I previously published my third base rankings here, and here are my updated rankings for 2011. Compared to shortstop, third base is much deeper in 2011, headed by David Wright and Evan Longoria. There are probably 8 third baseman capable of hitting 30 or more HRs in 2011, but a few of them, namely Jose Bautista and Pedro Alvarez, will also post low BAs along with their power. Alvarez has the potential to move up these rankings in the next few seasons.
Here are my updated 2011 Third Base Rankings with updated comments:
1. David Wright, NYM-Wright had a nice bounceback after his disappointing 2009 season, and was the top fantasy third baseman last year. The decision between Wright and Ray's third baseman Even Longoria was not easy, but lean toward Wright due to his SB totals. Wright hit .283-.354-.503 with 29 HRs, 103 RBIs, 87 runs scored and 19 SBs in 2010 with his ISO returning to the pre-2009 levels of .220, but his K rate increased and his BB rate decreased.
2. Evan Longoria, TB-some may rank Longoria ahead of Wright in 2011, but I am concerned that his numbers may drop with the loss of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. I am also curious if the drop in HR/FB rate to 11% was a fluke or a new performance level for Longoria. Longoria's ISO dropped from .245-.213 as a result of the drop in HR/FB rate, yet his K rate dropped and BB rate increased for the second consecutive year.
3. Alex Rodriguez, NYY-in most years, ARod would be the consensus choice to be the top ranked third baseman, but he is getting older, and his hip injury has sapped some of his power. It has been reported that he has looked better this spring, and he could prove that he is completely healthy in 2011, but ARod has hit 40+ HRs only once since 2005 (he hit 54 in 2007) and I don't see him getting there in 2011. I can see a 35-125 season from him this year. His power trend since 2007: 54-35-30-30 is not a good trend.
More after the jump:
4. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS- Zimmerman is on the cusp of a 30-100 season, and 2011 may just be his year as long as he can stay healthy for a full season. He is currently dealing with an abdominal issue, and wonder how that will affect him at the plate this year should it linger. Along with the solid power and BA, Zimmerman will take a walk and does not strike out like other power hitters. Zimmerman will be hitting cleanup this season, hitting behind new teammate Jayson Werth. I own Zimmerman in the UBA league and think he can go 30-100-.300 in 2011.
5. Kevin Youkilis, BOS-Some sites won't rank Youk as a third baseman since he is not eligible to start the season, but my rankings factor in where the players will rank at the end of the 2011 season, so I am including him at third base. Youkilis was injured in 2010, but still hit .307-.411-.564 with 19 HRs and 62 RBIs in 362 at bats. I can see him with a 25-90-.310 line in 2011 in the new Big Red Machine lineup in Boston.
6. Adrian Beltre, TEX-Beltre gets no love from fantasy experts as the groupthink says that he only performs in contract years. But, since his 2004 season, Beltre has hit 131 HRs, 500 RBIs and has had double digit stolen bases 3 times in the last six years. For 2011, I see him hitting 27-95-.290.
7. Aramis Ramirez, CHC-ARam disappointed fantasy owners in 2010, hitting just .241-.294-.452 in 465 ABs but did manage 25 HRs, 83 RBIs and 61 runs scored. His triple slash stats were impacted by his career low BABIP of .245. I see his BABIP bouncing back to his career BABIP of .287 in 2011, and approaching 30 HRs and 90-100 RBIs. Injuries have impacted his performance the last two years, so he is an injury risk, but when healthy, he is a very productive power hitter. He also wants to run more, whatever that means. I don't see him stealing more than a few bases in 2011.
8. Jose Bautista, TOR-Bautista had a huge breakout season in 2010, hitting 54 HRs, 124 RBIs, 109 runs scored and 9 SBs with a triple slash line of .260-.378-.617 in 2010. This after never hitting more than 15 HRs in any one season in his career, which makes me think he won't repeat his breakout 2010 season. He benefitted from a huge increase in his HR/FB rate from 12% to 22%, while also lowering his K rate and increasing his BB rate. I don't think anyone thinks Bautista can hit 50 HRs again, but I can see him hitting 30 or so, with 85-90 RBIs in 2011.
9. Pedro Alvarez, PIT-in his rookie year, Alvarez hit .256-.326-.461 with 16 HRs, 64 RBIs, and 42 runs scored, but he struck out an alarming 34% of his 386 plate appearances, while walking almost 10% of the time. Alvarez struggled in each of his promotions to AA and AAA the last two years, but stepped it up each year to post solid power numbers, and I can see him doing the same in 2011. I think he can go 25-90-.270 in 2011, and Bill James projects him to go 27-103-.277.
10. Casey McGehee, MIL-McGehee confounded his skeptics in 2010 by hitting .285-.337-.464 with 23 HRs, 104 RBIs, and 70 runs scored, after hitting .301-.360-.499 with 16 HRs and 66 RBIs in 2009. McGehee flourishes with runners in scoring position, hitting .324-.372-.571 with 11 HRs and 86 RBIs in 2010. For his career, he has hit .335-.381-.561 with RISP, so I am a bit more confident he can continue to hit for power and drive in runs going forward. Couple that with the fact that he changed his batting stance a few years ago, McGehee should be drafted as a top 10 third baseman in 2011.
11. Mark Reynolds, BAL- Reynolds has plenty of power, can steal a few bases, but holds the major league record for strikeouts. I think 2011 is a make or break season for Reynolds as he needs to improve his eye at the plate and basically have a bit more luck with balls in play. Reynolds BABIP in 2010 was .257, which resulted in a career low BA of .199, but if he can get back to his career BABIP of .323, Reynolds could raise his BA to around the .240-.250 range with his usual 35 HR power in 2011.
12. Michael Young, TEX-Young had a solid season in 2010, hitting .284-.330-.444 with 21 HRs, 91 RBIs and 99 runs scored. Young was the subject of trade rumors this offseason, and he still could be traded before Opening Day. His fantas value is tied up in where he plays in 2011, but this ranking assumes he stands pat, and stays in Texas, playing all over the infield and DH'ing. Assuming he stands pat, Young should continue to hit double digit HRs, drive in 80-90 runs and scored around 100 runs.