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How Important is Positional Scarcity in Fantasy Baseball?

If you are playing in a Roto league, you must find balance within your roster. This is, of course, true from a categorical standpoint. But fantasy managers also need to find balance when it comes to their rosters. If you draft the best starting pitcher available for the first six rounds of your draft, your hitting will suffer. If you simply drafted the best player available every go around, you may not end up with the requisite number of players (not to mention productive players) at each required position. This is where positional scarcity factors into the equation. Positional scarcity is an important part of the draft preparation process. Drafting is an imperfect science, and this article will not change that. However, it will hopefully help you see how much positional scarcity should impact your approach to drafts this season.

With that in mind, I looked at two of the most preeminent fantasy baseball projection systems around – Razzball and ATC – to see how important positional scarcity is as it relates to 2024 drafts. To keep things uniform, I toggled the settings on both systems to NFBC-style games. The only difference between NFBC and Fantrax leagues from a roster standpoint is that in NFBC, you start two catchers and have seven bench players. On Fantrax, we start one catcher and have eight bench spots. The biggest difference is that our Classic Draft leagues are 12-team leagues, whereas theirs are 15 teams. That means that on Fantrax you draft 360 players, compared to 450 on NFBC.
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Positional Scarcity Among Positive Value Players

For this section, I am only dealing with players who are projected to earn a positive dollar value in 2024. Razzball has 380 players who they project for a positive value, while ATC has 364. Both numbers are right in line with our 360-player draft pool in 12-team leagues. Here is the total number of players at each position that are projected to earn a positive value. Keep in mind that some players are eligible at multiple positions.


There are a couple of things that stand out to me. First, both systems have at least 60 relievers returning positive overall value in 2024. Having said that, you do not win your league by having the highest overall dollar value. You win your league in part by competing for saves. There were only 24 pitchers who recorded more than 15 saves last season. While middle relievers have value depending on your league format, drafting them en masse is not always the most prudent draft strategy. To that end, it should be noted that Razzball only has 34 relievers projected for a positive “save value”, with just 19 projected to earn $5 or more in saves. ATC projects 39 relievers for a positive save value and also has 19 projected for at least $5 in saves. These are the subsets of relievers from which you primarily want to draft.

On the flip side, the starting pitching pool is not very deep at all in terms of positive value. In a 12-team league where you start nine pitchers and have eight bench spots, most teams are drafting a minimum of eight or nine starting pitchers. Even if we are as optimistic as Razzball, we are dipping our toes into the deep end (in this case meaning negative overall value) as it relates to starting pitchers. And ATC suggests that only six or seven starters per team are likely to generate positive returns. Maybe drafting an extra middle reliever or two isn’t the worst idea in the world after all. That has never been more true than in today’s game where the impact of starting pitchers has been greatly reduced. Streamers with one start in a given week are more likely to damage ratios than they are to reward us with wins and/or high strikeout totals.
Hitters who are expected to earn positive dollars are spread out pretty evenly amongst each position. Many players are eligible at multiple positions, so keep that in mind. The amount of options is not as robust as it may seem at first glance. For example, among the 27 players listed at third base who ATC projects for a positive dollar amount are 11 who qualify at other positions. If you are playing in a league where players are only eligible at one primary position, it is likely that at least five of those players (Elly De La Cruz, Ha-Seong Kim, Spencer Steer, Luis Rengifo, and Wilmer Flores) would not qualify at third base. There is not one position that stands out with an inordinate number of plus-value players.

Raising the Stakes

Even if the goal was to accumulate the highest dollar amount possible, simply grabbing players who might earn a buck or two isn’t going to help us accomplish that. So, let’s dive a little deeper to see where positional scarcity comes into play. I am going to take the same data from above concerning the number of players under each projection system who are expected to earn positive value. But this time I am going to separate them by position among those who are projected to earn at least $5, $15, and $25. The $25 category includes Ronald Acuna, who is a category unto himself. Both Razzball and ATC project Acuna to earn more than $55 this year, while no other player under either system is projected to earn more than $36.70. Congrats to anyone with the first draft pick this season.


