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Key players who could gain multi-position eligibility this fantasy baseball season

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By Thomas Harrigan, MLB.com

Special to Yahoo Sports

Defense isn't typically given much attention in fantasy, but where a player plays can affect his value.

In standard leagues that don't offer extra starting slots, positional flexibility can prevent you from having to leave a quality player on the bench. And if your roster has two strong third-base options but loses a second baseman to injury, having one of those third basemen gain eligibility at second could be a difference-maker.

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The following players are poised to add one or more new positions this season, so keep that in mind while drafting.

Note: In Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball, batters need either five games started or 10 games played at a position to gain eligibility. Pitchers need three starts to gain SP eligibility and five relief appearances to gain RP eligibility. The list below doesn't include players who are expected to have a new primary position in 2020 but already have eligibility at said position in Yahoo! Example: Mike Moustakas is already eligible at second base.

Miguel Andújar, New York Yankees
Current eligibility: UTL
Could gain: 1B, 3B, OF

Andújar's 2019 season was disappointing on many levels. The slugger not only hit just .128/.143/.128 over 49 plate appearances before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, but also fell one game short of five starts at third base, which means he'll enter 2020 with only a utility designation. However, the 25-year-old could eventually gain eligibility at two or three positions, as the Yankees have been working him out as at first base and in left field during camp to open up the possibility of starting both Andújar and third baseman Gio Urshela on a regular basis.

Miguel Andujar #41 of the New York Yankees
The Yankees could find creative ways to get Miguel Andujar onto the field this season. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Current eligibility: OF
Could gain: 1B

Braun quietly remained a solid all-around fantasy option in his 13th season, hitting .285 with 22 homers, 75 RBIs, 70 runs and 11 steals over 144 games -- his most games played since 2012. The veteran has produced at least 17 homers and 11 stolen bases in every season of his career except for '13, when he played just 61 games. With Avisaíl García coming aboard as a free agent and joining Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain in Milwaukee's outfield, Braun is expected to see time at first base this year, which could give him a better chance to stay healthy at age 36.

Josh James, Houston Astros
Current eligibility: RP
Could gain: SP

James was expected to compete for a spot in the Astros' rotation last spring, but a quad injury prevented him from having enough time to get stretched out, and he ended up spending the year in the bullpen. The right-hander now has another chance to earn a starting job after recurring neck issues sidelined Brad Peacock. James has a ton of upside, as he recorded a 37.6% strikeout rate, a 4.7% barrel rate and a .263 xwOBA behind his lackluster 4.70 ERA last season.

Carter Kieboom, Washington Nationals
Current eligibility: SS
Could gain: 3B

Called up to fill in at shortstop for the injured Trea Turner last April, Kieboom hit just .128/.209/.282 with 16 strikeouts over 43 plate appearances. He was back in the Minors on May 7 and didn't get another chance with the Nats. But after Anthony Rendon's departure, third base appears to be Kieboom's to lose. If the 22-year-old (MLB's No. 21 prospect) reaches his potential, he could supply a solid average and a high on-base percentage with 15-plus homers.

Carlos Martínez, St. Louis Cardinals
Current eligibility: RP
Could gain: SP

Right shoulder issues have cost Martínez his rotation spot in each of the past two seasons, but he has retained relevance in fantasy by racking up 29 saves and posting a 2.70 ERA as a reliever during that time. Still just 28 years old, Martínez is getting another chance to start in 2020, though he'll need to prove his arm can handle the workload to prevent St. Louis from sending him back to the bullpen.

Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves
Current eligibility: OF
Could gain: 3B

[Yahoo Rankings: Overall | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP ]

Although Riley was primarily a third baseman in the Minors, he logged only five appearances (four starts) at the hot corner as a rookie, with Josh Donaldson manning the position for the Braves. Donaldson is now with the Twins, however, and Riley is battling Johan Camargo for the starting job at third base. While the 22-year-old finished last season on a down note, his performance over his first 42 games (.280/.333/.596 with 14 homers) makes him worth keeping an eye on in fantasy leagues.

Jean Segura, Philadelphia Phillies
Current eligibility: SS
Could gain: 3B (or 2B)

For the third time in five years, Segura will enter a season playing a different position than the one he appeared at most often during the previous campaign -- from shortstop to second base in 2016, back to shortstop in '17, and now over to third base, if he proves he can handle it. If the veteran struggles to adjust to the hot corner, Philadelphia will likely utilize him at second base and Scott Kingery at third. Regardless, Segura's fantasy value will largely hinge on his stolen-base output. After six straight seasons with at least 20 steals, he swiped just 10 bags in 12 attempts over 144 games last year.

Nick Solak, Texas Rangers
Current eligibility: 2B, 3B
Could gain: OF

Acquired from the Rays for pitcher Peter Fairbanks last July, Solak hit .293/.393/.491 with five homers over 135 plate appearances for the Rangers, starting five games at second base, 11 at third and another 17 as the designated hitter. The club has been trying out the 25-year-old as its center fielder this spring, and if he takes to the position, it would allow Texas to keep Danny Santana in a utility role and get Solak more playing time.

Jonathan Villar, Miami Marlins
Current eligibility: 2B, SS
Could gain: 3B, OF

Villar was one of the top players in fantasy last season, producing 24 homers and 40 stolen bases in a year when only seven other players even reached the 30-steal mark. It was the first 20/40 campaign in six years, and only the 13th since the turn of the millennium. That he checked those boxes while carrying eligibility at both middle-infield spots made him all the more valuable. He could add two more positions this season, with Miami considering him for third base and center field.

Thomas Harrigan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HarriganMLB.

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