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February 25, 2010

Fantasy Focus

Third Base Rankings

by Marc Normandin

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Earlier this week we introduced the first basemen and second basemen rankings using the new tiered system built on the recommendation of reader feedback from the past few months. I took a day off Wednesday in order to check out additional feedback and tweak the rankings more to your liking-generally, you are happy with the direction they have taken, and want me to stick with the tiers, but there is a portion of the audience that has made it clear they want to see players ordered within the tiers.

So, going forward, there will be no hard number ranking-the concept of tiers and the fact that the players within the tiers are essentially equal would go out the window were I to do that, as the numbers have less meaning than the tiers. I will, however, use what I will refer to as the "Gun to my head" principle, where I will list the players in the order that, were you to stick a pistol to my noggin, I would tell you who I prefer. This way, those who already like the tiers as is get to keep what they enjoy, while those who are asking for that little bit extra also get their way. Additionally, I will either update the first basemen and second basemen lists on Unfiltered, or just wait until I finish the positions and give you one long, positional player cheat sheet. Tell me your preference in the comments.

When it comes to dollar values and the like, though, we have the Player Forecast Manager. I can only give you one dollar value, it won't cover all types of leagues, and it will be useless to as many people as it will be useful. The PFM and I are meant to complement each other-use both in your draft preparation for the most effective team construction.

The first basemen rankings are here, while second base can be found here. Now, here are the changes to this year's ranking system:

  • Players are no longer ranked by number (the 1-20 system). Instead, I am implementing a tiered system using stars (five stars is the best, one is the lesser of your options). These stars are equal across positions to make comparisons between them easier-for example, there are three five-star first basemen, but there may be more or fewer than that at other positions-if it comes to it, the first player at a position may be a four-star option. You can derive positional scarcity from the number of four- and five-star players available and make decisions from there.
  • I am no longer just covering 20 players per position-each list may be a bit different in length, but this list of second basemen is 41 players long. This should let players in AL- or NL-only league be as prepared as those in mixed leagues. There are two things I did to make this happen. First, I used the depth charts as my guide (this is also where the projections listed come from) and picked the starting player for every team at the position, giving me a minimum of 30 guaranteed choices. Second, for players with multiple position eligibility, I included them in the list for each position. It is possible they will have different star ratings at different positions, though, so make sure you reference the correct set of rankings. Victor Martinez is a three-star first baseman-it's a very crowded position, and his numbers are very average for it-but at catcher, where the talent pool is shallower, Martinez is worth more. This allows me to show you at which position a player is most valuable.

Five Stars
Player            PA   AVG/OBP/SLG    R HR RBI SB
David Wright     686 .313/.415/.541 101 29 101 21
Evan Longoria    686 .288/.378/.534  97 37 105  9
Alex Rodriguez   595 .288/.403/.578  91 39 106 17
Ryan Zimmerman   648 .286/.356/.508  88 29  90  2

You can't ask for a much better group than this. PECOTA expects Wright to rebound, but even if he doesn't hit nearly 30 bombs, check out that batting average and on-base percentage. He'll pick up over 100 runs and RBI easily, and as a 20/20 guy, he has loads of value in all five categories. Evan Longoria is David Wright 2.0, but with fewer steals-that's about the only separation between the two at this stage. Long-term, I would take Longoria's bat over Wright's-he's that good-but for 2010, those steals keep the Met in the lead.

PECOTA is overshooting Rodriguez's homer total-I would put him down for low 30s-and his stolen bases may also be a handful too high. Otherwise, though, it's hard to argue, and discounting those two stats just means he's behind two of the very best at the position. If Zimmerman stole bases, he would be David Wright 3.0. His projection seems a bit low to me, but it's also weighting in his 2007 and 2008 seasons, so that's to be expected. He had well over 110 runs and 106 RBI last year with 33 homers, and there's nothing in his production that says he can't do that again.

Four Stars
Player            PA   AVG/OBP/SLG    R HR RBI SB
Pablo Sandoval   610 .321/.366/.529  81 21  81  3
Mark Reynolds    669 .256/.354/.488  91 31  90 13
Ian Stewart      584 .263/.352/.485  81 24  75  7
Chone Figgins    680 .283/.375/.372  93  5  50 44
Michael Young    648 .299/.362/.444  73 15  72  8
Aramis Ramirez   520 .298/.379/.498  63 18  79  1
Chipper Jones    495 .296/.405/.471  61 15  61  2

Sandoval is like a pudgy Nomar Garciaparra. If he hit .360 all of the time, with 25 homers and doubles power, I wouldn't be shocked. Even with the Giants offense to consider, and his lack of steals, he's going to give you plenty of production. It's a shame he won't fit in at catcher anymore. To say I am skeptical of Reynolds would be an understatement, but I've talked it over with some folks I trust in order to get past my bias a bit-the fact that PECOTA doesn't expect him to retain all of his 2009 production, but still put up a worthwhile fantasy season, is also helping. I fully expect him to strike out 300 times and fail to drive in runners all season now, just because I caved in.

