Updated Third Base Tiers: May

Just a month in and we’ve seen players like Danny Valencia and Lonnie Chisenhall lose their jobs, kids like Kyle Seager and William Middlebrooks defy expectations, and we’ve seen big guns like Evan Longoria and Pablo Sandoval go down to injury, among others. Third base has had a degree of volatility that has made it a particularly difficult position to manage.

While I’ve typically been more conservative in May in the past, there are definitely some movers early on. I wouldn’t say this is a list that represents “if the draft were held today” kind of a sentiment, it’s more a melding of injuries, expected future performance, but also performance to date.

Tier one is pretty unsurprising.

Tier 1
Miguel Cabrera
Jose Bautista
David Wright

I eat a lot of crow here as David Wright shoots way up the rankings after I was ringing the alarm of the dreaded oblique strain. He’s walking more, striking out less, and while his rate stats might be batted-ball influenced, he’s nonetheless been all around terrific. Cabrera and Bautista haven’t quite lived up to expectations, but in their cases, I’m not ready to shake up the first tier just yet. Another month of this, and Bautista will find himself in Tier 2, but I’m trying to not be too rash.

Tier 2
Hanley Ramirez
Adrian Beltre
Brett Lawrie
Michael Young
Ryan Zimmerman
Alex Rodriguez

Ramirez appears to be settling in nicely at the hot corner and he’s resumed his power/speed ways although I’m sure many of his owners would like to see that batting average creep up towards his career averages. While it might not quite get there, he’s certainly not a .220 hitter and improvement should be forthcoming. Brett Lawrie didn’t quite pick up where he left off in 2011, but as with Bautista and Cabrera, I think he deserves plenty of rope.

Tier 3
Evan Longoria
Pablo Sandoval
David Freese
Mike Moustakas
Edwin Encarnacion
Aramis Ramirez

David Freese in a tier with Longoria and Sandoval has everything to do with Freese outpacing almost everyone’s expectations and that the latter two have been bitten by the injury bug. When healthy, they’re obviously top tier talent, but here they sit until the wounds heal. In Freese’s case, it’s not likely he maintains a 26% HR/FB rate but while his BABIP appears curiously high at .365, he’s earned every bit of it as his expected BABIP is over .380 based on his hit trajectory. From a fantasy perspective, I’m selling high on Freese if I have other options, but it’s difficult to look at what he’s done over 120 plate appearances and cry fluke. Moustakas and Encarnacion have both been pleasant surprises, and Aramis Ramirez is doing his ‘possum-playing-act until July. We’ll see if he shows up this year.

Tier 4
Chase Headley
Martin Prado
Kevin Youkilis
Emilio Bonifacio
Mark Trumbo
Chipper Jones
Mark Reynolds

Poor Chase Headley and his splits. .238/.378/.313 at home and .303/.400/.697 on the road is starting to look awfully like a repeat of 2011 where he was unusable at home and great anywhere else. If you own him, play him on the road and enjoy. Objectively, Chipper Jones belongs higher on this list, but there’s a very real possibility that he doesn’t make it through another workout without a body part exploding, so you just take what you get. I don’t even know what to say about Kevin Youkilis. Dinged up and largely ineffective, he’s appeared just lost at the dish and now he’s facing the specter of returning to take the place of a kid who has been on fire. Things in Boston haven’t gone to plan, and the Youkilis situation just seems like a microcosm of it all. And Mark Reynolds? He only had two HR’s in March and April of 2011 and finished with 37. So see if you can hang on.

Tier 5
Daniel Murphy
Mike Aviles
Pedro Alvarez
Jed Lowrie
Kyle Seager
Chris Davis
Ryan Roberts
Placido Polanco
Scott Rolen
William Middlebrooks
Jack Hannahan
Chris Johnson

Of Tier five, my favorites are probably Aviles, Lowrie and Seager although I have a man-crush on Middlebrooks at the moment, even knowing that his time in Boston is likely coming to an end. I’m hopeful that Alvarez can avoid turning into Mark Reynolds and manage to maybe, just maybe, have a batting average that makes him usable in standard formats. Because watching him hit home runs is a treat. Chris Johnson, I give you the last slot in Tier five both because you’ve earned it and because it’s likely you’ll be back in ‘The Rest’ in a month. We will see.

The Rest
Brent Morel
Ian Stewart
Sean Rodriguez
Wilson Betemit
Juan Uribe
Alberto Callaspo
Casey McGehee
Steve Lombardozzi
Alex Liddi
Chris Nelson
Brandon Inge
Eric Chavez
Chone Figgins

Chone Figgins, guaranteeing I’ll get one of my bold predictions wrong with each at bat.

