The “hot corner” has always been a home run haven for fantasy baseball owners.
Fantasy owners expect power numbers out of their third basemen as much as Suze Orman viewers expect financial advice.
Home runs and runs batted in are the meat and potatoes third basemen provide. A high batting average and/or double-digit stolen bases are gravy.
There are plenty of 30-HR sluggers at the top of the list and 20-HR hitters sprinkled throughout the 30 third basemen listed, although this position is more top-heavy than second base because the fantasy values start getting mediocre after you get through the top 10.
Here are the top 30 third basemen in fantasy baseball heading into the 2010 campaign.
1. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
Now that his steroid troubles, playoff slumps, and hip problems are in his rearview mirror, A-Rod can concentrate on giving fantasy owners another 40 HR, 120 RBI season.
2. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
His upside is as huge as Miley Cyrus’, so Longoria could have a 35 HR, 115 RBI, 15 SB year as early as 2010.
3. Mark Reynolds, Arizona Diamondbacks
His strikeouts are scary ugly, and he has about as much chance of winning a batting title as Kofi Kingston has of winning the WWE title, but how can you argue with the 44 home runs and 24 stolen bases he pulled out of thin air in 2009?
4. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
He might not be Washington’s most valuable fantasy player for much longer once Stephen Strasburg gets called up, but Zimmerman is a bona fide stud who can only get better. Remember, he is only 25.
5. David Wright, New York Mets
Wright needs to lie down on a psychiatrist’s couch and get over his fear of hitting fly balls at the Mets’ new ballpark. He changed his offensive approach last year and went from an All-Star slugger to someone with Juan Pierre-type power numbers.
6. Chone Figgins, Seattle Mariners
To say Figgins is the fastest third baseman is like saying Smurfette is the prettiest Smurf—it’s obvious. He will steal and score as much as he can to earn his big-money contract.
7. Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs
You never know when he is going to land on the disabled list or go through an 0-for-20 super slump, but he has hit at least 26 homers and knocked in 92 runs in six of the last seven seasons.
8. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
“Kung-Fu Panda” won’t win you the on-base percentage category in your league with his one walk per month, but this free swinger will give you above-average power numbers that will make you laugh like Jack Black.
9. Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves
Chipper did not keep his fantasy owners chipper in 2009, when his batting average dipped 100 points and his OPS dropped over 200 points.
10. Michael Young, Texas Rangers
His fantasy value would be higher at second or short, and his career is slightly on the downswing, but Young remains valuable because he helps out in all of the major fantasy categories, especially batting average.
11. Ian Stewart, Colorado Rockies
Stewart has more thump in his bat than Kool and the Gang had in their songs, plus he can play at both second and third. But you have to wonder about his pitch selection, considering he only hit .221 in games at Coors Field last season.
12. Adrian Beltre, Boston Red Sox
Even the Green Monster cannot help Beltre belt 48 dingers like he did during his mysterious 2004 season. Fantasy owners will take 25 homers and 15 steals, though, and that could very well happen.
13. Jorge Cantu, Florida Marlins
His 45 home runs and 195 RBI over the past two years with Florida prove that Cantu can do.
14. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
Is Gordon going to be the Ryan Leaf of third basemen? This could be his last chance to show doubters he can still be an elite hitter and kicking off the season on the disabled list does not help matters.
15. Jhonny Peralta, Cleveland Indians
Peralta has averaged 18 homers and 78 RBI over the past five years, and while that is great for a shortstop, it isn’t anything special for a third baseman.
16. Casey Blake, Los Angeles Dodgers
Solid and steady, but not super or spectacular. Blake is good for 20 homers, 75 RBI, and a .275 batting average. But do not ask for more.
17. Brandon Inge, Detroit Tigers
Remember that Inge had 21 homers and 58 RBI at the All-Star break last year. The main reason he hit .186 with only a half-dozen homers after that point was because he was playing on a torn-up knee.
18. Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
Do not use Headley as a pillow and sleep on him. This kid is still one of San Diego’s brighter prospects, and he has 20-HR/20-SB potential.
19. Mark DeRosa, San Francisco Giants
The 35-year-old, multi-positional veteran will play all over the diamond for the offensively-challenged Giants, but he will still qualify at third in most fantasy leagues.
20. Casey McGehee, Milwaukee Brewers
McGehee was on the verge of a special season in 2009 until knee problems limited him to a couple games per week. It will be interesting to see what numbers he can put up if he can stay on the field for 500 at-bats.
21. Brandon Wood, Los Angeles Angels
He wallops Triple-A pitching like he is a future Hall of Famer, yet every time he gets a regular gig in the majors he lays a bigger egg than the Easter Bunny.
22. Scott Rolen, Cincinnati Reds
His power and speed have dropped from above-average to average, and his injury-prone body never allows him to play in more than 130 games anymore.
23. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
He has digressed to the point of almost becoming mentioned in the same breath as Andy Marte in terms of biggest busts at third base.
24. Kevin Kouzmanoff, Oakland Athletics
“Kouzy” can give you 20 homers and 80 runs batted in. The problem is no third baseman walks less and steals less than he does, which is why twice over the last three seasons he failed to score 60 runs.
25. Placido Polanco, Philadelphia Phillies
Double-P was always good for runs and batting average, something that should continue with him hitting in Philly’s AL-type lineup and at Citizens Bank Park.
26. Pedro Feliz, Houston Astros
Feliz has seven straight double-digit homer years to his credit and will be batting half the time at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.
27. David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals
Freese took a long time to reach the majors after spending several years in the minors, which is not a good sign.
28. Mark Teahen, Chicago White Sox
He doesn’t hit many homers, steal many bases, hit for a high average, or walk nearly as much as he strikes out. At least he is versatile.
29. Andy LaRoche, Pittsburgh Pirates
Not the fantasy helper brother Adam is. This LaRoche is probably good for 15 homers, tops.
30. Brendan Harris, Minnesota Twins
A slap hitter with no speed who should only be considered in 20-team AL-only leagues.
Next column: The designated hitter rankings.