Multi-Position Elligibility Value: Intro & Literature Review

If two outfielders are projected for identical stats but one is also qualified at first base, the one with multi-positional eligibility will have additional value. The player gives an owner more flexibility during the draft or auction, allows the owner to maximize at-bats or games played during the season, increasing roster flexibility by having more bench spots to use for pitching, and owners can focus on talent versus position with waiver wire acquisitions. The question being posed today, how much is this extra flexibility worth?

It’s not a simple answer. Over the next few days, various RotoGraph authors, including myself, will provide our takes. Will we come to a solid answer? Probably not or an analyst would have figured it out and the adjustment would already be universally incorporated. We just want to put our best foot forward.

First, I didn’t want every to recreate the wheel so I spent a while looking up the opinions of other analysts. It was a lot harder to find takes on the amount of added value than just if the player is more valuable. Many lists exist of players who gained or lost multi-position eligibility and virtues like in this NBC/RotoWorld video.

In all, I could only find around a dozen people who mentioned an actual value change and they fit into three stances.

  1. No effect
  2. $1 to $2 boost
  3. Tiebreaker in drafts

Here are their takes with commentary at the end.

Note: If anyone knows of another source which gives an actual value to multi-position hitters, please let me know in the comments.

No Effect

Larry Schechter in his book Winning Fantasy Baseball

However, since playing more than one position doesn’t mean the player will produce any extra stats, he doesn’t have any greater actual dollar value than someone who plays only one position.

$1 to $2 Boost

Tanner Bell at Smart Fantasy Baseball

Early in the auction you throw out a name like Martin Prado or Ben Zobrist, someone eligible at three positions. Pay a fair price, maybe a dollar or two more than their projection alone would suggest. Then slot them at the position where they would be the most valuable.
If a bargain at shortstop becomes available, you still have the flexibility to pounce and seize those few extra dollars of value.

Because the player you have already drafted is SS/2B eligible, you have more “outs” available to you (poker analogy). Your chances of taking the OF and still having a quality 2B or a quality SS are better than if you had already drafted someone only eligible at 2B.
This has to be worth something!

When you go to the waiver wire looking for a replacement, you’re not just looking for a 3B! You can be looking for a SS OR a 3B.

And if you have a couple of flexible players, the possibilities can be even greater. For example, if you have Carlos Santana (1B & 3B eligible) and Xander Bogaerts, to replace this struggling 3B, you can be looking for a SS, 3B, or 1B.

And this can happen multiple times during the season!

Doesn’t it seem likely that you could earn $2 of value back by having these additional options available?

Hypothetical question. Would you willingly go into a draft with a $258 budget, knowing that all your competitors had a $260 budget, if it meant that you got to have an extra roster spot for the entire season? So maybe instead the four bench spots your competitors have, you would have five?

I think I would agree to those terms.

If you use a multi-position player in the right fashion, you can create that scenario for yourself.

I’m not saying you start paying $5 extra for these players or reaching for them a full round ahead of where you’d otherwise take them.
I would pay a couple of extra dollars and I would willingly target players like this.

The additional value you can grab during the draft, the extra R, RBI, and HR they provide by filling your lineup, and the extra opportunities you have to hit it big in the free loot lottery are worth more than the extra $1 or $2.

Succaneers on Reddit

[T]hose are all legit usable assets – who can all play more than one position – those guys get an extra $1 or $2 on my auction sheet just to give me more flexibility if I can get a few of them.

(the deeper the league – the more this matters)

Grey Albright at Razzball

In the case of players who gain additional position eligibility but that position is less valuable based on the above chart, I would say there is some nominal value to this. For a player like Everth Cabrera who has 2B/SS eligibility in Yahoo (SS-only in 20 game leagues), this certainly provides some roster flexibility in case of injuries or on an off day for your starting 2B. I could see maybe bidding an extra $1 if a player had eligibility in another position that was close to their most valuable position (SS with 2B, 2B with 3B, OF with 1B, etc.).

Rudy Gamble at Razzball

Perhaps add a dollar if he has useful multi-position eligibility and remove a dollar or two for a DH. But the difference most people think exists is largely a false perception like how one might feel a ton of feathers would be lighter than a ton of lead.

Todd Zola at RotoWire and Mastersball (Platinum article)

Todd just wrote both this article (same on both sites) and it’s behind a paywall at both places. I 100% respect Lord Zola’s need to make a living so I won’t put out his conclusions. What I will say is that his explanation is the best available. It’s 500+ words of per gold. If a fantasy owner would consider subscribing to either service, I’d 100% recommend it.

