Fantasy Average: Positional breakdown

USA TODAY Sports

Our first trip through Fantasy Average was interesting, but this time, let's scale it by position and see what happens.

There's no "way" to win at fantasy baseball. I assume you know that, but it's worth repeating. You can go pitching-heavy, homer-happy, all leadoff hitters, lefties only, limit yourself to just guys from San Pedro da Macoris. If you hit on the right guys, you can win with any of them.

A couple seasons ago, I tried to Moneyball my main league. My list of potential keepers was uninspired, and I knew a few things about my leaguemates - they undervalued saves and steals as fantasy categories (a couple guys literally never owned relievers). In addition to that, I used a very aggressive campaign to get us to move to K/9 over K's, plus a few other moves to rate stats over counting ones.

The result, then, was that I loaded up on guys who were undervalued in the traditional categories. High-OBP guys with steals and runs scored. Homers and RBI were fine if I ended up with them, but I wasn't going that way. And I totally punted on wins, only getting enough starters to meet the innings minimum while grabbing every closer I could, locking up saves while hopefully rolling through the rate categories.

And it would have worked too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids and their dog. (In this case, "those meddling kids and their dog" means "injuries to Joey Votto, Mariano Rivera, Ryan Madson, Brett Gardner, Brandon Beachy, Cory Luebke, Wilson Ramos ..." I lost something like a dozen guys to season-ending injury that season.)

Anyway, the point is that any strategy can work, but you're still always looking for that market inefficiency. Going heavy on the power? You'll probably be fine with like eight different first basemen, but who are you going to use at shortstop? Need steals? Catcher's going to be a tough position for you.

Those who have been around the last week or two probably saw my Fantasy Average piece, in which I attempted to use standard deviations to present every offensive players' fantasy contributions in terms of a batting average-like number. That presentation is a useful ranking tool and, since it's on a scale we're all familiar with, is a heck of a shorthand for overall strength. If your guy hit ".300" by Fantasy Average, he's a heck of a player.

Well, the obvious next step in Fantasy Average - suggested by more than a few on the original piece - was to break it down by position. In my initial calculations, I weighed each player against every offensive player with 400 or more plate appearances. That's all well and good, but how often are you actually considering the prospect of Elvis Andrus vs. Mark Trumbo? No, it's more likely you're wondering whether Jonathan Lucroy or Wilin Rosario is the catcher for you, or if Paul Goldschmidt's well-rounded game does enough to overtake Chris Davis' power.

So I went back and found each player's Fantasy Average against only his position mates, lowering the threshold to 300 plate appearances so as to have sufficient player population to make standard deviations worth considering. I then re-ranked every player by his position-only Fantasy Average.

As you might expect, most players didn't see a huge difference from their overall numbers, particularly the outfielders. Robinson Cano, who puts up good numbers for a generic hitter but great numbers for a second baseman, saw his Fantasy Average climb from .299 to .311, and his overall rank climb from ninth to fifth. Fellow second baseman Jason Kipnis and shortstop Ian Desmond, both of whom supply power numbers at power-starved positions, reached the top 10, as did the leading base-stealer among catchers, Jonathan Lucroy.

Below, I have listed the top 25 at each position (75 in the outfield), and the top 200 overall. Some players played multiple positions and had different Fantasy Averages based on each position; in the top 200, I have listed only each player's highest score.

One note: In addition to being a handy little sorting tool (at least in my opinion), I'm running these pieces as a sort of statistical crowd-sourcing. I'm planning to figure a longer-range (three years, probably) Fantasy Average for regulars, in an effort to track consistency and see if I can offer more predictiveness to the tool. But I'm happy to hear any other critiques/suggestions for fine-tuning the metric as I go. Let's see what we can do with this puppy.

Catcher

This was the position that was probably the most interesting. Catchers, as a rule, just don't produce on a level comparable to many of the other positions - they naturally tend to play fewer games, and they wear down more quickly. But when they are just scaled against one another, the top tend to rise a lot. It was also notable how low Buster Posey - the widely accepted position leader - ranked against his own position mates. It's true 2013 wasn't as good as 2012 for him, but I was still surprised by his low rank.

