Position Primer: Third Base

Andy Behrens
Yahoo! SportsMarch 6, 2011

More primers: First Base | Second Base | Shortstop | Outfield | Starting pitcher

More 3B analysis: Yahoo! 3B ranks | Spin Doctors: Beltre vs. Bautista

The good news: You've landed the top pick in your 12-team mixed draft. Congrats. Always a nice feeling. Most of you would take Albert Pujols(notes) at No. 1, a few would take Hanley Ramirez(notes). Almost no one would draft a third baseman. Which brings us to …

The bad news: It occurs to you that if you're selecting first overall in a serpentine draft, you may not have a shot at any of the elite options at third. By the time you're picking in the second round, Evan Longoria(notes), David Wright(notes), Alex Rodriguez(notes) and Ryan Zimmerman(notes) will all be off the board. Never fails. But wait …

More good news: Kevin Youkilis(notes) is a stealth option at third. In Yahoo! leagues, he'll be eligible at the position in early April, as soon as he makes five starts. Youks is a multi-category contributor who doesn't show up in the preseason ranks at third base just yet, but that's where he'll play. (He won't show up in the tiers below, either. But if he did, he'd follow Zimmerman in the first group).

So you're covered at the corners. No matter your draft position, you'll have a chance to snag an elite third baseman in the opening rounds.

If you pass on that chance, however … well, good luck. The second and third tiers at this position are loaded with uncertainty. In all likelihood, several of the biggest fantasy busts of 2011 will be third basemen, and they'll be drafted alongside some of 2011's greatest success stories. This spot is full of players with high ceilings and disastrous floors. Here's a partial list to consider:

Jose Bautista(notes) – It's almost impossible to find comps for Bautista's 2010 campaign. Entering his age-29 season, his slugging percentage had sat in the low-.400s for five straight years. We thought we knew exactly who Bautista was. But in a year when home runs decreased significantly league-wide, he somehow hit 54 bombs and slugged .617. His HR/FB rate jumped from 12.3 percent to 21.7. It seems ridiculous to predict a repeat of that historic performance, but it seems equally ridiculous to predict that a 50-homer player will slip back into the mid-teens. Within the fantasy community you'll find many who say Bautista is overrated, a few who claim he's underrated, and almost no one who thinks he's properly rated.

Adrian Beltre(notes) – It's no secret — and perhaps no coincidence — that Beltre's two biggest seasons have occurred in contract years. Reasonable people can disagree, however, about the extent to which he's been motivated (and unmotivated) by contract status. He's currently sidelined with a calf injury, so that should provide cover if you're looking for an excuse to slide him down the cheat sheet, in the first season of a multi-year deal.

Aramis Ramirez(notes) – Injuries were an issue for Ramirez last year, and he had very little luck on balls-in-play (.245 BABIP). But it can be argued that he deserved his bad luck. Ramirez's batted-ball rates in 2010 looked nothing like any other season in his career; his line drive and ground ball percentages declined substantially, and he hit non-fence-clearing fly balls at an unusual rate. If that continues, the batting average isn't coming back.

Michael Young(notes) – Over an 11-year career, Young has hit .322/.372/.487 in Texas and .279/.322/.411 everywhere else. Last year, his Arlington average was .307 and he hit .260 on the road. So, naturally, he's requested a trade. This helps no one.

Pablo Sandoval(notes) and Pedro Alvarez(notes) – Panda is just six months older than Alvarez, and he's only a year removed from a .330/.387/.556 season. He's also moving down in weight class, by a reported 38 pounds, while Alvarez is moving up. But Sandoval was a tragic bust last year (13 HR, .268) and Alvarez had a very nice September, so you can imagine how the early ADPs are looking. Pedro is off the board two rounds before Pablo.

Mark Reynolds(notes) – He's topped 200 Ks in three straight years, which could potentially make him a top-tier starting pitcher. Too bad he's a corner infielder. There's no doubting Reynolds' power, but he's also a .242 career hitter coming off a .198 season. If you draft him, you'll need to find a way to offset the horrendous AVG without giving back home runs. Not an easy trick to pull off in every fantasy format.

So with most third basemen outside the top-tier, there's really a wide range of possible outcomes. Of the seven players listed above, only Young has been useful for mixed league purposes in each of the last two years — and he'd apparently like a change of scenery, regardless of the fantasy implications. But again, the nice thing about this position is that we'll all have the opportunity to address it in the opening rounds, without veering far off the ADP roadmap.

Position averages, top 20 third basemen in year-end Yahoo! rank
2010 – 79.5 R, 21.7 HR, 83.9 RBI, 5.8 SB, .280 AVG
2009 – 81.4 R, 21.1 HR, 81.3 RBI, 9.5 SB, .286 AVG

(Note: Auction values are from the 2011 Yahoo!/PFW Draft Guide, with minor tweaks).

