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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stacking Scarcity

Interesting topic today, folks.  The concept for today's post has to do with stacking scarcity.  We have spoken about position scarcity in this space before... The value of thinking about scarcity and also the pitfalls.  Today, what happens to your team if you grab two of the few studs at one position that is scarce?

I will primarily be talking about baseball with this one, but you can apply it to running backs in a primary-back setup too.  (That is to say, there aren't many teams that have the one bell cow running back so if you can grab two or three of them that would be equivalent to what we are discussing here.)

It goes like this:  Let's say there are three verifiable studs at one position followed by a massive dropoff.  Perhaps we're talking about shortstop this year with Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, and Hanley Ramirez.  I have seen Starlin Castro and Dee Gordon ranked fairly high here and there, but let's say for the sake of argument that this year those guys are ranked way behind the big three.  Probably because of a lack of track record.  By the way, I'm not saying I necessarily agree with this but let's use it as our example.

Okay, what happens if you take Tulo in round one and follow that up with Ramirez in round two?

A few things happen.  First, the downside.  A big part of why those guys are ranked so high is positional scarcity.  People want to get one of the few studs so they don't have a competitive disadvantage.  When you already have Tulo the value of Hanley to your specific squad plummets.

However, there is a significant upside here.  What you have done with your selection of Ramirez is to prevent everyone except the player who drafts Reyes from competing with you at shortstop.  You have locked in a significant competitive advantage.  The other players in your league are taking first basemen, outfielders, second basemen, and starting pitchers in the first two rounds.  You?  You grabbed the top two shortstops on the board and cemented an advantage.

Winning fantasy sports managers can break down their rosters into mini-competitions.  Dominant at SS, above average in the OF, top 3 at 1B, need help at starting pitcher... etc.

Stacking scarcity also gives you a chance to possibly trade one later in the year.  This is not unlike the post I made on closers called The Rhombus.  Give yourself something to work with.  And, listen, stud shortstops don't typically materialize mid-year.  Closers and starters do every year and there are always one or two first basemen and more than a handful of outfielders.  Shortstops?  Hardly.

In our example you will be able to play Hanley at third base, but that won't typically be the case.  If you play in a league with corner infielders and middle infielders, you're all set.  Hanley is your MI.  If not, you're looking at your second shortstop in your utility spot, which may not be ideal.  Many of your leaguemates will be plugging in a second first baseman or DH in the utility role and will certainly rack up better power numbers than you.

This, again, is something you can exploit.  If you have a middle infielder as your utility you may want to shy away from home runs and RBI and try to focus on batting average, runs, and steals.  Given that choice it is three categories versus two anyway, so it's a no-brainer.

That said, certainly do not punt a category.  Never punt a category.  If you have a stud middle infielder in your utility slot, aim for the middle of the pack in HR and RBI and for the top of the charts everywhere else.

It is a viable strategy that can pay off for you if used properly.