“May Day” is actually an appropriate call for third base because, holy hell, it has been one trial after the last tribulation. Third base has been so tough to staff on some of you, the consideration of just going without has been more attractive than what’s available on the waiver wire. As far as putting this cast of misfits into tiers, I ought to just have Tier One and then “The Rest” as punishment to everyone outside of Detroit. There have been some pleasant surprises of course, so let’s get to it.
A quick note about this particular batch of tiers. In the past, I’ve always liked to temper the rapid movement up or down rankings in May, suggesting that the tiers should represent something akin to a “if the draft were held today…” line of thinking. But given the dearth of production from some players and the rampant injuries, I’d like to think these tiers are a happy median between on-field performance and what we should expect going forward. The stats after each player are the Steamer rest-of-season projections.
Yup. Why bother saying anything. A rest of season projection that most players would kill for over 162 games. Moving along…
Wright, Longoria, and Sandoval all have been pretty much as advertised. You spent fairly high picks on them, but they’ve been reliable across the counting stats. You worry a little about Panda’s elbow, but assuming you don’t have any other options, just close your eyes and keep driving. Beltre, on the other hand came out of the gate rather slowly, but the power has certainly been there and you can’t count on a .191 BABIP for long. I think he starts hitting for better average shortly. Set the panic button aside.
Headley, Ramirez, and Zimmerman both have missed significant time, but they’re likely to produce well given relative health from here on out. Zimmerman always seems to play through pain, but he managed to produce a pretty solid season despite needing shoulder surgery for the better part of 2012. Ramirez owners, you weren’t expecting anything until June out of him anyway, so just keep running Trevor Plouffe or Pedro Alvarez out there for a little while longer.
Frazier and Reynolds have been pleasant surprises and in fact Reynolds has been among the most valuable third basemen in the league with his .295/.360/.625 line and eight home runs. Steamer isn’t so sure the average will continue, and I’d have to agree. He has been striking out less, but his swinging strike rate is still over 14% and his contact rates really haven’t changed at all from the old Mark Reynolds. Sell high.
Frazier is swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone and making better contact than he has in the past but his low line drive rate has contributed to a meager .258 BABIP, which is substantiated by his hit trajectory. He might wind up hitting 30+ home runs, but you’ll probably have to settle for a .240 batting average.
Machado, by virtue of WAR, has been the most valuable third baseman so far this season. He’s doing everything to reach the proverbial ceiling that the scouts described — hitting for power, average, with speed, and plus defense to boot. Dave Cameron made a tantalizing comparison to Miguel Cabrera at the same age. Hold on tightly to this one – he could be top tier in no time.
There’s going to be some debate about this tier, and there ought to be. With the way he’s been hitting, Trumbo frankly belongs in the second tier but his second half swoon is still fresh in my head and I’d like to see more than a month of this version of himself. Lawrie, Middlebrooks, and Moustakas have all struggled in one form or another. Middlebrooks is filling up the stat sheet in three categories, but killing you in batting average — and looking at his strikeouts and contact rates, that very well could continue. Moustakas has been popping everything up while getting a tad unlucky on balls in play. His strikeouts are down, walks up, and he’s recently started to come around — might be a good buy low candidate. Lawrie perhaps had unrealistic expectations after that rather magical 2011 run. I look at those rest of the season projections and just kind of make a face like I slugged a mouthful of warm, flat beer.
Carpenter and Donaldson have been obviously terrific, but those projections for the rest of the season remind you that they weren’t really supposed to be here. Considering the relative lack of third base talent, you could venture to sell high, but I’m not so sure there would be too many buyers. You’re probably best off riding them until they run out of gas.
Prado probably belongs up in tier four, but you’re likely using him as a second baseman anyway. Youkilis had a nice little run until he reminded us that he’s 80. Freese has been awful. It’s the antithesis of what he did last season where he hit the tar out of the ball in April with five home runs and 20 RBI. His plate discipline actually looks better right now if you can believe it — and if you look at his hit trajectory, you can see why he still lacks a home run. Only 15% of his balls in play are fly balls and he appears to be just driving everything into the turf. This seems unlikely to continue to me, unless he’s hurt and we don’t know it. I’d target him as a buy-low if you’re hurting at third.
Then there’s Chris Johnson and his .352/.374/.500 line. Atlanta looks brilliant for throwing him into the Upton deal. You should throw him into a deal too.
Probably not fair to have Chisenhall in “the rest” but his season has been just sooooo bad so far and I guess I was perhaps a little too high on him coming into the season. So there’s some personal bias and retribution there — hammer me in the comments all you want. Matt Dominguez is probably the most interesting player listed in there. The projections on Yuni are hilarious — if you trust his April outburst, then you’ve probably never seen him play before. Chris Nelson is now a Yankee, so he’ll probably get plenty of playing time and an honorary degree in Gerontology. Hechavarria is in here almost entirely because someone freaked out that I left him off the preseason list, so — you’re welcome. Ian Stewart might never make it out of AAA. Luis Cruz is a black hole. Jose Lopez has no job but I thought it was funny he had a projection.
Obligatory gif of the longest home run by a third baseman:
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