03/23/10 8:00 AM ET
Draft tiers: Hitters
Braun, Kemp among list of game's biggest mashers
By Matt Chaprales / MLB.com
Fantasy drafts can be overwhelming. There's the adrenaline rush of making a first pick. The ticking clock. Friends talking smack. Sweaty palms.
A few missteps and the season can become an uphill battle before it even begins. That's why it's important to have every advantage possible heading into draft day.
Studying the MLB.com 2010 Fantasy Baseball Preview will give you the overview on all the players you need to know about, from the superstars to the rising studs to the sleepers.
However, it also helps to know where the talent level drops off at each position. Understanding that there's only a handful of All-Star-caliber catchers or shortstops can make all the difference when it comes to shaping draft strategy.
In addition, having a sense of how players compare to each other across positions can be helpful, especially after several rounds have passed and you're trying to figure out the best way to round out your roster.
What follows is a user-friendly list of every relevant mixed-league hitter, organized into tidy tiers, to further assist owners in preparation for the big day.
The four most sought-after players in fantasy. With the exception of Braun, any one of them could justifiably be taken with the No. 1 pick. All four are prolific performers in all facets of the game and immediately provide owners with a tremendous centerpiece to build around.
While not quite on the level of the Tier 1 players, these guys are all proven cogs who will make for sufficient cornerstones. Draft order will go a long way toward determining who will be available when it comes time to pick, so owners will need to decide ahead of time what kind of production they're seeking. If it's across-the-board potential, then Utley and Kemp are the best options. Power-hungry owners may want to grab Howard, who's compiled at least 45 jacks and 136 RBIs in each of the last four seasons. Teixeira and Fielder may not possess the brute force of Howard, but they make up for it with higher batting averages. Wright is the wild card of the group, as it remains to be seen whether last year's power outage was a one-year fluke.
Tier 3: Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Upton, Carl Crawford, Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Kinsler, Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Morneau, Victor Martinez, Kendry Morales, Mark Reynolds, Pablo Sandoval, Jose Reyes,Grady Sizemore, Dustin Pedroia
From bashers (A-Gone, Reynolds) to speedsters (Crawford, Ellsbury) to budding five-category studs (Upton, Tulowitzki), there's an eclectic pool of talent here. Sizemore and Reyes are perhaps the most intriguing members of theis group. Both budding superstars, Sizemore and Reyes have each fallen a few notches in the pecking order after injury-plagued and disappointing '09 seasons. Reyes remains the quintessential boom-or-bust pick with a lingering thyroid problem serving as a major red flag. Sandoval and Reynolds will try to prove if their '09 breakouts are for real.
Tier 4: Derek Jeter, Brian McCann, Ryan Zimmerman, Aramis Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Joey Votto, Chone Figgins, Andre Ethier, Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Bay, Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, Kevin Youkilis, Jayson Werth, Robinson Cano, Manny Ramirez
Whether it's health (A. Ramirez, Figgins), age (Jeter, Manny,) or lack of a proven track record (Lind, Votto, Hill), there are concerns associated with the guys in this crew. However, most of them have the talent to go in the previous tier, and all could prove to be crucial components of any team. Ethier offers a nice meld of attributes as an under-30 slugger whose power numbers have increased in every season while Youklis is one of the steadiest mashers and on-base machines in the game. Questions remain regarding Citi Field's impact on Bay and Werth repeating his career year.
There's a good amount of pop dispersed among this group, which primarily consists of second basemen and veteran outfielders. Position scarcity at the keystone may incline owners to make a move for Roberts or Phillips, but those who want to compose a prolific outfield shouldn't sleep on Granderson or Choo. Cruz, Dunn and Pena are all attractive options for owners willing to sacrifice some average for power.
