This post is the fourth in a series of position rankings catered specifically to fantasy baseball head-to-head points leagues.
All hitters in this post and previous/future points league rankings are based on these scoring values:
(1B x 1) + (2B x 2) + (3B x 3) + (HR x 4) + (R x 1) + (RBI x 1) + (BB x 1) + (SB x 2) + (SO x -1) = Total
For my thoughts on draft strategies and stats to track in H2H points leagues, consult the top of the catcher's rankings post here.
Notes on Third Base:
Health - Of the 21 third basemen recognized in this list, 12 of them missed significant time with injury in 2011. Including big names like Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis. You'll read, "If he can stay healthy..." quite often in these rankings and its something to be aware of come draft day.
Power outage - As you may have guessed, in large part due to injury, HR were down at third base in 2011 with only five players reaching 20 or more home runs. Expect an increase with more plate appearances across the list and the emergence of young stars Brett Lawrie and Mike Moustakas.
Speed - If your league offers additional points for stolen bases or heavily penalizes caught stealings, you might want to look elsewhere than thrid base for those points. Emilio Bonifacio was the only legitimate base stealing threat in 2011. While Lawrie, Wright and Roberts offer some potential in that area, there isn't much speed to go around at 3B.
Rankings after the jump:
2012 Fantasy Baseball H2H Points League Third Base Rankings:
1) Jose Bautista, TOR
2011 Points Scored: 559
What's there left to say about Jose Bautista? Out of nowhere he went from being a ho-hum journeyman to one of the most feared hitters in the MLB. Most doubted he'd be able to repeat his 2010 performance again in 2011 and while he did hit 11 less HR, he may have actually developed into an even better all-around hitter last season. Joey Bats finished with a .302/.447/.608 (1.056 OPS) with 43 HR, 103 RBI, 9 SB, 133 BB and 105 runs scored. That all adds up to a lot of points. A lot. Odds are the AVG will drop as his .309 BABIP was 30 points better than his career average, which could cut into some of his counting stats, but I'm not overly concerned with it. No matter what, he is the clear number one 3B for 2012.
2) Evan Longoria, TB
2011 Points Scored: 409
It seems like Evan Longoria has been in the league forever now, but he is still only 26 years old and is just now about to enter his prime. Last season Longoria's AVG took a dramatic hit thanks to an awful .239 BABIP (over 60 points worse than his career average), but he was still able to provide owners with 31 HR, 99 RBI, 78 runs scored and 80 BB (second most at the position) while slightly dropping his SO%. It's almost a guarantee that his AVG will improve and he should be in line for another 50-70 plate appearances, meaning 35 HR and 110 RBI are not out of the question.
3) Adrian Beltre, TEX
2011 Points Scored: 435
Adrian Beltre had an excellent first season in Arlington and finished with a .296/.331/.561 (.892 OPS), 32 HR, 106 RBI and 82 runs scored in 2011. There's a chance his HR could decrease as his 14.5 HR/FB% was 4.5% higher than his career average, but an increase in plate appearances should offset that as Beltre finished with less than 600 PA for only the second time in the last 10 seasons. More plate appearances should mean more opportunities for points via RBI and runs scored in the Rangers' stacked lineup.
3b) Hanley Ramirez, MIA
2011 Points Scored: 246
While Hanley Ramirez doesn't currently qualify at 3B, it's likely he will within the first week or two of the season after the Marlins' acquisition of Jose Reyes in the offseason. If you draft him it would probably be with the intention of him being your SS, but, in case you might need him as a 3B this is where I would rank him for 2012. Read more on Hanley Ramirez in tomorrow's shortstop rankings.
4) David Wright, NYM
2011 Points Scored: 268
I don't know about you, but I'm still a big believer in David Wright. He's one of very few players at the position with 20/20 potential (with a 30/30 under his belt) and he is still in the prime of his career. Last season marked the first since his rookie year that he had less than 600 PA (220 less than 2010). After his return from injury in mid-July, he posted a .306/.370/.481 (.851 OPS), 8 HR, 43 RBI, 4 SB and 36 runs scored, which should show that he's good to go come the start of 2012. Combine a significant increase in plate appearances with a possible improvement to his .302 BABIP (.340 career average) and shorter fences in Citi Field, and there's the chance Wright approaches his 2007 and 2008 production levels.
