You would think that a player with over 7,500 plate appearances would be fairly easy to evaluate, but Adrian Beltre may be one of the more difficult players to project going into 2011. This is a guy who has hit as high as .334 and as low .240, has hit as many as 48 home runs and as few as 19 and has driven in everywhere from 60 runs to double that number. To say he has been inconsistent would be an understatement.
That history of inconsistency should make fantasy owners very cautious about where Beltre should be drafted. However, because he is coming off the second best year of his career (.321, 28 HR, 102 RBI, 84 R), it is safe to assume that most fantasy sites will have Beltre fairly high in their rankings, and he will be drafted accordingly.
There is no question that the ballpark in Texas will be in Beltre’s favor and the lineup around him is solid, but it still seems like there is too much risk to potentially waste a Top-50 pick on him. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs wrote this piece attempting to debunk the myth that Beltre is motivated by contract years by saying that in three of his five contract years Beltre has disappointed. True enough, but it should be noted that Beltre has never had a WAR higher than five in a non-contract year.
One could also argue that the lack of depth at third base is reason to pick early or spend big on Beltre. However, third base may not actually be all that shallow. Evan Longoria, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman and Alex Rodriguez are all guys you would clearly rather have over Beltre.
Michael Young, Martin Prado and Casey McGehee are also viable 3B options. If you believe in Jose Bautista, add him to that mix as well. Pablo Sandoval, anyone? Maybe the Panda has a bounce-back year. If you can live with the average, Mark Reynolds could get you 30-plus homers.
On that note, maybe Aramis Ramirez can find his batting average again. Maybe Scott Rolen, Miguel Tejada and Juan Uribe are not dead yet. Maybe Chris Johnson will over perform again. Maybe Pedro Alvarez will take the next step. Maybe my long time boyfriend, Jose Lopez, will not be completely and utterly useless. Maybe Lopez’s new teammate, Ian Stewart will hit 25+ homers again.
Given, there are a lot of maybes there, but maybe Beltre goes all 2005 on us and hits .255 with 19 HR, 69 R and 87 RBI. There is just no reason to risk a Top-50 pick on a guy with such a long history of inconsistency. Grab one of the four elite 3B guys or wait until much later to take a risk on a third baseman.
Written by Brett Talley exclusively for thefantasyfix.com. Brett is a law student in Dallas who will draft Adrian Beltre when UZR becomes a roto category. You can follow him on Twitter @therealTAL.