Fantasy Rankings: Third Base

There is no legitimate star atop the third base rankings, but there is a lot of quality at the top of the list. There are five third baseman who should be expected to hit around 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs and another couple who could also reach those numbers. (Note: Rankings are based on 5×5 Rotisserie scoring).

1. Eric Chavez, A’s: At 26 years old, he’s entering the stage of his career where he might have a breakout season or two. That’s scary, considering how good he’s already been.

For the last four years, his lows are 151 games played, a .275 average, 26 home runs, 87 runs, and 86 RBIs. He only stole two bases in 2000, but he’s swiped eight bags every year since. At a minimum, you can expect him to hit around .280 with 30 home runs, half a dozen steals, 90 runs and 105 RBIs.

2. Scott Rolen, Cardinals: Rolen’s right behind Chavez, and the only reason he’s not ranked first is that he’s probably already reached the height of his production. Still, when the upper limit of your production is a decent batting average, 30-homer power, double-digit steal speed and 100-RBI production, that’s not a bad ceiling to have.

He’s still in the prime of his career, so expect him to hit .280-.285 with 27-30 home runs, a dozen steals, 95-100 runs and 105-110 RBIs. It would not be a shock to see him outproduce Chavez, but he doesn’t have quite as high an upside as Chavez.

3. Hank Blalock, Rangers: After an awful rookie season, Blalock was as good last year as everybody thought he would eventually be. If he can match that level of production, he could be the best fantasy third baseman who didn’t switch over from shortstop this off-season.

Blalock’s minor-league numbers show no reason to believe he was playing over his head last year, so I’d expect an average around .290-.295, 30 home runs, 90-95 runs and 100 RBIs. He used to steal some bases in the minor leagues, but it doesn’t look like that will be part of his game in the majors.

4. Troy Glaus, Angels: Glaus probably varies in the third base rankings more than any other player. Some people hope he can come close to matching his amazing 2000 season and some people worry that the torn rotator cuff he didn’t have surgery on in the off-season will bother him all year.

I wouldn’t expect Glaus to play every game, but I don’t think he’ll necessarily miss more than 12-15 games either. If he plays 145-150 games, he should hit .250 with 30-35 home runs, 10-12 steals, 100 runs and 110-115 RBIs. He’s a risk, but he’s also a very good hitter.

5. Mike Lowell, Marlins: As impressive as last year’s 32-homer, 105-RBI performance was when you consider that he only played 130 games, Lowell has still never had a season in which he hit well during the second half. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something to keep in mind if you have him and he’s tearing up the NL again at the All-Star break.

Assuming he’s healthy, he should regress a little and hit .275 with 30 home runs, 80 runs and 100-105 RBIs (basically the same numbers as last year, but in more games). If those numbers are skewed more toward the first half of the season, then that just gives you a chance to improve your team with a mid-season trade.

The lingering soreness in his right elbow is worrisome, however, because it’s highly unlikely that he’ll reach 30 homers and 100 RBIs if he only plays about 130 games again.

6. Corey Koskie, Twins: He’s sometimes a forgotten man, but he certainly produces when he’s healthy. He has 55 home runs and 48 steals in 424 games the last three seasons. That shows that he could be a 20-20 third baseman over a full season, but it also shows that he’s averaged just over 140 games per season the last three years.

Back and wrist injuries kept him homerless in 150 at-bats after the All-Star break last season, and while he seems to be pretty injury-prone, he’s also healthy at the moment. There’s no reason he can’t hit .285-.290 with 20-25 home runs, 12-15 steals, 80 runs and 90-95 RBIs if he stays healthy.

7. Morgan Ensberg, Astros: Now that Geoff Blum isn’t around to take away his at-bats, Ensberg should finally be able to get a full season in at third base. Although he’s been a little old for his level at times, Enberg hit exceedingly well in the minor leagues from 2000-2002, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he was able to produce last year.

He might not be quite as good as he showed in those 127 games last season, but he should still hit around .280 with 25 homers, 7-10 steals, 80-85 runs and 85-90 RBIs.

A comparative study on an unwritten rule of baseball.

8. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: In the past three seasons, Ramirez has been great, bad and then good. He was dealing with injuries during the season in which he was bad, but I think it’s more likely that he’ll be good than great.

Expect him to hit .275 with 25-30 home runs, 80 runs and 100 RBIs. He might be more proven than Ensberg, but he’s also been somewhat inconsistent and he doesn’t steal bases.

9. Eric Hinske, Blue Jays: The 2002 AL Rookie of the Year struggled with injuries and some weight issues during his disappointing sophomore season, but he comes into the 2004 season healthy and lighter. He might not be quite as good as he showed as a rookie, but he isn’t nearly as bad as he performed last year either.

