Time to get to the left side of our infield, starting with the hot corner, third base. Most major league teams believe 3B is a position where power is required, and fantasy teams are no different. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this position is pretty deep, with at least 12-14 I could live with starting at third or my corner infield spot.
That being said I was also surprised at how many of these players seem to have some kind of injury history outside of Bautista. Beltre has played less than 125 games two of the past three seasons, Longoria missed 29 games last season and had off-season surgery on his foot, Wright missed 60 games last season, we all know about ARod’s injury history the past couple of seasons, Sandoval 45 games, Zimmerman 61 games, Youkilis has missed 42, 60, and 26 games the last three seasons, although he only missed 13 last year Aramis Ramirez missed 38 the year before, and the only thing keeping Freese out of the top ten 3B is his inability to stay on the field throughout his career. Anyone else noticing a pattern here?
As always these rankings are designed for 5×5, 10 team, mixed leagues. When it comes to whom I would select for 3B, it may not come down to the best player, but who I think is going to play the most games. You can’t accrue the statistics I need if you’re on the DL and down in AAA rehabbing injuries. The good news, with the depth at this position and first base, there should be plenty of good to decent players available to fill your CI and DH/UT spots.
1. Jose Bautista, Toronto: Bautista is the 5th overall player on my personal rankings and someone I would have no quarrels with if he was on my team. The fact that he is eligible at 3B in most leagues only enhances his value, once again I love players with multi-position eligibility. There are some who still doubt Bautista, choosing to believe he is not the real deal. Not sure what more you can ask of him, he has hit 97 HRs the past two seasons combined and that doesn’t count the big September he had in 2009 that seemed to ignite his potential. I guess if you’re looking for a reason not to draft Bautista you can point to the fact that he only hit 12 round trippers in the second half of last season, still I’ll take him, 40+ HRs this season seems almost guaranteed.
2. Adrian Beltre, Texas: I know most rankings have Beltre third but I just can’t pass up on a player hitting in that ballpark and batting cleanup in that lineup. The Rangers could score 1000 runs this season if everyone stays healthy (Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz). As mentioned above that has been a problem for Beltre, but even though me missed 38 games he still had 32 HRs, 105 RBI, and a .296 AVG. Just imagine the numbers he could put up if he plays 145+ games. I’m definitely looking upside here with Beltre.
3. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay: I’m someone who believes that Longoria is a little overrated when it comes to fantasy. He’s a great player, no doubt, and the Rays offense seems to be better this season than it was last season, but still, it doesn’t compare to the Yankees, Red Sox, or Rangers. The main reason for taking him over Beltre would be that he could steal double digit bases, but only stole three last season. His average also took a tumble, down to .244, perhaps he was feeling the pressure of trying to do to much for an anemic offense. Perhaps it was the oblique injury suffered early last season. Either way, when it comes to injuries, Longoria is not immune, he is currently dealing with a hand injury and had off-season surgery to repair a nerve condition in his left foot, just to many red flags for me. I’m not saying I wouldn’t draft him, just not as high as some others want to.
4. David Wright, Mets: This should be an interesting season for Wright. The Mets have moved the fences in at Citi Field, this should help his HR production (14 last season in 102 games). Perhaps he can approach the 29 he hit in 2010. Biggest concern could be who the Mets will bat in the one and two holes, the table setters, can they get on base enough to allow Wright to drive in over 100 runs? Unless you have been living in a cave, you know the Mets are having financial problems thanks to the Bernie Madoff scandal and that crisis became worse Monday when the court ruled that the Wilpons must pay $83+ million right now and a possible 350+ million at trial. The Mets have a $16 million option on Wright for next season, but could he be traded due to financial concerns by the trade deadline in July? Remember, the Mets didn’t even try to re-sign Jose Reyes.
5. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: Last year ARod was a first round pick, this year no one seems to trust him. I don’t trust him either, but not so much as I can put to many players above him. They all seem to have the same problem, can’t stay on the field. ARod has gotten off to a hot start in spring training but then again he did last year as well, and that was before he hit a career low 16 HR, 62 RBI, .823 OPS and 67 runs scored. Can he rebound? To a certain degree yes. Gone are the days where he was a threat to hit 40+ HRs, many of his fly balls seem to die on the track now, but 28-30 HRs with 100 RBIs or so is certainly doable. The Yankees will rest ARod as often as possible to keep him fresh, that won’t always mean a spot on the bench, the Yanks cleared the DH spot so they could give players like ARod and Jeter a half day off but keep their bat in the lineup.
