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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.