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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Position eligibility notes for 2013

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

Thank you, Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was a trade they made back on July 25 that sent waves through the fantasy baseball world in acquiring Hanley Ramirez. The 28-year-old was formerly one of the most valuable shortstops in the game, but this season he had played all 90 of his games in the field for his former team, the Miami Marlins, at third base. Ramirez, one of the rare dual-eligibility players qualifying at third base and shortstop, was on a straight path to lose his shortstop eligibility for 2013.

Hit Parade

For his first eight games for his new team, Ramirez started at third base. Then, in the fifth inning of an Aug. 1 game, he shifted back to shortstop, playing there for the first time in 2012.

Ramirez has started all 31 Dodgers games since that date at shortstop, locking in his eligibility at both positions for 2013 (traditional Rotisserie rules, as well as ESPN's standard rules, require a 20-game minimum). That's a huge deal for fantasy owners, especially those who have secured his services in a keeper league. The reason is simple: The offensive expectations from a typical shortstop are considerably lower than they are from a typical third baseman.

In order to illustrate, the chart below measures the major league averages from each of the eligible positions in traditional fantasy baseball leagues. Home runs, RBIs, stolen bases and runs scored numbers are averages per 700 plate appearances.

One note: Remember that those designated hitter numbers, though the healthiest of the bunch in the power departments, come from a considerably smaller sample of plate appearances, 8,073 as a whole, compared to, for instance, 17,139 from first basemen. They, as well as each position's stats, include numbers accrued by players only when they were specifically slotted in at that spot. This means that Alfonso Soriano's .360/.407/.880 triple-slash rates and four home runs in 27 plate appearances as a DH influence only the DH stats.

As the chart above shows, it's clearly to a fantasy owner's benefit when a player qualifies at either middle-infield spot, as Ramirez does, and it's even better if they're a catcher rather than a third baseman or outfielder, and third baseman or outfielder rather than a first baseman or DH.

But while Ramirez was fortunate enough to recapture his 2012 eligibility already for 2013, not every player has been that lucky. Today, let's look at some prominent hitters' prospective position eligibility for 2013.

Notable dual-position repeats

These players qualified for 2012 last season, or earned qualification during the season, for two or more spots, and will qualify at each spot again in 2013. They are listed in descending order of current Player Rater standing.

Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants, C/1B: He added 1B eligibility this season and has played 21 games there to lock it in for 2013.
Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers, SS/3B: Thank the Dodgers for trading for him, because all 32 of Ramirez's games at shortstop have come since they acquired him, and, in fact, all since Aug. 1.
Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers, OF/1B
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins, C/1B/DH
Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals, OF/1B
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays, 2B/SS/OF: He played his first of 21 games at SS on Aug. 9 of this season, locking in that position for 2013.
Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox, 1B/DH: His recapturing 1B eligibility didn't even have anything to do with Paul Konerko's concussion; Dunn had the requisite 20 games by June 7. That the White Sox are willing to use him there that often is good news for owners with an in-season minimum requirement.
Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1B/OF
Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals, 2B/SS
Tyler Colvin, Colorado Rockies, OF/1B
Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds, 3B/1B
Michael Cuddyer, Rockies, 1B/OF: The bad news, however, is that if your league uses a 10-game requirement, he'll lose the 2B eligibility he had this season, having not played a single game there in 2012.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians, C/1B/DH: The "1B" is in italics because he needs one more game there to lock it in for 2013.
Kevin Youkilis, Chicago White Sox, 3B/1B
Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners, DH/C

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

These players were multi-position qualifiers this season, or earned multiple positions in-season, but will lose one or more of those spots in 2013. Again, they are listed in descending order of Player Rater standing.

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: currently 1B/3B, future 3B-only. He has played only two games at 1B all season, but 3B makes his statistics slightly more valuable anyway.

Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays: currently 3B/1B/DH, future 1B/DH. He has played just one game at 3B and three in the outfield. The loss of 3B eligibility would mean a slight hit to his value, considering the league averages at 1B are the highest at any position. But is anyone really going to argue with a player currently placing second among 1B on our Player Rater?

Butler
Note to Royals manager Ned Yost: Can you get Billy Butler seven more games at first base for us fantasy owners?

Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals: currently DH/1B, future DH-only. It's time to root for more games like Tuesday's, which saw Butler starting at 1B. He needs seven more to qualify there, and is behind the pace to get to 20.

Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels: currently 1B/OF/DH, future OF-only. Two more games earns him 1B eligibility and moves him into the previous group of repeat qualifiers; he has played seven of his past 12 games there, so things look good.

Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers: currently 1B/OF, future 1B-only: That OF eligibility he earned in-season was a nice perk, but in a standard, 20-game-requirement league, he's likely not going to get there for 2013.

Nick Swisher, New York Yankees: currently OF/1B/DH, future OF-only. His 1B eligibility might be directly tied to Mark Teixeira's anticipated return, as Swisher has played each of his past seven games there and needs only three more to qualify there again for 2013.

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: currently 3B/OF, future OF-only. His season over, he'll qualify nowhere but in the outfield (specifically RF if your league uses individual outfield positions), except in leagues that use a one-game requirement. He did play four games at 1B and one at 3B, but in his defense, the league averages from outfielders are almost spot-on to those from third basemen.

Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners: currently 3B/2B, future 3B-only. He earned 2B eligibility in-season but is six games shy of earning 2013 eligibility there. As he has made only five appearances there in 50 games since the All-Star break, he's cutting it close. It's a big deal, too: There's a huge OPS differential (52 points) between the average second baseman and the average third baseman.

Marco Scutaro, Giants: currently SS/2B/3B, future 2B/SS. Can he make the five additional appearances needed to qualify at 3B? Probably not, considering he hasn't played there since Aug. 13, the day usual third baseman Pablo Sandoval was activated from the disabled list.

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles: currently 3B/1B/OF/DH, future 1B/OF/DH. Losing 3B eligibility -- he hasn't appeared there all year -- hurts, as it's better to play a streaky type at the weakest of his eligible positions. Davis' .776 OPS is actually two points lower than the average first baseman's (.778).

Howard Kendrick, Angels: currently 2B/OF, future 2B-only. He has made only two appearances apiece at 1B and in the OF, but his fantasy value was always highest at 2B anyway.

Mike Aviles, Boston Red Sox: currently 2B/3B/SS, future SS-only. He hasn't played anywhere in the field but SS this season, but it's no problem to have a player qualified only at the weakest offensive position.

Kendrys Morales, Angels: currently 1B/DH, future DH-only. He needs six more games to qualify at 1B, but he has played each of his past six games there as Albert Pujols nurses a calf injury out of the DH spot. This one's going to be close, and it's a pretty important race for him to win.

Daniel Murphy, New York Mets: currently 2B/1B/3B, future 2B-only. He has played 11 games at 1B, though six of those have come since Aug. 1. Murphy's fantasy value is greater at second base even if he doesn't make it.

Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners: currently 2B/1B, future 2B-only. He needs 10 more games to qualify at 1B, and he hasn't appeared there since Aug. 13. No matter; Ackley's value remains greater at 2B.

Carlos Lee, Marlins: currently 1B/OF, future 1B-only. He hasn't played a single game in the field at a position other than 1B, but he might land with an American League team as a DH anyway.

Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers: currently 1B/OF, future 1B-only. His fantasy value would take a hit at merely 1B, but he has only three games in the OF, and not one since May 29. Moreland is effectively a platoon mate, and at the deepest position, that has limited appeal.

Michael Morse, Nationals: currently 1B/OF, future OF-only. He's a corner outfielder now, with only one game played at 1B.