Stewart had a .270 BABIP last year, so assuming that returns to normalcy (as PECOTA is doing), you have yourself a realistic expectation of his performance. I would actually pencil him in for a few more homers-he hit 25 in 491 plate appearances last year-and the R and RBI may be a bit low too. When the PECOTA cards are live, I would use his 75th percentile projection. Figgins isn't a four-category player like everyone else in the four-star tier, but he should reach 100 R, hit for a helpful batting average and steal more bases than most. He is nearly 40 steals ahead of the projected average for this list of third basemen, and it's tough to ignore just how far ahead that 44 steals can put you, especially since he isn't useless otherwise.

PECOTA is factoring Young's injury-hampered past into this projection-another season like 2009, even a little below that, makes him a four-star third baseman. Ramirez hit well in limited time last year, but his BABIP was a little too lofty for PECOTA and my liking given his history. Those R and HR totals seem a little low to me, but bumping him up for that doesn't do anything except keep him ahead of the guys I've listed after him. Jones was worse than this projection last year-far worse-but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that he can rebound to the point PECOTA has set here, given his well-below Chipper standards BABIP from 2009. If you don't agree, feel free to bump him to the tier below, as PECOTA could be having a hard time properly weighting the seismic shift in performance.

Three Stars
Player             PA   AVG/OBP/SLG    R HR RBI SB
Kevin Kouzmanoff  632 .277/.328/.463  63 23  90  1
Chase Headley     616 .267/.355/.439  65 17  67  5
Adrian Beltre     564 .275/.325/.455  60 20  71  9
Jorge Cantu       570 .288/.353/.467  64 19  79  3
Edwin Encarnacion 549 .262/.350/.474  67 24  64  5
Alex Gordon       543 .265/.350/.446  62 18  55 11
Mark DeRosa       512 .273/.355/.447  68 15  62  2
Placido Polanco   586 .305/.355/.425  86  9  60  7
Andy LaRoche      595 .254/.350/.408  68 16  61  4
Miguel Tejada     458 .301/.340/.451  65 14  61  4
Jhonny Peralta    664 .268/.337/.425  72 18  80  2

This tier is very tightly packed. Kouzmanoff's OBP is not high enough for him to pick up a ton of runs, but he has good power and lots of RBI potential for the position, and his batting average won't hurt you now that he's out of Petco Park (though he is in the only slightly better canyon in Oakland now). Headley's best value may be in head-to-head leagues where you can use him on road games only, but even with that you have to love PECOTA's forecast for him-it's taking his second half into account with a bit of a power burst. I think the rebound expected for Beltre here may be a little too much, but counting stats-wise he's going to look good, between Fenway Park and the lineup he's in.

Cantu is kind of a boring option, but he gets the job done, and he has first-base eligibility as well. Encarnacion's biggest concern may be Brett Wallace-if Encarnacion doesn't deliver, he may not play long enough to match this forecast. Gordon's 2009 was painful, but if he does what he's supposed to do, then there's no reason he can't match this. I still like Gordon, though not as much as teammate Billy Butler. DeRosa doesn't belong in left field, but he's third-base eligible for now, so take advantage. He's essentially the average third baseman.

Polanco should see a boost in his production by moving to the NL, and in that powerful Phillies lineup you can expect him to pick up plenty of R and even a few RBI. He's the perfect example of a three-star player, and you can use him for about the same value at second base instead. It's not a realistic expectation for the entire season, but LaRoche hit .321/.367/.583 in September last year. Now, I would be silly to suggest that one month means everything is OK, but I do think he showed legitimate improvement that will translate into a better performance. I'm interested in seeing his 75th percentile, because it's probably closer to my expectations for him.

Tejada's R and RBI numbers seem low for that average, slugging, and homer total. It may just be the number of plate appearance he's forecasted for: over 600 plate appearances, his projection looks more like 85 R, 18 HR, and 80 RBI. Say what you want about his production, but Tejada usually manages to stay in the lineup. Peralta, assuming this is now time for one of his good years, is another example of this. He'll pick up some HR and won't hurt you in either R or RBI, but his batting average could use some work.

