How many viable, trustworthy third base options are there? The number is certainly growing, with both Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez shifting to the position for 2012.
However, in deeper formats, there are limited options you can have full faith in.
That’s not to say that there aren’t risky options that are worth drafting (Kevin Youkilis or Alex Rodriguez come to mind), but it never hurts to look at a few late-round players that could produce like starters, does it?
With that said, let’s look at who my favorite late-round third basemen are for the upcoming year.
Mat Gamel, Milwaukee Brewers
The power potential is there, as long as he can make consistent contact. While he has been bad in the major leagues (34.5 percent), he was significantly better in the minor leagues (19.1 percent).
I wouldn’t expect him to reach his 2011 Triple-A mark (15.4 percent), but it’s a good number to focus on. The Pacific Coast League does inflate power, but you still have to hit the ball to get the job done.
If he can continue to make contact, then the value is going to be there.
I am going to talk about him in much more detail in the coming days, but he has the power potential that we all want to see. PCL or not, he still hit 28 HR (and 29 doubles) in 493 AB at Triple-A in 2011.
Seeing him hit 15-20 HR is a very realistic expectation and, when coupled with a solid average (thanks to the power and good contact rate, which led to a .304 minor league average in 2,835 AB), it makes him my top late-round 3B to target.
Keep in mind that he is going to be playing first base this season, so 2012 may be the last time you can utilize him at third base. If you are looking for a long-term solution in keeper leagues, he’s not your man, but for 2012 only he’s a good bet to produce.
Casey McGehee, Pittsburgh Pirates
Whether you believed his 2010 (.285, 23 HR, 104 RBI) or not, you couldn’t have expected him to fall as completely flat as he did in 2011.
In 546 AB, he hit just .223 with 13 HR and 67 RBI. Maybe a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered, though improving on a .249 BABIP and 8.6 percent HR/FB would probably happen regardless of where he was playing.
Like Gamel, he could lose third base eligibility this season. However, he has a much better chance of getting enough time there, should Pedro Alvarez struggle (with Garrett Jones also vying for playing time).
Opening the year as the Pirates 1B, I would anticipate numbers in between 2010 and 2011. That would mean .270 with 18 HR and 80 RBI, assuming he gets everyday AB.
From a late-round option, would anyone complain about that?
Chone Figgins, Seattle Mariners
We have talked about him a little bit in the past, but it certainly is worth repeating. His 2011 season was an absolute mess, hitting .188 with 11 SB in 288 AB.
However, don’t overlook his .215 BABIP, the first time he posted a BABIP below .300 since 2002 (when he had just 12 AB).
Are we really supposed to believe that he has simply lost it? That he simply cannot produce anymore? He’s not going to be an elite option, by any stretch, but I just don’t entirely believe the struggles.
He should open the year atop the Mariners' lineup, playing either 3B or OF (in place of Franklin Gutierrez), meaning he is going to get the chance to run. His low for a season that he has had at least 442 AB is 34 SB. Five times, he has stolen at least 40 bases.
He’s not going to score a lot of runs in Seattle, but with the potential to steal 35-plus bases, he definitely has to be considered a commodity.
In 2011, there was no 3B to steal at least 25 bases (Eduardo Nunez led all players with 22). It just goes to show you the type of advantage he could conceivably bring with him.
Other Third Baseman Worth Considering
Danny Valencia, Minnesota Twins
He is not my favorite option by any stretch, but he showed some power growth in 2011 (15 HR in 564 AB), something that has continued this spring (.300, 2 HR, 5 RBI in 20 AB). While he hit .246 last season, he also suffered from a .275 BABIP.
He makes good contact (16.8-percent strikeout rate in ’11) and, with the potential to improve on his average, he could prove to be worth the late-round flier.
Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians
At least he has the upside. He struggled in the majors (.255, 7 HR in 212 AB) and hit just 51 HR over 1,472 AB in the minor leagues.
However, he’s just 23 years old and was a first-round draft pick in 2008. The potential is there for him to continue to develop.
Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: