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First base tiers for Draft Day 2014

Senior Fantasy Writer
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You've heard of two-catcher leagues? How 'bout one that lets me start two first basemen?

In every draft, regardless of format, I find myself wishing I had room for one more. A utility spot alone doesn't cut it. Even a corner infield spot in a Rotisserie league fills up all too quickly.

The Tiers Approach to Draft Day
Tiers are designed to deliver the most efficient draft possible by using player rankings to reveal the distribution of talent at each position. A new tier begins whenever the next player down in the rankings has a vastly different projected outcome from the one 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. -- SW

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

Print Scott's tiers for Draft Day!

While to some degree, that's an indication you can wait at the position, it's a fine line. Sure, you'll find plenty of studs at first base, both potential and proven, but if you pass up all the proven ones in the early rounds, you're left with only potential ones. And the thing about potential is it isn't always met.

In short, the stakes are higher at first base. If by some unfortunate development, everyone ends up with a stud there but you -- which is entirely possible considering the top two tiers go 10 deep (excluding Posey and Santana, who are sure to be drafted as catchers) -- you'll be at a disadvantage even if the player you start there is decent in his own right.

Notice I include David Ortiz here, as well as other DH-only players like Billy Butler and Victor Martinez. You can't actually play them at first base, but since your utility spot would likely go to a first baseman otherwise, tiering them with the first basemen gives you a better concept of when to draft them. I've marked them with an asterisk (*) in case you prefer to keep your utility spot flexible.

The Elite: Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Davis, Prince Fielder
The Near-Elite: Albert Pujols, Freddie Freeman, Buster Posey, Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana, Allen Craig, David Ortiz*
The Next-Best Things: Mark Trumbo, Adrian Gonzalez, Anthony Rizzo, Jose Abreu, Matt Adams, Billy Butler*, Brandon Belt
The Fallback Options: Mark Teixeira, Victor Martinez*, Mike Napoli, Brandon Moss, Kendrys Morales
The Last Resorts: Nick Swisher, Corey Hart, Adam Dunn, Ike Davis, Ryan Howard, Chris Carter, Justin Morneau, Adam Lind
The Leftovers: Justin Smoak, Adam LaRoche, James Loney, Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso, Lucas Duda, Jon Singleton, Darin Ruf, Mark Reynolds, Mitch Moreland, Garrett Jones, Mike Olt

See what I mean about the proven studs? I'm perfectly fine with Pujols as my starting first baseman (his per-game production before shutting it down last year was actually quite good, though not up to his usual standards) and love the strides Hosmer made over the course of the year, but you can't wait half the draft and expect to get any of The Near-Elite. No matter how much you believe in a breakout for Rizzo or trust in the scouting reports for Abreu, you're most likely drafting your top first baseman in the early rounds.

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In fact, the first round is the only way to assure yourself one of the heavyweights at the position. If you've studied the mock drafts, you know they're all gone by the middle of the second round. Just because Goldschmidt is part of a deep tier doesn't mean you shouldn't consider taking him third or fourth overall. That pick may be your only chance at one of The Elite at the position.

The third tier, The Next-Best Things, is the most interesting one. Gonzalez, Trumbo and Butler don't really do anything for me. We've already seen the full extent of their potential, and it's exactly what you'd expect for a middle-round pick. But Adams hit .315 with eight home runs and a .952 OPS as an everyday first baseman in September, and some of the scouting reports for Abreu make him out to be a stud. Sure, you could wait to get both, trusting one to break through as a must-start first baseman, but you leave yourself with no recourse if someone else beats you to the punch. My preferred approach is to draft a first baseman from either The Elite or The Near Elite and then wait to get whichever of Adams and Abreu -- typically Abreu -- lasts the longest. Knowing where they stack up at a deep position buys me some time at utility, allowing me to stock up on starting pitchers earlier than I otherwise would. It's a way to take advantage of the depth at the position while still guarding against the worst-case scenario. Unlike first base, not everyone is going to have a stud at utility.

By the time you get to The Fallback Options, so many first baseman have gone off the board that if you haven't selected one yet, you've basically conceded the position. Yeah, in Head-to-Head points leagues, Martinez is still pretty valuable because of his low strikeout rate and doubles potential, and Teixeira may be able to salvage something yet. But even in a best-case scenario, they won't give you the high-end production everyone else in the league has already secured at the position. In Rotisserie leagues, which typically require a corner infielder in addition to a first baseman and utility player, the tier obviously matters more, but you'll probably find comparable options at the shallower third base position at that stage of the draft.

Among The Last Resorts, Dunn, Howard and Carter still matter in Rotisserie leagues because of their home run potential, but if you have to resort to one of them, you've done something wrong. They're liable to kill you in batting average, assuming they keep their jobs.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott at @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Rockies' Tulowitzki, Gonzalez to start running bases next week
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:32 pm ET) Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez are slated to start running the bases next week, MLB.com reports.

The team is taking it slow with both players after they lost a significant part of the 2014 season to injuries after undergoing surgeries in August. Neither player will see time in Wednesday's Cactus League opener.

"There are still some things they need to do on the field before they're even ready to go into a game -- running bases, specifically," manager Walt Weiss said Saturday. "Last year, we'd have been very happy with the way they're at right now when we thought about their recovery and everything they had to go through. With where they are now, we're very encouraged by it."


Twins' Kurt Suzuki fine after taking pitch off kneecap
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:24 pm ET) Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki said he would be fine after taking a pitch off his kneecap area Saturday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Ryan Pressly slipped while attempting to deliver a changeup during a live batting practice session Saturday, and the ball crossed up the catcher.

"It was my fault," Pressly said. "I just slipped on the mound and yanked a changeup down. The ball caught (Suzuki) in the meaty part right between the shinguard and the padding. There's a little spot where he's vulnerable."

Manager Paul Molitor said Suzuki wasn't added to the team's post-workout injury report.


Girardi: Yankees 'taking it slow' with Carlos Beltran
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:15 pm ET) The Yankees are taking things slow with outfielder Carlos Beltran, and he won't be rushed into full throwing drills until he indicates he's ready, NJ.com reports.

"We're just taking it slow," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's done some throwing. We don't feel, with five weeks of games, there's really any reason to rush him. Guys do their work. But let's make sure he feels really good where he's at and we feel really good about where he's at."

Beltran had a bone spur removed from his elbow in October. He dealt with the issue throughout last season and hit just .233/.301/.402 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI in 403 at-bats. Beltran has performed light throwing drills and taken part in batting practice since reporting to camp Wednesday.


Miguel Montero trying to become workhorse with Cubs in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:00 pm ET) New Cubs catcher Miguel Montero played the third most games behind the plate of all catchers in 2014 and he's not asking for any extra time off heading into 2015, reports MLB.com.

"I think the results of how you're playing as a team will dictate how you feel," Montero said. "You go to the playoffs, you're never tired. Your adrenaline goes so fast. You don't have time to think about, 'Oh, I've been catching 140 games.' Your mindset is, 'Let's go.'"

Manager Joe Maddon loves what he's seen from Montero, but knows expecting 162 games out of him is just too much.

"It won't be 162," Maddon said, "but we'll talk and try to figure out a nice little program to keep him on top of his game and provide that opportunity for other guys to play, too."


Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer focused bouncing back in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:56 pm ET) Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer is ready to get back on the field in 2015. After posting a 5-8 record with a 4.18 ERA in 26 starts last year, Bauer is starting to throw earlier than he usually does, reports MLB.com.

"This is the first time I've finished a year in the big leagues, so I had a month extra of season," Bauer said. "So that's one less month of the offseason. I'm used to targeting about the middle of February to be ready to go in games, so when I come to spring training I'm at peak level to try to make the team. That was really tough to do this offseason, just because I couldn't start throwing until Nov. 1."

Manager Terry Francona is not worried about his pitcher's focus for the upcoming season.

"Regardless of what you tell him, I think he has his own things that drive him every time he goes out," Francona said. "There's maybe a different purpose every time, but there's something he's trying to strive for. I don't think he really picks up a ball very often without a goal. Sometimes, I know he even charts it, just because it keeps him motivated to do the things he's aiming for."


Royals' Terrance Gore: 'I know I've got work to do'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:52 pm ET) Royals outfielder Terrance Gore served a key role in the team's postseason run in 2014 as a speedy pinch runner, but he's set to begin the season back in the minors to continue working on his hitting, MLB.com reports.

