Position Scarcity 101 in 2021
Updated: Jan 30, 2021
Position scarcity in fantasy baseball is the one concept that does not transfer over easily to the football, or casual, crowd. Not understanding this is probably why a large amount of the casual population checks out somewhere around the All Star Break. Even more importantly is understand your league format and understanding how position scarcity may or may not effect it. Just as having extra flex spots means a need to prioritize running backs, having additional UT, MI, or CM will bump up certain positions. Scoring systems and league size also come into play. You should never go into a draft in any sport with a rigid plan. There are always more than one way to skin a cat, so make sure you read the board and adapt to scarcity if necessary, without reaching.
The catcher position is the fantasy baseball abyss. JT Realmuto is basically the Travis Kelce of baseball, there is a tremendous drop off after him. However, there is no scenario where an inexperienced drafter should be taking him at an ADP of 48, the opportunity cost is simply too great. In a one catcher league, which, if you are starting a new league it should be only one catcher, you should be treating the catcher position as you do your fantasy kicker or defense. Let it go and take the last one and work the waiver wire if the one you got doesn't work out, especially if it is 12 teams or less. In 15 teams or higher, you have to pay attention to ADP tiers. Realmuto would be prohibitive in round 3 unless you truly grasp how to fill out a team in rounds 15-20 with productive players.
Tier two is Sal Perez and Will Smith in round 8, and Tier 3 is about round 10 with Yasmani Grandal, Willson Contreras, and Travis D'Arnaud. If you don't get one of the top six, don't panic and reach...just sit on it until the run starts much, much later and take what is there. In two catcher leagues, I strongly recommend jumping in at Tier 3 and ensuring production from one of your two. Certainly their are some quality sleepers, such as Alejandro Kirk, but those are best left for a C2 or bench spot.
Plan of attack:
12 Team Leagues: don't dive in until Tier 3
15 Team Leagues: don't dive in later than Tier 3
Dynasty Targets: JT Realmuto, Will Smith, Daulton Varsho or punt
Scarcity Rating: Extremely scarce in 2 C leagues
First base has been a vast wasteland in recent years, but it has seem some improvement this year. With the addition to the pool of Jake Croneworth and Vlad Guerrero, and the emergence of Dominic Smith, there is a lot more meat on the bones. Still, this is generally a Tier one or massive punt position for me. Cody Bellinger is one of my absolute favorite first round, even early second round, targets at ADP 14 in any and all formats. He is only 25 years old and being pushed down dramatically because of a sub par 2020, which most people seem to not realize is a small sample size, basically what we would normally call a slump or a hot streak. Reigning NL and AL MVPs Freddie Freeman and Jose Abreu each offer very solid production at a premium cost.
Looking at the rest of the positional landscape, it appears to be about ten deep before a cliff. I'm not a believer in Luke Voit as an elite fantasy asset, and once exciting sleeper Rowdy Tellez seems to be the biggest loser in the acquistions of George Springer and Marcus Semien. The opportunity cost at the position is simply too high until Paul Goldschmidt at about ADP 100 and, much later, for Rhys Hoskins at ADP 170, especially in OBP leagues.
12 and 15 Team Leagues: Bellinger or punt
Dynasty Targets: Spencer Torkelson, Andrew Vaughn, Dominic Smith
Scarcity Rating: Pretty thin in most formats
I have been playing fantasy baseball for about 30 years, and for about the first 20 of it the middle infield positions only had 2-5 players you would have any interest in. That's simply not the case anymore. Second base in 2021 is a place to win leagues. I don't feel the need to use second round capital on DJ LeMahieu or Ozzie Albies when there are some three category dandies such as Nick Madrigal, Andres Gimenez, Ryan McMahon and Gavin Lux drafted outside of the top 200. It is plausible to wait that long before selecting your first 2B, but it also makes for a beautiful lineup build if you jump in the middle rounds for recency bias fallers Ketel Marte, Jose Altuve, or Mike Moustakas, making those sub 200 darlings an MI or bench/UT option for you. In roto leagues, this is one of the best spots to attack steals, as there are at least fifteen 2B with the ability to get you over double digit steals.
12 Team Leagues: Jump in tier 3 after round 8, pair with a 3 category dandy in late rounds
15 Team Leagues: Can wait for sub 200 players and build your OF and SP early
Dynasty Targets: Nick Madrigal, Jeter Downs, Ryan McMahon
Scarcity Rating: Better than 1B and 3B
One of the deepest positions this year. ADP shows us four going in round 1, three to four in round 2, and then a very high upside group after ADP 65 of Gleyber Torres and Javier Baez, both of whom were no lower than top 35 players before the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Carlos Correa has an ADP of about 130, which is completely disrespectful for the 26 year old. It's almost impossible in a 12 team draft this year to not love your SS1. The trade of Marcus Simien, addition to the pool of Ha-Seong Kim, and quiet solid production of Paul DeJong gives plenty of late targets that would be drafted much higher at different positions.
When looking at dynasty leagues, it is far and away the deepest position. Whether investing in the major league, prospects, or even deep prospect levels, this is the position with abundant studs, a huge change from decades past. The Dominican Republic is a shortstop factory, giving us at least ten SS signed this past January 15th that will be fantasy relevant down the road.
12 and 15 Team Leagues: Keep drafting shortstops at every level and tier. The position is absolutely packed. Just don't do the Adelberto Mondesi thing, not worth it.
