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.
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.
By Erik Hahmann
The third base position is one of the more top-heavy in fantasy baseball this season. Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, and Evan Longoria lead the charge with B-Ranks (Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary fantasy ranking of all players) of 3rd, 14th, and 16th respectively. Those three should be off the board early, and shouldn’t be available after the mid-second round in standard 12-team mixed leagues.
Seeing these players disappear quickly might make you rush to select a third basemen before you need to. Have no fear, here are a few third basemen who could present great value deeper into your draft.
Adrian Beltre: The move to Boston and Fenway Park should be a boon for Beltre. Last season, playing 81 games in cavernous Safeco Field – a pitcher-friendly park that’s especially tough on right-handed power hitters – Beltre posted a home/road OPS split of .646/.717. Compare that with Fenway, where the only Red Sox player to have a lower OPS at home than on the road was Victor Martinez (minimum 200 AB).
Joining a Red Sox offense that ranked in the top three in runs scored and OPS last season should also provide Beltre with ample opportunities to pad his offensive numbers. The 2009 season was the worst of Beltre’s career at the plate; a shoulder injury sapped his power, caused him to miss 30 games and hit just eight homers all season. If fully healthy, playing in Fenway and flanked by multiple good hitters, Beltre could easily approach his 2005-2008 numbers, when he averaged 25 home runs and 83 RBI a year.
Ian Stewart: At just 24, Ian Stewart enjoyed a breakout year in his first full season, hitting 25 homers and driving in 70 runs in just 425 ABs. However, things could, and probably should, have been much better. Stewart’s batting average on balls in play (which is like regular batting average, only stripping strikeouts from the equation) was just .270 – 35 points below his career average. Stewart’s fantasy value is centered entirely around his power numbers, as you can see in his spider chart below. His BABIP should rebound, making him a cheap power source who won’t kill your batting average as he ascends to full-time duty.
For more information on Adrian Beltre, Ian Stewart, Troy Glaus and hundreds of other players check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy tools.