Rank Player Fantasy Average
1 Jonathan Lucroy .301
2 Wilin Rosario .294
3 Carlos Santana .290
4 Yadier Molina .289
5 Jarrod Saltalamacchia .280
6 Buster Posey .279
7 Matt Wieters .277
8 Jason Castro .274
9 Russell Martin .273
10 Salvador Perez .268
A.J. Pierzynski .268
12 Joe Mauer .267
13 Evan Gattis .260
14 Brian McCann .258
15 Ryan Doumit .255
Yan Gomes .255
17 John Buck .251
Wilson Ramos .251
19 J.P. Arencibia .247
Derek Norris .247
21 Welington Castillo .244
22 A.J. Ellis .242
23 Nick Hundley .240
24 Miguel Montero .238
25 Alex Avila .237

First Base

The guys who get steals did well here. Paul Goldschmidt and Eric Hosmer - the only first basemen to steal double-digit bases last year - did the best against their own position. For those who are trying a strategy like the one I outlined at the top, guys like Goldschmidt and Hosmer who do something no one else at the position can do offer huge value.

Rank Player Fantasy Average
1 Paul Goldschmidt .326
2 Chris Davis .315
3 Edwin Encarnacion .296
4 Eric Hosmer .291
5 Joey Votto .289
6 Freddie Freeman .286
7 Mark Trumbo .280
8 Prince Fielder .276
9 Brandon Moss .274
10 Allen Craig .273
11 Adrian Gonzalez .272
12 Brandon Belt .270
13 Mike Napoli .267
Anthony Rizzo .267
15 Adam Lind .264
16 James Loney .262
17 Chris Carter .259
Adam Dunn .259
19 Adam LaRoche .257
20 Nick Swisher .256
21 Justin Morneau .253
22 Mark Reynolds .249
23 Albert Pujols .248
24 Matt Adams .247
Yonder Alonso .247
Mitch Moreland .247

Second Base

Someone like Brandon Phillips, who was blown out of the water in WAR among second basemen, ranking 13th in 2013, does really well in FA, which just takes his gaudy RBI total as a gaudy statistic, so he came in sixth at the position. It's a nice reminder of the difference between fantasy value and real value.

Rank Player Fantasy Average
1 Robinson Cano .311
2 Jason Kipnis .307
3 Matt Carpenter .299
Daniel Murphy .299
5 Dustin Pedroia .295
6 Brandon Phillips .289
7 Ian Kinsler .288
8 Chase Utley .285
9 Jose Altuve .284
10 Ben Zobrist .281
11 Brian Dozier .280
12 Jedd Gyorko .273
Howie Kendrick .273
14 Omar Infante .272
15 Neil Walker .264
16 Emilio Bonifacio .261
17 Aaron Hill .259
18 DJ LeMahieu .256
Dan Uggla .256
20 Mark Ellis .255
21 Marco Scutaro .254
22 Eric Sogard .251
23 Nick Franklin .250
24 Gordon Beckham .248
25 Daniel Descalso .247
Anthony Rendon .247

Third Base

Miguel Cabrera had the single biggest lead at any position, which makes some level of sense. Even with guys like Adrian Beltre, David Wright, and Evan Longoria (in some order - you rank them, I dare you) at the position, Cabrera as a pure offensive player is pretty unparalleled.

Rank Position Fantasy Average
1 Miguel Cabrera .333
2 Adrian Beltre .298
Josh Donaldson .298
4 David Wright .297
5 Evan Longoria .290
Ryan Zimmerman .290
7 Kyle Seager .285
8 Pedro Alvarez .283
Manny Machado .283
10 Martin Prado .275
11 Todd Frazier .269
Chris Johnson .269
13 Chase Headley .265
14 Pablo Sandoval .263
15 Matt Dominguez .261
Juan Uribe .261
17 Mike Aviles .260
18 Brett Lawrie .259
Mark Reynolds .259
20 Nolan Arenado .254
David Freese ,254
22 Aramis Ramirez .253
Michael Young .253
24 Jose Iglesias .252
Trevor Plouffe .252

Shortstop

Elvis Andrus, top shortstop in the American League. Sure, that's in part because Jose Reyes was limited to 93 games, but Andrus as a fantasy contributor is seriously underrated. For more on that, check out Zach Smith's piece from Tuesday.

