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Value of multi-position eligibility

Drafting a fantasy baseball team is all about knowing which tiers of players are available and where you get rare value at a certain position. That's why a powerful middle infielder, speedy corner infielder and run-producing catcher will be drafted higher than a rankings list says he should, because roto-style fantasy owners are trying to distance themselves from the pack in a certain category.

Generally speaking, with catcher, second base and shortstop having the weakest hitters, that's why you would most likely slot a player with 2B/OF or SS/3B in the middle infield. However, the below breakdown considers these unique factors in every significant multi-position player, making decisions much more difficult than just saying catcher is the weakest, then MI, then OF, then CI. Keeper lists and auction values also play a big role in which position a player should be penciled in. The purpose of this column is to get you familiar with who is -- and who is no longer -- a multi-positional player so you can plan your draft accordingly. When one of these bolded players below is taken, make sure you cross him off ALL of the position-by-position lists you compile. I have found that having one sheet per position provides a much more uniform list from league to league and is a more valuable to reference on draft day than the top 300. No matter if the draft is serpentine, auction or dynasty, tracking what's left in each position will prevent you from reaching for a player at the end of a same-position run, allowing you to focus on getting more value elsewhere.

For the purposes of this article, ESPN positional eligibility for 2013 is determined by games played in 2012 only. A player must have logged at least 20 games at a position last year to be eligible there. If he did not record 20 games at any position last season, he's eligible at the position he played the most. Once the 2013 season begins, a hitter can add another position once he has logged 10 games at that new spot in the field.

For leagues that differentiate between starting pitchers and relief pitchers, that minimum baseline is usually five starts or eight relief outings. The in-season threshold for adding eligibility as a starter or reliever is usually three starts or five games in relief.

The lists below are broken down in what most fantasy owners consider to be the most scarce spots to find quality hitters on the diamond. Catcher is the weakest, shortstop is second weakest and second base is close behind. The 3B, 1B and OF spots are much stronger and deeper in terms of offensive production. There was no real reason to denote players that also qualify at designated hitter because the majority of fantasy leagues employ utility spots instead of a specific DH position. Please note that when discussing a player's ranking, this was based on the preseason rankings and these ranks will likely change frequently throughout spring training, and certainly once the regular season begins.

The Masked Men

Backstops aren't usually allowed on the field without shin guards and a mask, but there are five catchers who can play another position too.

Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants, C, 1B
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins, C, 1B
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians, C, 1B
Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox, C, 1B
Ryan Doumit, Minnesota Twins, C, OF

Not only is the catcher position thin on top-tier talent per usual, but all five of these dual-threat players are ranked among the top 16 catchers in fantasy baseball; the first four players are among the top seven. This gives even more reason to keep these guys behind the plate on your fantasy roster -- because it's doubtful you'll own a second catcher as good as any of these five, and these backstops can put some distance between teams with mediocre catching options, especially in deeper leagues.

Double Play Combo

The following is a list of multi-positional players who qualify for at least one of the middle infield spots. The men in bold were ranked among the top 300 players in ESPN.com's overall rankings, as of this writing.

Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers, SS, 3B
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays, 2B, SS, OF
Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals, 2B, SS
Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants, 2B, SS
Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox, 2B, 1B, 3B
Chris Nelson, Colorado Rockies, 2B, 3B
Cliff Pennington, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2B, SS
Maicer Izturis, Toronto Blue Jays, 2B, SS, 3B
Tyler Greene, Houston Astros, 2B, SS
Ryan Roberts, Tampa Bay Rays, 2B, 3B
Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays, 2B, SS, 3B
Jamey Carroll, Minnesota Twins, 2B, SS, 3B
Ryan Raburn, Detroit Tigers, 2B, OF
Jerry Hairston Jr., Los Angeles Dodgers, 2B, 3B
Skip Schumaker, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2B, OF
Ramon Santiago, Detroit Tigers, 2B, SS
Wilson Valdez, San Francisco Giants, 2B, SS
Alexi Amarista, San Diego Padres, 2B, SS
Joaquin Arias, San Francisco Giants, SS, 3B
Ronny Cedeno, St. Louis Cardinals, 2B, SS
Luis Cruz, Los Angeles Dodgers, SS, 3B
Daniel Descalso, St. Louis Cardinals, 2B, SS, 3B
Ryan Flaherty, Baltimore Orioles, 2B, OF
Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates, 2B, SS
Brent Lillibridge, Chicago Cubs, SS, 1B, OF
Stephen Lombardozzi, Washington Nationals, 2B, OF
Nick Punto, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2B, 3B
Omar Quintanilla, New York Mets, 2B, SS
Cody Ransom, San Diego Padres, SS, 3B
Orlando Hudson, free agent, 2B, 3B