5) Ryan Zimmerman, WAS
2011 Points Scored: 250
Things are looking up for Ryan Zimmerman in 2012. Last season he suffered from an oblique injury that resulted in the least amount of plate appearances of his career while also hampering his power throughout his return. All indications are that he should be healthy at the start of the season and return to the middle of what could be one of the better lineups in the NL (especially if the Nationals sign Prince Fielder, as some rumors indicate they might). When healthy, he should be a good bet for at least 25 HR, 90 RBI, 80 runs scored and a slash line somewhere close to .300/.350/.500 (.850 OPS).
6) Michael Young, TEX
2011 Points Scored: 473
Read my Michael Young profile here. Depending on your league, Young should qualify at 1B/2B/3B in 2012.
7) Brett Lawrie, TOR
2011 Points Scored: 137 (minor leagues)
There might be more hype surrounding Brett Lawrie than any other position player entering 2012 fantasy baseball drafts, and it seems to be deserved. But, the problem with hype is that it's often very expensive and the result of a small sample size. Lawrie exploded onto the scene in August and finished the season with a .293/.373/.580 (.953 OPS) slash line, 9 HR, 25 RBI, 7 SB and 26 runs scored. Most impressive is that Lawrie never seemed overmatched by MLB pitching as his "respectable" 18.1 SO% (respectable for a rookie) and 9.4 BB% indicate. I could see Brett Lawrie as a top three scoring 3B with a 20/25 season in í12 or as a prime candidate for a Jason Heyward esque sophomore slump. It's really your callÖ but to me, as long as it doesn't cost a first or second round pick, I'm usually pretty happy to take the risk.
8) Pablo Sandoval, SF
2011 Points Scored: 333
The Kung Fu Panda not only has one of the best nicknames in the MLB, but he also has extremely high potential as his 2011 season showed. Despite missing close to two months due to a wrist injury, Pablo Sandoval was still able to hit 23 HR, 70 RBI and score 55 runs in one of the weakest lineups in baseball all while posting an impressive .315/.357/.552 (.909 OPS). He's already been in the league three full seasons now and is still a year or two away from his prime which is certainly reason to be excited about the now somewhat trimmed down slugger. However, it is important to note that Sandoval swings at everything even near the plate and swung at 47.7% of pitches out of the zone in '11. There's a chance his aggressive approach could lead to a dip in AVG, which would hurt his counting stats, but, if he continues to hit more balls in the air and increase his HR output, there's a chance it won't matter.
9) Aramis Ramirez, MIL
2011 Points Scored: 437
Last season was Aramis Ramirez's best since 2008 and the first in which he played over 140 games in that time (funny how that happens in contract years). He now joins the Milwaukee Brewers who have quite a few question marks surrounding them, including whom their 1B will be and how long, if at all, Ryan Braun will be out of their lineup. Once things are settled, Ramirez should find himself batting cleanup for one of the better offenses in the NL, but, it should be noted that his recent Miller Park history is nothing to get excited about. Since 2009, Ramirez has had 70 plate ABs in Milwaukee good for a .214/.273/.400 (.673 OPS) slash line, 3 HR, 12 RBI and 7 runs scored. It's a small sample size, but compared to his .329/.385/.555 (.940 OPS), 35 HR, 138 RBI and 96 runs scored at Wrigley Field in that time, it's something to be aware of. And to think, I'm a Brewers fan.
10) Alex Rodriguez, NYY
2011 Points Scored: 276
It's crazy to think how fast A-Rod's stock has fallen in recent years, but age and injuries will do that to you. Last season marked the fourth consecutive year in which Rodriguez failed to reach 600 plate appearances. In points leagues where more means more, that's definitely discouraging. Also discouraging is that his base stealing days seem to be in the rear view mirror as he posted only 4 SBs for the second straight year. Because he hits in one of the best lineups and stadiums in baseball, Rodriguez was still able to provide 16 HR, 62 RBI and 67 runs scored with a solid .276/.362/.461 (.823 OPS) slash line. You could do worse than having the Yankees' cleanup hitter as your starting 3B and if you platoon him with another solid option during the time he is sure to miss, there's a chance you could get solid production from the position, but, going forward, it looks like there will be much better options at 3B than A-Rod on draft day.
11) Kevin Youkilis, BOS
2011 Points Scored: 320
Kevin Youkilis may soon need to change his nickname to The Greek God of Injuries as 2011 was the third straight season he didn't reach 600 plate appearances. What's even worse for fantasy owners is that the injuries seriously hamper him when he does play. Youkilis' GB/FB rate has increased four years in a row now, which has led to a decrease in his HR total over that time and could start to nip away at his AVG as his line drive percentage is also on a decline. Youkilis still offers the potential for points via BB and as long as he is part of the Red Sox lineup, there should be opportunities for RBI and runs. But, until he is able to remain healthy, he won't likely return to the top 10 third basemen anytime soon.