"They know I can do that job," Gore said. "But I have to handle the stick a little better. My bunting can improve. My hitting can improve."

Gore hit just .218/.284/.258 with 36 stolen bases in 252 at-bats with high Class A Wilmington last season. He also added 11 stolen bases while going 5 for 20 with Triple-A Omaha.

"If I could just hit .260 or .270, I'd steal 100 bases," Gore said. "I was hitting like .220 last year and still stole almost 50."

Jarrod Dyson is set to serve as the team's primary reserve outfielder.


Reds' Bryan Price singles out Nick Travieso
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Reds manager Bryan Price singled out the work of pitching prospect Nick Travieso before Saturday's workout, MLB.com reports.

"We get the reports, so we're looking at our players, but when you get to see these young guys perform, it leaves more of an impression than group of statistics. He's been great," Price said of Travieso. "He's a physical guy who's throwing at the bottom of the strike zone, which is very important to see guys that don't just have arm strength but bottom-of-the-strike-zone command. He's has a very, very good slider. He's a yes-sir, no-sir guy. The rest of the organization is excited about him too. It gave me even more excitement to see him personally."

Travieso wasn't completely satisfied with Saturday's live batting practice session but liked his finish.

"I think I started off trying to do a little too much," Travieso said. "I didn't have my best stuff today so I tried to compensate by throwing it harder. Tucker Barnhart behind the plate kind of calmed me down and told me to get in line with my front shoulder. After that, everything was pretty smooth."

Travieso, who was named the team's minor-league pitcher of the year in 2014, went 14-5 with a 3.04 ERA and 114:44 K:BB ratio in 142 1/3 innings with Class A Dayton last season.


Astros' Jon Singleton ready to fight off disappointing 2014 season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Astros first baseman Jon Singleton is ready to put the 2014 season in his rear view mirror. Singleton hit a woeful .168 with 13 home runs and 44 RBI in 310 plate appearances in 2014.

"To be honest, I believe the only competition I have is myself," Singleton said. "I feel like I'm the only person who can prevent myself from reaching the potential I need to reach or getting out of the game what I need to get out, but if I prepare and I work and I leave it all out there, there's nothing really else to worry about."

Manager A.J. Hinch thinks Singleton is a threat to hit 30 home runs this year.

"He's done what he needs to do this offseason to come in and improve off of, not only a tremendous Minor League career, but his start to the Major League career last year, which was mixed," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "My money's on Jon Singleton to do the things he needs to do to make this club."


Dodgers C Yasmani Grandal impressing early at camp
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:33 pm ET) Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has impressed at Camp Boomer, presided over by Dodgers coach Steve "Boomer" Yeager, MLB.com reports.

"I like what I see and what I hear from him," Yeager said. "It takes time to gain the respect of the pitching staff and teammates whenever a catcher comes from somewhere else, but some of them already know him. In the old Dodger tradition, we've welcomed him with open arms. He has come in with a good attitude; you don't have to go looking for him. He's right there, ready to go to work."

Grandal was acquired this offseason as the centerpiece in the trade that sent outfielder Matt Kemp to San Diego.

"In a short time, I've already learned a lot," Grandal said. "Getting to know the guys, catching bullpens, I'm getting a feel for how they throw. Everything comes with time. Once the games start [on Wednesday], it'll definitely come a little faster. I need to get to know what guys are looking for in a catcher, what their mentality is. Some guys like you to give them a pat on the back. With others, it's a different approach."

Grandal is expected to share time behind the plate with incumbent starter A.J. Ellis this season.


Phillies backup catcher spot up for grabs
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) The Phillies know Carlos Ruiz will be their opening day starter behind the plate. However, manager Ryne Sandberg is unclear as to who will backup Ruiz when the season begins, reports Philly.com.

"That's one of the areas in camp I think there's some competition," Sandberg said. "[I] need some game reps and game situations to really see them. I like the way that they're all going about it as a group. To get them into games and see how that goes, that will play big in that decision."

Cameron Rupp, Koyie Hill and John Hester are all vying for the position. Rupp is considered the favorite, according to the report, with the most pro experience, hitting .183 with six RBI and four runs scored in 60 plate appearances last season.

"Nothing's handed to anybody," Rupp said, "so I come out every day looking to get better, work on things that I need to improve on, and put my best foot forward."


 
 
 
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