Hanley Ramirez, Danny Espinosa and Marco Scutaro make up the three top-300 players who are new to this list. In the initial preseason rankings, Ramirez was the No. 2 fantasy shortstop (sixth on 2012 Player Rater), behind only Troy Tulowitzki, but placed a distant fifth among third basemen (eighth on 2012 Player Rater), clearly a notch below the first four monsters of Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria. Ramirez posts numbers that more resemble a corner infielder (.257 BA, 24 HRs, 92 RBIs last year) than a high-average middle infielder. His great speed has him projected with the most steals of any third baseman, but he's tied for eighth in this category among shortstops. On the flip side, Ramirez is projected to finish third in homers among shortstops, but tied for eighth in his 3B peer group.

Espinosa and Scutaro both have the dual-MI positions of second and short. Either position is an acceptable destination for them. Espinosa is the 11th-best player at both positions, while Scutaro is the 15th-best second baseman and 14th-best shortstop. Like Ramirez, Espinosa puts up strong power numbers with a weak average, but Scutaro is a more traditional middle infielder with a high average and low home run totals, especially playing half his games in San Francisco.

As if Ben Zobrist wasn't valuable enough as a 2B/OF going into last season, he logged 47 games at shortstop in 2012. With projected numbers of .269 BA, 19 HRs, 82 RBIs, 91 runs and 17 steals, Zobrist is a true five-category asset. And considering he finished 10th on the 2012 Player Rater at 2B and SS, and is currently ranked fifth in each of the middle infield spots, his owners are plenty justified in putting him at either position. He's projected with the most runs among all shortstops, but the 91 runs would be tied for fifth among the projections for second basemen. Placing him in the outfield doesn't make a whole lot of sense, though; Zobrist is No. 19 on the outfield list after finishing 38th among this deeper position on the 2012 Player Rater.

Four other players worth noting are not in the top 300 overall but are among the top 30 in at least one position. Chris Nelson is now 2B/3B eligible (barely, with 21 games at second last year), but is surprisingly not much more valuable as a second baseman than a third baseman. Nelson is 24th among second basemen after registering the 22nd-best season at that position in 2012. However, he is 25th on the third base list after being finishing 29th on the 2012 Player Rater. Third base is certainly a stronger position overall, but with six 3Bs ranked ahead of Nelson with multiple-position eligibility, the third base pool can certainly run thin quickly, especially in keeper leagues with all the stud 3Bs in the position's top 10 that are young enough to be valuable keepers. If Nelson hits closer to .301 (his BA in 2012) than the projected .272 BA with 382 at-bats, he could be a top-15 third baseman, assuming he beats out Jordan Pacheco for the starting job.

Maicer Izturis is in a similar position, but he also has shortstop eligibility. His sheer lack of power (8 HRs is his career best) doesn't make him a good 3B candidate, but he is the No. 30 third baseman in the preseason rankings despite his 47th slot on the 2012 Player Rater. For second base, Izturis ranks 29th after being 38th best last season, and for shortstop, he is not listed among the top 30 players.

Although Izturis is the front-runner for the starting 2B job with the Toronto Blue Jays, Emilio Bonifacio brings a much more refined offensive game to the table and should eventually take over the job from Izturis, who slugged .315 last year.

Cliff Pennington and Tyler Greene are projected to start at shortstop on Opening Day for their respective clubs. Pennington ranks slightly higher among his 2B peers (26th ranking, 28th on 2012 Player Rater) than among his natural SS position (28th ranking, 40th on 2012 Player Rater). The same goes for Greene, who is the 30th second baseman listed (40th on 2012 Player Rater), but doesn't make the top-30 cut as a shortstop. But with just eight multi-positional 2Bs in the top 30 and five multifaceted shortstops possibly slotted elsewhere, Pennington and Greene are not going to be big difference-makers at either middle infield position. The best spot for them would be the "MI" designation, and this would apply only to deeper leagues and NL-only formats, as neither player is worthy of a fantasy starting job in 12-team mixed formats.

