Thursday, January 22, 2009

H2H Corner - Third Basemen Rankings

By: Albert Lang

Holy Banana Republic! Third base is a deliciously deep fantasy position. If Garrett Atkins doesn’t get traded, and Chipper stays healthy (a slightly bigger if), you can pretty much rely on the top eight third basemen next year.

The debate surrounding third baseman is similar to that surrounding shortstops: who goes first and does he warrant being the first overall selection? For me, the answer to both those questions is David Wright. I have him two spots higher than Hanley Ramirez (my number one shortstop) and four spots higher than Alex Rodriguez.

Here is why. Not really, but it is fun to mess with A-Rod electronically. With A-Rod, you know what you get: 100+ runs, 35+ hrs, 100+ RBIs and a .300 average. Something else to keep in mind with A-Rod: there is an odd trend surrounding his homeruns, oddly enough, in odd years. In 2003, he hit 47 HRs; in 2005 the number was 48; and in 2007 he went deep 54 times. Contrast that to his production in even years: in 2004 he hit 36 and in 2006 & 2008, 35. If this trend continues, he is in line to hit more than 45 dingers in 2009. I’m guessing this is just a funky anomaly…but what if it’s not? In addition to A-Rod’s impressive power numbers, he also knows how to run. He hasn’t stolen less than 15 bases since 2002 (and has failed to reach this number only once in a full year during his career). So, A-Rod is amazing. I know it, you know it, Madonna knows it. His contemporary from Queens, however, is much more amazinger (go with me, I’m on a roll).

David Wright is similar to A-Rod in most offensive categories. Wright should get you 100+ runs, 30+ HRs and a batting average around .310. You can also count on his legs for 15+ stolen bases. Wright separates himself from A-Rod in two respects: age and doubles. Wright has averaged more than 41 doubles every full season in the majors. A-Rod, comparatively, has averaged just over 29. The doubles signal that Wright has room to grow in the power numbers, which will only help his counting stats. Quite simply, David Wright should improve while A-Rod has likely plateaued (though a hall of fame worthy plateau). In addition, Wright’s age makes him a less, albeit somewhat negligible, risk of injury and decline. Here, we are talking about four spots at the top of the draft; I think you can take David Wright first and not look back. He will be impressive, he will be healthy and his numbers should improve. You can’t say the exact same things about A-Rod.

Now I feel dirty talking about New York so much. On to the guys the Big Apple spotlight doesn’t shine so brightly on…yet.

After Kevin Youkilis, who is nasty, there is an interesting debate between the six – eight ranked players (Evan Longoria, Chipper Jones and Garrett Atkins). Evan Longoria is my sixth third baseman because of his numbers last year (.272 with 25 home runs in 122 games). If he stays healthy and continues to play to his potential a 30 home run campaign is not out of the question. The only slight concern with Longoria is the potential for a sophomore slump, but I’m still taking him in the 5th round and not looking back.

Meanwhile people tend to dismiss Chipper Jones. In his last five seasons, he has averaged about 123 games played, though he has eclipsed that number in each of the last two seasons. Aside from a bizarre 2004 campaign and his rookie season in 1995, Chipper hasn’t hit lower than .295 in his career. And, by the way, he should hit over 20 home runs, probably in the 25-28 window, drive in runs and score. Sure he might miss some games, but that is where his value comes into play. If you can get him in the 7th round and pair him with a sleeper back-up, you’ll have a first round quality third basemen in their cumulative statistics.

Garrett Atkins getting traded scares the DeJesus out of me. While suiting up for the Rocks full time, he hasn’t hit less than .286. Like Chipper you can count on 20+ homeruns (although it might take Atkins more games to do that in), he’ll score 80+ and drive in 100+.

Still, if I don’t get one of the top guys, I’m going with Longoria and banking on his upside. I’d rather use a fifth rounder on him, than grab someone like Carlos Delgado or Pena and wait to grab a Garrett Atkins. Chipper makes an interesting play, but you have to make sure you have a comparable back-up that can pick up the batting average slack. Because, lets be serious, who thinks Chipper is going to hit .364 again?

