How to handle positional scarcity

Do you wait around on drafting Justin Smoak because of the position he plays, or should you strike more quickly? AP

How are you approaching "positional scarcity" this season in draft preparations and how does it factor into your decision-making on draft day? What are the deepest and shallowest positions in ESPN standard leagues?

Tristan H. Cockcroft: I think positional scarcity tends to be one of the more overrated factors in terms of draft strategy. After all, with the influx of quality infielders in recent seasons, there is plenty of talent to go around at most spots. As one way of illustrating, just using last year's Player Rater data, which doesn't weight positions, 40 middle-infield-eligible players finished among the top 250 overall earners and 18 finished in the top 100, compared to 48 and 20 corner-infield-eligible players (with four of those players also middle-infield-eligible). That means that in our standard game, there is more than enough available talent to go around.

Well, that is except at catcher, where only six players finished within even the top 300 earners in 2017, and the No. 10 catcher, Yasmani Grandal, finished at No. 399 overall. Yes, catcher is the lone bone-dry position these days, but that doesn't mean I'm drafting it any more aggressively in those same formats. Keep in mind that in 2017, catchers fetched you roughly 7 percent less playing time than hitters at other positions, leaving the top-shelf talent at the position at a significant disadvantage compared to stars at other spots. Taking a streaming strategy to the position -- in those aforementioned shallow mixed leagues, at least -- makes quite a bit of sense, and last season you could have had Mike Zunino, Welington Castillo and/or Kurt Suzuki as either late-round draft picks or in-season pickups that ultimately developed into long-term solutions, as each finished the year in the top 10.

In a deeper league -- think 14-plus mixed league, an "only" league or one that requires two starting catchers -- it's an entirely different story, but even then I'm likely to dip into the midround pool at the position (say, rounds 10-15) to get my first backstop, considering the premium placed on the Gary Sanchez/Buster Posey types. As for "deep" positions, I don't regard any one as significantly deeper than another, other than that I think the corner-infield position is rich enough in talent in a shallow mixed league to the point where I'd probably wait a bit longer to fill that slot.

Eric Karabell: Perhaps I am all alone on this, but I do not think positional scarcity truly exists -- at least not in the way it has traditionally been defined -- and it is certainly not something to be concerned with in a fantasy sense. Yes, the catching pool is shallow, but in an ESPN standard league, you need only one backstop, so you wait until the end. Middle infield is certainly not a problem, with myriad options among my sleepers in the middle and even later rounds. Outfield goes more than 50 deep, so that's not a big deal. I think about categorical scarcity more, because there aren't that many players who provide a ton of stolen bases. Even then, though, you prepare a plan, execute the plan and leave each draft or auction with a balanced squad.

If you force me to call a position "scarce," other than catcher, I would say that so far in my mock drafts, I have not been overly excited with the starting pitchers available in the middle rounds. As a result, I have adjusted my strategy to account for that. All of the infield positions are relatively deep, by the way -- and first base is not special when compared to second base, so don't fall for the tired old annual theme of reaching for a fellow on the downside like second baseman Ian Kinsler, now with the Los Angeles Angels, when slugging first baseman Justin Smoak of the Toronto Blue Jays is on the board. Doing so would simply make no sense to me.

AJ Mass: I tend not to worry about positional scarcity when I draft. After all, when we determine who wins in fantasy baseball, unless you're playing under a rather unusual scoring system where you earn points for having the best catcher or the best third baseman, it doesn't matter which position your stats come from. Which is why, on draft day, I typically spend the first 10 rounds taking the best player on the board, regardless of position, based upon my personal rankings. After that, I can see what I need and assess "scarcity" as it exists at that moment in time.

That said, I do think it can be advantageous to have an awareness of positional depth, perceived or otherwise, in order to use as a tiebreaker of sorts when debating between two or more players of relatively equal value. To that end, I'd say catcher and shortstop are the two shallowest positions, so if one of them is in your coin toss call, I'd probably lean in their direction. The deepest positions are first and third base, where you could grab the No. 10 player at each of those spots and still get top-100 value in return.

Kyle Soppe: In your prototypical league, I simply can't get enough pitchers and outfielders in the first 10 rounds. We require you to roster many players at these positions, so it is very important to not confuse the term "scarcity" with a low number of quality players. Sure, there are a handful of elite options at both OF and SP, but when you begin to divide them among 10-plus fantasy teams, the well runs dry faster than I think most are going to expect. Every draft is going to be different, but I'm trying to have my ace and two outfielders before the end of Round 5 and in the neighborhood of three at each position by the end of Round 10.