Fantasy Baseball: Is Position Scarcity Over-Emphasized By Fantasy Owners?

I was checking out Marc Normandin's fantasy baseball chat over at Baseball Prospectus yesterday afternoon, and posted a few Q & A's from the chat. Both fanposts were instances where I disagreed with Marc, but here is one where I tend to agree with Marc. Here is the Q & A:

nschaef (Connecticut): Do you think it's possible that position scarcity has become so emphasized that picking the best available player is a way to exploit a market ineffciency?

Marc Normandin: Yes. A friend and I have had discussions about this in the past. People are so desperate to pick up players at positions with scarcity that they miss out elsewhere. Sure, there's a lot to choose from at certain positions, but what happens when you base your team off of Jose Reyes because shorstop sucks and then he misses the year? You're not going to get anyone nearly as good without extreme luck or dealing from a strength, weakening yourself again.

I agree that fantasy owner's do over-emphasize position scarcity in fantasy drafts.Here is an example I used in the past, and it involves Matt Kemp. I have discussed Kemp in several "Who Would You Rather Have" posts, with one here, and an NL Top 10 post here.

When drafting, many fantasy owners look to draft players at positions with scarcity, like catcher, shortstop and second base, and often overlook better players. One can say I am biased ranking Matt Kemp so high, but I would draft him ahead of a Hanley Ramirez and Chase Utley, as Kemp, in my opinion, will outperform these two players in 2010.

And Baseball HQ agrees with me. Here is their projections for 2010:

Name                        HR    RBI      RS     SB      BA

Matt Kemp                29     107        98     32     .299

Hanley Ramirez      26       88       111    24     .314

Chase Utley             30     100       111    19     .280

I think Kemp can outperform Shandler's projection, and I am sure there are people who think Hanley can outperform his projection, but as I wrote here, Hanley's power/speed stats have dropped in each of the last 2 years.

I would prefer to draft a hitter who has a very good chance to go 30-30 in 2010, over a hitter at a position of scarcity. If drafting a hitter who plays a positon of scarcity was so valuable, why not draft Hanley Ramirez or Chase Utley at number 1? Why pick Albert Pujols #1 when first base might be the deepest position in fantasy drafts in 2010.

Here is a list of first baseman available in 2010 drafts: Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Kendry Morales, Carlos Pena, Adam Dunn, and Lance Berkman. That is quite a list of available first baseman, but yet Albert Pujols will be the #1 pick in plenty of league drafts this year.

Back when Mike Piazza was going 30-100 playing catcher for the Dodgers and Mets, there weren't many catchers performing like him. Was he ever a number 1 pick in fantasy drafts? I am sure he was (I think I may have picked him #1 in a NL-only league once, and my team didn't fare too well), but was he the best player available? I would say no.

In mixed leagues, position scarcity exists, but not to the extent it does in NL-only or AL-only leagues. But for me, that is no reason to overlook a better player.

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