Fantasy Baseball Rankings – Third Base

Fantasy Baseball Rankings – Third Base

By: Kyle Brown (@CavghtLooking)

Third base is quite deep this year. If you are not in a position to select Miguel Cabrera there are at least three other 3rd basemen worthy of a 2nd round selection. There is a decent amount of injury risk in tiers two and three, so if you end up with one of those players my advice is to select one of the young guns in tier five just in case anything goes wrong with your first choice. I always try to get as much power out of 3rd base as I can, so don’t overvalue stolen bases. You can always use one of your outfield positions to get yourself some steals.

Tier 1 – A King With(out) a Crown

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit (.330/.393/.606)

Miguel Cabrera is a B-E-A-S-T. If you don’t know that then stop playing fantasy baseball. His career triple slash is .318/.395/.561. There are only two seasons in which he failed to hit 30 home runs. The first was his rookie season and the second was in 2006 when he had a .996 OPS. Oh yeah, did you hear that he won the triple crown last year? Miggy is still in his prime and is going to destroy the ball again this season. Most managers are taking Mike Trout and Ryan Braun ahead of him in drafts, but there is nothing wrong with taking Cabrera with the first overall pick.

Tier 2 – Pop, Block, And Belt It

Adrian Beltre, Texas (.321/.359/.561)
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay (.289/.369/.527)
David Wright, New York Mets (.306/.391/.492)

It took Adrian Beltre a long time to find his groove (EDITOR’s NOTE: longer than it took Stella to get her groove back), but ever since his 2010 season with Boston he has been fantastic. The oft-injured 3rd baseman has smashed over 30 home runs for the last two seasons. The 36 dongs he hit last year mark his highest total in eight years. However, Beltre’s BABIP was 25 points higher than his career average in 2012, so I expect him to hit somewhere closer to .300 in 2013. Barring a major injury, Beltre is a lock to hit 30+ home runs and plate 100 RBI.

More injury risk! Evan Longoria missed 85 games in the middle of 2012 with quad and hamstring injuries. After his return, Longoria relocated his power stroke and blasted 13 dingers in the final 51 games of the season (3 in the last game). A healthy Longoria will produce at least 30 home runs with above average marks in runs scored, RBI, and batting average. I don’t think he will produce a significant stolen base total, given all of the leg injuries, but with the other skills he brings to the table the lack of steals isn’t something you need to worry about. If Longoria is available in the second round I am snatching him up with confidence.

David Wright is still one of the best 3rd basemen in the game. He has been at it so long that some managers are wont to forecast a decline in his statistics. At 30-years old, Wright is still in his prime and none of his plate discipline or batted ball numbers indicate that his production is going to fall off the table. Wright’s days of hitting 30 home runs are certainly behind him, but he’s a good bet to hit for a higher average than either Beltre or Longoria. Add all that to the 15 bases he will steal and you have got yourself a top-level 5×5 producer. Finally, Wright has a career BABIP of .341, so don’t let his .347 mark from last year scare you away. 

Tier 3 – What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco (.283/.342/.447)
Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (.257/.322/.437)
Ryan Zimmerman, Washington (.282/.346/.478)
Chase Headley, San Diego (.286/.376/.498)
Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee (.300/.360/.540)

The Panda is a capricious animal. After turning in an incredibly pedestrian season in 2012, Sandoval was nearly impossible to get out in the playoffs. Quite frankly, Panda ate up Justin Verlander like so much bamboo. So which Pablo will we get in 2013? I am banking on a return of the .900 OPS version capable of hitting 25 home runs. He’s never been able to put up elite runs or RBI numbers playing for the soft-hitting San Francisco Giants, but Sandoval has the skills to hit for an extremely high average. Still just 26, I think Pablo is going to have a big season in 2013.

I already covered Hanley in my shortstop rankings. I don’t love him, but I don’t hate him either. Given the depth at 3rd base this year, Hanley’s 20/20 skills are probably better suited for your shortstop position.

Zimmerman has produced upper-middle-class numbers from day one of his major league career. There is some mild concern circling around his surgically repaired shoulder this spring, but, so far, all of the reports have been positive. Zimmerman gets the nod here over Headley because he is more consistent and hits in a much better lineup. I expect him to hit between .285-.300, crack 25 homers, and have runs scored and RBI numbers above 90. Chase Headley’s power surge last year was one of the biggest surprises of 2012. Between 2008 and 2011, Headley hit a combined 36 home runs. In 2013, he hit 31 home runs. That is a Brady Anderson-esque power spike (EDITOR’s NOTE: we are in no way accusing Chase Headley of taking performance-enhancing drugs with this analogy). The craziest part of the Headley story is that his FB% has decreased in each season since 2009 (his first full year). As such, I do not think that he can repeat his home run total or his outlandish 21.4% HR/FB ratio. However, I am unwilling to admit that last years increase in power was a complete fluke. San Diego moved the fences in this offseason, so it is safe to assume that Headley will be able to pop at least 20 home runs. Draft Headley expecting a .290/20/15 season with acceptable run production numbers.   

