Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 15 3rd Basemen from This Point Forward

Jay Clemons@ATL_JayClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterJune 8, 2012

Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 15 3rd Basemen from This Point Forward

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    The following countdown touts my picks for the top 15 third basemen in fantasy—from this point forward.

    To clarify, this listing is not necessarily a celebration of those who posted stellar stats from April 4-June 7 or those who were prominently featured in the preseason rankings.

    It's simply a compilation of the best hot-corner assets moving forward. It's also a rundown of the 15 most appealing 3B-eligible hitters to pursue in trades for the stretch run.

    When originally crafting the list, I was shocked that neither Ryan Zimmerman nor Kevin Youkilis made the final cut.

    But in a season where the depth of third base runs almost 30 deep (and that's not even counting streak power hitters Pedro Alvarez and Brandon Inge), hard choices had to be made somewhere.

    Enjoy the show!

3rd Basemen: The Notable Omissions

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    To illustrate the admirable depth at third base in fantasy circles, here are some of the productive hot corner-eligible assets who didn't make the top 15.

    Obviously, all of the names below have the capacity to rise up and carry their respective fantasy teams in short bursts. The best example: David Freese mashed two homers and tallied six RBI for the Cardinals on June 7.

    That aside, it's simply not possible to shoehorn 30 players into 15 slots.

    Big-Name Omissions

    Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
    Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox (above)
    David Freese, Cardinals
    Aramis Ramirez, Brewers
    Michael Young, Rangers
    Chipper Jones, Braves
    Mark Reynolds, Orioles
    Placido Polanco, Phillies
    Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins (injured)
    Sean Rodriguez, Rays

    Up-And-Coming Omissions

    Kyle Seager, Mariners
    Mike Aviles, Red Sox
    Jed Lowrie, Astros
    Jordan Pacheco, Rockies
    Chris Johnson, Astros
    Daniel Murphy, Mets
    Chase Headley, Padres

15: Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox

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    2012 Stats: 6 HR, 22 RBI, 14 Runs, 2 Steals, .312 BA

    30-Day Stats: 3 HR, 13 RBI, 9 Runs, 1 Steal, .287 BA

    Skinny: Middlebrooks had a phenomenal start to his inaugural season in the major leagues, racking up four homers, 13 RBI and a .304 batting average in a 10-game stretch (May 2-13).

    As a result, the prodigious tear allowed Red Sox fans to dream of a starting lineup that stealthily featured Middlebrooks, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis at third base, designated hitter, outfield and first base, respectively.

    (Obviously, that vision will be altered once Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford come off the disabled list.)

    But Middlebrooks' big-league breakout goes deeper than a sterling 12-day run. Since May 24, the rookie boasts one homer and a .357 batting average.

14: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

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    2012 Stats: 9 HR, 23 RBI, 23 Runs, .294 BA

    30-Day Stats: 4 HR, 9 RBI, 8 Runs, .303 BA

    Skinny: Davis has been a little flat of late, notching just two hits in his last 18-at bats (as of June 8).

    But one bad week cannot detract from the solid numbers he's posted in four categories throughout the season, spurred on by a .355 on-base percentage.

    Think about it: If you were in Las Vegas three months ago, and had the option of betting a large sum of money toward, 'Who would have the higher OBP through June 8—Davis or Michael Young?' one would have picked against Young. (Not even a Davis family member.)

    And yet, Davis has done a wonderful job quietly living up to the fantasy expectations that were so high just three years ago, while playing a starring role on a first-place team.

13: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

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    2012 Stats: 9 HR, 27 RBI, 26 Runs, 1 Steal, .278 BA

    30-Day Stats: 5 HR, 12 RBI, 12 Runs, .238 BA

    Skinny: About two weeks ago, I started to openly wonder if Moustakas was hitting the pseudo-sophomore wall, an affliction that strikes young major leaguers who no longer qualify as rookies but are getting taxed by their first full season in the bigs nonetheless.

    After a strong April, where Moustakas batted .315 and had a sterling OBP of .375, things took a mild turn for the worse for most of May. But from May 29-June 4 (spanning six games), Moustakas took charge of the Royals offense once again, collecting eight hits (over 18 at-bats), two homers, five runs and eight RBI.

    As stated many times in this blog, Moustakas is on the verge of fantasy stardom, a rise to fame that will likely coincide with the Royals' ascension in the American League Central.

    Kansas City might have the best collection of 26-and-under talent in all of baseball (even with its pitching woes), and Moustakas may be the best of the bunch.

    Right now...and in the long run.

