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Third is the Word

Edit: It should be noted that several players listed below were not drafted with the intention of making them primary third basemen. Mike Petriello grabbed both Headley and Trumbo, and I took Ryan Zimmerman early, then both Freese and Scutaro later on as my CI/MI players. Machado was picked up by Jeff Zimmerman, who already had Hanley who could play either SS or 3B. 

Even after the decline of two staples at third base in Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rodriguez, the position is stronger — not to mention deeper — than I would have imagined. After 15 rounds, there has been a total of 16 third base eligible players taken in The RotoGraphs Ridiculously Early Mock Draft. For the 2013 season, it appears as though the third base position will be offer a wide range of choices for fantasy managers. There are plenty of early round/big money picks as well as more than a few mid and late round options.

Player   Selection  n 2012 3B Starts   
Miguel Cabrera 1.2 154
David Wright 2.2 155
Adrian Beltre 2.3 129
Evan Longoria 2.4 49
Hanley Ramirez 2.6 97
Ryan Zimmerman 3.4 144
Chase Headley 4.12 159
Pablo Sandoval 5.3 101
Brett Lawrie 5.6 123
Aramis Ramirez 8.1 143
Mike Moustakas 8.5 147
Mark Trumbo 9.1 8
Manny Machado 9.7 51
Martin Prado 10.8 20
David Freese 12.9 132
Marco Scutaro 14.9 15

A bit more of a surprise was to see Wright, Beltre, Longoria, and Hanley go in such rapid pace following each other. Wright bounced back in strong fashion after a disappointed and injury shortened season gave cause for concern heading into 2012. All Wright did to silence those questions was clear the 20/15 mark and drive in over 90 runs and score more than 90 runs as well. Seeing his batting average jump to .306 after posting a .254 batting average in 2011 was another fine thing to see. Beltre just keeps churning out 30-100 seasons with a .300+ average in a machine like consistency. Longoria, when healthy, is a stud and although Hanley is moving back to shortstop, he is of course third-base eligible.

With superstar-type numbers come superstar-type price tags, and so it should be no surprise to see the cost associated with Cabrera. A Triple Crown year — and the first time crossing the single season 40 home run mark — will propel a player to almost the top of every draft list. Spending a massive amount or the second overall pick is justifiable in the case of Cabrera. He contributes a ton of value in four out of the five standard roto categories and another season of 40, 100, 100, with a .320 batting average would make it worth every penny.

After seeing the best third basemen already off of the board, I made a quick move to grab Zimmerman, and I did it a round too early. Seeing Headley go 20 picks later made me kick myself. Watching Sandoval sit there for another three picks just added to my frustration at myself. If I could do it again (and since this was just a mock, hooray, I can do it again!), I would have passed on Zimmerman altogether and waited for Lawrie, or perhaps even Aramis Ramirez.

To see Am-Ram go at the 85th pick is incredible. Right now over at MockDraftCentral, they have him going at 41 on average, at the very latest he was taken at 63. So it goes. After Ramirez, there are legitimate questions about the following three third basemen. Will Moustakas make the leap? Will Trumbo ever walk, or perhaps more accurately, will a pitcher ever throw him a strike again? Machado is just a 20 year old kid with all of 202 plate apperances above Double-A. Will pitchers eventually figure him out and exploit him?

While there are questions about the previous batch of players, Prado, Freese, and Scutaro are more or less known commodities with holes in their game. None have the power of the earliest picks, nor the upside that comes with youth from the players in the middle of the pack.

To me, Jack Moore got the absolute best value with Ramirez falling to him so late in the draft. The lesson here, as always, is don’t panic. There are plenty of players to go around in standard 12-team mixed league formats. Don’t jump the gun in a position that is as deep as third base is this year. I’m just glad that I could learn this lesson now in mock draft, instead of later in a real league.