Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We're almost there fantasy baseball fans. We are just six weeks away from Opening Day. Last week we checked out the outfield position and today we will continue our evaluation of talent with a stop at the hot corner.
Today's third basemen hit for more power than they did as a group 10 years ago while still hitting for a better average. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the new ballparks have shorter fences and less area in the foul ground. They also steal more bases, a lot more. The third basemen of today are simply better athletes than they were in 2000.
Top-12 Third Basemen Comparison 2000 vs. 2010
Below we will evaluate the position.
1) Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay (ADP 7) - Longoria can do it all. Hit for power, hit for average, steal bases and play great defense. He's been consistently improving his batting average in each of his first three seasons, while not hurting his run production. His HR total dropped a bit last year, but I blame that on lack of protection as cleanup hitter Carlos Pena wasn't a big enough threat to pitchers. This year the man behind Longoria will likely be future Hall-of-Fame outfielder/DH Manny Ramirez.
2) David Wright, New York Mets (ADP 11) - It took Wright a season to adjust to his new "pitchers ballpark," but his power numbers returned to "normal" in 2010 with 29 HR, 103 RBI. He knocked in 100+ runs for the fifth time in six years and with a solid top of the order in front of him that should continue. He'll also bat around .300 and steal 20 bases which makes Wright the No.2 selection at the hot corner.
3) Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (ADP 16) - A-Rod isn't the hitter he once was, but he's still dangerous. Despite playing less than 140 games for the third consecutive year, Rodriguez hit 30 or-more homers for the 13th straight season. No, he's no longer the 50+ home run guy of 2001, 02 and 07, but he's still worthy of a high draft selection because of his power and the lineup which surrounds him.
4) Kevin Youkilis, Boston (ADP 26) - Youkilis was on the way to another big year when a thumb injury prematurely ended his season in early August. He played first base last season, but, with the trade for Adrian Gonzalez, will shift over to third base in 2011. He won't hit 30+ homers, but he's a sure bet for 90+ runs, 25 HR, 90+ RBI and a .300+ batting average.
5) Ryan Zimmerman, Washington (ADP 20) - Zimmerman is a run producer who is worthy of a top-five third base selection when healthy. He's been steadily improving his batting average over the past three seasons to go along with solid power numbers. In his first full season (2006) he produced double-digit stolen bases, but he's curtailed his running in recent years which prevents him from ever being No.1 at the position.
6) Jose Bautista, Toronto (ADP 34) - Look up the definition of "career year" in the dictionary and you will see Bautista's 2010 campaign listed right at the top. Before hitting 54 HR and knocking in 124 last season, Bautista's career highs were 16 and 63, respectively. Even assuming he has found the secret to hitting for power, pitchers will be much more cautious in 2011 and 35 home runs should be his upper limit.
7) Adrian Beltre, Texas (ADP 36) - The Texas Rangers bought into Beltre's emergence as a hitter similar to how the Seattle Mariners did back in 2005 after he posted "monster" numbers in his final season in Los Angeles (48 HR, 121 RBI, .334 batting average). Unfortunately, Beltre has a habit of playing great in "contract years" and then relaxing after signing the big deal. Look for something along the lines of what he produced from 2005-2008 in Seattle - 25 HRs, 90 RBIs and a .275 batting average but add a few more homers for being in a better hitting ball park.
8) Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs (ADP 90) - Ramirez has struggled with health over the last two seasons, playing just 206 out of a possible 324 games. Still, he managed to pound out 25 homers and knock in 83 runs last year. His batting average fell to .241, the lowest since becoming a starter, but it should rebound closer to his career average of .282. He has no speed, whatsoever.
9) Michael Young, Texas (ADP 65) - Young is currently a man without a position. The Rangers signed Beltre to a big contract to play third base and his former positions of shortstop and second base are ably manned by Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler. Still, he's a career .300 hitter with decent power. If the Rangers trade him to a good offensive club, he's been on the trading blocks for a while now, he could be very useful, but beware that his numbers would likely fall in a weaker lineup or in a "pitcher's ballpark."
