Good question. Let me preface this by saying that I really like Blalock. He's signed to be on my team through 2005, when he becomes a free agent in my league. But 3B is deep.
Consider the top 15 3B from last year in a traditional 5x5. Overall rankings in parentheses:
1 (6). Beltre
2 (12). Rodriguez
3 (20). Rolen
4 (24). Mora
5 (33). A. Ramirez
6 (35). Teixeira
7 (39). Cabrera
8 (51). Castilla
9 (55). Hank the Tank
10 (60). Guillen
11 (65). Huff
12 (86). Batista
13 (93). Lowell
14 (96). C. Blake
15 (116). Chavez
Wow. And to think last off-season some of us had to argue FOR the claim that 3B was really deep! Strictly based on end-of-year-value, the top 10 3B should have been taken by the end of the 5th round in a 12 team draft last year.
Teixeira, Cabrera and Guillen will no longer have 3B eligibility next year. Castilla is going to stink. Mora, well, I'm not fully confident about him yet, and realize he's pretty controversial around here. He's not going to be as bad as some think, nor is he going to be the 4th best 3B (or 24th best player) again next year. But he should be more than adequate.
The questions you have to ask is where you see Blalock in these rankings in 2005, and who you are likely to get as a replacement if you don't keep him. Here's how I roughly see things.
Beltre is going to come down. Rodriquez and Rolen maintain (though Rolen's HRs could drop a little). Mora drops off slightly. Ramirez, I don't know, but doubtful we'll see a lot better. Castilla - buh-bye! Chavez returns to form, could hit 40. Huff is strong. So you have the following clusters:
Chavez (puts up 2004 Ramirez #s)
tier 1a (higher risk than tier 1, potentially as good or better):
tier 2 (riskier/less potential than 1a):
Huff (could be 1a)
do not draft:
So, back to the questions.
1. Where do you put Blalock? I put him in 1a. Beltre has shown how frustrating young players can be, but also how talented some of them are. I believe Blalock has the potential to put up the kind of numbers we saw from Beltre this year. Will he do it next year? I doubt it. But I want him on my team when it happens. The advantage he has over pre-2004 Beltre is that Blalock won't kill you while you wait.
2. Who are you likely to get at 3B if you don't get Blalock? Will you be able to re-draft him? It's unlikely you'll get A Rod, Chavez, Rolen or Beltre. Is there another 3B you'd rather have in a keeper than Blalock? Not me.