By Eddie Mayrose
Worrying About Position Scarcity Can Make You Scarce

In the more than twenty years that the Forte Bellino Fantasy Baseball League has been in existence, the most consistently fatal blow to the title chances of any league member has been the obsession with positions where there are just a few elite options and a significant drop to the next tier.  There are some Fantasy players, no matter how often they’ve been burned, that will grab a catcher or middle infielder in the first three rounds regardless of the fact that they have no chance to receive adequate return on such an expensive investment.  If you number yourself among that group, read on and see if you can be convinced that you’re putting yourself behind the eight ball before the season begins.

Now, if you’ve followed the Fantasy Forecast for any length of time, you’ve become familiar with my draft strategies.  The roster grid, outfielders first, avoiding young hurlers whose IP have spiked, etc., have all been detailed on these pages as staples of the Master Batters selection process.  All strategies that, regardless of any opinion regarding their effectiveness, are cloaked in simplicity.  Important to note, as so many well-prepared, astute Fantasy players can’t avoid outsmarting themselves when it comes to forming their rosters.

Most recently, the Position Scarcity dilemma reared its ugly head at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association draft last week.  Thirteen experts gathered in Las Vegas for the event, aired by SiriusXM radio’s Fantasy Sports Network.  And, it didn’t take long for the elite of the Fantasy world to fall down the rabbit hole; more concerned with where a player is eligible rather than how well he’ll produce.  With the 8th pick, Scott Swanay of the Fantasy Baseball Sherpa cited position scarcity as the main reason he selected Mets’ 3B David Wright instead of  Reds’ 1B Joey Votto.  Now, I’m not here to diminish the across-the-board prowess of Mr. Wright, a Fantasy stud for most of his career.  However, when you analyze this selection a little more deeply, you realize just how much Mr. Swanay sacrificed for a few  SB.

Votto, the reigning NL MVP, posted Pujols-like numbers in 2010.  Second in BA, third in HR and RBI while turning in a league best 1.024 OBP, Votto has entrenched himself as a Triple Crown threat.  He also, by the way, presented his owners with a very solid total of 16 SB.  Wright, on the other hand, managed to rebound from a dismal 2009 and return to an elite level with 29 HR and 103 RBI.  But, the adjustments necessary to crank out that many jacks in the hitter’s cemetery that is Citifield caused his BA to plummet 24 points; from .307 to .283.  Throw in the fact that his SB total was just two bags more than Votto’s and you begin to see where I’m going with this argument:  Is a Fantasy team better with David Wright and Kevin Youkilis, (Swanay’s 3rd Round selection), or with Votto and Ryan Zimmerman, the first two selections made by KFFL’s Tim Heaney?  Let’s take a look at what 2010 revealed.

Sherpa            BA     HR    RBI    SB

Wright            .283   29      103     19
Youkilis          .307  19         62       4
KFFL                 BA    HR    RBI    SB
Votto               .324   37      113     16
Zimmerman      .307   25      85       4

Before you start jumping up and down about how Youk spent significant time on the DL in 2010, I’ll point out that, not only are injuries a part of the game, Zimmerman’s numbers were down from his usual standards, as well.  The point of the example is to re-re-re-emphasize that, no matter how strong the temptation to fill a spot at a weak position, you must, first, get proper value for early round picks.  I don’t care if David Wright is the only 3B in the Majors, Votto is better than Wright by a wide margin and must be grabbed first.

If you listen closely, you can hear the question, “OK, Mr. Genius, what do I do when I’m in the eighth round of my draft and I don’t have a shortstop?”  Glad you asked.  Forget the shortstop and grab another player at a position where you’re already strong.  While you may not need another OF or SP, stockpiling quality at those spots will yield a shortstop in a trade once the season begins.  While you may have no need for Francisco Liriano after taking Roy Halladay and Jon Lester, any of the three could be a chip that brings back a Rollins or Reyes..

Another important thing to keep in mind, especially in Head-to-Head leagues where active rosters are smaller, is that scarce positions yield league-wide weakness.  Simply put, almost everyone in your league will struggle with MI or C so, you’re not at a distinct disadvantage.

Hopefully, what you’ll take away from this discussion is that the foundation of your team is built in the early rounds; making them too valuable to go in any direction other than the best player available.

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One Response to “Moonlight Graham’s Fantasy Baseball Forecast: Get Value Early”

  1. Hi Eddie,

    Thanks for your analysis – the position scarcity case is always a difficult one to make. Several thoughts after reading your piece:

    1) There’s no trading allowed in this league (don’t ask me why), so the hoarding strategy wouldn’t help you much here (unless you’d already drafted a player who’s a high injury risk at the same position).

    2) While looking at last year’s results can certainly be helpful, I think it’s better to base a comparison like the one you made on 2011 projected results for the players in question. Not saying that would necessarily lead you to a different conclusion in this case, but it’s something to consider.

    3) If you’re going to do a comparison like this, I think you need to cut it off for both teams at the same point. If you’re comparing Team A’s 1st and 3rd round picks to Team B’s 1st and 2nd round picks, I would hope that Team B would look better – if not, Team B may be in some trouble. Since Tim Heaney took an OF in the third round (Justin Upton) and I took an OF in the 2nd round (Matt Kemp), that would leave you comparing Wright/Kemp/Youkilis with Votto/Zimmerman/Upton. Not saying that I’d win that comparison either, but I think it would be a bit closer.

    4) I think the fairest way to do a comparison like this is to compare the final rosters (http://fantasynews.cbssports.com/fantasybaseball/story/14583184). It was definitely tough passing up Votto in the first round, but I’m not confident he can steal as many bases or hit as many home runs in 2011 as he did in 2010. Time will tell. My team certainly has weaknesses (e.g.- starting pitching), but I’m still comfortable with my strategy to focus my early-round picks on a combination of position scarcity and guys who can contribute in both the HR and SB categories. Obviously, Youkilis doesn’t fit that mold, but Wright and Kemp do.

    Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking post – will be interesting to see how this league plays out!

    Scott (The Sherpa)

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