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Bautista, Longo usual suspects at third
Updated March 30
The third base position used to be ruled by a small group of dominant hitters. As we approach the 2012 season, changes are afoot. Fantasy owners are buzzing about emerging options such as Brett Lawrie, Mike Moustakas and World Series hero David Freese. The fact that longtime fantasy heroes Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez will establish eligibility at the position in short order helps to deepen the player pool and add some intrigue to the decision-making process.
Potential Hall of Famer Chipper Jones and former fantasy hero has already announced that the 2012 season will be his last. In New York, fans and Yankees executives are hoping that Alex Rodriguez’s offseason treatments will restore him to his former glory. Are you buying?
Let’s get this review of the third base position started in Tampa.
1. Evan Longoria, TB
2011 Stats: .244, 31 HR, 99 RBI, 78 Runs, 3 SB
Analysis: Longoria changed his offseason training program, dropped weight and underwent surgery on his foot. He’ll reportedly be ready for his usual spring training work and hopes to avoid the issues that limited him to 133 games last season. In four major league seasons, Longoria has averaged 28.3 home runs, 36.8 doubles and 100 RBI. His batting average dropped markedly in 2011, as he batted a full 50 points lower in 2011 than his career-high mark of .294 in 2010. Longoria’s strikeout rate rose a bit, but I would put most of the drop-off on his health issues.
2. Jose Bautista, TOR
2011 Stats: .302, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 105 Runs, 9 SB
Analysis: Bautista exploded onto the scene in 2010 with a ridiculous power outburst. Yes, he’d been on the radar as a prospect in the Pittsburgh organization and performed well at the back-end of the 2009 season. Nobody could have anticipated his Herculean production following a decade in the minors and just three years of significance in Pittsburgh. As a result, fantasy owners were skeptical about Bautista’s potential to repeat his 2010 heroics and questioned his new multi-year contract. I’ll admit it. I was among them. Bautista then turned in his second straight year of brilliance and boosted his batting average a full 42 points. He registered a robust .386 BABIP, a full 59 points higher than the mark he recorded in 2010, and his patience at the plate (232 walks in the past two years) will yield huge dividends once again. Bautista receives additional support in the heart of the lineup with Brett Lawrie’s arrival as the full-time third baseman. Barring a dramatic setback, Bautista will rank among the leaders in the power categories, and fantasy owners will happily take a batting average in the .275-.285 range (he’s a lifetime .254 batter).
3. Adrian Beltre, TEX
2011 Stats: .296, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 82 Runs, 1 SB
Analysis: Interestingly, Beltre’s 32-home run season in 2011 was just the second 30-home run season of his lengthy career (his ninth with at least 20). His 48-home run “walk” season in 2004 was clearly the anomaly, but Beltre has averaged 23.3 home runs, 31.6 doubles and 84 RBI with a .278 batting average in 13 full major league seasons. Did I mention that Beltre achieved his 2011 statistics in just 124 games? This lineup is loaded for another big run in 2012, and you can expect this free-swinging veteran to post big power numbers once again.
4. David Wright, NYM
2011 Stats: .254, 14 HR, 61 RBI, 60 Runs, 13 SB
Analysis: You’d like to say that things couldn’t get any worse in New York this season. You’d like that, but then you realize that Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran have left the building. Wright returns from a back injury that limited him to 102 games in 2011, his lowest total since becoming the everyday third baseman since 2005. Wright still provides five-category production if healthy (career .300 with 13 or more stolen bases in seven consecutive seasons), but the protection issue is there as well. Does he have adequate help in the lineup, and can they avoid injury recurrences?
5. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS
2011 Stats: .289, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 52 Runs, 3 SB
Analysis: Zimmerman was limited to 101 games because of a hamstring injury in 2011, the second time in his career that the former first-round pick has missed significant time due to injury. His absence had a bit of a domino effect, as free agent acquisition Jayson Werth struggled mightily in his absence. Zimmerman has averaged 68 extra-base hits and 98 RBI in his four non-injury affected seasons (at least 142 games played). With a slight rebound from Werth and continued support from Michael Morse (and Bryce Harper?), Zimmerman will hit those totals again.
6. Alex Rodriguez, NYY
2011 Stats: .276, 16 HR, 62 RBI, 67 Runs, 4 SB
Analysis: What is left in the tank? That’s the question facing the 36-year old Rodriguez for 2012. He’s played in 138 games or fewer in four consecutive seasons and was sidelined for much of 2011 (he played in 99 games) with knee and shoulder injuries, and he famously went to Germany for treatment. Rodriguez’s injuries ended a streak of 13 consecutive 30-home run, 100-RBI campaigns. He won’t run much anymore (eight stolen bases in his past 236 games), but the power numbers will be there if he’s healthy in the always-loaded New York lineup. Do you bank on 110 games or hold out hope for 135?
