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14 HANDY MEN

VERSATILE DEFENSIVE PLAYERS ARE HAVING A MOMENT—AND THEY'RE NOT ALL GLOVE
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IF YOU find yourself struggling to keep track of who's on first this season, you're not alone. As managers search for ways to create offense and shore up defense—while carrying more pitchers than ever before—they've begun to look for versatility from every roster spot, seeking players who can slot in wherever and whenever they're needed. And these are not your grandfather's light-hitting defensive replacements. Ben Zobrist has been the 10th-most-valuable player (as measured by WAR) in baseball since jump-starting this trend with the Rays in 2008; in '15, Boston's Brock Holt (right) became the first player to be named to the All-Star Game after starting at seven positions before the break. Last season the Cubs' Kris Bryant was the first MVP to start more than 45 games in both the infield and the outfield. We're on track to see even more Swiss Army knife players this year.

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

NUMBER OF UTILITY PLAYERS IN MLB BY YEAR (IN ZOBRISTS)*

= 5 utility players

1986

53

1996

50

2006

52

2016

67

*Players with at least three games a season at three or more positions—including at least one infield and one outfield spot (or catcher and any two others)