What to Do About Third Base

by Eno Sarris // 

This past week has been a tough one for the third base position. Ryan Zimmerman underwent abdominal surgery and will be out up to another six weeks. Pablo Sandoval will miss at least that much time with a broken hamate bone. David Freese also broke his hand. Scott Rolen is having shoulder issues. Ian Stewart was sent down to the minor leagues. Pedro Alvarez is struggling with the whiff. If you have multiple teams, odds are you are looking for a third baseman in at least one league. We’ll break down some options here, tiered by league depth, so that you can sort through the mess.

Shallow Leagues
It’s hard to know exactly which players are available on your waiver wire, but chances are, if you’re in a ten-teamer, Chase Headley is out there for you. Ideally, you’d like to play him against righties and away from home – so if you can platoon him in this manner, go ahead. As a batter, Headley has made some strides. He’s showing the best walk rate of his career and his power is up from last year. He has a lifetime BABIP of .330, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a little luckier on balls in play despite owning a current .301 BABIP. By the end of the year, Headley should be hitting around .260 with double digit home runs and steals, so he’s a decent stop-gap player. Of course, if you are lucky enough to find Chipper Jones on your waiver, he’s a much better option. But Headley’s no bum. Finally, the best option is probably Jed Lowrie, who made his fifth start (eighth game) at the position on Tuesday night. If he’s available and eligible, he’s your man.

Standard Mixed Leagues
Edwin Encarnacion is doing everything he’s always done in terms of his plate discipline and hit trajectory stats, but the power hasn’t been there. It’s a little much to ask him to recover his power so soon after a wrist injury, but that might be what you are stuck with. If power is your sole goal, you may want to go with Ian Stewart, who is now back in the major leagues. In interviews he has practically demanded that he play every day. If the team allows him that – it’s not like Jose Lopez is a better option (with his 1 OPS+!), and Ty Wigginton is also a flawed player – he could go back to striking out a little less than a third of the time, which would probably result in an Encarnacion-ish .250 batting average with power. If every hit counts, Danny Valencia has had bad luck so far this season and should at least be able to hit .265 or so going forward.

AL- and NL- Only Leagues
In these leagues, you’re mostly just screwed. In my 11-team AL-only, the best waiver option is either Omar Vizquel or Matt Tolbert. I’d take Tolbert, mostly just because he’s playing often because of the current state of the Twins infield. If Andy LaRoche is available in your league, he’s been seeing more time for the Athletics and has been acquitting himself well. On the NL side, Mike Fontenot is getting more playing time at shortstop and, because of his position eligiblity, actually create some trade value for himself by stealing the starting shorstop role in San Francisco while your third baseman is out. That’s how bad Miguel Tejada has been this year. Over with the Reds, Daniel Descalso is probably the man taking over for Freese right now, but watch Allen Craig if he’s available, as he’s the best bat in this paragraph – but he’ll have to build up eligibility at the positon, most likely.

Third base is hurting right now, literally and figuratively. Hopefully some of these free agent options will help you survived until you get your third baseman back.

For more check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office 2011.

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