By Fred Zinkie
Special to Yahoo Sports
Although position eligibility should never be the main reason for drafting a player, wise owners know that the mounting volume of IL stints means that those who can ply their trade at multiple positions are a necessary part of a successful roster. The following baker’s dozen of players should all receive the benefit on the doubt on draft day, due to their availability to Yahoo owners at a minimum of three positions.
Javier Baez, 2B/3B/SS, Cubs
Baez was one of just seven players to reach the 30-homer and 20-steal plateaus last season. And among that seven-man group, the Cubs infielder joined Jose Ramirez as the only ones to also reach the century mark in RBIs and runs scored. Although plate-discipline concerns (career 0.17 BB:K ratio) make Baez a regression candidate, his triple-position usefulness cements his second-round status.
Whit Merrifield, 1B/2B/OF, Royals
The Major League leader with 45 steals last season, Merrifield is a draft-day bargain at his current price of 36th overall. The 30-year-old also has a bit of pop (31 homers across 2017-18) and is one of a dwindling number of players with a good chance to hit .300.
Travis Shaw, 1B/2B/3B, Brewers
Few fantasy owners likely realize that Shaw is the only player with second base eligibility who has homered 30 times in each of the past two seasons. Arguably the most powerful man at one of his three positions, the 28-year-old is sitting on the board after pick-100 in most of his Yahoo drafts.
Matt Carpenter, 1B/2B/3B, Cardinals
Carpenter can rival Shaw in terms of power claims, as his 36 round-trippers from 2018 is the top total among those who are second base eligible right now. But owners may be wise to doubt this late-career power surge, as the veteran went deep just once after September 1 and had previously produced one season with more than 23 long balls.
Dee Gordon, 2B/SS/OF, Mariners
Owners would be within their rights to dismiss Gordon on the basis of being a speedster on the wrong side of 30 who saw his year-over-year steals total cut in half (from 60 to 30) in 2018. But a closer look shows that he swiped 10 bags in April before a toe injury impacted him the rest of the way. Base stealers are always fickle, but Gordon has 50-steal potential this year.
Max Muncy, 1B/2B/3B, Dodgers
Muncy came out of nowhere last season, but his odds of a repeat performance are boosted by the fact that his power production was quite consistent (five or more homers in five different months) and that his fly-ball rate (44.9 percent) and hard-contact rate (47.4 percent) were elite marks. His ADP of 123rd overall seems like the right price.
Wilmer Flores, 1B/2B/3B, D-backs
Currently sitting atop the second base depth chart in Arizona, Flores is an interesting sleeper who popped 16 homers across 307 at-bats in 2016 and 18 long balls in 336 at-bats the following season. He won’t provide a lofty batting mark or any steals, but the 27-year-old helps at three positions and has 25-homer potential.
Jurickson Profar, 1B/2B/3B/SS, A’s
With 20 homers and 10 steals last season, Profar finally made progress towards reaching the massive ceiling that was once projected for him. The four-position asset won’t be helped by his new home park, but he is still just 26 years old and could take another step forward this season as part of an A’s lineup that ranked fourth in baseball in runs scored a year ago.
Yuli Gurriel, 1B/2B/3B, Astros
Gurriel isn’t going to spark any fantasy titles, but owners could do worse at the backend of their roster than a career .291 hitter who bats in one of baseball’s best lineups and drove in 85 runs last season. His current ADP of 180th overall is a fair price for someone who can start the season in a utility spot before tabbing his multi-position eligibility when the need arises.
Chris Taylor, 2B/SS/OF, Dodgers
Despite enjoying similar batted-ball luck from his breakout 2017 season, Taylor experienced an across-the-board regression last year. The 28-year-old’s whiff rate (29.5 percent in ’18) is a source of concern, but his batted-ball data is otherwise encouraging enough to make the multi-position asset an excellent pick at his current 204 ADP.
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/3B/SS, Rangers
While younger players attract fantasy owners with their upside, boring veterans such as Cabrera often become afterthoughts on draft day. But the 33-year-old has tallied averaged 20 homers across the past three seasons and owns a respectable career .269 average. Armed with three eligible positions and an ADP of 241, Cabrera feels like a draft-day bargain.
Joey Wendle, 2B/3B/SS/OF, Rays
Wendle is hardly a household name, but he should garner late-round attention after hitting .300 with 16 steals last season. Slated to be the Rays starting second baseman, the career .294 hitter with four positions of eligibility owns a lowly 237 ADP and should be a solid April bench option.
Marwin Gonzalez, 1B/2B/SS/OF, Twins
Gonzalez was unable to repeat his 2017 breakout season, and his draft-day stock has paid the price. Now available roughly 80 picks later than a year ago, one of baseball’s true utility men will often be available after pick 200. Like Wendle, he is a fine late-round pick due to being eligible at nearly every position. And with Miguel Sano on the shelf, Gonzalez should open the season as the Twins regular third baseman.