Position Primer: Third Base

Yahoo! Sports

More Primers: C | 1B | 2B | SS | OF | SP | RP

The market for third basemen in 2009 is kind of like the U.S. housing market in 2005. Beneath a thin, cracking veneer you'll find a vast collection of toxic (expletive). Everything seems OK at the surface, but the layers below are overpriced and highly leveraged.

Does this mean that the entire global economy will collapse if Edwin Encarnacion hits .251 again? No. The metaphor eventually breaks down, and correlation does not imply causation. But hopefully you get the basic idea: Third base is a messy position in fantasy leagues.

You wouldn't know it by looking at the first round of a typical draft, however. In many mixed leagues, three of the top six overall picks will be third basemen. Those players – David Wright, Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera – are all elite hitters in outstanding lineups, and they've proven themselves over multiple seasons. Rodriguez's best years may have been chemically enhanced and Cabrera probably won't qualify at third base in 2010, but for now, the top tier at this position has three occupants.

The next tier is a mix of players who've had exactly one great season (Evan Longoria, Kevin Youkilis), and veterans who may have already peaked in fantasy terms (Chipper Jones, Aramis Ramirez). None of them are bargains. Longoria's average draft position at Mock Draft Central is 21.2, so we've already factored improvement and durability into his price. That's a dangerous habit, at least in the opening rounds. Generally speaking, early in a draft you shouldn't give any player credit for skills he hasn't demonstrated or plateaus he hasn't reached. (Think of this as the Carl Crawford Principle – some of you are still drafting him as if 25 homers are guaranteed. But that's a story for another primer).

By the end of Round 5, the top seven 3B-eligible players will be off the board. If you haven't yet filled the position, you'll be faced with the Chris Davis versus Garrett Atkins dilemma. And if you decide that Round 6 is too early for either of those guys, then you'll be looking at Aubrey Huff and Ryan Zimmerman in Round 7.

At that point, you might reasonably decide to just wait for Alex Gordon (ADP 165.8), Adrian Beltre (197.7) or Carlos Guillen (235.4). If you're going to accept the likelihood of mediocrity at any given position on a fantasy team, you should at least try to avoid drafting it within the first 10 rounds.

We'd love to tell you that the dearth of useful third basemen will be short-lived, but several of the most interesting prospects at the position – such as Mat Gamel, Dayan Viciedo and Brett Wallace – also figure to be defensive liabilities. They won't necessarily stick at third in the big leagues. Additionally, it's worth noting that Cabrera, Youkilis and Davis enter the 2009 season as first basemen, and Guillen will play left field. The hot corner is a talent-scarce position right now, and it could very well look worse next year.

Third Basemen – Tiers

David Wright
A. Rodriguez
Miguel Cabrera

Evan Longoria
A. Ramirez
Kevin Youkilis
Chipper Jones

Chris Davis
Garret Atkins
Russell Martin

R. Zimmerman
Aubrey Huff
Chone Figgins
Adrian Beltre
E. Encarnacion
Alex Gordon
Carlos Guillen
Jorge Cantu
Mark Reynolds

Pablo Sandoval
Mark DeRosa
Mike Lowell
Melvin Mora
K. Kouzmanoff
Troy Glaus
Hank Blalock
Jed Lowrie
Ian Stewart
Ty Wigginton
Casey Blake
Chase Headley
Joe Crede

Eric Chavez
Josh Fields
Mat Gamel
Felipe Lopez
Dayan Viciedo
Andy LaRoche
Bill Hall
Scott Rolen
Dallas McPherson
Blake Dewitt
Mark Teahen
Clint Barmes
Brett Wallace
Aaron Miles
Jeff Baker
Pedro Feliz
Russell Branyan
Ramon Vazquez
Nick Punto
Maicer Izturis

