Changing positions

Brandon Inge ranks eighth among all catchers in our Player Rater. At third base, he ranks 22nd. Among all corner infielders, he's 46th.

Little bit of a difference, eh?

Mark DeRosa is quite the fantasy start, when healthy, at a shallow second base position. Enjoy it while you can; unless DeRosa ups and becomes the St. Louis Cardinals' everyday second baseman, that's going to go away.

It's never too early to start looking at 2010. For many of us, that's really all we can do right now. Our trade deadlines have passed, there's not much to choose from on the waiver wire (unless we're cycling players), and all we can do is get an early look at what players we want at each position for 2010. Of course, before doing so, you have to get an idea who will be at which position next year.

Position qualification is usually quite simple: If they play at least 20 games at a position this year, they will be eligible there next year. I won't go through the players who have added position qualification this season, because you should already know them. And we'll have a refresher course on those players next spring.

But there are a handful of players each year who lose position eligibility from one season to the next, and they're often not realized until it's too late, sometimes even on draft day. More than once have I heard this exchange on draft day:

"I'll take Joe Schmoe and start him at second base."
"Um, he doesn't qualify there this year."
"No? Oh, well, I guess I don't want him then. I don't want to start him at corner infield."
"Sorry dude, he's yours. The guy after you has already picked."

There are still a few weeks of baseball to be played, and position qualifications can certainly change. But here's an early look at players who won't qualify at certain positions next season, even though they do right now. ESPN rules state that a player must play at least 20 games at a position the season before to be eligible. In the event a player hasn't played 20 games at any one position, the most games played determines the position.

And finally, I've ranked the players below from most important losses to least important losses. Let's have a look, shall we?

Big losses

Brandon Inge loses C: He hasn't played a single game at catcher this season, leaving him as just a third baseman next year. Big loss.

Michael Young loses SS: We could be talking a difference of a few rounds on his draft value here, considering how deep 3B is.

Mark DeRosa loses 2B: He'll still qualify at 3B and OF, but he drops the position where he made the biggest difference.

Gordon Beckham loses SS: We like him as just a third baseman, too, but bringing that SS qualification from the minors was quite a coup for his value.

Hideki Matsui loses OF … which just happens to be the only position he qualifies at. That's right, folks, he'll be merely a DH. He hasn't played a single game in the outfield this season, and isn't likely to.

Vladimir Guerrero loses OF: Same deal as Matsui; it's the only position he qualifies at right now. Vlad played the outfield in two games during a three-game span back in July, and promptly missed extended time on the disabled list. Lesson learned; he's now a DH, probably for the foreseeable future.

Luke Scott to lose OF? He's at 17 games played out there now but has played just one game in left field since July 11. It's not looking good, and since he has only 10 games at 1B, he could end up as just a DH.

Pat Burrell loses OF: He has played just two games there in 2009 (and for good reason, considering his poor defensive skills). As you're finding out here, whereas we really had very few mixed-league options who qualified only at DH coming into this season (just David Ortiz, Jim Thome and Travis Hafner), we're about to add a few more to the bunch.

Marco Scutaro loses 2B and 3B: He has quietly had a heck of a season, but his position versatility is one of his primary draws. Granted, he maintains eligibility at a position that lacks depth (SS), but locking him there definitely lowers his value.

Julio Borbon to lose OF qualification? That would not be good news for his value, but currently he has 16 games at DH and 11 games in the outfield. In most league setups, unless he has the minimum number of games at a given position (usually 20), he qualifies at the position he played the most. At this point, that would be only DH. Let's see a little leather, Julio!

Kendry Morales loses OF: He qualified there this year because it was the position he played the most last year. But he hasn't played a single game in the outfield this season and will qualify only at first base, the deepest position in fantasy.

Alexei Ramirez loses 2B: His owners likely have been expecting this, just like Young's owners. Doesn't hurt his value much, though.

Worth noting

Chris Davis loses 3B: Not that third base is shallow, by any means, but the simple multi-position eligibility helps his value. He has played only two games at third base this season.

Aubrey Huff loses 3B: Hasn't played any games there this season, and likely won't. He'll be just a first baseman.

Russell Branyan loses 3B: He'll also be just a first baseman, and look a little less attractive to fantasy owners.

Emilio Bonifacio loses 2B: That's the only position he qualified at coming into 2009. Right now he'd have only 3B qualification, which isn't good, and though he does have 17 games right now at SS, he's playing very sparingly these days.

