Fantasy Baseball Focus: National League third base

Editor’s Note: Fantasy Baseball Focus is a breakdown of each league, position by position. Each team receives a fantasy analysis on the starter, backup and future prospect if there is one. In case you’re wondering, is there a schedule? Why, yes! Thanks for asking. On the right hand side of the page (your other right), look for the Fantasy Baseball Focus headline. Jamie Shoemaker will analyze the National League, while Dan Kirby handles the American League. Good luck in your fantasy leagues!

Fantasy owners expect a better year from Hanley Ramirez in 2012. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Power-hitting third basemen used to be the norm, but in recent years the production has dwindled a bit. Third base has a nice mix of proven veterans and rookies to buy low on. Miami’s Hanley Ramirez will more than likely (if he doesn’t get traded) have at least one more shot to show the Marlins he still can be a threat. World Series hero David Freese is back and has fantasy owners salivating like rabid dogs.

Could this be the last year for the great switch-hitting Chipper Jones? Those who have been playing through the years knew drafting Jones was a for-sure pick. You can still draft him now, as long as you know what you will be getting. Solid play for around 130 games. But what if he goes out with a monster year? Which fantasy owners will take that risk? How about the decline of David Wright? Will anyone draft him and hope his numbers will go up just because the Mets altered the fences a bit or with hopes he will be traded to a team with a little more protection? All are valid questions as we dig into the third base crop.

For-sure pick – It means you’ll get consistency, nothing less, nothing more.
Sleeper – Underrated in drafts; can get in later rounds but might produce above-average stats.
Overrated – Might not produce at the hype he’s supposed to produce at.
Long-term value – Might not be the best bet for this year but excellent for keeper leagues.

Top-five third basemen

  1. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers — 2011 stats: .306/.361/.510 – 26 HR – 35 doubles – 93 RBI
  2. Pablo Sandoval, Giants — 2011 stats: .315/.357/.552 – 23 HR – 26 doubles – 70 RBI
  3. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins – 2011 stats: .243/.333/.379 – 10 HR – 20 SB – 16 doubles only 92 games
  4. David Freese, Cardinals — 2011 stats: .297/.350/.441 – 10 HR – 16 doubles – 55 RBI only 97 games
  5. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals — 2011 stats: .289/.355/.443 – 12 HR – 21 doubles – 49 RBI

Atlanta Braves — Chipper Jones

Starter: Chipper has been around a long time. He managed to gut out 455 at-bats last year, denying critics who said he can’t finish 100 games a year. While most players would take his season any day, he’s just not what fantasy owners expect out of him. If you are a realistic owner who expects realistic stats (while drafting him in a realistic position), then he’s a perfect fit on your team. If you’re one of those who draft him in the first five rounds and expect him to contribute 24/7 like a top-five round pick, then you’re going to have a frustrating season. He hit 18 home runs with 70 RBIs and managed 33 doubles last year while hitting a .275/.344/.470.

Miami Marlins — Hanley Ramirez

Starter: Hanley had a horrible year in 2011 and cut his career stats basically in half. It was a miserable year for him and fantasy owners. We can speculate here all we want on what went wrong, what bad habits he picked up, etc. But it’s not going to solve what problem he had. Most of us would like to forgive and forget. Some of us will not. Bottom line: It was the first blip in his career, so there’s no reason to think it will continue. I do, however, express patience with him if he struggles from the start. I’m sure all the distractions in the offseason and adjusting to third base will affect his start. I expect somewhere close to his season average by the time the season ends: .306/.380/.506 with 25 HR and 41 SB.

New York Mets — David Wright

Starter: Wright had an extremely disappointing year last season, and if you were like the Mets are now, you were quietly trying to trade him. Nobody likes the guy in the league who’s trading his big star because everyone is asking the questions: Do they have a secret deal going? Why is he giving up? Why is that *** trading him to the guy leading the league? All are valid questions, and you should get those. The Mets will catch the same backlash if they trade him, as well, and one rumor that won’t die is the Phillies rumors. Wright only appeared in 102 games last year, and if he can stay healthy, he should bounce back. I do expect a decrease in RBI opportunities as Jose Reyes is no longer hitting in front of him. Wright strikes out a lot, and he would only be a steal if you can get him past round three.

Philidelphia Phillies — Placido Polanco

Starter: Polanco, unfortunately, hits like a second baseman, but not even a top one. He’s nothing flashy, not much power, not much in RBIs but he doesn’t strikeout much either. He’s a Punch-and-Judy hitter, if you’ve ever heard that expression. He won’t help you and he won’t hurt you either.

