In quantum mechanics, there is a thing called "superposition." The idea is that a particle exists in all possible states simultaneously, until it's actually observed.
Chone Figgins is kind of like that. Until you decide whether Figgins should play 2B, 3B, OF, CI, MI or UTIL, he's all of those things at once. And according to this thought experiment, if you put him in a box with a kitten, only one of them can come out alive. Or something.
Depending on your league's settings, a player who qualifies at multiple positions can be either useful to own, or he can be absolutely essential. It's really not a huge deal in public leagues, because there are going to be acceptable free agents available all year. But just ask someone in an NL-only league about Freddy Sanchez's 2006 season. They may or may not remember that he hit .344; they'll definitely remember that Sanchez qualified at second, third and shortstop.
If you're in a league where virtually all starting position players will be owned, then you'll need to have a few players at your disposal who can be utilized at different roster spots. Brad Evans likes to refer to these guys as "Swiss Army knives." If it's easier to think of them as pocket-sized tools instead of subatomic particles existing in an unseen probabilistic haze, fine. Knives they are.
The point is: You'll want to own them in large, competitive leagues. You'll never be able to cover injuries or reach games-played maximums without them. So if you're trying to decide between two very similar players on draft day, take the guy who can be many things to many owners.
There are several ownable players who qualify at two positions in standard Yahoo! leagues. According to O-Rank, the best of them are B.J. Upton (2B/OF), Lance Berkman (1B/OF), Victor Martinez (C/1B), Carlos Guillen (1B/SS), Garrett Atkins (1B/3B), Nick Swisher (1B/OF), Alex Gordon (1B/3B), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C/1B), Kevin Youkilis (1B/3B) and Josh Fields (3B/OF). Some of us are partial to Ryan Theriot (2B/SS), too.
Today, however, we're going to look at useful players who have Yahoo! eligibility at three or more roster spots. If the free agent population in your league is going to be weak all year, owning one or two of these guys will give you a significant advantage:
Chone Figgins, 2B/3B/OF
There's no question that Figgins is the best of the superposition players. Last year at age 29, he had his best season by far in both batting average (.330) and on-base percentage (.393). Those numbers may decline, but he is a career .293/.354 hitter, so he's likely to help you to some extent. Still, you'll be drafting Figgins primarily for steals. He's averaged 51.7 SBs per season over the last three years, and that was despite missing nearly all of April in '07.
Yunel Escobar, 2B/SS/3B
We discussed Escobar in detail in the Shortstop Primer, noting that he'll be batting at or near the top of what will be a productive lineup. He was a line drive/ground ball machine last year, and he figures to again hit for a helpful average. If he stays healthy, this is a player who should score 90-plus runs.
Ty Wigginton, 1B/2B/3B
Fantasy experts have a curious and unsettling fondness for Wigginton, so I'll be careful not to overstate his value. Wigginton delivers almost perfectly league-average stats in a 12-team mixed format. There's nothing really to gush about. That is, unless you're in an NL-only league and your regular second baseman – let's call him "Rickie Weeks" – gets injured in late-May. Then Wigginton and his 20 HRs and his second base eligibility are worth getting excited about.
Casey Blake, 1B/3B/OF
And we've already arrived at the point where the superposition guys don't actually produce at a level that's acceptable for full-time players, fantasy-wise. Blake would not have helped you if you started him regularly at a corner infield or outfield spot in a mixed league last season. He scored 81 runs, hit 18 HRs, drove in 78, stole four bases and hit .270. I'll refer you to Matt Buser's recent feature for details on fantasy expectations by position. Let's just say that 18 and .270 don't cut it. Nonetheless, Blake is a pretty fair bench asset and spot starter in a larger roto league. He can deliver counting stats on a situational basis without ruining your team's AVG.
Mark DeRosa, 1B/2B/3B/OF
As with Blake, nearly all of DeRosa's value in mixed leagues is in the fact that you can play him anywhere. From a single bench spot, you get a guy who can fill in at four positions, plus MI, CI and UTIL. He's also hit over .290 each of the past two seasons, so if you spot-start him 20 times, your AVG is probably safe. Of course, the Cubs could make a move for Brian Roberts at any time, assuming their collection of fallen prospects and Sean Marshall is enough to satisfy the Orioles.
Other hitters who qualify at three or more roster spots in Yahoo! default leagues (and that's their only obviously good quality for fantasy purposes):
Mark Loretta (1B/2B/SS/3B), Greg Dobbs (1B/3B/OF), Kevin Fransden (2B/SS/OF), Rich Aurilia (1B/2B/SS/3B), Esteban German (2B/3B/OF), Wilson Betemit (1B/SS/3B), Marco Scutaro (2B/SS/3B/ OF), Alfredo Amezaga (2B/SS/3B/OF), Jamey Carroll (2B/SS/3B), Ramon Vazquez (2B/SS/3B), Brendan Ryan (2B/SS/3B), Nick Punto (2B/SS/3B), Chris Gomez (1B/2B/SS/3B), Geoff Blum (2B/SS/3B), Willie Bloomquist (2B/SS/3B/OF), Josh Wilson (2B/SS/3B), Omar Infante (2B/SS/3B/OF), Robb Quinlan (1B/3B/OF), Craig Counsell (2B/SS/3B), Tony Abreu (2B/SS/3B), Miguel Cairo (1B/2B/SS/3B), Jose Castillo (2B/SS/3B), and Alberto Callaspo (2B/SS/3B/OF).