Tiers for the Modern Drafter

Everyone likes the tiers. I get it. What I do not get is why anyone would ever tier someone like Ben Revere with Marcell Ozuna. Sure, both are outfielders but the similarity ends there. Would you tier your favorite pizza joints with your go-to sushi spots? I mean, it’s all food, right? Yeah, me neither.

I wrote an article not long ago that looked into hitters who could potentially give us a combination of at least 15 HR and 15 SB in 2015. It provided a solid list of guys who can be had at various points throughout the draft for those looking to keep a balanced approach throughout the majority of their offense. At the end of the write up, I also suggested that drafters consider pairing up hitters that complement each other nicely ala Marcell Ozuna and Denard Span. “Hey, Marcell, really like that Maserati you pulled up in this morning.” “Thanks, Denard. I’m just trying to keep up with that Aston Martin of yours.” Such gentlemen these two are! Each of these players are likely to be available between picks 120 and 180 in 2015 standard 5×5 drafts. Early NFBC ADP data shows Ozuna being picked at 130 on average with Span coming in at 182.  A pairing of Ozuna and Span could combine to average two players who would give you an 80/15/65/15/.280 slash line.  That’s essentially like getting two Jason Heyward’s. The same Jason Heyward who happens to be going off the boards at 81 overall on average based on the early NFBC ADP data.

The traditional way of putting together tiers for each position is lazy. We fantasy baseball people are far more sophisticated nowadays and it’s time to embrace a new way of thinking with it comes to tiers. I especially like to use this strategy for outfielders. There’s such a wide range of different types of stat contributors in the outfield that I like to go with four tiers. Having a tier for power, speed, power/speed combo, as well as a tier of guys who do not fit any of the first three groups will allow me to understand the depth of the various types of stat contributors available to me as I try to make up for any deficiencies built up throughout a draft.

Using tiers in this manner becomes even more important as you move deeper into a draft. By the time you start looking at taking someone like Ben Revere or J.D. Martinez you probably should have an idea where your deficiencies are. If you find yourself short on power but with enough speed to catch a cheetah you should look to your power tier to get an idea of how soon you need to pull the trigger on a home run producing bat to balance out your roster.

The Power Tier – A chance at 25+ HR with less than 10 SB

Criteria: These outfielders do not have C, 2B, 3B, or SS eligibility and had less than 10 SB in 2014, plus one of the following…

  • Been there done that with 25+ HR in one of the past two seasons for player below age 35. (Example: Yoenis Cespedes) In 2014, 9 of 12 OFs who reached 25+ HR had done so in one of the two previous seasons. The exceptions were Matt Kemp (injury), Lucas Duda (First chance at 500+ ABs), and Marlon Byrd (Previously had 24 HR).
  • Two-year HR incline that exceeded 20 HR in 2014. (Example: Marcell Ozuna)
  • Two-year HR decline that dropped below 20 HR for player age 35+. (Example: Jayson Werth)
  • Common Sense Disqualifications (Example: Raul Ibanez/Alfonso Soriano)
  • Common Sense Additions (Example: Bryce Harper/Yasmany Tomas)

Adam Jones: Option 1-A on this list.

Jose Bautista: 1-B to Adam Jones with only the age concern separating the two.

Justin Upton: A slightly younger, less accomplished version of Adam Jones.

Matt Kemp: Among the best bats in the game during 2014’s second half.

Corey Dickerson: Power bat that plays in Colorado. ‘Nuff said.

George Springer: The most likely player on this list to be a true power/speed combo threat but knee injury concerns keep him on the power-only list.

Bryce Harper: The power is real but he’s also overrated. Still, barring injury there’s no reason he can’t reach 25+ HR in 2015.

Nelson Cruz: DH status gives him a better chance at season-long health. Safeco Field actually played better for righty power hitters than Camden Yards in 2014.

Yoenis Cespedes: 2014 landing spot is unknown but he can approach 25+ HR just about anywhere in a full season.

