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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.

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Premium Article Future Shock: Cardinal... (02/24)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Second ... (02/23)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Shortst... (02/26)
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