Wednesday, February 22, 2012

(Updated) 2012 Fantasy Baseball Preseason Rankings: Top 25 Third Basemen

After missing 20 games in 2010, Miami's Hanley Ramirez missed many more games (70) last year and was one of the biggest disappointments in all of fantasy baseball.

Not only did Ramirez miss almost half of the season, but he struggled when he was on the field. HanRam hit a career-low .243 and it was the first time since 2006 that he hit below .300. Several months into the season (June 20th), Ramirez was hitting only .200.

Now there is plenty of change in Miami.

The team is no longer called the Florida Marlins, Ozzie Guillen is the team's new manager and the addition of free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes means that Ramirez will shift to third.

Believed to not be thrilled about the move, Ramirez has recently said the right things about the transition.

I never said I’m not going to do it,” Ramirez said, per Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. “I’m just happy to be here, be back in the spring with my guys, my teammates, everybody’s happy. That’s what we need. We got to stay together through the year. We’re looking good. This is the best team I have been in six years with the Marlins.”

Although he's not initially eligible at third base, Ramirez will be eligible at both shortstop and third base by the middle of April.

Here are some notes on third basemen:

- Despite being walked 100-plus times in each of the past two seasons, Toronto's Jose Bautista has hit 97 home runs during that span and has led the majors in the statistic each season. In fact, there have been only four 40-homer seasons over the past two years and Bautista has two of them. Over the past two seasons, Bautista also has 100-plus runs, 100-plus RBIs and nine steals each season.

- Arizona's Ryan Roberts, who is eligible at second as well as third base, fell just shy of a 20-15 season. Roberts finished the season with 19 home runs and 18 stolen bases, both of which were career highs. Roberts also set career highs in runs scored (86) and runs batted in (65).

- Although he missed almost 30 games and hit a career-low .244, Tampa's Evan Longoria hit 31 home runs, only two shy of his career best set in 2009. Longoria finished last season much better than he started it. Over the past two months, he hit 17 home runs and drove in 46 runs in 55 games.

- Mets third baseman David Wright hit a career-low .255 last year and played his fewest games (102) since his rookie campaign. After five straight seasons hitting .300 or better, Wright has had back-to-back sub-.300 batting averages. Since the Mets moved to Citi Field three seasons ago, Wright has hit a total of only 55 home runs, which works out to one homer in every 27.5 at-bats. While the numbers are bad at Citi Field (32.4 at-bats per HR), they're not great on the road (24.2/HR) during that span either.

- San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval played in only 117 games last year, but he still managed to hit 23 homers, only two shy of the career high he set back in 2009, and drove in 70 runs. After the All-Star break, KungFu Panda hit .325 with 15 home runs and 41 runs batted in over 67 games. Not only is Sandoval eligible at third base, but he is first base eligible as well.

- With Baltimore's Mark Reynolds, you know exactly what you're getting. He's going to simultaneously help you (home runs) and hurt you (batting average). Since 2008, only four players have hit more home runs than Reynolds (141): Albert Pujols (163), Ryan Howard (157), Prince Fielder (150) and Mark Teixeira (144). However, no player has struck out more than Reynolds (834) during that span.

- In his 43 games last year, Toronto's Brett Lawrie gave fantasy owners a sample of what he can do -- hit for power and average and steal bases. The former first-round pick (2008) hit .293 with nine home runs, 25 runs batted in and seven steals.

- Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has not played more than 138 games in any of the past four seasons and played his fewest (99 games) last year since 1995. It was also the first time that A-Rod failed to reach 30 home runs or 100 runs batted in since 1995. Considering he turns 37 in July, it's risky to bank on Rodriguez staying healthy enough to reach 140 games for the first time since 2007.

Here are our top 25 third basemen for the 2012 season:

1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
2. Evan Longoria, Rays
3. David Wright, Mets
4. Adrian Beltre, Rangers
5. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
6. Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays
7. Pablo Sandoval, Giants
8. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
9. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
10. Michael Young, Rangers
11. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers
12. David Freese, Cardinals
13. Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks
14. Mark Reynolds, Orioles
15. Martin Prado, Braves
16. Mike Moustakas, Royals
17. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians
18. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
19. Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins
20. Chase Headley, Padres
21. Chipper Jones, Braves
22. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
23. Daniel Murphy, Mets
24. Danny Valencia, Twins
25. Placido Polanco, Phillies

Other Positions: C - 1B - 2B - 3B - SS - OF - SP - RP

To keep track of our updates, follow us on Twitter @EDSBaseball and/or LIKE us on Facebook.

