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3rd Base

“Precision Tayloring” The precise way to draft Third Base (3B), 2014

“There’s nothing like Opening Day. There’s nothing like the start of a new season. I started playing baseball when I was seven years old and quit playing when I was 40, so it’s kind of in my blood.”- George Brett

Spring training baseball is finally happening everyday! It is an exciting time of the year as we are even closer to the start of the season and the start of the long grind that is managing a team or two or three over the course of the long season. With that said we move on looking at third base today. The current mold of the top-tier third basemen is generally the same (minus David Wright and you’ll see why) as they all hit for plenty of power (for the most part) with the ones at the top hitting for elite average. No one (other than David Wright really) is a threat on the base paths however so this isn’t a position to come to and look for steals. The majority of the players at the position too are on the younger side of their career arcs so there is plenty of up and coming talent to snag here. So with all that laid out in front of us let us begin with Mr….

  1. Miguel Cabrera- With back to back AL MVP awards under his belt, there isn’t much to say about Cabrera that we didn’t already know, including the fact that the Tigers will be much Detroit Tigers v New York Metsbetter off now that he won’t have to man third base everyday and attempt to play at least average defense. Cabrera could be the worst defender in the league and still find a job on any team in the league because of how special the bat is. He has had 5 straight seasons of batting at least .324 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI and should be the first or second pick in every re-draft league out there this year as this is the last year to cash in on him having 3rd base eligibility (hence his inclusion in these rankings and not the 1B rankings). Cabrera is the model of consistency in both terms of offensive output health (last season was the only season he has failed to reach 150 games played since he got called up in 2003) and in my mind is going to be the safest pick in the 1st round just because his knowledge of the strike zone is ridiculous (he is the Joey Votto of the AL) and he always posts elite OBP numbers. He will turn 31 before the season starts, but there is no reason to believe that he won’t continue to put up the MVP type numbers for another 3-4 years.
  2. Adrian Beltre- Always a model of consistency too (he hasn’t hit below .296 and has hit at least 30 home runs every year since joining the Rangers), though not with the crazy ass numbers that Cabrera has been putting up, Beltre has really thrived in the environment the Texas front office has built around him the last couple of years. It is only going to get better next season as Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo join the party and both of them will be batting ahead of him in the line-up which can only help his counting stat totals. If you haven’t seen a projected line-up for next years Ranger’s offense check it out here. That line-up is scary good, and is going to put up a lot of runs next year, especially when it gets to play half of its games in Arlington.
  3. David Wright- Wright is the first true “5 Category” guy on the list as the first 2 dudes on the list don’t boogie too much when it comes to flying around on the base paths, and is actually the only legitimate candidate to have a 20/20 season on the list. With a career .301 batting average and the plate discipline to drive pitchers insane, he is no slouch at the plate all around and we have seen him put up a 30/30 season in a bigger ballpark (for those concerned with him hitting at Citi Field). The Mets added Curtis Granderson this off-season so they are trying (kinda?) to put more offensive talent around him so hopefully he will also see a slight boost to his run and RBI totals like when he had guys like Jose Reyes around. Buyers beware, a DL stint some point during the season is a real possibility as he hasn’t been the most durable player over the past couple years, but if he puts in a full season he could end up providing more overall value than the first 2 guys on the list depending on how much the Mets let him run this year.
  4. Josh Donaldson- Now where the hell did that come from? Is what just about everyone in the fantasy community was asking about Mr. Donaldson last season as he just smasheddonaldson all of his projections on the season thanks in large part to the huge jump in his walk rate (up to 11.4% last season). To put that into perspective during the 75 games he played in 2012 he only drew a total of 14 walks (that is a walk percentage of 4.8%). Donaldson is a prime example of how if hitters just make contact with the ball and not strike out, good things can happen for them. While he probably isn’t a true .300 hitter, if the recognition of the strike zone is for real then he has the physical skill set to be a well above average hitter somewhere in the .280 range with above average pop.
  5. Evan Longoria- While Longoria may not be the .300 hitter he was projected to be when coming up through the Rays system, they will easily take .270 if he can continue to stay healthy and club 30+ home runs as they just don’t have anyone else (other than Myers) that has true elite over the fence power. The 23.4% strikeout percentage was a bit unappealing and left him prone to going on cold streaks at times during last season.
  6. Ryan Zimmerman- At this point in his career the book is pretty much written on Zimmerman which means you pretty much know everything you are gonna get out of him on draft day which is an average somewhere in the .280-.290 range and 25-30 home runs annually. Anyone that has followed his career also knows that you will have to plan on him having at least 1 DL stint somewhere in the season so plan accordingly as you never know when it could be. His defense at 3rd is getting pretty terrible, but he is going to keep 3rd base eligibility for this season and what will probably be the following season as well.
  7. Aramis Ramirez- Health is the big issue for him as he played in only 92 games last season due to knee injuries. Whenever healthy he still has the pop as he put up a .240 ISO (Isolated Power) in 2012, and the right ballpark to hit plenty of home runs while driving in and scoring plenty of runs. He is an above average hitter that won’t kill your average batting anywhere in between .280 and .300.
