Here are my pre-season top 16 third base rankings:
- Miguel Cabrera, DET
- Adrian Beltre, TEX
- Evan Longoria, TB
- David Wright, NYM
- Hanley Ramirez, LAD
- Pablo Sandoval, SF
- Ryan Zimmerman, WSH
- Chase Headley, SD
- Aramis Ramirez, MIL
- Martin Prado, ARI
- Kyle Seager, SEA
- Mike Moustakas, KC
- Brett Lawrie, TOR
- Todd Frazier, CIN
- David Freese, STL
- Will Middlebrooks, BOS
Additional Information: ADD FIRST NAMES OF ALL THE PLAYERS, the first time you write abut them
- Miguel Cabrera had a career best with 44 home runs last year. The power surge was aided by a career high in his HR/FB rate (24%). His career average HR/FB rate is 18.9% so expecting another 40+ home runs season is a stretch. Victor Martinez replaces the free swinging machine known as Delmon Young in the 5th spot in the lineup so Cabrera could score more runs.
- Adrian Beltre may be one of the most underappreciated players of his era. Last year he tied a career high with 156 games played. After looking at his numbers I don’t see any reason why he cannot repeat his 2012 performance. He’ll start the season at the age of 34 and has suffered a drop in games played every other season over the last four years so expect one or two trips to the DL.
- Even though Evan Longoria missed half the season with a hamstring injury, he hit .289 with 17 home runs and 55 RBI. This is the second year in a row where he missed an substantial amount of time due to injury. Last year, it was a left hamstring; in 2011, it was an oblique and a foot nerve issue. Most would agree the Tampa Rays are a smart organization. The six-year $100 million contract extension given to him this offseason, shows they’re not worried about his ability to stay healthy. He has the upside to be an elite fantasy option and one of these years he’s going to put up a full season of elite numbers.
- David Wright's second half of the year saw him regress back to mortal levels SHOW THE SPLITS. However, that did not stop the Mets from giving him a seven-year extension worth $122 million. He posted the lowest stolen base success rate of his career (60%) which has to be sign his 20+ stolen base potential no longer exists. He may never come close to 30 home runs again, but he’s a relatively safe play to hit .280 with 17-22 home runs and 90/90 (RBI/runs).
- Hanley Ramirez provides 20/20 upside at a premium position and just came off a season where he played the second most games in his career. ISN'T THE SAME COPY YOU USED FOR HIM AT SHORT? However, the .300+ batting average and 50+ stolen bases he used to provide are long gone; if he continues to strike out 20% of the time, be happy with a .260 batting average.
- Like with David Freese last year, Pablo Sandoval's draft day value will likely be inflated because of his World Series heroics. However, owners may forget he was one of the biggest fantasy busts in 2012 and 2010. His power in 2012 may have been suppressed by surgery on his left hand in early May. With a year removed from surgery he could be primed to return to 20+ home runs. Another encouraging sign is his plate discipline improved, posting the highest walk percentage in his career. If he can stay healthy he can be a .300 hitter with 20 HRs, 100/100 (RBI/runs).YOU LEFT OUT CONCERNS ABOUT HIS WEIGHT
- When healthy, Ryan Zimmerman is a dynamic hitter, but health is a big question mark for him. Throughout 2012 he was marred by a right shoulder injury. Part of his treatment was taking cortisone shots; he received at least four cortisone shots throughout the year. Before the first cortisone shot (small sample; 220 ABs) his slash line was .218/.283/.268. After he began taking cortisone shots his slash line in 345 ABs was .316/.382/.571. I’m not implying those stats were aided by the cortisone shots THE STATS WERE CLEARLY IMPROVED BY THE SHOTS. WHEN HEALTHY HE HITS BETTER., but his ability to stay on the field concerns me a lot.
- Before 2012 the most home runs Chase Headley had in any season (majors or minors) was 20, back in 2007 in Double-A. Most of Headley’s fantasy value came from a monster second half, where he posted a .308 batting average, 23 home runs, 73 RBI and 56 runs. Petco suppresses a lot of his fantasy potential, but if he gets traded, he has the ability to be an elite third baseman. With a 25% HR/FB rate his 31 home runs were fluky and will most likely regress. However, can he hit 12-16 home runs? Yes. If you can draft Headley at the right price he can provide a solid return for your fantasy team, but I’m almost certain someone will see the 31 HRs and draft him earlier than he should go.