Here we get a bit of a better idea of positional scarcity. I am going to ignore the catcher position because these projections are considering two-catcher leagues. With all due respect to Connor Wong ($1 on Razzball and $2.60 on ATC), I am going nowhere near him in a one-catcher league. Most of the infield positions have a similar number of $5 options available. But first base is where the heavy hitters come into play. Conversely, shortstop is chock full of solid ($15) choices, but precious few players are projected for $25 or more. For me, this would mean that I might draft Matt Olson over Trea Turner, at least in a vacuum. Both projection systems have 11 shortstops who they expect to earn between $15-$25 this year, whereas neither expects more than a handful of first basemen to do the same.
The only second baseman who both systems expect to exceed the $25 threshold is Mookie Betts. Betts will be eligible at both second base and outfield this year, and he should spend most of his time at the keystone. The Dodgers’ leadoff hitter is an ideal first-round pick because of the advantage he provides at multiple positions. Outfield may seem deep, with over 60 players under each system likely to earn at least $5. However, most leagues require five starting outfielders. Even in a 12-team league, that is a minimum of 60 starting outfielders across the league, not counting utility hitters. That means that more often than not, there will be several sub-$5 players started across a given league. Compare that to corner or middle infield, where roughly 50 $5 players are competing for 36 theoretical starting spots.
But therein lies another dilemma as it relates to position scarcity. Again, the goal is not to accumulate the largest combined dollar amount. It is to compete in each category. Because of that, all dollar amounts are not equal. Eloy Jimenez is projected to earn an average of $9.70 between both projection systems. Esteury Ruiz is projected to earn $9.10 on average. Not only do they play different positions (Jimenez is UT-only eligible to start the season), they have entirely different skill sets. If you grab Ruiz in the 11th round of your 12-team draft, it will not make much sense to turn around and draft Jarren Duran in the 14th round. (Side note –  I’d rather have Duran at cost, and probably even straight up over Ruiz, but that’s another conversation.)

Positional Scarcity Conclusions

The biggest takeaway for me here is that positional scarcity is very much a thing. This is particularly true concerning pitchers. ATC only has 82 total pitchers (Matt Strahm is listed as both a starter and reliever) who are expected to earn at least $5 in 2024. Razzball is a bit more optimistic, with 97 total hurlers projected to earn that amount. But consider that in a 12-team league, there are 108 starting slots for pitchers each week. Fantasy managers will have to make some ugly decisions towards the back end of their rotations seemingly every week. And the player pool may thin out in the coming weeks as pitchers ramp up activity for the 2024 season. We have already seen Kodai Senga’s value take a massive hit due to an injury. I suspect he won’t be the last pitcher who goes down between now and Opening Day.

The landscape among relievers is not a whole lot better in terms of depth. Both projection systems expect less than 10 relievers to earn $15 or more, with none hitting the $25 mark. It would make sense to try to grab a top-tier reliever early, but there are only so many of those to go around. Even if you do get one, there are no guarantees. Just ask anyone who drafted Edwin Diaz before the WBC last season. While I try to hold off on drafting pitchers as long as humanly possible in Points leagues, I take the opposite approach in Roto leagues and will continue to do so this season.
Outfield looks to be the most scarce position among hitters relative to the number of players you must start there. Both projection systems have exactly 23 outfielders earning $15 or more, with $10 hitting the $25 threshold. That may seem like a fair amount, but that number shrinks quickly when fantasy managers are starting a minimum of 60 total outfielders every week. This does not even account for opposing pitching matchups, ballpark effects, or the like. In leagues with five starting outfielders and eight total bench spots, you probably need a pair of backup outfielders. For these spots on the roster, consider those players who excel in a given category or have a very specific platoon or home-field advantage that you can take advantage of.

For more of the great fantasy baseball rankings and analysis you’ve come to expect from FantraxHQ, check out our full 2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit! We’re here for you all the way up until Opening Day and then on into your championship run.

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