You can't go wrong with David Wright.
Fly's busy for a bit, so I'm pinch-hitting for his fantasy baseball previews for the time being at least. Maybe I'm replacing him for good, who knows. You can find the other positions he previewed just to the right of this post(unless you're reading this in two months and I rearranged the layout of the site). Anyway, in this edition of the 2009 Fantasy MLB Position Preview, we look at third base...
1. David Wright, New York Mets. 2008 Stats: .308/.395/.534; 33 HR, 124 RBI, 115 R, 15 SB.
He's here thanks to A-Rod's injury(Did you hear about that? There's a rumor going around he did steroids too. ESPN will probably have something on it soon), but that doesn't take away from how damn good he is, and that he's sure to keep improving since he just turned 26 in December.
In the last four seasons, which are his only full seasons in the big leagues so far, he's hit at least 26 homers, driven in at least 100 runs, scored at least 96 runs, stolen at least 15 bases, and hit at least .302. His stolen bases totals dropped from 34 in 2007 to 15 in 2008, but that's still a lot of steals to get from a third baseman. He's in a loaded lineup and can only get better. If I have the third overall pick, I might just be taking him over his teammate Jose Reyes.
2. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays. 2008 Stats: .272/.343/.531; 27 HR, 85 RBI, 67 R, 7 SB.
The new David Wright. Power, solid speed for a third baseman, and will only improve as he just turned 23 in October. The one difference is Longoria's batting average is not anywhere near Wright's yet and may never be, but you'd have to assume that it will at least be better than his rookie season in '08. The way I see it is the worst case scenario(assuming he stays healthy) is his batting average remains in the .270 range, he hits 30 homers, and drives in 100 runs. That's still going to be a top 5-8 third baseman. However it's very possible he has a much better batting average, hits 35+ homers, has 110+ RBI, and reaches double-digits in steals. In that potent lineup, he can score 100 runs as well.
3. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees. 2008 Stats: .302/.392/.573; 35 HR, 103 RBI, 104 R, 18 SB.
He's in consideration for the top overall pick in fantasy baseball if not for hip surgery that will keep him on the bench for at least the first month of the season, maybe two months. If you really want A-Rod, you're still going to have to draft him in the first three rounds most likely. There's going to be some douche in your league that somehow hasn't heard about his surgery and considers taking him right away, simply because of his name and his stats.
Anyway, to snag A-Rod, you've gotta have a plan to draft another good third baseman to plug into the position while A-Rod sits on your bench until June possibly. You're also going to want that player to be eligible at another position so they won't be sitting on your bench when A-Rod comes back. The players that really come to mind here are Kevin Youkilis, Chris Davis, Aubrey Huff, and Garrett Atkins. They're all eligible at first base as well, and are all players worthy of starting at first base, or at worst a utility spot in your lineup.
Now you might be saying, "Well Clapp then I've got a hole at first base while I wait for A-Rod to comeback." No, you won't. First base is the easiest position to fill in fantasy baseball. There's going to be possible 30 homer, 100 RBI guys like Carlos Delgado and Paul Konerko lasting until about the end of the draft. Obviously you'd rather get better options, just saying it won't kill you, and you might have the best fantasy player out there in Alex Rodriguez for the last four months of the season.
I'd say Alex still hits 30+ homers, 90+ RBI, scores 90+ runs, steals 15 bags, and hits .300. Now there might be a couple guys that put up better total numbers, but he can carry your team unlike any of the other third baseman when he comes back. Tread water while he's out, dominate when he arrives.
4. Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs. 2008 Stats: .289/.380/.518; 27 HR, 111 RBI, 97 R, 2 SB.
Aramis is one of the most consistent players in the league. You know what you're getting with A-Ram, and that's something I love knowing as a fantasy owner. Sure there's a handful of third basemen that have the potential to outproduce him fantasy-wise, but when you can mark down around a .300 average, 30 homers, and 100 RBI, it's hard to pass up. I'm holding on to him in a keeper league for that very reason, over young players like Brian McCann and Joey Votto.
It's also possible Aramis' RBI production goes up this year with Milton Bradley hitting in front of him(for the 90 games or so MB plays anyway), who had a .436 on-base percentage last year. Soriano-Fukudome(he'll get on base at a good clip at least)-Lee-Bradley-Ramirez... he's going to be batting with guys on base a lot, and he thrives in RBI opportunities.
5. Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox. 2008 Stats: .312/.390/.569; 29 HR, 115 RBI, 91 R, 3 SB.
Many argue Youk, not his teammate Dustin Pedroia, should have been the 2008 AL MVP. He was remarkable. He surprised everybody with his power surge and rise in batting average in 2008. He'd been a solid hitter the previous two seasons, but his highest home run total had been 16 which came in '07, and his highest previous batting average in a season was .288, also in '07. His walk totals went down though as it seems he just decided to be more aggressive, yet still had a .390 on-base percentage(same as it was in '07).
I think his power numbers and batting average drop a little bit, but he'll still have a terrific season. For his 5x5 stats, I'll predict... .305 AVG, 90 R, 25 HR, 105 RBI, 3 SB. In leagues with on-base percentage as a category, move him up another spot, as he's gotten on base at a .385 clip for his career.
Late Round Sleeper- Ian Stewart. 2008 Stats: .259/.349/.455; 10 HR, 41 RBI, 33 R, 1 SB.
Right now, it sounds like he doesn't have a starting position. That's quite a shock to me as a resident of Colorado. The Rockies have talked this dude up more than any single prospect in the franchise's existence, and it's been going on for years. Ian Stewart, Ian Stewart, blah blah blah. Well he showed glimpses last year why everybody has been hyping him up so much, and that it's time to get 400+ at bats.
The team would be better off with Todd Helton retiring and moving Atkins to first base, while Stewart starts at third base. They tried him out at second base last year, but he looked extremely uncomfortable there. Then following the trade of Matt Holliday to the Athletics, there was talk Stewart would be the starting left fielder this year, but now it appears that's Seth Smith's job to lose.
He'll be just 24 years old when the season begins and struck out a whopping 94 times in 266 at bats last season, but they have to find a way to get him on the field everyday. If it happens, he's going to hit 20+ homers and be a great run producer. Don't draft him to be a starter at third base, but if he's around at the end of the draft, he'd be a great gamble to take. Additionally, if he's getting a lot of playing time, it's likely to come at multiple positions, and players that are eligible at more than one position are nice to have on your fantasy roster.
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