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March 9, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

Fantasy Tier Rankings: Third Basemen

by Derek Carty

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These are the third base fantasy rankings for 2012. Check out our previous closer, catcher, first base, and second base installments.

As a reminder, five-star players are generally going to be your star-level producers that will be selected within the first couple of rounds, usually worth upward of $30. Four-star players are the next step down, worth more than $20. Three stars are worth more than $10, two stars will be in the single digits, and one star will be roster-filler and late-round fliers. Of course, this is just a general guideline. While the rankings will generally follow PECOTA, I will deviate when I feel strongly that a player will over or underperform his PECOTA projection.

I’ve also decided to give my choice for a value pick in each tier—a guy who I think will be worth more than your leaguemates do, or a guy who I believe stands a good chance of beating his PECOTA projection.

For reference, the dollar values were created by our PFM using a league format of 12 teams, 5x5 scoring, and 23-player rosters—broken down as C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (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. We’ll be providing values for both mixed leagues and AL-only/NL-only leagues. While this is the industry standard format, your own league structure may differ, in which case you can customize the PFM to your own needs.

Also, please note that for players who are eligible at multiple positions, the dollar values listed are representative of their most valuable position. So a guy like Emilio Bonifacio, who qualifies at shortstop, doesn’t have dollar values directly comparable to Chase Headley if you’re drafting him as a third baseman. His ranking, however, is indicative of where he would fall as a third baseman.

Five Stars

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

Jose Bautista

3B,RF

TOR

$21

$22

652

0.257

31

7

91

90

David Wright

3B

NYN

$21

$27

612

0.29

20

19

80

83

Evan Longoria

3B

TBA

$16

$19

614

0.262

27

8

86

81

Bautista gets destroyed by PECOTA because of his shotty performance history prior to 2010, but he’s a different player than he was back then, and I believe him to be a much better player than PECOTA thinks. I’m not buying the .300-plus average last year, but another 40 home runs would be unsurprising.

I also think Longoria is better than PECOTA sees, particularly with a batting average that could easily be .280. He’s improved his strikeout rate four seasons in a row and just needs health and a BABIP bounceback.

Five-Star Value Pick: I’ll take Wright here, assuming his rib cage injury doesn’t prove serious. The Mets are moving the fences in, which should help his power, and he runs a lot for a third baseman.

Four Stars

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

Adrian Beltre

3B

TEX

$14

$18

574

0.284

24

5

84

75

Ryan Zimmerman

3B

WAS

$17

$22

641

0.285

24

3

86

84

Pablo Sandoval

3B

SFN

$12

$20

564

0.301

19

3

79

75

Alex Rodriguez

3B

NYA

$20

$21

585

0.275

30

10

85

82

Mark Reynolds

1B,3B

BAL

$19

$20

649

0.234

35

11

90

82

Aramis Ramirez

3B

MIL

$15

$20

611

0.278

26

1

86

81

Michael Young

1B,3B,DH

TEX

$12

$18

647

0.295

14

6

76

80

PECOTA is a little down on Beltre, but he’s posted five consecutive years of 25-plus home runs, has been cutting down on his strikeouts, and bats in the middle of one of the most potent lineups in baseball.

What I found most interesting in this tier is that our PFM seems to value a strong batting average much less in a 12-team mixed league than it does in the deeper AL- and NL-only formats. Despite strong overall numbers, check out Pablo Sandoval and Michael Young’s disparity in price. Then look at the batting average of the guy with the smallest disparity: Mark Reynolds.

Four-Star Value Pick: He was the Four-Star Value Pick for first base too, but I really like Mark Reynolds, especially at a shallower position. To repeat, he’s a guy who always seems to wind up on my team, perpetually undervalued in my eyes, and he’s in a good ballpark for his power. He even has a decent lineup around him, considering he plays for the Orioles. I’ll take the over on his PECOTA home-run projection; 40-plus is a very real possibility. He’s being taken in just the 10th round, on average, in Mock Draft Central drafts.