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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.

12 Responses to “Updated Third Base Tiers: May”

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  1. rotofan says:

    In general, I quite prefer your ranking to the consensus FG rankings posted earlier. Nice job.

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  2. Mark Himmelstein says:

    It might seem a bit too granular, but I’d have Beltre and Ramirez in their own tier, with the idea that odds are that they might meld in with all or part of the top tier, and then the others in tier two in their own tier, probably with E5 in there too, and possibly Longo and Sandoval depending on your perspective.

    I’m not giving Lawrie as much rope as you are. He’s basically been the same hitter so far this year he was in the minors before last year except he’s hitting too many balls on the ground. He’ll probably have awesome stretches like he did briefly in the majors last year, but there’s little evidence he can be that good over a full season, at least this year. His minor league numbers were PCL inflated, he doesn’t have a good lineup spot and doesn’t really have room to earn one, and his stolen base success rate is back to being awful. The one sign pointing to better things to come is his ridiculously high ground ball rate, which is almost sure to drop and increase his ISO, but even then he looks like a .280/.330/.450ish hitter who can add a handful of steals. A bat like that hitting second or third is a second tier guy, but hitting 6th or 7th is more a third tier guy. His mediocre walk rate and penchant for getting erased on the basepaths is going to cost him runs especially. He’s got all the makings of a guy who is going to be overvalued all year this year, but then after people have a winter to digest his season he’ll probably be undervalued in drafts next year.

    Meanwhile, while E5’s line is a bit odd, the corrections due would seem to balance out. He has a .242 BABIP, which is probably earned due to his ridiculous 55% flyball rate and 9% line drive rate, but those rates either justify his current paces in power and average, or if they regress lead to a bump in average and drop in homers. Either way it’s pretty much a wash. He’s taken to the DH slot, which is a good thing for his health prospects ::fingers crossed::, and he’s always been an excellent hitter on a rate basis, its just been volume that’s cost him from being a true upper-mid tier option at third base.

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  3. Narwhal says:

    Freese in Tier 2 by August.

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    • Kevin says:

      I agree. Hitting fifth in that lineup all year he could end up with 120 RBIs. He has a high BABIP but he’s always had that going for him.

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  4. Choo says:

    Aviles, Lowrie, Seager. I have been struggling for days to decide which of these three to carry (Aviles currently) and came here looking for a tie-breaking argument only to find they are tied.

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    • MajorDanby says:

      the knock against lowrie is injuries. the knock against seager is the lineup he’s in and the home ballpark.

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    • Mark Himmelstein says:

      I’d say it depends on what you need.

      In a vacuum, or as a longer term option, particularly one who you don’t need to have in your lineup every day/week, I’d almost certianly go Aviles. He has the best power/speed combo and the best hitting situation in Fenway, and if you can afford to bench him in bad matchups, he also has a history of being a lefty-masher even though he’s a switch hitter.

      Seager and Lowrie are hotter right now, and Seager is probably the better all around fantasy player since he offers a bit of speed, but long-term he’s basically Aviles with a bit less power and speed, maybe a few more walks, but an awful situation in Seattle.

      Lowrie has a better home ballpark than Seager, is a slightly better power-first play than either, and draws a lot more walks. But doesn’t have any speed and has a pretty lousy lineup (though they’ve been decent so far) so the walks aren’t much of a boon in fantasy, and he also has a history of health problems, so I wouldn’t want to rely on him as more than a short-term patch.

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      • wily mo says:

        i can solve the puzzle of why aviles has a history as a lefty-masher even though he’s a switch-hitter: he’s not actually a switch-hitter

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    • Grant says:

      Agree with the above points and would add that Aviles also has eligibility at SS and 2B…I personally have Aviles and play him at shortstop (top 5 at the position so far) , but have been looking for an excuse to pick up Seager (but I have Lawrie so not gonna happen soon).

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  5. Alex says:

    Zimmerman should be in Tier 3, right by Longoria and Sandoval if we’re playing the injury bug.

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  6. Surplus says:

    I have Longoria, Wright, Hanley, Lawrie and Seager in a 12-team league. My 1B are Ike Davis and Morse. My OF is Heyward, Jennings, Joyce, Trout, Harper, Brantley and Tabata. What 1B and OF should I be targeting? Or do I just get a 1B and supplement my outfield with Morse when he returns?

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