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February 18, 2011
Third Base Rankings
Like last year, the fantasy rankings are broken into tiers. Generally speaking, five-star players should be worthwhile in five categories and have an auction dollar value of $30 or more in your standard, mixed leagues. Four-star players should be worth at least $20 and useful in four categories, three-stars $10 and up, two-stars are more of your single-digit buys that you hope fill a hole or return some bargain value, and one-star players are, most likely, roster filler in the deepest leagues that you hope can be worth the buck you throw down on them.
This year we are listing stats like we have in the past (plate appearances, average, R, RBI, SB and HR projections from PECOTA) but are also including dollar value estimates produced by the Player Forecast Manager. In order to make these columns fit into the tables, I had to shorten them: "2L-$" is for mixed leagues, and "1L-$" is for AL- or NL-only leagues, depending on the player. The dollar values may not match up perfectly with the tiers, but those are just cases of PECOTA and I disagreeing on a player.
For reference, the dollar values were created with the PFM using standard 5x5 roto scoring, 23-player rosters—broken down as C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) Util (1) P (9)—and $180 of the $260 budget allocated for hitters and $1 minimum salaries. A minimum of 20 games needed to be played at a position in the previous season to qualify (though I snuck a few brand new first basemen in). If your league uses different settings, be sure to plug them into the PFM to see what kind of differences in dollar value we are talking about—I set these to be as close to standard roster construction as possible.
David Wright has the best chance of jumping into the five-star realm—he just needs to get as close to a 30/30 season as his bat and legs will allow him. That's on the upper end of his potential, though. Alex Rodriguez's September (.309/.385/.667) has me thinking his hip is feeling better, so he's back ahead of Evan Longoria, who, while excellent, doesn't have the same kind of lineup support that Rodriguez will to help boost those R and RBI totals. His park isn't as friendly for homers, either.
By the way, that's not a typo: third base starts with four-star players. This isn’t due to the dollar values listed in the table either, as I feel like PECOTA is underselling them—each of these six guys should produce about $25 worth of value. Still, if this group tops out around $25 (or a couple bucks more), they miss out on being as elite as, say, Albert Pujols or Hanley Ramirez, two players who are well into the $30 range.
Ryan Zimmerman and Adrian Beltre will both exceed the $20 threshold, and while Beltre should see his numbers drop a bit from last year, they won't decline so much that he loses his excellent value. He can thank his new home in Arlington for some of that, though he's plenty talented in a vacuum. Youkilis I discussed a bit yesterday in the first base rankings—dude has hit .308/.404/.560 the last three seasons, and his coming over to third full-time is pretty big for the position. PECOTA likes Jose Baustista. I like Jose Bautista. If the guys in front of him are on the board, though, I'm not taking Bautista over them.
Ramirez played through the first half while dealing with injuries, and after a stint on the DL came back strong to close out the season (.276/.321/.526 in the second half). If he stays healthy, he'll blow that projection away, though I understand PECOTA's conservatism given Ramirez's inability to do just that the past few seasons. Prado gets bonus points for being eligible at second and in the outfield, though he's best suited for the hot corner and the keystone. Michael Young's value depends on how often he plays. If he gets in the lineup every day in the middle infield or at DH, like the Rangers have told him he will, then he's going to be worth his projection. If they start to skimp on his playing time, though, he's not going to be worth this ranking.
I still have faith in Pablo Sandoval. Somewhere inside the Panda is a guy who can hit .300 with solid power; hopefully the weight he shed this winter sets that hitter free. The Pittsburgh lineup isn't great from top to bottom, but the top and middle looks good—Alvarez will benefit from his placement within that impressive young group. Mark Reynolds is going to kill you in batting average—that's a given. But 30 homers with some steals is a big deal, and chances are good he'll have better R and RBI totals than those above (though not by much). Casey McGehee is a decent hitter in a great lineup, and because of this, he'll put together a fantasy season better than what he would be capable of for many other teams. Ian Stewart, if he plays, will easily be worth this three-star rating. If the Rockies jerk him around like they have Chris Iannetta, though, then come next winter we'll all be wondering why he was listed here.