12: Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays

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    2012 Stats: 4 HR, 21 RBI, 27 Runs, 8 Steals, .281 BA

    30-Day Stats: 1 HR, 6 RBI, 13 Runs, 5 Steals, .287 BA

    Skinny: Lawrie's inclusion in this countdown completes the rarest of triple plays when covering fantasy baseball: Three 3B-eligibile hitters from a single MLB club headlining a top-15 who's who list.

    As strange as that sounds, all three Blue Jays (Lawrie, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista) deserve the all-star kudos.

    In Lawrie's case, he's a viable candidate for 14 homers, 74 RBI, 80 runs and 20 steals—but he certainly has to pick it up in the next few weeks.

    Since May 25, Lawrie has registered a hit in at least 10 games; and during that stretch, he has three multiple-hit games and two outings of at least three runs.

11: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

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    2012 Stats: 4 HR, 19 RBI, 15 Runs, 2 Steals, .329 BA

    Skinny: With a target-date return of July 1, it's hard to assign a worthy ranking for Longoria here.

    That's the power and ambivalence that comes with a .329 start to the season.

    Make no mistake, though. Assuming he returns to the Rays at full health around the All-Star break, Longoria (torn hamstring) should be no worse than the No. 6 third baseman from that point forward...with projections of 13 homers, 45 RBI and a .317 batting average from July to September.

    Bottom line: If you foresee a reasonable trade window for Longoria in the next two weeks, explore it immediately.

10: Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Stats: 5 HR, 15 RBI, 16 Runs, .316 BA

    Skinny: The key to assessing Sandoval's adjusted fantasy worth lies in the ballpark guesses of total games played.

    Assuming Sandoval (broken hand) misses approximately 35 games and returns sometime in the next week (mid-June), I would be fine with roughly 104 games by season's end.

    Extrapolating Sandoval's numbers to that assumption, he's in line for 21 HR, 62 RBI, 50 runs and a .312 batting average—solid estimates for a player who shouldn't lose any leg drive or hip power from this prolonged absence.

9: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 9 HR, 22 RBI, 30 Runs, 6 Steals, .275 BA

    30-Day Stats: 4 HR, 8 RBI, 13 Runs, 4 Steals, .280 BA

    Skinny: I haven't devoted much editorial space to A-Rod in the last two months; and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

    As aging superstars go (A-Rod turns 37 in July), he's doing quite well, posting solid numbers from a 15-day, 30-day and seasonal perspective, while maintaining (or even improving upon) his preseason standing among third basemen.

    Sure, Rodriguez (638 career homers) has fallen off the power paces of seasons past, leaving some to wonder if he'll have enough, ahem, juice, to catch Barry Bonds (762) and Hank Aaron (755) in the all-time home run chase.

    But I don't care about that. I'm only concerned with how A-Rod might finish in his position's top 10 rankings (four categories—minus batting average) by season's end.

8: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

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    2012 Stats: 17 HR, 43 RBI, 30 Runs, 6 Steals, .279 BA

    Skinny: The fantasy world let out a collective sigh of relief after hearing that Encarnacion's June 3 hand injury was not of the season-ending variety.

    The hit-by-pitch might have looked painful; but somehow, some way, Encarnacion (three homers, .333 batting since May 24) is slated to return to the Blue Jays' lineup on Friday (June 8), Toronto's first of 15 straight games of interleague play.

    It remains to be seen what position Encarnacion will play in National League parks (Atlanta, Milwaukee, Miami); but from a seasonal perspective, he seems like a good bet to recapture his fantasy mojo from April and May.

7: Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves

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    2012 Stats: 4 HR, 25 RBI, 37 Runs, 7 Steals, .324 BA

    30-Day Stats: 2 HR, 9 RBI, 19 Runs, 4 Steals, .375 BA

    Skinny: There's so much to love about Prado's production with the schizophrenic Braves.

    Yes, his home run and RBI marks have been passable, at best. But the 30-day tally for runs, steals, batting average, on-base percentage (.431), OPS (.998) and walk-to-strikeout ratio (11/10) more than compensates for the diluted power.

    Power aside, Prado is a reasonable candidate to post career-highs in runs (100), RBI (66) and batting average (.320); regarding steals, he's setting new personal records with each theft from this point forward.

    Need a quiet, two-positional stud for the stretch run? The line starts behind Prado...and the guy occupying the No. 5 slot.

6: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

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    2012 Stats: 10 HR, 36 RBI, 29 Runs, 1 Steal, .300 BA

    30-Day Stats: 4 HR, 19 RBI, 12 Runs, .284 BA

    Skinny: Beltre's production from April 4-June 8 doesn't obscure that of Alex Rodriguez, Martin Prado and Edwin Encarnacion, but I still like his chances of leading the foursome from this point forward.

    After all, if Beltre is going to match his per-season averages in homers (30) and RBI (103) from the last two years, he better get cracking!

