This piece lists every player I'd consider drafting in a standard mixed league, sorts them by position, and divides them into tiers.
Mostly, it exists for that final purpose -- the tiers, defined as groups of players expected to perform at more or less an equal level. For a full explanation of tiers and their uses, you should look for Part 1 of the Draft Day Dos and Don'ts series. But to summarize, tiers tell how long you can wait to draft a player at a particular position by knowing when that position will have its next statistical drop-off.
If several players remain in the tier currently "in play" for a position, you know you can wait to select a player at that position. But if only one player remains, you know you should probably go ahead and select him.
|Download a Draft Kit! | Join a Mock Draft!|
|Sign up to play FREE Fantasy Baseball|
I didn't design these tiers with any particular scoring format in mind, meaning they might look different depending on how your league weighs some of the more flexible statistics, such as strikeouts and stolen bases. Again, I designed them for standard 10-or-12-team mixed leagues, so if you play in a deeper format, you might want to add another tier or two to each position.
But no matter the league type, these tiers should at least give you a starting point for creating your own blueprint -- a guide to knowing when to draft which players in order to make yourself as well-fortified across the diamond as possible.
Note: The last tier at each position often has a wider range of player values since the tier approach no longer applies by that point in the draft. The draft should theoretically end in the middle of that tier, so in the final rounds, you pretty much just want to grab the players you like most from that final tier without considering how many players remain in the tier.
Known mostly as a wasted position in Fantasy over the last few years, catcher has suddenly become top-heavy thanks to the emergence of Geovany Soto and the continued emergences of Brian McCann and Joe Mauer. The three join Russell Martin to give the position a clear elite tier of four players.
And that's not even counting Victor Martinez, the one-time mainstay at the top of the position. He certainly has the talent to join the elite tier, but the elbow injury that sapped him of his power last year clearly makes him a bigger risk than any of the top four and, hence, a lower tier.
Unlike in years past, the catcher position has a third tier worthy of distinction, as up-and-comers Ryan Doumit, Chris Iannetta and Matt Wieters have enough talent to distinguish themselves from the mostly uninspiring options jumbled at the bottom of position.
Yes, as usual, catcher ends in a mass of marginal stat producers, none significantly better than the others. A few notable options -- Jorge Posada, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jeff Clement -- have more upside, but all of them have serious question marks. Needless to say, if you can't get any of the top nine players at the position -- and quite often, you'll have to reach for one -- just take whatever you can get at the end of the draft.
The Elite: Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Joe Mauer, Geovany Soto
The Near-Elite: Victor Martinez
The Fallback Options: Ryan Doumit, Chris Iannetta, Matt Wieters, Bengie Molina
Last Resorts and Sleepers: Jorge Posada, Mike Napoli, Dioner Navarro, Yadier Molina, Kelly Shoppach, Ramon Hernandez, Brandon Inge, Chris Snyder, Kurt Suzuki, A.J. Pierzynski, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jeff Clement, John Baker, Jesus Flores, Gerald Laird, Taylor Teagarden, J.R. Towles, Rod Barajas, Miguel Olivo, Jason Varitek
At the most dominant offensive position in Fantasy, the fact only one player -- Albert Pujols -- appears among the elite might come as a shock to you.
|An owner can't start a first base tier without Albert Pujols. (US Presswire)|
But just because he clearly stands head and shoulders above the rest of the players at his position doesn't necessarily mean you have to make him your first priority on Draft Day. No, first-base remains the deepest position in Fantasy, with a full seven players expected to perform at a near-elite level and three more -- Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and Aubrey Huff -- capable of performing just as well, though each with a slightly lower ceiling.
Huff actually gets a tier all to himself after having a monster season with little track record to support it. If the heightened production continues, he'll equal Youkilis and Gonzalez in terms of Fantasy value, but if it doesn't, he'll disappear into the lengthy list of last resorts.
Of course, The Last Resorts at first base still deserve to start in most Fantasy leagues -- another testament to the position's depth. Among that group, Joey Votto stands out as the most likely player to rise to a higher tier.
