- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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Eight of the Padres' 13 active hitters appeared at multiple positions, there were more than a dozen defensive switches or substitutions, 38 percent of the team's active hitters (5 of 13) played third base, and two players, Jedd Gyorko and Jesus Guzman, swapped spots on at least three different occasions. In fact, depending upon your source -- whether it's ESPN, Baseball-Reference.com or MLB.com -- Gyorko and Guzman rotated between second and third base as many as five times.
If you're a fantasy owner, you might be thinking, "Boy, wouldn't it be nice if each of those position changes counted as an individual game appearance?" In that event, it would have given Gyorko 15 appearances at third base -- he actually has 13 -- and Guzman five at third base and three at second (he has three and one, respectively). But even crediting the two with a lone appearance at either spot, plus Yonder Alonso getting his first appearance in the outfield, is representative of the fact that the 2013 Padres, skippered by the always-creative Bud Black, believe in position flexibility.
That's a critical angle in fantasy baseball, position flexibility, as player valuation often hinges upon where you can use certain players. This is why you heard Edwin Encarnacion's owners shriek with glee when, on June 26, the Toronto Blue Jays slugger made his 10th appearance at third base to acquire eligibility there for the remainder of 2013. It's also why Victor Martinez's keeper-league owners might have inched closer to the edges of their seats when the 34-year-old designated hitter made a pair of appearances at his old position of catcher during his Detroit Tigers' three-game trip to Citi Field this past weekend.
In a week in which Martinez offered those eager individuals hope of acquiring 2014 eligibility at an on-field position, while the Padres played positional pingpong, it seems fitting to address the topic of position eligibility, both for the remainder of this season as well as how things set up for 2014.
What might third base eligibility mean for Encarnacion, or catcher eligibility mean for Martinez? Consider the chart below, which measures the major league averages from each of the eligible positions in traditional fantasy baseball leagues. Statistics are only counted when the player was actually playing the listed position; it is not the total of all players who qualify there in fantasy.
One note: Keep in mind that those DH numbers, which are seemingly competitive in the power departments (SLG, HR% and wOBA), resulted from a considerably smaller sample of plate appearances, 8,292 as a whole, compared to, say, 16,740 from first basemen. Many of these players appear in fantasy lineups at on-field positions, so don't be dazzled by those numbers and think that 2014 DH-only eligibility would be a good thing for, say, Billy Butler.
Judging from the chart, however, it's clear that shortstop, second base and catcher are the three most attractive positions at which to qualify your hitter, with third base possessing a small advantage over outfield and first base easily the most potent of the seven fantasy baseball positions. What might surprise you is how poor the pool of shortstops has been, though that's a tune we've sung all season.
With those positional league averages in mind, let's take a look at some prominent hitters' prospective position eligibility for the rest of 2013, as well as 2014.
Notable dual-position repeats for 2014
These players entered 2013 with dual position eligibility and have earned the same eligibility for 2014. They are listed in descending order of Player Rater standing.
Allen Craig (1B/OF): Thank Matt Adams for this one, as the St. Louis Cardinals possessing a quality backup first baseman has freed them up to use Craig in the outfield to maximize their lineup flexibility.
Mark Trumbo (1B/OF): Adding third base eligibility is a long shot; he has made only one appearance of two innings there all year.
Nick Swisher (1B/OF): He has barely recaptured his outfield eligibility, with 20 games played there.
Michael Young (3B/1B)
Ryan Doumit (C/OF)
These players either entered 2013 with dual position eligibility or picked it up in-season, but could lose one or more of those spots in 2014. Again, they are listed in descending order of Player Rater standing.
Chris Davis -- currently OF/1B, 1B-only for 2014: He hasn't made a single appearance in the outfield all season, but his owners aren't going to complain. He'll enter 2014 a prime-age 28, he has appeared in 129 of 130 Baltimore Orioles games, and he's the No. 3 hitter on our Player Rater.
Edwin Encarnacion -- currently 1B/3B, 1B-only for 2014: He has remained stuck on those aforementioned 10 appearances at third base since June, but that might be enough to qualify him in some leagues. Even if he falls short of eligibility in ESPN leagues, he'd enter 2014 with the same eligibility he did in 2013, and despite that, he was the No. 25 hitter selected on average this spring.
Michael Cuddyer -- currently OF/1B, OF-only for 2014: Don't panic yet, as Cuddyer has made 14 appearances at first base this season, including eight (and six starts) at the position in the Colorado Rockies' 38 games since the All-Star break. At his second-half pace of appearances, Cuddyer would make six more appearances at first, just enough to qualify him there.
