Outfield tiers for Draft Day 2013
And here's where the tiers approach goes out the window.
Well ... if you let it.
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
At every other offensive position, your goal is to wait for that one perfect moment when selecting that one perfect player maximizes the value of your pick. But you don't draft just one outfielder. You draft three or five, depending on your format, so waiting until only one or two remain at a particular tier isn't necessarily the best way to go.
Granted, if only one or two do remain, you should still probably select from that tier. No sense settling for a drop-off in talent when you don't have to. But you can't rely on the tiers as your sole impetus for making a pick. You have to finesse it a bit. You have to rely on intuition and whatever you've gleaned from the CBSSports.com draft averages.
Or you could treat the outfield as sort of the yin to every other position's yang. Actually, starting pitcher works kind of the same way. When first base, second base, third base, shortstop and catcher leave you without a no-brainer pick, then the next outfielder is himself the no-brainer pick.
The Unmatched: Ryan Braun , Mike Trout
The Elite: Matt Kemp , Andrew McCutchen , Jose Bautista , Giancarlo Stanton , Josh Hamilton , Carlos Gonzalez , Justin Upton , Matt Holliday
The Near Elite: Adam Jones , Jason Heyward , Jacoby Ellsbury , Ben Zobrist , Curtis Granderson , Allen Craig , Jay Bruce , Bryce Harper , Yoenis Cespedes , Shin-Soo Choo , Alex Gordon
The Next Best Things: Melvin Upton , Alex Rios , Michael Bourn , Desmond Jennings , Martin Prado , Austin Jackson , Melky Cabrera , Shane Victorino
The Fallback Options: Hunter Pence , Carlos Beltran , Josh Willingham , Nick Markakis , Andre Ethier , Carl Crawford , Michael Morse , Angel Pagan , Nelson Cruz , Mark Trumbo , Nick Swisher , Carlos Gomez , Corey Hart , Dexter Fowler , Jayson Werth , Nori Aoki , Ben Revere , Wil Myers
The Last Resorts: Josh Reddick , Ichiro Suzuki , Adam Eaton , Alejandro De Aza , Ryan Ludwick , Ryan Doumit , Alfonso Soriano , Chris Davis , Jason Kubel , Brett Gardner , Coco Crisp , Michael Cuddyer , Brandon Moss , Carlos Quentin
The Leftovers: Torii Hunter , Denard Span , David Murphy , Jon Jay , Justin Ruggiano , Emilio Bonifacio , Lorenzo Cain , Matt Joyce , Cody Ross , Colby Rasmus , Starling Marte , Darin Mastroianni , Lucas Duda , Aaron Hicks , Drew Stubbs , Chris Young , Michael Saunders , Andy Dirks , Dayan Viciedo , Nate McLouth , Garrett Jones , Juan Pierre , Leonys Martin , Michael Brantley , Logan Morrison , Matt Carpenter , Rajai Davis , Jonny Gomes , Oscar Taveras , Tyler Colvin
Right off the bat, you'll notice I added a tier, The Unmatched, at the position. Outfield being as diverse as it is, an additional tier is usually necessary to demonstrate the full distribution of talent. This year, adding it to the top made the most sense since Braun and Trout are in a different stratosphere from everyone else. It doesn't necessarily mean they're a tier above The Elite at every other position, though if not for Miguel Cabrera at third base, they would be.
Plus, calling Kemp and McCutchen anything less than elite seems disingenuous. They're first-rounders in their own right. They're just not Braun or Trout, and the distinction is worth noting. Under no circumstances would you draft Kemp or McCutchen with Braun and Trout still on the board.
Of course, under no circumstances would you draft Justin Upton or Holliday with Kemp or McCutchen on the board either, but I had to draw the line somewhere. With all the mock drafts available on CBSSports.com, you should have a pretty good idea how much sooner Kemp and McCutchen deserve to go off the board than the best of that next bunch, be it Bautista, Stanton or Hamilton. Six or seven picks sounds about right.
And again, drafting Kemp or McCutchen doesn't preclude you from drafting another of The Elite. True, using two of your first three picks on outfielders generally isn't the wisest play, but that's just the way it goes sometimes. Let's say you're up for your third pick after taking McCutchen and Clayton Kershaw with your first two. All the first-tier first basemen are gone. All the second-tier second basemen and shortstops are gone. You know you can get a Ryan Zimmerman or Chase Headley type with your fourth-round pick, and you don't want to take another pitcher here. Well then, you might just have to bite the bullet and take Holliday.
Otherwise, you're settling. Wouldn't you rather be ahead of the game at one position than behind it at two?
The Near Elite and The Next Best Things are probably the tidiest of the outfield tiers. In our most recent Head-to-Head mock draft, Jones and Heyward were actually the last of The Near Elite to go off the board (both to me, strangely enough) even though I consider them the best the tier has to offer, so I'm confident those 11 players are more or less interchangeable. And though some of The Fallback Options -- specifically, the first nine -- could put up numbers on par with The Next Best Things, they all have enough health or consistency issues to drop them a tier, placing them alongside the Fowlers and Aokis of the world.
As with first base, outfield is deep enough that some of The Last Resorts and The Leftovers deserve more recognition than those designations allow them. Eaton's combination of patience, speed and extra-base power makes him one of my favorite sleepers this year, and whichever of Mastroianni and Hicks wins the starting center field job in Minnesota will matter in more leagues than not. And of course, you could slot players like Hunter, Span, Murphy, Jay and maybe even Dirks a tier higher in Head-to-Head points leagues.
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