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RotoGraphs Mock Draft – Third Basemen

You’ve probably noticed by now that some of the gentlemen of Rotographs got together in their virtual forum to pull off a 12-team keeper draft over the weekend. Due to other obligations, the lists of participating managers didn’t include yours truly, so hopefully that will give me a bit more objectivity as I make a few observations.

I’ve been the resident third base scribe for the past year, so I’ll dedicate this short post to some of the more interesting picks involving the hot corner.

It didn’t take long for the debate to get brewing as Evan Longoria was selected as the overall #4 pick followed by Jose Bautista, overall #6. Longoria, coming off an injury-shortened season had an usually low batting average at .244, no doubt dragged down by miserable fortune (.239 BABIP). He has been a pretty remarkably consistent player, demonstrating the ability to hit for good average with a take-it-to-the-bank 30 HR’s and 100 RBI profile, assuming you toss out his career low 11% HR/FB from 2010. Bill James currently projects a .275/.370/.535, 35 HR, 116 RBI, 101 run season for Longoria, which probably earns him a #4 overall slot.

But then there’s Bautista (I’m assuming Chris Cwik drafted him to be his third baseman). Over the last two seasons, Bautista has hit 97 home runs. The next closest is Albert Pujols at 79. He’s coming off an absolute monster .302/.447/.608 season which saw him hit 43 HR’s, drive in and score over 100 runs, and even steal 9 bags. Is he more valuable than Evan Longoria?

Perhaps since it’s a keeper league, it’s entirely about age as Bautista is 31 and Longoria is 26 and buying five years of cushion from the eventual slow decline is probably worth any variation in their expected 2012 performance — especially considering their position. Early results from Mock Draft Central suggest that Bautista is being selected right around #4 overall and Longoria is going 10th, but it will be interesting to see how their average draft positions play over the course of the winter.

Eno Sarris with pick #1 of round four, grabbed Brett Lawrie. His early ADP is at about 95, but I’d be really surprised if that didn’t start inching up into the 70’s in the coming weeks. Lawrie will be just 22 for the 2012 season and I’m not at all surprised to see him go here for a couple reasons. One is his unique skill set – the combination of power and speed that will likely see him hitting 20+ home runs and flirting with 30 steals for seasons to come (read Mike Podhorzer arguing with himself over Lawrie). Two, Eno was drafting out of the 12 hole, and therefore would have to wait another 22 selections before he was able to pick again. If he wanted Lawrie, he had to take him here.

A couple more interesting picks include Chase Headley in round 11, pick 8 — taken two picks ahead of Aramis Ramirez. Early ADP of 180 suggests you could probably wait a while longer on Headley while the Ramirez pick was probably the steal of the draft as far as third basemen go. Unless Headley is dealt somewhere that gets him out of Petco, he’ll deliver a decent batting average and if given 600+ plate appearances, might scrape together 12 home runs and 15 steals. But perhaps it was a dice-roll, assuming that he will ultimately leave Petco, and if he did, his value would shoot up significantly. Ramirez, while significantly older, is likely to deliver a .280 batting average or better, with his usual 25 home runs and 90+ RBI, making this a pretty nice pick in the short-term.

Third base has its superstars, but it gets ugly quickly. We’ll continue to monitor the draft position trends with an eye on sniffing out the bargains in the coming weeks.