No matter how much you study and prepare for your fantasy baseball draft, something unexpected will inevitably happen. Maybe an under-the-radar sleeper you thought only you knew about gets drafted in the middle rounds. Maybe there's a huge positional run. Maybe some of your favorite players continued to fall, so you loaded up at positions you didn't expect to fill in the early rounds.
Whatever the case may be, things will happen on draft day that you didn't anticipate and can't adequately prepare. Therefore, it's crucial to know the point of no return at the infield positions.
While you'll field multiple players at the outfield and pitcher spots—positions that have depth—having a significant disadvantage at an infield position can be a glaring weakness in both head-to-head and rotisserie leagues. How do you combat that? How do you find that aforementioned point of no return? By finding your "safety school" player. Your safest bet and we're covering each position.
You remember the term "safety school," right? It's the one college/trade school you knew you, or a friend/family member could get into if you wanted, even if it wasn't the ideal one. The same concept applies here. Who is the last player in your positional rankings that you'd be willing to begin the season with as a starter? That's your "safety school" player.
Here’s who that player is for me at shortstop in a standard 12-team, 5x5 mixed league.
Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins
2020 162-Game Projection: 90R - 20HR - 80RBI - 6SB - .280 (596 ABs)
You might be thinking, "Who needs a safety net at a position this deep?" The depth of quality players is the biggest reason why you need to know where the point of no return is.
If you play in a league that has SS and MI positions, there's an excellent chance your league has more than 20 shortstops in a starting spot every day. That's why 30 shortstop-eligible players currently have a Top 200 ADP. If you wait too long to get your guy because you believe there's plenty of depth, you're going to be sorry.
So, where's the stopping point? For me, it's my No. 18 shortstop, Jorge Polanco.
Polanco had a breakout season last year with a line of 107-22-79-4-.295. He's been rock-solid since returning from an 80-game PED suspension in July of 2018. He finished 14th among all SS-eligible players on ESPN's player rater last season and should be able to replicate his stats (aside from topping 100 runs) in 2020. Polanco is expected to hit second in a very potent Twins offense, right in front of Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson.
Diving into the projections, Polanco's 90 runs (rank 11th among all SS-eligible players), 20 HRs (17th), 80 RBI (12th) and a .280 batting average (T-10th). His only upside vs. my projections is in the runs category, as he could touch home plate 100-plus times again in this lineup. However, he is a risk to fall short of the modest half-dozen stolen base projection because he did not even attempt a steal after July 6 last season. Given how much power there is in the lineup behind him, one has to imagine he'll be given the red light on the basepaths quite often in 2020.
Polanco ranks as an SS1 in runs, RBI and batting average, and a solid SS2 in home runs. He could be a non-factor in steals, but that's the price you pay for waiting too long at the position. Still, Polanco is a four-category contributor drafted outside the Top 20 SS. He will provide starting-caliber production in all non-speed categories.