Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
      
Fantasy Football Today
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Gameday Inactives
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Red Zone Stats
Teams
Schedules
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Teams
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

Reality Check: Early look at third base

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Third base has long been one of the powerhouse positions in Fantasy -- not quite as deep as first base or the outfield, but perfectly capable of filling a utility spot or two in standard 12-team leagues.

Check out our Fantasy Baseball podcast!
Stay a step ahead of your competition in 2014 by checking out our popular Fantasy Baseball Today podcasts. Adam Aizer, Scott White and Al Melchior will entertain you and help you dominate all season.
Latest episode | Subscribe!

But looking at how it stacks up to begin 2014, I don't know that it's any better than, say, second base.

In fact, you could argue it's worse. Many of the players who helped sustain the position this year won't qualify there next year, including Edwin Encarnacion, Hanley Ramirez, Jedd Gyorko, Anthony Rendon and Emilio Bonifacio. And none is a safe bet to regain eligibility in the foreseeable future.

Holding back the position is the fact so many of its up-and-comers have stalled at the major-league level, performing well enough to keep getting looks but not well enough to satisfy their Fantasy owners. "Potential" keeps players like Brett Lawrie, Will Middlebrooks, Mike Moustakas and Nolan Arenado in the top 20, but the longer it goes unrealized, the less it seems worthy of the investment.

You'll still find your mainstays at third base, with Matt Carpenter and Josh Donaldson joining the ranks this year, but at an increasingly top-heavy position, chances are not everyone in a 12-team league will like who they have there to begin the season.

Top 10 third basemen for 2014:
1. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers
2. David Wright, 3B, Mets
3. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers
4. Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B, Cardinals
5. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
6. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals
7. Martin Prado, 2B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks
8. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Athletics
9. Manny Machado, 3B, Orioles
10. Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners

See what I mean? We're not even to 12 yet, and already I see one player I wouldn't really miss on Draft Day. Seager is fine and all, having hit 20-plus homers in back-to-back seasons, but he's the definition of middle-tier, having more or less maxed out his potential as a one-category contributor on a bad offensive club. His walks and doubles give him a bit of a boost in points leagues, but until the offense around improves enough to up his run and RBI totals, he's more of a fallback option than a player to target in Fantasy.

Typically in leagues where each team starts just one player around the infield, maybe one or two teams will have to settle for a fallback option at a particular position. Here, three do -- and that's in the unlikely event no one drafts Carpenter or Prado to play second base. Yup, chances are you'll have to dig even deeper.

The drop-off for me is actually right after Donaldson at No. 8. Machado is a terrific speculative pick as a 21-year-old with a sparkling pedigree, but he'll have to do more than he's done in 2012 to justify his ranking. After a terrific start to the season, his shortcomings have become all too apparent in the second half, leading to a .236 batting average and .641 OPS. Targeting him on the same level as Longoria or Zimmerman assumes he'll take the next step forward in his development, upping his power and (hopefully) improving his plate discipline. His gruesome knee injury Monday only lengthened those odds.

Of course, you could argue he's no riskier than Donaldson, whose MVP-caliber production seemingly came out of nowhere this year, but considering he was just as productive over the final six weeks of 2012, batting .290 with an .844 OPS in 176 at-bats, I'm confident the breakthrough is legitimate. To me, he's sort of another Zimmerman, though I still give Zimmerman the edge since he obviously has more of a track record backing up his production. I just wish he'd be steadier about it. In back-to-back years now, he's needed a late-season power surge to bring his numbers up where they belong.

As for the top of the position, we have no reason to debate Cabrera. He'll be the first player drafted in most leagues. Wright is just as much of a lock at No. 2. He remains the position's only true power-speed threat and has returned to being a reliable .300 hitter since the Mets moved in the fences at Citi Field in 2012. The rest of that top tier gets a little dicey, though. Beltre is as productive as any of them, but he turns 35 in April. Eventually, his age his age will catch up to him, if it's not already happening with his poor September. Remember how Paul Konerko finished last season?

I got into a lengthy back-and-forth with a certain Twitter follower insisting I rank Longoria ahead of Carpenter. I get that he has the higher ceiling, but after three straight seasons of unfulfilled expectations, I can no longer assume the best with him. The law of averages says Carpenter will regress a bit, but even at 85 percent production, he'd be averaging 2.97 Head-to-Head points per game this season. Longoria is averaging 2.87.

Of course, how you rank those two and Beltre is mostly a matter of preference. I've believed in Carpenter since before the start of this season, and I value his versatility. Technically speaking, I might actually prefer him to Beltre, but I can't bring myself to move him into the second round, where I currently project Beltre to go.

