The question of whether or not to overpay for a hitter based on position is one that is almost as old as the game itself. From the beginning, Roto players could see that drafting 24 catchers from a pool of 28-30 meant that some teams were going to get stuck with an absolute scrub at the end of the auction. So should you overpay Joe Mauer or Brian McCann by a few bucks so that you don't get stuck with a scrub?
Yes, but with limits on how far over par you'll go.
It's worth dragging this chart back out from my previous post to show the depth at each position.
2006 A.L. Average Earnings by Position
These are the average earnings at each position. The top 24 catchers; top 18 1B, 2B, 3B and SS; and top 60 OF were taken together and their stats averaged for each position.
Notice that, with the exception of catchers, the idea of position scarcity is turned on its head. Outfield is stronger than 2B, but only $1.72 stronger; hardly an endorsement for spending big bucks on Brian Roberts or Robinson Cano this year.
There is another way to look at position scarcity, though.
2006 A.L. Weakest by Position
These are the 24th best catcher; 18th best 1B, 2B, 3B and SS and 60th best OF, based on Alex Patton $ earnings for 2006. It is important to note that this list is not from Auction Day 2006 but from the entire season. The OF pool, for example, includes Bobby Abreu's A.L. stats; the SS pool includes Jason Bartlett's.
This chart changes the landscape a little. Obviously, no one wants to own the worst player at any position. But if you own the worst SS, you'll need to get more production out of your other positions than if you own the worst 3B or OF, and much more than if you own the worst 1B. Surprisingly, 2B was the deepest position in the American League last year; getting $6.5 worth of value from the last 2B on the list is an amazing feat, quite frankly.
What the second chart tells you is that if you pay a $1 for a bum in the endgame, this is your likely level of production. There's a chance you'll lose a little money, believe it or not, if you just pick up a nothing catcher. SS will barely gain you anything. 1B or 2B will get you enough profit, either through the draft or the free agent pool, that you don't have to chase the top guys at the position.
So what should you do about Joe Mauer?
I'd chase him a couple of bucks higher, but not too far.
If you have Mauer at $29 on your draft sheet, and push him to $32, and he earns $29, you'll take a $3 loss. But you'll also earn money at a position where it's hard to earn money. However, Mauer at $40 is folly...you're taking a double digit loss just to have production at a position. Sucking away $10+ worth of value from your roster at any position is foolish. At that point, two $1 catchers who earn nothing will give you less of a dollar loss, and you'll still have the $38 you would have spend on Mauer to spend on productive players elsewhere in your lineup.