It is often said that the most important ability that a player can exhibit is availability. While I am not here to tell you which players are at risk of falling victim to injuries throughout the season (I will leave that to the professionals), I can highlight another ability that often goes under the radar in fantasy baseball circles. That is flexibility. Don’t worry – I am not fat-shaming anyone here. Instead, I am talking about multi-positional flexibility and eligibility. Multi-positional eligibility is an underrated attribute that can impact player rankings. More importantly, it can provide fantasy managers with added insurance when the inevitable injury bug hits.
The first thing you should consider concerning multi-positional eligibility is your league settings. Fantasy baseball leagues have different requirements regarding eligibility. Some leagues may only require a handful of games played at a position for a player to be eligible at that position. Others demand as many as 20 or 30 games. For this exercise, I am using a 20-game threshold. That is the number that our leagues use. But don’t worry baby birds. I’ll feed you. I will post my complete rankings later this week, and they will include games played at each position.
I should note that when we posted our consensus staff rankings recently, we used a 10-game threshold. So while we included Bobby Dalbec in our third base rankings, I did not include him in this piece, as he only played 14 games at the hot corner last season.
Not All Eligibility is Equal
In our leagues, you must start one player at each position on the diamond as well as five outfielders. You must also start one additional corner infielder (CI), one middle infielder (MI), and a utility hitter (UT). A player who only has eligibility at second base, for example, is limited to one of three positions in your lineup – 2B, MI, and UT. And a player who is eligible at second base and shortstop gains one more spot (SS). But a player like Jake Cronenworth, who is eligible at first base, second base, and shortstop, can be deployed at six different positions in your lineup – 1B, 2B, SS, MI, CI, and UT. This can be a huge advantage, especially in leagues where you can adjust your lineup multiple times a week. It also helps in leagues that have player transaction limits.
This does not mean that I consider Cronenworth a top-50 hitter heading into 2022. But it is something to think about if you are choosing between, say, he and Franmil Reyes in the 10th round of your draft. Reyes only qualifies at UT, and I do not expect that to change throughout the 2022 season. They are two hitters with completely different skill sets, so this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Personally, I would prefer Reyes in a vacuum. However, if you have addressed power early in the draft, you may want to take advantage of Cronenworth’s flexibility rather than pigeonhole Reyes into your utility spot.
A Word on Ohtani
Of course, no player is as multifaceted on the baseball diamond as reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani. The two-way star is a unicorn, plain and simple. For fantasy purposes though, rostering him can be a little underwhelming depending on your league’s rules. Most leagues require you to designate him as either a hitter or pitcher before each scoring period. I am not a fan of that rule. If he can accumulate hitting and pitching stats for the Angels in a given period (not to mention a single game), then I believe fantasy managers should be afforded the same luxury. However, until the fantasy community rightly declares me Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler of fantasy sports, my hands are tied on the matter. Because of that, Ohtani “only” ranks third on my list of players who are multi-position eligible for 2022.
There are opportunities to be had if you pay attention and read the tea leaves in certain situations. Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Marcus Semien to a one-year contract. At the time, he had primarily played shortstop during his MLB career. However, Toronto signed Semien to play second base, as they already had Bo Bichette in tow at shortstop. Though Semien was not 2B-eligible during draft season, he would quickly add eligibility at the keystone once the season began. When I posted my 2021 rankings last March, I highlighted Semien as one of three players inside the top-100 whom I was higher on than consensus. Part of the reason was his impending dual-eligibility. I will not pretend I envisioned a 45-homer season out of Semien. However, I was quite happy in leagues where I seemingly reached for him.
It is hard to say for sure which players will change positions in 2022 given the current lockout. But there will be instances where a player’s value will increase due to him picking up eligibility at another position, so pay attention to how teams address free agency once the labor situation gets (hopefully) resolved. In the meantime, there are several players worth speculating on. One of my favorites is Josh Rojas. He is already eligible at 2B, SS, and OF. And there is a decent chance he winds up as the club’s primary third baseman in 2022. If he qualifies at 3B, you would be able to utilize him at seven positions in your lineup – 2B, SS, 3B, MI, CI, OF, and UT. That flexibility could make your life as a manager a lot easier if Rojas can stick near the top of the Diamondbacks lineup.