Two Stars
Player             PA   AVG/OBP/SLG    R HR RBI SB
Scott Rolen       471  .273/.355/.426 57 10  54  4
Mike Fontenot     474  .273/.346/.435 56 12  50  4
Garrett Atkins    437  .284/.351/.460 51 16  65  1
Jeff Keppinger    539  .301/.364/.430 59  9  51  2
Casey Blake       543  .258/.339/.417 66 17  68  2
Casey McGehee     661  .269/.331/.425 71 19  90  1
Mat Gamel         292  .262/.338/.447 32  9  34  2
Maicer Izturis    382  .286/.355/.427 49  8  45 10
Omar Infante      377  .294/.352/.406 44  5  42  3
Brett Wallace     103  .267/.334/.445 12  4  10  0
Mike Lowell       242  .284/.344/.477 26 10  41  1

Things have taken an unexciting turn for the worse here in the two-star category. It might be easier to simply tell you about the few differences and the reasoning than to repeat myself about these very similar players and projections. Rolen is on top because he has the best chance of being a three-star guy. Fontenot won't play third, but he's eligible, and he wouldn't kill you in a deep league, though you can do much better. Just like with first base, I think Atkins forecast is a bit overstated; otherwise, he would be a three-star guy.

I made a mistake with Keppinger in the second-base list that I plan on fixing when I re-release them-he was projected for far more playing time than I thought, which fits him snugly into a two-star slot instead of one. If you got points for having awesome facial hair (fantasy points, Tommy Bennett, not life points) then Blake would have had his own tier until he shaved off his beard just before the start of spring training. As for McGehee, I'm still not sold on that RBI total. It just seems off, especially given PECOTA's conservative nature related to run scoring this year.

Gamel would be much higher if you could guarantee he would play every day. Izturis might end up with a better season than slated starter Wood, but sadly will not play all of the time, and therefore loses value. Infante should bounce around the diamond often enough to warrant consideration in very deep leagues, or those with MI/CI slots. Wallace's value skyrockets if Encarnacion loses his job, but right now, Encarnacion is set to play. Lowell is a weird one to analyze-he's only useful in games where he is subbing in at third base or DH, and even then, just if they are home games. If he goes somewhere else to play via trade but goes to a park that isn't built for hitters, I'm not sure he comes anywhere near this forecast despite playing daily.

One Star
Player             PA   AVG/OBP/SLG    R HR RBI SB 
Brandon Wood      549  .241/.303/.452 62 25  59  7
Mark Teahen       549  .263/.333/.411 59 13  48  8
Emilio Bonifacio  495  .267/.326/.353 62  3  31 18
Brandon Inge      507  .234/.320/.402 50 16  57  4
David Freese      480  .254/.323/.409 52 12  56  2
Pedro Feliz       458  .262/.306/.402 45 12  67  0
Brendan Harris    325  .276/.340/.412 35  6  28  1
Alberto Callaspo  259  .296/.358/.423 28  4  24  1
Matt Tolbert      259  .262/.319/.377 31  3  22  6

Wood has the best chance to break out of this slot, but since I haven't been optimistic about his major-league performance since 2005 or so, I'm not exactly holding my breath. Teahen will, um, play every day. There's that. Bonifacio brings nothing to the table except for some R and some steals, assuming he plays as often as the depth charts indicate. Inge, Freese, and Feliz are basically The Same Guy according to PECOTA, which is as depressing as it sounds. Harris, Callaspo, and Tolbert are all slated for partial seasons, so none of them will do much for you-if Callaspo was playing daily, I would be more enthused by his forecast.

43 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Cheat sheet at the end, please.

Feb 25, 2010 09:10 AM
rating: -3


Feb 25, 2010 09:10 AM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

Four stars.

Feb 25, 2010 09:37 AM
rating: 0

You don't think Youkili's numbers will be very close to Zimmerman's? He's has been a better AVG man and on-base machine, hits in a great lineup, friendly park, etc. He's certainly fatter and more of an injury risk, though perhaps playing all year at first base will mitigate that. I don't see the separation between him and Zimmerman being all that significant.

Feb 25, 2010 11:15 AM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

I'm a bigger fan of Youkilis than his weighted-mean projection, but I'm pretty enamored with Ryan Zimmerman, yes. I think Zimmerman's ceiling is about Wright/Longoria minus the steals.

Feb 25, 2010 12:00 PM
rating: 0

Hey! You can't call Youkilis fat!

