A Look at Positional Depth (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
One of the things that separates fantasy baseball from fantasy football is all of the different positions you have to fill out on your roster. There are eight different positions that you have to put players in week in and week out (although I am looking for more people to join my no catchers protest). This brings in yet another strategic element to the draft. It is good to know what each position looks like individually – which positions you can wait a bit on and which to prioritize early in the draft.
Before we dive in here, I will say that you shouldn’t go overboard with this. Your first priority should be to take the best hitter available when drafting and work out the positional stuff later, but this information makes for a good tiebreaker in a lot of cases.
So what do we see in 2020? I am using ESPN’s position eligibility for this post, and while different sites have some differences, in general terms this will apply to all websites (the differences in the percentages will be too slow to really change our outcomes). We’ll start with the top 150 hitters (about how many hitters will be drafted in a standard, ten-team league), here is the positional breakdown for those players:
I counted any player with dual eligibility twice, and any player with three positions three times in the data. We see a pretty even split here. You would expect there to be significantly more outfielders since there are three times more outfielders on the field than other positions, so that makes sense. The non-catcher infield positions are pretty close, with second base lagging a few points behind. With that many hitters, this is pretty much expected. Let’s drill down to the top 100:
First base takes a bit of a dive here down to 13%, while third base takes most of that share. Now for the top 50:
Outfielders separate themselves even more, jumping up over 40%, while third base and shortstop taking a climb as well at the expense of first and second basemen. We’ll finish up with the top 25:
Outfielders are king, increasing, even more, when we look at just the top 25 hitters. Shortstops and third base tied for second and then a large gap down to first base, followed by an even larger gap down to the one second basemen (Jose Altuve) and DH (Yordan Alvarez) in the top 25.
These findings are accentuated when you really look at the player pool closely and/or start doing some drafts. Through my time looking at the rankings/projections and doing a few drafts, a few things are pretty clear to me.
- Second base is brutal. You have Altuve at the top, and even he is not without major question marks (doesn’t run anymore, aging, the whole cheating debacle), and then there are really only two guys in Ketel Marte and Ozzie Albies that you can feel really good about going into the season – and the upside for both of them is decently capped in my eyes. You have some high risk, high reward guys behind that crew like Keston Hiura, but there is really not much to like in this whole group. Normally it’s wise to invest early in an ugly position, but this spot is so ugly that I am likely to just wait it out and grab someone like Mike Moustakas, Jeff McNeil, or Cavan Biggio pretty late.
- First base is top-heavy. You have two of the best hitters in the game in Cody Bellinger and Freddie Freeman easily claiming the top spots, with a reliable but boring guy in Anthony Rizzo a moderate step behind them. Then you really get into the guys that are mainly two or three category contributors. Guys like Pete Alonso, Matt Olson, Jose Abreu, and Josh Bell are fine options (potentially more than fine options in points leagues), but they are not really game-changing players in a categories league given how little they offer in steals and batting average. I think ending up with one of those top three guys gives you a nice step up on the competition early on in the draft.
- Outfield is really deep. Even given the fact that you have to start 3-5 outfielders, the position is still really deep this year. You have guys with ADP’s in the triple digits like Michael Conforto that are projecting for 160+ runs+RBI, 30+ homers, and decent enough average that just make filling out your outfield really easy. If you’re in a three outfielder league and end up with one of those stud outfielders in the first round, I think it’s very wise to wait a while to fill out that outfield, because you will find some guys that project really nicely very late in the draft.
The best strategy will always be to just draft the best available hitters; it’s a long season with lots of moving parts, but it does give you a little advantage if you understand the depth of each position. Doing a few mock drafts before the real thing really gives you a good feel for this, so head on over to our mock draft simulator and give it a go!