Top 5 Third Basemen – Overall

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski

1. Alex Rodriguez – Intense public scrutiny is nothing new for A-Rod

1. Alex Rodriguez – Even if he's not organically grown, A-Rod has still been a 100-35-100 player for 11 straight seasons

1. Alex Rodriguez – Through Hollywood tears and injecting cousins, he's still a stat monster

1. David Wright – Why not, he beat Alex last year.

2. David Wright – In a word, flawless

2. David Wright – A five-category star, and batting third in an excellent lineup

2. David Wright – Although Erin Andrews film rumors proved completely fictitious, he's still a sure-fired multi-cat stud

2. Alex Rodriguez – Shout out to my Scrabble peeps: RADIO has an anagram

3. Miguel Cabrera – Post-AS break HR (21) and RBI (70) leader

3. Miguel Cabrera – He led the AL in home runs and still disappointed a few owners. That's when you know you're good

3. Miguel Cabrera – Miggy a huge fan of devouring Ho-Hos and, especially, Ding Dongs - 40 HR, 130 RBI on horizon

3. Miguel Cabrera – No problems in the new park (.540 slugging, .890 OPS)

4. Evan Longoria – Counting postseason, concluded rookie campaign with 33 HR in 510 ABs

4. Evan Longoria – It's possible to love the player and hate the ADP

4. Evan Longoria – Spectacular debut just a taste of what lies ahead - 35-40 HR, 110 RBI not unreachable

4. Evan Longoria – Look for him to punish more lefties this year

5. Aramis Ramirez – For that point in the draft when you need a .290, 30 HR, 100 RBI line that you can write down in permanent ink

5. Aramis Ramirez – 6 consecutive 25 HR, 90 RBI seasons to his credit, and hitting in the heart of the highest-scoring lineup in the NL

5. Aramis Ramirez – Mr. Clutch also Mr. Consistent - at least 25 HR, 100 RBI five of last six seasons

5. Aramis Ramirez – Hasn't let anyone down since 2002

Top 5 Third Basemen – Undervalued

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski

1. Pablo Sandoval – Will hit in middle of lineup, play almost every day and, most importantly, he has C-eligibility

1. Alex Gordon – Only 25, and he still has the power/speed potential. We'll see if the offseason swing adjustments are a factor

1. Ty Wigginton – Expected to be O's primary DH, you know he'll be eligible at a minimum of three positions by midseason

1. Jorge Cantu – Plenty of balance during rebound year; he'll keep most of the 2008 numbers

2. Ian Stewart – Former top 10 pick has 25-HR upside and 2B-eligibility

2. Mark Reynolds – Terrific power potential, and I have a weakness for the Dave Kingman types

2. Alex Gordon – Former fawned over prospect has "post-hype" plastered on forehead - power growth coming

2. Jed Lowrie – Wrist is healthy, two-position grabber, should beat out Julio Lugo

3. Aubrey Huff – People need to realize that his down years of '06 and '07 are the exceptions to his career, not the norms

3. Carlos Guillen – Totally forgotten, but he still has 3B eligibility and a .302/.378/.490 line over the past three years

3. Mike Lowell – Courageous rock for Sox again healthy; anticipate a substantial rebound - .280-20-90-75

3. Adrian Beltre – Check health first, but his four reliable categories surprisingly don't cost much

4. Mike Lowell – If he's healthy to start the year, he's a steal based on current Y! ADP (227.3)

4. Ron Santo – OK, so maybe this won't help you on draft day. But c'mon … let's put the guy in the Hall

4. Pablo Sandoval – A caveman could draft him - Catcher eligible, catcher eligible, catcher eligible, BA good

4. Mike Lowell – A good chance to be opening-day ready, and don't discount Boston undertow

5. Ty Wigginton – Likely to produce yet another .280, 23+ HR line in uber-utility role in Baltimore

5. Carney Lansford – Tip of the cap here to the commenters in the A's Hot Stove Helper

5. Josh Fields – Glossed over after injury ridden '08, he has job and 20-plus HR potential, if you can stomach BA

5. Garrett Atkins – Even if he's traded, he'll get 40 games in Colorado

Top 5 Third Basemen – Overvalued

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski

1. Alex Gordon – People will still reach for him based on that .325/29 HR/22 SB line at Double-A in '06 despite a combined .253/31/23 in 285 games with the Royals since

