2011 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Third Base Rankings
Can Adrian Beltre get it done in a non-contract season?
By Phillip Heilman, Tim McLeod and RotoRob
The top tier at third base is a very strong one with Evan Longoria and David Wright leading the charge. Perennial first rounder Alex Rodriguez has slipped into the second round with Ryan Zimmerman hot on his heels. After the big four disappear off the draft board, the options continue to be plentiful with Michael Young, Adrian Beltre (let’s see if he can repeat his 2010 performance in a non-contract year), last year’s 50-homer man Jose Bautista, Casey McGehee, and the very talented but bulging Pedro Alvarez. Two ineligible players in Kevin Youkilis of the BoSox, who will be playing third base, and Chone Figgins, who is tentatively slated to move there to accommodate Dustin Ackley, should both be on the radar for those willing to wait out league rules on eligibility. The depth at first base makes third base even more attractive as a late round gamble with players such as Danny Valencia, David Freese, Jhonny Peralta, and Chris Johnson, not to mention Scott Rolen, all being available towards the end of your draft. The corner infield slot will in most cases be occupied by one of the numerous first base types so don’t fear if you don’t get one of the top-tier studs at third base. There are plenty of options to satisfy anyone’s approach to filling the hot corner in 2011.
Last year’s rankings in parentheses.
1. David Wright, New York Mets (5): Wright’s power returned last year after mysteriously disappearing in 2009 (his road performance suggested that you couldn’t blame it all on Citi Field). While the pop didn’t come all the way back to his 2008 levels, it was a relief to his owners. Wright’s overall numbers would have been even better had he not struggled so badly in August, but as the No. 3 hitter in the Mets’ lineup, he should be in line for another big year in 2011. — RR
2. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (1): The hip injury is a thing of the past, but A-Rod is getting a bit long in the tooth, and that’s something that is manifesting itself in a litany of minor health woes. Still, he managed to swat 30 homers for the 13th straight year and 14th time in the last 15 seasons. I guess that’ll do for a decent career, huh? A-Roid also drove in 125 runs in just 137 games last year – a level of production that few in the game can match. His stolen base total in the last four years – 24, 18, 14, 4 – speaks to an obvious trend for the ridiculously well paid Rodriguez. He’s definitely in decline, but should remain one of the best third baseman in the game for another couple of years. — RR
3. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (2): Longoria didn’t have his best season last year, but he got hot when the Rays started to make their push in late-August. Many rank him as the top man at the hot corner, but his power outage last year has forced us to lower him a tad. Still, Longoria hasn’t come close to his power prime yet, so it’s very reasonable to project that he could be the main man at this position come season’s end, assuming the pop comes back to the levels he showed in his first two seasons. On the plus side, he ran more last year, and that helped negate his lack of power to an extent. If you’re aiming to snag a top-tier third baseman, Longoria is an excellent choice, especially since if you wait too long in this position, there’s a big dropoff in talent later on. — RR
4. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (3): Zimmerman is arguably the best hitting and fielding third baseman in the NL, but we put Wright above him because of Zimmerman’s lack of speed. You could also make an argument that Zimmerman should be taken ahead of A-Rod, but we believe that Rodriguez has one more monster season in his bat. Zimmerman took another step forward last year, and his final numbers would have been even better if not for a few minor injuries and then a rib problem that caused him to miss the final 10 games of the season. He mashed 25 dingers for the second straight season, and while he wasn’t as productive as he was in 2009, he continued to make strides in both his walk rate and his batting eye, helping him top .300 for the first time. He reported to Spring Training early – always a good sign – and as he enters his prime power years, it’s reasonable to wonder where Zimmerman’s ceiling is. Could a 35-homer season be in his future? I think that’s within his reach this year. — RR
5. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (38): Bautista’s explosion last year was the biggest surprise in the post-steroid era, and earned him recognition as our Fantasy Stud of the Year based on his value in relation to his draft status. The Jays have wisely locked up their new star to a long-term deal, and why not? All he did last year was lead the majors with 54 homers, make the All-Star team, finish fourth in MVP voting and win the AL Hank Aaron Award. Not too shabby for a dude that came into 2010 as a career .238 hitter that had never hit more than 16 dingers in any one season. Will Bautista ever hit 54 homers again? Probably about as soon as Lady Gaga wears an Ann Taylor pant suit. But that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of putting up another big season. I just think a more realistic expectation for Bautista is 30-to-35 homers with a .250 BA. He is also listed in our outfield rankings. — RR
6. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (12): By adding Beltre as a free agent this winter, the Texas Rangers have set themselves up for another run at the playoffs. He enjoyed a superb season in Boston, and really helped add to the team chemistry there. Beltre has still never come close to approaching his monster 2004 season for the Dodgers, but last year was his best effort since then. Hell, even his middling walk rate bounced back somewhat after the disaster in Seattle that was his 2009 campaign. In fact, Beltre put up his second best OBP ever (.365), but that was mostly thanks to him hitting .321, again, his second best BA ever. Michael Young clearly wasn’t thrilled by the Rangers’ decision to sign Beltre, but Texas is the better team for making this move. — RR
7. Casey McGehee, Milwaukee Brewers (22): In our 2010 pre-season rankings, McGehee didn’t even make our top 20 at the hot corner, but after establishing himself as an everyday player, he’s burst into our top 10 this season. It’s worth pointing out that McGehee had knee surgery in October, but he’s expected to be good to go for the start of the season. In his first season as a full-time player, McGehee obviously shattered almost all his counting stat numbers last year, but a reduced walk rate resulted in a lower BA (not that .285 is anything to sneeze at, mind you). McGehee has solidified his status as an important part of a very strong Milwaukee lineup, and while there may not be much, if any, upside from what he did last year, it’ s a solid baseline for a third base Fantasy option. – RR
8. Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs (8): A slow start and injuries led to a down year in 2010 from Ramirez. Health continues to be a concern for him, as he has only played in 206 games the last two seasons. However, if A-Ram is able to stay healthy, he is still a very productive choice at third base. He still flashed some pop in his bat last season, but his numbers with runners-in-scoring-position were very low, which led to a low number of ribbies. The acquisition of Carlos Pena should help strengthen the Cubs’ lineup, and with a healthy campaign, Ramirez could end up being an excellent option – especially since he has the incentive of being in a contract year. – PH
9. Michael Young, Texas Rangers (11): It sure looked like Texas had convinced Young to shift from third to DH after Beltre was signed, but Young – who has already been asked to change positions many times during his time with the Rangers – has finally had enough and asked for a trade. He reported to Spring Training, but the Rangers have yet to deal him, so this will be a situation to watch. Last year, Young’s walk rate dipped and he struck out more often, leading to a substantial decline in his percentages. The fact that he makes a crapload of money is going to make it difficult to move him as well, so this could become a real nightmare for Young and his Fantasy owners. – RR
10. Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR): Part of a superb class of 2010 rookies, Alvarez is at the centre of the Pirates’ youth movement which should finally help put the brakes on years of suffering in Pittsburgh. He was called up in mid-June, and while he offered no speed, Alvarez flashed some of his tremendous power potential. He’s ready to take another big step forward this year, and his development should mirror that of the Pirates, who – at the very least – should avoid 100 losses this season. – RR
11. Mark Reynolds, Baltimore Orioles (6): Part of a remade Oriole lineup, Reynolds had a litany of health concerns last year, leading to his worst major league season, coming on the heels of his best season in 2009. He wasn’t nearly as productive last year and despite his finest walk rate ever, his OBP was dragged down by a sub-.200 BA. Reynolds’s arrival in Batimore will send top prospect Josh Bell back to Triple-A for now, but if the veteran doesn’t rebound in a big way, the O’s may turn to their third baseman of the future. – RR
12. Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves (26): We already discussed Prado in our 2B rankings.
13. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants (7): What a sophomore slump for Kung Fu Panda. Saying 2010 was a disaster for Sandoval might be an understatement. His season-long offensive funk coupled with glovework that would be expected from someone nicknamed Kung Fu Panda led to his benching in the playoffs last year. However, Sandoval showed up in Spring Training in vastly better shape than last season, having lost 38 pounds this offseason. While batting .330 is still a reach, he should easily improve from last season’s .268 mark and find a happy medium for his numbers in most offensive categories. — PH
14. Ian Stewart, Colorado Rockies (17): Stewart is the definition of a high-risk high-reward player. While he is turning just 26 this season and has shown a propensity for power, he also has a hard time consistently making contact. He’s backed away from the plate this season in an effort to cut down on his strikeouts, so we’ll see how that plays out. Fantasy owners have been waiting on this guy for a couple of years now, and in an offense with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, this may be a make-or-break year for Stewart. There will be plenty of chances for him to have a breakout year, but any early struggles could see him losing playing time to recently acquired Ty Wigginton. – PH
15. Scott Rolen, Cincinnati Reds (25): Rolen is in a similar career situation as Ramirez. Rolen clearly has lost a step, and injuries have been a problem the last few years. While he is a shell of his former self, he is still a serviceable pickup. The Reds boast a lineup that will surely be strong once again, and Rolen is batting clean-up, so his numbers should continue to get a boost there. He should still be drafted as a low-end starting third baseman or solid backup in any league where Web Gems don’t get points. – PH
16. Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves (14): Expecting Jones to play a full season this year after tearing his ACL last season seems like a serious stretch. He should still put up mid-level offensive numbers, but anyone that drafts him should consider it as a depth pick only. In spurts, Jones could be very helpful, but after he contemplated retirement, it is tough to tell how much more this guy has left in the tank coming into his 17th full season. The track record for 38-year-old players coming back from such a serious procedure is not great. — PH
17. David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals (29): Freese got off to a hot start in 2010 and looked to be a solid option for the first two months of the season. However, ankle injuries derailed the rest of his season. Coming off double ankle surgery, Freese is expected to have built in days of rest early on, so for the start of the season as he recovers, he could split time with the wholly unremarkable Alan Craig (as normal backup Nick Punto will miss at least the first two months of the season). Because of the overall lack of numbers to assess, combined with the offseason surgery, it’s a more reasonable bet that Freese will likely produce closer to his June 2010 numbers than his early season numbers, especially since he’s ticketed for the bottom third of the Cardinal batting order. – PH
18. Danny Valencia, Minnesota Twins (NR): Valencia produced a strong rookie campaign in 2010, finishing third in AL ROY voting. He is expected to open the season as the starting third baseman for the Twins and being in the same lineup as a healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau should give Valencia a good opportunity as long as his elbow woes from last season do not crop up again. There are several fine sophomores at the hot corner this season, and Valencia has a chance to be one of the finest of the bunch. – PH
