Check the Position: Third Base

Over the offseason we’ll take a look at each position on the diamond and see how the past season affected the positional rankings and where there might be some potential bounceback value picks going into next year’s drafts. (See shortstops, catchers, second basemen and first basemen.)

These rankings are for 5×5 rotisserie fantasy baseball. Eligibility was determined by where the player had the most at-bats last year.


To be absolutely precise, there should be down arrows next to Alex Rodriguez and David Wright because they used to be in a tier of their own and now have a little company at the top of the leaderboard. Despite his injured hip, Rodriguez basically replicated his 2008 season and an offseason of rest can only help. RJ Anderson and Dave Allen both covered David Wright and his power outage, and both agree the power should return. The only addition that I have, however crude, is that according to the hittracker, Wright would have only lost two of his 2008 home runs had he played in Citi Field that year. With power and speed, those two still rule the roost, if not as definitively as they have in the past. Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria have joined them at the top and there’s not really much to say other than they just don’t boast the speed upside. They’re still pretty good players, though.

Aramis Ramirez used to be in the top tier. He could still be there. But last year just reminded everyone that he’s a 32-year-old third baseman that has dealt with injuries his whole career and is clearly post-peak. He’s fallen into a tier with some exciting names with risk attached. Pablo Sandoval is everyone’s favorite Panda, but as a BABIP outlier (.356 career, .317 career xBABIP) even his most ardent fan has to admit the risk that the batting average falls and leaves him as a slightly under-powered third baseman minus his best tool. There’s no risk with Mark Reynolds‘ power, but there’s also little likelihood of a nice batting average to go with his power/speed combo. As Dave Allen noted, he makes it work, but you’ll also need to make it work by making up for his batting average if you pick him. Dave Cameron showed how Chone Figgins has upped his walk rates through his career and made himself into a better player, but any 32-year-old that makes his living with his feet carries inherent risk. Plus, he offers no power. Gordon Beckham has a nice power/speed package going, but he’ll need to hit more line drives (16.6%) next year in order to get the batting average up. Michael Young doesn’t have the batting average problem, but he has power that oscillates from poor to mediocre.

The final tier is where the veterans go to finish their careers. Ian Stewart is the only upside play of the bunch, and he needs to strike out a little less (32.5% in 2009, 27.6% career) and hit some more line drives (14.1% in 2009, 18.2% career) so that the batting average can find its way to respectable. Obviously, he has power. Chipper Jones is the best of the post-peak guys, but he carries the most injury risk as well. Casey Blake, Mike Lowell, Mark DeRosa and Adrian Beltre can be picked out of the same bag using a blindfold. Admittedly, Beltre will cost the least, but getting him out of Safeco may mean that he will contribute similar stats to the other veterans in this tier.

In general, this is one of the more shallow positions in fantasy baseball. In a roto league, an owner betting on a final-tier third baseman is a step behind. The top two tiers offer some good value, but make sure you get your third baseman relatively early in 2010.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

19 Responses to “Check the Position: Third Base”

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  1. Eric says:

    No Jorge Cantu?

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  2. Rob says:

    Not sure how Reynolds gets slotted below Zimmerman. He makes up the lack of BA with the excess power and speed. At some point you gotta start believing in results.

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  3. Johnny Tuttle says:

    With Reynold’s free swinging, is he a risk for all or nothing type years as we’ve just seen from Chris Davis?

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  4. Aaron says:

    I would LOVE to be in a league in which Reynolds went this far after Wright. Wright could certainly turn it around but you’ve got to be worried about his light switch power. He also had a great BA but only because he had a league leading BABIP fifty points higher than his career mark. If Wright falls in a draft he’s got good upside but why pay a first or second round pick for the risk? Meanwhile, Reynolds has increased his FB% and HR/FB% every year in the league. I’ll gladly put up with a .260-.270 BA from a guy who should get to 40/25 whenever he wants to.

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    • sean says:

      That’s assuming Reynolds is a .260-.270 hitter, rather than a .230-.250 hitter. If you’re building a team around guys like Reynolds, you better plan for the latter and hope for the former.

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  5. Eno Sarris says:

    Reynolds can put up 40/25 any time he wants to? Sorry to be snarky, but I guess he just hasn’t wanted to yet in his career. I think he’s got the risk of 2008 in him still (.239, 30/11) and that just doesn’t measure up with guys that will hit for a good average and feature the same power.

    I will admit to one thing. I’m biased away from high-K% low-BA guys in roto baseball. I’ll take a chance on some of them in head-to-head play, where punting a category is always a possibility, but roto play is built on players that can contribute in all categories without being a minus in any.

