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2013 Draft Prep: Tiers revisited

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Remember back in February when I presented my tiers at each position, one by one.

That was a while ago, wasn't it?

Looking back at them now, they seem a bit outdated. Much has changed since then. Games have been played. Injuries have been suffered. Drafts have been conducted. Minds have been changed -- most notably, mine.

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 here, just in time for the biggest draft stretch of 2013, are my updated tiers.

In case you're new to the concept, 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.

Get it? Good.

Now, get to reading. Chances are your draft is only a few hours away.

Catcher

The Elite: Buster Posey

The Near Elite: Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana

The Next Best Things: Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, Matt Wieters, Wilin Rosario, 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

The Last Resorts: Yasmani Grandal, John Jaso, J.P. Arencibia, Russell Martin, Tyler Flowers, Jason Castro, Mike Zunino, Wilson Ramos, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Ellis

The Leftovers: Chris Iannetta, Welington Castillo, Devin Mesoraco, Kurt Suzuki, Erik Kratz, Rob Brantly

To prevent Posey from having a tier unto himself in the initial go-round, I forced Mauer and Santana into the first tier with him and was never completely satisfied with that arrangement. Here, I bumped them to the second tier and dropped Molina, Miguel Montero, Wieters and Rosario to the third tier, which better reflects how I've been drafting.

Because that third tier is so large, it's the one I'm going to target unless Posey, Mauer or Santana just happens to fall to me. I've found I can sometimes get McCann or Lucroy as late as Round 16 in mixed leagues.

Castro, who didn't even make the cut in the initial tiers, is one of The Last Resorts now. Joining him is Flowers, who was initially one of The Leftovers. Both have won me over with their spring performances.

First base

The Elite: Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Buster Posey

The Near Elite: Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Gonzalez, Joe Mauer, Allen Craig, Billy Butler, Carlos Santana

The Next Best Things: Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, Ike Davis, Anthony Rizzo

The Fallback Options: David Ortiz*, Victor Martinez*, Paul Konerko, Mike Napoli, Ryan Howard, Mark Trumbo, Nick Swisher, Eric Hosmer

The Last Resorts: Corey Hart, Justin Morneau, Adam LaRoche, Adam Dunn, Kevin Youkilis, Chris Davis, Matt Carpenter, Brandon Belt, Todd Frazier, Mark Teixeira, Kendrys Morales, Lance Berkman, Yonder Alonso

The Leftovers: Michael Cuddyer, Mark Reynolds, Michael Young, Brandon Moss, Chris Carter, Justin Smoak, Adam Lind, Garrett Jones, Tyler Colvin, Chris Parmelee, Mitch Moreland

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I'm a little more comfortable with the way these tiers shape up this time around. The injuries to Teixeira and Ortiz (yes, I'm tiering the latter with the first basemen even though he doesn't qualify at the position -- hence, the asterisk) allow me to drop Encarnacion to the second tier, which is probably more suitable given the risk associated with him. Truthfully, I'd rather have him in the third round than Butler in the fifth, but slotting him in the first tier felt equally disingenuous.

The line between The Next Best Things and The Fallback Options is fairly thin at this position, with Konerko, Howard and Hosmer capable of performing on the level of Goldschmidt, Freeman and Rizzo. I feel like the latter group is a bit safer, though.

Just because it seemed to be a source of confusion the first time around: Yes, I know Posey isn't as valuable at first base as Fielder or Pujols, but you know just as well as I do that you shouldn't be drafting him at first base at all. If you hope to get him as your catcher, that's where you'll have to draft him. Same goes for Mauer, Santana and Napoli.

Second base

The Elite: Robinson Cano

The Near Elite: Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Ben Zobrist

The Next Best Things: Aaron Hill, Rickie Weeks, Brandon Phillips, Jason Kipnis, Jose Altuve

The Fallback Options: Chase Utley

The Last Resorts: Dan Uggla, Danny Espinosa, Marco Scutaro, Neil Walker, Dustin Ackley, Howard Kendrick

The Leftovers: Jemile Weeks, Brian Roberts, Jurickson Profar, Daniel Murphy, Gordon Beckham, Chris Nelson, Kelly Johnson, Omar Infante, Tyler Greene, Cliff Pennington, Jeff Keppinger

This position is the most unchanged from the first batch of tiers, but that doesn't mean it's any better off.

At least now you can count on Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko gaining eligibility at the position early in the season, and of course, Josh Rutledge was always in line to do so. All three would rank among The Fallback Options at the position.

In the weeks I've had to reflect on my initial batch of tiers, I've come to realize that I just don't trust Uggla. Yeah, he has power, but if last year was the start of a decline, I'm not sure he'll make enough contact to get anything out of it. If I still don't have a second baseman when I reach the point in the draft when he's the best available at the position, I'll keep waiting. Espinosa and Ackley might actually be upgrades.

I'm not particularly enthusiastic about drafting Utley either, but in Head-to-Head leagues, he deserves some distinction for his walk rate alone.