1. Russell Martin – This feels like cheating, but he qualifies at third and we've ranked him too high. His numbers simply don't work at third

1. Chone Figgins – Setbacks have led to three-year SB decline; really he's a slightly better version of Carlos Gomez

1. Chipper Jones – Too much injury risk to justify ADP ticket (50.6)

2. Garrett Atkins – OPS in sharp decline each of past 2 seasons, and he's hit .244 away from Coors in that span

2. Mark DeRosa – You might like the multi-position eligibility, but don't overpay for a 34-year-old coming off a career year

2. Russell Martin – In the context of 3B, his value is inflated due to catcher eligibility; power decline real

2. Alex Gordon – People are still paying for stuff he hasn't done yet (like hit lefties)

3. Melvin Mora – 104 RBI total aided by .360 RISP mark, 80 points higher than career RISP average (.280)

3. Jorge Cantu – That two-year sabbatical between useful seasons keeps Cantu out of my top 15

3. Aubrey Huff – Never again will come close to gaudy '08 totals; significant HR/RBI chunks will be trimmed

3. Pablo Sandoval – Curse of the trendy: so underrated, he's become overrated

4. Casey Blake – 35-year-old could finish season in support role behind DeWitt and Loney

4. Evan Longoria – OK, we've kicked this one around enough. See above

4. Chipper Jones – Larry Wayne amazing when healthy, but why waste a top 60 pick for 120 games?

4. Ty Wigginton – Hate to bash my guy here but Orioles have a gridlocked roster

5. Evan Longoria – Not that I won't pay the upside mark-up, but still tough to swallow top 20 price tag for 23-year-old with less than 500 ML ABs

5. Adrian Beltre – Just wanted to point out what a ridiculous aberration 2004 was, considering that Beltre's career OPS is .786

5. Jorge Cantu – Comeback season deserves to be lauded, but expect a downturn in power numbers

5. Mark Reynolds – Don't chase his counting stats, no way they give him another 539 at-bats

Top 5 Third Basemen – Prospects

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski

1. Dayan Viciedo – Big bopper has plenty of Cuban League seasoning and an opportunity to seize in Chi-town

1. Mat Gamel – Posted a .932 at Double-A last year, but he's defensively challenged

1. Brett Wallace – Trunk-heavy Walrus can flat out rake, but a glove burden; battling with David Freese this spring

1. Josh Vitters – Power hasn't come yet but he's still 19

2. Mat Gamel – Defensive liability, but his big-time bat will force the Brewers' hand at some point in '09

2. Dayan Viciedo – Abundant talent, power, girth

2. Pedro Alvarez – Considered the Albert Pujols of 3B prospects by some scouts; September call-up likely

2. Pedro Alvarez – No pressure, kid, they only expect Willie Stargell 2.0

3. Brett Wallace – Line-drive machine will get chance to seize the moment with Glaus out 1st month of season (shoulder)

3. Pedro Alvarez – The No. 2 pick from the '08 draft is off to a pretty fair start this spring

3. Mat Gamel – Obliterated Double-A pitching last year (.329-19-96), may get more seasoning at Triple-A to start '09

3. Mat Gamel – Bat is just about ready, glove might never be

4. Pedro Alvarez – Top 3B prospect in the game is likely more of a 2010 story

4. Mike Moustakas – Led the Midwest League in homers at age 19

4. Dayan Viciedo – Portly punisher hasn't met a burrito or pitch he didn't like; legend in Cuban leagues at 19

4. Mike Moustakas – Offense came around when he was shifted to third

5. Jason Donald – 2B/SS-eligible now, but skilled Phillies prospect could be in line for hot corner duty if Feliz's back continues to heal slowly

5. Brett WallaceEvans likes 'em round, just in case you hadn't noticed

5. David Freese – Limited by mysterious Achilles injury this spring, still the presumptive frontrunner to fill Glaus void

5. Matt Dominguez – Elbow and strike-zone problems held him back as a teenager

What to Read Next