This is a big article, as it breaks down the top third basemen in fantasy, with commentary about who to draft and when. RotoExperts' own Brady Rysz digs deep into evaluation of the guys you want to target in your fantasy draft.
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In a series looking at the final fantasy rankings of 2008 and what they mean for 2009, RotoExperts' Brad Rysz examines the third base position.
Now that the World Series is over and the free agent frenzy has begun, it's time to take a look back at the 2008 season. Of course, since 2008 is history, we'll also keep one eye pointed toward next season. Which flops will flip back into fantasy respectability? Which 2008 breakout performer is likely to "Pronk" you in 2009?
The following rankings are based on final 2008 statistics with a standard 5 X 5 rotisserie scoring system in mind. Ranking could vary slightly according to your scoring system, but this should serve as a good framework. We could quibble about the rankings for hours, but remember, we're more worried about the future than what's already in the books.
In this second installment, we'll examine the third base position. Third basemen are expected to bring power and average to your fantasy squad, and 2008 was no different. The regulars did their thing, and a few young players staked their claim as players to target in the upcoming season. The table below shows the impressive power numbers available at the position.
2008 Final Fantasy Rankings: Third Base
Love 'em on chicks, hate 'em on my fantasy team
Ryan Zimmerman (3B, WAS) suffered from a shoulder injury early in the season and missed 56 games, leading to his worst statistical season of his three-year career. When he did play, Zimmerman wasn't very patient, and his .442 slugging percentage was a career low.
2009 Outlook: At 24, Zimmerman has plenty of baseball left in him, and the Nationals are committed to improving with Zimmerman as their cornerstone player. While the power may never come, he can be a Top 10 third baseman next year.
Chone Figgins (3B/2B/OF, LAA) played only 115 games and saw his average dip to .276 after he broke out in 2007, hitting .330. Figgins stole 34 bases and has now seen his base swipes decline for four consecutive seasons.
2009 Outlook: Figgins has been the topic of trade rumors for a few years now, but it seems that his versatility isn’t something the Angels are willing to give up. His multiple position eligibility and high steals make him a good option despite his propensity for injury.
Carlos Guillen (3B/1B, DET), like the Tigers, underperformed after an impressive 2007 season. After 21 home runs and 102 RBI last year, Guillen battled through an injury-plagued season to hit only 10 homers and 54 RBI.
2009 Outlook: Guillen's multi-position eligibility makes him an intriguing option in the first few rounds of drafts. The Tigers are expected to rebound, and Guillen should play a large part in that.
Alex Gordon (3B/1B, KC) had a lackluster rookie campaign and failed to take the next step his sophomore season. Gordon hit only .260 and clubbed 16 home runs. For a top prospect expected to bring power to the big leagues, Gordon has failed to live up to the hype for two years in a row.
2009 Outlook: Gordon may have suffered from unrealistic expectations, but his inability to drive in runs has been disappointing. Gordon may be one of those players who needs time to adjust to major league pitching, so don’t expect any major improvements next season.
Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B, SD) provided the offensively-challenged Padres with a consistent power source at the beginning of the season. However, Kouzmanoff tailed off at the end of the season and hit only .194 in September when fantasy owners needed him most. Kouzmanoff hit a respectable .292 on the road, but a lowly .226 at Petco Park.
2009 Outlook: Kouzmanoff was well on his way to being a “Breakout Three-Bagger,” but his brutal second half turned him into a bust. His 23 home runs and 83 RBI were career highs, so Kouzmanoff makes for a decent sleeper option.
Edwin Encarnacion (3B, CIN) had a career-high 26 home runs, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he wasn’t a bust. Despite the high home run total, Encarnacion only knocked in 68 runs and had one stolen base. Combine those numbers with a .251 average and 75 runs scored, and you have a one-tool player.
2009 Outlook: Encarnacion has had flashes of brilliance in the past, but it’s becoming clear that these numbers are what can be expected. Consider 25 homers and 85 RBI the ceiling for Encarnacion.
Pedro Feliz (3B, PHI) was expected to break out in the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, but instead hit only 14 homers and drove in 58 runs.
2009 Outlook: A career .252 hitter, Feliz shouldn’t be considered in any top third baseman discussions. A slight improvement should be expected, but don’t get greedy.
Andy Dufresne figured out a way to break out; so did these players
Evan Longoria (3B, TB) won the AL Rookie of the Year and hit 27 home runs in only 122 games. Longoria was on pace for 36 home runs and 113 RBI before a wrist injury kept him out a portion of the season.
2009 Outlook: The sky is clearly the limit for Longoria, and he should establish himself as a fantasy force for many years to come.