Then again, maybe I'd take Beltre knowing Carpenter's doppelganger will be available three or four rounds later. After inexplicably hitting in the .240s for much of the first half, Prado has averaged 3.54 Head-to-Head points per game in the second. Carpenter is at 3.50 points per game for the season.

Next 10 third basemen for 2014:
11. Xander Bogaerts, 3B, Red Sox
12. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates
13. Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays
14. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers
15. Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants
16. Chase Headley, 3B, Padres
17. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox
18. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals
19. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies
20. Chris Johnson, 3B, Braves

Because he spent most of his short stint in the majors at third base, Bogaerts will be eligible there rather than shortstop to begin 2014. I was disappointed to hear it at first, having already determined to include him in my top 10 at shortstop, but as shallow as third base has turned out to be, his ranking there has just as much shock value.

If he wasn't actually in line to take over at shortstop for the Red Sox next season and gain eligibility at the position within the first week, I might not be so enamored with him. But the anticipated eligibility at arguably the two weakest positions on the infield should factor into his value. The talent I don't doubt for a minute. We haven't seen much of him in brief glimpses in September, but he hit at every level of the minors (which is something Machado can't claim) and is perhaps even more polished than Hanley Ramirez was when he delivered a Rookie of the Year performance for the Marlins in 2006.

A stud shortstop is the rarest commodity in Fantasy, so the chance to get one in the middle rounds is worth passing up Alvarez, who has seemingly topped out as an all-or-nothing type at age 26, and Aramis Ramirez, who might never again play 130 games at age 35.

It's also worth passing up Lawrie, who happens to be my favorite of the stalled up-and-comers. He makes consistent contact, if nothing else, and though he hasn't set the world on fire since returning from a sprained ankle in mid-July, he has outperformed Alvarez in terms of Head-to-Head points per game. Plus, at age 23, he's still closing in on his ceiling.

Ultimately, what separates him from Middlebrooks and Moustakas is that he's shown the most at the youngest age. Middlebrooks has had his moments, but his poor plate discipline might limit him to being a poor man's Alvarez. Moustakas' low strikeout rate is about all he can hang his hat on.

Neither would compel me to pass up 2013 disappointments Sandoval and Headley, though Headley's strong September is the only thing setting him apart. Sandoval might strike some as undervalued here, but the stark contrast between his good and bad seasons makes a second straight bad season sort of a deal-breaker. His all-too-frequent weight problems make him the perfect candidate for a premature decline and certainly haven't helped him stay on the field. Still, the upside is a little easier to see for him than for a player who has yet to deliver at the major-league level.

Cody Asche isn't too far behind Arenado, another of the wait-are-you-waiting-for crop of third basemen, but he doesn't have quite the same pedigree. Maybe if the Diamondbacks open up a spot for Matt Davidson, I could see him elbowing his way into that group, but judging by his high strikeout rate in the minors, I expect him to have some growing pains as a rookie.

Todd Frazier is notable omission, seeing as he's currently a top-15 third baseman, but entering his age-28 season, he's already maxed out his potential. Frankly, I aim for more than his .250-ish batting average and 20 homers. Alex Rodriguez, as well as he's performed since returning from injury, would rank about 17th on this list if not for what we all know awaits him this offseason.

Among the prospects in the discussion, Miguel Sano is the most obvious. He's the premier power hitter in the minors right now, sort of like Giancarlo Stanton in the months leading up to his promotion, and though I could see him arriving sooner than later if he makes an impression in spring training, it's far from assured for a 20-year-old who has yet to master Double-A. Doesn't mean you can't take a late-round flier on him, of course, but for the sake of the rankings, I'll go the more conservative route. Maikel Franco put up monster numbers in 2013, climbing all the way to Double-A, but with Asche getting the first crack in Philadelphia, the 21-year-old will have to wait his turn. Garin Cecchini, a high-contact on-base machine in sort of the Kevin Youkilis mold, could factor for the Red Sox if Middlebrooks falters.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Robbie Ross earns win Wednesday vs. A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:48 am ET) Rangers pitcher Robbie Ross picked up a win Wednesday, striking out one in 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his team's 6-1 victory over the A's.

Ross (3-6) was one of three pitchers to appear in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday, and after the Rangers scored six runs on three A's relievers in the top of the ninth, Ross finished off the win with a clean bottom half of the final inning. He owns a 6.39 ERA and 49:29 K:BB ratio in 74 2/3 innings.