Matt Carpenter -- currently 1B/2B/3B/OF, 2B/3B for 2014: In leagues with liberal qualification rules, Carpenter could also qualify at first base (one game) or in the outfield (two) again, but even with just second and third base qualification, his fantasy value is maximized. It'll be interesting to see how the Cardinals address their middle-infield defensive deficiencies over the winter; there's an outstanding chance Kolten Wong will take over at second base, the team will acquire a shortstop and Carpenter will find himself the everyday third baseman in 2014.
Hanley Ramirez -- currently 3B/SS, SS-only for 2014: Considering how poor the Los Angeles Dodgers' third basemen have been this season -- a combined .243/.308/.343 triple-slash rates and a 25th-ranked .286 wOBA -- it's somewhat surprising that Ramirez hasn't made a single appearance there. But he's much more attractive in fantasy baseball at shortstop anyway.
Martin Prado -- currently OF/2B/3B, 2B/3B for 2014: He's another player with an outstanding chance at repeating his eligibility, as he has made 18 appearances in the outfield, and the Arizona Diamondbacks' decision Tuesday to designate Jason Kubel for assignment only enhances Prado's prospects of more time in left field. Prado has also made one appearance at shortstop.
Joe Mauer -- currently C/1B, C-only for 2014: The concussion that currently has him on the seven-day disabled list causes a curious debate. Could Mauer miss too much time to boost his current total of eight appearances at first base, and if he does return soon enough and the team trades Justin Morneau in the next three days, might the Minnesota Twins then use Mauer exclusively at first base? The smart money is on Mauer falling short, but it probably doesn't matter, since he's considerably more valuable in fantasy as a backstop anyway.
Buster Posey -- currently C/1B, C-only for 2014: Not that first base eligibility matters much for Posey, a considerably more valuable fantasy asset behind the plate, but he has 18 appearances at first base and stands an excellent chance at picking up two more games there.
Ben Zobrist -- currently OF/2B/SS, 2B/OF for 2014: Shortstop eligibility -- his was one of the more intriguing eligibility notes entering 2013 -- is what's in debate the remainder of this year. He has only 12 appearances at the position and might fall short of recapturing that eligibility for 2014. A Yunel Escobar injury could be Zobrist's only chance.
Chris Johnson -- currently 3B/1B, 3B-only for 2014: He has 11 appearances at first base, most of those accrued when Freddie Freeman was on the disabled list earlier in the year, but Freeman's outstanding performance since has assured that Johnson might not make another appearance there this year.
Billy Butler -- currently 1B/DH, DH-only for 2014: As noted above, Butler's might be the most distressing position eligibility losses entering 2014. Who wants a designated hitter-only player coming off a down year by his standards? Butler has made six appearances at first base, five of them in National League parks, but his Kansas City Royals are done with interleague play and aren't about to bench Eric Hosmer, a .313/.359/.505 hitter since the beginning of June.
Victor Martinez -- currently C/1B/DH, DH-only for 2014: His is another race against time, as he has 10 appearances at first base plus the aforementioned two at catcher, and his Detroit Tigers have Prince Fielder at first and only three games left in National League venues during which Martinez might factor in at catcher … and be aware that they're the team's final three regular season games, at which point the Tigers might have already locked in their playoff seed and won't want to risk losing their postseason DH to an injury. First base eligibility is a possibility -- he has four appearances there in 37 Tigers games since the All-Star break -- but the odds are good that Martinez will be a 35-year-old, DH-only player come 2014 draft day, and therefore a much less attractive pick.
Mike Napoli -- currently C/1B, 1B-only for 2014: You were warned. The Boston Red Sox signed Napoli to be their starting first baseman, and start only at first base he has. In fact, he hasn't played catcher a single time all year.
Brandon Moss -- currently 1B/OF, 1B-only for 2014: He might have the best odds of anyone not currently qualified for repeat eligibility to recapture it; he has made back-to-back starts in right field since Josh Reddick went on the DL, giving him 16 games in the outfield for the season. Here's an oddity: Moss has also made two appearances at third base.
Carlos Santana -- currently C/1B, C-only for 2014: OK, OK, Santana's odds are greater, but I'm assuming he's going to play the one additional game (he has played 19) at first base to qualify there again for 2014. It would be shocking if he didn't, considering how creative the Cleveland Indians are getting his potent bat in the lineup either there or at DH (30 games).
Brian Dozier -- currently SS/2B, 2B-only for 2014: He entered this season eligible only at shortstop, but he has played nothing but second base for the Twins since being promoted. He'd be slightly more attractive as a shortstop, but the key is he'll remain middle infield-eligible.
