Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fantasy Focus: Third Base Rankings

Third Base has gotten a reputation for being thin, but I'm not so sure that is true anymore.  There are several young third sackers who are coming into their own, or are likely to in the near future, like maybe this season.  Let's break it down:

1.  Miguel Cabrera, Tigers.  109 R, 44 HR, 139 RBI, .330 BA, 4 SB, 622 AB.  The class of the position and it's not at all close.  I have Miggy Cab as a top 3 overall fantasy player along with Ryan Braun and Mike Trout.

2.  Adrian Beltre, Rangers.  95 R, 36 HR, 102 RBI, .321 BA, 1 SB, 604 AB.  Beltre is the best of the second tier 3B.  Coming off his best season since he was with the Dodgers a long time ago.

3.  David Wright, Mets.  91 R, 21 HR, 93 RBI, .306 BA, 15 SB, 581 AB.  Wright's big appeal is that he will give you double digit SB's when healthy.  Big question mark is health, but he seems to be in good shape for now.  Some fantasy gurus would rank him above Beltre due to the SB potential.

4.  Chase Headley, Padres.  95 R, 31 HR, 115 RBI, .286 BA, 17 SB, 604 AB.  Headley had a monster breakout season last year.  Only question is can he keep it up?  He was highly thought of as a prospect and had been seen as a bit of a underachiever, so there is a good chance it was a true breakout.  The fences moving in should help stave off a regression too.

5.  Aramis Ramirez, Brewers.  92 R, 27 HR, 105 RBI, .300 BA, 9 SB, 570 AB.  Ramirez is getting a bit long in the tooth and is often undervalued but he almost always give solid production.  Safe fantasy draft selection.

6.  Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals.  93 R, 25 HR, 95 RBI, .282 BA, 5 SB, 578 AB.  Zimmerman has disappeared at times and been hurt a lot.   Usually a solid producer when healthy, though.

7.  Evan Longoria, Rays.  39 R, 17 HR, 55 RBI, .289 BA, 2 SB, 273 AB.  Missed over half of last season with injury.  Potential for elite production when healthy.  Those who believe he will stay healthy will likely rank him higher.

8.  Pablo Sandoval, Giants.  59 RBI, 12 HR, 63 RBI, .283 BA, 1 SB, 396 AB.  I think Sandoval is headed for a huge breakout season for the simple reason he does not have any more hamate bones left in his body to break.  Fantasy managers who only look at full season lines will undervalue him, but he could have blown his cover with that offensive explosion in the World Series.  Gotta be at least a bit concerned about his conditioniong too.

9.  Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays.  73 R, 11 HR, 48 RBI, .273 BA, 13 SB, 494 AB.  Lawrie was drafted very high last year with wildly unrealistic expectations.  PT was limited by injuries.  His numbers actually are not that bad when projected to 600 AB.  He has some post-hype sleeperishness about him this year and would make a nice late pickup if he falls.

10.  David Freese, Cardinals.  70 R, 20 HR, 79 RBI, .293 BA, 3 SB, 501 AB.  Nice fail safe pick to keep in mind if you want to invest in other positions.  Can make a nice IF or Util guy for your roster too.  Again, 600 AB would make his number look a lot better.

11.  Pedro Alvarez, Pirates.  64 R, 30 HR, 85 RBI, .244 BA, 1 SB, 525 AB.  Alvarez had something of a breakout year last year with the 30 dingers.  Don't forget he was the second overall draft pick in 2008, 3 spots ahead of Buster Posey, so it's entirely possible that this is just scratching the surface for him.  In any event, he makes a nice late round grab if you need more power in your lineup and ditto for IF and Util slots.

12.  Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox.  34 R, 15 HR, 54 RBI, .288 BA, 4 SB, 267 AB.  Middlebrooks was a callup last year then missed a big part of the season with injury.  A lot an analysts are not enamored with high K rates and low BB rates, but he's got size at 6'4", 225 lbs and plays in the right ballpark to maximize his power numbers.  Don't forget about this guy if you find yourself watching a run on 3B.

13.  Mike Moustakas, Royals.  69 R, 20 HR, 73 RBI, .242 BA, 5 SB, 563 AB.  Moose Tacos is another guy who may have suffered from unrealistic expectations.  20 HR is not at all bad for a kid playing his first full MLB season, though, and he should be on the steep portion of the upward swing of his career trajectory.  I would actually feel very comfortable with him as a late, late round fallback option.

14. Todd Frazier, Reds.  55 R, 19 HR, 67 RBI, .273 BA, 3 SB, 422 AB.  It looks like Scott Rolen is done, so that should give Frazier a solid chance for 600 AB with the requisite increase in his counting stats.  Another solid late option.

15.  Kyle Seager, Mariners.  62 R, 20 HR, 86 RBI, .259 BA, 13 SB, 594 AB.  Seager had a very unnoticed and underrated season last year.  He was also in just his first full MLB season so he should be on an upward trajectory. Yet another safety valve pick to consider at the end of your draft.

16.  Manny Machado, Orioles.  24 R, 7 HR, 26 RBI, .262 BA, 2 SB, 191 AB.  Machado may be of more interest in keeper leagues, but he could also be a factor re-draft leagues this year, especially in larger ones or AL only leagues.  Some fantasy owners will undoubtedly draft him as a 3B and then pray that the Orioles trade JJ Hardy, but Machado is big enough with enough power potential that he could have fantasy value as a 3B too.  He should develop into an elite SS in future seasons.

Rookie Watch:  Nolan Arenado, Rockies.  Arenado got all hyped up after a strong 2011 season in the Cal League and a huge AFL stint.  His AA numbers were not as impressive, but not terrrible by any. He has decent walk rates and excellent K rates with solid power numbers.  He should do very well in Coors Field once he gets established there.  Will probably start the season in AAA.

In summary, Cabrera is a top 3 fantasy player while there are at least 7 or 8 more players worth drafting early or paying for in an auction draft.  In addition there are several players with upside worth taking a chance on late in the draft.  3B may be a position you look to for IF and Util production in addition to the primary position.

Personally, I would either pay a high price for Cabrera or target Sandoval and/or Lawrie in the middle rounds.  If I whiff on those, I would be happy with Alvarez, Middlebrooks, Moustakas or Frazier as fallback options.

I find 3B to be a very solid position with potential for a lot more this year.

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