J.P. Arencibia slugs 10th home run in win vs. A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:46 am ET) Rangers designated hitter J.P. Arencibia went 1 for 4 with a three-run home run in his team's 6-1 victory over the A's Wednesday.

After the Rangers evened the score at 1-1 in the ninth inning, Arencibia put his team up with a big blast over the left field fence. He has a modest four-game hitting streak with two home runs during that stretch. Arencibia has hit .173/.234/.367 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI in 196 at-bats.


Sean Doolittle blows save, takes loss Wednesday vs. Rangers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:46 am ET) Athletics closer Sean Doolittle blew a save opportunity Wednesday and was stuck with the loss in his team's 6-1 defeat against the Rangers.

Doolittle (1-4) was tasked with protecting a 1-0 lead but surrendered a game-tying double before the Rangers broke things open with a three-run home run. The closer finished with five earned runs on three hits and two walks in just one-third of an inning. Doolittle owns a 2.97 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 83:7 K:BB ratio in 57 2/3 innings.


Jeff Samardzija strikes out 10 in gem vs. Rangers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Athletics pitcher Jeff Samardzija didn't factor into the decision Wednesday despite giving up just four hits in eight scoreless innings while striking out 10 and walking none in his team's 6-1 defeat against the Rangers.

Samardzija matched his season high for strikeouts in the gem, and he's now delivered 15 innings of scoreless baseball over his last two starts. However, the bullpen blew his lead in the ninth inning to keep him at 6-12. Despite his record, he's been excellent this season, posting a 2.98 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 190:43 K:BB ratio in 205 2/3 innings. Samardzija is slated to face the Angels Monday.


Derek Holland allows one run in no-decision vs. A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Rangers pitcher Derek Holland didn't factor into the decision Wednesday, giving up one earned run on four hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings while striking out five in his team's 6-1 win over the A's.

Holland turned in his fourth straight strong start and actually saw his ERA rise despite the excellent line. The only run came on a single with two men on in the fifth inning, giving Holland four straight starts with one run or no runs since coming off the disabled list. He owns a 0.99 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 22:3 K:BB ratio in 27 1/3 innings. Hollard is scheduled to face the Astros Monday.


Mariners announce weekend rotation plans
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:33 am ET) The Mariners announced Wednesday that Taijuan Walker will draw the start in Friday's series opener against the Astros in Houston.

Walker hasn't made a start for the Mariners since late July, but he's managed to make three appearances out of the bullpen in September. He owns a 2.96 ERA and 21:15 K:BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings.

The announcement will move Chris Young back to Saturday and Hisashi Iwakuma to Sunday.


Eric Stults chased in fifth inning of loss vs. Phillies
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) Padres pitcher Eric Stults took a loss Wednesday, allowing four earned runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings while striking out two in his team's 5-2 defeat against the Phillies.

Stults (7-17) delivered four scoreless innings before running into trouble in the fifth, when the Phillies opened the inning with four singles to score two runs and then followed a sacrifice with a two-run double, which chased the starter from the game. It's the first time since June 8 Stults has failed to finish five innings. He owns a 4.59 ERA and 101:44 K:BB ratio in 162 2/3 innings. Stults is scheduled to face the Rockies Tuesday.


Cole Hamels strikes out nine in win vs. Padres
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels earned a win Wednesday, allowing one earned run on seven hits and one walk in seven innings while striking out nine in his team's 5-2 victory over the Padres.

Hamels (9-7) gave up just one run for the second straight start, and he's turned in 11 quality starts in 12 tries in the second half, with the only "off" day resulting in a five-inning, three-run win. He owns an excellent 2.47 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 187:57 K:BB ratio in 189 2/3 innings. Hamels is scheduled to face the Marlins Tuesday.


C.J. Cron swats 11th home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Angels first baseman C.J. Cron went 2 for 3 with a three-run home run in his team's 5-0 win over the Mariners Wednesday.

Cron's home run came at an opportune time, as the Mariners turned to the bullpen in the seventh inning only for the Angels first baseman to immediately smack a three-run blast to put the lead out of reach. He has hit .273/.301/.482 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 220 at-bats.


C.J. Wilson tosses seven one-hit innings in win Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:48 am ET) Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson earned a win Wednesday, allowing just one hit and three walks in seven scoreless innings while striking out seven in his team's 5-0 victory over the Mariners.

Wilson (13-9) retired the first 11 batters he faced Wednesday before issuing a walk, and his no-hitter came to an end with two outs in the fifth. It's his first time since May 17 getting through a start without giving up a run. Wilson owns a 4.42 ERA and 149:78 K:BB ratio in 169 innings. He's slated to face the A's Monday.


 
 
 
Rankings