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November 2, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Positional Production

by Jason Collette

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We know that at an auction table, there is a finite number of dollars that can be spent to acquire talent. What we do not know is how many players will go on to produce positive dollar values for our teams or how many players will have a chance to contribute. For any of us that have been playing this game for awhile, we know just how volatile each position can be from year to year. Yet, knowing what total or percentage of players at each position end up contributing can help you set your benchmarks for your cheatsheets at a draft. In a standard 15-team mixed league draft, you know that there will be 135 pitchers taken, and it is your job to either project which guys will be the ones you and your opponents will be purchasing as pitchers you feel will have positive value.

What if you knew that there were barely enough pitchers at season’s end to cover the quota that was drafted on draft day? Would that cause you to put more of a premium on certain players at certain positions due to a production scarcity at that position? Using the data from our Player Forecast Manager, we can look at a 15-team mixed league with a player pool coming from players that produced at least -$10 of production this past season, non-position-adjusted.  Such a list does include Adam Dunn, but just barely.

Catcher: 42 catchers produced a dollar figure this season, but only 19 of them produced a dollar value higher than 0—fewer than the 30 catchers that are required to be drafted. The mean dollar value for those catchers that produced value was $7.21 with Victor Martinez pacing the pack at $20. $1 catchers included A.J. Pierzynski, Geovany Soto, and Carlos Ruiz.  In all, the 19 catchers had a combined value of $137. Meanwhile, the remaining 23 catchers, which made up 55 percent of the catchers that were on rosters this season, put up a combined -$132 of value, and that group included Jorge Posada, Ramon Hernandez, Joe Mauer, and John Buck.

First Base: 43 first baseman produced a dollar figure this season and 27 of them had a positive dollar value. The 27 positive producers put up $425 of value led by Adrian Gonzalez at $35. Just nine first baseman had at least $20 of value this season, and they were Paul Konerko, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, Lance Berkman (drafted position), Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Gonzalez.  Among the 16 players that did not produce positive values at the position were Dunn, Justin Morneau, Matt LaPorta, and Justin Smoak.

Second Base: 59 second baseman produced value, but only 30 of them on the positive side of the ledger.  Those 30 produced $312 of value for their owners, led by Dustin Pedroia at $36. He, Ian Kinsler, Robinson Cano, Brandon Phillips, and Ben Zobrist were the only players at the position to produce $20 or more on the season, leaving 25 other second baseman producing between $1 and $19 in value. The negative value group was worth -$151 with Chone Figgins, Brian Roberts, and Juan Uribe being the most notable names in that group as guys that were taken as starting second basemen or middle infielders in most drafts.

Shortstop: 36 players produced value with 23 of them producing positive dollar values. Jose Reyes was the clear leader of the pack, producing $32, while Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Troy Tulowitzki, and Erick Aybar joined him in producing at least $20 of value at the position. The 16 negative-value players combined to produce -$69 of value, and notables included Stephen Drew, Rafael Furcal, and Miguel Tejada.

Third Base: 42 players produced value but just 20 of them had positive dollar values. The positive values totaled up to $222 with Jose Bautista pacing the way at $34. He, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, and Aramis Ramirez were the only third baseman to produce at least $20 of value. In fact, just eight third basemen produced at least $10 of value in 2011. This was a painful position for fantasy players as Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, and Ryan Zimmerman all had high ADPs, yet Mark Reynolds performed as well as Longoria and better than the rest of them.  The negative dollar earners totaled up to -$112, with notables including Scott Rolen, Chris Johnson, Casey Blake, and Mike Moustakas.

Outfield: 93 players produced positive value at this position—just above the roster requirements for a 15-team league. The positive dollar value earners produced $1245 of value with Matt Kemp leading the way at $57. He was joined by seven other players in producing $30 or more dollars of production at the position: Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Braun, Curtis Granderson, Michael Bourn, Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, and (gulp) Melky Cabrera.  Some of the notable names among the 51 negative-valued outfielders include Jonny Gomes, Magglio Ordonez, Denard Span, Grady Sizemore, Franklin Gutierrez, Travis Snider, Nate McLouth, and Pat Burrell.

Pitching: 626 pitchers had dollar values in 2011 but 77 percent of them failed to produce positive dollar values. Justin Verlander’s $32 was the highest dollar total of the positive dollar values, but impact pitchers in deep mixed leagues was a short list. Only Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jered Weaver, and James Shields earned as much as $20 as starting pitchers while Craig Kimbrel, Jose Valverde, Mariano Rivera, Drew Storen, John Axford, J.J. Putz, Heath Bell, and Joel Hanrahan did so as relief pitchers.  Negative value pitchers included James McDonald, Rick Porcello, A.J. Burnett, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, Carlos Zambrano, Francisco Liriano, Derek Lowe, and failed closers/setup men such as Matt Thornton, Joaquin Benoit, and Jonathan Broxton.

In the below table, I've displayed the "% Positive by Position," which tells us the percentage of positively-valued players at each position among all players at that position who were worth at least -$10. I've also displayed the "% of Total Positive," which is a breakdown of what positions the positively valued players came from.

Position % Positive by Position % of Total Positive
Catcher 45% 5%
First 63% 8%
Second 51% 8%
Shortstop 64% 6%
Third 48% 6%
Outfield 65% 26%
Starting 37% 26%
Relief 15% 15%

These figures were all generated using the Player Forecast Manager assuming $180 spent on hitting and $80 spent on pitching without using positional scarcity.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Positional Scarcity

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