Rank Player Fantasy Average
1 Ian Desmond .301
2 Troy Tulowitzki .300
3 Jean Segura .296
4 Elvis Andrus .295
5 Hanley Ramirez .294
6 J.J. Hardy .287
Jed Lowrie .287
8 Alexei Ramirez .278
9 Andrelton Simmons .276
10 Asdrubal Cabrera .271
11 Zack Cozart .269
Stephen Drew .269
Jose Reyes .269
14 Erick Aybar .268
Everth Cabrera .268
Jhonny Peralta .268
17 Jimmy Rollins .263
18 Yunel Escobar .262
19 Alcides Escobar .259
20 Starlin Castro .258
21 Mike Aviles .257
22 Brandon Crawford .253
23 Pedro Florimon .250
24 Brad Miller .249
25 Jose Iglesias .248

Outfield

There weren't as many surprises here, owing to the deeper position and the lack of a positional "stereotype." Outfielders can be speedsters (Jacoby Ellsbury), sluggers (Jose Bautista), or anything in between, meaning the position statistical profile is pretty similar to the all-hitter one.

Rank Player Fantasy Average
1 Mike Trout .319
2 Adam Jones .306
3 Andrew McCutchen .304
4 Hunter Pence .301
5 Carlos Gomez .298
6 Alex Rios .297
Alfonso Soriano .297
8 Matt Holliday .295
9 Jacoby Ellsbury .294
Jayson Werth .294
11 Jay Bruce .293
12 Michael Cuddyer .291
Carlos Gonzalez .291
14 Shin-Soo Choo .289
15 Torii Hunter .285
16 Carlos Beltran .284
Coco Crisp .284
18 Marlon Byrd .283
Justin Upton .283
20 Allen Craig .282
Alex Gordon .282
Shane Victorino .282
23 Domonic Brown .281
24 Jose Bautista .280
Starling Marte .280
26 Alejandro De Aza .278
27 Yoenis Cespedes .275
Yasiel Puig .275
Will Venable .275
30 Michael Brantley .273
Bryce Harper .273
32 Nelson Cruz .272
Brett Gardner .272
34 Josh Hamilton .271
Daniel Nava .271
36 Austin Jackson .270
Desmond Jennings .270
Leonys Martin .270
39 Chris Carter .269
Nate McLouth .269
41 Norichika Aoki .268
42 Jon Jay .267
Colby Rasmus .267
44 Michael Bourn .266
45 Dexter Fowler .265
Nick Markakis .265
Nate Schierholtz .265
Denard Span .265
Eric Young Jr. .265
50 Raul Ibanez .264
Gerardo Parra .264
Giancarlo Stanton .264
53 Chris Denorfia .263
54 Rajai Davis .262
Wil Myers .262
56 Carl Crawford .257
Andre Ethier .257
A.J. Pollock .257
59 Evan Gattis .256
Matt Joyce .256
Ichiro Suzuki .256
62 Justin Ruggiano .255
63 Jason Heyward .254
Michael Saunders .254
J.B. Shuck .254
Drew Stubbs .254
67 Dayan Viciedo .253
68 Emilio Bonifacio .251
Lorenzo Cain .251
Andy Dirks .251
Ryan Doumit .251
Carlos Quentin .251
Josh Reddick .251
74 Gregor Blanco .250
Jonny Gomes .250
Kelly Johnson .250
Ben Revere .250

Overall

Just as a reminder, these numbers are the position-only results sorted together. Robinson Cano's .311 is still just what he scored against other second basemen, but it illustrates his overall draft value.