  8. Kyle Seager- If Seager were right-handed the new changes to Safeco Field last season probably would have helped him out more as he still showed the home/road splits that can plague hitters that play in these spacious ballparks. He hit .277 with 14 home runs on the road compared to just .243 and 8 home runs at home. Also strangely enough all but 1 of his 9 stolen bases came on the road. The park factors are real, but Seager is just 26 and has the talent to still put up 25 home runs while threatening for double-digit steals as well.
  9. Manny Machado- The kid is already one of the emerging superstars in the game and he just celebrated his 21st birthday during last season. The knee injury that ended his MannMachadoseason last year was a gruesome one, but every indication is that he is doing very well on his recovery over the winter and may even be ready for opening day. Keep an eye on his progress during the spring as his stock may slip a little if people get scared away by the medicals.
  10. Chase Headley- We all knew that the 31 home runs from 2012 was a bit of a fluke backed by an unsustainable 21.4% HR/FB ratio, but we never imagined he would follow-up with the kind of season he had last year when he hit a career low .250 and only 13 home runs. The real Chase Headley is somewhere in between his last two seasons as he is probably more realistically a .265, 20 home runs, and 15 stolen base kind of guy
  11. Pedro Alvarez- The only other 3rd baseman to hit more home runs than Pedro was Miguel Cabrera. He strikes out a shit ton (30.3% strikeout rate), but whenever he does make contact its hard contact as he now has back to back seasons with at least 30 home runs, and even eclipsed the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career last season.
  12. Brett Lawrie- Lawrie plays the game in only 1 gear and it’s full throttle peddle to the metal baseball, which at times during his career has actually hindered his progress as he hasn’t had the cleanest bill of health and has missed some time in each of his first 2 full seasons (has only played a max of 125 games in a season). The injuries add up and have put him behind the curve of where he should be offensively, but he still has the physical tools to put it all together on the field if he can just stay on it.
  13. Pablo Sandoval- So if he really does stay on top of keeping his weightfatty under control for the whole season, does the Giants fan base have to start calling him “slightly overweight panda”  instead of “fat panda”?
  14. Will Middlebrooks- Middlebrooks had a very disappointing sophomore showing as he managed just a .192/.228/.389 slash rate before being sent down to AAA at the end of June. He re-found his stroke in the minors as he slashed .276/.329/.476 the rest of the way after being called back up on August 10th. The latter of which is his true skill set when he has everything working at the plate
  15. Martin Prado- Super utility man Martin Prado made the majority of his starts last year at 3rd base, and it looks like that is what Arizona has lined up for him again this season though they can plug him in just about anywhere on the field to play defense. On offense he is a well above average contact hitter and even shows some moderate pop which plays even better at hitter friendly Chase Field.
  16. Mike Moustakas- If he can learn to hit lefties he is a top 10 fantasy 3rd basemen easily. Up until this point though he hasn’t really accomplished either as his career stats against lefties bring projections of an upcoming platoon at 3rd base next season with Danny Valencia. He’s hit 6 home runs against lefties in 395 at bats, so this makes sense for the Royals. Moustakas was a pretty highly touted prospect for a reason though and if he can turn it around against southpaws he could play his way into playing every day.
  17. Nolan Arenado- Showed the typical home/road splits that plague Colorado hitters (hit .298 at home and .238 on the road). He was still dead even on the split for home runs though, hitting 5 both at home and on the road, and he shows modest pop for someone who will just turn 23 at the start of the season. Coors field has made less talented players fantasy relevant.
  18. David Freese- His upside is his breakout 2012 campaign in which he hit 20 home runs while batting .293. The middle of the Angels order should be better than last year with Pujols back healthy and Josh Hamilton not being completely terrible (they hope).
  19. Todd Frazier- He got a bit unlucky in the batting average category last season with a well below average BABIP at .269. He is more of a .260 average hitter and hitting in Great American Ballpark can really help bump up home run totals helping him hit for above average power.
  20. Trevor Plouffe- With news that top prospect Miguel Sano will miss the entire season Plouffe’s stock just got a lot more interesting. If he can hit enough to say in the line-up the whole season, then he has the power to hit 20+ home runs.
  21. Matt Dominguez- He hit 21 home runs for the Astros last season, and they don’t really have anyone better to put over there.
  22. Kelly Johnson- Penciled in as the starter for the Yankees at third this season. Left handed power hitters do well in the new Yankee stadium and he has shown in the past that he can hit for well above average power. Worth a late round flier.
  23. Jose Iglesias- More known for his elite defense than his offensive ability, he did hit .303 in 109 games split between the Red Sox and Tigers. He isn’t a true .300 hitter, although he could hit for enough average to warrant rostering as a bench bat.
  24. Luis Valbuena- Was a platoon bat at third for the cubs last season, it looks like they are going to give him a shot at playing everyday. He may be nothing more than a stop-gap until top prospect Kris Bryant is ready to get called up to Wrigley.
  25. Kris Bryant- He could be major league ready by all-star break and come up with fellow system mate Javier Baez. He was the best college bat in the draft as he crushed 31 home runs (which was more than over 100 other Division 1 schools) and hit .329 on his way to being selected 2nd overall in last seasons draft. The cubs have a lot of scary good talent as Theo Epstein looks like he has them headed in the right direction.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Corey D Roberts

    March 5, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Quality list Matt. I am thinking I can steal Middlebrooks this year after the tough season last year.

  2. Joe Iannone

    March 8, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Another good, and fun article Matt. What a scary thought though starting a fantasy season with Iglesias as your starting 3b. By the way, what is a bench bat? 🙂

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