Injuries and unanticipated performance decline are the twin banes of fantasy owners. It’s one thing if you’re reaching to the waiver wire to replace Josh Reddick. It’s another thing entirely if it’s Paul Goldschmidt going down for a couple months. Your chances to field a winning roster are hurt anytime you have to replace a key contributor from waivers.
And that’s why it’s good to own a fantasy Swiss Army Knife. Presently, Ben Zobrist and Josh Harrison are the highest profile names with three or more eligible positions. Marcus Semien and Martin Prado also fit the bill. Others who could be of use for their flexibility include Evan Gattis and Carlos Santana. With their catcher eligibility, fantasy teams aren’t likely to make use of them at other positions.
If you select a flexible player early in the draft, it will allow you to keep your options open. Say you grab Zobrist as your shortstop. Later in the draft, you might be confronted with the option of Jimmy Rollins or Daniel Murphy. If you prefer the newly minted Dodger, you can take him and move Zobrist elsewhere.
When I take a Swiss Army Knife, my goal is to roster viable starters at every position he plays. I’m not trying to block a Zobrist or Harrison, you’ll get to use everybody most of the time. Rather, I want to build the depth necessary to survive one major injury intact. If Christian Yelich lands on the disabled list, it’s nice to be able to replace him with Zobrist while Rollins and Murphy slide into the infield.
Once the draft is completed, flexible players help in two ways. When seeking fantasy trades, it’s usually best to deal from a position of depth. Otherwise, it’s a classic episode of robbing Peter to pay off your gambling debts (who is this ‘Paul’ anyway?). Owning a Zobrist should mean you have depth at three positions rather than just one. You’ll match with more owners for a potential swap.
We’ve saved the most obvious benefit for last – managing playing time. By owning a Zobrist and a starter at each of his positions, you’ll be able to play the matchups to maximize everybody’s contributions. Don’t want to start Murphy against Kershaw? Then don’t. Swing Zobrist to second base and plug in Rollins at Coors.
Inevitably, a player will land on the disabled list. With Zobrist in tow, you may not need to use the waiver wire to solve the problem. If you do, you can pick from three replacement positions including the always deep outfield. If it’s a league where you can stream, you should have a ton of options to capture favorable daily matchups. The same would not be true if you were trying to solve a problem at shortstop or second base alone.
Before You Go
There are a couple caveats to note. Mathematically, the case for using Zobrist and friends isn’t very strong. Unless your league is exceptionally deep, using replacement level for a 15 to 45 day period isn’t a devastating blow. However, I’m a proponent of chasing any potential marginal gain. I’ve seen too many leagues decided by three runs or 0.01 WHIP.
If you compare Zobrist’s cost to his projected value (by Steamer, ZiPS, etc.), he usually comes at a premium. The value he adds to a team is a few dollars, not dozens. Don’t go crazy for him or other multi-position players.
Gattis and Santana are something of a special case. Depending on your league rules, their value may increase substantially. Not only will they play more often than actual catchers, they’ll also be in a better position to remain healthy. Catchers are always slightly banged up – especially their left hand. The position also comes with an increased chance to land on the disabled list.
As a parting shot, who else looks primed to enjoy three positions of eligibility this season?
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