10) Mark Reynolds, Baltimore (ADP 111) - Will the real Mark Reynolds please stand up? Is he the 2009 version who hit 44 homers, knocked in 102 and stole 24 bases, or the 2010 version who forgot how to hit the ball (batted .198) or run (just seven stolen bases)? He's headed to a new league which frequently needs an adjustment period, so beware of expecting too much too soon.
11) Casey McGehee, Milwaukee (ADP 79) - You rarely hear his name mentioned, but McGehee had an excellent 2010 season, his first as a full-time starter. He posted 23 HR, 104 RBI and batted .285. Hitting in the fifth spot, behind Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder allows for plenty of RBI opportunities and that should continue in 2011, as long as Fielder isn't traded. As an early seventh- round pick, you will get "fair market value" but he doesn't have a huge upside and there are better bargains to be had at the hot corner.
12) Chris Johnson, Houston (ADP 172) - Johnson is getting no respect despite a solid season after being called up in June. He batted .308 in 94 games with 11 HR and 52 RBI. He batted primarily sixth or seventh in the Astros lineup, but to produce better numbers he'll probably need to bat higher up. If he ends up batting fifth behind Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, he could be a bargain so pay attention to the Astros spring training games.
13) Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco (ADP 157) - Sandoval was one of the biggest fantasy disappointments of 2010, after a superb 2009 (25 HR, 90 RBI, .330 batting average). He'll have to show he has adjusted his game, but given that he will only cost you a 14th-round pick, he could be a candidate for "Best Bargain" if he returns to form. Reports have him losing 20 pounds which would be a good start.
14) Martin Prado, Atlanta (ADP 64) - Prado could end up in left field if Chipper Jones can come back from injury, but given Jones' injury history, its likely that Prado will stay 3B-eligible all season. Prado improved his value in 2010, scoring 100 runs while hitting .307 with 15 homers. He batted either first, second or third in the Braves lineup and looked most comfortable leading off. He has much more value as a third baseman than in the outfield, so you will have to pay attention to Chipper's comeback before knowing when to select Prado.
15) Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh (ADP 107) - Alvarez showed solid power numbers in 2010 (16 HR) after coming up to the big leagues in mid-June. That extrapolates to around 25 for a full season. However, he did strike out 119 times in 347 at-bats, so temper your enthusiasm. Also, off-season comments about his conditioning, or lack thereof, should keep you from picking him too early.
16) Ian Stewart, Colorado (ADP 197) - When Stewart puts the bat on the ball, he has shown plenty of power. Unfortunately, it happens all to infrequently as indicated by 110 strikeouts in 386 at-bats and a .256 batting average. The good news is that the Rockies have few other choices at third base, so he'll likely continue to get plenty of opportunities to play.
17) Mike Moustakas, Kansas City (ADP 1100) - The Kansas City Royals lack power hitters, Yuniesky Betancourt led the team with just 16 homers, and he's now playing in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, "Moose" Moustakas oozes power out of his pores. In 2010, Moustakas hit 36 HR and knocked in 124 runs while still batting .322 in AA and AAA. He likely won't start the year with the big club (financial reasons), but he'll be a call up in June and could be this year's Buster Posey.
18) Scott Rolen, Cincinnati (ADP 198) - After failing to produce many good results from 2005 through 2009, Rolen found the "fountain of youth" in 2010 putting up numbers like when he was in his 20's. Playing 133 games, his most since 2006, Rolen batted .285 with 20 HR and 83 RBI. He slumped badly in the final months of 2010, showing his age. I would not depend on Rolen producing as well this season and he should be no more than a backup on your roster.
19) Chase Headley, San Diego (ADP 242) - Headley batted .264 with 77 runs scored, 11 home runs and 58 RBIs. If only he played in a decent hitters park, instead of the Grand Canyon, he might have decent fantasy value.
20) Brent Morel, Chicago White Sox (ADP 1007) - The White Sox have been searching for consistent third base play since Joe Crede hit 30 HR and knocked in 94 runs back in 2006. Last year they used a combination of Omar Vizquel and Mark Teahen until Morel showed up in September. He didn't do much in the 20 games, but he's a career .305 hitter in the minors with medium power and a good glove.