Three Stars

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

Kevin Youkilis

3B

BOS

$7

$15

537

0.284

19

4

71

75

Brett Lawrie

3B

TOR

$10

$17

566

0.263

17

17

74

68

Edwin Encarnacion

1B,3B,DH

TOR

$5

$13

559

0.26

20

5

70

70

Martin Prado

3B,LF

ATL

$5

$16

592

0.289

12

4

69

72

Chase Headley

3B

SDN

$6

$16

642

0.261

13

12

67

76

Emilio Bonifacio

3B,SS,LF

FLO

$8

$19

657

0.262

2

32

54

69

Youkilis is all sorts of risky thanks to his injuries, but if he manages to remain healthy enough to stay on the field, he’s got Five-Star upside.

Bonifacio could be very scary this year with Ozzie Guillen as the manager. If he plays every day (and Ozzie does seem to love these kinds of guys), there’s no question that I’d take the over on 32 steals. Going from a manager who doesn’t like to steal to one who loves it will do wonders for Bonifacio.

Like Young and Panda above, Prado gets hurt in mixed leagues since a lot of his value is in his batting average, which actually plummeted to .260 this year. I expect a bounceback there, and he makes for a fine pick in NL-only leagues as long as owners don’t go $24-crazy for him like they did in LABR NL.

Three-Star Value Pick: I mentioned in the first base article how much I love Encarnacion, and he’s the Value Pick here. He plays in one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball and hits the ball a mile. Last year, 47 percent of his homers were No Doubters, according to HitTracker, and 71 percent would have been out in any park in baseball. There’s immense power upside here.

Two Stars

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

David Freese

3B

SLN

$4

$14

593

0.274

16

2

68

71

Chipper Jones

3B

ATL

$1

$14

506

0.281

16

4

60

67

Daniel Murphy

1B,2B,3B

NYN

$8

$17

591

0.288

11

7

70

72

Chris Davis

1B,3B

BAL

$9

$15

580

0.262

25

2

81

71

Brent Morel

3B

CHA

$0

$12

555

0.264

12

9

61

61

Danny Valencia

3B

MIN

$2

$12

607

0.268

13

3

68

69

Ryan Roberts

2B,3B

ARI

$4

$14

567

0.246

14

15

59

66

Freese gets slapped with an “injury-prone” label by a lot of fantasy players, but a conversation I had at last year’s LABR trade deadline with BP’s in-house injury expert, Corey Dawkins, resulted in Corey telling me that he just thinks Freese has been unlucky with injuries and is not necessarily injury-prone. The early run of CHIPPER agrees, giving Freese a better-than-average chance at avoiding a 30-plus day injury. His post-season heroics certainly won’t help his price if your leaguemates tend to overvalue that kind of thing, but if they don’t, he could be a solid pick.

I said it yesterday, but I’m just not buying into Roberts’ power. Valencia is boring, but his job is safe and you pretty much know what you’re getting with him, and that kind of boring, consistent production is likely to be undervalued in AL-only leagues (though pretty useless in mixed leagues).

Two-Star Value Pick: Chipper Jones went for just $7 in LABR NL this past weekend, and he seems to be getting undervalued overall. Yes, he’s injury-prone, and he’ll miss some games, but his performance when he’s on the field is still very good. Don’t shy away from him at the low price he’ll command.

One Star

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

Mike Moustakas

3B

KCA

$2

$12

550

0.267

17

2

70

64

Pedro Alvarez

3B

PIT

($6)

$8

464

0.242

17

2

55

54

Mat Gamel

3B

MIL

$2

$13

541

0.263

19

1

69

67

Ian Stewart

3B

CHN

($0)

$11

524

0.238

20

6

63

62

Chone Figgins

3B

SEA

($2)

$14

562

0.255

1

31

38

59

Sean Rodriguez

2B,3B,SS

TBA

($3)

$10

483

0.229

15

10

53

54

Jimmy Paredes

3B

HOU

($5)

$11

445

0.25

6

22

45

44

Lonnie Chisenhall

3B

CLE

($9)

$6

456

0.249

13

0

52

51

Scott Rolen

3B

CIN

($4)

