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2012 Position Rankings: Third Base

Third base offers quite a bit of variety in fantasy, with some extreme power hitters, a few high average guys, and some all-around players that impact all five categories. The talent pool figures to get even deeper once Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, and possibly even Mark Trumbo pick up hot corner eligibility at some point this season. As always, the rankings are based on standard 12-team mixed leagues with 5x5 scoring.

  1. Jose Bautista, TOR - Bautista showed that 2010 was no fluke last year, mashing 43 homers and lowering his fly ball rate (and thus raising his BABIP) enough to bring his average over .300. He might not hit .300+ long-term, but power is getting harder to come by and he's as much of a lock for 35+ dingers (and all the run production numbers that come along with them) as anyone.
  2. Evan Longoria, TBR - Despite missing almost the entire month of April, Longoria hit 31 homers and fell just shy of 100 RBI in 2011. His BABIP dropped to .239 after three straight years of .300+, though the only significant change in his batted ball profile was a slight increase in his infield fly ball rate. Expect his .244 batting average to rebound in 2012.
  3. Adrian Beltre, TEX - Beltre missed more than five weeks with a hamstring strain, but he was still a top four producer in batting average (.296), homers (32), RBI (105), and runs (82) among qualified third baseman. Given the lineup around him and his home ballpark., good health in 2012 could result in the best all-around season at the position.
  4. Pablo Sandoval, SF- Kung Fu Panda shook off his sophomore slump to produce his second .300+ average, 23+ homer season in the last three years, though a wrist problem cost him a shot at 30 long balls. It's an unfavorable park and a lineup without much help, but at 25 years old, Sandoval has a chance to produce some serious fantasy value over the next few years.
  5. David Wright, NYM - CitiField has not been kind to Wright, who has hit .284/.364/.463 in the three years at his new digs (.309/.389/.533 beforehand). Injuries have played a part as well, and it's worth noting that his road performance (.288/.352/.479) has suffered since the move as well. The walls moved this offseason, so hopefully he'll break some of the bad habits he's developed over the last three years.
  6. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS - Zimmerman is one of the most unheralded great players in the game, but injuries have held him back from true superstar status. He missed two months with an abdominal problem last year and has lost time to injury in three of the last four years. When right, there's .280/30/100/100+ potential here.
  7. Aramis Ramirez, MIL - There isn't much difference between Wrigley Field and Miller Park, but Aramis will benefit from having a better lineup (even without Prince Fielder and potentially Ryan Braun for 50 games) around him and not having to face Milwaukee's pitching. Another 25+ HR with close to 100+ RBI and a respectable average is in the cards.
  8. Kevin Youkilis, BOS - Injuries have robbed Youk of playing time in each of the last three seasons, which in turn has cut into his production. He didn't hit at all away from Fenway Park in 2011 (.191/.317/.349), but that's more likely to be a fluke than a sign of imminent danger. He's still capable of big numbers given his ballpark and teammates, but he has to stay on the field first.
  9. Alex Rodriguez, NYY - Once the best fantasy player in the world, A-Rod has spent time in the DL in each of the last four seasons. He missed the 30 HR, 100 RBI level for the first time since 1997 last year, but the power output has been declining steadily into his mid-30s. He's still an RBI machine and will hit for average, but his body has betrayed him lately. He could have a huge year given his unmatched talent, but it's very unlikely.
  10. Brett Lawrie, TOR - Few rookies made a bigger immediate impact that Lawrie last year (.293/9/25/26/7 in just 43 games), so he set a really high standard for himself in 2011. The talent is there for 20-20 with a near-.300 average over a full season's worth of playing time, but be careful not to overrate him based on that late-season cameo.
  11. Mark Reynolds, BAL - Only seven players have hit 30+ HR in each of the last three seasons, and Reynolds is one of them. He's not going to hit for average at all (.238 career), but he stays in the lineup (145+ games in each of the last four years) and draws enough walks to reach base and score runs at a respectable rate. The homers and run production are valuable by themselves, but his ability to flirt with double-digit steals in underrated.
  12. Michael Young, TEX - The first and almost certainly the only player to appear in our rankings at three different positions, Young is the same guy we've ranked two times before. He'll hit for an average that's anywhere from solid to steller with strong run production numbers given his lineup and ballpark, but don't expect much power or many steals.
