Third Base Keepers: Tier Three

To recap the third base keeper series, we had Jose Bautista and Evan Longoria comprising the first tier, which probably could have been just one player, but nobody likes to attend the party stag. The second tier was far more crowded with Brett Lawrie, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Zimmerman, Adrian Beltre, David Wright, Aramis Ramirez, and Kevin Youkilis.

Now, perhaps Alex Rodriguez leading off the third tier is a little unfair, but we’re talking keepers here. While he’ll likely occupy a space in the second tier for fantasy drafts, his being relatively old (36) and fragile (hasn’t played a full season in four years) makes him a risky play — and considering most owners have him in high rounds or own him for big money, keeping him is may be unwise. Should you be in a very deep league and the remaining options are just downright putrid, perhaps paying the premium for his services makes some sense. If Rodriguez remains healthy all year and gives you 650 plate appearances, you can practically guarantee yourself 25 home runs and 100 RBI. But this is the fourth season of decline relative to wOBA and should that decline remain or continue either because of injury or ineffectiveness, he’s not worth the top shelf price tag.

A player that doubled the fantasy value of Rodriguez in 2011, should you refer to the handy FVARz spreadsheet, is Mark Reynolds at roughly $14 bucks. Reynolds had a rather confounding campaign and just when it seemed like he was starting to get comfortable, he’d disappear into an abyss. But overall, he delivered one consistent thing over the course of the season, and that’s home runs, runs and RBI. With Reynolds you pretty clearly need to write off the batting average because anything over .230 is just gravy, but if it’s home runs that your squad needs, Reynolds is about as sure a bet to deliver as anyone. What’s more, after his pretty awful 2010 campaign, it’s likely you got Reynolds on the cheap in 2011, warranting him keeper consideration for 2012. There aren’t many hitters that you can take 30+ home runs to the bank with, but Reynolds is one of them.

Also ranked at second base will be Michael Young, and with a FVARz value of $22 bucks, he would rank just about tied for 2nd with teammate Adrian Beltre for third basemen. Young saw a three-year low in HR/FB which produced the fewest HR’s in four years but he still managed to drive in 106 runs while flirting with a batting average title. Young is likely to retain eligibility at 1b, 2b, and 3b, which is awfully useful even for a moderately productive player, let alone someone that can give you plus-production in three categories. Of course, if the Rangers go out and sign themselves a shiny new free agent named David Ortiz, Prince Fielder, or really just about any other offensive player that would occupy an infield or DH slot, it puts into serious question Young’s place on this team for a second season in a row, which is why keeping him is so precarious. Young is 35 and despite his great production, he doesn’t really have a natural position on the Texas Rangers. It’s likely he has a full-time role on someone’s club, but the uncertainty is enough to make your interest in moving on pretty understandable.

If I’m going to gripe about Alex Rodriguez’s age and fragility, I might as well toss Chipper Jones in here. I’m not saying Jones is in a class with Rodriguez, but Jones, 39, is just a few years older than Rodriguez, his wOBA was just a hair lower at .345 but he actually had a higher ISO than Rodriguez at .196. In fact, you take their respective triple-slash lines together and they look shockingly similar with Jones at .275/.344/.470 and Rodriguez at .276/.362/.461. If you scan the trusty Fantasy Value Above Replacement spreadsheet, you’ll notice Rodriguez and Jones share a value that’s also very similar at $7 and about $6, respectively. Jones almost certainly won’t be healthy for a full season, but he also probably didn’t cost you much in terms of payroll or draft pick. He’s a rather “sneaky-risky” choice as a keeper because when he’s on the field, he actually contributes pretty well across four categories. Your tolerance for his routine DL trips is probably the coin flip.

Rounding out the third tier are Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Roberts, David Freese, and Mike Moustakas – all for fairly different reasons. Encarnacion, having the ability to forget about making constant errors at third (and yet retain his eligibility) could be a very inexpensive source of power and RBI. You shouldn’t expect a batting average north of .270, but he could deliver 20 home runs and drive in 65+ — and considering his cost to you, that might be worth hanging on to.

I earlier looked at Ryan Roberts and how I had erroneously dismissed him for much of the season, but a commenter really framed Roberts well with this gem, “It’s important to also note that Roberts carries most of the uncertainty of a typical upside play without possessing any of the upside.” We may very well have seen the best from Roberts, and hanging on to him expecting continued improvement is probably folly – but his 20-20 potential might make him hard to cut loose especially considering his price tag and/or round that you’d be protecting.

David Freese, while being the darling of the World Series, is actually the same age as Mark Reynolds, so he’s no pup at 28 and was never really considered to have superstar written on him anywhere (tattooed, if you’re Roberts). Freese should be productive of course, but consider that he was on 60% of Yahoo! waiver wires as late as September. Most owners were concerned about the power after suffering a broken hand, and while he did check off a few HR’s after his return, his HR numbers in a full season probably don’t leave the high teens. Should he hit in the middle of a lineup including Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols, he could rack up buckets of RBI, but projection systems have him anywhere from .276/.334/.416 to .285/.340/.436 — both representing a slight decline from 2011.

Lastly, there’s Mike Moustakas who is probably a player you’ll reluctantly keep simply based on age and pedigree. His overall .263/.309/.367 with five HR’s in 365 PA’s isn’t awe inspiring, but anyone that either owned him in September or watched him play saw the potential. From August 15th to the end of the season, Moustakas hit .379/.412/.564 with four HR’s, 12 doubles, and 19 RBI in just 36 games. Some of that certainly could have been due to BABIP regression but there was no denying that he was murdering the ball, and while we can’t hang our hat on 150 plate appearances, that was just the kind of finish testy owners needed to see to re-up Moustakas in 2012.

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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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what do you expect out of Todd Frazier? He’s my 3B keeper in Ottoneu, and I’d be happy with .270, 20 HRs, 140 RBIs + Rs, and 5-10 SBs. Does that sound reasonable? If so, doesn’t that put him on par with the other guys in Tier 3?