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Starting pitcher tiers for Draft Day 2013

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Fact: You need a lot of starting pitchers in Fantasy.

Fact: A lot are available in Fantasy.

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

So many that, as with the outfielders, I had to add a tier to demonstrate the full distribution of talent. This time, though, I added it to the end rather than the beginning.

There's meaning in that.

When you draft a Fantasy Baseball team, you're kind of drafting two teams in one. Though they're treated as interchangeable on Draft Day, pitching and hitting are distinct aspects of the game that require distinct approaches. Thus, any attempts to reconcile the two are far from neat or tidy.

You almost have to treat pitchers like they're a tier lower than their hitter counterparts even though the labels say otherwise. Calling David Price or even Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia anything less than elite would be disingenuous, but would drafting one be as advantageous as drafting an elite hitter? Eh ...

The Elite: Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, David Price, Cole Hamels, Stephen Strasburg, Jered Weaver, R.A. Dickey, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Zack Greinke

The Near Elite: Gio Gonzalez, Yu Darvish, Chris Sale, James Shields, Roy Halladay, Kris Medlen, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Max Scherzer, Adam Wainwright, Aroldis Chapman*, Yovani Gallardo, Jordan Zimmermann

The Next Best Things: Jake Peavy, Jon Lester, Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, C.J. Wilson, Doug Fister, Ian Kennedy, Jeff Samardzija, Tim Lincecum, Jonathon Niese, Matt Moore, Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Alexi Ogando*

The Fallback Options: Hiroki Kuroda, A.J. Burnett, Matt Harvey, Brett Anderson, Anibal Sanchez, Matt Garza, Jarrod Parker, Kyle Lohse, Dan Haren, Ryan Dempster, Ryan Vogelsong, Wade Miley

The Last Resorts: Johan Santana, Tim Hudson, Homer Bailey, A.J. Griffin, Marco Estrada, Shelby Miller*, Phil Hughes, Clay Buchholz, Trevor Cahill, Josh Beckett, Alex Cobb

Strictly Late-Rounders: Matt Harrison, Jeremy Hellickson, Hisashi Iwakuma, Dan Straily, Tommy Hanson, James McDonald, Andy Pettitte, Shaun Marcum, Wade Davis*, Mike Fiers, Ricky Romero, Trevor Bauer, Edwin Jackson, Jason Vargas, Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Brandon McCarthy, Wandy Rodriguez, Chad Billingsley, Tommy Milone, Ervin Santana, Chris Tillman, Mark Buehrle, Miguel Gonzalez

The Leftovers: Dillon Gee, Julio Teheran, Chris Archer, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jaime Garcia, Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm, Vance Worley, Derek Holland, Jeremy Guthrie, Francisco Liriano, Justin Masterson, Felix Doubront, Clayton Richard, Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Beachy, Jeff Niemann, Gavin Floyd, Edinson Volquez, Ivan Nova, Lucas Harrell, Chris Capuano, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers*, Carlos Villanueva, Kyle Kendrick, Mark Rogers, John Danks, Cory Luebke, Travis Wood, Drew Smyly, Franklin Morales, Bud Norris, Jacob Turner, Ross Detwiler, Jeff Karstens, Wily Peralta

It may be a moot point. The Elite are so plentiful at starting pitcher that several will still be available by the time The Elite at all the other positions have gone off the board. But then, if you have to choose between one of the last of The Elite at starting pitcher, like Sabathia, and one of the last of The Near Elite at third base, like Ryan Zimmerman, well, you have a real dilemma on your hands.

Of course, that first tier is so pervasive that some of The Elite, such as Verlander and Kershaw, will inevitably intermingle with The Elite at other positions, perhaps even attaining first-round status. And that's fine. It's the way the tier is supposed to work.

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Personally, though, whether the choice is between an elite pitcher and an elite hitter or an elite pitcher and a near-elite hitter, I'll almost always take the hitter, because, holy heck, look at all of The Near Elite pitchers you can fall back on. Even most of The Next Best Things -- Fister, Niese and Lynn being the exceptions -- have elite potential. To meet it, they need only stay healthy or take the next step forward in their development.

Granted, if I get one of The Elite at a bargain price, I'll scoop him up faster than you can say xFIP, but even in that scenario, he would likely be one of the last of The Elite since I have no intention of drafting two from that tier. Doing so would require me to invest two of my first five picks in pitchers, which wouldn't be taking advantage of the depth at the position.

My ideal approach to the first three tiers is to draft two of The Near Elite and two of The Next Best Things, giving me a moderately deep and potentially high-end staff at a point in the draft when the rest of the league is picking through the scraps in the infield and outfield. If I can't get two and two, one and three isn't so bad. After all, the top three tiers comprise the top 38 starting pitchers. Filling out my top four before the top 48 have gone off the board puts me ahead of the curve in terms of depth.

You'll notice certain players have asterisks (*) next to their names. They're not actually eligibile at starting pitcher yet, having worked almost exclusively in relief last season, but because they're expected to start this season, how they stack up against starters matters more than how they stack up against in relievers. Because they retain relief pitcher eligibility, their value gets a boost in standard Head-to-Head leagues. In formats that don't differentiate between starters and relievers, such as standard Rotisserie, you may want to drop them a few spots (or, in the case of Ogando, an entire tier).

Naturally, I have my favorites among The Last Resorts, and because my starting lineup is more or less complete by that point in the draft, I usually seek them out rather than settling for whatever's left. You can expect to see Griffin, Estrada and Cobb on most of my teams this year.

Chances are a shallower mixed-league draft will reach its end before the second-to-last tier, Strictly Late-Rounders, even halfway empties, but for those who play in deeper formats, I added one last partition. If you have the luxury of picking and choosing, some of my preferred sleepers from those last two tiers are Straily, Tillman, Teheran and Beachy (as an early DL stash).

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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