Tiebreaker in Drafts

Unknown author at The Rotosaurus

In high-stakes fantasy baseball (especially 15-team leagues), positional flexibility is a very important component of your team. Injuries happen, and it is always good to have players that can slide into other parts of your lineup. In addition, drafting a player with multi-positional eligibility can allow you to be flexible with your later draft picks, which lets you snatch up value players as they fall. If your decision is coming down to two very similar players in a draft, it is usually a good idea to go with the one who gives you the greater deal of flexibility.

Michael Florio at RotoExperts

To me, the versatility should give just a slight boost to those players, or be used as a tiebreaker. While you would like to have these guys on your team, your ultimate goal should be to put out the best possible roster. While owning Zobrist would be nice, if there are better second basemen and outfielders on the board, you take the better player. However, if there are two closely-ranked players that you are torn over and one is multi-position eligible, that is an instance in which you take the guy that gives you lineup flexibility.

Howard Bender at the New York Post

That is not to say you pass up on a better player because he qualifies at just one position, but if you have two players who are equally productive offensively, wouldn’t you prefer the guy who can help you in other areas as well?

Howard Bender at Fantasy Alarm

If there’s one caveat to all of this, it’s that you need to be careful you don’t over-value players on Draft Day just because they qualify at multiple positions. As stated before, if you’re deciding between two players who are statistically equal, then additional position eligibility is definitely a great tie-breaker. However, bypassing a more productive player simply because he doesn’t offer up that same flexibility is a mistake.

Call it the David Ortiz rule, if you will. All too often, fantasy owners passed over Ortiz on Draft Day simply because he only qualified at the utility position and curtailed roster flexibility. But 40 bombs are 40 bombs and while you may not have been able to move players around your roster more freely, you also weren’t going to get the same level of production from your utility spot as you would have had you drafted the former Red Sox slugger.

Productivity should come first. Position eligibility second.

Conclusion

There is obviously value to multi-position eligibility and the few experts who took a stance stated it would be a small amount. For the next week or so, some of our authors, including myself, will give our opinion on the subject. After they are done, someone(s) will dive into all the various opinions and see if there is a better/more definitive answer to the question of extra value for being multi-position eligible hitters. In the meantime, please take a minute and answer a few choices from the following never-ending question on which dual positions are more valuable.





Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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luke
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luke

As always, league context is important. Our league puts a very high value on fielding as many relief innings as possible (there is an innings cap that you must reach, as well) and that can’t be done with our short benches if you don’t have at least one guy like this. I actually have two this year that I am excited to use to fill in ABs, Camargo at 2B/SS and D. Robertson at 2B/SS/3B.

It is also important to distinguish between backups and starters here. I do have some starters with multiple positionality, but in those cases it is really obvious where they provide the most value. Max Muncy is a 2B on yahoo, where this league happens to be, so that is just a no brainer place to put him. Yes, maybe he will play a few games elsewhere for me now and then, but the chances he would do much of that is slim.

Backups, however, you slide in to fill ABs whenever possible. I think bench players with more than one position are worth an extra buck or two, even if starters aren’t.

edit: one last thing, I believe every manager in my league will have at least one “super utility” because the settings encourage it. Which is as it should be, since every MLB team has one or two as well.

The Stranger
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I think starters with multi-position eligibility are equally valuable, because you can use them to make sure your “backup” games are coming from the positions with the best backups, or to carry fewer backups. If my starting 3B has OF eligibility and an OF gets hurt, I can either put in a backup OF or move my 3B over and put in a backup 3B, so I can either carry fewer backups or not use my weakest players. A few of those guys as starters, and they’re mostly backing each other up and you just need a couple of actual backups to fill in. Ditto if I see a breakout on the waiver wire or have the opportunity to make a good trade – I can find a place for almost any player because I can shuffle my roster around to sit the weakest player. Functionally, I don’t think it matters much whether your multi-position guys are starters or backups.

The thing is, that’s still really situational – you might never need it, and the marginal value of a slightly-better backup for 20 games a year is pretty minimal. Most owners will already value multi-position guys based on their scarcest position (to the extent that positional scarcity is a thing), and it doesn’t add much value for a 2B to also have 1B eligibility because there’s no reason to ever use him at 1B unless you somehow find yourself in a situation where your backup 2B is better than your backup 1B, which is rare.

So I mostly agree with the $1 or $2 assessment, with two caveats. First, in formats with a short bench, there’s a little bit more value if you can leverage that flexibility into carrying fewer backups and more RP, or otherwise getting regular value out of those roster spots instead of having them on your bench just in case. Second, positional flexibility will *sometimes* let you make a midseason waiver or trade pickup or work around an injury in a way that you couldn’t if you only had single-position players on your roster. My guess is that those two caveats just get you to the $2 side of things instead of $1, though. I’m thinking about some of the $1 guys I get as backups, and I doubt I’d go above $3 just because they could be mediocre at more than one position.