It’s one thing to say that third base is a shallow position, but it’s another thing to see it. And by “see it” I don’t mean wake up every morning and sigh in dismay at another hollow 1-for-4 effort from Chase Headley.
The graph below is a nice visual representation of the MLB season to date based on player ranks at each position. I sat down for about 10 minutes and counted how many players were in the top 25, top 50, top 100, etc. for each position and then graphed the results. This way we can actually “see” how bad third base is (and Headley isn’t the only numbingly disappointing player at the position).
Because there are a lot more outfielders and starting pitchers than each other position, I divided the number of outfielders in each category by three and the number of starting pitchers by five. Relief pitchers were not included. I don’t care where they rank. I care whether they get saves.
Oh, and some players were included at multiple positions (like Jose Bautista at both third base and outfield).
Here are a couple quick observations at each position, but you can also find more analysis here if graphs aren't your thing.
No catcher ranked inside the top 75, and Brian McCann was the only catcher to rank inside the top 100. Exactly five catchers were ranked inside the top 250 in Yahoo!’s game, and since there are probably between 10 and 16 teams in your average fantasy league, that’s not quite enough to go around.
See that line soaring way above all the others? Yeah. You shouldn’t be shocked at how much depth there is at this premier offensive position with 17 players ranking inside the top 100.
Second base, third base and outfield bob and weave along just about the whole length of the graph before separating for good around the top 150 mark. At that point the second basemen really level off meaning there are just over a dozen regularly rosterable second basemen in fantasy this year.
OK, so I made third base sound shallower in my intro than it actually is.
The position holds its own with second base and outfield and has a late jump in the top 225 to top 250 range. This tells us it is a rather shallow position with a lot of nearly rosterable talent that’s likely readily available in free agency.
Headley ranks 205 and is exactly the kind of player I’m talking about.
The line for shortstops balloons a bit at between the top 100 and top 150 marks, which shows the lack of real impact players at the position.
Only four shortstops ranked inside the top 75, but then it jumps to 10 in the top 125. This means players who own elite shortstops like Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera have had a significant advantage, but if you don’t have one of them you’re likely starting one of the other very similar, rather easily replaceable options.
There are five outfielders ranked inside the top 10, but because we divided by three, this top-heaviness doesn’t exactly show itself. Of course, the second best outfielder of the bunch, Bautista, is likely being started at third base in most leagues.
Either way, outfield consistently rated as the second deepest position in fantasy this season but still falls well behind first base.
While most positions have a steeper slope in the top 25 to top 100 range, starting pitching is considerably more flat early on.
We saw this with shortstops as well, however, unlike with shortstops there is not sudden ballooning in the line. This means there’s solid depth all along at starting pitching with no real drop-off in production at any one point.
However, there might not be a ton of great fourth or fifth starter depth as the position since it ranks right there with shortstops as the second or third most shallow position.
Again, this is largely because we accounted for five starters per fantasy team and many teams probably only run three or four starters deep with the rest of the roster being made up of oft-added free agent options.
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