Jay Bruce: His 18 HR in 2014 seems like the aberration for this generally reliable 30-HR bat.

Mark Trumbo: Health might be all that keeps him from posting the second highest HR total for NL outfielders.

Ryan Zimmerman: Hopefully a move to 1B helps revive his potent bat in 2015.

Marcell Ozuna: After posting 23 HR at age 23, Ozuna seems destined to be a premier power hitting OF for years to come.

J.D. Martinez: If not for Steve Pearce (below), he would have been viewed as the least likely player to make this list heading into the 2014 season.

Jorge Soler: Based on common sense and the Cuban-Masher Theory (no such thing, or is there?), Soler could easily reach 25 HR in 2015. If Soler winds up being picked higher in 2016 drafts on average than fellow Cuban OF, Yasiel Puig I would not be surprised in the least. Get this one while he’s still relatively cheap.

Brandon Moss: Off-season hip surgery is reason to be concerned.

Oswaldo Arcia: Marcell Ozuna-lite. This 23-year-old masher just put up 20 HR in 372 ABs in 2014.

Yasmany Tomas: Tomas is the ultimate wild card of the group. He falls under the common sense qualifier. Comparisons range from Dayan Viciedo to Nelson Cruz but a season matching Marlon Byrd’s 2014 output seems like a reasonable ceiling to hope for.

Steve Pearce: His arrival on this list would have been viewed as the most unlikely heading into the 2014 season.

Marlon Byrd: Who invited the old guy to the party? At age 37, Father Time is working against Byrd’s chances of reaching 25 HR ever again.

Khris Davis: After hitting 11 HR in 136 ABs in 2013, this Davis was supposed to crack 40 HR in 2014, right? Ah the dangers of extrapolation. Still, the “other” Khris Davis did manage to double his HR total to 22 in 2014 and for that reason he meets criteria #3

Domonic Brown: Meets criteria #1. Stupid criteria!

That’s it. Twenty three names make this power tier. Notable players who did not make the cut are Josh Reddick, Colby Rasmus, Curtis Granderson, Dayan Viciedo, Josh Hamilton, and Carlos Beltran.


The Speed Tier: A chance at 20+ SB with less than 10 HR

Criteria: These outfielders do not have C, 2B, 3B, or SS eligibility and had less than 10 HR in each of the past two seasons, plus one of the following…

  • Been there done that with at least 20 SBs in one of the past two seasons with a success rate of at least 65% in 2014.
  • Common Sense Disqualifications (Example: Juan Pierre)
  • Common Sense Additions (Examples: Anthony Gose, Dalton Pompey)

Billy Hamilton: The possibility that there could be a season somewhere north of 80 SBs at least once in his career keeps him at the top of this list. But is he really that much better than the third guy on this list?

Christian Yelich: 2015 might be a huge breakout for Yelich as he makes his way towards becoming more of a player for the power/speed combo tier. With Dee Gordon joining him at the top of the Marlins’ lineup we may see even more SBs out of Yelich in 2015 than what he gave us a season ago.

Ben Revere: Like Rodney Dangerfield, Ben Revere gets no respect! Don’t sleep on Revere though. He can steal near as many bases as Billy Hamilton and is likely to have a higher batting average as well. Since Revere can be had quite a bit later in most drafts, he’s an easy guy to pair with a power bat. Pair up Revere with a bounce back power candidate like Jay Bruce or Mark Trumbo and you could come smelling like a genius. I just imagined sniffing Stephen Hawking. Weird!

Denard Span: In 2014 it felt like Span was finally allowed to be the standard leadoff hitter we all knew he could be. Hopefully 2015 provides more of the same. Span is another bat you can pair up with a power bat later on to create a nice power/speed combo on you roster.

Leonys Martin: Because Martin is not guaranteed a top lineup spot in Texas he’s a fallback option if you miss out on guys like Revere or Span.

Austin Jackson: His 11 SBs in 236 PAs once he reached Seattle are an encouraging sign. The Seattle lineup got a little stronger with the addition of Nelson Cruz. The Mariners are likely to add yet another bat before the 2015 season kicks off and Austin Jackson is going to be the man at the top of their order reaping the benefits.

