Third Basemen - AL
Disclaimer: Not all players are eligible to play the position or weren't primarily playing at the position last season. They have been inserted into this position because our editors felt this is where they would most likely play.
PROS: Despite the back page hoopla at the Bronx Zoo, A-Rod's .290-35-121 season was a stellar line, especially among third basemen. At the top of his game, Rodriguez is on par with St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in having the perfect combination of contact and power. He has also swiped at least 15 bases the past four years, has hit at least 35 home runs in the past nine and has driven in over 100 runs 10 of the last 11 seasons. Hitting in the Yankees lineup won't hurt his run total, either. An off-year for A-Rod is usually a career year for at least 85 percent of major leaguers.
CONS: A-Rod's problems, as usual, are mental. On top of the boo birds, rumors are swirling that A-Rod will option out of his contract after this season, and let's just say that A-Rod can be easily affected by outside forces. A-Rod also led all third basemen with 139 strikeouts, and committed 24 errors at third. Add in all the clutch-moment criticism, and all signs could point to another season of A-Rod head games.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite A-Rod's problems, owners won't be deterred from putting him near the top of the overall draft board. After all, fantasy sports don't have a category for "clutch hits." A-Rod is averaging the fifth overall pick in fantasy leagues - his worst draft position in roughly eight years. He's being taken as high as No. 2 overall and as low as No. 9. A-Rod is a good value pick this season because of the negativity surrounding him. He still puts up numbers. If he falls to you at No. 5, don't hesitate to take him.
PROS: Gordon is probably the top prospect in all of baseball. He is a five-tool player and has won the starting third base job in spring training. Mark Teahen will move to right field. Gordon made the jump from college to Double-A last season and absolutely tore it up. He hit .325 with 29 homers, 101 RBI, 111 runs and 22 steals. This is the kind of talent he possesses, and his polished swing should translate well into the majors. He has a good eye, as he drew 73 walks last season and was caught stealing just three times in 25 attempts.
CONS: Gordon struck out 113 times in Double-A last season. He also has only spent one season in professional baseball, and the team would have liked him to get some experience at Triple-A before making the jump to the majors. The limited data makes him a boom or bust selection.
BOTTOM LINE: Gordon is being selected in the early parts of the 18th round on average. He has the tendancy to leave draft boards early, so be prepared to take him a round or two early if you want him.
PROS: Glaus was a big reason the Blue Jays finally finished above third place in the AL East. Glaus tied with the Chicago Cubs' Aramis Ramirez for the highest home run total by a third baseman with 38. Glaus will also retain shortstop eligibility in some leagues from his starts there last season, and he will be the biggest power threat at that position.
CONS: Glaus battled knee and foot injuries, as well as sinus problems. Glaus is also an extremely streaky hitter, and his heavy swing sometimes gets the best of him later in the season. Even when Glaus is on, his power comes with a price: his 134 strikeouts were second among third basemen. His batting average last season hovered ever so slightly below his .253 career figure.
BOTTOM LINE: Glaus is one of the top potential power threats at the hot corner, and his shortstop eligibility makes him a double threat. He is worth snagging in the seventh round as a third baseman, which is where he is being selected, on average. He can be drafted in the sixth round if you can use him at shortstop in your league, due the the rare power he can offer. Just make sure to balance out his batting average woes.
PROS: Blalock always bats around the heart of the Texas order, and aside from last season, always starts off at a torrid pace. Blalock attempted to become more of a contact hitter last season: he had 34 fewer strikeouts than 2006, and hit .413 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
CONS: On top of his recovery from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, Blalock's 2006 was the worst offensive year of his career. Last season was a clockwork season in terms of Blalock's second half patterns; he hit a paltry .168 in September with a single home run and seven RBI. Post-All-Star break, he was .237, .289 OBP and .635 OPS. He has a career .221 average against lefties, making him a huge matchup problem there. In 2006, Blalock also hit the lowest full-season homer total in his short career, and his RBI totals have dropped the past two seasons. Blalock's declines make him a popular sell-high trade candidate around the All-Star break.
BOTTOM LINE: Blalock is averaging a 19th-round pick. His value is still high because of where he plays and his power. He's a good option to draft that low if you choose to go in other directions beforehand.
PROS: When he was struggling in the big offensive categories, he made up for it by swiping seven bases in April. When he got going in the second half of the season, he rewarded the patient fantasy owners with seven homers in August and nine in September. He led the majors in homers with 48 just three seasons ago, so he has the potential there. His 25 homers and 89 RBI from last year say that he could succeed.
