Fantasy Articles

It may seem cliché, but in fantasy baseball, position versatility isn’t just important; it’s everything. Well, maybe not everything. But it’s pretty close. Read on, dear reader.

This may seem sacrilegious to any self-respecting fantasy player, but I’m sticking to one league this year. The truth is, in past years I would get tired – dare I say bored? – of general managing it up for eight or nine different teams in eight or nine different leagues. Fantasy baseball became less of a passion and more of a duty.

So this year, I’m a changed man. For the summer of 2009, I am – and will be – completely monogamous with my “durham bulls” (if you don’t get the cinematic – or real-world – reference, shame on you).

With the eighth overall pick in the draft, I confidently claimed Miguel Cabrera, who I consider to be an absolute steal at pick No. 8 – especially since I’ve seen him go first overall in multiple mock drafts this year (hey, even I wasn’t drinking the Cabrera Kool-Aid THAT much, but I’ll gladly pilfer if the opportunity arises).

One thing in particular makes Cabrera a key asset – versatility. He is eligible at 1B and 3B. Odds are he’ll be the only player selected in the first two or three rounds of a draft who is eligible at multiple positions; the value of this cannot be overstated.

Here is what the first 1-1/3 rounds of my draft looked like:

Round 1
Team 1: Hanley Ramirez
Team 2: Jose Reyes
Team 3: Albert Pujols
Team 4: David Wright
Team 5: Grady Sizemore
Team 6: Ryan Braun
Team 7: Ryan Howard
Me: Miguel Cabrera
Team 9: B.J. Upton
Team 10: Josh Hamilton
Team 11: Mark Teixeira
Team 12: Ian Kinsler

Round 2:
Team 12: Jimmy Rollins
Team 11: Johan Santana
Team 10: Chase Utley
Team 9: B.J. Upton

Miguel Cabrera may not play third in reality any more, but he may on your fantasy team.
My pick here became a process of elimination. Knowing that I could stick a first-class commodity like Cabrera at either one of my corner infield spots meant one thing – there was no way I was going to draft either a 1B or 3B in the second round. Rather, I would concentrate on filling other roster spots until the time was right to make a good value pick on either a first baseman or third basemen; then I could slide Cabrera in at the other CI spot.

As the clock ticked down on my second-round selection, five things became obvious: (1) as I said, I was not going to draft either a 1B or 3B (and I didn’t feel like overspending for Lance Berkman or Evan Longoria anyway), (2) my top-ranked 2B, Chase Utley, was off the board, and while I’m fond of the likes of Dustin Pedroia and Brandon Phillips, I felt like I’d be overpaying slightly if I selected either of them at this point; thus, I wasn’t going to take a 2B; (3) Ramirez, Reyes and Rollins were off the board (obviously), so a SS was out of the question; (4) I decided going into the draft that I was not going to sacrifice a pick in the first two rounds for either Johan Santana (who was gone) or Tim Lincecum, so a SP was off limits; (5) I respect myself too much to draft a catcher in the second round.

That only left one option – outfield. I know outfield is extremely deep this year, but I wanted to get at least one cornerstone guy on my team. The safest, best available option was Carlos Beltran (and I’m all for making safe selections in the first three or four rounds). But instead, I took Manny Ramirez.

For someone who likes safe picks and doesn’t believe in overspending, picking Manny, who was about 10 names down on the rankings sheet, may seem contradictory. But I did it for two reasons: (1) this is a guy who could easily yield first-round value, and (2) I knew he wouldn’t be available in the third round. In fact, upon picking Manny, the owner of Team 4 called me several expletives that need not be repeated. Looks like I wasn’t the only one big on Man-Ram.

So having Cabrera, who hit .302 with 21 homers and 70 RBI in 68 games after the All-Star break last year (compared to .284 with 16 homers and 57 RBI in 92 games before it), and Ramirez, who went berserk with L.A., gave me a good base (pardon the pun) on which to build a team. Over the course of a full season, Ramirez’ numbers with the Dodgers would have translated to the neighborhood of .385, 48 homers and 155 RBI. Now, I’m not expecting anywhere near that. But I am banking on .315, 30 homers and 115 RBI. Some people may think even those numbers are too high, but assuming Manny is healthy, I think he should meet those marks fairly easily.

In case you’re curious, here’s the team I put together to start the 2009 season.

C: Pablo Sandoval
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
2B: Dan Uggla
SS: Mike Aviles
3B: Miguel Cabrera
OF: Manny Ramirez
OF: Jason Bay
OF: Carl Crawford
Utility: Jason Giambi/Jordan Schafer

SP1: Rich Harden
SP2: Jon Lester
SP3: Ricky Nolasco
SP4: Aaron Harang
SP5: Paul Maholm
SP6: Chris Volstad
SP7: Tommy Hanson
RP1: Matt Lindstrom
RP2: Kevin Gregg
RP3: Manuel Corpas
RP4: Jose Arredondo

As a few members of my league have mentioned, my offense is fairly ridiculous, as I have six guys who hit 30 or more home runs in 2008. I definitely didn’t plan to use my first six picks on bats, but the names on the board were too good to pass up. I wanted to get a Dan Haren type to anchor my staff, but it wasn’t to be. But I did – in my humble opinion – make good value picks on a lot of young arms who are capable of contributing quality fantasy innings this year. Even if several of them don’t, I can play the waiver wire or I can talk with some pitching-heavy, offense-hungry teams in my league and trade away some of my position players – even someone like Manny; heck, Team 4, for example, may be willing to wildly overpay for Ramirez’ services. In fantasy, no player is ever off limits.

Versatility, of course, also helps a great deal when trading. For example, Pablo Sandoval is eligible at C, 1B and 3B (meaning I have more flexibility if I trade Adrian Gonzalez), and Aviles is eligible at 2B and SS (meaning I have more flexibility if I trade Dan Uggla).

Either way, you get the point; the dead horse need not be beaten any longer.  Whether it comes to drafting, trading, or plain old roster filling in day-to-day fantasy baseball, versatility is king.