Thirteenth place. That’s where Alex Rodriguez finished among third basemen in my most competitive fantasy league this season. That was behind the likes of Emilio Bonifacio, Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Roberts. Hell, even the oft-injured Chipper Jones finished above Rodriguez in my league. To add insult to injury, both Ryan Zimmerman and David Wright finished lower than Rodriguez due to injuries limiting their playing time. Heading into next season, that’s unlikely to happen again. Of course, Rodriguez dealt with injuries as well — so perhaps he should be cut some slack. At the same time, Rodriguez is getting older and hasn’t reached 600+ plate appearances the past four seasons. Heading into 2012, is Rodriguez a good sleeper candidate among third basemen — or is this finally the year he drops off considerably?
Injuries — to both A-Rod and his competitors — make it difficult to fully project where Rodriguez will be selected next season. Injuries limited Rodriguez to just 99 games this season — the lowest total of his career since he became a starter. While we shouldn’t expect Rodriguez to miss that many games next season, it’s important to note that he’s 36-years-old now. As Rodriguez gets older, it’s only natural to assume that he’s going to miss a few more games due to various bumps and bruises.
Even if A-Rod stays relatively healthy next season, it may not bump him up in the rankings all that much. Both Wright, Zimmerman and Evan Longoria — the other third basemen who dealt with significant injuries this season — will be rated higher next season. Throw in Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre and Pablo Sandoval; and Rodriguez looks like the seventh best option at the position heading into next season. That doesn’t even include Aramis Ramirez, Michael Young or Kevin Youkilis — all of which finished above A-Rod this season.
Still, it’s not as if A-Rod showed huge signs of decline in 2011. When healthy, A-Rod basically lived up to expectations. His decline in slugging percentage is worrisome, but some of that can probably be chalked up to his injuries. If we expect Rodriguez to remain healthier next season, we should be able to expect somewhat of a return to his 2010 numbers. He might not reach 30+ home runs next season, but 25 seems reasonable.
Considering the poor state of third base, Rodriguez is still a very valuable commodity at the position. He won’t enter the season as an elite option at the position, but Rodriguez still has something in the tank. His age — and recent injury history — makes him a risky proposition entering 2011, but his upside remains high. There’s still a lot of uncertainty at the third base position, but betting on A-Rod’s history still seems like a smart choice. He might not produce like the A-Rod of old, but he won’t need to in order to excel among the other available options. A-Rod might be ranked between 8-10 among third basemen next season, but he’s the best best among those guys to finish in the top five at season’s end.