Third base

The Elite: Miguel Cabrera

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

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

The Fallback Options: David Freese, Will Middlebrooks, Kyle Seager, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Moustakas, Matt Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko, Kevin Youkilis

The Last Resorts: Todd Frazier, Manny Machado, Lonnie Chisenhall

The Leftovers: Michael Young, Trevor Plouffe, Chris Nelson, Alex Rodriguez, Josh Donaldson, Juan Francisco, Jeff Keppinger, Matt Dominguez

Try as I might, I just can't bring myself to knock Headley down a tier even with his fractured thumb. It's a straightforward break, so chances are he'll miss just the first two weeks of the season. If anything, I welcome the opportunity to wait even longer for one of The Near Elite at the position.

Hanley Ramirez is a different story. He's out two months with a thumb injury of his own, and I wasn't as high on him to begin with. His shortstop eligibility counts for something, though. Third base offers enough up-and-comers in the later rounds that Ramirez is still draftable at about the same point you'd be taking Sandoval.

I've extended The Fallback Options since the first go-round, coming to realize that separating Alvarez and Moustakas from Middlebrooks and Seager is kind of silly. Plus, I wanted to fit Carpenter and Gyorko into that tier because of their impending eligibility at second base. Youkilis at the end is kind of a tweener. I like him more in Head-to-Head than Rotisserie.

Shortstop

The Elite: Troy Tulowitzki

The Near Elite: Jose Reyes, Ben Zobrist

The Next Best Things: Starlin Castro, Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins, Asdrubal Cabrera, Elvis Andrus, Hanley Ramirez

The Fallback Options: Derek Jeter, Josh Rutledge

The Last Resorts: Danny Espinosa, Marco Scutaro, Alcides Escobar, Erick Aybar, J.J. Hardy, Everth Cabrera, Alexei Ramirez, Andrelton Simmons, Jed Lowrie, Jean Segura

The Leftovers: Stephen Drew, Zack Cozart, Jhonny Peralta, Billy Hamilton, Yunel Escobar, Tyler Greene, Cliff Pennington, Eduardo Nunez, Dee Gordon

Again, Hanley Ramirez takes a hit here because of the thumb injury, though again, he doesn't drop more than one tier. Good thing he's eligible at weak positions, unlike the Curtis Granderson-Mark Teixeira division of the walking wounded.

Otherwise, this position is mostly unchanged from the first batch of tiers. I've come to value Castro and Desmond over Rollins, and I've come to appreciate Segura's base-stealing prowess, tacking him on to the end of The Last Resorts, but that's about it.

Outfield

The Unmatched: Ryan Braun, Mike Trout

The Elite: Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Bautista, Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez, Justin Upton

The Near Elite: Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Matt Holliday, Adam Jones, Allen Craig, Bryce Harper, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes, Shin-Soo Choo, Alex Gordon

The Next Best Things: B.J. Upton, Alex Rios, Michael Bourn, Desmond Jennings, Martin Prado, Austin Jackson, Melky Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Shane Victorino

The Fallback Options: Carlos Beltran, Josh Willingham, Michael Morse, Andre Ethier, Nelson Cruz, Mark Trumbo, Nick Swisher, Nick Markakis, Carl Crawford, Carlos Gomez, Ben Revere, Norichika Aoki

The Last Resorts: Corey Hart, Dexter Fowler, Wil Myers, Jayson Werth, Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, Josh Reddick, Ichiro Suzuki, Alejandro De Aza, Ryan Ludwick, Alfonso Soriano, Chris Davis, Brett Gardner, Matt Carpenter, Domonic Brown, Leonys Martin, Ryan Doumit, Adam Eaton, Jason Kubel

The Leftovers: Coco Crisp, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Quentin, Torii Hunter, Denard Span, David Murphy, Jon Jay, Aaron Hicks, Lorenzo Cain, Starling Marte, Emilio Bonifacio, Brandon Moss, Andy Dirks, Justin Ruggiano, Matt Joyce, Cody Ross, Colby Rasmus, Lucas Duda, Juan Pierre, Michael Saunders, Michael Brantley, Garrett Jones, Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Colvin, Oscar Taveras, Drew Stubbs, Nate McLouth, Chris Young, Darin Mastroianni

The introduction of The Unmatched at this position threw some people last time. To clarify, it doesn't mean I think Braun and Trout are more valuable than Miguel Cabrera, who I labeled The Elite at third base. It just means that I needed an extra tier to sort out the abundance of outfielders, and because Braun and Trout clearly deserve a tier to themselves, adding it to the front end made more sense than adding it to the back end.

For a position with so many options, the changes here are relatively few. I dropped Holliday out of The Elite because he was always the last man standing of that group -- and sometimes for two or three rounds. Obviously, I dropped Granderson a tier since he'll miss the first 6-8 weeks of the season with a broken forearm. I also decided Hart, Fowler, Myers, Werth, Pence and Pagan belong with The Last Resorts instead of The Fallback Options.