Michael Young, Rangers: currently 1B/2B/3B/DH, future 1B/DH. Can he make the requisite four additional appearances to qualify at 3B and/or six to qualify at 2B again in 2013? Considering his declining offensive skills, it's important that he does at either spot, but at least he has six appearances at 2B and two at 3B since Aug. 1, giving him a shot.

Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins: currently SS/2B/3B/OF, future OF-only. His might be the most devastating loss of position eligibility, as both 2B and SS would be more valuable spots at which to use him. Bonifacio is done for the season with a knee injury, meaning he'll finish five games short at 2B.

Brandon Belt, Giants: currently 1B/OF, future 1B-only. He hasn't played anywhere but 1B, but at least the Giants have granted him 35 starts there in their 50 games since the All-Star break.

Jeff Keppinger, Rays: currently 2B/1B/3B/DH, future 3B-only. He needs one more game -- one -- to recapture 2B eligibility for 2013, but understand that he has only two appearances there since the All-Star break. He's cutting it close, but at least he's within five games of 1B eligibility as well, meaning he might well qualify at three infield spots again.

Trevor Plouffe, Twins: currently SS/3B/OF, future 3B-only: All but one of his starts since June 8 have been at 3B -- the other was at DH -- leaving him three games short of qualifying in the OF, 19 at SS and 16 at 2B. That shortstop eligibility would be a tough loss.

Mark Reynolds, Orioles: currently 3B/1B/DH, future 1B-only. His recent power surge -- nine home runs in his past 23 games -- has earned him a regular place in the Orioles' lineup, but it's at 1B; he hasn't appeared at 3B since May 7. Reynolds is five games short of qualifying there for 2013, and he'll be a less attractive fantasy pick without that eligibility.

Willie Bloomquist, Arizona Diamondbacks: currently SS/3B/OF, future SS-only. Back problems have relegated Bloomquist to pinch-hitting duty for the time being, diminishing his chances of getting the nine additional appearances for 3B eligibility in 2013.

Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres: currently OF/1B, future 1B-only. All 124 of his games in the field have been played at 1B, leaving him only eligible at the game's deepest offensive position.

Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros: currently SS/3B, future SS-only. He didn't appear anywhere but SS before suffering the ankle injury that currently has him on the disabled list.

Prospective new position eligibility

Martin Prado
Martin Prado has played five different positions so far in 2012.

The following two players have a chance at earning meaningful position eligibility for 2013 in the season's final weeks.

Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves: currently 3B/OF, could he add 2B? Prado's is an interesting case, as he has already played the requisite 20 games to qualify at 3B/OF again for 2013, but he has appeared nine times at 2B, as well, and appears to have unseated Dan Uggla for the starting job. Prado has started each of the Braves' past 13 games, and here's his positional appearance breakdown: 6 OF, 5 2B, 3 SS, 1 1B, 1 3B. He needs 11 more games at 2B, 15 at SS and 16 at 1B to qualify at any of those spots for 2013, and you can be sure that a 2B/3B/SS/OF-eligible player with his skills is going to be immensely valuable in any format.

Ryan Doumit, Twins: began year C-only, could he lock in his current C/OF/DH? Though Doumit's fantasy value is greater at catcher than in the outfield, dual eligibility is an asset for any catcher. He needs three more games to qualify in the OF for 2013, and he has seven appearances there since Aug. 1.

Long shot to add any positions

David Ortiz, Red Sox, DH: He played seven games at 1B earlier this season, and he's a long shot to make even a single additional appearance there, if he appears in a game at all.

