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Third base tiers for Draft Day 2013

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Gauging depth at a position isn't so difficult when you know which players are good.

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 what if you don't? What if a position offers so many with a history of disappointment and so many others with no history at all that distinguishing the good from the not so good feels almost like guesswork?

Third base is in a period of transition. As the mainstays at the position become older and more injury prone, the next wave of talent races to close the gap.

So is it a weak position? Certainly not compared to second base or shortstop. Is it a strong position? Well, that all depends on how you assess the second and fifth tiers -- on how trustworthy you consider The Near Elite to be and how close you believe The Last Resorts are to replacing them.

The Elite: Miguel Cabrera

The Near Elite: Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, Ryan Zimmerman, Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Chase Headley

The Next Best Things: Aramis Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Martin Prado, Brett Lawrie

The Fallback Options: David Freese, Kyle Seager, Will Middlebrooks

The Last Resorts: Pedro Alvarez, Mike Moustakas, Kevin Youkilis, Todd Frazier, Manny Machado

The Leftovers: Alex Rodriguez, Jedd Gyorko, Michael Young, Trevor Plouffe, Matt Carpenter, Chris Nelson, Chris Johnson, Nick Castellanos, Josh Donaldson, Juan Francisco, Lonnie Chisenhall

For me, the answers are "still pretty trustworthy" and "not especially close," which means I see third base as a top-heavy, not so deep position.

So then, my approach to the position on Draft Day shouldn't surprise you: accept nothing less than The Near Elite.

Really, I don't understand why anyone would approach it differently. The tier is six deep, so you shouldn't have to sacrifice much to get in on it. If you focus on other positions first (and you should, precisely because the tier is so deep), you'll still be able to snag one of those third basemen in the fourth or fifth round, after just about all of The Elite and The Near Elite have gone off the board at other positions.

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And it's a good tier. Granted, none of those players compares to Cabrera, but comparing anyone to the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years is unfair. In a best-case scenario, each of those six is capable of numbers that would be elite at just about any other position.

But I suppose if you get sidetracked by pitching early, The Near Elite could easily pass you by. Or heck, maybe you genuinely don't want one of the six because you don't foresee a best-case scenario for him. Maybe, for example, Zimmerman's numbers over the last two years have you thinking he's not the same player he was in 2009 and 2010. Considering a cortisone shot in his balky shoulder propelled him to a .321 batting average and .967 OPS over his final 90 games last year, I disagree, but you're entitled to your opinion. I don't have the technology to visit the future and prove you wrong.

Likewise, Longoria has been banged up for a couple years now. Beltre is on the verge of his 34th birthday. Hanley Ramirez is just getting by even with shortstop eligibility. Wright hasn't been much of a power hitter since the Mets moved to Citi Field. Headley only became a power hitter last year. You have an excuse for each of them if you want to make one.

But do you? Though the position offers some reasonably good middle- and late-round alternatives, the risk only increases as you move down the ladder. Truthfully, Aramis Ramirez and Sandoval probably have about the same upside as the six players in the The Near Elite, but for one reason or another, they're less likely to meet it. Ramirez is a year older than Beltre and has proven to be the more susceptible to injuries in recent years, and Sandoval's endless weight issues jeopardize both his health and productivity.

After them and the steady-but-unspectacular Prado is where that next wave of talent begins. Lawrie and Seager stand out from Alvarez, Moustakas, Frazier and Machado because they offer some measure of speed, with Lawrie getting an additional bump because his upside is perceived to be the highest. That distinction mostly just applies to Rotisserie leagues, though. In Head-to-Head play, the power-speed combination isn't as big of a deal.

And then there's Middlebrooks, who has less than a full year under his belt. Between that and his poor plate discipline, you might say he's just as flawed as any of The Last Resorts, but ... eh, I just like him a little more. Unlike Moustakas, he's already proven his viability in the majors, and unlike Frazier, he doesn't have to worry about a journeyman-loving manager finding some Miguel Cairo type to start over him.

The Last Resorts, flawed as they may be, really are your last line of defense at this position. You won't find much productivity among the remains, unless you hope for an Alex Rodriguez sighting in the second half. Gyorko and Castellanos are both prospects who could get a shot at some point this season, and Chisenhall is a former prospect finally in line for everyday at-bats. But for the most part, The Leftovers are players you just plain don't want.

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
Padres' Middlebrooks, Solarte competing for starting role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:23 pm ET) Padres third basemen Will Middlebrooks and Yangervis Solarte are competing for the third base job this spring, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune

Manager Bud Black admitted third base was the "biggest" competition in camp. He said he believes both players can hack it in the majors, but was hesitant to say he would utilize them in a platoon role. 

"Possibility," Black said, "but I think any player will tell you he wants to be an everyday player -- they want to play. And they’re both young, they’re both in their mid-20s. You hope it’s a tough decision at the end, but these things have a way of working themselves out."

Middlebrooks, 26, hit .191 over 215 at-bats last season. Solarte hit .260/.336/.369 over 469 at-bats. 


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"It's exciting," Sano said. "I feel pretty good. I feel healthy. Nothing has been bothering me. I've been throwing 100 percent every time."

Manager Paul Molitor is keeping a close eye on Sano's progress this spring.

"I was monitoring how he was doing on the drills, and he didn't have any issues with that elbow," Molitor said. "I thought it was a good day, playing the Gophers, to get some of our young guys the chance to play. And I know people want to see him play, so it's a good thing."