He should bounce back with a .270 average, 20-22 home runs, a dozen steals, 85-90 runs and 80-85 RBIs.

10. Shea Hillenbrand, Diamondbacks: On the surface, Hillenbrand’s 2003 season doesn’t look much different than his 2002 season. However, after being traded from Boston to Arizona, his batting average plummeted and his home run total went through the roof.

Arizona is definitely a good place to hit, though, and Hillenbrand’s average should be better there this season. Expect him to hit .280-.285 with 20 home runs, 70-75 runs and 85-90 RBIs.

11. Joe Crede, White Sox: For no particular reason, Crede has been alternating good and bad half-seasons. First, he hit .285 with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs in 53 games after getting called up at the end of July in 2002. Then, he hit just .225 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 87 games before last year’s All-Star break. Finally, he rebounded to hit .308 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs in 64 games after the break.

His minor-league numbers indicate that his true ability level is closer to the good half-seasons than it is to the bad one. He should be able to hit .275-.280 with around 25 home runs, 75-80 runs and 85-90 RBIs.

12. Vinny Castilla, Rockies: Castilla’s not a good offensive player, but he did hit 22 home runs in Atlanta last year and now he’s returning to the place where he averaged 39.75 homers per season from 1996 to 1999. Even if his age causes him to decline from last year’s performance, playing half his games in Colorado should hide the effects of the decline.

He can hit .270-.275 with 25 home runs, 65-70 runs and 75-80 RBIs. Colorado’s interest in him makes no sense, but that shouldn’t affect your interest in him.

13. Bill Mueller, Red Sox: Last year was definitely a career year for Mueller, but he’s not going to decline this season by as much as some people think he will. He won’t win the batting title again, but he’s a .293 career hitter with a swing that is enhanced by Fenway Park. The big dropoff is going to come in the power department, because he’s not going to come close to hitting 19 homers again this year.

Expect him to hit .295-.300 with about a dozen home runs and you shouldn’t be disappointed. It sounds like he’ll be batting second this year, so he should score 95-100 runs and he could still knock in 75-80.

14. Edgardo Alfonzo, Giants: Alfonzo sturggled mightily upon arriving in San Francisco, hitting just .236 before the All-Star break. He must have figured things out over the break though, because he hit .296 with eight homers and 48 RBIs in 196 at-bats from then through the end of the season.

His back ailments give him the image of an old, fragile player, but he’s only 30 and has only played fewer than 140 games twice in the past seven seasons. He should be able to avoid the first-half slump this year and hit .280 with 15 home runs, a handful of steals, 65-70 runs and 90-100 RBIs.

15. Scott Spiezio, Mariners: He’s not your typical third baseman, but his numbers look a whole lot better here than they would if he only qualified at first base. He’s been pretty consistent over the last three years, and he should be able to hit .275 with 15 home runs, five or six steals, 70 runs and 80 RBIs.

16. Sean Burroughs, Padres: After a miserable rookie season in 2002, Burroughs took a big step towards becoming what most people expect him to be — a high batting average, low power hitter. He may eventually develop decent power, but for now the area he’ll help most is batting average.

He probably won’t improve quite as much this year, but it’s also pretty unlikely that he’ll regress. Expect a batting average arund .290 to go with maybe 10 home runs and half a dozen steals. He’ll bat leadoff again this season, which will limit him to 60-65 RBIs, but could allow him to score 90-100 runs if the big hitters behind him can stay healthy for the most part.

17. Joe Randa, Royals: He’s not at all flashy, but Randa ends up with pretty decent numbers more often than not. Even at 34 years old and with the fences getting pushed back at Kauffman Stadium, Randa should make a good backup for your fantasy team.

He’ll decline from last season’s numbers, but he should still be able to hit .280 with a dozen home runs, 70-75 runs and 75-80 RBIs.

18. Adrian Beltre, Dodgers: Beltre’s batting average has been in a freefall since 2000, but no matter how disappointed you are with his career, you can’t really expect him to bat just .240 again this year.

He should bounce back with an average around .260, 20 home runs, a handful of steals, 50-55 runs and 80-85 RBIs.

19. Tony Batista, Expos: As a “proven run producer,” Batista will probably bat somewhere in the middle of Montreal’s lineup. That’s bad for the Expos, but good for you.

He’ll only hit .240-.245, but Batista still has some power and that will lead to RBIs if he gets enough at-bats with men on base. Expect him to hit around 25 home runs, score 65-70 runs and drive in 90-95 more.

20. Ty Wigginton, Mets: Everybody knew Wigginton wasn’t as good as his performance in 46 games in 2002 indicated, so last season’s sophomore slump wasn’t a surprise. He may bounce back a little bit this season, but he’s strictly backup material.

Expect a .260-.265 average, a dozen or so homers, 10 steals, 60-65 runs and 70-75 RBIs.

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