Alex Rios: Rios could easily make the cut for players who might be in line for a 15/15 type of season. He makes this list for me because I believe in his speed more than his power. Either way, Rios is in decline yet his ADP might actually match his potential output in 2015.

Ichiro Suzuki: There’s an outside chance that the 41-year-old Ichiro could find enough ABs in 2015 to reach the 20 SB mark. He managed to steal 15 bags while getting caught just 3 times in 2014 and that was with just 385 PAs.

Lorenzo Cain: Cain will likely be a hot commodity after his time in the spotlight this past postseason. It will probably be best to let someone else overpay for his timely breakout in the national spotlight.

Carl Crawford: Regardless of where he plays it’s likely that health is what stands between a season of broken production and something more along the lines of what Denard Span did in 2014. At this point in his career it is not a wise move to bet on Crawford’s health.

Norichika Aoki: Expecting anything north of 20 SBs from the soon to be 33-year-old Aoki would be foolish.

Michael Bourn: At this point, Bourn is simply too frustrating to own.

Rajai Davis: The ultimate one category guy, still going strong.

Dalton Pompey: It appears like playing time might be available to Pompey if he can stick in Toronto. His skill set might resemble that of a Jarrod Dyson type for fantasy purposes but with more playing time.

Jarrod Dyson: Another one-trick pony. Players like Rajai Davis and Jarrod Dyson are waiver wire material you try to get a piece of when they fall into a week of solid playing time here or there.

Anthony Gose: Sharing time with Rajai Davis will set both players back a bit. If one of the two begin to get the lion’s share of playing time in Detroit we might have something worth snagging off the waiver wire later in the year.

Eric Young Jr.: EY Jr. is more in the Rajai Davis/Jarrod Dyson category than the Revere category. Get him when he’s hot but otherwise let him sit on your league’s waiver wire.

James Jones: With Seattle trying to lock down another outfielder to put in the heart of their order James Jones is likely the odd man out. Since there’s a chance he could be part of a trade package and showed some promise in 2014 he will remain on this list for now.

17 names make the speed list and it thins out rather quickly. You really do not want to have to count on the likes of Eric Young Jr. to provide the speed your team desperately needs. Notable names that did not make the list include Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry, Nate McLouth, Jordan Schafer, and Juan Pierre.

What I hope you take from this is that tiers should be thought of differently. Throw some logic at it as I have here and you can gain some much needed clarity as you move through a draft. A Jay Bruce/Christian Yelich or Mark Trumbo/Ben Revere combo can do wonders for a roster between picks 70 and 110. Wait a little longer and snag an Oswaldo Arcia/Lorenzo Cain pairing. Either way, it’s time to re-think how we tier players. I encourage you to take the same approach with middle infielders and corner bats as well. Later in a draft, a pairing of Pedro Alvarez/Alcides Escobar can accomplish the same thing I have laid out for you here with the outfielders. This can work beautifully with pitchers as well. Tier high K/high WHIP and low K/low WHIP pitchers. Something along the lines of Danny Salazar/Kyle Lohse can look like you drafted two Sonny Grays only at an extreme discount. Welcome to Tiers for the Modern Drafter. Game on!

2 thoughts on “Tiers for the Modern Drafter”

  1. why are some of the big name 1st round or two power bats not in power tier ie. like Abreu, Goldschmidt, Rizzo, Tulo, etc?

  2. Did you skip the lead and bounce straight down to the hitters highlighted? These tiers were just for outfielders, Earl. I encourage you to create your own tiers for other positions as well. Have a power hitting corner infielders tier and certainly Abreu, Rizzo, and Goldy would be at the top of that list along with Encarnacion and Miggy. Go with a power hitting shortstop tier and Tulo would top this list followed by Desmond, Peralta, and maybe Hardy. Creating tiers like this really helps to understand how fast certain stats dry up by position. Give it a shot!

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