-percent I would increase these swingmen between $3-6 dollars in a best ball league, based on a $260 budget (I like viewing players in auction dollars instead of numerical rankings). Some of that depends on the added positions and how your roster is evolving. Javier Báez , who gets 2B-3B-SS eligibility, is a $6 or even $7 increase for me, while Yuli Gurriel getting 1B-3B is more of a $3 bump. Still not a perfect valuation but these are real numbers and context. As for leagues that do allow roster management, I think the buck or two approach is still light. In any non-shallow league being able to mix and match your pitchers to address any current stat needs has value. Rostering an extra pitcher helps greatly. I’d still add $2-4 in standard leagues and taper that off once you get past the Asdrúbal Cabrera range.