There are so many paradoxes within baseball, which is one reason the game makes such a perfect metaphor for this goofy life we are all treading through.
As in I always preach, "take risks, but calculated ones." Or, that "it is critical to leave the draft with as many innings and at-bats as you can get."
But, I also think one of the best ways to milk both playing time and value is by exploiting the uncertainty of position battles.
Position battles are great because they generally cause prospective owners to shy away due to that potential infringement on at-bats/innnings, and generally there is a veteran, with not just big league experience, but also a salary the Major League club wants some value. So, the worst is a utility gig for players like Rickie Weeks, but chances are the second baseman will make a big league roster, and grab 350-plus at-bats. Sometimes, those players are traded and wind up with full-time play, which is a real bonanza.
And in a deep league format, that can be huge.
So, this time let's take a look at some National Leaguers who are duking it out for playing time, and who can indeed be undervalued and underpriced.
Andre Ethier is plumb out of a gig, with Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig manning the outfield, but Crawford and Kemp have had their injury issues, and Puig has yet to log a full season at The Show. Add in that Ethier, 31, has never had fewer than 400 at-bats while garnering double digits in homers each season since 2006. True, Ethier has a tougher time against southpaws, but he does have a .288-141-587 line with an .832 OPS in the Majors. He'll play.
Chris Heisey has earned his gig on the bench with some disappointing play, not so much since he came up, but more since he clobbered 18 homers over 308 at-bats in 2011, then lost his power in 2012, and everything else in 2013 (.694 OPS). Jay Bruce is surely a fixture, but Ryan Ludwick, now 35, was hurt and lousy last year, and has been unspecial over eight of his 11 big league seasons. As for Billy Hamilton, he might have his Bryan LaHair-like flashes, as he did at the end of last year, but I just don't see the speedster as a full-timer (Hamilton could become a Willie Wilson type of player, but I want to see him make more contact). That means Heisey could benefit, and I doubt he would cost more than a couple of bucks in an NL-only format.
Evan Gattis might be the Braves catcher right now, but Ryan Doumit will get 400 at-bats. Period. Doumit has averaged 15 homers over the past six seasons and probably has the defensive edge over the streaky Gattis.
The Cubs have the somewhat dubious outfield of Nate Schierholtz, Junior Lake and Ryan Sweeney. I like Lake (hmmm, that has a lilt), but he only has 64 Major League games, while Schierholtz is only a 400 at-bat platoon guy at best, and Ryan Sweeney has Red Cross on his uniform where the New York Knights had a lightening bolt. Enter Emilio Bonifacio. Need I say more?
Colorado's outfield is similar, with the excellent, but sometimes fragile Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer buoying youngster Corey Dickerson. But, Dickerson has just 69 big league games, so much like Lake there should be playing time for Drew Stubbs, who will have some power and some speed. Stubbs has double digits in steals and homers every year save his first, 2009, but he got eight big flies and ten swipes that year.
Somehow, Lucas Duda is the odd man out with the Mets despite the presence of such offensive stalwarts as Chris Young, Eric Young, Jr., Curtis Granderson and Ike Davis. Duda has averaged .246-13-51 over the past three years with 397 at-bats. If you had Young, as in Chris, or Davis on a team last year, you would kill for numbers like those of Duda. I suspect the Mets will too once we get into the season.