- Last year Aramis Ramirez provided numbers fantasy owners were accustomed to see during his pre-2008 years. Will he put similar numbers similar to 2012? The underlying stats do not suggest a regression is on its way. However, he’ll enter the year at the age of 35 and I have doubts whether he can stay healthy for the entire year; before to 2012, he’s only averaged 126 games played the past four years. If you draft him, keep him; he’s notorious for starting slow every year. The biggest worry I have about Ramirez is the fact he is a slow starter. YOU JUST SAID THAT Suppose this is the year is the beginning of his decline, fantasy owners will not bench or trade him because fantasy analysts will argue he is a slow starter YOU HAVE SAID IT THREE TIMES NOW and to remain patient.
- Last year Martin Prado followed up a poor 2011 year with a good year in 2012. He also played in 156 games, the most he’s played in his career. I chalk up the poor 2011 year as an aberration primarily due to various injuries: a leg infection that never really healed and a finger injury. Prado moves from a neutral hitter’s ballpark in Atlanta to an extremely hitter friendly ballpark, which only helps his prospects for 2013.
- Coming through the minors, most scouts pegged Kyle Seager as a utility player rather than a starting third baseman. However, in 2012 he hit for power and was fixture in the middle of the Mariners order. In the minors Seager hit for average and drew a lot of walks, but didn’t hit for power. When he got to the majors he made adjustments and turned his slappy swing to more of an uppercut, allowing him to generate more fly balls and home runs. He’s an extreme fly ball hitter (42% career in the majors) and will be the biggest benefactor of the fences moving this year at Safeco.
- Mike Moustakas struggled the second half of the year, hitting .211 with only 5 home runs. This is very common for young players as the league made adjustments to him. Now it’s his turn to make further adjustments. He has the raw tools to be an All-Star; if he makes the proper adjustments he can be a solid fantasy third baseman.
- Brett Lawrie was one of the most hyped players entering the 2012 season, having an average draft position of 49 at ESPN. Basically, Lawrie owners learned that a sample size of 171 plate appearances isn’t the best indicator of future performance. Since his 2012 season was so below expectations, there may be an opportunity to buy low. He’s a pure hitter with above average power; he also has the speed to steal more than 20 bases. His ultimate ceiling is a 30/30 (home runs/stolen bases) player, but most players never come close to reaching their ceiling; realistically he’s a 15/15 player with .285 batting average.
- Last year Todd Frazier flashed the tools that made him a first round pick by hitting for power and being a legitimate run producer. When Joey Votto came off the DL, Dusty Baker for some reason favored the rotting corpse of Scott Rolen over Frazier at the end of year and in the playoffs. Rolen is now out of the picture, which means the job is Frazier’s to lose. The 20+ home run power is legit, but his batting average could fluctuate based on BABIP because of his propensity to strike out so much.
- David Freese finally played a full year and what did fantasy owners get? They got exactly what they paid for. Drafted as the 13th third baseman at ESPN, he finished as the 12th best third baseman on ESPNs player rater. He is a clear second division third baseman with limited upside and a moderate floor, which is primarily due to his long injury history and not his skill set.
- A fractured wrist in early August put a stop to a promising rookie debut for Will Middlebrooks. Some fantasy owners may quickly write off Middlebrooks because he can’t take a walk. Who cares? Taking walks doesn’t equate to being a good hitter. Is he an impatient hitter? Yes. Even though he strikes out a lot (24.5%), he makes enough contact despite poor plate discipline. Does he have 30 home run power? If he does, he’s never shown it in the minors. His .288 batting average appears to be BABIP driven so a regression is likely to happen.
Overall Draft Strategy
Other than starting pitcher, this is the deepest position of any position entering 2013. I would literally be happy with any of the top 16 players on my team (assuming the right price). For fantasy owners playing with CI (corner infield) positions, you can literally wait until the end of the draft to fill that position. Similar to first base, you’re going to want get power from your third baseman; you’re going want to get a player who can hit 20+ home runs.