Who has gained position eligibility in '11?


Since I apparently have some kind of odd fascination with New York Mets second basemen, it's no surprise I've been keeping an eye on what Daniel Murphy had been doing throughout the failed Brad Emaus experiment. Murphy can hit a little, and while nobody thinks he's really a viable second baseman -- oh wait, the Mets do! -- the fact is they've been playing him there and batting him second and things have gone reasonably well. From a fantasy aspect, I added Murphy in a league to my bench and waited for Sunday, when he played his 10th game at second base.

Now he's a second baseman for us, too.

That changes everything. I moved him to an active middle-infield slot in that league to replace injured Aaron Hill. (Hey, it's a deep league!) As a first baseman, which is all Murphy was, according to ESPN eligibility, coming into the season, there was little value. Heck, he's not even close to a top-20 first baseman. At second base, he's potentially a top-20 option. Murphy is an interesting eligibility case, actually. He qualifies at first base because that's the position he played the most his last season in the big leagues (2009). He did not play in 2010 after tearing the ACL in his right knee. With modest power and little to offer in terms of stolen bases, fantasy owners need him to play a scarce defensive position to have value, and now he is.

With a .271 batting average, one home run and one stolen base, Murphy isn't exactly Brandon Phillips, Rickie Weeks or Howard Kendrick, the current top three at second base on the ESPN Player Rater, but I do see him pushing his way into the top 20, and in deep leagues, that means something. Because I think Murphy can deliver double-digit home runs and a .280 batting average, and perhaps score 65 runs if he stays healthy and others hit -- he was essentially this type of player in 2009 -- I'd choose him over Alexi Casilla, Bill Hall, Reid Brignac, Jamey Carroll and Jayson Nix, all of whom are owned in more leagues. It might not seem like much, but in a 16-team-mixed or NL-only league, it matters.

Of course, with more than three weeks of the season complete, others have added eligibility to their ledgers. In ESPN leagues, the rule is 20 games at a position last season, or 10 games there in-season, so that's essentially what I'm discussing here. I'm aware that in other leagues the threshold is 20 games in-season (or something altogether different, such as one or five games).

We knew before the Super Bowl that Kevin Youkilis and Chone Figgins would be re-adding third base eligibility, and they already have. (If only Figgins could hit enough for it to matter.) In addition, the following players became eligible at new, enticing spots; some were expected, some were not. I've ranked them in order of fantasy viability:

Lance Berkman, OF/1B, St. Louis Cardinals: He entered Tuesday as the No. 10 option overall on the Player Rater. I liked Berkman coming into the season -- I felt he could play a capable enough right field and stay healthy -- but this offensive explosion is a bit unexpected even to me.

Sean Rodriguez, 3B/2B/OF, Rays: He's not doing much hitting, but I think he will. And he can run. Evan Longoria's DL stint created the opportunity for third base eligibility, but he's running out of time to nail down the starting job at second base once Longoria returns.

Luke Scott, OF/DH, Baltimore Orioles: We can thank the team's offseason signing of Vladimir Guerrero for pushing Scott back into the outfield. Scott has averaged 25 home runs the past three seasons, so be patient with him. He's a proven commodity.

Adam Lind, 1B/DH, Toronto Blue Jays: We knew he'd be moving to first base full-time, but there were more questions about his bat. So far his numbers are actually worse than last year's, making him easy to ignore.

Ryan Roberts, 3B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: With Mark Reynolds gone, there was opportunity for someone to step up and claim the third base job in Arizona, and Melvin Mora didn't do it. Roberts, meanwhile, is sixth among third basemen on the Player Rater, having earned qualification there over the weekend. I think he can finish in the 15-20 region, perhaps reaching 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases.

Darwin Barney, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs: He was only a shortstop last season -- and a complete unknown. Don't go overboard to get him, but so far, so good.

Mike Aviles, 3B/2B, Kansas City Royals: He's a potential 15-homer/15-steal infielder, but he's so streaky when it comes to batting average.

Orlando Cabrera, 2B/SS, Cleveland Indians: He's hitting enough to warrant attention, though his native position (shortstop) is a weaker fantasy position this season anyway.

Dan Johnson, 1B/DH, Tampa Bay Rays: Hasn't mattered much since he's hitting .131, but at least he can clog first base and corner infield on your team now.

Brad Hawpe, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres: If you want Hawpe on your fantasy team, you need more help than this blog can provide.

And here are some other players I'm watching to see which positions they play:

Michael Young, 3B, Texas Rangers: He's worth it this season regardless, but for 2012 it's looking like second base and perhaps first base eligibility for him.

Ryan Raburn, OF, Detroit Tigers: One of my sleeper favorites, Raburn is hitting now and could be second base-eligible in a week's time.

Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Minnesota Twins: I yawn about using him at his current spots, but it looks like he'll add second base eligibility soon. The potential for 15 home runs and 80 RBIs looks considerably better there.

Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B/2B/SS, Washington Nationals: Barely hitting, but he's a threat for double-digit stolen bases, at least in theory.

Juan Miranda, DH, Diamondbacks: Will be a first baseman soon, but he hasn't pushed Russell Branyan completely aside yet, and he must do so to have mixed value.

Andy LaRoche, 3B, Oakland Athletics: Can't really hit, but if he becomes a shortstop, I can make a case for him in AL-only formats.

Jack Wilson, 2B/SS, Seattle Mariners: Hey, I'm just trying to be thorough here.