MLB Third Basemen in 2012: Fantasy Strategies

Wednesday February 8th, 2012


Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): Third base is one of my favorite positions in fantasy baseball, mainly due to the fact that most owners do not have a wise approach in this area come draft day. Third base is clearly one of the shallowest positions in baseball and contains a plethora of high-risk players. However, third base is also the home of some of the games top players, most notably Miguel Cabrera- who looks to regain eligibility in 2012 after the Tigers’ acquisition of Prince Fielder.

Clearly, Cabrera changes the dynamics of the position. He was already my top rated first baseman, so eligibility at third base, along with Fielder’s production, makes him even that much more valuable. Just be sure you understand your league’s eligibility rules, but it appears that Cabrera will at least be playing third base a couple times a week. After Cabrera, Jose Bautista is the clear number two, followed by Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, Ryan Zimmerman, and David Wright.

BUY LOW:

Evan Longoria is an elite player, despite a surprisingly low .244 batting average in 2012. The drop in average can be credited to his .239 BABIP, which was over 60 points lower than his career mark of .301. Furthermore, he increased his walk rate AND decreased his strike out rate, indicating significant improvements at the plate. Expect to see the average in the .275-.290 range, along with the 30+ plus home runs and 100+ RBIs. His SBs dipped from 15 to 3, but I think that had a lot to do with his oblique injury and I expect him to snag a useful double-digit base total.  All in all, do not hesitate to pay elite dollars for Longoria and you might find him available for a true bargain in 2012.

David Wright was hampered by injuries and only managed to play 102 games in 2011, disappointing many fantasy owners in the process with a .254 batting average. However, there are reasons to be optimistic in 2012. For one, the BAPIP was 38 points lower than his career mark and he also managed to cut down on his strikeout percentage. Secondly, the fences are being moved in. Wright is a rare five category player, and I expect something along the lines of .280 26 HR 90 RBI and 18 SB.

BUYER BEWARE:

Emilio Bonifacio busted onto the scene in 2011 with 40 stolen bases and a .296 batting average. However, his BAPIP was an alarmingly high .372 (.339 career), and the peripherals indicate that he is more of a 260-.270 hitter. Furthermore, I don’t know if he will have the opportunity to run as wild as he did in 2011 with the addition of Reyes at the top of the lineup, perhaps also cutting into his run total. He should still be a great source of steals, but will most likely be overvalued. Based on his 2011 season, Emilio is really only a one category type of player.

Aramis Ramirez had a huge 2011 season that landed him a lucrative three-year contract with the Brewers. However, this guy has a history of disappearing from year-to-year and certainly has a lot less to play for in 2012. I have trouble trusting him and he will be 34 this year. Furthermore, he has a history of difficulties staying healthy and his stock is at at a peak level. It’s not out of the question that he repeats 2011, or even improves, but there is too much risk involved. He is the type of guy that I like to buy when his stock is low. I would also be sure to have a backup plan if he ends up on your roster. Make sure he is not a guy you target high in your draft.

UP AND COMING:

Brett Lawrie’s one-quarter of a season in 2011 should have fantasy owners drooling. He hit .293 with 9 HR, 25 RBIs, 26 runs, and 7 SBs. Multiply his production by four, and you are looking at a stat line of: .290 36 HRs, 100 RBIs, 104 Runs and 28 SBs. That is first-round/top dollar worthy. Do not expect these types of numbers from Lawrie (yet), but the small sample size still shows what he is capable of doing at the big league level. His production came without a modest un-Austin Jackson-like BAPIP of .318 and his 18.8% K rate is impressive for a player of just 22 years of age. Still, expect periods of struggle, but I do not see a Gordon Beckham type of regression here. Chances are you can get him on the cheap and expect a line something like .280 22 HRs 81 RBIs 87 Runs and 25 SBs. I would honestly spend more money on him than Alex Rodriguez or even Kevin Youkilis, both of whom that just can’t be relied upon to stay healthy.

Pedro Alvarez showed promise in 2010, but 2011 was a huge step back. His stock is at a floor-level, so why not take a flier? He really needs to cut down the strikeout percentage, but he should be given a chance to play full-time. He did suffer from some bad luck with a .272 BAPIP and is surely not a .191 hitter. Expect him to hit around .250 and provide decent pop (15-20 HRs) and run production. Expectations should be tempered, but he can still be useful bat, if used correctly…leading me to my section about strategy.  

STRATEGY:

If you break the bank on a Cabrera, Bautista, or Longoria, you put yourself in a position to spend much more cheaply at a much more deep first base. Rounding out the top-15 for first baseman, are players like Paul Konerko and Ike Davis. Just think of Cabrera as your first baseman, and one of these guys as your third baseman, who would really be top-5 if they had third base eligibility. Although aging, Konerko has still had three consecutive years of 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. The strategy is not that clear cut, but the point is that it is rare to find such elite production at third base and much easier to do so at positions like first base. Secondly, there are guys who had down years, like Longoria and Wright, who can be had for a bargain price- with signs pointing towards elite production in 2012.

Just be sure that you do not overpay for the A-Rod or Youkilis injury-prone type of players. If you do land such a player for the right price, try to couple them with a David Freese/Ty Wiggington/Danny Valencia type of player and insure yourself. Guys like Chipper Jones can still be useful as well, as long as you are not counting on them to play everyday.

CONCLUSION:

Third base can be a headache, especially as you don’t want to waste roster spots on backups. As always, assess your team’s needs. If you have batting average anchors across your lineup, Mark Reynolds can be an amazing source of power, as well as a solid stolen base contributor. Just be sure that your target at third base fits within your team’s needs. Do not leave yourself without a backup plan and stay away from the aging, unreliable fading stars. If you follow these steps, you are well on your way to very good/excellent production at a position that was once a fantasy staple and now is in a rebuilding phase.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

 

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Posted on February 8, 2012, in Players: Fantasy Baseball Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great read! going to save this for draft day. Longoria and Wright definitely targets for this year.

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