Ben Zobrist loses SS: He has 13 games there but hasn't played the position since late July. Whereas he has gained 2B and OF, he loses the only position he qualified at coming into this season.

Ken Griffey Jr., loses OF: If he doesn't retire. He's not likely to start in many mixed leagues next year, but it'll be even fewer when he's just a DH.

Bobby Crosby loses SS: Let's be honest, SS qualification was about the only thing we liked about him in the first place.

Carlos Guillen loses 3B and 1B: It seems this guy's position eligibility changes annually, doesn't it? First he was a shortstop, then a third baseman, then a first baseman … and now he'll be only an outfielder. He hasn't played a single game at third base, and only two at first base. All in all, that's not the worst tradeoff.

Sean Rodriguez loses 2B: A bit of a snafu here. He has played seven games at OF and five at 2B in 2009 while with the Los Angeles Angels, but may not play any more major league games this season unless the Tampa Bay Rays (who acquired him in the Scott Kazmir deal) bring him up soon. Thus he likely loses the 2B qualification that he brought from the minors.

Steve Pearce loses OF: We like him better as an outfielder instead of just a first baseman.

Ty Wigginton loses OF: He qualified there and at third base last year. Next year he'll likely qualify at 3B and 1B.

Hank Blalock loses 3B: Right now I'm more concerned with his complete loss of playing time. Can you believe this guy has 23 homers this season?

Andy Marte loses 3B: The big fella will qualify at only the position of big fellas (1B).

Omar Infante loses 3B, SS and OF … but gains 2B. Go figure. He still has a shot in the outfield (13 games), but he's in single digits in games at 3B and SS.

Ho hum … no biggie

Matt LaPorta loses 1B
Kyle Blanks loses 1B
Casey Blake loses 1B
David Eckstein loses SS
Nomar Garciaparra loses SS
Conor Jackson loses 1B
Brendan Harris loses 2B
Ronnie Belliard loses 3B and maybe 1B (15 games)
Jed Lowrie loses 3B
Jeff Keppinger loses SS (but has gained 2B and 3B)
Ronny Cedeno loses 2B
Mark Loretta loses 2B

On the borderline

Clint Barmes, SS (16 games)
Nick Swisher, 1B (18 games)
Brandon Wood, SS (6 games at 3B, 4 games at SS)
Brendan Ryan, 2B (19 games, zero since July 4)
Eugenio Velez, 2B (19 games)
Willy Aybar 3B (15 games)
Nomar Garciaparra, any position (16 games at 1B, 15 games at DH)

Fortunes rising

Rajai Davis, OF, A's: Perhaps few people have noticed (he's still owned in only 40.8 percent of ESPN standard leagues) since he's playing for the last-place Oakland Athletics, but we're witnessing a true breakout season for Davis. Since July 28, which is when he grabbed an every-day job, he's fourth in the majors in hits, tied for fifth in runs, sixth in batting average (.355!) and is even in the top 25 in RBIs. And steals, his primary source of value? First. By five steals over the next guy. And he plays for Oakland?! OK, obviously I'm impressed. Davis has come into his own, and as long as he secures playing time next year, he'll be a heck of a midround, Michael Bourn-like pick.

Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: As his owners know all too well, Lee was downright awful in April and the first half of May. Boy, has he ever made up for it. Since May 16, only four players have hit more homers, and only four have more RBIs, plus he's hit .335. Now that's a resurgence. He actually has the second-highest homer mark of any season in his career and is six RBIs away from setting a career-high. D-Lee is 34 now, and his steals have gone bye-bye, but even as deep as the position is, you still have to consider him an upper-tier first baseman, albeit probably one you can still get in the sixth round or so next year.

Adam Kennedy, 2B/3B, A's: Speaking of the A's, I really have no idea what to do with this guy. Obviously, neither do many of you; he's owned in just 15.1 percent of leagues. But he is an every-day player who has 10 homers and 19 steals, and is hitting a respectable .285. He ranks above such second basemen as Jose Lopez, Orlando Hudson and Dan Uggla in our Player Rater. Plus, Kennedy is eligible at two infield positions. At 33, Kennedy is no spring chicken, but he was supposed to have this kind of talent originally before disappointing us, and the fact that he has maintained this play for a full season should say something. Consider him a nice late-rounder in mixed leagues next season; just don't let him go unowned like he is this year.