7. Aramis Ramirez, MIL
2011 Stats: .306, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 80 Runs, 1 SB
Analysis: Ramirez has quietly pieced together a fantastic resume in support of fantasy owners. He’s hit at least 25 home runs with 83 RBI in eight of the past nine seasons (he played in 82 games in 2009). Ramirez is now one of the centerpieces of the Milwaukee lineup in the post-Prince Fielder era and may be forced to carry the squad with Ryan Braun’s status hanging in the balance. Those who want to point to Fielder’s departure as a reason to expect a dramatic downturn should note that Ramirez played years without much support in Chicago.
8. Pablo Sandoval, SF
2011 Stats: .315, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 55 Runs, 2 SB
Analysis: Sandoval missed significant time in 2011 because of a wrist injury, but still absolutely obliterated the weak output he put forth in 2010. He generated 52 extra-base hits in his 426 at-bats with 70 RBI, translating his high doubles count into home runs. Sandoval’s batting average improved 47 points over his 2010 struggles. He’s a good contact hitter, though an improvement of his walk rate would certainly be welcome. Sandoval was in “the best shape of his life” coming into camp last year and performed brilliantly. I suspect that we see numbers in line with his 2009 and 2011 output.
9. Brett Lawrie, TOR
2011 Stats: .293, 9 HR, 25 RBI, 26 Runs, 7 SB
Analysis: Lawrie whetted the appetites of fantasy owners in his 43-game introduction to Toronto. He produced 21 extra-base hits in his 150 at-bats with seven stolen bases and owned a .373 on-base percentage. Lawrie is the next great five-tool performer (22 years old), and I’m sure that you’ve seen the lofty praise heaped upon him. He’s the “sexy” pick for 2012, so you’ll need to go all-in to draft him.
10. Michael Young, TEX
2011 Stats: .338, 11 HR, 106 RBI, 88 Runs, 6 SB
Analysis: Following a three-year downturn in his hit rate, the former AL batting champ was back on his game in 2011. Young produced the sixth 200-hit season of his career and established new career highs in batting average (.338) and RBI (106). The increased batting average was accompanied by a reduction in his home run rate (he’d hit 22 and 21 home runs in the previous two seasons, respectively), but Young continued to lace balls into the gap (41 doubles). Young owns a career .304 batting average and has batted .284 or better in every season since 2002. In this lineup, Young remains a strong three-category performer (BA, runs and RBI) with the potential to boost his home run total. * The versatile performer also appeared at every infield position last season. Young has positional eligibility at first base, second base and third base.
11. David Freese, STL
2011 Stats: .297, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 41 Runs, 1 SB
Analysis: Freese steps from his “hero” status of the 2011 playoffs to a more prominent role in 2012 in the post-Pujols era. He produced big power numbers in his 97 regular season games with 27 extra-base hits and 55 RBI. Freese’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is moderately troubling (3-to-1), but look to his .384 BABIP and that extra-base total as a stepping stone to a huge 2012.
12. Kevin Youkilis, BOS:
2011 Stats: .258, 17 HR, 80 RBI, 68 Runs, 3 SB
Analysis: Youkilis’ power production is still there on an at-bat basis, but he’s missed 102 games in the past two seasons. In 2011, Youkilis required surgery to repair a sports hernia and played through pain in his hip. I’m most curious about the disparate home-road splits from 2011. Youkilis hit at a .320 clip in his 63 home games with 36 extra-base hits. He struggled to a dismal .191 batting average in 209 road at-bats. I’ll chalk those road struggles up to injury and discomfort on the road with expectations that a full offseason of rehab will get him back to form.
13. Ryan Roberts, ARI
2011 Stats: .249, 19 HR, 65 RBI, 86 Runs, 18 SB
Analysis: Roberts was a breakthrough performer who helped lift a number of fantasy owners’ title hopes with four-category production for the Diamondbacks in 2011. He generated 46 extra-base hits (25 doubles) and attempted 27 stolen bases (18 successes). I’m intrigued to watch his follow-up effort. Remember, Roberts received ample playing time in 2009 only to flail away to a .197 batting average in limited time for the Diamondbacks in 2010. * Roberts will play third base for the Diamondbacks in 2012, but retains second base eligibility after playing 28 games at the position last year.
