Third Base Keepers: Tier Two (Part One)

The first tier to the third base keeper rankings was decidedly small, featuring only Evan Longoria and Jose Bautista (for those of you wondering, yes, Jason Catania and I have decided that he’s awesome enough to be top keeper at two positions). There was a moderate degree of discontent regarding the decisions revolving around the first tier, although I’ll admit I was expecting a greater degree of vitriol.

Many of you seem to have concluded (as several of us around here have), that third base is riddled with land mines relative to keeper status and it’s hard to use one of your few keeper picks on guys that are either old, ineffective, or so young that predicting future performance remains rather tenuous. Nonetheless, the second tier features some first tier talent based on 2011 performance not to mention some formerly high-ranked players who didn’t live up to expectations in 2011. The second tier, in fact, is long enough to consume two posts, featuring (in no particular order) Brett Lawrie, Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Pablo Sandoval, and Kevin Youkilis. I’ll take a look at half that batch today.

Second on the Fantasy Value Above Replacement value list at third is Adrian Beltre at $21. It’s difficult to know exactly what you paid for him at auction headed into the season, but if it was a shallow league, there’s a strong possibility that it was a healthy sum more than $21. Still, tossing him back into the pool to save 25 bucks or so would be pretty risky, certainly considering the dearth of quality production at third base — but it’s not entirely out of the question. Beltre will turn 33 in April 2012 and he missed almost 40 games with a variety of ailments, the most serious being a badly injured hamstring and it’s probably more likely than not that he’s back on the trainers table in 2012.

But even when he’s dinged up, Beltre produces, evidenced by his .296/.331/.469 triple slash line with 32 HR’s in just 124 games — all despite an uncharacteristically low BABIP of .273. Also worth pointing out is the fact that he loves (LOVES) hitting at home with 23 of his 32 home runs coming at home in 45 fewer at bats, posting a triple slash of .326/.372/.706. If he can give you 140 mostly-healthy games next season, he’ll be well worth keeping. If he’s ever hurt, just hope he’s hurt on the road.

Ryan Zimmerman and Kevin Youkilis were both projected to be great third base options, ranking high in the original rankings back in February. And as you all know, they both struggled with injuries and failed to perform up to expectations.

After a particularly abysmal June, Zimmerman, 27, actually had a pretty Zimmerman-like season, hitting .302/.365/.455 but what failed to fully come around was the power figures with nine home runs and 17 doubles over about 300 at-bats. If you project that out over a full and healthy season, you get about 23 home runs and about 40 doubles which is a little low on the HR side, but perhaps we can chalk that up to the oblique issue. With a career .288/.355/.479 line, he doesn’t look a whole lot different from Evan Longoria, giving up just a bit in the power department. Even at a fairly high pick or price, letting Zimmerman go would be a mistake.

Perhaps alternatively, I could see a scenario where owners may consider letting Kevin Youkilis go. His value based on our spreadsheet puts him just under $8 dollars and it’s likely most owners are carrying him somewhere in the $20 range. He’s coming off his third year with significant time lost to injury, his second year with fewer than 20 home runs and he hasn’t driven in 100 runs or more since 2008. Youkilis turns 33 in March and while he’s still a very productive hitter, his health has to be a major concern to owners in 2012. He still draws walks, he still has good power (fifth best ISO at third base at .202, just behind Aramis Ramirez at .204), and my bet is he will see his batting average rise closer to his career .289 mark in 2012 — but it’s hard to produce those counting stats when you’re watching games on the monitor in the clubhouse from the whirlpool.

For Tuesday, I’ll cover Brett Lawrie, Pablo Sandoval, Aramis Ramirez and David Wright and their prospects for the 2012 season.

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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.

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