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Position Profiles: Third Base

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CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseShortstop – Third Base – OutfieldDH
Starting Pitcher
Relief Pitcher
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The hot corner is filled with the usual cast of characters. The position runs about 12 deep, and then you run into some instability. Not too many new faces, so outside of a few situations, you have a good idea of what you’re going to get. Unless one of the top five studs falls to me, my strategy is usually to grab someone who’s near the back end of the top 10. After that, it’s not a bad idea to grab a couple of guys in the next tier, which mostly features players trying to come back from down seasons. You’re likely to get nice value if one of those high-risk, high-reward guys clicks. Let’s finish up our jog around the infield with a breakdown of the third base position…

1. Evan Longoria, TB 3B – Less than a .300 average and fewer than 25 home runs in 2010 for the #1 player at third base? Sad, but true. None of the other elite 3Bs lived up to their draft positions last year, thus no one stepped up to wrest away the top spot. Longoria’s still a couple years away from his prime and has a season with 30+ home runs under his belt, so you can grab him with confidence, knowing he’ll give you at least the output he had in ’10. But he will most likely contribute a lot more.

2. David Wright, NYM 3B – Something was definitely wrong with Wright in 2009. His power outage left fantasy owners scratching their heads. Those who predicted a resurgence were rewarded with 29 long balls and 103 RBI. Now, Wright has solidified his status as a fantasy stud. Greedy owners wouldn’t mind seeing a higher batting average, though the power-speed combo is enough to keep most of us smiling.

3. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS 3B – Here’s our third mid-20s third basemen who looks to be a permanent fixture at the front end of the rankings for plenty of years to come. Nagging injuries curtailed some of Zim’s success a year ago. That’s really the only knock on the Nat’s main man. He’ll bring a big stick again this season in what should be and improved lineup.

4. Adrian Beltre, TEX 3B – That’s the Adrian Beltre the Seattle Mariners thought they were getting when they signed him to that mega-contract. Too bad no one can hit in Safeco Field. After Beltre landed in cozy Fenway Park, his problems were instantly solved. Now, he takes his bat and glove to Arlington, where he should still enjoy the advantages of a hitter-friendly ballpark and another talent-filled lineup.

5. Alex Rodriguez, NYY 3B – Unlike Cameron Diaz, I know I won’t be feeding A-Rod any popcorn this year. Not that he won’t have solid power numbers. It’s just that I don’t see him being worth what you’ll have to pay to get him. The slugger’s batting average and runs scored have drastically declined three straight seasons. And he hasn’t topped 138 games played since 2007. This is one big name who is steadily losing his juice.

6. Jose Bautista, TOR OF/3B – I’m cautiously optimistic about Bautista’s chances of successfully following up his out-of-nowhere breakout season. Will he hit 54 home runs again? Nah. However, in 2008 and 2009 combined, Bautista clubbed 28 round-trippers in just over 700 at bats. Now, with regular playing time, 30 is certainly doable. The bigger concern is his batting average. His .260 mark last season was easily a career high.

7. Aramis Ramirez, CHC 3B – I had A-Ram ranked ninth heading into last season. He hits .241 and now moves higher? He sure does. Here’s why: guys like Mark Reynolds and Pablo Sandoval vacated the top 10, and Ramirez rebounded from a disastrous first half to post respectable numbers down the stretch. I’m a bit of a sucker for this guy, but when he’s healthy, he usually rakes.

8. Michael Young, TEX 3B – It’s been a turbulent preseason for the rock-solid Young. He was none too pleased about the club bringing in Beltre to take over his position. Can’t blame him. All Young has done is quietly produce well-rounded stats season after season. The only place he’s slipping is his defense. So the Rangers want to move Young to DH/Utility. His bat is too valuable to keep on the pine, so expect Young to still eclipse 600 at bats, despite not needing his glove on an everyday basis.

9. Martin Prado, ATL 2B/3B – Prado may actually have more value at third base than at second. Here’s his outlook from the 2B profiles: Awarded a full-time gig after the departure of Kelly Johnson, Prado didn’t disappoint. Don’t look for a big improvement on his 2010 stats. .300-12-95-70 is Prado’s ballpark. Think of him as “Pedroia Lite.”

10. Pablo Sandoval, SF 3B – “Kung Fu Panda” looked a little too much like his cartoon moniker to deliver top-notch stats. Reports are that Sandoval is in better shape heading into this season. He’d better be. I’m not ready to write him off after one down season. It appears that his days of hitting over .320 were short-lived, but .290 with 25 home runs and 90 RBI should be attainable.

