Reviewing Pod’s Picks: Third Base

We have made it to third base week here and that means another round of recapping my Pod’s Picks at the position. There were a couple of breakout stars, while Miguel Cabrera once again led the pack. Looking at the difference in my preseason rank and the consensus, we find that there really wasn’t much difference, as a ranking disparity of just two or three places is rather insignificant. That means we generally agreed on third base rankings, even for the guys listed below. Let’s see how I did.

Bullish

Todd Frazier

My Preseason Rank: 16 | Preseason Consensus: 18 | Actual Rank: 17

Would you look at that, for the first time, a player on one of these Pod’s Picks lists finished right in between my ranking and the consensus. Frazier dramatically underperformed expectations, from both a power and batting average perspective. He hit the same number of home runs this year as he did in more than 100 fewer at-bats last season. His BABIP also tumbled to just .269, which killed his batting average. His batted ball distance actually jumped this year, so with a power rebound and BABIP surge, he could be undervalued in 2014.

Manny Machado

My Preseason Rank: 18 | Preseason Consensus: 20 | Actual Rank: 10

My first sentence in my initial write-up was that “this surprises me greatly”. I figured he would be overvalued in the majority of fantasy leagues, but he didn’t fool us RotoGraphers! At least I thought he didn’t. Turns out, I was actually slightly closer to his actual rank than the consensus. The 667 at-bats greatly boosted his counting stats, and without that inflated total, he would have been nothing special. The knee injury he suffered at the end of the season will guarantee he doesn’t come near that total in 2014. And although I expect his HR/FB rate to increase, the BABIP may drop, making him a mediocre third base option.

Bearish

Pedro Alvarez

My Preseason Rank: 22 | Preseason Consensus: 19 | Actual Rank: 9

Wow. I initially noted that his batted ball distance actually supported his 25% HR/FB ratio in 2012, but simply couldn’t project a similar mark in 2013 without a longer track record. So all Alvarez did was bump that up again to 26% and change. That slight nudge along with an increase in FB% boosted his home run total, making him the ninth most valuable third baseman, despite a .233 batting average. He finished third in baseball in batted ball distance this season, so the power is here to stay. Even more intriguing is that his xBABIP was .307 (versus a .276 actual BABIP), nearly identical to his .308 2012 mark, suggesting he could perhaps get that average into the .250 range.

Martin Prado

My Preseason Rank: 12 | Preseason Consensus: 10 | Actual Rank: 13

Almost nailed this one on the head. My pessimism was based on his sudden stolen base surge in 2012 that I figured was completely unsustainable, hurting his 2013 fantasy prospects. Sure enough, his steals total dove from 17 to just 3. Everything else was right in line with expectations, so expect more of the same in 2014.

Mike Moustakas

My Preseason Rank: 17 | Preseason Consensus: 15 | Actual Rank: 34

Ahhh, Moose Tacos, one of those young, formerly hyped prospects, who fantasy owners have been banking on to finally deliver that breakout year. These types tend to be overvalued for several years until they burn owners enough with disappointing seasons that they finally give up. How a guy who showed so much power in the minors and hit nearly 45% of his balls in play in the air managed just a .131 ISO and recorded a batted ball distance of just 271 feet boggles my mind. With his batted ball mix, he is unlikely to contribute in batting average anytime soon, but you have to believe there is still some untapped power in that bat to reach 25 home runs. You could probably get him for pennies in an AL-Only league, so his cheap cost will make him worth gambling on.



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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


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