I did a great deal of analysis on third baseman in the main hitter ranking column; so, if you want in-depth analysis on Youk, Aramis Ramirez, Chone Figgins, Ryan Zimmerman, and Mark Reynolds check out those articles. In addition, you can see all my ranks here.
To start off, I’d like to talk a bit about David Wright, my 12th ranked hitter and third ranked third basemen (ahh the symmetry). Wright going into 2010 reminds me a lot of where Chase Utley was heading into last season. At that point, Utley had been a perennial first round selection, though some injury concerns caused him to slip into the second round in some drafts. For those managers lucky enough to draft him there, they were likely hoisting their league trophy (or collecting their cash winnings) at least in part because of this astute pick. The comparison, however, is not perfect. Wright has one glaring question entering this season that Utley did not have last spring: the great power zap of 2009 (he hit just 10 HRs in 144 games). Still, his average and on base percentage were quite similar to career norms (.307/.390 in 2009, .309/.389 for his career).
So, what changed for Wright last season? The most obvious answer is his home ballpark. But, come on, there is no way Citi Field would depress his numbers so severely (and he hit as many homers on the road as he did at home). Basically the great difference in Wright’s 2009 campaign was his homeruns per fly ball ratio. It came in at about seven percent, which is much lower than his career norm of 16 percent. Sure the bigger ballpark could have played a small role. Just as likely a culprit, however, is bad luck; Wright could very easily have just hit more of his fly balls to the wrong parts of the park.
Given that this is the only real outlier in his career (he hits 40 doubles a year, plus or minus two and I already outlined his ratios), I can’t imagine that funkiness in HR-fly ball rate will continue. Wright will hit at least 20 HRs next year, and he’ll add 100+ runs, 25+ SBs, 110+ RBIs, and solid ratios. That makes him a safe second round pick. If you believe in him, I’d have no problem snagging him in the late first round. He has a chance to finish in the top five among fantasy contributors. The only thing that holds my love back a tad is the deepness at third base – you really can wait on guys.
I seem to be questioning my low rankings of some Red Sox players (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia) throughout my rankings analysis. I assume the same will be true for Adrian Beltre. Beltre was not very good last year. Over the course of 2009, neither his averages (.265 AVE and .304 OBP) nor his counting stats (8 HRs, 54 runs, and 44 RBIs) were very good. True, he only played in 111 games due to injury. Still though, these numbers aren’t dramatically different from 2008 (.266/.327) or for that matter 2007 (.276/.319). In fact, they aren’t far off (albeit worse) than his career line (.270/.325). In fact, he has only hit over .290 once and hasn’t posted an OBP above .328 since 2004 (remember that contract year he had playing with the Dodgers?). Honestly, I’m not sure what he’s going to do this year, which is why I ranked him so low. Sure, playing on the Sox might improve his counting numbers, but will those ratios ever get to respectable levels? I’m betting not, which is why I’d rather have Casey Blake, Jorge Cantu or Gordon Beckham.
Speaking of hot corner specialists who had their best seasons in 2004, hello Scott Rolen! You may have missed it, but Rolen played in more games last year (128) than in any season since 2006 (142). In that 2006 season, Rolen scored 94 runs, hit 22 HRs, knocked in 95 and posted a .296/.369 AVE/OBP. Last year, Rolen split time between Toronto and Cincinnati, but posted respectable ratios (.305/.368). Sure he only managed 76 runs, 11 HRs and 67 RBIs. However his numbers are bound to improve this year, as he will be playing full time in one of the league’s most hitter-friendly parks. And, when Rolen is healthy, he hits – it’s that simple. If he avoids the injury bug, Rolen could have a mini-renaissance and approach 90 runs/RBIs, 20 HRs and a respectable AVE/OBP. That’s not bad for a guy likely to be an afterthought on most draft boards.
People love sleepers; they love grabbing the guy late who outperforms everyone. To help you look smart to all your friends, I’m highlighting at least on sleeper candidate per position.
There was a reason Gordon Beckham was the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft. In his first 103 major league games, Beckham scored 58 runs, hit 14 HRs, knocked in 63 and posted a .270/.340 AVE/.OBP. If you average those numbers out over a 162 game season, Beckham is in line for close to 91 runs, 22 HRs, and 99 RBIs. Best yet, this could be the floor for the young north side third baseman, as he absolutely destroyed the minors (.322/.375/.519 AVE/OBP/SLG). While he should be somewhat well known, he could be pushed to the periphery of most draft boards given the depth at the hot corner. If you are playing in a 12-team league, Beckham would be a fine starting third baseman.
Ian Stewart’s 2008 season left fantasy owners begging for full time ABs – over only 81 games/266 ABs, Stewart socked ten HRs. Well, he got those ABs in 2009 and didn’t disappoint much in the power department (25 HRs). His ratios, however, left him almost completely unusable (.228 AVE, .322 OBP). Luckily, those dismal numbers are completely outside his minor league trajectory (six seasons: .293 AVE, .374 OBP). Furthermore, though BAbip isn’t as great a determinant for hitters as it is for pitchers, Stewart’s wildly diverging numbers in 2008 and 2009 warrant at least a glance. In 2009, his BABIP was just .270; in 2008, it was .362. Though far from exact science, this, at least, suggests he is capable of having a few more balls in play drop this coming season. To me, Stewart has the capability to be a .260 hitter with a .350 OBP. I think those numbers are readily attainable. If he gets there, 30 HRs and 90 runs/RBIs should well be within reach. I would love taking a chance on Stewart late in drafts. He is still a young guy and won’t be 25 until April.
For a full set of rankings, click here.