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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
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(10:21 pm ET) The Astros have optioned outfielder L.J. Hoes to Triple-A Fresno.

Hoes was competing for a bench spot but dealt with a wrist issue recently after being hit by a pitch over the weekend. He went 7 for 25 this spring before being sent down.


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(9:44 pm ET) Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen didn't run out a ground ball in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game and left the field slowly before being officially replaced in the game, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

McCutchen, who dealt with a lower-body injury earlier this spring, said he was fine after coming out of the game. He indicated that he slipped on the plate and throttled things back just to be safe. The outfielder finished the game 1 for 4 at the plate.


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(9:36 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman allowed two earned runs on three hits in five innings while racking up eight strikeouts and issuing zero walks in Wednesday's spring finale against the Pirates.

Tillman gave up both runs on a home run in the second inning by Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez but was excellent aside from the one mistake. He closes the spring with a 2.76 ERA and 18:2 K:BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings. Tillman will square off with the Rays Monday on Opening Day.


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(9:32 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole allowed just one hit and one walk in three scoreless innings while striking out three in Wednesday's spring finale against the Orioles.

Cole closes the spring with a 3.24 ERA and 12:4 K:BB ratio in 16 2/3 innings. He's slated to pitch the taem's second game of the season, leaving him to face the Reds next Wednesday.


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(9:30 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano surrendered one earned run on three hits in three innings while striking out two in Wednesday's spring finale against the Orioles.

Liriano hadn't surrendered a run in nine spring innings heading into Wednesday's game and finishes the spring with a 0.75 ERA and 14:4 K:BB ratio in 12 innings. His next start will come on Opening Day against the Reds Monday.


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(9:03 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis allowed four earned runs on seven hits and one walk in three innings while walking two and giving up three home runs in his team's 10-4 loss to the Rockies Wednesday.

Lewis also served up three home runs in one inning in his spring debut but kept the ball in the park while surrendering three runs in eight innings over his previous two appearances. He closes out the spring with a 9.75 ERA and 5:4 K:BB ratio in 12 innings. Lewis is slated to make his regular-season debut Tuesday against the A's.


Indians first baseman Nick Swisher goes 2 for 3 in spring debut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:59 pm ET) Indians first baseman Nick Swisher went 2-for-3 Wednesday in his first action since undergoing surgery on both knees this offseason, reports MLB.com.

"All I really wanted to do was go out there and have some fun again, man," Swisher said. "I feel like it's been Groundhog's Day for me. It's like the same thing every day. So, to be able to come out here and actually be able to compete at this level was great. It raised my spirits a little bit, for sure."

Manager Terry Francona was happy to get Swisher back in the lineup.

"I think it was really good to get him in a game," Francona said. "I think it was really good for him -- whether he got hits or not. It was nice to see him get on base a couple times. I think it's helpful to him. I think it probably gave him another little push in the right direction. I think he had fun and it makes it feel a little bit closer to the finish line."

He remains without a timetable to return for the regular season.

"I wish I could give you a timetable. I wish I could give you a day," Swisher said. "I'm just going to come back when I feel healthy. Do I feel like I could go and DH for this team and contribute right now? Sure, but that's not all I want to do. I want to make sure I'm able to go to the outfield. I want to make sure I'm able to go to first base and make sure all my movements are fluid and smooth."


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(8:59 pm ET) Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus went 0 for 3 and struck out twice in his return to the lineup Wednesday as the Rangers fell to the Rockies, 10-4.

Andrus was scratched from Monday's lineup due to stiffness in his lower back but missed little time due to the injury. He has hit .359/.381/.590 in 39 spring at-bats.


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(8:56 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Kyle Kendrick surrendered four runs (three earned) on five hits and one walk in five innings while striking out four in his team's 10-4 win over the Rangers Wednesday.

"Personally, I feel ready to go," Kendrick said after the outing, per the Denver Post. "I worked on my curveball this spring and I used it today. That’s something that’s come along and it’s probably something that is going to be big for me this year."

Kendrick wraps up his spring with a 3.98 ERA and 12:5 K:BB ratio in 20 1/3 innings over six starts. He'll next take the mound Monday to face the Brewers on Opening Day.


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(8:51 pm ET) The Rangers reassigned infielder Ed Lucas and outfielder Carlos Peguero to minor-league camp Wednesday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Lucas hit .300/.356/.375 in 40 spring at-bats but also struck out 14 times. Peguero hit .340/.415/.511 while striking out 18 times in 47 at-bats.


 
 
 
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