Again, because of first base's inherent depth, the position gets an additional tier at the end, Strictly Late-Rounders. In this tier, you'll find a few more players that could conceivably go off the board in the final rounds of a mixed-league draft, each with his own measure of sleeper potential, so don't forget about them when rounding out your Fantasy roster.
Note: Because too few Fantasy-relevant DH-only players exist to give the position its own set of tiers, and because so many Fantasy owners look to first base to fill their DH slots anyway, I've decided to count all relevant DH-only players as first basemen for the purposes of this piece. Any player with an asterisk (*) next to his name qualifies only at DH.
The Elite: Albert Pujols
The Near-Elite: Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, Lance Berkman, Justin Morneau, David Ortiz*, Prince Fielder
The Next-Best Things: Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez
The Fallback Option: Aubrey Huff
The Last Resorts: Carlos Delgado, Garrett Atkins, Joey Votto, Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee, Chris Davis, Jim Thome*, Conor Jackson, James Loney, Jorge Cantu
Strictly Late-Rounders: Hank Blalock, Jason Giambi, Travis Hafner*, Paul Konerko, Carlos Guillen, Billy Butler, Nick Johnson, Gary Sheffield*, Mike Jacobs, Casey Kotchman, Adam LaRoche, Pablo Sandoval, Nick Swisher, Todd Helton
At a position where Chase Utley once towered over the rest of the pack, Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia significantly closed the gap last season, giving second base a clear three-headed monster at the top of the position much like the "Big Three" at shortstop.
But with one crucial difference.
After that three-headed monster goes off the board, second base still offers some early-round players before settling into the overall mediocrity of the position. With Brian Roberts, Brandon Phillips, Alexei Ramirez and Dan Uggla, you might not get elite numbers, but you'll get numbers good enough to give you an advantage over the competition most of the time.
The inevitable drop-off does eventually occur after Uggla, though, and you might notice an entire tier, The Next-Best Things, missing as a result. It usually falls between The Near-Elite and The Fallback Options, so its absence should indicate to you the extent of the statistical drop-off after the first seven players go off the board.
But if you miss out on any of those first seven players, you have six more opportunities to redeem yourself before the position gives way to The Last Resorts, which feature a collection of deep sleepers and slap hitters -- neither of which you can trust for Fantasy-relevant numbers. If you have to select from that group, you might as well not bother until the last round or two of the draft.
The Elite: Ian Kinsler, Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia
The Near-Elite: Brian Roberts, Brandon Phillips, Alexei Ramirez, Dan Uggla
The Fallback Options: Robinson Cano, Kelly Johnson, Mark DeRosa, Jose Lopez, Placido Polanco, Mike Aviles
The Last Resorts: Rickie Weeks, Kazuo Matsui, Blake DeWitt, Alexi Casilla, Orlando Hudson, Howie Kendrick, Freddy Sanchez, Aaron Hill, Asdrubal Cabrera, Akinori Iwamura, Clint Barmes, Jeff Baker, Felipe Lopez, Emmanuel Burriss
On to shortstop, where the Big Three of Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins remain as far removed from the rest of the position as ever. In fact, you'll notice the position skips an entire tier, The Near-Elite, and moves on to The Next-Best Things.
But in that tier, you'll also notice some hope for the future in Stephen Drew, whose performance last year, particularly in the second half, suggests he might approach that elite trio sometime in the near future. If you whiff on the Big Three, then you want Drew, and hopefully you won't have to reach to get him.
If Ramirez, Reyes, Rollins and Drew all go off the board before you have an opportunity to pounce, you might as well bide your time until the latter stages of the draft. Among The Fallback Options, Rafael Furcal has a chance to join Drew if he can stay healthy. So does Troy Tulowitzki, if he can overcome his sophomore slump. For the most part, though, the tier offers an unappetizing jumble of players who all hit about .285, pop a dozen or so home runs and cross home plate only slightly more often than the average player.
And as if the position couldn't get any worse, The Last Resorts at shortstop offer surprisingly few sleepers, with Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera (and Edgar Renteria, if he can turn back the clock) the most likely players to step up and distinguish themselves as worthwhile mixed-league options.
