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Fantasy ramifications of Pujols at third

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Albert Pujols, the best first baseman in baseball, real or fantasy, has now started two games at third base this season.

In most fantasy leagues, when a player starts five games at a position, they become eligible to start there for the remainder of the season. So with the probability high that "King Albert" will play more games at third, allowing Lance Berkman to play first and rest his surgically repaired knees, fantasy owners should think about what this could do for their lineup.

Allowing Pujols to start at a weak fantasy position like third base, makes him even more valuable.

Whereas the "worst" starting first baseman in a 10-team league might be a hitter like Gaby Sanchez (.316, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 0.909 OPS), the same can't be said for the third base position.

Third base has a couple of very good players, but the drop off is quick. The 10th-best third baseman is a guy like Chipper Jones, a possible future Hall- of-Fame player, but no longer a big fantasy threat.

So the addition of Pujols as a starter at the "hot corner" would create a greater advantage for his fantasy owner than playing him at first base.

In my current Yahoo keeper league, here are the free agent first basemen who are out there on the open market; Mark Trumbo, Justin Smoak, Matt LaPorta, Aubrey Huff, Freddie Freeman, Carlos Pena and Derrek Lee.

Assuming the worst, that you never drafted a backup for Pujols on your roster (unlikely), the equation for analyzing the advantage of Pujols at third base would read something like this...

Which is the better starting combination, Pujols at first and Jones (.258, 4 HR, 31 RBI, 0 SB) at third or up-and-coming rookie Mark Trumbo (.255, 10 HR, 28 RBI, 5 SB) at first and Pujols at third?

Simple statistics show that Trumbo and Pujols would have been better through the first two months. In addition, the upside on Trumbo, who slugged 36 HR and knocked in 122 last year at AAA Salt Lake, is much higher than the chances of Jones making it through an entire season without injury.

You could even use an alternate strategy of selecting whichever free agent first baseman was hottest at the moment to go along with Pujols at third.

Those options certainly seem much better than Pujols at first and the hottest third baseman on the free agent market, which again, looking at my Yahoo keeper league would be; Wilson Betemit, Alberto Callaspo, Chase Headley, Ty Wigginton, Danny Valencia, Jack Hannahan or Chris Johnson.

In a game where championships are won by fractions of a point, the additional value to Pujols as a third baseman could dramatically change the landscape.

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

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