  13. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR - Encarnacion is generally under-appreciated, but he's become a better all-around player over the last few seasons and now contributes solid production in each of the five categories. He's not a star, but he is entering his prime years and could get even better.
  14. Chase Headley, SD - Switch-hitters with power, patience, and above average defense at the hot corner are supposed to be stars, but Headley has been smothered by Petco Park: career .229/.319/.336 at home but .303/.364/.441 on the road. You'll get a solid average and double-digit steals (plus a healthy OBP if you're in that kind of league), but don't be surprised if he winds up with single-digit homers.
  15. Ryan Roberts, ARI - Tatman broke out with 19 HR and 18 steals last year, though his track record is very limited and his 24.3% line drive rate might not last. Roberts is in a good hitter's park with a strong lineup around him, and a full season of playing time might just turn into 20-20 with close to triple-digit RBI and runs scored given his walk rate. Lots of risk though.
  16. Emilio Bonifacio, FLA - Bonifacio is unlikely to repeat last season's .372 BABIP, but he's a classic slash-and-dash type that is expected to post higher than average BABIPs. Even if his average creeps away from .300, he'll still have value because he'll steal more bases that pretty much anyone else at the position.
  17. David Freese, STL - Destined to be overrated on draft day given his World Series heroics, Freese played in 100+ games for the first time since 2008 last year, and even then it was only 101 contests. He's missed time with hand, ankle, and foot problems in recent years, though he's produced whenever he's been on the field: .298/.354/.429 with 15 HR and 98 RBI in 667 big league plate appearances, a full season's worth.
  18. Chipper Jones, ATL - One of only 21 players in baseball history with a .300/.400/.500+ career batting line (min. 5,000 plate appearances), Chipper can still hit. His batting average has sunk into the .265-.275 range, but he hit 18 HR for the second time in three years in 2012. It's all about health. If he stays on the field, he'll provide some value.
  19. Daniel Murphy, NYM - If you could build a hitter for CitiField, Murphy is probably what you'd end up with. He hits a plethora of line drives and ground balls, which are conducive to a high BABIP (and by extension, batting average). Don't expect many homers or stolen bases, but he could surprise in the run production categories.
  20. Martin Prado, ATL - Prado excels at putting the ball in play (just 8.8% strikeouts in 2011), but he doesn't have a ton of power (28 HR in over 1,200 plate appearances over the last two years) and his value to closely tied to his BABIP. His line drive rate fell off a cliff last year, so expect a slight rebound in batting average in 2012.
  21. Danny Valencia, MIN - The stellar debut season was followed by a brutal sophomore campaign, but there are reasons to expect his BABIP (and batting average) to rebound given his batted ball profile. I doubt Valencia will repeat the .311 mark he put up in 2010, but he's better than a .246 hitter. Fifteen bombs from any position is valuable as well.
  22. Ian Stewart, CHC - Last season was just brutal for Stewart, who hit .156/.243/.221 in 48 games with the Rockies while missing time with knee and wrist problems. He's still only 26 though, with big left-handed power and a move into a ballpark that favors such hitters. There's bounce back potential here (meaning .250 average and 20 or so homers), and even a smidgen of breakout potential.
  23. Pedro Alvarez, PIT - Strikeouts, left-handers, and conditioning continue to be an issue for the former second overall pick, who missed close to two months with a quad strain last year. Alvarez has huge raw power, but he doesn't figure to hit for much average and he won't steal any bases. The power and run production potential is considerable though. I think he's underrated at the moment.
  24. Mike Moustakas, KC - Moose's debut was underwhelming last year (.263/5/30/26/2 in 365 plate appearances), and the Royals did look for a platoon partner this winter to make life easier for him. There's legitimate 30 HR power here, but I wouldn't expect him to tap into it right away. Moustakas is an intriguing player, but the ride figures to be bumpy at first.
  25. Lonnie Chisenhall, CLE - Chisenhall showed some power during his debut last season, though most of it was into the gaps rather than over the fence. The lefty swinger has shown a platoon split throughout his career, but luckily for him he's on the dominant side and his home ballpark is friendlier to his kind.

Honorable Mention: Wilson Betemit, BAL; Mat Gamel, MIL; Casey McGehee, PIT; Alberto Callaspo, LAA; Scott Sizemore, OAK; Jimmy Paredes, HOU

Other Positions: Catcher, First Base, Second Base, Shortstop

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