When all the reliable third basemen are gone, someone in your league will be facing today's Spin Doctors dilemma. Ideally, you won't be that guy. Draft the Panda. Or draft Youks. Do whatever is necessary to avoid the Chris Davis(notes) vs. Chipper Jones(notes) debate. It ain't pretty, as you'll soon see. In keeping with Spin Doctors tradition, two Yahoo! experts will now attempt to defend the indefensible in 250 words or less…
Pianowski says: Understanding your format is the key to Jones ownership. If you run in an extremely deep mixed league or an NL-only league, the flags scare me away, too. But in the average mixer, where the replacement value is high, I'm happy to roll with Chipper.
Everyone knows the injury risk you're accepting – Jones has missed an average of 35 games over the last six years. But those missed games don't automatically become bagels in the fantasy world – you're allowed to replace your injured guys. Chipper's three-year average checks in at .321-90-23-82 over 135 games, not bad for five months work.
Chipper's average and power dip last year make people nervous, but career comedowns aren't always linear – a step-back season doesn't guarantee a second one. I'll take comfort that his 2009 BABIP was 30 points lower than his career number and 43 points under his expected BABIP. It's unlikely this pick will hurt your average, which is more than I can say for Crash Davis.
You want to be seduced by the siren of the home run, be my guest. Ignore Davis's .238 average, ignore the fact that he struck out 38 percent of the time, ignore that it's very easy for a MLB club to fill the positions he plays. We all need power, but we can find it in safer packages. Many times the boring vet is the right call (I see Ibanez and Abreu nodding their heads), and this is one of those times.
Behrens responds: After reading the italicized intro, hopefully you understand that I won't face this decision in many leagues. Each draft presents its own unique horrors of course, so I can't guarantee that I'll always select an elite third basemen. But my intention – just so we're clear – is to avoid the debate we're having right now.
The case for Davis: When he was mercifully optioned to Triple-A last July, Davis took a .202 average and 114 Ks with him. But the 23-year-old changed his stance in the minors, then proceeded to destroy PCL pitching (165 AB, 6 HR, 25 BB, 39 K, .327/.418/.521). When he returned to the majors in August, he was a different hitter. He launched six homers over his final 36 games, batting .308/.338/.496. His strikeout-rate went from inexcusable to merely bad. Entering 2010, he's a high-end power threat at a reasonable price (ADP 160.5). No, he still can't hit lefties. Nobody said he was perfect.
The case against Jones: It's over. This is Chipper's age-38 season; last year he hit .264 with 18 home runs. The average 2009 fantasy line delivered by a top-20 third baseman looked like this: 81.4 R, 21.1 HR, 81.3 RBI, 9.5 SB, .286 AVG. Jones didn't reach any of those stats. (OK, so Davis didn't reach them either, but age is on his side). Chipper is the most high-maintenance name in the player pool – he hasn't played 145 games since '03 – and the projected return is no longer worth the managerial aggravation.
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