Effect of the Universal DH
It appears the universal designated hitter will be here to stay once play resumes. The impending change will also have an impact down the road. This is something to keep in mind more for Dynasty managers than those who are strictly in Redraft leagues, but I think it is worth mentioning. On one hand, the universal DH will provide a few more at-bats to some National League hitters, which should increase counting stats. However, it may also limit multi-positional eligibility for several players in the Senior Circuit.
Let’s use the Cincinnati Reds as an example. The Reds began the 2021 season with Mike Moustakas as their primary third baseman and Eugenio Suarez as their shortstop. If you rostered Luis Castillo, you know how that turned out. A universal DH should enable David Bell to keep both bats in the lineup without sacrificing much on the defensive end. That figures to be good news for both sluggers from a 2022 standpoint. On the flip side, Suarez is almost certain to lose his current multi-positional eligibility next season, which will likely negatively affect his Dynasty value. Moustakas may be the club’s primary DH this season. There is a chance he enters 2023 as a UT-only player, which would presumably be a hit to his Dynasty value.
Top-50 Multi-Positional Eligible Hitters for 2022
|1||Trea Turner||LAD||2B, SS|
|2||Fernando Tatis Jr.||SD||SS, OF|
|3||Shohei Ohtani||LAA||P, UT|
|4||Marcus Semien||TEX||2B, SS|
|5||Whit Merrifield||KC||2B, OF|
|6||Javier Baez||DET||2B, SS|
|7||Ketel Marte||ARZ||2B, OF|
|8||Jorge Polanco||MIN||2B, SS|
|9||Tommy Edman||STL||2B, OF|
|10||Jazz Chisholm Jr.||MIA||2B, SS|
|11||Kris Bryant||SF||3B, OF|
|12||DJ LeMahieu||NYY||1B, 2B, 3B|
|13||Ryan Mountcastle||BAL||1B, OF|
|14||Jake Cronenworth||SD||1B, 2B, SS|
|15||Ty France||SEA||1B, 2B|
|16||Chris Taylor||LAD||2B, SS, OF|
|17||Daulton Varsho||ARZ||C, OF|
|18||Max Muncy||LAD||1B, 2B|
|19||Ryan McMahon||COL||2B, 3B|
|20||Luis Urias||MLW||2B, 3B, SS|
|21||Brendan Rodgers||COL||2B, SS|
|22||Alex Kirilloff||MIN||1B, OF|
|23||Eduardo Escobar||NYM||2B, 3B|
|24||Eugenio Suarez||CIN||3B, SS|
|25||Jonathan Schoop||DET||1B, 2B|
|26||Josh Rojas||ARZ||2B, SS, OF|
|27||Tyler Stephenson||CIN||C, 1B|
|28||Enrique Hernandez||BOS||2B, OF|
|29||Gavin Lux||LAD||2B, SS|
|30||Abraham Toro||SEA||2B, 3B|
|31||Andres Gimenez||CLE||2B, SS|
|32||Garrett Hampson||COL||2B, OF|
|33||Gio Urshela||NYY||3B, SS|
|34||Jonathan Villar||NYM||3B, SS|
|35||LaMonte Wade Jr.||SF||1B, OF|
|36||Luis Arraez||MIN||2B, 3B, OF|
|37||David Fletcher||LAA||2B, SS|
|38||Jeff McNeil||NYM||2B, OF|
|39||Yoshi Tsutsugo||PIT||1B, OF|
|40||Joey Wendle||MIA||3B, SS|
|41||Hunter Dozier||KC||3B, OF|
|42||Yandy Diaz||TB||1B, 3B|
|43||Josh Harrison||OAK||2B, 3B, OF|
|44||Pavin Smith||ARZ||1B, OF|
|45||Ha-Seong Kim||SD||2B, 3B, SS|
|46||Wilmer Flores||SF||1B, 2B, 3B|
|47||Darin Ruf||SF||1B, OF|
|48||Edmundo Sosa||STL||2B, SS|
|49||Tony Kemp||OAK||2B, OF|
|50||Rougned Odor||BAL||2B, 3B|