02/09/11 12:00 PM EST
Fantasy draft tiers: Third base
Star power headlines top-heavy hot-corner crop
By Matt Chaprales / MLB.com
Traditionally the deepest infield position besides first base, the hot corner offers a healthy share of mixed-league-caliber talent. It has also become increasingly top-heavy over the last few years.
With that in mind, owners will want to keep track of where the drop off in talent begins and make a move for a third baseman before it becomes too late.
Longoria did nothing last year to dispel the notion that he's the new gold standard at third base, but Wright's resurgence was the biggest news at the position in 2010. By showing he could adapt to Citi Field's spacious dimensions, the 28-year-old Mets superstar has returned to first-round status alongside his Rays counterpart.
For the first time in more than a decade, Rodriguez is projecting as something other than a universal Top 5 pick. That he's currently expected to go at some point in the mid-to-late-second-round is more a reflection of the time he's missed over the last three seasons (an average of 29 games) than his ability to keep raking in his mid-30s. Zimmerman is an ideal "flex" candidate for owners at the turn between rounds one and two.
The third-base position's top-heavy nature becomes immediately evident in this tier, as there's too much uncertainty surrounding each of these players to warrant anything higher than a fourth-round pick in standard mixed leagues. Beltre is capable of solid production but isn't an elite bat. Bautista had averaged 15 home runs over the previous four seasons before last year's explosion. Prado doesn't post typical power numbers for a corner infielder, and Alvarez has yet to experience the grind of a 162-game slate.
There's some intrigue among this tier of diverse talent. McGehee is an up-and-coming masher who has the benefit of hitting behind one of the game's premier 1-2 punches in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Ramirez holds significantly higher value in head-to-head formats because of his injury history. Owners who got burned by Sandoval last year could try to score him on the cheap this time around and reap the rewards of a potential bounceback campaign.
Owners who miss the early run on third basemen should probably focus their attention elsewhere during the middle parts of their drafts, as all of the players in this tier project to be on the board into the double-digit rounds. Reynolds is the obvious outlier, if only because his value increases significantly in leagues that don't count strikeouts. Young may be 34, but he was born to hit and has shown few signs of decline. Getting out of Cleveland was a good move for Peralta, who could make a run at 90 RBIs in his first full season with the Tigers.
It's a clash of youth and experience in this tier, which is headlined by a handful of elder statesmen in Polanco, Rolen and Jones. It's the pair of sophomores, though, who carry some sleeper potential. Both Johnson and Valencia submitted memorable rookie campaigns, batting over .300 while displaying some pop. For those owners looking to add a utility bat, Infante and Uribe each have eligibility at multiple infield positions.
Because most owners will have already drafted one or two players with third base eligibility, locating any possible holes on a roster and adjusting accordingly is important at this stage. Owners looking to add a bit of thunder should consider Encarnacion or Kouzmanoff. Those who want to infuse their squad with some youth can target Morel or Moustakas, a former first-round pick who cranked 36 taters in the Minors last year. Cantu and Lopez are both versatile veterans who can provide infield depth.
Trying to find a diamond in the rough is the name of the game at this point. Dominguez is still raw at the plate, but his glove is Major League-ready and he could make a late-season impact.
Depending on the number of teams in a league and roster sizes, the guys on this list could range from bench players to potential waiver wire pickups.
Matt Chaprales is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.