Fortunes falling

B.J. Upton, OF, Rays: I really am at a loss for words to explain what has happened with the elder Upton. While his brother is tearing up the NL West, B.J. is stinking up the AL East. Now his level of "badness" is starting to affect the one thing we like about him: his steals. Upton had a breakout June, even showing some patience at the plate in batting .324 with a .395 OBP. Not coincidentally, he had a major league-high 14 steals during the month. Since then he has been Mr. Swing-at-everything, with just 13 walks (the same number he had in June alone) versus 216 at-bats. He has struck out 61 times and has an OBP of just .265. Total steals: 8. We can see now that Upton hasn't kicked his lack of plate discipline, or at the very least how he responds to slumps (by swinging at everything). Not a good sign for him moving forward.

Miguel Tejada, SS, Astros: We saw a resurgence of sorts from Miggy in the first half of the season, but since then he has looked like the same tired, high-mileage shortstop we expected him to be coming into the season. Tejada is batting a nifty .301 this season, but he has become so batting-average-dependent. He has just five homers since June 3, just five steals for the season and just 13 RBIs since the start of August. Also consider that his errors at shortstop have jumped this season, and his zone rating at the position is the second-worst in all of baseball among regulars. There's just no way around it: He's on a steady decline. And I could see him fall into a platoon next year, in Houston or elsewhere.

Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Cubs: Darn it, he's at it again. Fukudome has hit a major league-low (among qualifying candidates) .137 in September to drop his average to .258. I so want to like Fukudome, especially since he has walked a bunch this year and still has a decent .373 OBP. He also has 31 doubles and 11 homers. But I just can't. One season of falling apart after a hot start indicates simple adjustments, or perhaps a fluke. Two seasons of it indicates a trend. And six steals in 16 attempts is atrocious. I'm about to (sigh) place him on my "do not draft" list.

Pickups of the week

Mixed: Julio Borbon, OF, Rangers. He set the league afire when he first arrived, but I sensed many owners were hesitant to add him because of Nelson Cruz's impending return. But he is playing every day again, and has an amazing 14 steals in just 28 games (many of which he didn't start). He even has four homers, to boot. He's owned in just 8.2 percent of ESPN standard leagues.

AL-only: Josh Reddick, OF, Red Sox. Not playing a whole lot now, but could get some mop-up time the past few weeks if the Sawx can hold off the Rangers for the wild-card spot.

NL-only: Josh Thole, C, Mets. Playing a little more than even I expected and hitting .423.

Stat talk

Sometimes it's just fun to play around with stats, and I came across one of them this week: Jose Lopez is tied for fourth in the majors in 3-hit games with 19. Why is that interesting? Because Lopez is hitting only .269. He's apparently just one of those players who either has it or he doesn't; he has gone hitless in 48 of his 137 games. And last season he finished tied for ninth in two-hit games. The propensity for big games is why you have to keep him starting even through hard times in daily-transaction leagues.

Ballpark watch

Land Shark Stadium in Miami: Pro Play-, I mean Dolphi-, I mean Land Shark Stadium, traditionally a park that leans toward favoring pitchers is looking favorable to hitters in nearly all facets of the game, according to our Park Factors page. In fact, Dan Uggla has 20 of his 29 homers there. It's time to stop fearing the ballpark if you have a hitter headed there.

5x5 Watch: Runs

The impression is that Dustin Pedroia has had a disappointing season, and it is true that he's unlikely to match last season's numbers. But you can't underestimate the value of him hitting either first or second in the third-highest-scoring lineup in baseball. The guy scored his 101st run Wednesday night, placing him alone at eighth in the majors in that figure. And I hate to break this to his critics, but while his batting average is down from last year, he's on pace to finish only 2 homers, 1 steal, 4 runs and 12 RBIs below his MVP season of a year ago.

On the docket

Texas Rangers: We all know by now the Rangers are a much better hitting team at home than on the road (28 batting-average points difference). Well, beginning next week, 11 of their final 14 games are on the road. Just sayin'.

On the farm

Chris Carter, 1B/Brett Wallace, 3B, A's. Hey, how come we haven't seen these two slugging prospects? Shouldn't they get a cup of coffee this season? Yeah, probably, but their minor league seasons aren't over. Both players are playing with Triple-A Sacramento, who are in the Pacific Coast League finals against the Memphis Redbirds. That said, the Redbirds have won the first two games of the five-game series, so we could see the two youngsters soon.

Final thoughts

Just one more Hit Parade to follow for this season. Next week I'll look at hitter keepers for 2010 and wrap up my ninth season as a fantasy baseball writer (nine already?). I wanted to be proactive about thanking you all -- both the lovers and the haters -- for reading my work. I hope it's been as entertaining to read as it has been to write.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.