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2013 Position Rankings: Third Basemen

After what seems like forever of ranking thin positions, namely Second Base and, oddly enough, First Base, we come to a relatively deep position. Not super deep, like Outfield or, unbelievably, Catcher, but deeper than it has been in years past, and deeper when compared to other infielders. It isn't often that I would consider getting my CI from third base, but I could this year. 

After a team discussion, featuring Tim Dierkes and the entire RotoAuthority staff, this round of rankings goes 30 players deep; they're divided into groups of similar value, and tiered by where they deserve to be drafted in a standard league. If you're bidding in an auction, consider players in the same tier to be of similar price. If a player has other positions in parentheses, that means you can draft and start him there. With third base squarely in the middle of the position scarcity spectrum, some of these players you'll want at third, but for others you'll have to pay middle infield prices. On this list, they're ranked where you should get them as a third baseman.

Early 1st Round

1. Miguel Cabrera, DET

He's the only infielder among the plausible top three players; if your league discounts steals at all, he's a slam-dunk first choice.

2nd Round

2. Adrian Beltre, TEX

I can still hear Giants fans at a Mariner game chanting "Bellllll-troids! Belllll-troids!" Not that I think he's on the juice or anything, but playing in Texas instead of Seattle is even better than chemical enhancement. Also, Beltre is quite a bit better than any third baseman below him on this list.

3rd Round

3. Evan Longoria, TAM
4. David Wright, NYM
5. Hanley Ramirez, LAD (SS)

Longoria came back strong at the end of last year, and before his injury, he was an easy choice for the late first round. I think he's a great risk here. I think it's time to admit that Wright isn't the player he used to be. That said, he's still among the class at his position. As a shortstop, I'd consider Ramirez in the second--that's how short that group is. If he's your third baseman, I'd reach for him in the third, but be happy to get him in the fourth.

4th Round

5. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS
6. Aramis Ramirez, MIL

Zimmerman isn't developing into one of the game's premier players, and he won't be the Face of the Nationals with Bryce Harper on the team, but that's good news for fantasy drafters, because Zim's brand of low-key excellence should play very well in a quality lineup. Ramirez is just a hair behind in my mind, mostly because his age brings a slight risk of sudden decline. That said, he's been one of baseball's best sluggers for the last two years.

5th Round 

7. Chase Headley, SDP

This choice was a tough one for me, and I know some at RotoAuthority would put him at the top of the previous tier. I just can't, though. His year came from out of nowhere, and even Petco's moving fences can't convince me that he'll sustain last year's production level. I don't think he'll drop to where he was before, but any chance that he does makes him hard to take before the fifth. I'll settle for possible lower production for the relative safety of those above him.

7th-8th Rounds

8. Brett Lawrie, TOR
9. Pablo Sandoval, SFG

Lawrie disappointed in his first full season, but he's got the talent and the lineup to take a big step forward. He's at least as big a risk as Headley two or three rounds earlier, but he probably doesn't have as high of an upside. (Not that anyone but Chase Headley's parents thought he had that kind of upside.) Pablo could be a huge bargain, in this range, as the main risk with him is his health. Fortunately for you, his World Series production doesn't seem to be inflating his ADP. After these guys, I would wait a nice long time before taking a third baseman from the position's middle class.

12th-13th Rounds

10. Will Middlebrooks, BOS
11. Todd Frazier, CIN
12. Martin Prado, ARI (OF)  

Middlebrooks and Frazier both killed the ball in a partial season and displaced fragile veterans. Both play in friendly home parks,  have good or amazing lineups around them, and are young enough to have real hope for the future. Actually, they were both so good in 2012 that it's all I can do to keep them this low. Small sample size, I remind myself, small sample size. Still, I wouldn't be shocked if either or both were among the top at the hot corner going into next year. Prado is way less exciting, but he is much safer and should be very helpful in batting average and runs scored. Sometimes very different players have very similar value.

