Third Basemen: Top 5 Targets by Howard Bender February 23, 2011 Remember the days when third base used to be one of the deepest positions and loaded with talent? Well, not anymore and not for the last few seasons either. It’s at the point where you need to start seriously considering a significant investment in one of the top 5 guys out there or be doomed to sit with mediocrity at a position once known for it’s outstanding power production. Reigning Champion: Evan Longoria Surprisingly, not much has been made of Longoria’s power regression, or atleast, not enough to knock him down from the top spot in the rankings. And that’s because, despite going from 33 to 22 HR for the season, Longoria’s overall numbers were still tremendous and indicate that the power will be back. His walk rate was right about the same while he reduced his K% for a second straight year. His batting average jumped, as did his OBP and while his slugging percentage dipped, he was still right on target with a very consistent .376 wOBA. The level of consistency he is showing for a 25 year old is huge, especially for those that own him in keeper leagues. He’s got plenty more in store for you. I’m not entirely sure how his RBI totals will look going from Jason Bartlett and Carl Crawford to Johnny Damon and Ben Zobrist (with a splash of John Jaso) as the table setters, but if everyone can maintain their solid OBP totals, then Longo will have no problem driving them in. Expect him to go in the first round and put up first round production. The title reign will continue. Number One Contender: David Wright No question that an argument can be made to move Wright up to the number one ranking. After an absolutely atrocious (by Wright’s standards) 2009, the Mets third sacker rebounded with a .283-29-103 batting line with 19 SB in a year where virtually his entire team was on the disabled list. His ISO went back to the normal .220 and while his average and OBP dropped some, his slugging percentage went up and his wOBA stayed virtually the same. I think the spike in K% and decrease in walk rate can easily be attributed to him trying to do too much. He’s not going to draw many walks if he’s constantly swinging to rally his team and, of course, he’s going to fish a little more in his attempts. I think we’ll see atleast the same, if not better so long as the hitters around him in the lineup stay healthy. Most ADP rankings have him going in the latter half of the first round but no later than the early second, so if you want him, you’re going to have to be aggressive. Deserving of a Title Shot: Ryan Zimmerman Zimmerman heads up our second tier, but still put up overall numbers similar to those of Longoria for basic 5×5 leagues. However, most will point to his rather high .334 BABIP when discussing his .307/.388/.510 increase vs the reduction in power totals and ISO which is why they still rank him lower. While Longo should see an increase in totals, I think Zimmerman’s numbers are right about where they’ll remain each year. Nothing wrong with consistency though, right? It should be interesting to see where his RBI totals finish up with Nyjer Morgan and Ian Desmond setting the table, but his protection goes from Adam Dunn to Jayson Werth, which, in my opinion, is a little less intimidating to opposing pitchers. He’s usually a late second/early to mid third rounder, so you might be able to build somewhere else first and still come away with a top option at third. Down Goes Frazier!: Alex Rodriguez Since I am also covering the “Third Basemen Fallers” in an article tomorrow, I will keep this section relatively brief. We all see the handwriting on the wall and three straight seasons of decline are pushing A-Rod back down to earth at a rapid rate. Injuries are up, numbers are down, but still….even in a decline, the guy puts up totals of which most third basemen and their fantasy owners can only dream. He’s still a top target, as evidenced by the fact that he’s still going in the first round of some drafts (early second at the latest), but you just don’t want to be the one left holding the bag when the bottom falls out. He Beat Joe Louis’ Ass: Kevin Youkilis Hopefully you got the Coming to America reference. If not, then please invest the two minutes to go YouTube the barbershop scene. Always good for a laugh. In any event, Youkilis rounds out the top five for us even though, in most leagues, he won’t qualify at the position until roughly the second week of the season. It all depends on your league’s eligibility requirements. But once he does qualify….booo-yah! You’ve got an on-base machine with 25-30 HR power sitting in one of the most potent lineups in baseball. Don’t worry about his totals from last season — the thumb injury wiped away nearly two months from his year. Concentrate on the .307/.411/.564 with a .419 wOBA and an ISO well north of .200. Like Zimmerman, he’s a late second/early third round pick by most ADP rankings, so you don’t have to rush it, but I wouldn’t wait for too long.