$9

485

0.263

12

3

55

58

Jed Lowrie

3B,SS

HOU

($5)

$7

500

0.25

11

2

53

58

Alberto Callaspo

3B

ANA

($14)

$4

401

0.272

5

3

38

45

My good friend in the industry, Chris Liss of Rotowire, drafted Figgins for $12 in LABR AL this past weekend, which raised some eyebrows. Liss is notorious for gambling on last year’s duds, thinking them to be prime bounce-back candidates and generally undervalued. For the most part, this is true as a result of regression to the mean, but something Rotowire’s Jeff Erickson said was interesting: “Sometimes, a dud is just a dud.” Figgins will be given every chance to prove he is not a dud this year, starting full-time at third and leading off, and I’d be willing to gamble on him for single-digits in AL-only leagues. It’s yet to be seen where Figgins is in fact a dud now, or if he’ll bounce back to previous levels.

I spoke a bit with BP’s prospect expert, Kevin Goldstein, prior to LABR, based on PECOTA’s optimism for Gamel, and KG wasn’t convinced he’ll survive as a full-timer. BP2012 expresses similar optimism to PECOTA, so it will be very interesting to see what happens with him. He’s risky for sure, but for the right price, why not?

One-Star Value Pick: Alberto Callaspo. We have him down for a tepid 401 plate appearances, but he secured 536 last year and could approach that number again in 2012. If Mark Trumbo fails as a third baseman, as most scouts expect him to, Callaspo would only have to share a little time with Maicer Izturis. I could also see him posting a higher batting average than PECOTA has him down for; he has bested such a figure in three of the past four years.

***

With over 1,600 player comments in Baseball Prospectus 2012, you might find it difficult to read through them all before draft day arrives. To help you out, I’ll point you toward some of the most insightful comments for this position. These are the guys that I’d highly recommend flipping to in your copy of the book and reading before you sit down at the draft table.

Be sure to read the BP2012 comments for these third basemen: Pedro Alvarez, Mat Gamel, Chase Headley, Brent Morel, Mike Moustakas, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Zimmerman.

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

BP Comment Quick Links

KevinC

If I didn't know better I'd say there were some Small Sample Size issues in the bottom tiers. Ryan Roberts and Danny Valencia over Moustakas? The first two looked good last year, and Moustakas had a rough debut, but I still expected him a good bit higher.

Mar 09, 2012 04:13 AM
rating: 0
 
timber

What he said, and add Brent Morel to Valencia and Roberts.

Mar 09, 2012 07:53 AM
rating: -1
 
KevinC

Same could be said for Gamel, based on prospect status, and a very small sample of poor performance, but you addressed that in the article.

Mar 09, 2012 04:15 AM
rating: 0
 
Hoff

I know david wright is still being drafted fairly highly, but i think in general people are a lot more down on him than is prudent. Yes he has lot a ton, and yes betran and reyes have left the lineup. But with the fences coming in, people ahve also forgotten that the mets were an above average run scoring team last year, 6th in the nl and tops in their division. Yes, they've got some defensive butchers out there, and their pitching is terrible, but the loss of beltran and reyes will be made up for by a real first basemen and potentially a full season of wright.

Anyway I was suprised to you put him top tier, but totally agree with it.

Mar 09, 2012 04:52 AM
rating: 0
 
adrock

I appreciate the logic between a flattening of values in AL/NL only leagues, but I've found that in reality, these values are never reflected in an actual draft, particularly in a league with inflation.

Sticking to the theoretical values, it seems the main advantage to be gained is to pick the top performers in each dollar value tier. I.E. with Young, Longoria, A-Rod, Bautista [even woefully under-projected], Beltre, and Reynolds within a $4 range, it makes a ton of sense to spend the extra $4-$5 for the elite performer.

Of course, this can lead to bidding wars and prices closer to the players' intuitive values.

Mar 09, 2012 08:33 AM
rating: 0
 
mneibart

what's the PECOTA logic behind the speed/BA guys worth more in deeper leagues, whereas the HR guys are more valued in shallower leagues?