14th-15th Rounds

13. Pedro Alvarez, PIT
14. David Freese, STL
15. Kyle Seager, SEA
16. Mike Moustakas, KCR 

Here is where you really get the chance to pick your poison. With Alvarez you get all-power, horrible-average. He's on the top of these players thanks to the fact that 30 bombs and the chance to improve are pretty good, even for the CI spot. Freese isn't exciting or durable, but he helps in average. Seager was a pleasant surprise out of Seattle, and perhaps he will be able to put a few more balls over the shortening fences in Safeco Field. Moustakas...well, he was a big prospect going into last year, and even the chance that he puts it all together makes him worth grabbing around here.

17th-18th Rounds

17. Manny Machado, BAL
18. Kevin Youkilis, NYY (1B)

By this time, you're hopefully filling out your CI and Utility spots, which means any third baseman you take should be a better hitter straight-up than any possible first baseman. That means that our round recommendations can really break down. Save these guys for later if there are useful first basemen. If not, maybe you should be jumping on them earlier, because, to me, this is the last group of full-timers who could be described to have a moderately high upside.

Machado's prospect status was through the roof going into last year, and he held his own at just 20 years old. He'll take his lumps, but some power and a little speed seem like reasonable possibilities. Youk is sort of the opposite of Machado, with the Yankees and fantasy teams trying to squeeze the last drops out of his career. The chance that there's even a little left in the tank makes him worth taking a flier on.

20th-22nd Rounds

19. Chris Nelson, COL (2B)
20. Michael Young, TEX (1B)
21. Chris Johnson, ATL
22. Jeff Keppinger, CHW (2B)
23. Mike Olt, TEX 
24. Lonnie Chisenhall, CLE

Anyone who plays in Colorado is interesting, all the more so if he's got multi-position eligibility like Nelson does. If he's assured a spot, you could even bump him up a round or so. Young doesn't have much left but a chance to start, which is what you can say about Johnson and Keppinger too. Olt and Chisenhall don't have starting jobs at the moment, but they've got more upside than those above them. Olt, in particular, makes a better bench stash than anyone else in this tier, because if he has a hot streak you can expect the Rangers to find him at bats at first base and DH.

23rd Round and Beyond

25. Matt Carpenter, STL (1B, OF)
26. Nolan Arenado, COL
27. Jordan Pacheco, COL (1B)
28. Trevor Plouffe, MIN
29. Josh Donaldson, OAK
30. Pedro Ciriaco, BOS

At this point, we're looking strictly at bench bats and those not expected to win job fights. Carpenter will probably be super-subbing for St. Louis again, and he could spot-start for a fantasy team too if his playing time develops into a pattern. Either Arenado or Pacheco could win the third base job in Colorado over Nelson. Or Nelson could end up playing second base. Regardless, any starting infielder in Colorado is worth taking a flier on. Plouffe spent half a season hitting the tar out of the ball for Minnesota...and the second half flailing helplessly. I guess it's better than a full season of helplessness. Donaldson might get most of the playing time at third for Oakland, or he might not. Ciriaco is only a choice if Middlebrooks flames out badly.

Some Guys who Can Play 3B for a Yahoo! Team

a. Mark Trumbo, LAA -- 5th Round 
b. Mark Reynolds, CLE -- 14th-15th Rounds
c. Jedd Gyorko, SDP -- 16th-17th Rounds
c. Marco Scutaro, SFG --  18th-19th Rounds

Trumbo's high-power, low-average profile looks better compared to third basemen than it does outfielders, but not by a huge amount. I wouldn't take him until Headley is gone. Reynolds is a borderline starter at third, but he gets a little extra CI value because he can actually back up both positions that can play there. Gyroko is assumed by many to be starting at second, since he won't be chasing Headley off third (sorry, I couldn't help it). He and Scutaro get a bunch of extra value as bench players if they have 3B eligibility, because you can slide them in and out of your MI and CI spots, giving you a free backup outfielder, extra reliever, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

The group of players at third base isn't elite by any means, but it has a stronger middle class than the rest of the infield, relative to what you expect of them. Lately, third had been a lot more like second base and shortstop, but this year a lot more of the players can compete with a thinned out first base. The bottom still drops off, though, so I suggest locking up third and CI quickly.




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