Kelly Johnson -- currently 2B/3B/OF, OF-only for 2014: He has made 15 appearances at third base and 13 at second base, giving him a chance at recapturing his 2013 eligibility, and he has three games played at first base as well. Picking up that infield eligibility is key for a player like Johnson in deep-mixed or AL-only leagues, and it might come down to whether the Tampa Bay Rays choose to rest either Zobrist or Evan Longoria if they clinch a playoff spot early.
Todd Frazier -- currently 3B/1B, 3B-only for 2014: Frazier's owners might not recall why he was able to qualify at first base last season; Joey Votto's completely healthy year is the precise reason that Frazier hasn't made a single appearance at first in 2013. Frazier has played two games in the outfield, but he's almost guaranteed to qualify only at third.
Mike Aviles -- currently SS/2B/3B, 3B/SS for 2014: He picked up second base eligibility in-season with 12 appearances at second base, but that's not going to be enough for him to earn it entering 2014. Aviles has also played five games in the outfield.
Marco Scutaro -- currently 2B/SS, 2B-only for 2014: He was fortunate to pick up shortstop eligibility last season, getting to fill in for the injured Troy Tulowitzki before the Rockies traded him to the San Francisco Giants, but just as was the case following that 2012 trade, the Giants haven't used him for a single inning at shortstop this season.
Jedd Gyorko -- currently 2B/3B, 2B-only for 2014: Bud Black's creativity has a bearing upon Gyorko's prospects at recapturing dual eligibility; Gyorko has 13 games played at third base, as mentioned above. One problem: It was Gyorko's first appearance there since April 16, when he was filling in at the position for the injured Chase Headley. Don't count on it.
Other changes of note …
Jeff Baker -- currently OF/1B, OF-only for 2014: He has played 17 games at first base, nine at third base and one at second base.
Lance Berkman -- currently 1B/DH, DH-only for 2014: He has played only four games at first base.
Alberto Callaspo -- currently 3B/2B, 3B-only for 2014: He has played 13 games at second base.
Yan Gomes -- currently 1B/C, C-only for 2014: He has played only one game at first base.
Junior Lake -- currently SS/OF, OF-only for 2014: He hasn't played anywhere other than the outfield.
John Mayberry Jr. -- currently OF/1B, OF-only for 2014: He has played seven games at first base.
Brad Miller -- currently SS/2B, SS-only for 2014: He has played 12 games at second base and two at third base.
Ryan Raburn -- currently OF/2B, OF-only for 2014: He has played only two games at second base.
Anthony Rendon -- currently 3B/2B, 2B-only for 2014: He has played 12 games at third base.
Darin Ruf -- currently OF/1B, OF-only for 2014: He has played 19 games at first base.
Eric Sogard -- currently SS/2B, 2B-only for 2014: He has played eight games at shortstop.
These are players who have made between 5-10 appearances at an unusual position. In five- or 10-game qualification leagues, these could be sneaky values.
Alexi Amarista: Seven games played at third base.
Emilio Bonifacio: Five games played at third base, one at shortstop.
Brett Lawrie: Six games played at second base.
DJ LeMahieu: Seven games played at third base, one apiece at first base and shortstop.
Jonathan Lucroy: Six games played at first base.
Daniel Murphy: Seven games played at first base.
These are players who have made fewer than five appearances at an unusual position. In one-game qualification leagues, these could be sneaky values.
Yonder Alonso: One game played apiece at second base, third base and in the outfield.
Jose Bautista: Three games played at third base, one at first base.
Gordon Beckham: Two games played at shortstop.
Robinson Cano: One game played at shortstop.
Eric Chavez: Three games played at first base.
Josh Donaldson: One game played apiece at first base and shortstop.
Adam Dunn: Three games played in the outfield.
Mark Ellis: One game played at third base.
Evan Gattis: Four games played at first base.
Eric Hosmer: One game played in the outfield.
Howie Kendrick: One game played in the outfield.
Russell Martin: Three games played at third base, one in the outfield.
Will Middlebrooks: Two games played at second base.
Yadier Molina: Four games played at first base.
Mitch Moreland: One game played in the outfield.
David Ortiz: Four games played at first base.
Lyle Overbay: Four games played in the outfield.
Mark Reynolds: One game played at second base.
Wilin Rosario: Three games played at first base.
Mark Trumbo: One game played at third base.
Vernon Wells: One game played apiece at first base, second base and third base.
Eric Young Jr.: Four games played at second base.
TOP 150 HITTERS
Note: Tristan H. Cockcroft's top 150 hitters are ranked for their expected performance from this point forward, not for statistics that have already been accrued. For position-specific rankings, see the "Pos Rnk" column; these rankings can also be seen split up by position.
Tristan H. Cockcroft updates his top 150 hitter rankings and looks at players who have maintained (Allen Craig) or could lose their position versatility (Victor Martinez, Billy Butler).