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Third Base Keepers: Tier Four

Using Zach Sanders’ super-fantastic-shiny-new Fantasy Value Above Replacement auction value tool, we’ve covered just about every last third baseman worth his salt. This will be the last installment of the third base keepers as we’re pretty well out of keepers to discuss.

To recap, Jose Bautista and Evan Longoria made up the very thin first tier.

The second tier looked like this:

Brett Lawrie
Pablo Sandoval
Ryan Zimmerman
Adrian Beltre
David Wright
Aramis Ramirez
Kevin Youkilis

Third Tier:

Alex Rodriguez
Mark Reynolds
Michael Young
Chipper Jones
Edwin Encarnacion
Ryan Roberts
David Freese
Mike Moustakas
I recognize many of you are in deeper leagues where there may very well be youngsters that didn’t qualify who are perfectly legitimate third base keepers in formats that allow such moves (Nick Castellanos, Anthony Rendon, Matt Dominguez, Nolan Arenado, James Darnell, Miguel Sano, Jedd Gyorko, Will Middlebrooks, Todd Frazier, Lonnie Chisenhall probably all being somewhere in the mix). But projecting the kids is a different matter — this exercise wasn’t to rate the prospects. And therefore, the decline from the third tier here is considerable.

Martin Prado

In 2010, Martin Prado posted a .307/.350/.459 line, hitting 15 home runs and scoring 100 runs over 650 at-bats, shooting him up ranking lists for 2011. Injuries plagued him on and off and his final line was a disappointing .260/.302/.385. In hindsight, we all probably made a little too much out of Prado’s breakout season. He’s a low-walk/high-contact kind of guy who is going to very much live and die by BABIP and hit trajectory. With that in mind, his .266 BABIP was well below his .315 career average, and a little improvement by virtue of a lucky hop should be in order. Prado is the kind of guy that should hit for a solid average, give you double digit home runs and assuming health, score you some runs. But his value as a keeper is probably pretty low after owners paid for his breakout year, so you could probably see Prado hit many waiver wires.

Chase Headley

If you could platoon Headley on the road, you’d have yourself a pretty fine third baseman as he hit .330/.399/.465 away from Petco on the season. Although his home runs were down in 2011, Headley, 27, managed to hit 28 doubles in just 381 at-bats and had a slugging percentage in line with his career average, although his ISO continues to lag. His HR/FB rate was a rather shameful 4.3% and although he’s a guy that likes to put the ball on the ground, that ought to at least start to mirror his 7% career average (which is nothing to get excited about either) and provide a few more home runs. Headley was likely dirt cheap in either money or round, so I could see hanging on to a guy who has double digit potential in HR and SB and hit for a decent average.

Danny Valencia

Valencia enters his age 27 season coming off a .246/.294/.383 campaign with 15 HR and 72 RBI. He really only had two solid months all season long, that being July and August where he  hit a combined .294/.335/.448, which is much more in line with what the Twins probably expect from him.  His .275 BABIP is well below his .300 career level, but his expected BABIP was just .279, so you shouldn’t expect major regression in the luck category. You might not be able to count on a batting average north of .260 with Valencia, but he’s also a third baseman who could approach 20 home runs and 80 RBI, and there just aren’t many of those that you can find for a buck.

Alberto Callaspo

The big knock on Callaspo, 28, was his inability to draw a walk. On cue, he went out and more than doubled his walk rate from the previous season, posting a career-high 10.8% walk rate, raising his OBP from .302 to .366 in the process. Callaspo will be eligible all over the infield, which makes him awfully handy to have around when injury strikes as he won’t destroy you in any particular category. He’s not going to carry any fantasy team, but in very deep leagues or in AL/NL split leagues, he’s a guy that is probably worth the dollar you spent on him a year ago.

Daniel Murphy

Murphy is kind of the a Callaspo prototype without the guaranteed AB’s. He’ll have eligibility at First Base and Second Base, but due to the dearth of talent at third, his value is probably highest there. On the surface, one might think his batting average was perhaps buoyed by his .345 BABIP but his expected BABIP is fully .330, in large part due to a 21% line drive rate and 47% ground ball rate. He’s not going to help you a ton in any single category, but he’s also not a complete black hole in any single category either. Murphy could pretty easily hit .285 with 10 home runs, 65 runs, 65 RBI and 10 steals if given regular playing time. He’ll turn 27 in April, so his trajectory ought to still be headed upwards.

Placido Polanco

Lastly, I’ll toss in Polanco, who didn’t qualify due to all the injuries in 2011. Polanco is probably going to be dumped in most formats due to the likely higher cost/round that he required after his decade of solid batting average and high run totals. 2011 was an odd year as Polanco represented the National League in the All-Star Game but by most accounts, had the worst offensive season since he became a regular in 2000. The only reason you would want to keep Polanco is if you thought, at age 36, he was going to bounce back and produce another .300/.350/.410 with 80-90 runs scored and a fist full of homers. But I doubt you do.