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Second Half Hitters - Third Base

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In part five of the series, we continue our look into hitters who make the biggest improvement over the second half of the season.

The information can be important to fantasy owners who are looking to improve a position by trade or waiver pickup and those looking to "buy" a player at their lowest value, knowing they have a history of improving in the second half of the season.

Using pre-All Star game and post-All Star game OPS as our evaluation tool, today we check out the third base position.

The fantasy third base position was a position of strength in 2010, with the top-12 players batting a combined .309 with 282 HR and 152 stolen bases. Unfortunately, they have fallen on hard times this season. There is plenty of talent, but much of it has either been injured (David Wright, Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval, Pedro Alvarez) or in a slump.

There is some good news on the horizon, however. Of the 30 starting third basemen in the major leagues, 20 have a history of improving their OPS after the "summer classic."

Even if we ignore the four hitters with astronomical second-half numbers, but not enough of a sample size (David Freese +635, Alvarez +217, Danny Valencia +171 +, Chris Johnson +125), there are still plenty of "legitimate" opportunities to upgrade your third base production.

While the top-two second half guys on the list below are likely already on rosters, No.3 on the list, Ryan Roberts, is available in one out of every three leagues. He's on his way to the first 20-20 season of his career. He's also a two-position guy as he's eligible for second base with 12 starts in 2011.

In the "buy low" category is one of last year's big surprises, Casey McGehee. He's had a horrible first half (.221, 4 HR, 33 RBI), but he's the same guy who hit 23 HRs and collected 104 RBIs last season. He's been dropped by many owners (he's owned in about 60% of all leagues) and past history says he is likely to find his batting stroke in the second half.

There is also a 50-50 chance that future Hall-of-Fame third baseman Chipper Jones is a free agent in your league. He does, however, come with a balky knee to be wary of.

The Padres' Chase Headley has a bit of fantasy value, considering he's currently got an OPS of 0.806 and he usually improves in the second half. Given the weakness at the position, Headley could be used on a part-time basis.

But the best of all the possible free agents out there is Colorado's Ty Wigginton. The Rockies third baseman could hit 25-30 homers this season and he's available in four of 10 leagues. Wigginton is eligible to play numerous positions in your lineup which adds to his desirability.

Or you could gamble on the four guys previously mention with the big first half-second half splits, but not much history to assure you they will continue to produce after the All-Star break.

Either way you go, it's better than suffering quietly with guys who aren't producing.

Top-10 First Half/Second Half Splits - Third Basemen
Player Team 1st Half OPS 2nd Half OPS Diff
Adrian Beltre TEX 0.755 0.830 +75
Ryan Zimmerman WAS 0.803 0.874 +71
Ryan Roberts AZ 0.716 0.780 +64
Aramis Ramirez CHC .0810 0.869 +59
Kevin Kouzmanoff OAK 0.696 0.755 +59
Casey McGehee MIL 0.739 0.788 +49
Chipper Jones ATL 0.915 0.963 +48
Placido Polanco PHI 0.741 0.711 +28
Chase Headley SD 0.724 0.752 +28
Ty Wigginton COL 0.764 0.789 +25

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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