It’s the hot corner, it’s the third sack, it’s the most difficult infield position in baseball, it’s Third Base! There has been a wild influx of young talent at this position in the last three or four years and what once was a terrible fantasy position has now turned into one where you could have more than one solid guy on your roster. And I have decided to keep Alex Rodriguez out of these rankings since he will miss so much time and we have no idea what to expect when he comes back…..IF he comes back! So, for the first time in a long time, it’s the A-Rod-less third baseman rankings.
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1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
.330 average, 44 homers, 139 RBI, 4 steals, 109 runs
It had been 45 years since the last person did what Miguel Cabrera did in 2012, and that was win the Triple Crown. It was a magical season for Cabrera who has had a brilliant career littered with huge stats along the way. So, the guy doesn’t steal bases, who cares! He is always among the league leaders in the other four main statistical fantasy categories, and he will just turn 30 in the middle of April. His numbers will likely regress some this upcoming season, but a .315/35/118 kind of 2013 seems more than reasonable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he exceeded that. He will be among the top five players off the board on draft night for sure.
2. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
.289 average, 17 homers, 55 RBI, 2 steals, 39 runs (74 games)
A hamstring injury cost Longo more than half of the season, but if you take those numbers and figure a whole year, it’s another successful season. Just don’t tell that to his owners from 2012 that missed him for just under 90 games. Longoria signed a monster extension in the offseason and he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who will ease up now that he got paid. Look for his batting average to go up a little this upcoming season and him to be among the elite at the third base position. I still view him as a late first round pick, and indeed I made him the 12th overall pick in this year’s USA Today Fantasy Baseball magazine draft (on newsstands now!). At 27 years old, he is just entering his prime.
3. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
.282 average, 25 homers, 95 RBI, 5 steals, 93 runs (145 games)
Zimmerman had offseason shoulder surgery to cure what ailed him during the 2012 season even though it didn’t cost him a ton of time. Early reports are that he should be fine and ready to go for the start of Spring Training. I was always kind of wishy washy on Zimmerman. Some years I liked him, some I didn’t so much, but I was able to watch him more last season and I have to admit I liked what I saw. He’s just a really solid hitter. He works the count, he doesn’t swing at a bunch of pitches out of the strike zone and he stays back and drives the ball. The Nationals are now one of the best teams in all of baseball and Zimmerman has other guys in the lineup for pitchers to fear. I think he can easily hit .300 and hit 30 homers, and even though he isn’t going to win any speed competitions, this guy should be drafted in the first three rounds without a question.
4. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
.321 average, 36 homers, 102 RBI, 95 runs
After a horrendous season in 2009 ending his tenure with the Mariners, Beltre has reinvented himself again since then and has put three killer seasons together for the Red Sox and Rangers. Last year was his best since his legendary breakout season for the Dodgers in 2004. Beltre brings extra value to the table in that he hits for a very high average and above average power as well. Playing his home games in Texas doesn’t hurt, but he will be doing that again in 2013 so the advantage continues. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his average drop 10-12 points and him to have five or six fewer home runs, but Beltre is again going to be one of the most valuable guys at his position and should go in the second or third round.
5. David Wright, New York Mets
.306 average, 21 homers, 93 RBI, 15 steals, 91 runs
Wright was scorching hot while the Mets remained in contention for the first 95 games of the season, but as Wright fell, so did the Mets in the standings and despite a rough August and September, that’s still a pretty good line across the board for him. He’s often talked about with the elite at the position, but I don’t know if I put him quite there. The batting average is good, but not spectacular and he isn’t a big time power hitter although he does get his fair share. The extra value with Wright that most of his hot corner mates don’t bring is the stolen bases. It has been three years since he topped the 20 steal mark, but Wright has snagged as many as 34 bags during his career. He is a pretty consistent performer and does fill up all five traditional categories, but to me he is a half a step down from the guys on this list above him.
6. Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
.286 average, 31 homers, 115 RBI, 17 steals, 95 runs
Hi boys and girls. We are going to play a game of “Repeat After Me”…..can you say Breakout Star? Good, I thought you could. Wow! Headley certainly was that as he even was in the NL MVP discussion as he nearly doubled his career totals in home runs in one season! Word is also that they are moving in the fences a little at notoriously tough Petco Park, so that should lead to even more offense for Headley right? I hate to rain on this little parade but I think we need to put the brakes on a little. Headley always projected to be a pretty decent player and maybe an All-Star Game or two, but THIS???? Excuse me if I’m not quite on the hype parade just yet. He blasted career highs in runs scored, homers, and RBI and was among his best in steals and batting average. I have to believe that he will be lucky to get back to 25 dingers this year and I think his steals will drop as well now as he is going to be viewed as a power hitter and run producer this season for the Pads. I’m not predicting he falls off of the map, but I just can’t see a repeat performance out of Mr. Headley in 2013.
7. Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays
.273 average, 11 homers, 48 RBI, 13 steals, 73 runs (123 games)
An oblique injury, among other maladies, cost Lawrie any sort of flow to his 2012 season, but this kid still has an ungodly amount of talent, and I have no doubt that soon (hopefully this season), he is going to break out in a big way. He has 30/30 potential and projects to hit for a slightly higher batting average than what he hit in 2012. With the Blue Jays actually having some hitters that you have heard of now and might actually give him some protection, Lawrie’s outlook looks as solid as ever. His disappointing campaign last year might scare you away from making him your starting third sacker, but if I strikeout at getting one of the elite options, I’d love to see Lawrie drop in my lap later on in the draft. Yeah, that’s right. I said it.
8. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers
.300 average, 27 homers, 105 RBI, 9 steals, 92 runs
I would like to start this by saying that this ranking is where I think he will be drafted among his peers, not where I like him. Because I don’t like him. I have never liked him. Ramirez has enjoyed a resurgence of late over the past two years, but at 34 and an injury history a mile long, I just can’t trust this guy to stay healthy any longer. He had a fantastic season last year, he really did. As much as it pains me, I can’t take that away from him. And he doesn’t strikeout very often. That’s about as much positive I can say about him without losing it. If you like old guys who break down fairly consistently, the Aramis is your guy! But I won’t be drafting him this year. Too much risk and he has burned me too many times before.
9. David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals
.293 average, 20 homers, 79 RBI, 70 runs
Freese’s early career was marred by ankle injury after ankle injury, and while he always seemed like a guy who would hit for a solid average, his power was in question. Well, ever since the 2011 Playoffs, Freese has been a brand new man. He reached a career high with 20 bombs last year, and he was able to play in 144 games. He will continue to be counted on as a big run producer for the Redbirds, and I think his power numbers could even improve a little more from last year’s stats. As long as he can stay on the field I believe he can get over the .300 mark, and move closer to 25 homers and 90 RBI.
10. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
.283 average, 12 homers, 63 RBI, 1 steal, 59 runs (108 games)
The World Series MVP (something just sounds wrong in saying that), missed some time in 2012 due to a hamstring injury, but when he was in there he was back to his usual Kung Fu Panda self. What does that mean? Stop asking so many questions! I know that line doesn’t exactly strike fear in the heart of opposing pitchers, but Sandoval is very good at getting the big hit, and if you are looking for a third sacker who can get you 85 RBI and possibly hit you 20 home runs, this could be your place. He might go sooner than he should this year due to his impressive playoff performance, and if that is the case then let him go. He’s a solid player, but nothing that will carry you to a victory.
11. Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates
.244 average, 30 homers, 85 runs, 1 steal, 64 runs
I backed him, I backed him, I backed him, and he kicked me in the ass over and over and over for my loyalty. Last year I finally started to give up on him, and of course he finally starts to produce! Alvarez still hit for a pretty awful batting average, but he blows the hell up with 30 homers! The dude was always capable of this so I don’t think that this was a fluke. The only thing that holds him back from definitely becoming a viable fantasy stud every year is his inability to stop chasing bad pitches. Alvarez still strikes out at an incredible rate, and if he could ever get that solved Alvarez would be a major power stud at third base. Draft him with confidence, but with cautious optimism.
12. Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals
.242 average, 20 homers, 73 RBI, 5 steals, 69 runs
After a disappointing half of a rookie season, Moustakas spend the entire season in the major leagues and while he didn’t wow anyone with his batting average, he showed enough in the power department that he proved that he belonged in the league and should be an important fantasy player going forward. Moustakas has been one of the more sought after prospect over the past five years, and the fact that he is now in the majors as well as having some sort of success, at least in the power department is very encouraging. It is just a matter of time before this guy has a monster season, and you will want him on your team when e does. Even if he has a similar season in 2013 than he did in 2012, that’s not half bad, and deserves a chance to earn your trust going forward.
13. Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox
.288 average, 15 homers, 54 RBI, 4 steals, 34 runs (75 games)
Middlebrooks hit the Majors with a major bang as he rocked American League pitching pretty much from the beginning. These numbers would look much better if he wasn’t hit by a pitch that broke his wrist. He is over that and fine and ready for the start of the 2013 season. There’s a chance that he can be even better based on what he was able to do in the minor leagues so don’t look upon his rookie season as a fluke. There are still better options ahead of him, but Middlebrooks should be a viable fantasy third baseman for a good number of years.
14. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
.262 average, 7 homers, 26 RBI, 2 steals, 24 runs (51 games)
The 20 year old made quite an impact when he came to the Major Leagues at the end of the season, and that continued into the postseason. The Orioles are blowing smoke and saying that this kid needs to make the team all over again, but let’s be honest, he is going to be the starting third baseman when they open the season in April. He is still very young and still has a ton of time to grow into his body. He has 2- homer potential now, but I still see him growing into more than that as his career continues. I wouldn’t bother with Machado until later in the drat as it stands right now, but he is definitely someone who can far exceed his draft position if a couple of things break right. Certainly keep an eye on him if he doesn’t get drafted.
15. Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees
.235 average, 19 homers, 60 RBI, 72 runs (122 games)
What a long strange trip 2012 was for Kevin Youkilis. After spending 8+ seasons with the only team he had ever known, unrest in the Red Sox clubhouse had him shipped out of town for the South side of Chicago and a new home for the guy with the funny stance. He still hit for a career low batting average for the White Sox, but his power stroke came back and that gives you hope that the about to be 34 year old hasn’t lost his stroke. He signed with the most hated New York Yankees and with Alex Rodriguez out for at least the first half and possibly the season, he should man third base for the foreseeable future. I actually like Youkilis to have a bit of a career resurgence this season for the Pinstripes. They have made a living out of taking some aging players from other teams and giving them a few more seasons on their careers. I’m not saying he is going to hit 30 bombs, but if he had a line of .285/25/90, I wouldn’t be shocked. I wouldn’t count on him as my starter, but he’s definitely a sleeper I like.
16. Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks
.301 average, 10 homers, 70 RBI, 17 steals, 81 runs
He is now a Diamondback after the trade that sent Justin Upton to the Braves, and it didn’t take long for Arizona to lock him up to a long term contract. Prado is very valuable in the fact that he is eligible in a wide variety of positions, and he will bring you a good batting average and a solid amount of RBI. Outside of last season he doesn’t steal a lot of bases, and he isn’t a power hitter by any stretch of the imagination. He is kind of like the tortoise in the race against the hare. Slow and steady wins the race with this guy. He isn’t flashy at all, but he won’t hurt you in any category. He is more of a corner infielder than he is a starting third baseman, but he still has some fantasy value and will play everyday in the desert.
17. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners
.259 average, 20 homers, 86 RBI, 13 steals, 62 runs
After a 50 game cup of coffee in the majors in 2011 that didn’t yield much in the way of results, Seager fared much better after a full season and as you can see although he might not hit for a world beater’s batting average, he still brought a good amount of power, a decent amount of speed and a handful of runs scored. While his batting average definitely stands to improve to a certain degree (maybe up to .285), I think his power and speed numbers are about as high as you can expect. Seager isn’t the young and up and coming prospect. You’ve seen probably nearly the best you are going to see from him in 2012, which isn’t bad, just don’t expect him to get better.
18. Chris Johnson, Atlanta Braves
.281 average, 15 homers, 76 RBI, 5 steals, 48 runs (136 games)
Here’s another guy that I have had a crush on for a few years, and after him being borderline rosterable in 2010, he was a complete trainwreck in 2011 before showing some signs of life last year. Johnson has the capabilities to get to 20 homers, although I’m not sure if we are going to see that this year, and he is also capable of hitting for a slightly higher batting average. He is a decent player who should definitely outplay his expected value coming into the season. I see him as a guy to stash on your bench in case something were to happen to your starter for a short time, or just to see if he can build on his success last year and maybe the change of scenery will help. I like Johnson and will be watching his Spring Training performance.
19. Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins
.234 average, 24 homers, 55 RBI, 1 steal, 56 runs (119 games)
Plouffe was the talk of the fantasy world in the first half as people rushed to try to find out how to pronounce his name as he was bashing balls out of parks left and right in the first half. Thennnnnnn, a thumb injury cost him a month on the disabled list and he wasn’t the same player when he came back, hence the terrible average. He flashed some big power in the minors, so while the 19 first half homers might be more than you should expect, the guy could easily get back to 24. The batting average should get better but will likely top out at .260-.265. He is a good young player with some upside, but there is a ceiling here too. Don’t reach too soon for this guy, but he’s some great insurance on your bench.
20. Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
.273 average, 19 homers, 67 RBI, 3 steals, 55 runs (128 games)
He played a little first base for Joey Votto and a lot of third base for Scott Rolen, and right now I think he is going to be the Reds everyday guy at third base. Frazier provided some nice stats for the Reds and those who grabbed him during the year in fantasy leagues. If he does get everyday playing time, which it seems he will, Frazier could be a nice little late round steal if he can get up to .280 and 25 homers. Might be a bit of a stretch, but he definitely is capable. If your league plays with a corner infielder or you are not 100% sure of your starter at the hot corner, definitely give him a look a little later on.
21. Michael Young, Philadelphia Philies
.277 average, 8 homers, 67 RBI, 2 steals, 79 runs
It has been a long, productive career for Young, but as he is now 36 years old, we have to realize that at some point the skills aren’t just going to be there anymore. Case in point, look at his 2012 season. It was the lowest batting average that he had since 2002, the least home runs that he ever had in his career, and his fewest RBI since 2002 as well. It isn’t like his career path is headed in the upwards direction either here. The Phillies are counting on a bit of a resurgence here for Young, but I don’t see it happening from a fantasy perspective. There has been talk of him hitting third for the Phillies, but I believe his best days are definitely behind him and I don’t think he is anyone you want to trust outside of insurance for injury on your bench. He has had a long and distinguished career, but I think his fantasy relevance has come and gone.
22. Chris Nelson, Colorado Rockies
.301 average, 9 homers, 53 RBI, 2 steals, 45 runs (111 games)
Nelson made some fantasy rosters towards the end of last season when he was scorching in late August and September. All signs now point to him being the starter at third for the Rockies, and based on his minor league numbers and what we saw last season, he’s a guy that could surprise some people and far exceed expectations. Nelson has 20-22 homer capability and even though he doesn’t run much, he could help you nicely in the batting average category as well. A lot will likely be told in Spring Training, but Nelson is definitely someone you should be watching.
23. Alberto Callaspo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
.252 average, 10 homers, 53 RBI, 4 steals, 55 runs
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on Callaspo because I really don’t think he’s worth it. There have been a good number of young players (those listed above) that have brought some depth to this position. He doesn’t do anything spectacularly, and really doesn’t do anything well. He is below average across the board, and he is also 30 years old, so I don’t see any great reason to think that he will be any better than what you see in 2012. If that does it for you, well you are a victim of low expectations. I can think of 20+ guys I’d rather have.
24. Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians
.268 average, 5 homers, 16 RBI, 2 steals, 16 runs (43 games)
A forearm injury among others cost Chisenhall a pretty significant chunk of the 2012 season, but while he was in there he did perform pretty well. He was a very successful minor league player, so there is a good chance that he could build on this success and have a very good 2013. Of course, he could get injured again and Mike Aviles could take over at third as well. I have liked Chisenhall since his time in the minors, but I am a bit nervous about putting too many eggs in his basket this season. He is more of a wait and see type player for me in 2013, but keeping a good eye on him.
25. Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox
.325 average. 9 homers, 40 RBI, 1 steal, 46 runs (115 games)
I don’t know if Keppinger has ever been a full time player in his career, but it looks like as of now he will be just that for the Pale Hose this season. He has put up reasonably decent stats in the starts that he has been given, but it remains to be seen how he will do if he plays every day. I don’t think that he will hit anywhere near .325 and with the rest of his stats being pretty pedestrian, I don’t see any reason to target him in your draft.