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Positional Scarcity Isn’t A One-Time Study

If you’re reading FanGraphs+, you could probably explain the idea of positional scarcity with relative confidence. But simply knowing that it exists is not really enough, because positional scarcity is a fluid, evolving idea. In the mid-2000s, the league was flush with power-hitting third basemen, but now the position is scarcer than outfielders and first basemen. It’s not enough to have read about scarcity and committed it to memory, because position scarcity changes all the time.

Now, if you are unclear on what positional scarcity is, allow us to explain (don’t just search it, less you end up on the player page for early-30s Red Sox legend Russ Scarritt, who was once worth more than two wins below replacement level just with his bat).

Back in 2011, our own Mike Podhorzer described position scarcity as follows:

In the simplest terms, position scarcity exists when there are not enough positively valued players at a position to fill up every active roster. In a standard 12-team league with 14 hitters, a total of 168 hitters will be drafted as starters and each must be valued and purchased at $1, at the very least. If you projected every hitter and valued their raw stats based on a $260 salary cap per team, there is virtually no chance that 24 catchers will make your top 168. There is also a possibility that there won’t be the required minimum of 36 middle infielders.

In short, some positions are deeper than others, and because positive fantasy value at some positions is less available (“scarcer”), the price for said value increases. If there’s only one shortstop who will help your team, your willingness to pay for him is a lot greater than an outfielder with the same stat line.

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