Position Eligibility Matters – A Lot!

This season I’m going to be participating in an expert AL-only league organized by Going 9 Baseball, whose draft will be later today. It’s a snake draft, similar to the mock draft I participated in a few weeks ago. But instead of a shallow mixed league, this is a deeper AL-only league. And we’ll be managing these teams during the season as a head-to-head roto league, rather than just making this a mock draft. So this one is a little more serious.
One thing that immediately jumped out at me when I tried to set up a RotoValue site for the league to get pricing for it was that I had very high rankings on corner infielders compared to the league’s site. It didn’t take me long to spot the issue: the league’s site is using Yahoo!, which has different positional assignments than my site’s defaults. While RotoValue lets you override the position on any player you like (if you’re an administrator for the league, then when viewing the PlayerDetail on a player, one of the choices in the Settings menu is to set a custom position), it has different positions than Yahoo! shows for several players.
For default positions, I try to project where the player is likely to play, and put him there. And I also tend to leave projected starters with just one position, even if they’ve played multiple, or even different, positions in the past. Yahoo! tends to be more retrospective. So for example, my site has Victor Martinez as a DH only in 2013, as Alex Avila will be the starting catcher in Detroit. But more fundamentally, I noticed that Yahoo! didn’t list any players as DH only, or even DH. I did Travis Hafner was listed as ‘Util’, rather than any specific position, but basically they don’t make people DH only.
It turns out this makes a big difference in rankings. Many of the players my site defaults to DH only get 1B (and/or 3B) eligibility at Yahoo!, which makes the pool of players at that position deeper. And the RotoValue pricing model is based on replacement level. When a fantasy league needs to start 36 corner infielders, but the AL has only 30 teams, that’s quite a tight squeeze on talent, especially when I’m being stricter about position qualification.
So to address this I’m using my custom position feature to set for this league these DHs to the other positions Yahoo! uses, and now there’s more talent at corner infield, and the rankings adjust to reflect it.
It’s a nice reminder of the importance of positional eligibility in standard fantasy. Everyone has lineup slots to fill, and when there’s not much talent at a position, there’s quite a squeeze.
Another difference in this league compared to my long-time leagues is at catcher. This league is configured to use just one catcher per team, whereas my long-time leagues use two. So catchers in my old leagues are scarce, and have a lot of extra value. In this league, however, there’s no squeeze on catching at all, because we only need 12.
So I’m less concerned about making sure to get decent catching than I usually would be.
These sorts of issues are why one-size-fits-all cheat sheets are bad; unless your league format is very similar to the one the cheat-sheet writer has in mind, the lists will be quite distorted relative to how your league actually scores.
To do good rankings or prices, you need to know not only the scoring categories and roster sizes, but also the positions at which players qualify.

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