(Updated) 2012 Fantasy Baseball Preseason Rankings: Top 25 Second Basemen

Last year, there were 12 players in the majors that had 20-20 seasons.

The vast majority of those 12 players were outfielders (10). But the other two were both second basemen: Ian Kinsler, who was one of four 30-30 guys, and Dustin Pedroia.

In addition to Kinsler and Pedroia, there were four other second basemen (or second base-eligible players) that had 15-15 seasons: Ben Zobrist, Danny Espinosa, Kelly Johnson and Ryan Roberts.

There were only 24 players that had 15-15 seasons in 2011, which means that one-quarter (six) of them were eligible at second base.

Plus Brandon Phillips, who had 18 homers and 14 steals, just missed the 15-15 club.

In other words, there are several solid options at second base that can provide fantasy owners with value after the elite ones at the top.

Here are some notes on second basemen:

- Speaking of elite second basemen, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano set career highs last year in runs scored (104), runs batted in (118) and stolen bases (eight). Cano is one of the most consistent hitters in baseball. Over the past three years, he has scored 100-plus runs, hit 25-plus home runs and batted .300-plus every year.

- In 2010, White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham started slow, but he hit much better after the All-Star Break (.310, six home runs and 27 runs batted in). Last year, however, he hit poorly all season and even worse after the break (.213, three homers and 19 runs batted in).

- For the second straight season, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley played in 115 games or less. In the previous five seasons (2005-2009), here were Utley's per-season averages in the five standard rotisserie categories: 110.6 runs scored, 29.2 home runs, 108.8 runs batted in, 15.4 stolen bases and .301 batting average. In other words, if he can stay healthy, which seems unlikely, there is plenty of upside from where he is currently being drafted.

- Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa is not going to help much in runs scored or runs batted in and he's going to hurt you in batting average (.236 last year). That said, Espinosa will help in home runs (21) and stolen bases (17). Espinosa was one of eight National League players to finish with 20-plus homers and 15-plus steals in 2011 and the other seven players were all outfielders.

- One player who fell just short of 20-15 was Arizona's Ryan Roberts, who is eligible at second as well as third base. Roberts finished the season with 19 home runs and 18 stolen bases, both of which were career highs. Roberts also set career highs in runs scored (86) and runs batted in (65).

- The biggest knock on Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler has been his ability to stay healthy. Last year, Kinsler missed only seven games and played in more than 130 games for only the second time in his six-year career. Not-so-coincidentally, Kinsler has had 30-30 seasons in both of those seasons. He finished with 32 home runs and 30 stolen bases and set a career high in runs scored (121).

- Similar to Kinsler, Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks has struggled to stay healthy. With the exception of 2010 (160 games), Weeks has played in 129 games or less every season. On a per-game basis, Weeks will really help in the counting statistics from the second base position, but the most pressing question will always be: How many games will he play?

- Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia started slow (.255 and .227 averages in April and May), but he finished strong from June to September. Pedroia hit over .300 in each of the other four months of the season including .411 in 26 games in July with eight home runs and 22 runs batted in. Pedroia set career highs in home runs (21), runs batted in (91) and stolen bases (26) and scored more than 100 runs for his third straight season last year.

- Not only is Michael Cuddyer eligible at second base, but as we noted in our first base rankings, he is eligible at first and outfield as well. In addition to offering fantasy owners positional flexibility, Cuddyer is moving to the friendlier confines of Coors Field this season. Although he played in only 139 games last year, Cuddyer set a career high in steals (11) and hit 20-plus homers for only the third time in his career.

Here are our top 25 second basemen for the 2012 season:

1. Robinson Cano, Yankees
2. Ian Kinsler, Rangers
3. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
4. Dan Uggla, Braves
5. Chase Utley, Phillies
6. Ben Zobrist, Rays
7. Brandon Phillips, Reds
8. Michael Young, Rangers
9. Rickie Weeks, Brewers
10. Dustin Ackley, Mariners
11. Howard Kendrick, Angels
12. Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
13. Jason Kipnis, Indians
14. Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks
15. Danny Espinosa, Nationals
16. Neil Walker, Pirates
17. Jemile Weeks, Athletics
18. Kelly Johnson, Blue Jays
19. Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
20. Gordon Beckham, White Sox
21. Daniel Murphy, Mets
22. Jose Altuve, Astros
23. Omar Infante, Marlins
24. Sean Rodriguez, Rays
25. Johnny Giavotella, Royals

Other Positions: C - 1B - 2B - 3B - SS - OF - SP - RP

To keep track of our updates, follow us on Twitter @EDSBaseball and/or LIKE us on Facebook.