Jeff Keppinger is a rare three-position qualifier, but since the glorified utility man has never hit 10 homers in a season, his best fantasy position is either at second base (where he ranks 22nd) or third (23rd), where he's expected to log the majority of his starts this season. Just don't use him at first base, where he doesn't come close to the top 30.

Corner Men

The following is a list of multi-positional players who qualify for at least one of the corner infield spots. The players in bold are ranked among the top 300 players in ESPN.com's overall rankings.

Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers, SS, 3B
Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals, 1B, OF
Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels, 1B, OF
Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks, 3B, OF
Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles, 1B, OF
Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds, 1B, 3B
Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians, 1B, OF
Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees, 1B, 3B
Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers, 1B, OF
Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies, 1B, 3B
Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies, 1B, OF
Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1B, OF
Logan Morrison, Miami Marlins, 1B, OF
Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox, 2B, 1B, 3B
Brandon Moss, Oakland Athletics, 1B, OF
Mike Carp, Boston Red Sox, 1B, OF
Chris Nelson, Colorado Rockies, 2B, 3B
Ryan Roberts, Tampa Bay Rays, 2B, 3B
Maicer Izturis, Los Angeles Angels, 2B, 3B
Jamey Carroll, Minnesota Twins, 2B, SS, 3B
Ty Wigginton, St. Louis Cardinals, 1B, 3B
John Mayberry Jr., Philadelphia Phillies, 1B, OF
Jordan Pacheco, Colorado Rockies, 1B, 3B
Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays, 2B, SS, 3B
Juan Rivera, New York Yankees, 1B, OF
Jerry Hairston Jr., Los Angeles Dodgers, 2B, 3B
Brandon Allen, Texas Rangers, 1B, OF
Joaquin Arias, San Francisco Giants, SS, 3B
Jeff Baker, Texas Rangers, 1B, OF
Kyle Blanks, San Diego Padres, 1B, OF
Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals, 1B, 3B, OF
Tyler Colvin, Colorado Rockies, 1B, OF
Luis Cruz, Los Angeles Dodgers, SS, 3B
Daniel Descalso, St. Louis Cardinals, 2B, SS, 3B
Greg Dobbs, Miami Marlins, 3B, OF
Elian Herrera, Los Angeles Dodgers, 3B, OF
Brent Lillibridge, Chicago Cubs, SS, 1B, OF
Nick Punto, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2B, 3B
Cody Ransom, San Diego Padres, SS, 3B
Orlando Hudson, free agent, 2B, 3B

A number of new faces on this list of corner infielders can also play a different position. Among the top 300 fantasy leaguers, the two-position newbies are Allen Craig, Mark Trumbo, Todd Frazier, Nick Swisher, Kevin Youkilis, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. In all, eight players with 1B/OF eligibility ranked among the top 300 (Craig, Trumbo, Chris Davis, Swisher, Hart, Michael Cuddyer, Garrett Jones and Morrison), one with 3B/OF (Martin Prado) and three corner-only men (1B/3B) in this same group -- Frazier, Youkilis and Michael Young.

For the 1B/OF types, the general rule of thumb is to draft them as outfielders and make the switch to first base only if the position becomes too dry. Craig and Trumbo are the only players here that rank among the top 20 first basemen, meaning the other six should not be a starting 1B in deeper leagues. Davis, Swisher, Hart and Cuddyer are more CI-types, as they all have a place among the top 30 first basemen. That leaves Jones and Morrison more suited as outfielders.

When determining whether these players are worthy of your starting 1B spot, consider the baseline projections of the starting spot. For 10-team mixed leagues, the average starting first baseman in 2013 projects out to .295 BA, 29 HRs, 103 RBIs, 91 runs and 6 steals. In 20-team mixed leagues, the average starting 1B should wind up with a .282 BA, 29 HRs, 96 RBIs, 83 runs and 5 steals. This does not include the aforementioned C/1B players, who belong in the catcher pool. With gaudy four-category numbers like this, the best hitters should be playing first base, making the majority of these eight 1B/OF players more suited for the outfield.

