Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fantasy Baseball: 2011 Third Basemen Rankings

Third base isn't exceptionally deep, but a couple of solid options (Boston's Kevin Youkilis and Seattle's Chone Figgins) will earn eligibility at the position in April.

Here are our top 15 fantasy third basemen for 2011:

1. Evan Longoria, Rays: Everywhere you look, Longoria will likely be the top-ranked fantasy third baseman and you'll likely need a top-five to have the chance to draft him. As the third-overall pick in the 2006 draft, Longoria is still only 25 years old with plenty of upside. In other words, a season of .294-100-33-113-15, which are his career highs, (or better) is certainly possible in 2011. (And hopefully there won't be any more stolen AK-47 stories this year.)

2. David Wright, Mets: After a disappointing 2009 season, Wright was shy of a 30-20 season by exactly one home run and one stolen base. By hitting a career-low .283 last year, Wright ended a streak of five consecutive seasons of hitting .300-plus. In other words, if things fall into place, Wright has as good of a chance as any third basemen to finish with a line of .300-100-30-100-20.

3. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: Zimmerman missed 20 games last season, but he set career highs in home runs (33), runs scored (110) and runs batted in (106) while playing 157 games in 2009. Although he won't steal many bases, he will provide a boost in all of the other four categories.

4. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: A year older? Who isn't, right? Granted, A-Rod is nowhere near the all-around fantasy stud he once was and he hasn't played more than 138 games in any of the past three seasons. That said, Rodriguez has posted 30-plus homers and 100-plus runs batted in every season since 1998 including in the past three seasons. In my opinion, he's sliding to a point where he could out to be a bargain in most drafts.

5. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: Although he's not yet eligible at third base, he will be at some point in April depending on your league's eligibility requirements. Here's what I wrote about Youkilis in our first base rankings, where he's No. 7: "Over the past five seasons, Youkilis has not played more than 147 games in any year. Provided he stays healthy for a full season, Youkilis could/should put up around or more than 100 runs, 100 runs batted in, 30 homers while hitting .300."

6. Adrian Beltre, Rangers: Beltre, who turns 32 years old in April, is now entering his 14th season in the big leagues. Only twice in his 13 years has he hit over .300 with 28-plus home runs and 100-plus runs batted in. Coincidentally, both of those seasons happened before getting a big contract. While he has the skills to do it a third time in his career in 2011, I'd like to see back-to-back strong seasons from Beltre before I'm a buyer at these prices.

7. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: Bautista led all of baseball in home runs last year with 54, which is nearly equal to his home run output from 2004 to 2009 (59 home runs total). While a repeat performance is highly unlikely, there's a good chance that he can follow up last year's league-leading performance with 35-40 homers in 2011.

8. Casey McGehee, Brewers: Only two other third basemen -- Longoria and A-Rod -- have more runs batted in than McGehee (149) since July 1, 2010. While he won't steal bases, like most third basemen won't, McGehee will help in the other four statistical categories in standard 5x5 categories at a very reasonable cost.

9. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: Last year, Ramirez hit only .241, which was lowest batting average since 2002. From 2004 to 2009, Ramirez hit .289 or higher every season including .300-plus in four out of six seasons. Although Ramirez only played 124 games last year, he drove in 100-plus runs in all five seasons in which he has played 125-plus games since 2003. Provided he can stay healthy, a bounce-back season seems reasonable.

10. Pablo Sandoval, Giants: Sandoval broke out in 2009 -- hitting .330 with 25 home runs and 90 runs batted in. Although he had a disappointing season in 2010, Sandoval is only 24 years old, lost a substantial amount of weight in the off-season and shortened his swing. Based on his average draft position of 127 from Mock Draft Central, Sandoval seems to offer more reward than risk this season.

11. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates: There's no doubt that Alvarez has tremendous upside and potential. Although Alvarez struck out in 34.3 percent of his major league at bats last year, he combined for 29 home runs and 117 runs batted in between Triple-A and the big leagues.

12. Martin Prado, Braves: Prado, who played mostly second base and some third base last year, is moving to left field for the Braves and soon will be eligible at three fantasy positions. In a career-high 140 games last season, Prado hit .307 and 15 home runs with 100 runs scored.

13. Michael Young, Rangers: Young, who is a career .300 hitter, hit 20 home runs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 2004 and 2005 seasons. While he may or may not hit 20-plus homers in three straight seasons for the first time in his career, Young is one of the more consistent hitters in the game.

14. Mark Reynolds, Orioles: The good news? Reynolds is the only player in baseball to hit 100-plus home runs and steal 40-plus bases during the past three seasons. The bad news? He's hit .234 during that span while striking out an average of 213 times per season.

15. Ian Stewart, Rockies: Stewart isn't going to win a batting title any time soon and missed about a quarter of the 2010 season. But with good health, Stewart has the power to hit 25-30 home runs in an offense that features two of baseball's elite hitters: Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.

Feel free to send fantasy baseball questions to me via Twitter at @EDSBaseball or post them in our fantasy baseball forum.

See our other fantasy rankings for infielders: C - 1B - 2B - SS