Aubrey Huff (3B/1B, BAL) had his best season since 2003 and hit 32 homers with 108 RBI. Toss in a .304 average to go along with 96 runs, and Huff was definitely a pleasant surprise.
2009 Outlook: Huff regained his power stroke and looks to be a solid mid-round option. A staple in the middle of the Orioles' order, Huff will have plenty of opportunities to drive in 100 runs again.
Melvin Mora (3B, BAL) had an absolutely scorching second half where he hit .376 and had 56 RBI, no doubt leading many teams to a fantasy championship. Mora finished the season with 23 home runs and tied a career high with 104 RBI.
2009 Outlook: Despite the en fuego second half, Mora finished with just a .285 average. At age 37, Mora is unlikely to repeat his 2008 numbers.
Mark Reynolds (3B, ARI) improved all of his numbers with the exception of average in 2008. His home run total went from 17 to 28, and his RBI from 62 to 97. He may be the new strikeout king, but Reynolds has some serious power.
2009 Outlook: The .239 average is concerning, but if you can overcome that hurdle, Reynolds makes for a solid option. He has the potential to increase his power numbers even more.
Jorge Cantu (3B/1B, FLA) combined a second chance with a dirty mustache to post his most productive season since 2005. Cantu hit a career-high 29 home runs and had 95 RBI playing 155 games.
2009 Outlook: Expected to hold down third base until Dallas McPherson (3B, FLA) was ready, Cantu wound up playing the entire season. With the departure of Mike Jacobs (1B, KC), Cantu has a starting gig locked up.
Ian Stewart (3B/2B, COL) played a variety of roles for the Rockies and filled in admirably while some of the Rockies' stars were injured. Stewart hit .432 in the month of July, but a paltry .139 in September.
2009 Outlook: While a starting position is not guaranteed, the Rockies will be doing everything they can to find Stewart some playing time. Stewart can hit 25 home runs if given the chance.
Dennis Green said it well: "They are who we thought they were."
David Wright (3B, NYM) overcame a slow start to finish with a career-high 34 home runs and 124 RBI. Wright’s only downfall was a drop to 15 stolen bases after stealing 34 in 2007.
2009 Outlook: Wright is a lock to be a Top Five pick and is arguably the top third base option.
Alex Rodriguez (3B, NYY) is as close to a sure thing as you can find in fantasy baseball. Rodriguez hit 35 home runs, his 11th straight season with 35 or more home runs.
2009 Outlook: Rodriguez and Wright are the top options at the position, and this won’t change. As the Yankees retool, Rodriguez will stay productive in the middle of the lineup.
Aramis Ramirez (3B, CHC) knocked in 111 RBI and a career-high 44 doubles. The only caveat is his complete lack of speed, but 30-home run potential is attractive to anybody.
2009 Outlook: With a strong offense in front of him, Ramirez should have another stellar season.
Chipper Jones (3B, ATL) had another productive, injury-filled season. Jones continues to combine elite stats with nagging injuries.
2009 Outlook: If you can deal with the injuries, Jones will reward you when he plays. The Braves are in rebuilding mode, but Jones continues to rake.
Garrett Atkins (3B/1B, COL) continues to hit for power and average. An injury to Todd Helton (1B, COL) forced Atkins to play first base, increasing his value.
2009 Outlook: Atkins should move back to third base and continue to manufacture underrated stats.
Casey Blake (3B/1B/OF, LAD) joined the Dodgers at the trade deadline and produced the all-around numbers that make him one of the most underrated players in the game. Blake hit 21 homers and knocked in 85 runs for the Dodgers and Indians.
2009 Outlook: Blake enters the offseason as a free agent and is primed to play a versatile role on whichever team he signs with. Typically taken late in drafts, Blake makes for a nice return on that investment.
Troy Glaus (3B, STL) hit 27 home runs and 99 RBI in his first season back in the National League. Glaus also hit a respectable .270 and cut back on his strikeout numbers.
2009 Outlook: Glaus should continue to be who we thought he was: a prodigious power hitter with limited peripheral numbers.
Adrian Beltre (3B, SEA) hit only .266 and failed to live up to his massive contract for the fourth year in a row.
2009 Outlook: Beltre is simply a 25-homer, 80-RBI, 10-steal player, and nothing more can be expected.
Other Third basemen to monitor for 2009
Ty Wigginton (3B/1B/2B/OF, HOU), Mike Lowell (3B, BOS), Scott Rolen (3B, TOR), Joe Crede (3B, CHW), Hank Blalock (3B/1B, TEX)