Conventional wisdom says that there should be plenty of depth at third base, but think again. Once you get past about 8-10 guys, the talent starts to take a pretty sharp nosedive. Wait too long on the 3B position, and you could be left praying for a bounce-back campaign from Pablo Sandoval or for an improbable repeat from Scott Rolen. If you have a chance to take Ryan Zimmerman or Alex Rodriguez early but feel it would be better to wait on a 3B and take someone at a “scarcer” position, I’m here to tell you to take them.
Welcome back to the Cafe’s annual “2 Up, 2 Down” series, where Cafe members highlight two players per position expected to outperform projected draft slot, as well as two players that should not be drafted at their typical rank.
Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
Owners had become custom to receiving at least 25 HRs, 100 RBIs and a .290 average or better from Ramirez heading into the 2009 season. Unfortunately he only played about half a season, which is great considering he hit 15 HRs, drove in 65 runners and hit .317 in just over 300 at-bats.
Things started off rocky for Ramirez in 2010, and at the halfway point of the season he had only six HRs, 23 RBIs and a .177 average in 209 at-bats due largely to a thumb injury. He was just fine in the second half, hitting 19 HRs and collecting 60 RBIs to go with a .293 average in only 256 at-bats.
If those second half-numbers translate over to 2011, he could provide the same fantasy value or better as the marquee names taken in the first two rounds. According to MDP, he’s barely cracking the top 100 on average, so potential drafters have plenty of room to take advantage of Ramirez’s upside at a discount. I’d expect a line close to what he delivered in 2008: 27 HRs, 111 RBIs and a .289 average.
Pablo Sandoval, Giants
Sandoval was a beast in 2009, hitting 25 HRs while finishing his first full Major League season with a .330 average. The sky appeared to be the limit for the Giants third baseman entering his age-23 season, but he struggled throughout the year, hitting just .268 and smashing only 13 homers.
While he posted equally mundane numbers in the first and second halves, he had enough hot streaks throughout the season to believe that the skill set that made Sandoval such a hot commodity heading into 2010 is still there somewhere.
It’s a gamble banking on Sandoval to bounce back in 2011, but at his current MDP of 165, it’s a risk teams can afford to take. With the potential to hit over .300 again, Sandoval certainly possesses more upside than a BA drain like Mark Reynolds, who is generally drafted about 40 picks earlier. Feel free to take the relatively small risk and hope Sandoval can enjoy a rebound season.
Adrian Beltre, Rangers
Playing for a big, multi-year deal in 2010, Beltre hit .321 with 28 HRs and 102 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox. He was rewarded by the Rangers to the tune of $80 million over five years.
Rewind to 2004, when Beltre, while playing for a big, multi-year deal, came out of nowhere to hit .334 with 48 HRs and 121 RBIs. The Mariners signed him to a five-year deal, and the third baseman gave them a .276 average and 26 HRs in his best season. In his last year in Seattle — which happened to be the year preceding his monster campaign with the Red Sox — Beltre had just eight HRs in 449 at-bats.
You know where I’m going with this. Beltre seems to turn things up a notch when a big pay day is on the horizon. Now that he’s in the first year of a new five-year deal, Beltre could ease up and return to the form of 2005-2009. He also may lose some at-bats to Michael Young, who will shift around the infield while primarily playing DH. Considering Beltre’s history, do you really feel comfortable using a top-50 pick on him? I sure wouldn’t.
Scott Rolen, Reds
Rolen was absolutely on fire in the first half of 2010, hitting .302 with 17 HRs through 265 at-bats. He couldn’t sustain his fantasy renaissance throughout the entire season, tallying just three HRs in 206 at-bats in the second half while hitting .262.
On the surface, Rolen looks like a .285 hitter with power, which is why he’s being drafted in the mid-to-late rounds of 2011 drafts. At 36 years old, he’s virtually certain to battle injury this season. Five hundred at-bats seems out of reach at this point in his career.
Unless he gets super hot at the beginning of the season again, Rolen could contribute mediocre-to-bad numbers across the board this year. I’d be much happier drafting guys like Chris Johnson and Chase Headley at a cheaper price.
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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