Now that we've taken our first look at first and second base as well as shortstop, it's time to take a look at the hot corner. Third base, much like first, has usually been a good power source for fantasy purposes. Unfortunately, the depth at 3B isn't terribly deep. The position offers maybe six top guys, then the waters get murky. After the top 10 or so, it's a no man's land of promising youngsters vs. aging injury risks.
You can expect to see two third basemen snagged in the first round of your drafts, and anyone you feel really good about will be gone before the fifth round. David Wright and Evan Longoria will be the first to go, though not necessarily in that order. Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Zimmerman will go next in round 2. Those are your safe bets, all gone before you take your first sip of beer. So the point to this is, either plan on using a very early pick on your 3B or start deciding now who you'll be happy to settle for later.
So after all the build up about the big 4 bats at 3B, I'm going to throw a curve ball right out the gate...
- Adrian Beltre, TEX ~ So you may be thinking right about now that I must be some sort of deluded, crack smoking chiba monkey. And you may be right, but hear me out. In 2010, this is how Beltre stacked up against all other third basemen: 1st in Hits, Doubles, Total Bases and Batting Average (.321), 2nd in Slugging %, 4th in Home Runs, 5th in At Bats, RBIs and Runs, and 6th in On Base %. On top of that he had fewer strikeouts than Longoria, Wright, Zimmerman and A-Rod. For 2011 he moves to the hitter friendly confines of the Ballpark at Arlington. So there's no reason to think he can't put together another nice fantasy season... Oh yeah, they'll likely give him time at 1B as well, so he'll be a multi-position player. Do I think he'll be the #1 fantasy 3B in 2011? I think he can be, but the reason I rank him first is not because he's the best, but because he's the best value. He will be the 5th to 7th third baseman off the board, but he'll give you similar numbers to the guys taken before him, without giving up a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round pick to get him.
- Evan Longoria, TB ~ You could rightfully flip-flop the kid with Wright below, but I like Longoria's promise a bit more. He will be the first 3B taken off the board in most leagues, right around pick's 5-7. He can certainly put up an excellent 5-tool fantasy season, but he has lost some protection around him in the line up. If it worries you, pass on him. If not, grab him and reap the rewards.
David Wright, NYM ~ Several fantasy writers I've read think Wright is getting a raw deal because of his increased strikeout numbers and playing at Citi Field. I'm not sure how badly he's being ranked if he's still the number one or two 3B off the board. Fans of Wright argue he's a solid 5-tool player who always has 30/30 capability, and I won't argue that. I believe he'll give owners a very solid .300 BA with more likely a 25/25 season, but his K's do hurt. Of all 3B in 2010, only strike-out king, Mark Reynolds had more K's than Wright's 161.
- Alex Rodriguez, NYY ~ This is A-Rod we're talking about. He's almost always a Top 5 fantasy 3B, and that won't likely end in 2011. So grab him and feel good about your pick.
- Ryan Zimmerman, WAS ~ Heading into his 6th full season he's about as rock steady as they come. Big Z is a safe bet to produce fantasy gold again this season.
- Kevin Youklis, BOS ~ Youky's back in 2011 and while he's not flashy, he'll be a legit stud, who can play both corners for you. He'll start the season with 1B eligibility only, but a few games in, you've got a top 3B for a 3rd to 4th round pick. If he last longer than that, you league is going to be easy pickin's. After this pick the 3B herd starts to thin...
- Jose Bautista, TOR ~ Many "experts" rank him higher, but I'm not even sold on him at this position. I'm not a hater, just a realist. The guy has a career .244 batting average (even after 2010), and before his 54 dingers last year, he was averaging about 15 a season. The team is moving him from the outfield to 3B, which is nice for fantasy teams. But if you buy last year's season as a sign of things to come, then you may be shooting yourself in the foot. Grab him if you must, but he won't be on my team unless he drops to the 8th round or later. Caveat emptor, people!
- Michael Young, TEX ~ At this point I'm looking for someone who can be consistent or blossom into a star of the future. Young is the former. He's a career .300 hitter who will give you about 80 runs and RBI's with about 20 homers to boot.
- Casey McGehee, MIL ~ While he didn't set the world on fire in 2010, he did impress me down the stretch, and that bodes well for a promising 2011 campaign.
- Pedro Alvarez, PIT ~ As a rookie he only played about half the season, and his batting average was painful. However, his other numbers showed great promise, including 64 RBIs and 16 Home runs in only 95 games. Imagine a full season, especially if he gets that average up. Read more on why we think he's a 2011 Top sleeper prospect.
- Pablo Sandoval, SF ~ P.S. was a bit of a chunk monkey in 2010 and fantasy owners felt it in his numbers. Not that they were horrendous, but they were surely not what people drafted him to achieve. Look for him to slim up some this spring, and get his game back in order. He did start 10 games at 1B in 2010, so in some league's he may have dual-eligibility.
- Aramis Ramirez, CHC ~ The once formidable 3B fantasy stud had a bad year in 2010, but it's too early to write him off yet. He'll likely miss part of the season in 2011 to minor injuries, but he should get back to a near .300 average and 90 RBIs and Runs with about 25 dingers.
- Ian Stewart, COL ~ Some will argue this pick is too high, but something tells me this is the year Stewart starts putting it all together in that dynamic Rockies line-up. He had as many hits in 2010 as Mark Reynolds in 24 fewer games. He won't lead the league in homers as Mark did last year, but neither will he lead all 3B in strike-outs as Reynolds did. Stewart will get about 25 HRs, which is 7 fewer than Reynolds put up, but their other offensive numbers will be comparable, and you won't have to eat M-Rey's 200+ K's or his sub-200 B.A.
- Mark Reynolds, BAL ~ Speaking of the 3B devil, I have to suck it up and give him his due. When he makes contact with the ball he makes things happen, but too often he swings through air. I don't personally feel the few extra HR's are worth the deficits elsewhere when you can find plenty of 25+ HR options out there. I also think he'll struggle against A.L pitching. Oh wait, I mean struggle moreso than he did against N.L. hurlers.
- Chris Johnson, HOU ~ In half a season the youngster was pretty impressive. Unlike Pedro Alvarez above, I'm more skeptical that he can maintain or improve on what fans saw in 2010.
- Chase Headley, SD ~ If he hadn't lost Adrian Gonzalez from the line-up I'd rank him higher, but he's still a decent CI option.
- Scott Rolen, CIN ~ When he was healthy last season he showed flashes of his former self. He plays in a great offensive line-up, so he's worth the risk here.
- Martin Prado, ATL ~ Not flashy or powerful, but he also qualifies at 2B, and he won't hurt you as a back up.
- Placido Polanco, PHI ~ He's nothing but solid average, and a guy who can rack up runs and RBI's in a stacked line-up.
- Danny Valencia, MIN ~ The rookie played in 85 games for the Twins last year and hung on to a .311 average. That's enough promise for me to add him here as a flyer for your bench or CI spot.