Mar 09, 2012 09:12 AM
rating: 0
 
Aaronjs27

I think that in a deeper league 20 SB can literally mean the difference of 3 or 4 points in the standings, whereas in a shallow league where everybody has base stealers the one-category guys tend to shine a lot less. 20 steals in a 10 team league might be worth only 1-2 points. In an extreme case, a guy like Ellsbury can literally win steals by himself in, say, an AL only league with 14 teams. His steals are worth 10+ points! In a shallow league where everyone has great players you need as many multi-category studs as you can find, and that means power hitters.

Mar 11, 2012 09:56 AM
rating: 1
 
barnes1212

I was thinking the same thing about Roberts, but watching the Arizona game today I saw Roberts clobber his 3rd HR of the spring. It was a two out, two on poke. I'll be watching him closely the next two weeks. -- Don't move him up the rankings, but he just might outpace his draft day value.

Mar 09, 2012 16:00 PM
rating: 1
 
Jack Thomas

According to PECOTA there is no 5 Star 3B with Bautista's $21 being the highest PFM. Is there something in PECOTA working against 3B?
Bautisa's projection is laughable for a system described as "deadly accurate" on the cover of BP 2012. You & I know he is a different player the last 2 years -- maybe PECOTA should also.

Mar 09, 2012 16:50 PM
rating: 1
 
JoshC77

I know what you are saying, but PECOTA is based on historical comparables and past performance. How many historical comps can you find for Bautista? PECOTA has always undervalued Ichiro too, but he is as much an outlier as Bautista is.

Mar 10, 2012 06:09 AM
rating: 1
 
lesmash

I think that 19 HR, 79 RBI projection for Pablo Sandoval is on the low side. He had an excellent HR/FB ratio last year, and with good health could easily approach 30 jacks. I'm taking the over on his projection.

Mar 11, 2012 06:47 AM
rating: 1
 
Aaronjs27

I think you're right. Sandoval's PECOTA is for only 80% playing time, which means playing only 130 games. I might take the under on 30, but with good health he should have little trouble reaching 25.

Mar 11, 2012 10:03 AM
rating: 0
 
jashnew

If I do the Player Forecast Manager it has Longoria as the 5th best 3B in a 12 team multi league snake draft. Wright, Bautista, ARod, and Reynolds are ahead of him. Why is it different here?

Mar 11, 2012 19:14 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

I've reordered them a bit based on my own personal preference. If you sort by the Mixed League prices, Longo comes out 6th behind those four guys and just a hair behind Zimmerman as well. The difference could be changes in projected playing time from when I ran the PFM to now, different categories being used, different number of teams, or other small things like that which could cause Longo/Zimm's prices to move slightly.

Mar 11, 2012 19:43 PM
 
jashnew

I appreciate the response.

Mar 12, 2012 14:31 PM
rating: -1
 
edanddom

Derek, was there a reason that Hanley Ramirez was omitted from this ranking aside from the fact that he has yet to play 3B? He will be eligible at 3B in quite a few leagues just on the fact that he is projected to start there. Certainly the case could be made that he is a 5-star pick, perhaps even ahead of Bautista. Thoughts?

Mar 11, 2012 20:49 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yeah, Hanley isn't 3B-eligible anywhere yet, so he's not on the list. Only guys who are eligible going into the season (20-plus games last year). Hanley will be once the year gets underway, but not yet. Same for Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera would for sure be a five-star guy, Hanley would be borderline. I'll take Bautista before him.

Mar 11, 2012 21:08 PM
 
bctowns

David, your point about being able to read all 1600 player comments rings especially true this week, as work intrudes on my draft preparation. Thanks for the pointers on player comments to read! Hopefully all these rankings have similar helpful lists at the end. Many thanks.

Mar 12, 2012 11:43 AM
rating: 0
 
brandonmohon

I disagree with the Mark Reynolds full approval. I had him last year and was VERY satisfied with where he wound up statistically on the year. He had a slow start and I think I remember being very close to dropping him in an AL-only saber league. He's very streaky. I think you have him ranked properly, but be prepared to ride a rollercoaster all season.

Apr 03, 2012 11:09 AM
rating: 0
 
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