Commentary

The multi-position studs

Updated: June 18, 2008, 11:59 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Flexibility. It can be a great thing, especially in fantasy.

There isn't an owner in fantasy who doesn't love the multi-position player, a guy you can shuffle around your lineup as hot streaks, injuries or transactions dictate. To draw in a poker reference, it's like pulling a wild card into your hand; the more you get, the better, because you only increase your options with each you get.

Still, and this goes double for you keeper-league owners, it's important to continually take stock of those multi-eligibles, to see how they're doing with their position qualification, what they've added for this year and might retain or add for next. Here's a rundown of 10 of the most notable multi-position players, and how their statuses are shaping up:

Lance Berkman
AP Photo/David J. PhillipNo matter where Lance Berkman plays, he's one of the top fantasy players out there.
Lance Berkman, Astros: His days as an outfielder are done, but it's probably for the best. Now a full-time first baseman, Berkman is on pace for a career year, and at 32 years old, he's got a few more good seasons in the tank. Enjoy his first base/outfield eligibility the rest of this year, but his top-five first-base potential for 2009 won't be bad, either.
2007: 126 games at 1B, 31 OF, 1 DH; 2008: 66 1B, 2 DH.

Ryan Braun, Brewers: Like Berkman, Braun is done with his old position, and boy has his shift been smart. He was a dreadful defensive third baseman, and no longer has to deal with that criticism now in left field. Braun will qualify only in the outfield in 2009, but he's a top-10 outfielder easy this year, and only getting better.
2007: 112 3B; 2008: 66 OF, 1 DH.

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: Sad news for Cabrera's keeper-league owners, as he stands little -- and I'd argue zero -- chance at qualifying at third base for 2009 in most formats. He hasn't manned the hot corner since April 19, the day the Tigers decided to convert him to first base, and as they claimed that day, the move is apparently permanent. Not that Cabrera will be a poor first baseman, not by a long shot, as he's similar in value to Berkman but younger. But that's the deepest position in the game, so it's a hit to his value.
2007: 154 3B, 3 DH; 2008: 55 1B, 14 3B, 4 DH.

Jorge Cantu, Marlins: One of this year's best comeback stories, Cantu has been especially appealing as a first base/third base multi-eligible, and from his current paces, it appears he has a chance at qualifying at both spots for 2009, too. Now the question remains, who's the real Cantu, the 2005 and 2008 model, or the one from 2006-07?
2007: 21 1B, 7 DH, 2 2B; 2008: 64 3B, 8 1B.

Ryan Doumit
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarRyan Doumit is currently eligible as a catcher and outfielder, but he's far more valuable behind the plate.
Ryan Doumit, Pirates: To think, it once appeared he might shift to first base or the outfield full-time. Today, he appears the future behind the plate for the Pirates. Doumit probably will shed his outfield eligibility heading into 2009, but let's face it, is anyone really using him in the outfield, as opposed to at catcher, where he's far more valuable?
2007: 38 OF, 28 C, 3 1B, 1 DH; 2008: 34 C, 1 DH.

Yunel Escobar, Braves: He has been a lot of fun for his owners who have been able to use him at three different infield spots in 2008. But in 2009, Escobar is destined for shortstop-only eligibility as the Braves' everyday man there. Even when Chipper Jones or Kelly Johnson sits these days, it has been Omar Infante, Ruben Gotay or Martin Prado stepping in. No matter; Escobar should still be a top-10 shortstop in 2009.
2007: 53 SS, 22 3B, 21 2B; 2008: 66 SS.

Carlos Guillen, Tigers: Cabrera's first-base conversion has favorably impacted Guillen's 2009 position eligibility; he's now technically the Tigers' third baseman, and has assured himself at least qualification at both corner infield spots. Plus, he has two starts in left field and could sneak in more time there. That's a lot better than Guillen's owners were expecting heading into the season, when it seemed he'd be only a first baseman.
2007: 132 SS, 36 1B, 3 DH; 2008: 39 3B, 20 1B, 4 DH, 2 OF.

