Tuma: Understanding Outfield Scarcity on Underdog Fantasy

Jan 3rd 2023

Brendan Tuma

2023 MLB Best Ball is live on Underdog Fantasy. If you're interested in a full breakdown about how our early, $5 tournament "The Bullpen" works, then you can read more about the format, schedule, and prize structure by clicking here.

Before you start drafting, however, there's one key concept to understand -- outfield scarcity.

We'll dive in below. As always don't hesitate to reach out on Twitter anytime with thoughts and/or questions, @toomuchtuma.

Unlike traditional season-long fantasy baseball leagues, Underdog uses just two positional designations for hitters - infielders and outfielders. Designated hitters are included with the outfielders since there's less of them, but that doesn't fully make up for the scarcity issue.

When it comes to roster construction, the first place drafters often look at is optimizing the breakdown between hitters and pitchers. This makes sense and is equally important to consider, but it's a topic for another article.

2023 will be the second year of roughly the same structure for our best ball tournaments. This means the community is starting to develop efficient strategies and find edges that increase chances of winning. It also means we have a full year of data that can be applied to the upcoming draft season.

Below is a graphic created by @b3isbol on Twitter (follow him if you aren't already). Using 2022 Underdog ADP it shows that, at almost every point in drafts last year, it was better to take an infielder since they scored more points.

Note the data in this graphic is only for April-August, which was the "regular season" for last year's tournament.

Underdog teams need to start 3 infielders and 3 outfielders on a weekly basis, which suddenly makes those high-end outfielders very valuable. Put another way, it's tougher to find OF value later in the draft.

Now let's apply this to 2023. When inputting Underdog's scoring system into this year's Steamer projections we really see the disparity between the two positional groups:

Of the top 100 hitter projections, a whopping 65 of them are infielders.

Furthermore, 9 of the top 14 projections are outfielders.

This means not only are there fewer strong outfielders throughout the top 100 hitters, but there's also a massive opportunity cost to not getting at least one of the top options in Rounds 1-2.

Before even thinking about how many roster spots to devote to pitchers, or when to take those arms, Underdog users should zero in on outfielders at the start of a draft. And unlike running backs in fantasy football, another scarce position, outfielders don't carry that same injury risk. Securing one or two of them early should be the top priority for 2023 leagues.

Of course, there are caveats to mentions. The first is that not every projection system will match Steamer's. The other is that I cut the data set off at 100 hitters for convenience sake. Different projection systems will yield slightly different results, but the point remains the same - no matter your preferred system you're likely to find that outfield is scarce in our tournaments. Adjust accordingly and happy drafting!