Lesser names of note

Ryan Theriot, Giants: SS/2B now, 2B-only in 2013.
Wilson Betemit, Orioles: 3B/1B now, 3B already in 2013; needs five more games to recapture 1B eligibility.
Brandon Moss, Oakland Athletics: OF/1B now, 1B already in 2013; needs seven more games to recapture OF eligibility.
Ruben Tejada, Mets: 2B/SS now, SS-only in 2013.
Lucas Duda, Mets: 1B/OF now, OF-only in 2013.
Matt Carpenter, Cardinals: 3B/1B/OF now, 1B already in 2013; needs three more games to recapture 3B eligibility, five for OF.
Pedro Ciriaco, Red Sox: SS/2B/3B now, and this season has 16 games at 3B, 14 at 2B and 12 at SS.
Alexi Amarista, Padres: 2B/SS/OF now, 2B/OF already in 2013; needs eight more games to recapture SS eligibility.
Stephen Lombardozzi, Nationals: 2B/3B/OF now, 2B/OF already in 2013; needs seven more games to recapture 3B eligibility.
Greg Dobbs, Marlins: 3B/1B/OF now, 3B/OF already in 2013; needs four more games to recapture 1B eligibility.
Luke Scott, Rays: OF/DH now, DH-only in 2013.
Joaquin Arias, Giants: 2B/3B/SS now, 3B/SS already in 2013; needs 17 more games to recapture 2B eligibility.
Ty Wigginton, Philadelphia Phillies: 3B/1B/OF now, 3B/1B already in 2013; needs 16 more games to recapture OF eligibility.
Jordany Valdespin, Mets: 2B/OF now, OF-only in 2013.
Logan Forsythe, Padres: 3B/2B now, 2B-only in 2013.
Tyler Moore, Nationals: 1B/OF now, OF already in 2013, needs nine more games to recapture 1B eligibility.
Jesus Guzman, Padres: 1B/OF now, OF already in 2013; needs two more games to recapture 1B eligibility.
Alexi Casilla, Twins: 2B/SS now, 2B-only in 2013.
Cliff Pennington, Athletics: SS/2B now, SS already in 2013; needs 12 more games to recapture 2B eligibility.
Casey McGehee, Yankees: 3B/1B now, 1B already in 2013; needs two more games to recapture 3B eligibility.
Manny Machado, Orioles: SS/3B now, 3B-only in 2013.
Mat Gamel, Brewers: 3B/1B now, 1B-only in 2013.
Lance Berkman, Cardinals: 1B/OF now, 1B-only in 2013.
Jean Segura, Brewers: 2B/SS now, SS-only in 2013.
Josh Donaldson, Athletics: C/3B now, 3B-only in 2013.
Daniel Descalso, Cardinals: 3B/2B/SS now, 3B/2B already in 2013; needs one more game to recapture SS eligibility.
Xavier Nady, Giants: 1B/OF now, OF-only in 2013.
Freddy Galvis, Phillies: SS/2B now, 2B-only in 2013.
Laynce Nix, Phillies: OF/1B, OF already in 2013; needs 10 more games to recapture 1B eligibility.
Mike Olt, Rangers: 3B now; has played seven at 1B, three at 3B and two in the OF so far this season.
Jurickson Profar, Rangers: SS now; has played one games at 2B so far this season.

Three up

Andre Ethier, Dodgers: As expected, the Dodgers' midseason acquisitions have done wonders to boost their individual hitters' counting-number potential; since the addition of Hanley Ramirez on July 25, they have averaged 4.31 runs per game, up from 3.89 per game before that date. Ethier has been especially productive, batting .296/.352/.461 with six home runs, 19 RBIs and 24 runs scored in 39 games since July 25, and .372/.438/.698 with four homers, seven RBIs and eight runs scored in 11 games since Adrian Gonzalez's arrival on Aug. 25. As the Dodgers' new No. 6 hitter, slotting in behind Mark Ellis, Shane Victorino, Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Ramirez on most nights, Ethier should continue to drive in runs with the best of them, his primary weakness still that he can't hit left-handers (.223/.279/.340 rates against them this season). He's a brilliant matchups play in daily leagues, and should finish the year on a strong note.