Washington Nationals Ryan Zimmerman

Starter: Zimmerman had a season like Wright did, appearing in one less game and having similar stats except for average. Zimmerman hit .289/.355/.433 in a down year, which isn’t bad. He had multiple nagging injuries last year, and understandably, he has a lot of fantasy owners a little skeptical. His abdominal tear last year wasn’t your normal injury, and I look for him to rebound back to his 25 HR, 90 RBI days.

Chicago Cubs Ian Stewart

Starter: Stewart is going to be given a shot at third base, which doesn’t mean you should do the same. He only played 48 games last year and played them pretty bad. At his best, he’s a .250 hitter with 15-20 home runs. That’s about it.

Cincinnati Reds Scott Rolen

Starter: Rolen had an injury-plagued year last year and only saw action in 65 games. He is lucky to get more than 120 games in a year and likely competes with Chipper on games played. Only problem is, he won’t touch Chipper’s production.

Pittsburgh Pirates Pedro Alvarez

Starter: Those who think Jason Heyward‘s season was a huge disappointment to their fantasy leagues are extremely happy compared to those who drafted Alvarez in high hopes of a powerful year. Alvarez took a major step back in his sophomore season, batting a mere .191/.272/.289 with only four homers. Fantasy owners will still draft Alvarez next year in hopes of buying low on him, which is possible, but it’s just not reasonable to expect too much at this point. The Pirates have loaded up on infield-type guys who are sure to cut into Alvarez’s playing time. If he can stay healthy. For me, it’s a wait-and-see game.

David Freese's World Series heroics are still fresh in the minds of fantasy owners. (John Biever/Sports Illustrated)

St. Louis Cardinals — David Freese

Starter: If you were like most fantasy owners last year, you took note in the playoffs when Freese just absolutely went off. Many of you, in yearly leagues, already are marking him down as your top third basemen. The postseason did nothing but help the Freese’s confidence, and though he only played in 97 games last year, he’s going to have a tremendous amount of pressure on him since Albert Pujols is gone. In the 97 games last year, he batted .297/.350/.441 with 10 homers, 16 doubles and 55 RBIs. It’s not unrealistic to expect 25 homers and 100 RBIs this season.

Milwaukee Brewers Aramis Ramirez

Starter: Ramirez rebounded from a poor 2010 season in which he hit .241, to hit .306/.361/.510 while only striking out 69 times last year. Aramis also hammered out 35 doubles. He should see an increase in RBI opportunities with the Brewers this year as he knocked in 93 last year while hitting 26 home runs. Nothing much else you can say here, he’s a for-sure pick.

Houston Astros Chris Johnson

Starter: Johnson didn’t perform as expected last year, but most will attribute that to the evil sophomore slump. Johnson isn’t a good choice for drafting either, he doesn’t walk much (less than 20!) and has a low average/on-base percentage. Not sure he’s worth a spot even if he shows improvement.

Arizona Diamondbacks — Ryan Roberts

Starter: Roberts was handed the full-time job in Arizona and he did a nice job. He hit .249/.341/.427 with 19 HR and 65 RBI. He also provides some stats in the stolen bases category with 18 swipes, which is rare given that third base is a power position. There is talk that if Aaron Hill doesn’t producE. Roberts could move over to second, and the Dbacks will fill the position via trade. I expect a similar season with a higher batting average, probably around .260.

Colorado Rockies — Casey Blake

Starter: Blake signed a one-year contract with the Rockies this off-season that made him the starting third basemen. His stats have been steadily declining, which was one of the main reasons the Dodgers let him go. He’s not worth drafting.

Los Angeles Dodgers Juan Uribe

Starter: After a big year with the Giants in 2011, in which he hit 24 homers and 24 doubles, he took a massive step back in 2012 in his first year with the Dodgers. In 77 games, he hit .204/.264/.293 with four home runs and only 28 RBI. If that doesn’t scare you away, I don’t know what will.

San Diego Padres — Chase Headley

Starter: Headley played in only 113 games last year due to a broken finger, but it’s not like many fantasy owners suffered from it because, most likely, he wasn’t on your team. He’s a pretty weak-hitting third baseman, and you can expect his average to be in the .260s with warning-track power. He’ll hit more doubles than home runs. Those in leagues where strikeouts hurt you should stay away. He doesn’t do enough good.

San Francisco Giants — Pablo Sandoval

Starter: Sandoval righted his career in 2011 when he hit .315/.357/.552 with 23 home runs in only 117 games. Owners would have liked for him to miss the DL a little more, and if he could have stayed healthy, it would have been a career year for Sandoval. Injuries weren’t a problem in the past two years, so I don’t expect injuries to be  of concern. The greatest thing about Sandoval, he doesn’t strike out much. It wouldn’t be a stretch to expect the same numbers next year, if not more.

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