2013 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Third Base Rankings
Boston is counting on more from Will Middlebrooks this season.
By Tim McLeod and RotoRob
And we’re back with more of the 2013 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit as we release another cheat sheet today. So as the WBC kicks off — and the possibility for more TV replays in the game — we turn our attention to the hot corner and count down the top 58 third basemen for 2013.
It’s hard not to like a position that arguably boasts the top player in our game today in Miguel Cabrera. Third base is filled with options from the tried and true in Adrian Beltre and David Wright to a solid group of speculative younger picks like Will Middlebrooks, Brett Lawrie, and Mike Moustakas.
And while the hot corner is deeper this year, there are still plenty of questions here. Can Evan Longoria stay healthy and get in a season with over 500 at-bats? Can Pablo Sandoval get his weight under 270 pounds? Will Lawrie step it up in his second full season in a much-improved Jays’ lineup? Now that Todd Frazier has landed a full-time role with the supposed retirement of Scott Rolen, can he crack the 25-home run mark? Was Chase Headley 2012’s performance an aberration or the new benchmark?
The options at third base are plentiful and although the risks in some cases are high, the potential rewards are equally as high.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (1 at 1B): An honourable mention for our 2012 Fantasy Stud of the Year, Cabrera is coming off a performance for the ages, smacking a career-high 44 bombs en route to the game’s first Triple Crown since 1967. He had his first 200-hit season, his fifth 40-double campaign and third year with a BA of at least .330. Cabrera remains on the good side of 30 yet is already closing in on 1,000 runs, 2,000 hits, 350 homers and 1,200 RBI. Oh, and he’s nearly a .320 hitter for his career. Is it too soon to decree him one of the greatest to ever play the game? The reigning AL MVP is going off the board in the top two picks in this year’s drafts — especially now that he has third base eligibility. Let’s nitpick: Cabrera’s walk rate dropped to its lowest level since 2008. What a freaking stiff! Did we mention he set a new career high with 139 RBI? Like we said… a total dud here, folks. Nothing to see.
2. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (3): Beltre would up third in the AL in hitting last year, but he was dealing with a calf woe this spring that had him slightly behind. He’s running now, so should be fine for Opening Day. Last year, Beltre quietly put together his best season since that crazy effort in 2004 with the Dodgers. He had his second highest run, hit and homer totals while matching his second highest BA ever. A 920 OPS from a 33-year-old third baseman? It’ll do. Sure, more walks would be nice (in fairness, his BB rate was up last year), but it doesn’t stop Beltre from consistently hitting for a nice BA (up to .280 for his career now). Texas won’t rush its Gold Glove hot corner man back this spring, but it shouldn’t be a concern for prospective owners.
3. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (2): Longoria’s injury last year (a hamstring woe that cost him 13 weeks) allowed Sean Rodriguez to see more action than anticipated — and that’s not exactly a good thing. This spring, Longo was again away from the team as his girlfriend was churning out a pup, but he should be fully healthy come Opening Day even if the Rays plan to take it easy on him early in Spring Training. Last year, he was quite productive when healthy and might have enjoyed a career year if not for his health. Expect his counting cat stats to bounce back this year, although on a fairly pedestrian Ray offense, his run potential is limited. As long as Longoria spends less time watching and more time playing, he’s going to be just fine, thank you very much.
4. Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (2 at SS): For Ramirez’s profile, see our Shortstop Rankings.
5. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (4): Zimmerman was one of many third basemen that was hurt early last season and the shoulder woe really affected his first half (694 OPS). However, he definitely salvaged his season with a huge second half, batting .319 with a 964 OPS. The upshot was that Zimmerman played in his most games since 2009, reached 25 homers for the third time, drove in at least 95 runs for the third time and even managed to pitch in with a few steals. It was a nice comeback after the disaster that was 2011. The shoulder remains a worry, but he recently starting playing spring games, so that’s a good sign. Grab Zimmerman early in the third round and hope that he can build on last year’s comeback and get back to his 2009-10 level. He’s looking a little chunky early this spring, so let’s hope he can whip himself into shape by Opening Day.
