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Position Eligibility Advantages

Brian Creagh looks for hidden value in the position eligibility of catchers

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I will admit up front - this article series was not designed for the catcher position. If you want to skip the babbling that will ensue, here are cliff notes: Kyle Schwarber is eligible at catcher for one of the few times in his career. Don't pay the market price to draft him.

If you're still interested in a few hundred words on position eligibility theory, buckle up.

Our ‘Position Eligibility Advantage' articles will attempt to highlight player's with undervalued eligibility at certain positions. Miguel Sano's eligibility at SS, Carlos Santana at C, or Mookie Betts at 2B would have been prime targets if the series was run last year. Underlying the entire theory of position eligibility is baseball's defensive spectrum. In a nutshell, player's with elite defensive skills stick to positions up-the-middle (C, SS, 2B, and CF), and as their skills deteriorate or weaknesses are exposed as prospects, they move down the defensive spectrum to the corner positions. This means the population of corner position players is much larger than that of up-the-middle players, and so the quality of offensive talent is much larger at the corner defensive positions. Elite offensive players, or even above-average offensive players with up-the-middle position eligibility are a rarity. Fantasy owners can exploit the fact that position eligibility is determined by a player's position usage in the year before by targeting players in the year they shift down the defensive spectrum. If they're still getting playing time after a shift to a new position, it likely means their offensive abilities is above-average at their previous position where they will retain eligibility for one more season. These players are prime targets in drafts and auctions where they are typically ranked in comparison to their new positional peers. This is especially true at the catcher position because the time spent at other positions means less days off and more plate appearances.

This year the catcher position is light on players moving off the position. As I mentioned earlier in the State of the Position article, the changing environment of the catcher position and the ability to properly value defensive abilities has lead to little turnover in the position. Kyle Schwarber serves as the one bright star at the position. Schwarber is projected to get full-time ABs in the OF and won't be subject to the 4-5 games per week that other catchers are. The rest of player's are catchers first with second eligibility elsewhere, but in a position in such dire need of offense there is almost no reason to play them at a position other than catcher. Below is the complete list of multi-position eligible players at catcher:

Alex Avila - C/1B
Brian McCann - C/1B
Derek Norris - C/1B
Buster Posey - C/1B
Stephen Vogt - C/1B
Kyle Schwarber - OF/C

Again, Kyle Schwarber is the only player projected to spend the majority of his time away from the catcher position. Unfortunately, Schwarber's price is a little out of hand in early mock drafts thanks to his projectable offensive profile and early success in 2015. I can't condone taking Schwarber where he's currently going (Round 3 in standard formats), and I'm a fan of playing the sit-and-wait game on catchers. If I was going to reach, it would be on Schwarber and not on Posey since the added power puts Schwarber's statistical output closer in line to the player's being selected around the same draft position.