14. Mark Reynolds, BAL
2011 Stats: .221, 37 HR, 86 RBI, 84 Runs, 6 SB
Analysis: Reynolds looks to win his fifth straight strikeout title in 2012. He also seeks to give Baltimore fans something to cheer about with his fourth consecutive 30-home run season. Reynolds has hit at least 28 home runs in each of his first four full major league campaign. It would require a huge BABIP to boost his batting average, as you’re looking at a strikeout every third at-bat (.238 lifetime batting average). Take the three-category production and handful of stolen bases. Any boost in the batting average would be a huge bonus.
15. Mike Moustakas, KC
2011 Stats: .263, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 26 Runs, 2 SB
Analysis: Fantasy owners and Kansas City fans got a glimpse of the 23-year old super prospect last season. Following a slow start, Moustakas found his stroke and produced 24 extra-base hits in his 338 at-bats. He’s the centerpiece of the rising (and intriguing) Kansas City offense. The heart of the lineup is stocked with Moustakas, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer and the re-upped Alex Gordon ready to hit.
16. Chase Headley, SD
2011 Stats: .289, 4 HR, 44 RBI, 43 Runs, 13 SB
Analysis: The ceiling for Headley’s power numbers will obviously be lowered by playing in Petco Park. He demonstrates tremendous gap power (28 or more doubles in three consecutive seasons) while adding a double-digit stolen base total. Headley batted .289 overall with a ridiculous .381 BABIP. However, it should be noted that he struggled markedly at home. Headley produced a dismal .243 home mark in sharp contrast to his .330 road batting average.
17. Martin Prado, ATL
2011 Stats: .260, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 66 Runs, 4 SB
Analysis: Prado experienced a precipitous drop in his batting average after missing an extended period in the heart of the season. His batting average dropped 47 points from his 2010 efforts (33 points lower than his career mark). Remember, he also was shut down in 2010 because of hip and oblique injuries. He’s a solid, steady producer when healthy. Prado is a gap hitter, having generated 78 doubles in the 2009 and 2010 seasons while averaging 57.5 RBI.
18. Emilio Bonifacio, MIA
2011 Stats: .296, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 78 Runs, 40 SB
Analysis: Bonifacio is another of the three-tool speed merchants on the outfield grid. He shan’t offer much in the power department, although he did rip 26 balls into the gap (26 doubles). Bonifacio’s game is speed. He produced three 40-stolen base seasons in the minor league in advance of last year’s total of 40 (51 attempts) at the major league level. He hit .274 or better at every level of the minor league prior to producing a .296 batting average for the Marlins.
19. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR
2011 Stats: .272, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 70 Runs, 8 SB
Analysis: The arrival of super prospect Brett Lawrie shifts Encarnacion to the DH role for 2012 (Travis Snider may see occasional at-bats here as well). He’s long been a strong power producer when given regular at-bats, and he certainly took advantage of his opportunities with 53 extra-base hits last season (36 doubles). Since arriving in Toronto, Encarnacion has averaged one extra-base hit per 9.3 at-bats, and his .272 batting average last season was his best effort since 2007.
20. Mike Aviles, BOS
2011 Stats: .255, 7 HR, 39 RBI, 31 Runs, 14 SB
Analysis: It was recently announced that Aviles earned the nod as the starting shortstop, a move that made fantasy owners take notice. Aviles first appeared on the fantasy radar in 2008 when he produced 41 extra-base hits and 51 RBI with a .325 batting average. He struggled through the 2009 season before rebounding nicely in 2010. The potential is there for a high doubles count with a double-digit stolen base total as part of this Boston lineup.
21. Pedro Alvarez, PIT
2011 Stats: .191, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 18 Runs, 1 SB
Analysis: I’ll admit to having been taunted by Alvarez’s 95-game introduction to Pittsburgh in 2010. He batted .256 in his 347 at-bats, but generated 38 extra-base hits (16 home runs) and drove in 64 runs. Alvarez failed miserably in his attempt to build on the hype and was limited to 74 games. He just turned 25 years old in early February, so clearly his learning process is not yet complete. I remain cautiously optimistic that this former No. 2 overall pick shakes off the “lost” season and gets back to mashing.
22. Chipper Jones, ATL
2011 Stats: .275, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 56 Runs, 2 SB
Analysis: Jones’ health is obviously a question, and the fact that the “R” word hangs over him makes him a risky selection for fantasy owners. He’s played in 137 games or fewer in seven of the past eight seasons. Still, Jones has produced solid numbers for a corner infielder throughout this period. He’s hit 18 or more home runs with at least 70 RBI in every season but one since 1995 (he played in only 95 games in 2010). I’m intrigued to watch the spring training period and his health. We can reasonably assume that Jason Heyward improves on last year’s struggles. That puts a lot of pitches to hit on the plate for a healthy Jones.