6. Brett Lawrie, Toronto: The only question with Lawrie is when does he put it together? If this is the year than he should be a spot or two higher on this list. It looks like he’s going to begin the season batting 7th, but if he gets off to a hot start or Adam Lind a slow one, he could end up hitting behind Bautista and that’s a place we would all love to be. In 43 games last season Lawrie hit .293 with nine HRs, 25 RBIs, seven SBs, with an OPS of .953. We can all do the math and would love to prorate those numbers over a full season this year, but that just may be the tip of the iceberg as eventually Lawrie may be capable of so much more.
7. Michael Young, Texas: If young only had power he’d be a top player but even in Texas, hitting in one of the best lineups in baseball, he still only had 11 HRs. Still though, 106 RBIs and a .338 AVG will ease the pain a bit. Doesn’t hurt that he may be eligible to play as many as four positions in some leagues, and he’s almost a lock to play 155+ games.
8. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco: I can see why there are some fantasy owners who are big on Sandoval this season. He missed 45 games last season yet still hit 23 HRs, 70 RBIs with an average of .315 and an OPS of over .900. Prorate those numbers and wow, pretty good year. Still though, I’m not a fan of that lineup, if manager Bruce Bochy refuses to put Brandon Belt in the lineup on a regular basis than it is hard to see this unit making a big improvement and you still have to worry about that ballpark. Sandoval also has that 11th commandment rule, thou shall not pass without being swung at. If he ever learns the strike zone and practices patience, watch out. It’s good to see he took the game more seriously last season and reported to camp 40 pounds lighter, let’s just hope he keeps that regime up.
9. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington: Don’t get me wrong, I like Zimmerman as a player, and apparently so do the Nationals after guaranteeing him $126 million through the 2019 season. Have to ask myself though, how can you pay that much money to a player that is great when he is on the field, but misses an awful lot of games and may have a chronic shoulder injury that will force him to play first before long. In the past four seasons Zimmerman has missed 142 games, that’s almost a full season, I can’t take that many DNPs as a fantasy owner, not as my starting 3B, but I know someone will, his is definitely a name I would throw out early in an auction as there are many owners who will take the chance that this will be the year he stays healthy.
10. Kevin Youkilis, Boston: Continuing the theme of this column we bring u Youkilis he who has never played more than 147 games in season, and hasn’t played in more than 135 since 2009. His OPS, HRs, Rs, and even SBs have declined in three straight seasons. Now he does have upside as he plays in a great hitter’s ballpark and in a stacked lineup, but there still have to be worries that at age 33 his skills are declining and he may never be the player he once was.
11. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee: Now Aramis had a good season last year, 26 HRs, 93 RBIs, .306 AVG, and .871 OPS, are solid numbers for any fantasy player, but if you look closer at the number you see quite a home/road split. It looks like he was a product of Wrigley Field where we all know the ball flies out of the ballpark on a regular basis. Now hitting behind Ryan Braun will help and Milwaukee is far from a pitcher’s paradise but his numbers could certainly regress.
12. Mark Reynolds, Baltimore: What more is there to say about Reynolds? He’s going to hit a ton of HRs, probably in the 35-40 range, but his average will leave much to be desired and he’s going to whip up a hurricane with the amount of times he will swing and miss. At least you know what you’re getting.
13. David Freese, St. Louis: The World Series hero could be the next hot thing at third if he can just stay healthy. His slash line in the playoffs .397/.465/.794 along with five HRs is quite impressive. You can probably still get him on the cheap, and he could be very well worth the price, but you better have a reserve just in case the injury bug bites once again.
14. Ryan Roberts, Arizona: We already wrote about Roberts in the 2B rankings, not much has changed, he could be a one year wonder, or he could be a solid player who can play 2B, 3B, MI, and CI on your fantasy team.
15. Martin Prado, Atlanta: Prado was talked about all winter as possibly being on the move but in the end it’s back to Atlanta he goes. He doesn’t really do anything well. Might hit 15-18 HRs, might steal a little less than 10 SBs, could bat in the .280 range, but in the end, he’s just a CI if you’re going to play him in the infield.