This is what I wrote about Troy Glaus before this happened: If none of the afore mentioned intrigue you, might I interest you in a third basemen who hasn’t hit less than 20 home runs in the last four years? Would you be surprised to learn this third baseman hit .270 with 27 HRs and 99 RBIs last year? And that you can get him fairly late in your draft? Ladies and gentleman (ok, just gentleman), I give you Troy Glaus. If you pick runs/stolen bases early in the draft (maybe Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins or Grady Sizemore), you could do worse than grabbing Glaus later on. When completely healthy, he has a real chance of hitting 35+ homeruns. Even when slightly healthy he should still get you 25+. He is only 32 and should be an 10th round draft pick – definite value and reliability you can pair with a riskier starting third basemen option. It’s cute right? Well back to reality.

Glaus immediately becomes a late round draft pick – someone you might be happy to store away on the DL in hopes that he comes back and can provide some pop in your lineup later in the year. Obviously this depends on your ability to stash people in DL slots. It almost makes sense to avoid him on draft day because it is more than likely he will eventually find his way to the waiver wire. Still, if you can stash him on the DL until May or so, he has value– it doesn’t hurt to have 15 home runs coming out of nowhere.

A young, potential Glaus clone is Chris Davis. Davis played in only 80 games last year, yet he hit 17 home runs and drove in 55 RBIs. He also batted .285 and scored 51 runs. The only concern is the kind of playing time he will get. If he starts, he could hit 30 homeruns and would find it almost impossible to score less than 80 runs and knock in around 100. Hitting in the Rangers lineup, in the launching pad of Arlington, means Chris Davis could become the preeminent sleeper third baseman. If you miss out on the top eight (or grab one of the riskier eight), make sure you have an idea where Davis might go, and then be sure you pick him a round ahead of that. He has a phenomenal chance to close the production gap.

Complete Third Basemen Ranks (* denotes projected starter):
David Wright*
Alex Rodriguez* (oh so pretty)
Miguel Cabrera* (positional flexibility)
Aramis Ramirez*
Kevin Youkilis*
Evan Longoria* (sophomore slump?)
Chipper Jones* (injury always a worry)
Garrett Atkins* (trade a concern)
Adrian Beltre* (Batting average should increase, which should help counting stats)
Jorge Cantu* (the numbers don’t lie…do they?)
Mark Reynolds* (so many strike outs)
Mark DeRosa* (positional flexibility, switch to AL)
Aubrey Huff* (great numbers last year)
Melvin Mora* (was RBI total a little fluky?)
Chone Figgins* (steals big source of value, better as a second bagger)
Chris Davis* (I like him)
Casey Blake* (good beard growing capabilities)
Kevin Kouzmanoff*
Edwin Encarnacion*
Alex Gordon* (at some point he might live up to the hype)
Mike Lowell* (age a concern)
Ryan Zimmerman* (bounced back to hit well last year…poor line-up, poor team)
Troy Glaus (injury zaps big bops)
Akinori Iwamura*
Ty Wigginton
Marco Scutaro
Mark Teehan
Freddy Sanchez* (never a huge fan of players that only get you batting average)
Felipe Lopez
Scott Rolen
Jeff Baker
Joe Crede
Pedro Feliz (he likes to hit homeruns…he likes to strike out)
Blake DeWitt
Ian Stewart
Rich Aurilia
Macier Izturis
Hank Blalock
Nick Punto
Aaron Miles
Ramon Vazquez
Greg Dobbs
Jeff Keppinger
Chase Headley (maybe low, but that line-up and ballpark don’t play nice for sophomore campaigns)
Omar Infante


Bryan Curley said...

good summary of the position, but i think you have chris davis a bit low. you give him due props in the article itself, but drop him considerably in the rankings. i think he is around the level of adrian beltre, and in early drafts he is being selected as such. in fact he has been going in the 8th round generally.

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