Fantasy Baseball 3B Salvation: Pedro Alvarez to the rescue?

      May 3, 2012 @ 15:36:45 PDT

Geez. In just over a week, the fantasy baseball third base landscape has changed dramatically, thanks to a rash of injuries. With the hot corner already pretty thin to begin with at the start of the year, there's a good chance it just became the cold corner for most of you.

It began with Ryan Zimmerman's (shoulder) placement on the DL late last week. Since then, Evan Longoria (hamstring tear), Kevin Youkilis (lower back ailment) and Pablo Sandoval (fractured hamate bone) have all hit the infirmary.

I feel your pain; I own both Longo and Youk in a 15-team AL-only affair. No fun.

Zimm owners should fret the least; he's feeling much better, and the Nats are hoping to activate him to play on Tuesday. Youkilis' DL stint was backdated to April 29, so he could return relatively shortly, as well. Keep an eye on him, though, as back injuries - especially for a 33-year-old - can linger.

That's the good news. The bad news is that Longoria could be out up to eight weeks. As a first-round commodity for some, losing a player like him can be devastating to your season. Longo (.329/.433/561, in 97 plate appearances) had four HRs and 19 RBIs in 23 games. Pouring salt in the open wound: Longoria was hitting .550 with two homers and 16 RBIs with runners in scoring position.

The Kung Fu Panda will be out four to six weeks, and he'll have surgery to remove the redundant hamate bone Friday. Expect him to be out closer to six weeks; he suffered the same exact injury to his right hand last year, had surgery and missed right around six weeks. For owners of the switch-hitting Sandoval (.345/.357/.490, in 154 plate appearances) this hurts tremendously.

If you own any of these third-sackers and are looking for replacements, you can't afford to be very picky at this position.

In Tampa, Joe Maddon plans to use a "revolving door" at third base to replace Longo. Elliot Johnson and Jeff Keppinger figure to see the most time, with Will Rhymes seeing an occasional start. Our new-look Diamond Market format expands on this sitch.

Will Middlebrooks was called up to replace Youk in Boston, and he appears to be the best direct replacement among the other injured third basemen. Middlebrooks has power to all fields and can even steal a few bags - he did so in his debut Wednesday. More on his outlook here.

Steve Lombardozzi has been filling in at third in D.C., but his short-term value is about to end when Zimmerman returns. He'll garner occasional spot starts around the infield, and possibly in the outfield, but he's basically NL-only fodder at best.

Conor Gillaspie was brought up to replace the Panda in SF, but he shouldn't interest you unless you're extremely desperate in a cavernous mixed league or if you're playing NL only. Emmanuel Burriss, Joaquin Arias, or even Aubrey Huff (anxiety) could muddle this picture. Probably wise to avoid this.

Alex Liddi has obviously intrigued me for a few weeks, with good reason. He's definitely worth an addition, even in mixed leagues, if you're hurting for a corner infielder or third baseman. Middlebrooks is the better long-term bet of the two and should be acquired immediately in keeper leagues.

Of all these options, the one that may be the most tantalizing or teasing - whichever way you want to look at it - could be Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's possibly a gamble that will blow up in your face, but you may not be in a position to pass up on the opportunity given all the injuries at the 5.

Boston Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks
Middlebrooks has the talent

Besides, there may not be a better time to take a chance on Alvarez; since April 18, he's batting .340 with six long balls and 13 RBIs in 46 at-bats to raise his average to .257 on the season. He's still feast or famine, though, striking out 24 times against just four free passes.

Alvarez, 25, clearly still has power potential worth owning in fantasy baseball leagues. He's been written off as a bust by most after his disastrous 2011 campaign, which included a demotion to the minors. Perhaps another positive to glean from this: He's 4-for-11 (.364) and has one of his homers off lefties this year, albeit in a small sample size.

Don't let Alvarez's previous two letdown seasons cloud your judgment here. He is still young, has pop and is probably on your waiver wire at a position that had most of its high-end talent plucked away. If he tanks it after his recent hot streak, who cares? Move on to the next cheap rental.

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About Keith Hernandez

Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.

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