The Elite: Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins
The Next-Best Thing: Stephen Drew
The Fallback Options: Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki, Rafael Furcal, J.J. Hardy, Jhonny Peralta, Michael Young, Jed Lowrie, Mike Aviles, Miguel Tejada, Yunel Escobar, Orlando Cabrera
The Last Resorts: Edgar Renteria, Ryan Theriot, Asdrubal Cabrera, Cristian Guzman, Elvis Andrus, Jerry Hairston, Ben Zobrist, Clint Barmes, Bobby Crosby, Khalil Greene, Jason Bartlett, Emmanuel Burriss
With Alex Rodriguez recovering from hip surgery, third base now has only one clear first-rounder in David Wright. Sophomore Evan Longoria certainly has the upside to join him, but his inexperience -- and in some formats, his strikeouts -- confines him to the next-best tier.
Just like at first base, Aubrey Huff gets a tier all to himself after having a monster season with little track record to support it. If the breakout continues, he belongs with The Near-Elite, but if he reverts back to his old numbers, he belongs with The Fallback Options. Considering the current level of uncertainty surrounding him, he should go somewhere in between.
Chipper Jones obviously slots in with The Fallback Options because of his propensity for injury. His percentages say he belongs with The Near-Elite, but his projected number of at-bats says otherwise.
The rest of the third-base position consists of essentially one player. He goes by many names, but he hits .270 with 20-25 home runs. Obviously, Chone Figgins is an exception as the lone pure base-stealer at the position. Alex Gordon, Hank Blalock and Ian Stewart also have the upside to exceed those numbers. Generally speaking, though, if you miss out on the first four tiers of third basemen, you can wait to sort through the leftovers in the last round or two of the draft.
The Elite: David Wright
The Near-Elite: Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, Aramis Ramirez
The Next-Best Thing: Aubrey Huff
The Fallback Options: Chipper Jones, Garrett Atkins, Chris Davis, Ryan Zimmerman
Last Resorts and Sleepers: Chone Figgins, Mark DeRosa, Jorge Cantu, Mark Reynolds, Edwin Encarnacion, Mike Lowell, Adrian Beltre, Alex Gordon, Troy Glaus, Hank Blalock, Carlos Guillen, Melvin Mora, Casey Blake, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Blake DeWitt, Ian Stewart, Andy LaRoche
Compared to the other players discussed so far in this piece, outfielders obviously require a somewhat different approach since, in virtually all Fantasy leagues, you start more than one -- sometimes as many as five.
|Grady Sizemore makes up an elite tier of Fantasy outfielders. (US Presswire)|
Then again, with so many players available at the position, the tiers tend to overlap more in the outfield than at other positions, with the distinctions not quite as decisive from tier to tier.
Generally speaking, though, you'll at least keep pace with the competition if you select a total of two players from the first three tiers.
The Elite: Grady Sizemore, Carlos Quentin, Josh Hamilton, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Lee, Ryan Braun
The Near-Elite: Manny Ramirez, Nick Markakis, Jason Bay, Vladimir Guerrero, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, B.J. Upton
The Next-Best Things: Nate McLouth, Jacoby Ellsbury, Bobby Abreu, Alex Rios, Shane Victorino, Magglio Ordonez, Vernon Wells, Ryan Ludwick, Curtis Granderson, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Adam Dunn
The Fallback Options: Corey C. Hart, Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Milton Bradley, Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier, Pat Burrell, Raul Ibanez, Brad Hawpe, Rick Ankiel, Chris B. Young, Delmon Young, Hunter Pence, Torii Hunter, Shin-Soo Choo, Conor Jackson, Jayson Werth, Elijah Dukes, Denard Span, Ryan Spilborghs
Last Resorts and Sleepers: Nelson Cruz, Lastings Milledge, Eric Byrnes, Hideki Matsui, J.D. Drew, Mark DeRosa, Justin Upton, Xavier Nady, Cameron Maybin, Coco Crisp, Willy Taveras, Juan Pierre, Brian Giles, Jeff Francoeur, Jeremy Hermida, David DeJesus, Mike Cameron, Randy Winn, Jody Gerut, Kosuke Fukudome, Adam Jones, Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham, Nick Swisher, Jose Guillen, Carlos Gomez, Fred Lewis, David Murphy, Jack Cust
Just like with outfielders, you can afford to finesse the tier approach a bit with starting pitchers since you need so many and can choose from so many more.