6. David Wright, New York Mets (5): On a Podcast a year ago at this time, we expressed concern over Wright’s health. Well, the Mets’ No. 3 hitter not only stayed healthy last year, but he went out and enjoyed his finest campaign since 2008. His stolen base total bounced back a bit (although he did struggle to be successful in his attempts), and his extra-base pop also rebounded. After that nice recovery, the Mets opted to lock up their franchise player with a seven-year, $122-million extension — a major turnaround considering he was supposedly on the trade block. Wright’s managed to work his way back into an early second round pick with his turnaround although we won’t be surprised to see his stolen base total regress this season.
7. Chase Headley, San Diego Padres (19): The Padres were supposed to deal Headley, but instead he turned in a career year and is now blocking top prospect Jedd Gyorko. Headley will bat third in what should be an improved Padre lineup and he’ll look to build on career bests in all counting cats, including an NL-leading 115 RBI. Headley’s breakthrough was rewarded with a one-year, $8.575-million deal as the Pads wisely avoided going to arbitration with their best bat. This dude has become a superb all around talent, although a rising strikeout rate is somewhat worrisome. Headley finished fifth in MVP voting last year which is not an easy thing to do with a sub-.500 team.
8. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers (9): Signed by the Brewers last offseason to help make up for the loss of Prince Fielder, Ramirez enjoyed a tremendous debut in Sausage City, compiling the third highest wOBA among third basemen. He stayed healthy again, had a career high in doubles, was tremendously productive and enjoyed his second straight .300 season with a very fine OBP. A-Ram’s slugging and OPS also rose and his WAR was never higher. Grab him early in the eighth round and hope that his walk rate continues to rise as it has the past couple of seasons. Ramirez tends to start slowly, but don’t panic — he always heats up with the weather (645 OPS in April last year; 990 in the second half).
9. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants (7): Sandoval enjoyed a hell of a fall and winter as we discussed in a Podcast at the end of January. Conditioning will always be a factor for Panda but so far this spring, he’s met Manager Bruce Bochy’s weight requirements. Sandoval is only 26, so it’s not a major issue now, but his girth will become a factor as gets closer to age 30. Last year, his extra-base pop declined and he wasn’t able to come close to duplicating his 2011 performance. Expect Sandoval’s home run output to rise this year and then continue to increase into his age 27 season. Sure, this is a fat dude, but as long as he’s healthy, he can rake.
10. Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays (8): Lawrie was a major disappointment last year, but he has a chance to be far more productive this year now that Jose Reyes has arrived. Lawrie hit a ton of groundballs last year, and that’s something to keep an eye on given his power potential. His first full season was rife with injuries as he failed to show development at the plate. The drop is his slugging in particular was extremely perplexing for Lawrie’s owners. The power-speed potential he flashed as a rookie simply didn’t materialize last year, but don’t you dare give up on this dude. Lawrie did manage to reduce his strikeout rate, so the news wasn’t all bad. This guy is a future star — starting this year.
11. Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks (16): Prado, one of several D-Backs that will compete for Venezuela in the WBC, is already making an impact in his new home in Arizona this spring with four RBI in his first two games. Acquired in the Justin Upton trade from Atlanta, Prado is coming off arguably his best season yet. His home run output dipped, but he was more productive than ever and set a new personal high in WAR. Prado will get a chance to man third base all year, and focusing on one position should allow him to take his game to another level. He struck out more often last year, but that’s not a big worry. The fact that he’s already winning over his team with his work ethic, competitiveness and intensity should do more to spur the D-Backs than anything. Prado is also listed in our Outfield Rankings, coming shortly.
12. Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox (NR): An honourable mention for the Wire Troll All-Star Team last year, Middlebrooks is going to play a key role for the Sox in his second season. In half a season as a rookie, he flashed serious home run potential, but his strikeout rate was worriesome. A low walk total capped Middlebrooks’ OBP and a wrist injury put a damper on an otherwise great first campaign. The wrist is now fully healed and he’ll likely score plenty of runs in what should be a better Boston lineup this season. Assuming Middlebrooks’ .335 BABIP is unsustainable, expect his BA to dip, but his glovework should be better given that Boston brought defensive whiz Mike Lowell into camp to work with the youngster.
13. Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals (14): Last year, we picked Moustakas as a player we liked in the Fantasy Baseball Guide, writing: “Okay, so Moustakas didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first taste of the majors, but he’ll play almost all of next season at the age of 23 and his upside is unquestionable. A September in which he raked to the tune of a .352 BA, slammed four of his five homers and even swiped his only two bags suggests that he’s already making adjustments. Expect plenty more this year.” So how did that play out? Well, Moustakas really stepped up in dingers and wound up chipping in with a few steals, but the gains were fairly modest. A groin injury late in the season cost him the final couple of games. So what do we do with him this year? Our suggestion is to pluck Moustakas around the middle of the eighth round and hope the quantum leap happens this year. Frankly, we’re not sure his power is going to take much of a step forward yet, but we can see him making overall developments as a hitter and as a run producer. Expect Moustakas to hit at least .250 and drive in 75 runs or more. In other words, another season of modest growth.
14. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners (33): Another honourable mention for our Wire Troll All-Star Team, Seager beat out plenty of competitors to win the Mariners’ third base job out of Spring Training last year, and he never looked back. In his first full season in the majors, he showed much better extra-base sock and he improved his contact rates. Seager will swipe more bases than you expect from a third baseman, but his success rate slipped last year. One interesting note for potential Fantasy owners is that he has been working out at shortstop this spring as Seattle would like to use him as the emergency backup. If Seager can somehow gain eligibility at short as well, it would do wonders for his Fantasy value. This dude surprised many with his pop last year, but chances are he’s the real deal and the shorter fences at Safeco this year should ensure he doesn’t regress much, if at all. We’re also expecting Seager to continue to improve his contact rates and if he does so, chances are he won’t be flying under the radar much longer.
15. David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals (13): When we slotted Freese 13th a year ago in our Third Base Rankings, we wrote that we needed to see him stay healthy before considering him a No. 1 third baseman. Well, he more or less did stay healthy and showed improvement, but was passed along the way at a position that’s a lot deeper than it was in 2012. Freese’s nice showing earned the former World Series MVP a raise from $518,000 to $3.15 million to avoid arbitration. He shattered his career highs in all counting cats and flashed more extra-base pop than ever and this spring, he’s going late in the 12th round, making for a fine CI option. We’d like to see Freese cut his strikeout rate if he’s going to take another step forward, but regardless of what happens, he’ll always have Game Five of the 2011 World Series.
16. Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates (27): An honourable mention for our Wire Troll All-Star Team, Alvarez showed real improvement last year after a nightmarish 2011. He saw more action than ever before, took a major step forward with his extra-base pop and was more productive than ever. Alvarez still strikes out way too much, but he showed enough that the Pirates exercised their $700,000 2013 option on him after the season. We’re expecting him to take another step forward this year with his counting cats as the Pirates’ lineup matures, but asking him to smoke 30 jacks again might be a bit of a stretch. Alvarez was unable to do much as the cleanup hitter last year, settling in mostly sixth in the order. However, he’s going to get another chance to bat fourth this year, and if he can cut it there, bump up your RBI projections for him.
17. Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds (NR): One of a handful of Reds’ rookies that helped spark the team last year, Frazier put up some decent counting cat numbers in his first full season. He’s dealing with a calf woe this spring, but it’s a minor issue, so don’t drop him down on your cheat sheets. Frazier will take over at third base in Cincy this year now that Scott Rolen has all but retired. If Frazier can continue to improve his extra-base pop, he’ll have a chance to emerge as a No. 1 third baseman in standard formats by year’s end. Having just turned 27, the New Jersey native is right in his power prime, so another spike upwards is certainly a reasonable expectation. Frazier is also listed in our First Base Rankings.
18. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles (NR): A graduate from our Top 55 Prospects list in 2012, Machado burst onto the scene in Baltimore for a 51-game stint last year and made an immediate impact — at the tender age of 19. Only three third basemen in history had higher slugging percentages in their age 19 season and perhaps you’ve heard of them: Jimmie Foxx, Bob Horner and Eddie Mathews. Machado averaged nearly a hit per game and put up a 1.5 WAR — impressive given that he played less than a third of a season and had never played above Double-A before. He dealt with a stomach problem earlier this spring, but it’s already a thing of the past as he’s flashing his extra-base pop. Expect to grab Machado in the middle of the ninth round, but remember how young and green he is before going too crazy here. His walk rate in the bigs was extremely low compared to what he did in the minors; Machado will need to improve that to take the next step. Also noteworthy is that his fielding work was a marked improvement over what Baltimore had been getting before Machado showed up.
19. Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees (10): Youkilis has another new team this year, but he’s still the same old fragile player, already dealing with a sore oblique muscle this spring (although he’s now back in the lineup). Last year, he was scoring a decent amount of runs in Boston and then managed to rediscover his home run stroke after a deal to the White Sox. Overall, however, Youk’s extra-base power continued to decline and he had an unproductive season. Signed by the Yankees this winter to provide an inexpensive, one-year solution while the club deals with A-Rod’s hip injury, Youkilis’ walk rate has been dipping for the past couple of years. How big will this signing be for the Bombers? Well, it’s all about health here. If Rodriguez misses most or all of the season and Youk can stay healthy enough to play 125 games or more, this could be a very important move. Youkilis is also listed in our First Base Rankings.
20. Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins (42 at SS): Plouffe’s improvement last year was an important component of what was a much better attack, as we discussed in our Minnesota Twins 2013 Preview. He was much more productive, and although his BA slipped slightly, his slugging continued to develop. Plouffe was dealing with a calf injury this spring, but it’s already a thing of the past. Third base has been a black hole in Minnesota since Corey Koskie’s coconut collapsed, but for about five weeks last year, Plouffe looked like he had filled it and then some. A community-minded player, Plouffe responded to seeing more action than ever with an increased walk rate — something that could translate into a nicer BA this year, assuming he can avoid the major slumps he endured in 2012.
Others to Consider
21. Chris Johnson, Atlanta Braves (38)
22. Alberto Callaspo, Los Angeles Angels (35)
23. Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox (35 at 2B): Keppinger is also listed in our First and Second Base Rankings.
24. Jordan Pacheco, Colorado Rockies (46): Pacheco is also listed in our First Base Rankings.
25. Chris Nelson, Colorado Rockies (41): Nelson is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
26. Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics (NR)
27. Scott Sizemore, Oakland Athletics (22)
28. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (6)
29. Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies (11): Young is also listed in our First Base Rankings. http://www.rotorob.com/2013/01/24/2013-rotorob-mlb-draft-kit-first-base-rankings/
30. Jedd Gyorko, San Diego Padres: Gyorko might qualify at third base depending on your league. He is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
31. Matt Dominguez, Houston Astros (NR)
32. Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians (23)
33. Luis Cruz, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR): Cruz is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
34. Wilson Betemit, Baltimore Orioles (36)
35. Maicer Izturis, Toronto Blue Jays (60): Izturis is also listed in our Second Base and Shortstop Rankings.
36. Ryan Roberts, Tampa Bay Rays (17): Roberts is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
37. Ian Stewart, Chicago Cubs (25)
38. Eric Chavez, Arizona Diamondbacks (56)
39. Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees (50): Note that Nunez didn’t qualify anywhere in bigs in 2012, but he qualified at third base in 2011.
40. Juan Francisco, Atlanta Braves (NR)
41. Jamey Carroll, Minnesota Twins (38 at SS): Carroll is also listed in our Second Base and Shortstop Rankings.
42. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (NR): Carpenter is also listed in our First Base and Outfield Rankings.
43. Joaquin Arias, San Francisco Giants (NR): Arias is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
44. Placido Polanco, Miami Marlins (30)
45. Kevin Frandsen, Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
46. Pedro Ciriaco, Boston Red Sox (NR)
47. Greg Dobbs, Miami Marlins (59): Dobbs is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
48. Jack Hannahan, Cincinnati Reds (45)
49. Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays (32): Rodriguez is also listed in our Second Base and Shortstop Rankings.
50. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (NR)
51. Ty Wigginton, St. Louis Cardinals (34): Wigginton is also listed in our First Base Rankings.
52. Brandon Inge, Pittsburgh Pirates (42)
53. Daniel Descalso, St. Louis Cardinals (47): Descalso is also listed in our Second Base and Shortstop Rankings.
54. Juan Uribe, Los Angeles Dodgers (39)
55. Luis Valbuena, Chicago Cubs (NR)
56. Nick Punto, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR)
57. Brent Morel, Chicago White Sox (29)
58. Scott Rolen, Free Agent (31): Rolen is probably retiring, but nothing is official yet as he seems to be keeping his options open.
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