Feb 27, 2010 15:53 PM
rating: 0

Youklis has exceeded his PECOTA 90% projection three years in a row. Will Pecota get him right this year?

Feb 26, 2010 07:17 AM
rating: 0

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Youkilis definitely qualified at third under any system.

Feb 25, 2010 10:00 AM
rating: 0

Marc - sounds like you're convinced Wallace will play 3b for Toronto but I seem to recall the talk out of Blue Jay camp focused around a 1b future for him. If Encarnacion flops, are you saying the Walrus mans the hot corner (woo-hoo keeper value) or that some other lineup iteration will result in more PAs headed his way? Bautista to 3b and Wallace at DH most likely?

Feb 25, 2010 09:32 AM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

That would make sense, especially with Overbay in tow and their new focus on offense first. I'll take that into consideration when I revamp/cheat sheet these lists.

Feb 25, 2010 14:18 PM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

Need to rethink the mulitposition valuation a bit. McGehee's listed as two stars at 2B and at 3B while his numbers are playable (though not elite) at either position, especially 2B. Being able to flip a player between two positions when the regular starter has a day off is a huge edge in daily league transaction games like Yahoo. Either way, he should've gotten three stars at 2B or maybe in the last list, you can focus just on multi-position players.

Feb 25, 2010 09:38 AM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

Which is why I made sure to point out, in both lists, that I don't like McGehee's forecast. It's far too optimistic for my liking, and I don't think he'll last the year with a starting job, especially not with Gamel waiting in the wings.

Feb 25, 2010 09:43 AM
rating: 0

Where would Kevin Youkilis rate if he has 3B eligibility?

Feb 25, 2010 10:13 AM
rating: -2
Marc Normandin

Answered above, but just in case you don't see, four stars.

Feb 25, 2010 10:43 AM
rating: 0
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I do not see Youkilis listed under 4 stars.

Feb 25, 2010 11:43 AM
rating: -14
Marc Normandin

No one said he was listed. Just that he would be four stars, were he included :-)

Feb 25, 2010 11:59 AM
rating: 0

I applaud your patience. I've been laughing at the comments and questions coming from people who are not reading and waiting for a reply laced with the F word but you are hanging in there. I'm still betting you crack before the SP rankings come out but I'm impresssed you've made it this far.

Feb 25, 2010 13:16 PM
rating: 8
Dave Holgado

No one said it except you.

"[F]or players with multiple position eligibility, I included them in the list for each position."

Feb 25, 2010 14:09 PM
rating: -3
Marc Normandin

I was talking about how I answered that same question earlier in the comments. I'm building these from the depth charts, where Youkilis is not listed as a third baseman, and it caused me to miss him. There are 42 others there, and I immediately--twice even--replied with Youkilis' value at third. I even answered questions as to why he is there to fill in what is not in the article. You can give me a hard time if you'd like, but c'mon :-)

Feb 25, 2010 14:17 PM
rating: 0
Dave Holgado

I don't like to do it, trust me. But "eligibility" is based on the depth charts? Why? How about basing it on what fantasy leagues base eligibility on? I mean... c'mon. You don't have to have played in leagues for very long to know that most ones that are worth their salt determine initial position eligibility based on games played in MLB the prior season (typically either a 1-game, 5-game, or 20-game threshold). Such that Gordon Beckham, e.g., is eligible *only* at 3B in pretty much every fantasy league that has... you know... rules. And Kevin Youkilis qualifies at 3B under any such standard (having played, I believe, over 60 games there last season). The latest edition of the PFM addresses this issue (with a customizable "minimum games played" position eligibility input), so I'm not sure why you would choose to ignore it.

I know you have taken a fair amount of heat over the past couple years for your articles, from a substantive/analytical perspective as well as from an organizational/presentational one. I have tried not to add to the chorus, given that -- while you rarely issue a mea culpa -- you at least try to be responsive to complaints in the name of improving your work product. But it has been hard to stay quiet, because a site like BP should be a leader on something as quant-intensive as fantasy baseball, and right now it just isn't. With that said, congratulations on your new role, and good luck with the new additions and the planned improvements to BP's fantasy coverage. I'm hoping for the best.

Feb 25, 2010 15:19 PM
rating: 4
Richard Bergstrom

For the future, I'd rely on last year's games played charts instead of future depth charts (for non-rookies, anyway). Some drafts force you to fill out a positional roster based on last year's appearances regardless of projections unless that player is a rookie or was injured the previous year.

Feb 25, 2010 15:44 PM
rating: 2

Where would Gordon Beckham rate on your list since he still has 3B eligibility in many leagues.