CONS: Despite putting up at least 80 RBI for the past four seasons (80, 121, 87, and 89 last season), his batting average has dipped to .255 and .268 in the past two seasons. He has struck out 108 and 118 times the past two seasons, and it's evident that he's trying to live up to his 2004 numbers.
BOTTOM LINE: Beltre is hovering around the 15th round in most drafts. He is falling as low as the 20th round in some drafts. If he gets hot and somehow finds his power stroke, he could be a diamond in the rough this season.
PROS: Chavez is a six-time Gold Glove third baseman who compiled a 65-game errorless streak last year. The veteran has hit at least 22 homers in the past seven seasons, with last season's total being the lowest. His 84 walks compared to 100 strikeouts last year was a positive ratio. He is one of the offensive anchors on the A's, and Oakland's new aging, but offensively effective designated hitter Mike Piazza should only help pad his stats.
CONS: Chavez took a step back from his 2005 campaign, when he played in 160 games. Chavez suffered a torn hamstring tissue last season, a sprained ankle, and tendonitis in not one, but both of his forearms. In 137 games, Chavez drove in 29 fewer runs than in 2006, and hit for the lowest single-season batting average in his career. Chavez is a notoriously slow starter despite his .301 average last April, with career averages of .254 in April and .253 in May. His slugging percentage has also declined 79 points over the past four seasons.
BOTTOM LINE: When healthy, Chavez will provide consistent power numbers, and will find ways to get on base. He's being taken in the late of the 15th round, which is probably the lowest his stock has been in a few years.
PROS: Figgins returns to third after spending most of last season in centerfield. His main draws are his roster versatility and his stolen base totals (52 last season after 62 in 2005). Even if Mike Scioscia shakes up his starting lineup, Figgins will always find a spot to play; he only missed seven games last season. No matter where Figgins plays, he is an impact player once he gets on base, and his stolen base total should be among the leaders.
CONS: Once you move away from the stolen base column, Figgins' other batting numbers are quite dreadful. For a light hitter, his 2006 numbers (.267) and on-base percentage (.336) don't speak well for his value. Figgins should only be drafted high if you plan to stock up on mashers. Figgins loses eligibility in most leagues except at third base and outfield.
BOTTOM LINE: Figgins has been drafted as high as the end of the second round but averages at the middle of the fourth round. We feel this is overvaluing him, and he's best taken at the end of the fourth round or in the fifth. His stock has fallen in recent weeks, so don't go fishing too early for him.
PROS: Mora led all American League third basemen in hits last season, and his 83 RBI certainly removed him from the slouch bin. He turned on the gears after two slumps. He is a decent contact hitter that will help you in average and on-base percentage, and his 16 homers were a bonus.
CONS: Mora's home run total dropped from 27 in 2005 to 16 last season. In the past three seasons, Mora's RBI total has declined from 104 to 88 to 83, as his role seems to be decreasing. His average has also tailed off from .340 to .283 to .274. Mora also criticized the Orioles' losing last season, which won't exactly build his team morale and standing with manager Sam Perlozzo.
BOTTOM LINE: Mora hovered around his career averages last season and should be expected to do the same this season. He is averaging a 14th-round selection. However, he is falling as low as the 23rd round. You can probably grab him in these lower rounds in most leagues.
PROS: Crede was quietly the most underrated fantasy third baseman last season, but the White Sox didn't appreciate the effort, only offering him a one-year deal worth $4.94 million. Crede clubbed 30 homers and drove in 94 runs while playing Gold-Glove third base. Crede is a reliable fantasy player, hitting at least 20 home runs the past three seasons (21 in 2004, 22 in 2005). His average also jumped 31 points from 2005, which helped his overall fantasy ranking. Batting in the heart of this order with Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko will almost certainly help him keep it up. The rumors that he will seek free agency this year would also fuel him, meaning fantasy sites will be able to consistently spew out the words "contract year" next to his name.
CONS: Crede is coming off a slight back injury suffered last season. His RBI totals were relatively low up until last season (75, 69 and 62 in the three seasons prior). His underwhelming .323 on-base percentage from last year was unfortunately his career high for a full season, so don't expect much help from him there. He also has top-flight prospect Josh Fields waiting in the wings behind him.
BOTTOM LINE: Even with all the positives, fantasy managers have the right to be a bit skeptical of his offensive numbers from last season. Will he be able to hit at least 25 homers again? His previous pattern of RBI totals could knock his projection down. Wary managers wouldn't be blamed if they took Crede only after the third base class wears thin. He is being taken in the early 10th round, on average, which is arguably a little high for him.