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  6. Jimbo says:

    I’m starting to warm up to Reynolds. Like Eno I’m rather averse to K’s, but other than that one thing Reynolds seems to be a decent–albeit different–hitter. He isn’t just crushing fastballs. He DOES know how to take a walk. And he’s only 25. Second year at AA he dropped his K% from 33 to 24, so perhaps with age he can make gains there as well.

    Seems likely a slugger with his profile could develop more discipline. I just wouldn’t draft him with that as an expectation. I would draft David Wright with the expectation his power returns at least some…is that a great assumption though?

    (Started a thread in the forums about this)

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  7. B-Chad says:

    Aaron, I’m sure you would put up with a .260-.270 BA with 40/25, but I gotta be honest, .260-.270 seems like a best case if his K-rate doesn’t improve significantly. I’d say it’s just as plausible he posts a .240 BA with HR power and reduced SB’s.

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  8. Johnny Tuttle says:

    I think B-Chad’s point is correct (and by extension the OW’s): the steals aren’t money in the bank, and the BA’s always going to fluctuate, inclusive of a terrible floor. Swisher and Dunn have had solid BA years, but that’s not their norm. Reynolds simply can’t be counted on for .260, and that makes it hard to see him as elite.

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  9. Ewan says:

    I don’t know how A-Rod isn’t in a tier of his own at the top. Sure his end of season numbers weren’t what they usually are, but he hardly did anything for the first 2 months he was back cos he missed out on spring training. From July 1st to the end of the season he was his usual self with a .316/.404/.551 line with 18 HR & 12 SB in 77 games. He didn’t do anything to make us think that he shouldn’t be drafted up there with some of the top players in the game, which can’t be said for Wright.

    A tier should be that you can take any of the players and they should all give you similar stats. That isn’t the case with A-Rod and the other 3.

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  10. Eno Sarris says:

    It’s a valid argument. I was going to put him and Wright in their own tier. Let’s just say that I’m drinking the kool-aid on Wright and fully expect him to go to 25/20 at least next year.

    The days of A-Rod getting 600 at-bats per season seem gone. He’s going on 35 and his speed has been declining steadily for three years. I think another 30+/10+ season is coming. I think those stats are reasonably close.

    So I had them in one tier. But then I started thinking about A-Rod’s age and his hip and whether or not he’s going to have that second surgery he was talking about having, and then I thought about the relative ages of the young guys in the tier beneath him and how they are probably pre-peak while he is obviously post-peak. And then I started to doubt my feelings about Wright’s power returning. And then I put the old guy with the surprisingly good season and the top-five player coming off a bad year in the tier with the young guys on their way up.

    But I definitely hear your side of the argument.

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    • Ewan says:

      I wouldn’t exactly say A-Rod’s injury prone though. He had a cyst on his hip, it’s not like a torn hamstring that could linger. With the open DH spot (if Matsui isn’t resigned), he can play there more often and keep his bat in the lineup when he’s not playing the field, which should allow him to keep himself healthy, if he’s even injury prone at all. It’s not like we’re talking Chipper Jones here.

      Also, 30 HRs is a very low projection for him, most of the projections I’ve seen so far have him at or close to 40 HR. A 40 HR/15 SB season would trump even your optimistic projection for Wright.

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  11. Anthony says:

    Wright will be very interesting this year. I will make sure not to take him 3rd overall as I did last year, lol.

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  12. Eno Sarris says:

    In my defense on A-Rod, I said 30+, I could see 35 easily. I don’t see him hitting more than 40, though, he’s only done that twice in the last six years and once in the last four and he’s just getting older. I didn’t say he was injury-prone, he’s just missing time here and there as he gets older.

    I also said that in general I could see putting him on a tier of his own, but that once I started looking into my doubts about him, and my belief in the younger guys coming up behind him, I thought there was enough doubt in my mind to put him in the same tier as the youths (pronounced ‘utes’).

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  13. Ace Hakes says:

    How is A-Rod not in a tier of his own? This is dumb. Someone please tell me how his numbers looked last year even though he missed all that time. He is STILL the same TOP FANTASY PLAYER!

    GET OFF ME!!

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  14. Skoodog says:

    Even though he spent the majority of his time at 3B last year, I’m pretty sure that Gordon Beckham will be starting at 2B next year, which is a much shorter list of serviceable guys – I think he could touch 2nd tier at second base and naturally his value would be much higher, esp with his growth potential. Gordy’s not getting out of the 5th round by my reckoning.

    Also, how about a compiled list of all positions w/ tiers? I have some major disagreements with the OF rankings if you put them tier-to-tier but you may have them positioned differently.

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