Most notably, though, I moved three of my favorite sleepers -- Carpenter, Brown and Martin -- up high enough for me to have a shot at them. Crazy to think Brown didn't even make the list the first time around. Now, he's one of the players I target in every single draft.

Starting pitcher

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, Yu Darvish, Zack Greinke

The Near Elite: Gio Gonzalez, Chris Sale, James Shields, Mat Latos, Kris Medlen, Max Scherzer, Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright, Yovani Gallardo, Jordan Zimmermann, Jon Lester, Josh Johnson

The Next Best Things: Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy, Brandon Morrow, Ian Kennedy, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore, C.J. Wilson, Tim Lincecum, Doug Fister, Mike Minor

The Fallback Options: Jonathon Niese, Lance Lynn, Alexi Ogando*, Hiroki Kuroda, Anibal Sanchez, Matt Harvey, Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Dan Haren, Marco Estrada, A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, Ryan Vogelsong, Alex Cobb, Homer Bailey

The Last Resorts: Ryan Dempster, Wade Miley, Tim Hudson, A.J. Griffin, Matt Garza, Matt Harrison, Hisashi Iwakuma, Trevor Cahill, Shelby Miller*, Clay Buchholz, Jeremy Hellickson, Phil Hughes, Johan Santana

Strictly Late-Rounders: Tommy Hanson, James McDonald, Mike Fiers, Julio Teheran, Wade Davis*, Kyle Lohse, Shaun Marcum, Edwin Jackson, Jason Vargas, Mark Buehrle, Ervin Santana, Andy Pettitte, Ricky Romero, Trevor Bauer, Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Brandon McCarthy, Wandy Rodriguez, Chad Billingsley, Tommy Milone, Erasmo Ramirez, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Dillon Gee

The Leftovers: Jeremy Guthrie, Carlos Villanueva, Kyle Kendrick, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Vance Worley, Derek Holland, Jaime Garcia, Dan Straily, Chris Archer, Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm, Justin Masterson, Francisco Liriano, Felix Doubront, Clayton Richard, David Phelps, Brandon Beachy, Jeff Niemann, Gavin Floyd, Ivan Nova, Lucas Harrell, Wily Peralta, Ubaldo Jimenez, Andrew Cashner, John Danks, Ross Detwiler, Bud Norris, Jacob Turner, Cory Luebke, Jose Quintana, John Lackey, Brett Myers*, Ricky Nolasco, Mike Leake, Drew Smyly, Jeff Karstens, Travis Wood, Bartolo Colon, Scott Diamond, Edinson Volquez

Those of you who thought I included too many starting pitchers in The Elite the first time around might want to shield your eyes. I only added to the tier this time, bringing Darvish up from The Near Elite. Look, I know there's a difference between Price and Cain, but it's not as big as the difference between, say, Robinson Cano and Ian Kinsler or Buster Posey and Carlos Santana. I'd rather play the tiers with hitters in the early rounds, and lumping together as many of the high-end pitchers as I can allows me to do just that.

Lester's and Johnson's big springs have me thinking they're set to rebound, so I now slot them with The Near Elite. Halladay's struggles, meanwhile, drop him alongside other risk-reward types like Peavy, Morrow, Samardzija and Lincecum in The Next Best Things.

We've reached the point in draft season when I have to slot my sleepers higher to ensure that I get them, which explains why Estrada, Beckett and Cobb now rank among The Fallback Options. Niese actually dropped there from The Next Best Things, but it's mostly a perception issue. I feel as good about him as ever. I just know I can wait to get him.

Among the Strictly Late-Rounders, Teheran, Ervin Santana, and Ramirez are personal favorites of mine. None of them were really on my radar when I did this same exercise about a month ago.

Keep in mind that the players with asterisks next to their names don't qualify at starting pitcher to begin the season, but that's the role they'll fill during the season.

Relief pitcher

The Elite: Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman

The Near Elite: Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Motte, Fernando Rodney, Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, Rafael Soriano

The Next Best Things: Sergio Romo, Jim Johnson, Tom Wilhelmsen, J.J. Putz

The Fallback Options: Huston Street, Greg Holland, Glen Perkins, John Axford

The Last Resorts: Joel Hanrahan, Casey Janssen, Grant Balfour, Chris Perez, Addison Reed, Rafael Betancourt, Jason Grilli, Steve Cishek

Strictly Late-Rounders: Brandon League, Kenley Jansen, Ryan Madson, Bobby Parnell, Ernesto Frieri, Carlos Marmol, Bruce Rondon, Kyuji Fujikawa

For as much turnover as you'll see at the closer position during the season, not much has happened during spring training. Obviously, Chapman is a closer now, giving Kimbrel company in the first tier, but most of the changes here are injury-related.

With Janssen, Balfour and Perez all less than certain for opening day, the top four tiers are looking kind of thin. On a related note, Reed, Betancourt, Grilli and Cishek no longer seem as risky as they once did, so I no longer consider them Strictly Late-Rounders.

Besides, they deserve some distinction from the closers who are likely to lose their jobs at some point (League and Marmol) and the relievers who will likely take their place (Jansen and Fujikawa).

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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