PROS: Inge's power has improved each of the last three years. He hit 27 homers, scored 83 runs smacked in 83 RBI, which were all career highs. He modestly stole seven bases last year and really heated up after the All-Star break with a .290 average. He played good defense as well, which landed him a four-year, $24 million deal in the offseason.
CONS: Inge struck out 128 times last season, and his average has decreased from .287 to .261 to .253 the last three years. He hit .221 with 17 homers in the first half last year and .290 with 10 homers in the second half. This is a glaring sign that Inge struggles when he is hitting homers. He turns 30 in May, so it's fair to say he is exiting his prime. Without the 27 homers, his value is pretty minimal.
BOTTOM LINE: Inge is averaging a 22nd-round pick, which is a low-cost pick to draft a bit of power with a weak average.
PROS: Lowell puts up decent numbers and fields a Gold Glove hot corner to boot. His steady hands made sure Keith Youkilis moved to first. He is also one of the most durable players in the league, playing in at least 150 games the past three seasons. He surprisingly hit for a higher average away from Fenway Park (.310 compared to .260 at home), so when he does take advantage of the Green Monster, it's almost a statistical bonus for his owners. Plus, he hit better against righties (.302) than lefties (.241).
CONS: Lowell had terrible months when the Red Sox needed him most, batting .255 in July and .253 in September. Although that .241 average against lefties makes his righty batting average against impressive, it's not what Boston brought him in to do. His power has completely tailed off since 2003. He hit 27 homers in 2004, eight in 2005 and 20 in 2006 after hitting 32 in 2003.
BOTTOM LINE: Lowell is averaging a 23rd-round pick and isn't being drafted in some leagues. He's a very fringe fantasy players best suited in AL-only leagues or in extremely deep mixed leagues.
PROS: Position versatility is one of Punto's selling points. The scrappy player (an overused term that actually applies here) was a great offensive role player. His versatility will assure that he finds playing time somewhere in the infield, especially with the inconsistencies on the left side of the infield. His 2006 numbers in smaller categories - 17 stolen bases, seven triples and 73 runs - give good value for his draft spot.
CONS: Punto was lucky enough to hit a single home run; he's not exactly a crusher. Without a defined role, he isn't guaranteed a spot in the lineup each day. He has Jeff Cirillo behind him as well, who is a capable platoon player.
BOTTOM LINE: Punto is not being drafted in most leagues. When he does go, He is best served as a week-long waiver wire filler during the season, unless he develops better stolen base numbers.
PROS: The Indians let Aaron Boone walk away for Marte (not that they needed much motivation). Cleveland believes that Marte can upgrade their fielding. He posted a six-game stretch where he went .455, with five doubles, one home run and five RBI over a six-game period.
CONS: Marte was unimpressive in 50 games after a mid-season call-up last season, showing rookie struggles with a meager .287 on-base percentage. Despite his solid scouting reports, Marte has been passed from Atlanta to Boston to Cleveland. His sample size is still very small, but the Indians are going to rely heavily on all of their young stars, and Marte will be pressured to help get Cleveland back into the playoff hunt.
BOTTOM LINE: Marte has a ton of potential, but some wonder how well he'll do this year hitting at the bottom of the lineup. He is being taken only as a last-round flier in mixed leagues, the middle of the 25th round, on average.
PROS: With Aubrey Huff moved on and the unknown commodity that is Japanese import Akinori Iwamura, 28, who the team signed to a three-year contract in December, Upton could see significant time at third this season. Upton possesses all the physical tools and athleticism to be an intriguing late-round fantasy prospect. Upton is also a threat on the base paths, as he stole 11 bases in just 50 games in 2006.
CONS: Despite his physical gifts, Upton's inconsistency and defensive deficiencies have plagued him thus far in his career. Upton had 33 errors in 106 games at Triple-A Durham before being called up to the major leagues. Upton also is a candidate to be moved to the outfield, as the Devil Rays are unsure where to play him. Not helping matters for Upton is the fact he plays in the unfriendly confines of Tropicana Field, not considered a hitters' ballpark.
BOTTOM LINE: Upton will likely be had in late 22nd round of most drafts, which could be a bargain should he see consistent playing time.
PROS: Izturis eventually emerged as the team's starting third baseman and leadoff hitter last season and proved to be a solid fantasy contributor due to his versatility - can also play some shortstop and second base - and consistency. Izturis also adds the ability to steal bases, as he finished last season with 14 steals in 104 games in addition to his .293 batting average, 103 hits and 64 runs scored. With third baseman Chone Figgins (finger) out a month, he will platoon with Robb Quinlan as the starting third baseman.
