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Catcher tiers for Draft Day 2013

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Remember when the catcher position consisted of Victor Martinez (whose eligibility at the position is up for debate entering 2013), Joe Mauer, Brian McCann and everybody else? It wasn't so long ago, really.

The Tiers Approach to Draft Day
Tiering is a method of doctoring positional rankings so that players of similar value are bundled into groups. A new group begins whenever the next player down in the rankings has a vastly different projected outcome from the player preceding him. Reducing a position to five or six tiers instead of 30 or more individuals gives you a blueprint to follow as your league's draft unfolds. Naturally, the position to target is the one whose active tier is closest to completion. -- Scott White

Tiers: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP

But when you compare the position now to the position then, it seems like ancient history.

For us longtime Fantasy owners, catcher is as deep as ever, and it was made only deeper last year with the emergence of Wilin Rosario, Salvador Perez and Jonathan Lucroy.

Of course, a deeper position has its drawbacks. The key to gaining an advantage at any position is to recognize when the biggest drop-off in talent occurs and to wait until just before that point to strike.

But the more bountiful the tiers, the more they tend to bleed together ...

The Elite: Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana

The Near Elite: Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, Matt Wieters, Wilin Rosario

The Next Best Things: Brian McCann, Salvador Perez, Jonathan Lucroy, Mike Napoli, Jesus Montero

The Fallback Options: A.J. Pierzynski, Ryan Doumit, Carlos Ruiz, Alex Avila, Travis d'Arnaud, Yasmani Grandal

The Last Resorts: John Jaso, J.P. Arencibia, Russell Martin, Mike Zunino, Wilson Ramos, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Ellis

The Leftovers: Chris Iannetta, Kurt Suzuki, Welington Castillo, Tyler Flowers, Erik Kratz, Rob Brantly

The potential for overlap begins with the first tier, which Posey could have conceivably filled all by himself. Then again, most positions have a clear top player. If each occupied his own tier, you'd have no idea which position to target first because each active tier would be on the verge of completion. When establishing your tiers, you don't want every jump in talent reflected, only the most significant. Creating a bunch of one-player tiers doesn't do anybody any good.

Sometimes, it's justified, like in the case of Miguel Cabrera at third base, but in this case, Mauer's and Santana's most-likely scenarios are close enough to Posey's that settling for one wouldn't be a huge downgrade at the position. Shoot, Mauer finished only 27 points behind Posey in Head-to-Head leagues last year, and that wasn't even the best he can do (as we saw in 2009).

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The blending of the tiers is even more evident among The Near Elite, with Rosario the main point of contention. Part of me says he has to be in the same tier as Perez and Lucroy, seeing as their narratives are so similar to this point, but putting Lucroy in the same tier as Molina certainly doesn't feel right. Ultimately, I decided Rosario's power potential, which is shaping up to be tops at the position, is enough to set him apart from the other two in Rotisserie leagues, though the effect his poor plate discipline figures to have on his Head-to-Head numbers might just convince me to drop him to The Next Best Things in those formats, leaving a second tier of Molina, Miguel Montero and Wieters.

So far in my early drafting, I've found that Lucroy is typically the last of The Next Best Things to go off the board, most often to me. I think he's half a step better than Napoli and Jesus Montero -- or at least safer than those two -- but if tiering them all together prevents me from reaching for the Brewers catcher, so be it. It's not like having to settle for Napoli or Montero would be some great tragedy.

Among The Fallback Options, you'll find your overachievers (Pierzynski), your underachievers (Avila) and the players who, for one reason or another, won't be available at the start of the season (Ruiz, d'Arnaud, Grandal). Yeah, you'll want to make contingency plans for that last group, but they're all worth stashing, at least to start out. If everything breaks their way, they'll perform at the level of The Next Best Things.

Many of The Last Resorts are legitimate candidates to be drafted in standard mixed leagues, and naturally, players like Jaso, Arencibia, Zunino and Ramos could end up paying big dividends. But unlike in past years, when waiting to gamble on a high-upside catcher in the late rounds was an advisable move, doing so now with all the high-end options available at the position puts you in an early hole.

In order for it to work out, you'll really need for your guy to pan out.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Phillies' Carlos Ruiz staying fresh this spring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:51 pm ET) Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz won't be used much this spring, according to MLB.com.

The 36-year-old won't catch much during camp in order to keep him fresh. Manager Ryne Sandberg confirmed that the team has a plan with Ruiz. "We kind of have a program for him," Sandberg said. "I'm going to get him behind the plate as needed the first half of Spring Training here. Get him to DH the other games. We also have a chance to get him some at-bats when they start [in the Minor League camp]."