Top 5 third basemen

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
1. Evan Longoria – Three big seasons before age-25 1. Evan Longoria– On brink of 40 HR explosion 1. Evan Longoria – Down year was still tasty
2. David Wright – Can make top 5 case 2. David Wright– Rare five-cat producer at 3B 2. David Wright – Forgive 2009; reliable stud here
3. Alex Rodriguez – Has another 30/100 in him 3. Alex Rodriguez– 100 RBI every year since '98 3. Alex Rodriguez – Likely profit from second round
4. Ryan Zimmerman – Not trailing top 3 by much 4. Ryan Zimmerman– Crazy he's only 26 4. Ryan Zimmerman – Haven't seen best season yet
5. Adrian Beltre – In Texas, expect 100 RBI repeat 5. Jose Bautista– 40-45 HR encore attainable 5. Jose Bautista – Gets nod over dinged Beltre
Top 5 third basemen you'll reach for

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
1. Evan Longoria – Like him No. 3 overall 1. Jose Bautista– Pay discounted price all day 1. Neil Walker – The classic small market screen
2. Pedro Alvarez – Tablesetters in Pitt not shabby 2. Mark Reynolds– Strong 35-15 candidate 2. Pablo Sandoval – Split '09-'10, make profit
3. Neil Walker – Impressive consistency in rookie campaign 3. Pedro Alvarez– Breakout coming? Si, si 3. Mark Reynolds – Because the world hates him
4. Martin Prado – Hitman will add OF eligibility 4. Casey McGehee– Punishing fools this spring 4. Casey McGehee – Grab several playoff-bound Brewers
5. David Freese – Nice contact high in STL offense 5. Neil Walker– Bucco grossly underrated 5. Juan Uribe – Three-position grab, cheap power
Top 5 third basemen you'll shy away from

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
1.Pablo Sandoval – Too much box of chocolates 1. Alex Rodriguez– Not feeding him popcorn 1. Adrian Beltre – Sore calf, bad timing
2. Scott Rolen – Taking the under on 133 games 2. Martin Prado– Wait for Walker much later 2. Chase Headley – Punchless in Petco (.649 OPS)
3. Ian Stewart – Platoon partners abound in Colorado 3. Scott Rolen– No way he plays 120 games 3. David Freese – TLR messes with young talent
4. Alex Gordon – Lots of hanger-ons, not me 4. Chipper Jones– Glass is more durable 4. Aramis Ramirez – Too many broken seasons
5. Jose Bautista – ADP higher than I'm willing 5. Miguel Tejada– Needs more juice boxes 5. Michael Young – Don't trust outside of Arlington
Top 5 last-round first base lottery tickets

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
1. Ty Wigginton – Always 20-plus HRs, multi-position eligibility 1. David Freese– Surprise BA, RBI source 1. Placido Polanco – Good slot in lush offense
2. Dan Johnson – Could strike gold with power 2. Dan Johnson&ndash Supreme power; PT? 2. Jhonny Peralta – Cheap power, position grab
3. Danny Valencia – .799 OPS in 2010 debut 3. Edwin Encarnacion– 25-30 HR dark-horse 3. Jose Lopez – Thin air worth a shot
4. Edwin Encarnacion – 35 HR 162-game pace in '10 4. Danny Valencia– Cirillo-esque upside 4. Omar Infante – Addicted to Swiss Army knives
5. Chipper Jones – Only upside as late rounder 5. Juan Uribe– Pay for the versatility 5. Alex Gordon – Can't seem to quit him
Top 5 rookie third basemen for '11

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
1. Mike Moustakas – 36 HRs combined AA/AAA in '10 1. Mike Moustakas– Will be up by mid-June 1. Mike Moustakas – Meek Royals soon inherit earth
2. Brent Morel – Potential regular in strong offense 2. Matt Dominguez(notes)– Drawing comparisons to Mike Lowell(notes) 2. Brent Morel – Bet on him over Teahen
3. Lonnie Chisenhall – Sweet swing, no Cleveland roadblocks 3. Brent Morel– Gaining separation from Teahen 3. Matt Dominguez – Glove far ahead of bat
4. Todd Frazier(notes) – Positional nomad's shot coming soon 4. Lonnie Chisenhall– Great name, better bat 4. Lonnie Chisenhall – Perhaps a second-half look
5. Matt Dominguez – Legit starting shot, suspect bat 5. Matt Davidson– Melvin Mora voted for Lincoln 5. Roger Dorn Jr. – Better work ethic than old man