Yankees' Stephen Drew still learning in transition to second base
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(8:16 pm ET) Yankees second baseman Stephen Drew knew the switch from playing shortstop to second base wasn't going to be easy. Drew committed an error on the very first ball hit to him this spring.

"Coming over last year, what I was learning was that angle. Just totally different," Drew said. "The ball comes off the bat a little different on guys. That's definitely going to be something that I'm learning through this whole thing. That won't go away after I learn it. I'm going to work all through Spring Training to get those angles knocked out."

Drew is expecting to take reps exclusively at second throughout spring training, allowing Did Gregorius and Brendan Ryan to get their chances at shortstop.


Diamondbacks' Rubby De La Rosa gets off to strong start
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(8:16 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Rubby De La Rosa got off to a strong start on Wednesday against the Rockies. 

De La Rosa allowed one hit over two scoreless innings. He struck out two during the outing. The 26-year-old was acquired by the club during the offseason, and is expected to compete for a role in the team's rotation this spring. 

De La Rosa posted a 4.43 ERA over 101 2/3 innings last season. 


Braves' Jace Peterson to play both second base and shortstop this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:11 pm ET) Braves infielder Jace Peterson has the inside track to start at second base for the club this season and manager Fredi Gonzalez was impressed with his play in the spring training debut Wednesday. Peterson doubled and drew two walks in the game.

"He smoked that ball," Gonzalez said. "I like his ability and that you can run him out there at shortstop and let him play that position. We'll play him back and forth on the diamond and see what happens."

Gonzalez knows he has the ability to step in and play very soon.

"You like his baseball abilities, his makeup and his character," Gonzalez said. "He's not just a throw-in [in the trade], he's a baseball player."


Athletics' Jesse Chavez tosses two scoreless innings
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:10 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Jesse Chavez tossed two scoreless innings in his spring debut on Wednesday.

Chavez is competing for the fifth spot in the team's rotation, and made his case during his first appearance. Chavez allowed two hits and one walk over two innings of work. He struck out one during the outing. 

Chavez said he was nervous for the start, but embraces the competition. "I like the competition," he said. "Every year there's a competition, especially for me in my situation. So I embrace it, I like it, and I think it's challenging for all of us here and will bring out the best in us."

The 31-year-old posted a 3.45 ERA over 146 innings last year. 


Braves outfielder Eric Young steals two bases in spring debut
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(8:06 pm ET) Braves outfielder Eric Young is making his case to be a starter for the team this spring. Youn went 0-for-1 Wednesday with two walks and two stolen bases. 

"I'm pleased with the first day," Young said. "I'll just continue to get the work out there."

President of baseball operations John Hart thinks he has the speed to take the job.

"He's got the one ingredient that you want in center field in that he can fly," Hart said. "He's a [plus] runner. We've got time to get ready for him. He's eager to play center field. Somebody will be playing center field. EY got off to a good start. He has the make, and what he brings is a little different dynamic."


Pirates' Hurdle on Cole's spring debut: 'A good step forward'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:02 pm ET) Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Wednesday that pitcher Gerrit Cole "did fine" in his spring debut, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

"He probably threw more pitches than he wanted to in the first inning," Hurdle said. "But he didn't back off and kept the damage to a minimum. He had some good angle to his breaking balls and used his two-seamer well. A good step forward."

Cole, who surrendered one earned run on one hit and one walk while striking out three in two innings Wednesday, said he wasn't worried about the outcome but wanted to get on the same page with new catcher Francisco Cervelli.

"I told (Cervelli) I wasn't going to shake him off," Cole said. "I was just going to see how he wanted to do my stuff so he could get a feel for how he wants to call the game. I think it'll be that way for probably awhile. He'll get some information. I'll get some information, and then we'll probably sit down (to talk)."


Brewers' Jim Henderson returns to action with strong game
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(7:45 pm ET) Brewers reliever Jim Henderson turned in a strong inning of work on Wednesday.

Henderson, who missed the second half of last season due to shoulder surgery, got in his first game action in months. He pitched a scoreless inning, striking out two during the appearance. Henderson did allow one walk.

Following the game, Henderson said he was glad to be back out there. "It felt great to have that umpire back there and a hitter in there," Henderson said. "I think I threw two balls in a row and had to remind myself, 'Just treat it like a live BP type of thing and just focus on the glove.' That's was all I was concerned about."

The 32-year-old Henderson posted a 7.15 ERA over 11 1/3 innings before being shut down last year. He's expected to open the season in Milwaukee's bullpen.


Melvin: Athletics' Matt Olson 'very impressive' in camp
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:39 pm ET) Athletics manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday that first-base prospect Matt Olson has been "very impressive" this spring in his first big-league camp, MLB.com reports.

"He's been very impressive," said manager Bob Melvin. "Works hard, and you can tell just by watching him take BP that he's our type of hitter. He has the power, he's got a great eye. Even some of the reports I've heard about him pulling the ball, you can see in BP he stays the other way at times and certainly identifies where the baseball is very early."

Olson drew the start at designated hitter Wednesday after Billy Butler was scratched due to a stomach bug. The 2012 first-round pick went 0 for 3 at the plate but did notch an RBI on a groundout. Olson hit .262/.404/.543 with 37 home runs and 97 RBI in 512 at-bats with high Class A Stockton last season.


 
 
 
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