2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Third Basemen

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Here is everything you need to know about the depth at the third base position these days: On CBS Sports’ cheat sheet for the top players at each position, they list 41 starting pitchers, 25 relief pitchers, 67 outfielders, 25 first basemen, 25 second basemen, 25 shortstops, 30 catchers…and 15 third basemen. Fif, teen. But wait, it actually gets worse: of those 15 third basemen, two are full-time first basemen (Kevin Youkilis, Miguel Cabrera) one is a full-time catcher (Russell Martin), and one played nearly 100 games at DH (Aubrey Huff). In other words, just over a third of all the teams in Major League Baseball have a third baseman worth drafting. And they include Ryan Zimmerman and Edwin Encarnacion as two of those 11 players, meaning even that number is padded.

What this means for you, gentle reader, is that assuming Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Albert Pujols are no longer on the board, you are a stone cold fool if you don’t draft either David Wright or Alex Rodriguez at your earliest opportunity, and you could even be excused for drafting Wright or A-Rod ahead of the other three. (Don’t let this whole ‘steroids pariah’ hoopla scare you; A-Rod’s gonna put up crazy numbers this year.) Almost overnight, third base has become a fantasy wasteland, so you’d be wise to snag a stud third baseman if you can, especially now that Ryan Braun has lost his 3B eligibility and Troy Glaus decided to go under the knife at the 11th hour. But even when the big names are off the board, don’t panic; there are some players that can keep your fantasy team from having a smoking hole in the ground where third base used to be.

Mark ReynoldsMark Reynolds, Arizona
Meet the new Richie Sexson, same as the old Richie Sexson. Reynolds is death in head-to-head leagues thanks to his obscene strikeout numbers – he ranked 24th in points among third basemen in one of our leagues last year, and to put that into perspective, Marco Scutaro finished 19th – but if you can live with a subpar batting average, he’s capable of giving you 100 runs, 30 homers, and 100 RBI, with 10 stolen bases as a bonus. Not bad for a guy currently ranked #244 in our draft room. A bargain pick if ever there was one, but be prepared to take the very good with the very bad.

Alex Gordon, Kansas City
Is this the year that Gordon finally lives up to his potential? For his first two seasons in the majors, Gordon has been Lucy with the football, sending his owners hurtling to the ground while they shout “Augh!” in exasperation. There is evidence to suggest that Gordon is ready to break out, though; his walks, runs scored, home runs and batting average all increased from 2007 to 2008, and in fewer at-bats (he was one RBI shy of tying his 2007 total), which means the strike zone is starting to come into focus. The typically anemic Kansas City offense is also significantly upgraded from last year, thanks to the additions of Coco Crisp and Mike Jacobs. Lastly, Gordon is projected to bat seventh, which should take some of the pressure off. Definitely worth a late flier.

Chris Davis, Texas
Another player that loses his 3B eligibility at season’s end – he’ll be a full-time first baseman this year – the secret on Davis is officially out after he posted an incredible half-season that projected to 102-34-110-2 had he played the entire year in the bigs. Granted, Davis likely would have fallen short in all of those categories (well, except stolen bases), but this should give you an idea of what kind of mashing potential the young slugger possesses. He’s projected to be drafted around the 11th or 12th round, but don’t be surprised if he flies off the board earlier than that.

Chipper JonesChipper Jones, Atlanta
He may have lost his fantasy stud status a few years ago, thanks to his frequent trips to the disabled list – he had five separate injuries last year alone –but even in an injury-shortened season, Larry Jones Jr. still managed to knock in 75 runs, belt 22 homers, and win a batting title. If you do draft him, you’d be wise to pick another third baseman a few rounds later as insurance, but if Jones can manage to stay healthy, he could put up Youkilis-type numbers at a bargain price.

Jorge Cantu, Florida
It may have taken three years, but Cantu finally followed through on his breakout season from 2005 with a .277-92-29-95-6 stat line. The only question this year is whether the frugal Marlins will look to their deep pool of minor league talent and ship Cantu to a contender at the trade deadline in order to save a couple bucks. Cantu’s job would seem to be secure now that Mike Jacobs is in Kansas City and the Marlins have Dallas McPherson (!) penciled in at third base, but these are the Marlins we’re talking about here. No one holds better fire sales than they do. Still, Cantu is definitely worth a middle-round pick for the home run numbers alone.

Here is our official ranking of third basemen. We left out middle infielders and catchers that were also eligible at third base because, seriously, why would you play a guy eligible for middle infield or catcher at a position other than middle infield or catcher?

NOTE: This piece was written before the news about Rodriguez’s cyst and the subsequent tug-of-war over whether he’ll have surgery to fix the problem. For the moment, the Yankees say that A-Rod will fix it through rehab, which takes away roughly one sixth of his season. We have adjusted our rankings accordingly. (For those seeing this list for the first time, we originally had Rodriguez second.)

1. David Wright, NYM
2. Miguel Cabrera, DET
3. Kevin Youkilis, BOS
4. Evan Longoria, TB
5. Alex Rodriguez, NYY
6. Aramis Ramirez, CHC
7. Aubrey Huff, BAL
8. Garrett Atkins, COL
9. Chipper Jones, ATL
10. Chris Davis, TEX
11. Jorge Cantu, FLA
12. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS
13. Edwin Encarnacion, CIN
14. Mark Reynolds, ARZ
15. Adrian Beltre, SEA
16. Mike Lowell, BOS
17. Alex Gordon, KC
18. Kevin Kouzmanoff, SD
19. Casey Blake, LAD
20. Chone Figgins, LAA

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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