19. Miguel Tejada, San Francisco Giants (NR): For Tejada’s profile, please see our SS rankings.
20. Chase Headley, San Diego Padres (23): The last three seasons have seen Headley hit somewhere in the .260s each year – hey, at least he’s consistently middling. His strikeout rate is high, which hurts his average. In a Padre order that will be lacking in production, Headley will not benefit much from the guys surrounding him in the lineup. This switch-hitter is a deep sleeper, and like the Padres, probably not worth a second look at all. In fact, Headley is one of those dudes that you’re better off waiting to add as an in-season pickup if he gets hots. – PH
21. Chris Johnson, Houston Astros (NR): Johnson has spent significant time in the minors on his way up the big show. His numbers in Houston last season may have been an aberration. Yes, Johnson should fit somewhere in the middle of the Astro lineup, but that might not be very helpful. Third base is not the deepest of positions, so drafting Johnson as a sleeper would not be unreasonable, but temper your hopes as 2010 was probably the outlier for Johnson. Expect plenty of strikeouts, but his power potential may make all those Ks worth gambling on. – PH
22. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (33): Throughout his career, Encarnacion has shown he has power in his bat. Unfortunately, he has also shown he has a hole in it. His average is consistently very low, leading to a very low amount of both runs and runs batted in. If you are looking for some home runs this deep in the pool of third basemen, Encarnacion could be your guy. If you are looking for anything else, he isn’t. – PH
23. Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers (20): For Peralta’s profile, see our SS rankings.
24. Juan Uribe, Los Angeles Dodgers (31): For Uribe’s profile, see our 2B rankings. He is also listed in our SS rankings.
25. Kevin Kouzmanoff, Oakland Athletics (16): Kouz is a similar player to Encarnacion. He admitted 2010 was a down year for him, but his numbers looked similar to his career numbers, which probably isn’t a good thing. Clearly, Oakland didn’t land the middle of the order bat it thought it was getting here. Kouzmanoff does have power, but playing in Oakland hurts his home run totals. You could do worse at the end of your draft, as Kouzmanoff should be good for his share of ribbies and homers, and his strikeout numbers are not nearly as bad as some other guys on the list. – PH
Others to Consider
26. Ty Wigginton, Colorado Rockies (42) Wigginton also listed in our 1B and 2B rankings.
27. Omar Infante, Florida Marlins (NR) Infante is also listed in our 2B and OF rankings.
28. Brandon Inge, Detroit Tigers (21)
29. Placido Polanco, Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
30. Jose Lopez, Colorado Rockies (NR)
31. Casey Blake, Los Angeles Dodgers (15)
32. Melvin Mora, Arizona Diamondbacks (48) Mora is also listed in our 1B rankings
33. Jayson Nix, Cleveland Indians (NR) Nix is also listed in our 2B rankings
34. Alberto Callaspo, Los Angeles Angels (NR)
35. Matt Dominguez, Florida Marlins (NR)
36. Brent Morel, Chicago White Sox (NR)
37. Wilson Betemit, Kansas City Royals (NR)
38. Mark Teahen, Chicago White Sox (34)
39. Wes Helms, Florida Marlins (50)
40. Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals (NR)
41. Josh Bell, Baltimore Orioles (32)
42. Dayan Viciedo, Chicago White Sox (NR) It looks like Viciedo is converting to the outfield, but is only eligible at 3B for now.
43. Jorge Cantu, San Diego Padres (13) Cantu is also listed in our 1B rankings.
44. Maicer Izturis, Los Angeles Angels (NR) Izturis is also listed in our 2B rankings.
45. Felipe Lopez, Tampa Bay Rays (NR): Lopez is also listed in our 2B and SS rankings.
46. Jeff Baker, Chicago Cubs (41) Baker is also listed in our 2B rankings.
47. Brandon Wood, Los Angeles Angels (37)
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