23. Brent Morel, CWS
2011 Stats: .245, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 44 Runs, 5 SB
Analysis: Morel performed fairly well at the plate during his first full season in Chicago while everyone not named (Paul) Konerko flailed miserably. He rapped out 29 extra-base hits with 41 RBI in his 413 at-bats. Interestingly, Morel batted just .222 in one of the league’s most friendly ballparks (207 home at-bats). Morel’s patience at the plate is one huge area for concern. He extended the plate and swung at virtually everything. Morel struck out once every 7.2 at-bats, a nice contact rate. However, he drew just 22 walks in his 435 plate appearances
24. Danny Valencia, MIN
2011 Stats: .246, 15 HR, 72 RBI, 63 Runs, 2 SB
Analysis: Valencia posted a topsy-turvy performance in 2011 for the Twins, but his overall numbers leave you optimistic that the bar can be raised for 2012. His batting average fluctuated from month-to-month, but his power production was consistent. Valencia generated 45 extra-base hits and 72 RBI in 2011, and the healthy returns of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau could make him a value play at the hot corner.
25. Daniel Murphy, NYM
2011 Stats: .320, 6 HR, 49 RBI, 49 Runs, 5 SB
Analysis: Murphy is a versatile performer, bringing first base, second base and third base eligibility to fantasy lineups in 2012. He returned to action in 2011 after missing the 2010 season because of a knee injury and produced solid power numbers. He reduced his strikeout rate from his 2009 output and boosted his batting average by 54 points. Murphy has a tremendous stroke to the gap (56 doubles in his past two years) and could put up a double-digit home run total (he hit 12 in 2009).
26. Casey McGehee, PIT
2011 Stats: .223, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 46 Runs
Analysis: McGehee struggled through a difficult final season in Milwaukee in 2011. His contact rate did not change markedly, but he experienced a 62-point drop in his batting average. McGehee produced 39 extra-base hits in 2011, a decided drop-off from his total of 62 in his breakout 2010 campaign. He remains a potential power broker in Pittsburgh with everyday at-bats.
27. Ian Stewart, CHC
2011 Stats: .156, 6 RBI, 14 Runs, 3 SB
Analysis: It’s hard to believe that we are just three seasons removed from Stewart posting huge power numbers in Colorado. Stewart batted .228 in 147 games for the Rockies that season, but he at least offered fantasy owners and fans 47 extra-base hits (25 home runs) with 70 RBI and seven stolen bases. Theo Epstein and the Chicago brass are hoping to see Stewart reclaim that power base at the “Friendly Confines.” If the Cubs can live with the high strikeout count, he’ll have his chance when the wind blows out. The former first-round selection represents an interesting deep flier pickup for power support.
28. Scott Rolen, CIN
2011 Stats: .242, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 31 Runs, 1 SB
Analysis: Will Rolen stay healthy? That’s the question to be asked for 2012. Rolen produced 27 extra-base hits (20 doubles) in his 65 games last season, a strong follow-up to his 57 extra-base hits in his first full season in Cincinnati. His selection for a corner infield slot is fraught with peril. Rolen has played in 133 games or fewer in five consecutive seasons. Still, Rolen will offer solid power production when in the lineup (20 or more home runs in 10 MLB seasons).
29. Sean Rodriguez, TB
2011 Stats: .223, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 45 Runs, 11 SB
Analysis: Rodriguez isn’t going to challenge for a batting title anytime soon, but he will contribute solid numbers to the other four categories. In two years in Tampa, Rodriguez has generated 61 extra-base hits (17 home runs) with 76 RBI, 98 RBI and 24 stolen bases in 34 attempts. He produced a dismal .236 batting average in these campaigns.
30. Chone Figgins, SEA
2011 Stats: .188, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 24 Runs, 11 SB
Analysis: Figgins struggled in his 2010 arrival to Seattle, but he still afford trusting fantasy owners a huge stolen base total (his seventh straight season with at least 34 stolen bases and 47 attempts). He was limited to 82 games in 2011 and was ultimately shut down because of a hip flexor injury. Figgins’ on-base percentage dipped to a frighteningly low .241, a full 109 points lower than his career mark. Figgins is reportedly being shopped by the Mariners, but his salary could be a stumbling block given his horrible 2011 mark. If he receives everyday at-bats, Figgins is a threat to race to the top of the stolen base charts, and I can’t altogether dismiss his .280 career batting average. Perhaps leaving Seattle would allow him to rediscover his stroke.
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