Carlos Gomez, Brewers: Who would've guessed he'd explode like this in the power department, having slugged .357 with a ghastly .291 on-base percentage in his first five big league seasons? Gomez has set personal bests by a substantial margin with his 16 homers and .475 slugging percentage this season, and he has 11 homers in his past 41 games, at that, recapturing a regular role in center field. What's more, his 14.0 home run/fly ball percentage shouldn't be construed as entirely fluky; it's supported by a career-best 60.1 percent rate of fly balls and line drives combined, a .209 well-hit average and a .292 well-hit average on his fly balls alone. Gomez is driving the ball with far more authority than he ever has, and it's time to take him seriously as a homer-speed option.

Chase Headley, Padres: He continues to defy the Petco Park odds, setting personal bests in home runs (24), RBIs (93) and slugging percentage (.476), and since Aug. 1 he's a .331/.368/.638 hitter with 12 home runs, 41 RBIs and 23 runs scored in 32 games. Better yet, he's a .291/.339/.545 hitter with four homers and 12 RBIs in the 15 of those games that were played at Petco, demonstrating that he should have a place in any fantasy lineup regardless of venue. That's good news, considering 15 of the Padres' final 25 contests will be played at home.

Three down

Carlos Beltran, Cardinals: His season has fallen into a tailspin, as beginning with a nine-game homestand that started Aug. 14, Beltran is a .154/.236/.200 hitter with only three extra-base hits, all doubles, and three RBIs in his past 18 contests. That's a concern, considering he received a cortisone injection to alleviate pain in his left hand during that homestand, and speculation has begun as to whether the injury might still be contributing to his struggles. Examining Beltran's numbers from a longer-range span, he's a .206/.252/.392 hitter with eight homers and a 22.9 percent strikeout rate in 52 games since July 1. Lower your expectations for him going forward.

Ichiro Suzuki, Yankees: Though the early returns following his trade to the Yankees were somewhat promising from a fantasy perspective, Ichiro has slumped massively as the Yankees' season has gone into a tailspin of its own. He's a .178 hitter with only two walks, one extra-base hit, a double, one run scored and zero stolen bases in his past 14 games. Most troubling, in 40 games for the Yankees, he's 4-for-7 stealing bases, meaning he's struggling in the one aspect of the game in which he had been reliable since the beginning of 2011. Though being a regular member of the Yankees' lineup should pad Ichiro's runs scored numbers, the team's offensive struggles of late have even hurt him in that regard.

Neil Walker, Pirates: One of the hotter second basemen in the game from the beginning of June through the middle of August, Walker's season has been interrupted by a back problem that has limited him to seven of 18 Pirates contests since Aug. 16. He continues to work out at PNC Park, per the team's official website, but the earliest projected date for his return is this weekend. Expect the Pirates to take it easy with Walker's rehabilitation, especially since he has hit only .115 (3-for-26) in seven games between absences with the injury.

New position eligibility

The following players have become eligible at new positions -- it's 10 games to qualify at a new spot -- in ESPN standard leagues during the past week: Jacob Elmore (SS), Chris Parmelee (OF), Cliff Pennington (2B), Adam Rosales (2B), Chad Tracy (1B).

Nearing new position eligibility

The following players are within two games of earning new position eligibility: Jeff Baker (8 games played at 2B), Yuniesky Betancourt (8 games played at 3B), Steve Clevenger (9 games played at 1B), Jason Donald (9 games played at 3B, 9 games played at SS), Matt Downs (8 games played at OF), Yan Gomes (8 games played at 3B), Mauro Gomez (8 games played at 3B), Elliot Johnson (9 games played at 2B), Munenori Kawasaki (8 games played at 2B), Brent Lillibridge (9 games played at SS), Jayson Nix (9 games played at 2B), Martin Prado (8 games played at 2B), Drew Sutton (8 games played at 2B), Mark Trumbo (8 games played at 3B), Justin Turner (8 games played at SS), Omar Vizquel (9 games played at SS), Brett Wallace (8 games played at 3B).