Ramirez has been one of the most consistent 3rd basemen in baseball for a long time. Much like Jeter and Rollins at shortstop, Aramis is often overlooked on draft day because of his age. This is a mistake. His SLG% was higher in 2012 than Longoria, Wright, Sandoval, Hanley, Zimmerman, and Headley. A lot of that SLG% came from the 50 doubles he hit, a stat that you don’t get credit for in standard 5×5 leagues. Regardless, Ramirez is going to give you a good average with 25 home runs and 100 RBI. His age puts him at risk for a decline, but his days of being top-10 3rd baseman aren’t over yet.

Tier 4 – Cold and Gritty

David Freese, St. Louis (.293/.372/.467)
Brett Lawrie, Toronto (.273/.324/.405)
Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh (.244/.317/.467)
Martin Prado, Arizona (.301/.359/.438)

There is nothing sensational about David Freese. Despite that, he has steadily improved his game over the past three years. The progressions in his walk rate and power numbers are encouraging. He might not hit 20 home runs again, but he will come close. As long as he stays healthy, Freese is a nice consolation prize if you miss out on a guy from the top three tiers.

Just 23-years old, Brett Lawrie is the trendy pick to break out this season. Managers look at his combined AAA/MLB numbers from 2011, when he hit 27 home runs in 112 games, and dream of a 25/20 3rd baseman. For this season, I am taking the under on those dreams. However, he should be able to go 15/15 with an average around .270. Given the potency of the Toronto lineup, Lawrie will be a decent option at the hot corner this year.

At this point, I really can’t say if Pedro Alvarez is ever going to become a complete hitter. There are times when he looks absolutely lost. His career strikeout rate is absurd (30.7%) and his HR/FB% was unsustainably high last season (25%). He has to learn to hit lefties better, cut down on his strikeouts, and keep the ball in the air or he is destined to become the next Mark Reynolds. The 30 home runs he hit last season keep him in the fourth tier, but not by much.

Martin Prado is eligible at 2nd, 3rd, short, and outfield in Yahoo this season. However, he didn’t make my 2nd base or shortstop rankings because CBS and ESPN are not as generous with their eligibility, giving him just 3rd base and outfield. Prado is a solid player, but he doesn’t offer anything spectacular. Arizona will let him run, so he should be able to steal 15 bags again this year. There isn’t really any upside with Prado, but a .300/10/15 season is nothing to sneeze at.

Tier 5 – Reap The Whirlwind

Todd Frazier, Cincinnati (.273/.331/.498)
Will Middlebrooks, Boston (.288/.325/.509)
Mike Moustakas, Kansas City (.242/.296/.412)
Kyle Seager, Seattle (.259/.316/.423)
Chris Johnson, Atlanta (.281/.326/.451)
Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees (.235/.336/.405)

The fifth tier is a hodgepodge of young guys who could all find success in 2013. I like Frazier the most because he hits in a tiny ballpark with a powerful ensemble. Frazier’s ceiling is not as high as Middlebrooks, but he isn’t trying to come back from an injury either. That said, if Middlebrooks is healthy and learns to take a few more walks, then he could easily end up the most productive player in this tier.

I have nothing positive to say about Moustakas, but his age and supposed pedigree require me to include him in my rankings. If he can stop hitting so many infield flies (career 18.8 IFFB%) he might just turn into a player of real value. All in all, I’d much rather take Kyle Seager and be pleasantly surprised by a 15/15 season than suffer through more disappointment from Moustakas. Heck, I’m probably drafting Chris Johnson ahead of Moustakas. Johnson could turn in a decent season hitting in Atlanta’s stacked lineup.  Lastly, New York’s pinstripes have been known to reinvigorate tired careers, so I’m looking for Youkilis to have a small resurgence this season. However, his numbers are in a three-year free fall, so do not take him until the bitter end of your draft.

Honorable Mention

Manny Machado, Baltimore (.262/.294/.445)

Machado is all upside this year. I am not expecting him to pull a Trout and be an MVP candidate, but he’s not a bad selection with the last pick in your draft. You might even be able to flip him early in the season to the Orioles fan in your league. For 2013, Manny will probably hit 15 home runs, steal 10 bases, and have a very low average. Machado is going to be fantasy relevant very soon, just not this season.

 

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