The Demise of Third Base Production

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - 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.

Historically, the position has produced great fluctuations.

The 1990 group, for example, was a sad lot by comparison, consisting of the likes of Tim Wallach, Matt Williams, Wade Boggs, Brook Jacoby, Gary Sheffield, Howard Johnson, Tony Phillips, Jim Presley, Kevin Seitzer, Edgar Martinez, Gary Gaetti and Carney Lansford.

As a group the "90s team" batted just .273 with 170 homers and 864 RBIs.

Ten years later, the list was not flashy, but the depth was much better. Although Alex Rodriguez was around back then, but he was still in Seattle and playing exclusively shortstop. The leaders were; Troy Glaus, Travis Fryman, Dean Palmer, Joe Randa, Tony Batista, Chipper Jones, Jeff Cirillo, Scott Rolen, Eric Chavez, Adrian Beltre, Mike Lowell and Phil Nevin. This group batted .292 in 2000 with 326 home runs and 1,214 RBIs. They didn't run much, combining for only 75 stolen bases.

Here in 2011, the names are more impressive, but injuries have taken their toll and many fantasy owners are struggling to get decent statistics from their third basemen.

It's particularly tough if you are playing in an NL-only league.

David Wright (ADP 10) has been on the injured list since May 15, but a back injury had been effecting his numbers even before he went on the DL (.226, 6 HR, 18 RBI). Ryan Zimmerman, was the fourth third baseman off the board back on Draft Day and he's played just 17 games after missing two months with an abdominal injury. The Giants' Pablo Sandoval was hitting .313 when he suffered a broke wrist on April 30th and in the nine games since his return is struggling to find his batting stroke.

Two other National League starting third basemen are currently on the disabled list - Pittsburgh Pirates youngster Pedro Alvarez and the Cardinals Opening Day third baseman David Freese. That's five of 16 NL starters missing significant time and that doesn't even include Chipper Jones, Placido Polanco and Scott Rolen who have missed smaller amounts of time due to nicks and bruises.

The American League hasn't been hit quite so harshly, but the No.1 overall fantasy third baseman, Evan Longoria (ADP 4) missed almost the entire month of April and has yet to show the form that made him the top pick at the position. He's currently batting .226 with six homers, 23 RBIs and an OPS of 0.721 - not exactly first-round numbers.

Brandon Inge (mononucleosis) and Alberto Callaspo, borderline fantasy starters have also missed time in 2011.

The position has been further diluted by the fact that slugger Jose Bautista has yet to start a game at third base. After making 48 starts at third last season, he is not eligible at the "hot corner" in many leagues in 2011 as he has become the Toronto Blue Jay's permanent right fielder this season.

Even if we add Bautista's numbers to the mix, the top-12 third basemen are batting just .271 with 104 HR and 31 stolen bases. That's a far cry from last year's group

All these injuries have kept fantasy owners scrambling. It's why guys like Arizona's Ryan Roberts (74% owned) and San Diego's Chase Headley (26% owned) have gotten attention. And it's also why fantasy owners keep starting the Orioles' Mark Reynolds in hopes that he'll find his 2009 form.

Thank goodness we have the option of using multi-position players like Michael Young, Michael Cuddyer and Mike Aviles to fill the gap, but we all hope for better health at third base in the second half of the season.

In the meantime, if you have one of the few third base stars who have stayed healthy, guard them with your life, or at least ask a premium price in return.

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

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