    OK, so those power numbers might be a stretch for the 33-year-old Rangers star, but his per-season averages (2010-11) in runs (83), batting average (.308) and steals (1.5) are certainly within reach.

    It's one of the many perks from having a plum spot in baseball's most prolific lineup. Anything is possible.

5: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 12 HR, 31 RBI, 26 Runs, 4 Steals, .337 BA

    30-Day Stats: 8 HR, 19 RBI, 15 Runs, 3 Steals, .369 BA

    Skinny: From the opening bell, Trumbo has had a remarkable season for the Angels, so much that it would be a crime to rank him outside the top five.

    Among third basemen for May, Trumbo ranked in the top seven in homers (second), RBI (seventh) and batting average (third). Heck, the slugger even tallied three steals for the month!

    And for June, Trumbo already has a two-homer, four-hit, four-RBI game to his credit (June 5 vs. Seattle).

    Bottom line: While it's true that Trumbo only has 206 MLB games under his belt, there is no indication of a slump or mini-slump anytime soon.

    He's the perfect low-key, three-positional asset (3B/1B/OF) in fantasy.

4: Hanley Ramirez, Miami Marlins

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    2012 Stats: 11 HR, 37 RBI, 33 Runs, 10 Steals, .263 BA

    30-Day Stats: 5 HR, 16 RBI, 16 Runs, 4 Steals, .311 BA

    Skinny: The Marlins' 21-8 record in May (a franchise mark for victories) went deeper than Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Reyes, Omar Infante, Mark Buehrle, Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson.

    In that 31-day span, Ramirez (.364 OBP, .890 OPS) finally announced his authority as a top-20 hitting asset and one of the best dual-positional talents in fantasy (shortstop/third base).

    And from May 28-June 3, Ramirez went a step further by collecting 12 hits (in 24 at-bats), four homers, six RBI, six runs and one steal.

    These similarly stellar revivals conjured up brief recollections of his 2009 season—24 homers, 106 RBI, 101 runs, 27 steals, .342 batting.

    It was a time when Han-Ram and Albert Pujols were the best fantasy duo in baseball. Bar none.

3: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

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    2012 Stats: 15 HR, 40 RBI, 35 Runs, 3 Steals, .229 BA

    30-Day Stats: 10 HR, 25 RBI, 19 Runs, 1 Steal, .272 BA

    Skinny: There's a reason why Bautista crushed 97 homers and 227 RBI for the 2010 and '11 seasons (combined).

    There's a reason why Bautista was a consensus top-four pick in fantasy drafts; and there's reason why he has a solid walk-to-strikeout ratio (13/20), despite a paltry batting average of .229.

    Prolonged slump aside, all signs point to Bautista being a true fantasy force by season's end, an educated guess/gut feeling made more credible a few days ago, when he belted three homers and collected eight RBI from June 2-6.

    Verdict: With superb 30-day marks in OBP (.356), slugging (.602) and OPS (.958), it's just a matter of time before the batting average surges upward, too.

2: David Wright, New York Mets

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    2012 Stats: 7 HR, 33 RBI, 39 Runs, 6 Steals, .362 BA

    30-Day Stats: 4 HR, 16 RBI, 20 Runs, 3 Steals, .350 BA

    Skinny: From an April to June standpoint, Wright has probably been the best third baseman in baseball.

    With the Mets, Wright leads the club in runs, hits, doubles, triples, walks, steals, batting average, on-base percentage and OPS; and when compared to Miguel Cabrera, Wright has the edge in runs, doubles, batting average and walk-to-strikeout ratio.

    And keep in mind that Wright has only 196 official at-bats (through June 8). He's a master of efficiency.

    From this point forward, I don't see Wright significantly tapering off in any of the major or peripheral hitting categories. But he likely won't catch Miggy in the home-run and RBI departments.

    Therein lies the razor-thin differential between No. 1 and No. 2.

1: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Stats: 13 HR, 49 RBI, 34 Runs, 3 Steals, .323 BA

    30-Day Stats: 6 HR, 27 RBI, 18 Runs, 3 Steals, .373 BA

    Skinny: Miggy was my No. 1 fantasy asset heading into the season, a ranking that somehow failed to predict Josh Hamilton would rack up nine homers and 15 RBI in a six-day span (May 7-12).

    That aside, Cabrera has been great, but hardly dominant to this point, which suggests his own Hamilton-esque window of reckoning is on the horizon.

    Check out any at-bat from this season: Miggy never gets overwhelmed by pitchers...and seldom gets fooled on isolated pitches. And by all accounts, the offseason weight loss—aiding the transition to third base—hasn't affected his power at all.

    Bottom line: Even if it's the longest of long shots, it still wouldn't hurt to make a bold trade play for Miggy's services—as soon as humanly possible.