Feb 25, 2010 10:21 AM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

Low four-star ceiling this year, high three-star more likely. I feel like he's right at that cutoff point in talent difference.

Feb 25, 2010 10:45 AM
rating: 0
Dave Holgado

Moreover, Beckham has *only* 3B eligibility in many leagues, or indeed, all which base initial roster eligibility (as they should) on a player's games played by position in the prior season. Beckham did not play a game in MLB at another position last season.

Feb 25, 2010 11:45 AM
rating: 0

You really think Atkins is only a bit overstated? He hasn't come real close to that projection for the last 2 years, he will be 30, and he won't be playing 1/2 his games in Coors field next year.

Feb 25, 2010 11:43 AM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

It's not like putting him in the two-star tier with that forecast was a compliment.

Feb 25, 2010 11:56 AM
rating: 0

How is PECOTA overshooting ARod's HR total? He hit 30 last year in 444 ABs last season. Wright is the top 3B??

Feb 25, 2010 12:15 PM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

Maybe I overshot my claim of overshooting. I like Longoria's bat a bit better than his weighted mean though, so the order stays the same. If you like A-Rod more, feel free to swap 'em.

Feb 25, 2010 14:21 PM
rating: 0

seriously Marc, thanks for your patience and willingness to please. above and beyond ...

Feb 25, 2010 13:21 PM
rating: 5

how close is sandoval to 5 star? the numbers look pretty close...

Feb 25, 2010 13:42 PM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

I am seriously concerned with the Giants offense outside of Sandoval, as well as the park and his lack of stolen bases. I felt that it was too many question marks, but as you can see, he's the next best thing.

Feb 25, 2010 14:11 PM
rating: 0

Marc, this list format is like Josh Hamilton at the Home Run Derby in Yankee Stadium. Out of the park!

Thank you!

Feb 25, 2010 14:27 PM
rating: -1
Benjamin Harris

Just a suggestion, but it might be a good idea to cross-reference your list with a list of positional rankings on Yahoo or something before you post the article. It may save you some stress. Man, I get frustrated reading some of these comments, can't imagine what you must feel.

Feb 25, 2010 15:37 PM
rating: 1

This format is perfect.

Feb 25, 2010 16:21 PM
rating: 2

3rd base is kind of pathetic outside of the Top Tiers
Outside of Brandon Wood there is nobody with a legit shot at shooting up the rankings

Figgins, Young, ARAM, and Chipper are all so so 4 star 3rd baseman. I dont expect that those guys will live up to their 4 star rankings

I expect over the next couple of years a steep changeover with multiple 5 star Prospects instantly filling in. The Current 1 Tier, 2 Tier, 3 Tier, and Half of the 4 Tier 3rd baseman are either old and fading or in their prime but produce below average numbers.

Feb 25, 2010 18:17 PM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

Yup, it's in a weird transition state. It looked like there was a huge influx of talent a few years ago, but it didn't all stick, and now we're here with a lot of young guys and a lot of old or poor players.

Feb 25, 2010 18:58 PM
rating: 0
Brian Kopec

If I was looking for another 3b, I'd draft Pedro Alvarez over any of those 2 star guys.

Feb 25, 2010 18:28 PM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

That would help things. This position drops off pretty suddenly.

Feb 25, 2010 18:57 PM
rating: 0

Pedro Alvarez when he's up? Three stars?

Feb 25, 2010 19:47 PM
rating: 0

One long cheat sheet at the end please. Thanks for all your hard work.

Feb 25, 2010 20:08 PM
rating: 1

Long cheat-sheet at the end please Marc...and THANK YOU!!!

Feb 26, 2010 07:12 AM
rating: 1

The Sandoval and Reynolds paragraph was pure hilarity for me! Thank you, and thankfully for me we have K's against, so I really don't need to get over my bias.

Mar 01, 2010 06:56 AM
rating: 0

Which Zimmerman is the one we will see in 2010? I'm having a hard time tracking his development. In 2006 he had a GB/FB = .76, an ISO of .184 and SLG of .471. In 2007, he hit more grounders (GB/FB = .81), had a slight bump in ISO (to .191) but slight drop in SLG (to .458).

I'll disregard 2008 because he was injured throughout the majority of it..

Then in 2009 he shows up hitting way more fly balls (GB/FB = .66), with an ISO of .233 and SLG of .525. Which profile is more indicative of his truer skills? The 2006/2007 guy is more of a 20-25 HR batter. The 2009 guy is more of a 30-35 HR batter.

Mar 03, 2010 16:55 PM
rating: 0
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