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Recent Developments at Third Base: Moustakas, Prado, Freese, Figgins

With prospect call-ups and guys going on and coming off the disabled list, things are moving a little faster than usual with respect to third base. Considering the relative dearth of quality options at third thus far into the season (I still believe in a town called Hope, as slick Willy used to say), I thought I’d condense some of the news and also take a quick peek at opportunities in position eligibility.

The big news, of course is Mike Moustakas getting called up by the Kansas City Royals, and in a message that he’s not there to simply learn by watching, they promptly sent Mike Aviles to the minors and gave Wilson Betemit a copy of the latest Simon and Schuster Super Crossword Puzzle book. Moustakas is likely gone in already if you’re in the dynasty or deeper variety, but if you’re in a standard league he may be hanging around as his ownership is in the low 20% in Yahoo! and ESPN, and 60% in CBS. While Moustakas may not save the human race from the machines, he does bring very real power with him and has demonstrated it at every minor league level. His AAA numbers this year weren’t quite as good as 2010, but .287/.347/.498 with 10 HR’s and 15 doubles is pretty darn solid, even if it was in the PCL.

The fallout from his call up is significant though. Mike Aviles, whom many were still holding on to (evidenced by his high ownership rates) now goes from inexplicably useless to literally useless, period. Wilson Betemit becomes pretty likely trade fodder, but in the meantime, he’s ostensibly relegated to some kind of uber bench player that can fill in at any infield position when it’s not occupied by a former top draft pick. His value plummets unless he finds regular playing time there, or on another team.

In disabled list developments, Martin Prado leaves us due to a staph infection in his right calf, which really makes me wish they could have just reported that he went on the DL due to a “calf issue.” The move is retroactive to June 8th, so it might not be long before he’s back. But staph infections have a way of hanging around, so find a capable replacement if possible (not named Aviles or Betemit).

Another player coming off the DL in late June is David Freese, who was swinging a pretty sizzling bat before he landed on the disabled list. He has been hitting some soft-toss and reportedly will take batting practice with the rest of his unwounded mates shortly. His ownership rates across Yahoo!, ESPN, and CBS is anywhere from the 40th percentile down to the 20’s. He’s a player that ought to be pretty attractive to many of you suffering at 3B, so as his return draws nearer, be ready to pounce.

What might be the bigger story about Freese’s return is how it impacts the eligibility of Albert Pujols at third base as he currently needs just two more starts to be eligible at third in Yahoo!, just one more appearance to be eligible in CBS, but 6 more in ESPN. There are likely many of you out there desperately hoping for Pujols’ eligibility at third, so corss your fingers that LaRussa grants you a magic wish.

Also coming off the disabled list, and hopefully soon, is Ryan Zimmerman who is scheduled to come off his rehab this Tuesday. Zimmerman hasn’t played in a game since the second week of the season, so patient owners, you can hopefully worry about other positions in short order. His return likely means the end of any interest in Jerry Hairston, if there was any to begin with.

The shakeup in Oakland struck not only Bob Geren, but also Kevin Kouzmanoff and Andy LaRoche, who were both optioned to AAA. Kouzmanoff, you’ll recall, was a 3.0 WAR player at third base just a season ago, so he either booed loudly at a pre-screening of Moneyball the movie, or he was just this bad in 2011. Andy LaRoche was a reclamation project that the A’s seemed committed to, but with a new regime brings new ideas and apparently the A’s will be going with Adam Rosales for the time being, he of the infinitely curious line of .182/.182/.455 thus far. A player to keep an eye on is Scott Sizemore as he was recently recalled and started at 3b on the 7th, so he’ll just need a handful more starts to be eligible at third in most formats.

Lastly, we have the debacle in Seattle where Chone Figgins has a batting average lower than 22 National League starting pitchers. If you’re a third base eligibility maven, pay attention to the situation at third in Seattle. The leash has to be short with Figgins, and if Dustin Ackley is called up soon (which is increasingly likely), Eric Wedge is going to need to find a position for one of the better bats Seattle currently has, which is, perhaps embarrassingly for Seattle fans, Adam Kennedy. Kennedy currently only has eligibility at 3B in Yahoo! but will need just a handful of appearances in other formats to qualify, and assuming a platoon at worst, Kennedy will qualify soon. While Kennedy isn’t going to light the world on fire for your fantasy squad, the fact is he typically hits in the middle of the order which not only gives him an at-bat advantage but additional RBI opportunities. Assuming Kennedy can stick in the lineup as anything close to a regular, he not only will provide at least a decent batting average and a respectable number of runs, but he even might nab you double digit steals.