2012 Third Base Preview
Mar 10, 2012 by Dan Wheelock
Third base is arguably the deepest position in fantasy baseball in 2012. It will get even deeper two weeks into the season when Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera gain third base eligibility. I would be comfortable starting the top-11 three-baggers in mixed leagues (not counting Ramirez and Cabrera). So this is a position you can wait to fill and still wind up with a great option while getting some top-tier talent at other positions.
Here are the Fantasy Sports Kings third base rankings…
1. Jose Bautista, TOR – Bautista followed up his 54-home-run outburst in 2010 with 43 more in 2011. Despite hitting less home runs, Joey Bats raised his average 42 points to .302 and raised his OPS to 1.056, the best in the league. Power is a precious commodity in fantasy these days and Bautista has lots of it.
2. Evan Longoria, TB – Longoria saw his batting average dip to .244 in 2011 but he still hit 31 home runs and drove in 99 runs. He had a ridiculously low .239 BAbip (.301 for his career) so you can bank on a batting average improvement in 2012. Longoria missed almost 30 games due to injury. His counting stats will receive a bump just from staying on the field for 150+ games.
3. Adrian Beltre, TEX – Beltre put up excellent numbers in his first year with the Rangers (.296/82/32/105) despite missing time with a leg injury. On a per-game basis he was unreal. Beltre is a stud third baseman that has a lot going for him (home ballpark, lineup spot, Ranger’s offense) but he is on the back-side of his prime years. He is still a great option on draft day.
4. David Wright, NYM – Wright had a forgetful 2011 season in which he missed two months because of a stress fracture in his lower back. When he did play, Wright wasn’t his normal self. He finished with a career-worst .254 average and a .771 OPS. Still, if you extrapolate his numbers over 600 at-bats, he would have had a 20/20 season. There is also reason for optimism because the fences are being brought in and lowered in some places in Citi Field.
5. Pablo Sandoval, SF – In the second half of the season last year, Sandoval hit .325 with 15 home runs. He is still just 25 years old as is poised for his first 30-homer campaign, assuming he can get back to 150 games played. Panda is a more attractive to me than the aging, injury-prone alternatives.
6. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS – In two of the last four seasons, Zimmerman has played less than 110 games. If you’re planning on drafting the 26-year-old it won’t be without any risk. If healthy, you can expect 25-to-30 home runs from Zimmerman with a batting average around .300 and 90+ RBIs.
7. Kevin Youkilis, BOS – If you invest in Youkilis, you have to expect around 130 games out of him. While healthy, he’s going to perform like a second-or-third-rounder. Youk has amazing RBI potential hitting cleanup for the Red Sox. He also has the potential to hit 25 home runs with a .300 average.
8. Aramis Ramirez, MIL – Ramirez hit at least 25 home runs for the second consecutive season (26) and had an excellent .306 average while driving in 93 runs. He is joining a slightly better lineup in Milwaukee and will have a chance to drive in a ton of runs. A-Ram will turn 34 this year though so there is more risk for injury and general statistical decline.
9. Brett Lawrie, TOR – Lawrie seems like the next big thing at third base and he is being drafted that way. According to Mock Draft Central, the 22-year-old is currently the 5th third baseman off the board (6th if add Bautista to the list). Lawrie has 20/20, and maybe 25/25, written all over him but you just never know. Jason Heyward was supposed to take a huge step forward last year and the opposite happened.
10. Alex Rodriguez, NYY – Arod is my bust pick for third base. Read more about him below.
11. Michael Young, TEX – Young posted the best batting average of his career last season (.338). That was at the expense of his power numbers, however. Young hit just 11 home runs after hitting 22 and 21 in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Young is 35 but is still a solid option because of his good average and his RBI potential with the Rangers.
12. Emilio Bonifacio, MIA – Bonifacio is one of my sleeper picks for 2012. Read more about him below.
13. Mark Reynolds, BAL – in his first year in the American League Reynolds did what he always does. He hit with tremendous power (37 home runs) and a horrible average (.221). He has led the league in strikeouts each of the last four seasons. That’s what you’re going to get from Mark. Too bad 20+ stolen bases isn’t a part of the package anymore.
14. David Freese, STL – Freese had an injury-plagued 2011. He gave fantasy owners solid production when healthy though. Freese hit .297 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs in 97 games. If he can stay on the field, a 20 homer campaign is not am impossibility and he’s going to give you a solid batting average around .300.
15. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR – Encarnacion had a decent season in 2011. He hit .272 with 17 home runs and 8 stolen bases. Post All-Star break is when he did most of his damage, hitting .291 with 11 home runs and 7 stolen bases. Encarnacion has upside if he can stay on the field and be more consistent.
Sleeper: Mike Moustakas, 3B, KC – “Moose” was ranked neck-and-neck with fellow Royal Eric Hosmer on Baseball America’s top prospect list heading into the 2011 season. He did not have the same success as Hosmer, however, after a June call-up. Moustakas hit .263 with just five home runs and a .675 OPS in 338 at-bats. The 23-year-old slugger turned it on late, showing flashes of things to come in 2012. He hit four of his five home runs in 88 September/October at-bats while slashing an impressive .352/.380/.580. Moustakas is going 215th in early mock drafts according to Mock Draft Central and is an excellent pick there because of his huge upside and because of the scarcity at third base.
Sleeper: Emilio Bonifacio, MIA – Bonifacio had a breakout 2011 season in which he hit .296 with 40 stolen bases. He benefited greatly from the aggressive style of interim manager, Jack McKeon. There is a lot to love for Bonifacio heading into 2012. The Marlins’ new manager, Ozzie Guillen, is as aggressive as they come when it comes to running the bases. Bonifacio is the starting center fielder and will hit second in the lineup, behind Jose Reyes and in front of Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton. You also have to love Bonifacio’s eligibility at SS, 3B and OF. He is still flying under the radar on draft day. What’s not to love?
Bust: Alex Rodriguez, NYY – Arod is 36 years old and is coming off his worst season. In 2011 he hit .276 with only 16 home runs and 62 RBIs in 99 games played. It would be unwise to draft him at a price that suggests 25-to-30 home runs and 100+ RBIs. Arod is no longer a stolen base threat, which boosted his value so much back in his prime years He is currently the 6th third baseman being drafted at Mock Draft Central (7th if you add Bautista to the list) so you are still paying for his name. Rodriguez is an above average third baseman when playing, but 140 games played might be a stretch for him in 2012.
Prospect: Mike Olt, 3B, TEX – Olt is a premier power-hitting prospect. Despite missing half the season with a broken collarbone, he hit 15 home runs between rookie and High-A ball last year. He then led the Arizona Fall League with 13 home runs in just 106 at-bats. The next highest home run total in the AFL was seven. He slashed a ridiculous .349/.433/.764 as well. The 23-year-old is a third base prospect but has been getting work at first base to try to speed up his major-league ETA. He could make his debut in 2012 and would be an immediate must-add.
Prospect: Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL – Arenado will turn just 21 shortly after the season starts, but his performance at High-A (.298/.349/.487 with 20 home runs) and in the Arizona Fall League has kept the Rockies from trading for a veteran third baseman. He led the AFL in hits, had six home runs and had a crazy .388/.423/.636 slash line in route to being named the league’s most valuable player. Arenado is MLB.com’s 22nd-ranked prospect heading into 2012 and has received an A- prospect grade from Minorleagueball.com’s John Sickels.
Photo from Flickr user SD Dirk
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