Position scarcity is always a hot debate when considering where to draft players. Does it really matter? How much should it weigh into the equation?
Well, fantasy owners, it does matter, and it certainly helps to read up on which positions to target early to avoid making disastrous trades post-draft.
Here are my rankings of the shallowest positions in baseball for the 2010 fantasy season.
Despite being so overflowing with talent, first base includes baseball's consensus No. 1 overall fantasy selection in Albert Pujols. After that, 17 other players would be suitable to start this year as your fantasy first baseman.
Five other options (Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez) round out the elite plateau.
But really, consider these two stat lines to understand how deep the position is:
Player One: .277 BA, 40 HR, 99 RBI, 90 R, 1 SB
Player Two: .305 BA, 35 HR, 111 RBI, 91 R, 1 SB
Player One is Adrian Gonzalez, being picked from around 25th overall to 35th overall this year. Player Two is Derrek Lee, being picked from 90th to 100th this year. That's right—I'd rather have Player Two's statistics as well!
Outfield is considerably deep this year, with a fair number of elite players that can be categorized as five-tool studs (Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Justin Upton).
Outfield is so deep that players like Manny Ramirez or Raul Ibanez are being selected as about the 30th players at the position.
The average team in a 10-team, four-outfield position league can expect an outfield consisting of Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis, Torii Hunter, and Carlos Beltran. Impressive!
Starting pitching has relatively few super elite options this year (Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia), yet it has a surplus of very good pitchers with decent upside.
This makes it a reasonably deep position, with tons of low-risk, high-reward players like David Price (should be about the 50th starter off the board) or Rick Porcello (70th or so).
Selecting a good dependable starter fairly early, such as Dan Haren, is probably a good idea, but after that feel free to wait a while for bargain bin gems to be available.
It's always hard to gauge position scarcity when considering pitching, as it really just depends on whether there are many elite options or a quick and steep drop-off after the first few. The talent level stays the same.
But this year, relief pitching is scarcer than normal given only a select few are mortal locks for 40 saves. Joe Nathan is perhaps the best closer there is this year, with Mariano Rivera not far behind.
Though after that, can you count on K-Rod or Francisco Cordero's subpar underlying statistics? Jonathan Papelbon's arm and shoulder health are drawing much suspicion with regard to injury, and Brian Fuentes had a terrible 3.93 ERA last year.
Many experts note every year that it doesn't pay to spend heavily in the draft for saves, and this is probably extra prevalent this year, as many closer jobs should be available for minority members (think David Aardsma, Ryan Franklin, and Andrew Bailey last year).
Traditionally a fairly deep position, it has taken a hit in recent years as more defensive statistics have come into play, prompting teams to move their error machines over to the other side of the diamonds.
As in every season in recent memory, Alex Rodriguez, fully recovered from steroid accusations and injury, has taken center stage.
After him, though, do you really want to risk a continued power outage from David Wright, or the always-present risks that come from breaking strikeout records (yes, you Mark Reynolds!)?
Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval, and Ryan Zimmerman are certainly still brimming with more potential, enough to heat the hot corner up again. This season the cutoff before mediocrity seems to be Aramis Ramirez, who should bounce back from surgery nicely.
Second Base does have plenty of options, but the position does certainly taper off once Aaron Hill is selected.
Chase Utley had another great campaign last year and is being selected in the first round of most drafts this year. He owes this elite status, however, to his playing second base, as he puts up similar stats to Justin Morneau, a player typically drafted in the fifth round this year.
After him, Ian Kinsler certainly attracts attention, and Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Brian Roberts, Brandon Phillips, Ben Zobrist, and Hill are all solid ball players.
But after that, fantasy owners must be willing to welcome Howie Kendrick or even Ian Stewart to a starting role on their rosters.
A thin position and always will be, catching this year really only has three guys you can plug in and feel good about: Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, and Victor Martinez.
After that, teams can roll the dice on Matt Wieters, the poster boy of prospects last year, or have to draw from some .280/20 HR threats.
While catcher is pretty deep, as serviceable players such as Bengie Molina or Kurt Suzuki can be picked up late in drafts, you really should attempt to nab one of the big three fairly early.
Shortstop is always a very scarce position, but this year it takes the infamous title of being the shallowest roster spot in the sport.
After consensus second overall pick Hanley Ramirez, a noticeable drop-off occurs as a pool of question mark players follow.
Will Jose Reyes bounce back and have a great season? Can Derek Jeter keep it up? Is Troy Tulowitzki the real deal?
In a 12-team league, teams will be forced to start players like Erick Aybar or Alcides Escobar, clearly not a favorable spot to be in if a fantasy player.