Tier 6: Carlos Lee, Michael Young, Hunter Pence, B.J. Upton, Nick Markakis, Raul Ibanez, Bobby Abreu, Billy Butler, Dan Uggla, Ben Zobrist, Andrew McCutchen, Shane Victorino, Chipper Jones, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Beltran
The players in this tier will be among the last to go in the single-digit rounds of standard mixed leagues. Butler and McCutchen stick out as a pair of 23-year-old former first-round picks who showed glimpses of impressive ability last season. The word is out on these blossoming youngsters, though, so don't wait too long in the draft if you hope to grab at least one of them.
Tier 7: Jay Bruce, Jose Lopez, Torii Hunter, Adam Jones, Chris Coghlan, Nate McLouth, David Ortiz, Todd Helton, Carlos Quentin, Jason Bartlett, Adrian Beltre, Johnny Damon, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Bourn, Nyjer Morgan
Although speed is a vital building block of any contending squad, owners often focus on power and pitching earlier in drafts. That's not necessarily a poor strategy, as established burners like Bourn and Morgan tend to remain on the board into the double-digit rounds. Owners who have already snagged Crawford or Ellsbury may be lacking in the power department, which makes boppers like Lopez, Ortiz and Quentin more appealing.
Tier 8: Miguel Montero, Brad Hawpe, Howard Kendrick, Michael Cuddyer, Rickie Weeks, Elvis Andrus, Rajai Davis, Julio Borbon, Ryan Ludwick, Adam LaRoche, Chris Davis, Paul Konerko, Miguel Tejada, Edwin Encarnacion, Vladimir Guerrero, Vernon Wells, Corey Hart
Owners will have already established a core of 10-12 players by the time it comes to choosing one of these players. Of course, building around the nucleus is nearly as important as building the nucleus itself. Owners need to be able to find relatively low-risk and capable performers throughout the entire draft. The caveat is that most of the players in this tier come with varying red flags. No one said it was an easy process.
Tier 9: Kurt Suzuki, Ian Stewart, Yunel Escobar, Marco Scutaro, Alex Gordon, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jason Kubel, Alex Rios, Geovany Soto, Jorge Cantu, Nick Swisher, Mark DeRosa, Placido Polanco, Andy LaRoche, Franklin Gutierrez, Denard Span, Nolan Reimold, Dexter Fowler, Kyle Blanks, Cody Ross, James Loney
There comes a point in every draft when an owner must balance the philosophy of taking the best player available with the necessity of filling vacant roster slots. Maybe a bopper like Hawpe will still be on the board in the 15th round, but if you have no shortstop and Scutaro is available, then sacrificing flashier numbers in the name of rounding out your roster is the logical move.
Tier 10: Casey McGehee, Rafael Furcal, Ryan Theriot, Jermaine Dye, Magglio Ordonez, Drew Stubbs, Mike Napoli, Jorge Posada, Russell Martin, Erick Aybar, Casey Blake, Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, Marlon Byrd, Colby Rasmus, Felipe Lopez, Martin Prado, Chris Young, Nick Johnson, Carlos Delgado, Jhonny Peralta, Russell Branyan
Depth and versatility are two areas that must be addressed in the later rounds of drafts. Most of the guys in this group won't be primary contributors, but that doesn't mean they won't have a hand in determining the fates of many teams. Owners need to bear in mind it's often the successful late moves made by eventual league champs that distinguish them from the runners-up.
Tier 11: Alexei Ramirez, Mark Teahen, Brandon Wood, Luke Scott, Juan Rivera, Josh Willingham, Jeff Francoeur, Garrett Jones, Ryan Doumit, Yadier Molina, Garrett Atkins, Casey Kotchman, Clint Barmes, Lyle Overbay, Orlando Hudson, Orlando Cabrera, Troy Glaus, Scott Rolen, Coco Crisp, Scott Podsednik, Carlos Gomez, Mike Cameron
Depending on the size of a given league, the players in this tier could range anywhere from starter to waiver-wire fodder. Regardless, everyone in this group will offer some value outside of the shallowest of mixed leagues.
Matt Chaprales is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.