Position eligibility makes a difference
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It only takes five.

Five starts at one position helps a player gain eligibility there in most fantasy leagues, and getting eligibility at the scarce positions -- catcher, second base, shortstop, third base -- can be enough to help a player's fantasy value jump a few rounds in drafts.

Here are five players who are more valuable than they would be if they didn't have certain eligibility.

Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks 2B, 3B, SS, OF - Prado mostly played left field for Atlanta last season, starting 111 games out there. But he also had 20 starts at third, eight starts at second and 11 starts at shortstop. His .301 average, 10 homers, 70 RBIs, 81 runs and 17 steals play much better in the infield than the outfield. Only three second basemen and two shortstops besides Prado hit .300 or better last season (min. 400 at-bats).

Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays 2B, SS, OF - Zobrist became Tampa Bay's everyday shortstop in the second half last season. Four other shortstops besides Zobrist hit at least 20 homers last season, but only one had an average better than Zobrist's .270, and no shortstop had an OPS higher than his .848. Likewise, only four second baseman besides Zobrist had at least 20 homers.

Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels 1B, 3B, OF - Trumbo had 32 homers and 95 RBIs last season. Those numbers are plenty valuable at first base, but eight other first basemen had at least 30 homers last season. At third, where Trumbo had eight starts in 2012, four players besides Trumbo had 30-plus homers and just two -- Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre -- had more than Trumbo.

Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers 3B, SS - Ramirez made zero appearances at shortstop with Miami last season after the Marlins acquired Jose Reyes in the offseason, but a trade to Los Angeles made him the Dodgers regular shortstop. Ian Desmond was the only shortstop who had more homers than Ramirez' 24 last season.

Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers C - Martinez missed all of last season with a torn ACL after serving as Detroit's primary DH in 2011. However, he made 26 starts at catcher in 2011 and still holds eligibility there. Martinez' 103 RBIs in 2011 would have tied him for the lead among catchers last season, and his .330 average would have placed second.

The biggest position-eligibility situation to watch in the first few weeks of April will be Toronto's third base spot. With Brett Lawrie dealing with a strained rib cage muscle, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he would consider using Jose Bautista at third base if Lawrie has to miss some regular season games.

Bautista started 25 games at third in 2011 but only played four innings there in 2012. His 27 homers in just 92 games tied for sixth among third-base eligible players last season.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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