In 2010 only three third basemen hit 30 or more home runs and six totaled 100 or more RBI’s. This might seem like a power outage at the hot corner, but several were nearer to the 30 HR plateau than you might realize and even more will reach that mark in 2011. Injuries and inconsistency plagued many hitters at the position last year so it is only natural to assume things will be better in the coming season.
We saw Pablo Sandoval fall drastically off the pace that gave him 25 homers, 90 RBI’s and a .330 average in 2009 to become possibly the biggest disappointment in fantasy baseball. Aramis Ramirez, who is perhaps the most consistent power producing National League third baseman of this decade, watched his average fall more than 40 points off his career mark which caused his production to take a dive as well, all because of injuries that lingered throughout the season. We have to expect that 2011 won’t be as bad to these two sluggers as 2010 was and a return to elite production is inevitable. That isn’t the only reason to believe that 2011 will be favorable to third basemen across baseball. The position is turning into a young man’s game. Yes, we see two of the the best hitters at the position nearing the twilights of their careers, but nine of the top fifteen 3B’s are 28 years old or younger and are beginning to reach their prime.
Close to making the cut
This is a list of the top 10 third basemen, but first I want to touch on a few young hitters who have potential to make the top 10 in the future:
In 347 at bats last season, young Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez hit 16 home runs and drove in 64. He is only 24 years old and possesses serious pop in his bat. If the Pirates ever climb out of the hole they’re in, it will be mostly because of this man.
One of these years Colorado Rockies 3B, Ian Stewart is going to put everything together and produce like he should. He has no reason for his lack of production except for injuries. I mean, he hits in a lineup with Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitski and plays half of his games at Coors Field. He should be headed for perennial 100+ RBI seasons.
Kansas City Royals slugger Mike Moustakas is on the pathway to stardom. Service time could be a problem for him in 2011, but beyond this season he should be a solid fixture at Kansas City’s hot corner for years to come. Between AA and AAA in 2010 he swatted 36 homers, drove in 124 RBIs and hit .322.
The third baseman top 10 list
My top 10 list of third basemen is meant for the 2011 fantasy season. I am only taking into consideration the projections and expectations for this coming year of fantasy baseball.
1. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays- He is projected to be one of fantasy’s top players period, let alone third baseman. His power dropped a bit last season from 33 home runs to 22, but that isn’t expected again. His average has improved each year he has been in the major leagues and he added 15 steals last season. He is the best five category threat in the 3B player pool this year.
2. David Wright, New York Mets- His power numbers have gone down since he’s had to play at the spacious Citi Field but he has rebounded well from his awful 2009 performance. The strikeouts are piling up and may keep this career .300 hitter from reaching that mark again, but his other numbers, including steals, which haven’t dropped below 15 in his career, are elite for the position.
3. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees- Although his 2010 numbers were sub par for A-rod and his 2011 projections reflect that, he will be better than people anticipate. I once read a column that said never judge a veteran on his most recent season, but by the one before that. In 2009 Rodriguez hit 30 home runs, totaled 100 RBIs and hit .282 with 14 steals. All of that came in an injury shortened season and the effects of that injury showed in 2010 as well. Most don’t, but I’m expecting a return to double digit steals and 30+ home runs once again.
4. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals- At age 26 in an injury shortened season, Zimmerman hit .307 with 25 bombs and 85 RBIs. The season before that was .292, 33 and 106. The average from 2010 will group together with his counting numbers from 2009 and he will post one impressive line. All he needs now are 10-12 steals and he will be considered an elite fantasy talent.
5. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays- 54 Homers and 124 RBIs are pretty hard to argue with, but it is equally difficult to count on them happening again in 2011. In September 2009 he hit 8 homers and tallied 18 RBIs along with a .260 average. Had he made those changes earlier in the season he may have had the same success he enjoyed a year later. I’m not expecting 54 bombs again, but I don’t see why he can’t touch anywhere between 35-40 with a decent average. He plays in a hitters park and a very talented young lineup. Finishing at no. 9 on ESPN’s 2010 player rater, he was the saving grace for many fantasy lineups last season and he very well could be again.
6. Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs- I’m going with my gut on this one, I only believe in him bouncing back because of his previous consistency. His 162 game averages are 31 HRs and 109 RBIs with a .282 career batting average. What he doesn’t provide is stolen bases, but his power production is up there with the best in the game. Since he has been a regular in the major leagues he’s been within the top 10 third baseman in home runs every year and only missed the top 5 twice (both in injury shortened seasons). He might have started horribly in 2010, but he ended on a great note. From July 1 on he swatted the sixth-most home runs in baseball to go along with the eight most RBIs and ninth best slugging percentage. He gives every reason to believe in him, and none to doubt him.
7. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers- He has always been a consistently decent hitter except for those two contract years (2004 and 2010) where he hit the cover off the ball. He will be somewhere between his Seattle Mariners years, where he was confined in Safeco Field, and his final year in Dodger blue, where he set career highs in every major category. All that to say is that the Ballpark in Arlington and the Rangers’ lineup will help him duplicate what he did in 2010 with Boston, except for the average. He has never been much of an average hitter, but 25 homers with 95-100 RBIs is doable.
8. Michael Young, Texas Rangers (for now)- Trade or no trade, Young is the reason Texas went to the World Series last year. He’s beloved by all of Texas and is still the greatest Ranger hitter of all time. There honestly isn’t a statistical way to show how consistent this guy is other than to look at all of his numbers across the board and see how good he is. He has reached 20+ HRs each of the last two years and in four of the last seven. He has hit .300 or better in six of the last eight years and has recorded 170+ hits in each of the last eight years including five consecutive 200+ hit seasons. No matter where he has played on the field or where he has hit in the lineup, he has always preformed exceptionally well. Don’t think for one second that the questions surrounding his future with Texas will impact his performance on the field.
9. Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves- I usually don’t like to include contact hitters in my rankings, but Prado proved useful in too many ways last season not to notice. He’s had consistent playing time in three straight years and has hit .320, .307 and .307 in them. In his only full MLB season he smacked 15 homers and drove in 66 runs. In 2011 he’ll push for higher totals in both of those as well as increase his hits to more than 200 and his average closer to .320 again. He doesn’t offer steals, but at 27 years of age he will improve in enough areas that you won’t miss the speed.
10. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants- Apparently he has slimmed down some and is ready to play baseball again. In 2009 he broke onto the fantasy scene with 25 homers, 90 RBIs and a .330 batting average. He has hit at every level he has played at and now has the help of the presence of Buster Posey and Brandon Belt (sometime in 2011), not to mention his thinner waistline. At 24 he might take a year or two until he reaches the promised land of 30+ HRs and 100+ RBIs, but for now we’ll settle for the 20+ HRs and 90+ RBIs and .290 average that he is more than capable of providing.