Scott Rolen was worth almost $11 last year—PECOTA sees a pretty steep fall for him here. I don't agree with it entirely, though I'm obviously skeptical about another 2010 out of him given I'm placing him in this tier. Jason Collette loves him some Edwin Encarnacion, but I'm having a hard time getting excited. I'm outnumbered by PECOTA and Collette, so if you're with them on E5, consider him a three-star player. Uribe will give you better R, RBI, and HR numbers than a lot of third basemen, but he's not going to excel anywhere, and hits for a low batting average. Chase Headley is projected for $0 and just eight steals—he has 10 and 17 the past two years, and given San Diego's new (as of 2010) baserunning policy (in a nutshell: do lots of it) he's going to end up closer to his 2010 total than the projected one above. That will kick him up a few bucks and into the two-star range.
Omar Infante's eligibility at multiple positions makes him intriguing, though he may be miscast as a starter except in NL-only leagues. He's a great value buy for a middle or corner infield slot—ditto for Aviles. Danny Valencia is a guy both I and Rob McQuown dig, which is why he's in this tier despite a negative dollar value projection. Miguel Tejada will be shortstop and third base eligible, and I can't imagine him producing less value than he did last year, considering how terrible he was in the first half with Baltimore.
It pains me to see Chipper Jones with just the one star, but he's a better player in real life thanks to his on-base skills than he is at fantasy at this point, especially since it's a given he won't play a full season. Jose Lopez, if he were guaranteed to play in Colorado every day, would be more appealing than this, but they have roughly 37 third basemen and second basemen on the roster as of right now. Chris Johnson is getting a lot of love for his 2010 debut, but PECOTA and I agree that it's going to be pretty funny when his BABIP falls back to where it should be this year. Placido Polanco doesn't do much more than contribute to batting average (though he doesn't do much of that anymore). If this were a more powerful Phillies' lineup, I would be tempted to bump him to two stars. David Freese hit well before his injuries last year, though not so well that I would want to start him over the strong group of third basemen in front of him. In an NL-only league, though, you can't go wrong with Freese if you can get him for a low price. Jhonny Peralta has shortstop eligiblity as well, but even that combination isn't so great unless you're in an AL-only format (or a league that requires middle and corner infielders, and you just want to avoid the guys underneath him). Kevin Kouzmanoff was unlucky enough to be dealt from the bane of his existence, Petco Park, to one of the few teams that has a park anywhere near as horrible for hitters. It looked like he was going to escape this winter, when the Athletics were after Beltre and acquired Encarnacion, but he wasn't so lucky.
There are not a whole lot of interesting names at this stage after the first few—Matt Dominguez hasn't been impressive in the upper levels of the minors yet, so expecting him to do much in the bigs right now is asking a lot. Wilson Betemit probably won't see a ton of playing time, given that Mike Aviles is a solid third baseman and Mike Moustakas is coming up behind the both of them. Lonnie Chisenhall is intriguing if he gets more playing time than he is forecasted for here—50 R, 10-15 HR and 50 RBI would be a solid get for the price you'll pay.Things got ugly fast. Mora is useful in deep leagues if he's playing every day. Brandon Inge is never going to help you in batting average, but in an AL-only at a corner infield slot, he has his uses. Casey Blake needs to grow a more powerful beard if he wants to escape this realm. Brent Morel and Mark Teahen are fittingly projected for the same value by the PFM—Craig Brown approves.
The rest of this list is pretty hopeless, unless Jason Bartlett or Orlando Hudson goes down in San Diego and Kevin Frandsen gets a chance to step in. I would say something about Brandon Wood finally breaking out, but I've watched him play baseball, so I can't write that with a straight face. Mat Gamel would be useful if the Brewers let him play, but they seem to be doing anything they can to avoid doing just that. Brooks Conrad has been replaced by the rich man's version of Brooks Conrad, Dan Uggla. I know he had his troubles on defense, but I've always had a soft spot for Conrad, and was glad to have him on my NL-only squad last year.