Dynasty Targets: Fernando Tatis, Wander Franco, Marco Luciano, Carlos Correa, Wilman Diaz, CJ Abrams, Bobby Witt, Cristian Hernandez....I can go on for several days
Scarcity Rating: Deepest position in the game
Most will tell you that the Nolan Arenado trade destroys the high end of this position. I'm here to tell you the opposite. In the third round, he was already priced as if out of Coors. Now that he actually did move, you will be able to get him in round 5 which is an absolute steal. Home runs should sustain, average will drop, but the RBI and RUNs should actually increase. Jose Ramirez is the gold standard of the position and the only first round talent, but we've seen him tank for extended periods and he just isn't a player I want to invest that draft capital in. There is a solid tier later on, after ADP 40, of Anthony Rendon, Alex Bregman, and Rafael Devers. Arenado should fall somewhere into this tier now. I'm not personally a Devers guy, but any of the other three are a great spot to dive in for me.
My favorite value at the position is Kris Bryant at ADP 128. I could easily see a scenario where the former MVP, scheduled for free agency after the season at 29 years old, puts 2020 behind him and becomes a top three fantasy option at the position once again. There are also serviceable options after 200, such as Jean Segura and Justin Turner.
12 Team Leagues: There are six high end options and about seven other startable options, so need to reach
15 Team Leagues: It dries up at the end, don't wait too long, especially if you need a CM as 1B is even worse
Dynasty Targets: Kris Bryant, Ke'Bryant Hayes, Jordan Groshans, Alec Bohm
Scarcity Rating: Uncomfortable but not as bad as 1B
I generally commit myself to having one outfielder through the first two rounds. The position is very stacked at the top, then thins out....but is extremely deep. You can find startable, productive players into the 300s. You will generally do best to fill your UT slot with an outfielder, unless you listened earlier and didn't stop drafting shortstops. The talent base is basically equal to 1B, 2B, and 3B combined, but that's simple math as MLB teams start three at the position. Because of this, it is also a position which is fixable during the season if you didn't put a premium on it in the draft, as the waiver wire will always have outfielders.
12 Team Leagues: Take your time. If you aren't in top 5 picks, you have the entire draft to fill these spots, there are plenty of options
15 Team Leagues: I like to have one in first two rounds and two by round ten. You can wait for the rest, but keep a spot open because you'll be surprised of the talent you'll find very late
Dynasty Targets: Ronald Acuna, Eloy Jimenez, Austin Meadows, Jarred Kelenic, Kristian Robinson, Alex Verdugo, Trevor Larnach
Scarcity Rating: Easy street, there is always another option available
Dumpster fire. If you are in a draft and hold scenario, you need to secure a closer before round six. I cannot name five that I actually trust. The "closer" position has a turnover rate of over 60% year to year, and 2021 looks to be the utter worst I've seen. It used to be a thing to take the closer on a bad team, as they will play mostly close games, but there are more bad teams than ever and most do not have a candidate that excites me. I recommend getting into a league with SOLDS (saves+holds)
12 and 15 Team Leagues: If you get shut out of Josh Hader, Liam Hendricks, Brad Hand, Aroldis Chapman, and maybe Edwin Diaz, I'd sooner spend some speculative bench spots on maybe closers and spend FAAB on the position rather than draft capital
Dynasty Targets: Josh Hader, James Karinchak, Devin Williams, Tejay Antone
Scarcity Rating: The worst. Bust rate is higher than success rate
A lot of personal preference here. Many fantasy owners refuse to leave the second round without an ace, and in points environments that may be necessary. Truth be told, the top 10 starting pitchers fluctuates from year to year. Both Cy Young winners last year didn't sniff the top 10, and now are going as high as round 1. I personally see the cut off of "aces" at 13 pitchers, or round three with Brandon Woodruff, so it is possible in 12 team leagues to start hitter:hitter and still get a bone-a-fide anchor for your rotation. There will be pitchers in the next few rounds who perform as top ten pitchers this year, with Tyler Glasnow and Zach Plesac my personal favorites. You can also solidify your SP2 or even SP3 with older, disrespected favorites such as Charlie Morton, Patrick Corbin or Zack Greinke.
I am not a big fan of the higher-end prospects in the starting pitcher pool. My prospect rankings go about 25 deep before the first pitcher appears. In dynasty leagues, I'm not spending high draft capital on a pitcher unless it is a top three round ace. Let the Sixto Sanchez and Mackenzie Gores go. If you do your homework, there are literally hundreds of pitchers with the potential to rise up the rankings once they get exposed to professional coaching and technology, refine secondary pitches, and fill out their body.
Scarcity Rating: "Aces" go 13 deep. If you don't get one, it's ok you can fix it by getting two high end SP2, although it is not necessarily broken. There are always streaming options available late, even on waiver wire. Let your opponents reach for youth, and fill your roster with solid, consistent veterans. When pitchers get hurt, it is usually catastrophic, so I don't like over-investing (I will have zero first round pitchers on my redraft teams).
Dynasty Targets: basically anyone named Zach or Zack, Aaron Civale, Corbin Burnes, Elisier Hernandez, Deivi Garcia, Brad Keller, Daniel Espino, Reid Detmers
As always, reach out on Twitter @JTRELA20 with any questions or comments about this topic. Thanks for reading!