The Hot Corner is one of the most integral parts in building a fantasy baseball team. Often, the best player in the entire league resides at third base and some of the hottest prospects over the past five years have manned the hot corner, including two-time All Star David Wright and 2007 – 2008 back-to-back Rookie of the Year Award winners, Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria.
If you pass on selecting one of the two third basemen flying off of draft boards in the first five picks of most drafts, let’s take a look at who not to reach for, and where some real late value lies at the hot corner in 2009.
Jorge Cantu – Marlins
What if I told you that you could draft a player in the 12th round that batted .277, belted 29 HR a season ago, drove in 95 runs, scored 92, and added 6 stolen bases for good measure? This looks to be the case with Florida Marlins third baseman Jorge Cantu. Drafters may be gun shy and seem to be passing off 2008 as a fluke year for Cantu, but don’t forget this is a guy who hit 28 dingers and 117 RBI with the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2005. Change 2005 to 2004 and you’ve got Aubrey Huff, who also found his stroke again in ’08, and is being taken five whole rounds ahead of Cantu. Jorge’s power production was consistent throughout 2008, with no outlying months affecting his overall output. The bottom line is this guy was as good a value as there was in 2008, and somehow he’s looking like he could be a tremendous value pick yet again in 2009. If you’re going to wait to draft a man for the hot corner, you will be hard pressed to find better upside coming off as strong a season as late in the draft as you will Cantu.
Troy Glaus – Cardinals
So you missed out on Cantu in the 12th – slim pickings from here on out, right? Wrong. For a guy who has earned a reputation as injury prone, Troy Glaus has failed to reach 500 AB in only three of the last ten seasons, and has played 150 games in three of the last four seasons (okay, he played 149 in ’05, but I’m counting it). In those seasons where Glaus has surpassed the 500 AB mark, his HR totals are: 29, 47, 41, 30, 37, 38, and 27 a year ago. Glaus also added a .270 AVG, 99 RBI, and 69 R in 2008. Here’s the good news for you – if you wish to acquire Troy’s services in 2009, you probably won’t have to spend a Top 200 pick on him – no, that’s not a typo. Glaus is normally being drafted after Carlos Guillen, Mark Reynolds, and everybody’s favorite utility man, Ty Wigginton. He’s barely going ahead of Hank Blalock and Casey Blake. The only 3B getting less respect than Glaus is 35 year old Mike Lowell, who happens to be another candidate to outplay his draft position. The bottom line on Glaus comes down to his health. If he’s healthy, he’s going to dance around or surpass 30 HR, a byproduct of an underrated Cardinals lineup that features the game’s most dangerous hitter in Albert Pujols and ’08 breakout Ryan Ludwick.
Garrett Atkins – Rockies
Colorado’s Garrett Atkins has been a favorite among many fantasy players since his breakout season in 2006. Keen owners who paid attention to his tremendous ’04 and ’05 minor and major league contributions were rewarded handsomely for taking a flier on Atkins that year. However, Garrett has seen his production slip in each of the past two seasons in almost every major statistic. Surpassing 600 AB in each season, Atkins’ batting average has gone from .329 to .301 to .286 a season ago. In the same span, his OBP (.409 -> .367 -> .328) and slugging (.556 -> .486 -> .452) have fallen drastically. From a direct fantasy standpoint, Atkins’ counting stats have also dropped. His 117 Runs in ’06 tower over his ’07 and ’08 contributions of 83 and 86 respectively; and his RBI totals have slipped from 120 to 111 to 99 over that same span. With an expected ’09 production of HR in the low-20s, R in the mid-80s, and RBI in the mid-90s, Garrett Atkins does not justify the fifth round pick he’s currently costing owners, especially with former teammate Matt Holliday now residing in Oakland. I think Atkins’ downward trend in all fantasy scoring categories continues in 2009, and he’s far from the sixth most valuable third baseman this season, which is where he’s being drafted.
Chipper Jones – Braves
Before you gang up on a Mets fan and brush him off as a Larry Hater, hear me out. It’s common knowledge that Chipper has not played in more than 137 games since 2003, and that he is bound to land on the DL on more than one occasion. Recently owners have found that planning around those injuries, taking Chipper’s contributions when healthy and filling in when not have led to strong total outputs from the hot corner. I do not disagree with said strategy, both in this instance and in general. Here’s my beef: Chipper is being taken as early as the third round in some drafts, and generally in the late fourth to early fifth. I got him last season at pick 69, which I think would be a great place to get him this year. The problem here is that for a nice portion of 2008, Jones was flirting with .400, and finished with a .364 AVG (on the heels of a .388 BABIP). That’s a sexy number, enticing people to grab him an entire round or more ahead of a season ago when he’s still a big injury risk. Also, it cannot be stressed how frequently Chipper is out of the lineup for an unexplained reason on a particular day relative to other players. He’s basically a headache as the season drags on. To counteract this, you must keep a bench position with a 3B eligible player available during Chipper’s DL stints, the length of which were not always clear last season. This can come at a significant cost to the rest of your team.
Considering that David Ortiz, while a health question mark in his own right, is being drafted only one or two spots ahead of Chipper, with Top 5 Overall upside, and just four third basemen are being taken before Chipper is, I cannot recommend taking him at the cost of a fifth round pick in 2009.
So there you have it, the 2009 Edition of 2 Up, 2 Down – Third Basemen. There are plenty of other booms and busts to be found at the hot corner this season; figuring out which is which is the fun part.
We’re not quite finished yet! Hang around, because 2 Up, 2 Down – Shortstop Edition is on deck!
Brendan Horton has been a Cafe regular and writer since 2005. The Mets have broken his heart more times than any woman could ever dream of doing. You can catch up with Brendan in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bigh0rt.
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