2011 Fantasy Rankings: Third Basemen

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Third base: it’s almost as bad as shortstop.

In retrospect, we’d like to add a twelfth MLB player we would not want to be in 2011, and that is Jose Bautista. Going undrafted in most leagues, he scored over 200 points more than any other third basemen in one of our leagues last season, which means he now has a giant fantasy bullseye on his chest, and if he doesn’t finish in the top five among third basemen this year, he’ll be considered a bust. The reason? The sixth-ranked third baseman in the draft projections is a second baseman (Martin Prado). Yikes.

San Francisco Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval watches a splash home run head for the water as Arizona Diamondbacks catcher John Hester (L) looks on at AT&T Park in San Francisco on September 30, 2010. The Giants completed a sweep of the Diamondbacks with a 4-1 victory. UPI/Terry Schmitt

“Ski-doosh.”

But fear not, fellow roto-geeks. There are some bargain picks to be had at the hot corner once the big five (Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bautista) are off the board. Obviously your best bet is to get one of them, but if that is not an option, stock up on as many other positions as you can, and with some luck, these men below will hopefully keep you competitive.

Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
The Greek God of Walks will obviously do more than just keep you competitive, but you’ll need to wait a few games (ten in most leagues) before you can play him there. Once he’s set, though, just sit back and enjoy the show. And by the show, we mean the shots of Youkilis cursing at himself on the bench whenever he makes an out. Competitive bugger, that Youkilis.

Pablo Sandoval, Giants
The Panda lost 38 pounds this offseason, and is already tearing the cover off the ball in spring training. We love players who have something to prove, and after compiling a limp .268-61-13-63 stat line in 2010, Sandoval is that guy. But is he really sloted to bat eighth in the order? That’s a little disconcerting.

Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
Contract year, ahoy! Yes, the Cubs have an option for 2012, but it’s at $16 million, and it will only be guaranteed if Ramirez wins the MVP or the Cubs go to the World Series. (In other words, it will not be guaranteed.) He looked like his old self by year’s end after a putrid first half, and with the addition of Carlos Pena, the Cubs lineup has the potential to be dangerous. It could also implode at a moment’s notice – witness yesterday’s dugout dispute, which involved the normally laid-back Ramirez – but we expect Aramis to sing for his supper.

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2011 Fantasy Rankings: Shortstops

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Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. Shortstop is the new second base, a fantasy wasteland where only six (!) players are projected to be drafted in the first ten rounds. Six, out of a hundred. That’s bad.

New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter warms up before the Yankees take on the Texas Rangers in game four of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium on October 19, 2010 in New York. UPI/Monika Graff

“Hello. I’m Derek Jeter, and you’re not.”

Worse, only five of those players are proven fantasy performers year after year, and even that is stretching the truth until it nearly breaks. Truth be told, there is one guy in this group (Hanley Ramirez) that has held up as a reliable fantasy stud. The rest are streaky, as in ‘Will Ferrell in “Old School”‘ streaky. (Tulo, we’re looking at you.) What is a fantasy manager to do once Hanley and Troy Tulowitzki are off the board? For starters, don’t panic, and for God’s sake don’t reach. Continue to take the best guy on the board, and see if one of these guys lands in your lap.

Jose Reyes, Mets
The late, great Sparky Anderson once said, “Just give me 25 guys on the last year of their contracts; I’ll win a pennant every year.” You think he wouldn’t love to have Reyes this year, since he’s essentially auditioning for all of Major League Baseball? The Mets are so bogged down with money issues that there has even been speculation that they will have a hard time paying their players, which makes the likelihood of a contract extension to Reyes unlikely. Meanwhile, the shortstop of the Red Sox, Marco Scutaro, has a player option on his contract for next year, which the club could buy out for $1.5 million. Don’t think for a minute that Reyes doesn’t know this, and will bust his ass to get him some Carl Crawford money. Having said that, don’t bid the moon and the stars to get him. If he comes to you, great. If not, then take a look at…

Marco Scutaro, Red Sox
Reyes’ 2010 stat line was .282-83-11-54-30. Scutaro’s line was .275-92-11-56-5. Nearly identical in every category except steals, and he can be had 11 rounds after Reyes is off the board. If you play in a points league and Reyes is gone, take a deep breath, and remember that the next best thing is a mere 110 picks away. Scutaro is the textbook definition of a value pick, even if he spends the entire year in the 9-hole.

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2011 Fantasy Rankings: First Basemen

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Here is how deep the first base pool has become: the guy who finished fourth statistically among first basemen, and who hit more home runs than every first baseman not named Albert Pujols, is ranked 12th in CBS’s projections for 2011 (14th if you count two 1B-eligible catchers). Twelve first basemen are projected to knock in over 100 runs (nine accomplished this feat last year), and 11 are projected to hit over 30 home runs (nine accomplished this last year as well). Which means, in theory, you could be the ninth person in your league, or even the last, to draft a first basemen, and you’ll still be good for a 30-100 stat line. Not too shabby.

Colorado Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo is struck in the head with a bat by St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols in the first inning in St. Louis on October 1, 2010. Olivo left the game and went to a local hospital to be checked. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Big Dog goes ‘Arf’

And to think, that doesn’t include guys who hit 25 home runs or more (add another six). Underneath that group are another dozen hitters capable of blasting 25 dingers, provided you’re flexible in the batting average and strikeout department. First base is deep, kids, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence on the position. First, let’s discuss the wounded birds looking to reclaim their 2009 glory.

Kendry Morales, Angels
Yes! I just hit a Grand Slam and won the game for my tea-OW! What the hell just popped in my foot? Even stranger, this bitten-by-home-plate thing happened to two different guys last year. Morales was a beast in 2009, hitting 34 dingers and knocking in 108 runs (He even stole three bases, though his success rate was a dismal 30%), and he’s reasonably well protected with Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and the ageless Bobby Abreu hitting around him. A safe estimate would be a 5% drop from his 2009 numbers, but he certainly has the potential to do better than that.

Justin Morneau, Twins
We love what a pure hitter Morneau is, but this concussion business is spooky. Football players come back from one after a week or two, while Morneau has been sidelined since July, which makes us wonder: what exactly was he seeing, and are those images still dancing around the periphery? The Twins are smart to be cautious with one of their most prized hitters, but we’re now eight months removed from the injury, and the Twins are still treating him like the boy in the plastic bubble. That’s troubling to put it lightly. His draft value obviously takes a hit – a third rounder last year, he’s a projected late sixth rounder this year – but that also makes him one hell of a steal, if he’s healthy.

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