Ruiz is on board with the move. "That's the plan until the middle of Spring Training, to be in good shape for the end of the season," Ruiz said. "I'm still catching bullpens in the morning and doing all my work. To keep fresh."

Ruiz hit .252/.347/.370 over 381 at-bats last season. 


Giants' Brandon Crawford to play on Monday or Tuesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:08 pm ET) Giants infielder Brandon Crawford should play the field on Monday or Tuesday, according to CSN.

Crawford is dealing with a sore shoulder, but was able to get through a full workout on Friday. He played during Friday's game, but was used as the designated hitter. Crawford, 28, hit .246/.324/.389 over 491 at-bats last season. 


Royals' Yordano Ventura knocked around on Friday
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7:02 pm ET) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was knocked around in his spring debut against the Indians.

Ventura allowed four runs on four hits in just one inning of work. He issued two walks, and struck out one during the appearance. After a breakout season in 2014, Ventura is pretty much guaranteed a rotation spot, so there's no real reason to panic about the performance.

The 23-year-old posted a 3.20 ERA over 183 innings last season. 


Tigers' Alex Avila to return on Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:54 pm ET) Tigers catcher Alex Avila is set to return to the club on Saturday, according to MLB.com.

Avila missed the past three days while on paternity leave. His wife gave birth to the couple's second daughter on Wednesday. Avila will return to the lineup once he arrives at camp. Manager Brad Ausmus confirmed that Avila will be in the lineup on Saturday.

The 28-year-old Avila hit .219/.327/.359 over 390 at-bats last season. 


Reds' Homer Bailey tosses third bullpen session
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:50 pm ET) Reds pitcher Homer Bailey was able to toss his third bullpen session on Thursday, according to MLB.com.

While he's made progress following offseason arm surgery, there's still no timetable for Bailey to face hitters. "Before he gets too far into the live BP, we'll probably want to start to integrate a few breaking balls and make sure his recovery is good," Reds manager Bryan Price said. He added that Bailey's recovery has been "so far, so good." 

Bailey, 28, posted a 3.71 ERA over 145 2/3 innings last season. 


Royals' Kendrys Morales looking slimmer this spring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:34 pm ET) Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales is looking slimmer this spring, according to MLB.com.

Morales lost about 12 pounds during the offseason after revamping his diet. Morales wouldn't reveal the specifics of his diet, just saying he consumed "less food" during the offseason. Morales added that he was happy with his current weight, and doesn't plan to lose any more.

The 31-year-old hit .218/.274/.338 over 367 at-bats last season. 


Astros' Brett Oberholtzer goes two strong innings in debut
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:25 pm ET) Astros pitcher Brett Oberholtzer tossed two innings in his spring debut.

Oberholtzer gave up four hits and one unearned run during the appearance. He struck out two, but did not issue any walks. Oberholtzer is competing for a spot in the team's rotation this spring. The 25-year-old posted a 4.39 ERA over 143 2/3 innings last season. 


White Sox's Jesse Crain to face hitters next week
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:16 pm ET) White Sox reliever Jesse Crain will face hitters next week, according to MLB.com.

Crain is working his way back from shoulder issues, but has been able to participate in bullpen sessions. He threw his third session on Friday, and was cleared for live batting practice next week. 

Pitching coach Don Cooper seemed happy with Crain's progress. "He's doing nothing but climbing," he said. "It's visible. We're excited." 

Crain is hoping to pitch during spring training, but said he won't rush himself back to the mound. He said his familiarity with the White Sox led him to re-sign with the club in the offseason. "They know what I can do and know what I need to be ready."

Crain sat out the entire 2014 season due to arm issues. 


Red Sox's Rusney Castillo able to work out on Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:58 pm ET) Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo was able to get in a light workout on Friday, according to MLB.com.

Castillo is dealing with an oblique injury, but isn't expected to miss much time. Manager John Farrell confirmed that Castillo was able to get some work done on Friday. "Yeah, he did some work in the pool today, in addition to the elliptical," Farrell said. "He's starting to gain a little rotational movement. We may even put a ball in his hand tomorrow to do some light throwing." After that, Castillo will progress to running. 

Castillo is expected to open the season as the club's starter in center. He hit .333 in 36 at-bats last year.


Angels' Josh Rutledge viewed as the favorite at second
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:45 pm ET) Angels infielder Josh Rutledge is considered the favorite for the second base job, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Rutledge is competing with a number of players, including Grant Green and Johnny Giavotella, this spring. Rutledge has the most experience of the group, which could give him the edge.

The 25-year-old hit .269/.323/.405 over 309 at-bats last season. 


 
 
 
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