Just a few years ago, a player who qualified at both corner infield spots would automatically be slotted at third. But with the influx of young talent at the hot corner, things sure have changed. When comparing what both spots are projected to produce this season, the numbers are nearly identical. For 10-team mixed leagues (not including SS/3B Hanley Ramirez, C/1B or DH-only players), the average starter projects to:

First Base -- .295 BA, 29 HRs, 103 RBIs, 91 runs, 6 SBs
Third Base -- .297 BA, 26 HRs, 95 RBIs, 91 runs, 9 SBs

For 20-team mixed leagues, the numbers are:
First Base -- .282 BA, 29 HRs, 96 RBIs, 83 runs, 5 SBs
Third Base -- .282 BA, 24 HRs, 87 RBIs, 82 runs, 7 SBs

First base clearly packs more power with homers and RBIs, but third base is better or equal in the other three categories. The four 1B/3B players of substance (Prado, Frazier, Youkilis and Young) are more of the well-rounded third-base ilk, with Prado and Young posting higher averages while Frazier and Youkilis are projected to smack more than 20 homers.

Note that 12 players are also listed in the middle infield section (Hanley Ramirez, Jeff Keppinger, Ryan Roberts, Maicer Izturis, Chris Nelson, Jerry Hairston Jr., Sean Rodriguez, Jamey Carroll, Luis Cruz, Orlando Hudson, Nick Punto and Cody Ransom).

The Everything Players

These eight players logged 20-plus games at three positions last season.

Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays, 2B, SS, OF
Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox, 2B, 1B, 3B
Maicer Izturis, Toronto Blue Jays, 2B, SS, 3B
Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays, 2B, SS, 3B
Jamey Carroll, Minnesota Twins, 2B, SS, 3B
Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals, 1B, 3B, OF
Daniel Descalso, St. Louis Cardinals, 2B, SS, 3B
Brent Lillibridge, Chicago Cubs, SS, 1B, OF

Zobrist, Keppinger and Izturis have all been discussed and the other players on this list are AL-only or NL-only injury fill-ins who won't log enough at-bats to really matter in 2013.

One-Trick Ponies

These players did have multiple-position eligibility heading into the 2012 season, but they'll enter 2013 with just one position to call home. This list includes only players who were in the top 300 overall in the 2012 preseason rankings.

Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays, OF (also 3B last year)
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays, 1B (also 3B last year)
Howard Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels, 2B (also OF last year)
Michael Morse, Seattle Mariners, OF (also 1B last year)
Lance Berkman, Texas Rangers, 1B (also OF last year)
Daniel Murphy, New York Mets, 2B (also 1B and 3B last year)
Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians, 1B (also 3B last year)
Emilio Bonifacio, Toronto Blue Jays, OF (also SS and 3B last year)
Lucas Duda, New York Mets, OF (also 1B last year)
Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers, 1B (also OF last year)
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants, 1B (also OF last year)

Carlos Lee, Miami Marlins, 1B (also OF last year)

The two Toronto Blue Jays sluggers lose their 3B eligibility this season, but both Bautista and Encarnacion are strong-enough hitters to be near the top of any position. Kendrick and Murphy keep their more valuable position at second base, which is most likely where owners used these players in 2012. Morse losing 1B eligibility is also a nonissue; he would not be a top-15 first baseman with his move to Seattle. Duda is also better off as an outfielder because his numbers won't compare with quality first basemen. The players that are affected a bit by losing a position are Berkman and Reynolds, who are strictly first basemen for the 2013 season. Berkman just barely makes the top-30 list for 1Bs (ranking 26th), whereas Reynolds isn't part of any top-30 list. Moreland, Belt and Lee also take a value hit with their outfield eligibility gone. Although it's a bummer about Bonifacio logging just 15 games at second base last year, he will eventually overtake Maicer Izturis as the everyday second baseman for the Blue Jays, and he is likely to gain his 2B eligibility by tallying 10 games there by early May.

No Glove Lost

These seven players will qualify only at a utility spot either because designated hitter was the lone "position" where they played at least 20 games or because they did not record 20 games anywhere, and had the most appearances at DH.

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox, DH
Luke Scott, Tampa Bay Rays, DH
Travis Hafner, New York Yankees, DH
Bill Hall, Los Angeles Angels, DH
Jim Thome, free agent, DH
Dan Johnson, New York Yankees, DH
Ramiro Pena, Atlanta Braves, DH

Ortiz is the only top-300 player of this bunch, but Scott and Hafner are serviceable utility men in deeper leagues in their current roles as the starting DHs within excellent lineups. And because of the nonpositional denomination, all three may be overlooked and wind up being available a few rounds -- or a few dollars -- shy of their actual value, as owners simply forget about the gloveless wonders.