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For the months leading up to, and right up until the very last moment before your draft, I’ll always be one of the first to tell you to wait on starting pitching. The position is incredibly deep and if you do your homework, you can find outstanding, quality pitching throughout the middle to late rounds. In a 12-team, mixed league with a snake draft, I’m not even looking at a pitcher until the sixth round. You can easily build yourself competitive pitching staffs without investing an early round pick on a Justin Verlander or a Clayton Kershaw. Sure, those guys will be great, but clearly there are others. If you watched that Colorado/ St. Louis series this past weekend, you’ll know exactly what I’m, talking about.
When the Toronto Blue Jays began their roster overhaul during the offseason, things were looking pretty good for the Great White North. The deal with the Marlins landed them an elite shortstop in Jose Reyes, a highly touted starting pitcher in Josh Johnson, a speedy super-utility guy in Emilio Bonifacio and a veteran lefty in Mark Buehrle all for very little. They then brought in Melky Cabrera, R.A. Dickey and Maicer Izturis to add to a fairly strong core group that already consisted of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Brandon Morrow and J.P. Arencibia. They immediately went from also-rans to top contender in the American League.
We spend a lot of time in fantasy baseball talking about who to draft in the first two or three rounds that we often times don't focus enough on the positional battles that teams are going through during Spring Training. Does the second base decision with the Blue Jays impact a guy like Emilio Bonifacio who has such huge upside given his wheels? What about the Cardinals second and shortstop decisions – do they matter? Of course you are going to care about what the Angels do in the 9th inning, but maybe what the injury ravaged Yankees do in the outfield should also be something you concern yourself with? We'll discuss those battles and more in this piece.
With your draft looming and barely three weeks to go before the season opens, studying up on all of the open position battles is key to your draft prep. Obviously you want the best at every position, but since you know that’s a pipe dream, unless of course you’re in a league of idiots, you have to know where to tighten up your budget. But if you are following the spring action and know who is likely to win a job outright, perhaps you can come in with a late, sneaky pick and still manage a quality pick at a particular position. Here’s a look at some of the bigger position battles we’re seeing this spring. Some should be settled sooner than others while you might see one or two linger into the season. But here’s a look and my take…
In 1983 Rickey Henderson ran his way to 130 steals for the Athletics, a modern day baseball record (Hugh Nicol actually stole 138 bases in 1887 for the Cincinnati Red Stockings). Others of the modern era have hit triple-digits – Lou Brock, Vince Coleman Maury Wills – but those just aren't numbers we see anymore. Nowadays we're lucky to find guys who steal half as many bags. So why is it that you hear so many people in the fantasy game say 'I don't worry about steals early, I can find them late.' Is that an accurate statement? How should you look at steals for the coming season, and which players should you consider targeting?
It's all about pitching today with a breakdown of some once proud hurlers who are struggling, a surging starting pitcher in Chicago who was a reliever last seeason, and what the Dodgers are going in the 9th inning (hint, it's positive news for Jansen owners). We'll also hit on a few batters – Carlos Beltran and Emilio Bonifacio will get the once over – as we work our way around the diamond.
So here we are at the end of April where, for the most part, the hot starts begin to cool off and, with luck, the cold ones begin to heat up. Full-time starters have roughly 80-90 at-bats under their belt and your sample size arguments for why things are the way they are, start to dissipate. That doesn’t mean that all players are leveling off right now – some still have some work to do. Yes, Albert Pujols, I’m looking in your direction. But when you’re sitting there wondering what to do with your guys like Nolan Reimold, Jordan Schafer or Jose Altuve, watching their every move right now is key. They’re all off to hot enough starts that they have some decent trade value, but if they start to go into the tank because they’ve been playing over their head for the past month, your window of opportunity to reap some of the value in a trade will begin to close very rapidly.
We are all looking for value at the draft table. One of the easiest ways to determine the value of a player is to consider what position he plays. With the growing trend toward people drafting based on “position scarcity,” I thought it would be worth my time, and my time is extremely valuable so it must be important, to give a list of some of the bigger name players who qualify at more than one position on the diamond (to be listed below the player has to have appeared in at least 20 games at each position – the standard qualifier in almost all fantasy leagues). To be clear, I'm not saying you should draft Mike Aviles before J.J. Hardy simply because he qualifies at more than one spot. What I am saying though is if you are trying to decide between Mike Aviles and Jason Bartlett that maybe you should lean toward Aviles because he will be able to help you out in two spots (in Aviles case he'll also qualify at middle and corner infield, further increasing his usefulness).