Ryan Theriot, Cubs: Like Escobar, he has been a fun infielder to own, though he lacks Escobar's third-base eligibility in leagues with 20-game requirements. But like Escobar, Theriot seems destined to be shortstop-only for 2009, and other than his stolen-base contributions, he's not Escobar's equal in any other category.
2007: 108 SS, 37 2B, 8 3B, 5 OF; 2008: 64 SS.

B.J. Upton
J. Meric/Getty ImagesB.J. Upton is technically more valuable as a second baseman, but he's just fine in his new established position in center.
B.J. Upton, Rays Enjoy his second-base eligibility this year, because he's a center fielder now and probably never going back. Since June 8, 2007, Upton has appeared in 137 games in the field, all of them in center. Fortunately, he's top-10 ranked on the Player Rater at both positions, so it's not like he's a slouch at either spot. Unfortunately, he's ranked five spots higher at second base than in the outfield. Oh well, can't be perfect.
2007: 78 OF, 48 2B, 3 DH; 2008: 66 OF, 1 DH.

Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox It might seem like he only sneaks in time at third base when Mike Lowell is hurt. Not so; Youkilis actually has three appearances there in the Red Sox's past 30 games. If he can sneak in four more in the team's final 89 contests, he'll be a first base/third base qualifier for 2009. As a solid batsman whose strength isn't in the home run category, he'd be a lot more valuable if he had that extra eligibility.
2007: 135 1B, 13 3B; 2008: 55 1B, 16 3B, 2 OF.

Others gaining: Jerry Hairston Jr. already has 20-plus games at both shortstop and outfield, and before he got hurt, was hitting left-handers well. ... Brandon Inge has played 17 games behind the plate, making him a sleeper No. 2 catcher thanks to his ability to pick up at-bats all over the diamond. ... Akinori Iwamura has added second-base eligibility for this year, but he's also going to lose his third-base status for 2009, since Evan Longoria is firmly entrenched there. ... Russell Martin has four starts and six games played at third base, giving him an outside chance at qualifying there. Not that he'd be more valuable at third base than catcher, but it'd be a nice little bonus. ... Alexei Ramirez is probably going to add outfield eligibility to second base now that Paul Konerko is on the DL. He's already over 20 games at second, and up to 10 in the outfield. What'd be even nicer: If he can bump up those five games he has played at shortstop.

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Others losing (for 2009): Alex Gordon is a third baseman now, having gone all year without an appearance at first base. ... Victor Martinez's DL status might cost him a chance to sneak in the appearances needed at first base. No matter; he's a much-improved catcher and more valuable for fantasy there anyway. ... Like Martinez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia appears destined to be catcher-only for 2009. First base could be his long-term destination, but the Rangers seem committed to him behind the plate for now. ... Ty Wigginton hasn't played anywhere but third base in 2008, and for his Astros career, he has 86 games there, compared to only two in the outfield and one at first base.

Others staying the same (for 2009): Mark DeRosa is the ultimate utility man, with second base/third base/outfield eligibility in 2008, and he's well on pace for that trio again for 2009. He's up to 19 games in the outfield, and 13 at third. ... Chone Figgins sneaked in seven games at second base when Howie Kendrick was on the DL, and he'd probably need Kendrick to get hurt again to add that position to his list of 2009 eligibles. He might feel like a multi-position player, but nope, he's third base-only for this year (and probably next). ... With Carlos Pena on the DL, Eric Hinske stands a strong chance at earning first base/outfield eligibility again. He's the ultimate spot-him-in-only-against-righties hitter, like Geoff Jenkins, but with more positions. ... Nick Swisher also benefits from Konerko's DL status; he's four games short of 20 at first base, but he's now sure to get to that plateau to be a first baseman/outfielder again in 2009.

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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