Rank Player Fantasy Average
1 Miguel Cabrera .333
2 Paul Goldschmidt .326
3 Mike Trout .319
4 Chris Davis .315
5 Robinson Cano .311
6 Jason Kipnis .307
7 Adam Jones .306
8 Andrew McCutchen .304
9 Ian Desmond .301
Jonathan Lucroy .301
Hunter Pence .301
12 Troy Tulowitzki .300
13 Matt Carpenter .299
Daniel Murphy .299
15 Adrian Beltre .298
Josh Donaldson .298
Carlos Gomez .298
18 Alex Rios .297
Alfonso Soriano .297
David Wright .297
21 Edwin Encarnacion .296
Jean Segura .296
23 Elvis Andrus .295
Matt Holliday .295
Dustin Pedroia .295
26 Jacoby Ellsbury .294
Hanley Ramirez .294
Wilin Rosario .294
Jayson Werth .294
30 Jay Bruce .293
31 Michael Cuddyer .291
Carlos Gonzalez .291
Eric Hosmer .291
34 Evan Longoria .290
Carlos Santana .290
Ryan Zimmerman .290
37 Shin-Soo Choo .289
Yadier Molina .289
Brandon Phillips .289
Joey Votto .289
41 Ian Kinsler .288
42 J.J. Hardy .287
Jed Lowrie .287
44 Freddie Freeman .286
45 Torii Hunter .285
Kyle Seager .285
Chase Utley .285
48 Jose Altuve .284
Carlos Beltran .284
Coco Crisp .284
51 Pedro Alvarez .283
Marlon Byrd .283
Manny Machado .283
Justin Upton .283
55 Allen Craig .282
Alex Gordon .282
Shane Victorino .282
58 Domonic Brown .281
Ben Zobrist .281
60 Jose Bautista .280
Brian Dozier .280
Starling Marte .280
Jarrod Saltalamacchia .280
Mark Trumbo .280
65 Buster Posey .279
66 Alejandro De Aza .278
Alexei Ramirez .278
68 Matt Wieters .277
69 Prince Fielder .276
Andrelton Simmons .276
71 Yoenis Cespedes .275
Martin Prado .275
Yasiel Puig .275
Will Venable .275
75 Jason Castro .274
Brandon Moss .274
77 Michael Brantley .273
Jedd Gyorko .273
Bryce Harper .273
Howie Kendrick .273
Russell Martin .273
82 Nelson Cruz .272
Brett Gardner .272
Adrian Gonzalez .272
Omar Infante .272
86 Asdrubal Cabrera .271
Josh Hamilton .271
Daniel Nava .271
89 Brandon Belt .270
Austin Jackson .270
Desmond Jennings .270
Leonys Martin .270
93 Chris Carter .269
Zack Cozart .269
Stephen Drew .269
Todd Frazier .269
Chris Johnson .269
Nate McLouth .269
Jose Reyes .269
100 Norichika Aoki .268
Erick Aybar .268
Everth Cabrera .268
Jhonny Peralta .268
Salvador Perez .268
A.J. Pierzynski .268
106 Jon Jay .267
Joe Mauer .267
Mike Napoli .267
Colby Rasmus .267
Anthony Rizzo .267
111 Michael Bourn .266
112 Dexter Fowler .265
Chase Headley .265
Nick Markakis .265
Nate Schierholtz .265
Denard Span .265
Eric Young Jr. .265
118 Raul Ibanez .264
Adam Lind .264
Gerardo Parra .264
Giancarlo Stanton .264
Neil Walker .264
123 Chris Denorfia .263
Jimmy Rollins .263
Pablo Sandoval .263
126 Rajai Davis .262
Yunel Escobar .262
James Loney .262
Wil Myers .262
130 Emilio Bonifacio .261
Matt Dominguez .261
Juan Uribe .261
133 Mike Aviles .260
Evan Gattis .260
135 Chris Carter .259
Adam Dunn .259
Alcides Escobar .259
Aaron Hill .259
Brett Lawrie .259
Mark Reynolds .259
141 Starlin Castro .258
Brian McCann .258
143 Carl Crawford .257
Andre Ethier .257
Adam LaRoche .257
A.J. Pollock .257
147 Matt Joyce .256
DJ LeMahieu .256
Ichiro Suzuki .256
Nick Swisher .256
Dan Uggla .256
152 Ryan Doumit .255
Mark Ellis .255
Yan Gomes .255
Justin Ruggiano .255
156 Nolan Arenado .254
David Freese .254
Jason Heyward .254
Michael Saunders .254
Marco Scutaro .254
J.B. Shuck .254
Drew Stubbs .254
163 Brandon Crawford .253
Justin Morneau .253
Aramis Ramirez .253
Dayan Viciedo .253
Michael Young .253
168 Jose Iglesias .252
Trevor Plouffe .252
170 John Buck .251
Lorenzo Cain .251
Alberto Callaspo .251
Andy Dirks .251
Carlos Quentin .251
Wilson Ramos .251
Josh Reddick .251
Eric Sogard .251
178 Gregor Blanco .250
Pedro Florimon .250
Nick Franklin .250
Jonny Gomes .250
Kelly Johnson .250
Ben Revere .250
184 Will Middlebrooks .249
Brad Miller .249
186 Gordon Beckham .248
Jayson Nix .248
Angel Pagan .248
Albert Pujols .248
190 Matt Adams .247
Yonder Alonso .247
J.P. Arencibia .247
Daniel Descalso .247
Garrett Jones 2.47
Mitch Moreland .247
Derek Norris .247
Anthony Rendon .247
Vernon Wells .247
199 Brandon Barnes .246
David DeJesus .246

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