11. Casey McGehee, MIL 3B – No sophomore slump for McGehee. He came strong in 2010 with a .285/23/70/104 line. Despite some mild Mat Gamel hype, third base is all McGehee’s if he can keep it up. Casey no longer qualifies at second base, but he’s a reliable option at this position, once the first 10 guys are off the board.

12. Pedro Alvarez, PIT 3B – Finally, a fresh face in the bunch. Alvarez reminds me of Aramis Ramirez a little bit. Not sure he’ll be that good this soon, especially with a low contact rate. The 24-year-old should make improvements in his second season, so look for up to 25 homers and a slight bump in BA.

13. Ian Stewart, COL 3B – Many fantasy owners were expecting 2010 to be a big coming out party for Stewart. A free-swinging style and a strained oblique put an end to that noise. Perhaps this is the year. He does have 30-HR pop, playing half of his games in Coors Field. I’m penciling in Stewart for .250/28/80/85. He’ll take a step in the right direction with good health.

14. Mark Reynolds, BAL 3B – What a disaster…sort of. While Reynolds single-handedly massacred fantasy team batting averages (.198!), he also posted a very solid 32 HR, 79 R, 85 RBI and 7 SB. Tired of the stiff breezes created by Reynolds’ 200+ whiffs, Arizona said goodbye to the modern-day Rob Deer. Baltimore scooped him up, hoping to alter his all-or-nothing style. I could see similar counting stats from Reynolds, with an average as high as .245. He can’t miss the Mendoza Line two straight years, can he?

15. David Freese, STL 3B – Sleeper alert! Most people will forget about this 27-year-old because he missed most of last season with injuries. He’s going to hit for a nice average. If a little bit of pop emerges, he’ll be a very nice value.

16. Chris Johnson, HOU 3B – I see no reason why Johnson can’t build on his impressive 2010 season. He’s got a little power and seems to manage to hit for a solid average, despite striking out a ton. It’ll be interesting to see if he can make better contact. If so, he’ll outperform this ranking.

17. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR 3B – Do you believe in “re-Encarnacion”? The Blue Jay third basemen had all kinds of problems in the first half last season. After a somewhat surprising demotion, Edwin rose from the dead and came back to the Majors with an impressive home-run stroke. He ended up with 21 dingers in just 332 at bats, which makes me go “hmmm.” Can he put it all together for an entire season? Unlikely, but not impossible.

18. Jose Lopez, COL 3B – Lopez was the latest victim of “The Safeco Slip.” He went from a great sleeper to a gigantic bust in one horrific season. But wait, there are signs of life! Many experts are back on the Lopez bandwagon because he’s going from one of the worst parks for hitters to one of the best (Coors). It could resurrect Lopez’s career. At this point in the rankings, heck, why not roll the dice?

19. Chase Headley, SD 3B – Hey, there’s a Padres hitter! Seriously, I’ve seen better offensive lineups in my co-ed softball league. Headley did hit double digits in HR and SB, so he’s not entirely worthless. With slight upticks, he could quietly hit you 15 HR and steal you 20 bags. Wow, I just made a case for owning a Padres hitter.

20. Scott Rolen, CIN 3B – There’s still some life in the 15-year vet’s bat. His legs are another story. After looking like vintage Rolen for much of 2010, his stock stays low because he’s assuredly going to miss time with frustrating injuries and lots of days off. Don’t expect a repeat of last season, but he’s not a bad guy to take a flier on.

21. Ty Wigginton, COL 1B/2B/3B – With tons of position eligibility and Coors Field working in his favor, Wigginton will fare well in Colorado. When all of the big names are gone, you can still grab some sneaky good stats by gettin’ Wiggy wit’ it.

22. Placido Polanco, PHI 3B – Here’s a good example of a fine real-life player who’s an afterthought in fantasy circles. He really only excels in one category: batting average. Polanco’s about as boring as it gets at third base. I’d rather gamble on some with more upside.

23. Juan Uribe, LAD SS/3B/2B – Two things to like about Uribe: 1) 24 homers in 2010, and 2) that great position eligibility. He’s got pop. Now in Los Angeles, he’ll need it to get ‘em out of Dodger Stadium.

24. Jhonny Peralta, DET 3B/SS – I like to call him “Jhonny Dyslexia” because it should be spelled “Johnny,” shouldn’t it? If you’re the kind of owner who looks for power production out of your shortstop instead of speed, Peralta is worth consideration. He’ll get you at least in the mid-teens in home runs with some nice RBI to boot. Just don’t expect much else.

25. Omar Infante, FLA 2B/3B/OF – Nope. No Chipper Jones on the list. I hope he proves me wrong and has a nice swan song season. But when faced with ranking him against Omar Infante, I’d rather have the guy who will chip in in every category and get on the field just about every game.

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