Just a year ago, many analysts sat to look at the various positions only to realize that depth was not the strength up the middle.
From catcher to second base to shortstop, there was not much to be had outside the top five or so selections.
That has all started to change, and the dynamic provides value for owners later than it has in recent years.
Looking at catcher, it is obvious that the top three are, in some order, Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, and Brian McCann. This is certainly the primary tier, and production is far and away better than in the rest of the position.
Still, Matt Wieters likely comes into his own this season, and a 20-home run threat like Chris Iannetta is being drafted 12th among catchers at 192 overall. Ryan Doumit had his season cut short last year and is buried in terms of ADP at this point.
While an Iannetta or Doumit does not equate to a Mauer, the types of players available underscore the change in the position itself. An owner may want to grab a true Tier 1 catcher early, but it is possible to get respectable production in the final rounds of the draft.
For owners, it should calm the fears that they need to pay attention to a "run" on this position. Let everyone else rush. The savvy owner can sit back and get their catcher later.
In the middle infield, this is the case as well, particularly at shortstop. Those drafting will see a drop-off in talent from the Hanley Ramirezes but will see plenty of talent that can produce in a number of categories as the draft moves along. Elvis Andrus has a current ADP of 167, while Alcides Escobar checks in at 289.
Even a potential .300 hitter like Erick Aybar can be found at 224. Marco Scutaro was a gem to some owners in 2009, and he is being taken just a few picks before Aybar.
There is no replacing a stud at shortstop, but the quality has improved in the later rounds to the point that it is acceptable to build other positions with a more limited concern on picking up or reaching for one.
Once Derek Jeter or Jason Bartlett comes off the board, there is very little distinguishing someone like Alexei Ramirez or Stephen Drew from Yunel Escobar. Use this to your decided advantage. The gap between the current ADP of the shortstop selected seventh (Ramirez) to the one selected 19th (Escobar) is much larger than the gap in their ability and/or potential.
The problem is the drop in talent from the sixth to the seventh. If you do not end up with one early, you might as well wait longer to draft one. This is the main difference in depth versus talent. The third tier of Shortstops is deep, but the first two are very shallow. The talent drops off, then there are a group of players of comparable skill available for a while. It is why Ramirez is worth selecting at the second spot of a draft over a player like Alex Rodriguez.
Second base is slightly thinner, especially when you get outside the top 12. A smart owner can still find upside and value late with selections such as Martin Prado, Kelly Johnson, and Scott Sizemore. If there is a spot between the three where an owner may draft earlier, this would be the one to choose.
Dan Uggla at an ADP of 86 is nice, as is Jose Lopez at 125. Orlando Hudson's value will depend largely on where he signs, but is worth considering as the 12th second baseman being taken overall.
Even these three still do not require a first or second round selection to gain solid offense, but there is a larger drop-off in talent once outside the top 10. The position may be more top-heavy than not overall, but that is no reason to move too early.
The bottom line here is that the middle of the diamond is in a better position this year than it was perceived to be at the same time last year. As you draft, do not be swayed when three players at one of these positions go off the board in a row.
Rely on knowing where you can obtain value and draft for strength somewhere else as opposed to reaching. Drafting a player too early will just serve to hurt you twice—once for the guy you draft, and one more for the player you could have had in his place.
Collin Hager is a featured Fantasy Baseball columnist on Bleacher Report. He is a regular writer on FantasyPros911.com and writes The Elmhurst Pub Roundtable fantasy baseball blog. You can follow him on Twitter @TheRoundtable.