CONS: Izturis battled a nagging hamstring last season which forced him to miss time. Also, he doesn't play in one of the American League's most hitter-friendly parks in Angel Stadium. Izturis will have to battle for playing time, especially with the arrival of free-agent acquisition Shea Hillenbrand in the offseason, as Hillenbrand can start at both first and third base.
BOTTOM LINE: Izturis will likely be drafted on average somewhere around the 26th round, which is good value for a player who was a starter by last season's end. Angels manager Mike Scioscia has shown, however, that he is not afraid to shift players around the field, which may leave Izturis without a fixed position in 2007.
PROS: Iwamura will become the sixth Japanese position player to suit up in the major leagues. Iwamura hit more than 30 dingers in each of his last three seasons in Japan (44 in 2004, followed by 30 in 2005, and 32 last season). The Devil Rays signed him to a three-year, $7.7 million pact, and he will be the starting third baseman come opening day. His place on an emerging offensive team could ease his transition into the majors.
CONS: Will Iwamura be another Hideki Matsui or another Kazuo Matsui? His numbers in Japan would suggest closer to the former. Even though the risk is larger with Japanese pitchers, there's no guarantee that Japanese players can make the transition. Plus, B.J. Upton has been waiting for years for his chance to grab the starting spot, and he has showcased his offensive potential in his brief tours in the majors.
BOTTOM LINE: Iwamura is not being drafted in most drafts. His statistics in Japan make him worthy of a final-round flier in mixed leagues.
PROS: Quinlan signed a two-year deal with the team in the offseason, avoiding arbitration. The 29-year-old enjoyed a breakout campaign of sorts in 2006, which saw him hit .321 with nine home runs, 32 RBI, 75 hits, 11 doubles along with a .835 OPS and in only 86 games. Has the versatility to play the outfield as well as first and third base, and could see some time as a designated hitter, so Quinlan should see his share of at-bats. With third baseman Chone Figgins (finger) out a month, he will platoon with Maicer Izturis as the starting third baseman.
CONS: He has no fixed position and is likely a reserve more than an everyday player. Quinlan's suspect play defensively could also affect his playing time.
BOTTOM LINE: Quinlan will not be drafted in most leagues, primarily due to his limited at-bats.
PROS: Cirillo enters his first season in Minnesota after signing a one-year deal as a free agent in the offseason. He remains a productive hitter at age 37 after finishing the 2006 campaign with a .319 average. Cirillo has the ability to play multiple positions, as he started at all four infield positions for Milwaukee last season.
CONS: While the Twins think Cirillo can help out offensively, there are no guarantees he will start the season as the everyday third baseman, as Nick Punto is likely to challenge for the starting spot. Cirillo has not served as an everyday player since 2002. A platoon scenario could eventually develop at third base for the Twins in 2007.
BOTTOM LINE: Cirillo will likely go undrafted; however, he could be considered a free-agent pickup during the season should he win the starting job at third base.
PROS: Gomez returns in 2007 after signing a one-year contract in the offseason. Gomez ended 2006 on a tear, which included a career-high, 18-game hitting streak in September, when he hit an American League-high .437 average. Gomez does have the versatility to play every position in the infield. He hit .341 in 55 games last season.
CONS: With Melvin Mora entrenched as the starter and Aubrey Huff signing a three-year contract to join the Orioles in the offseason, Gomez's time at third figures to be sporadic. Gomez, 35, is nothing more than a backup at the major league level.
BOTTOM LINE: Gomez will likely not be selected in most drafts, which is to be expected for a player who will serve as a utility infielder in 2007.
PROS: Acquired in the Milton Bradley deal last offseason, Perez signed a one-year, $500,000 contract with Oakland in the offseason, avoiding arbitration. Perez has the ability to play multiple positions within the infield including shortstop. Perez has shown some ability as a threat on the base paths, as he stole 11 bases in 98 games for the Dodgers in 2005.
CONS: With Eric Chavez entrenched as the everyday third basemen, Perez will be relegated to no more than reserve status. Also has shown a tendency to strike out often (44 strikeouts in 57 games last season) while not displaying much power at the plate (one home run and eight RBI in 2006). Perez also battled an assortment of injuries during the last campaign.
BOTTOM LINE: Perez is not a candidate to be selected come draft day and will likely be a fantasy non-factor in 2007.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous publications, and recognized as a finalist in FSWA's awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he's on The Reality Check with Glenn Clark every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. He hits the airwaves every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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