Add the wrinkle that starting pitchers tend to shift in value, with even some of The Last Resorts having the potential to join The Elite, and you can understand why so many Fantasy owners choose to forego the first or second tier entirely, instead loading up on pitchers in the third and fourth tiers.
Tiers almost have a different meaning for starting pitchers. They don't describe a player's upside or statistical ceiling as much as they indicate the likelihood he'll pitch at an elite level. Granted, someone like Tim Lincecum has more talent than someone like James Shields, but generally speaking, the tiers for starting pitchers allow for more overlap.
Typically, Fantasy owners aim for a total of two pitchers from the first three tiers, though you can aim for more or fewer as your personal tastes dictate. Note that the position gets an additional tier at the end to account for the volume of Fantasy-relevant players available.
The Elite: CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, Brandon Webb, Roy Halladay
The Near-Elite: Cole Hamels, Jake Peavy, Dan Haren, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett
The Next-Best Things: Chad Billingsley, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Edinson Volquez, James Shields, Ervin Santana
The Fallback Options: Francisco Liriano, Adam Wainwright, Scott Kazmir, Yovani Gallardo, John Lackey, Rich Harden, Ricky Nolasco, Carlos Zambrano, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Joba Chamberlain, Zack Greinke, Josh Johnson, Brett Myers, Matt Garza, Aaron Harang, Erik Bedard, Matt Cain, John Danks
The Last Resorts: Javier Vazquez, Kevin Slowey, David Price, Max Scherzer, Ted Lilly, Gavin Floyd, Jered Weaver, Chien-Ming Wang, Chris R. Young, Scott Baker, Jair Jurrjens, Jordan Zimmermann
Strictly Late-Rounders: Gil Meche, John Maine, Ubaldo Jimenez, Derek Lowe, Brandon Morrow, Mike Pelfrey, Randy Johnson, Clayton Kershaw, Wandy Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, Justin Duchscherer, Armando Galarraga, Johnny Cueto, Jonathan O. Sanchez, Manny Parra, Fausto Carmona, Micah Owings, Ian Snell, Koji Uehara, Andy Sonnanstine, Todd Wellemeyer, Paul Maholm, Kenshin Kawakami, Mark Buehrle, Jeremy Guthrie, David Purcey
This section obviously focuses on closers, where the distinction between the top three tiers -- The Elite, The Near-Elite and The Next-Best Things -- remains paper-thin, but still worth noting if for no other reason than to point out when during a draft you can expect each player to go off the board.
If you choose to skip an elite or near-elite option at a position, you should probably make relief pitcher the position of choice. In doing so, your bullpen would consist entirely of players in the third tier, The Next-Best Things -- all of whom could conceivably perform at an elite level -- or any of the somewhat riskier options in the tier that follows.
Considering the importance of role to a relief pitcher's Fantasy value and the fact so many roles remain undecided as of this piece's publication, these tiers make a few assumptions, most notably that Brad Ziegler, George Sherrill and Brandon Lyon will close for their respective teams. If any of Joey Devine, Chris Ray or Fernando Rodney ends up closing instead, feel free to swap him with his respective counterpart.
The Elite: Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera
The Near-Elite: Brad Lidge, Joakim Soria, Brian Fuentes, Jose Valverde
The Next-Best Things: Kerry Wood, Jonathan Broxton, B.J. Ryan, Bobby Jenks, Carlos Marmol, Francisco Cordero
The Fallback Options: Brian Wilson, Huston Street, Chad Qualls, Matt Capps, Trevor Hoffman, Mike Gonzalez, Frank Francisco
The Last Resorts: Matt Lindstrom, Heath Bell, Joel Hanrahan, Chris Perez, Troy Percival, Brandon Lyon, Brad Ziegler, George Sherrill
Worth Monitoring, But Not Drafting: Chris Ray, Joey Devine, Kevin Gregg, Fernando Rodney, Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour
You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Tiers in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.