12) Ryan Roberts, ARZ
2011 Points Scored: 370
Read my Ryan Roberts profile here. Depending on your league, Roberts should qualify at 2B/3B in 2012.
13) Martin Prado, ATL
2011 Points Scored: 325
Martin Prado took a significant step back in 2011 in large part thanks to his decline in AVG. He finished the season with a fairly mediocre .260/.302/.385 (.687 OPS) slash line, 13 HR, 57 RBI and 66 runs scored in only 590 PA (60 less than 2010). Prado is essentially a one-tool player, with that being AVG and when he doesn't have it owners won't come away with much. The good news is that his AVG can be attributed to a terrible .266 BABIP, and not an increase in strike outs. In fact, his SO% dropped to a career-low 8.8. With more plate appearances and a little luck on his BABIP, Prado should return to the kind of production he had in 2010 at the top of the Braves lineup at a cheaper cost than last season.
14) Emilio Bonifacio, MIA
2011 Points Scored: 346
Emilio Bonifacio took his increased plate appearances in 2011 and ran with them, literally in fact. His 40 SB were far and away the most of any player to qualify for 3B and accompanied a .296/.360/.393 (.753 OPS) slash line, 5 HR, 36 RBI and 78 runs scored. His AVG could decline as his .372 BABIP is pretty high (although he does have a .339 career BABIP), but where the concern lies with Bonifacio is his playing time. Hanley Ramirez should be taking over at third base and Jose Reyes obviously will be the starting shortstop, that leaves the OF where two spots are already occupied by Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton. Bonifacio's best bet is CF where he'll have to compete with Chris Coghlan. I think he'll get the majority of the starts over Coghlan and Reyes' and Ramirez's injury histories could offer up even more opportunities down the road, but it seems unlikely he will reach 641 PA again.
15) Mark Reynolds, BAL
2011 Points Scored: 312
Mark Reynolds, The Strikeout King himself, decided to let someone else take the throne for once in 2011 when Drew Stubbs struck out 205 times. But... Reynolds still struck out 196 times. It's hard for anyone to put up a high point total when they put themselves in a 200 point hole to start each season like Reynolds always seems to do. He's as good a bet as anyone for 35 HR, 80 RBI and 80 runs scored in 2012, but unless his strikeouts just magically vanish, it's unlikely his point total is anything much different from '11.
16) Edwin Encarnacion, TOR
2011 Points Scored: 325
There's a very good chance that 2012 will be the last season Edwin Encarnacion offers 3B eligibility as Brett Lawrie should be penciled in at the position all year. The majority of his 2011 starts came as DH and that figures to be the case again this year. It would seem the position suited Encarnacion well as it was the first time he played in over 100 games since 2008. Less stress on his body led to a .272/.334/.453 (.787 OPS), 17 HR, 55 RBI, 70 runs scored and 36 doubles (second most at the position). Playing time could be an issue in '12 as Toronto has quite a few mouths to feed and the injury concerns are going to stick with him for at least another season, but, when he is in the lineup, the Rodgers Centre and the talent around him bode well for Encarnacion.
17) Mike Moustakas, KC
2011 Points Scored: 155
Mike Moustakas was most definitely outshined by his teammate Eric Hosmer in 2011 and he never did display the kind of power he showed in the minors, but, if his .352/.380/.580 (.960 OPS) September is any indication of his sophomore season, then there should be plenty to be excited about. Also, he might want to consult Pablo Sandoval on nicknames as "Moose Tacos" is pretty horrible.
18) David Freese, STL
2011 Points Scored: 194 (injured)
To this point, David Freese has yet to play in 100 games in his career(I'm starting to sound like a broken record here). It's a shame since, as we saw in the playoffs last year, he seems to have the potential to be a very well-balanced MLB hitter. In 363 PA in 2011, Freese posted a .297/.350/.444 (.794 OPS) with 10 HR, 55 RBI and 41 runs scored. Even if he were to remain healthy, it's unlikely he'll ever hit more than 15 HR, but his career .298 AVG could translate into quite a few RBIs and runs scored in the middle of the Cardinals' lineup.
19) Daniel Murphy, NYM
2011 Points Scored: 269
Read my Daniel Murphy profile here. Depending on your league, Murphy should qualify at 1B/2B/3B in 2012.
20) Danny Valencia, MIN
2011 Points Scored: 293
After a fairly successful rookie season in 2010, Danny Valencia took a step back in 2011 in large part to his 70 point drop in BABIP. In the end, he posted a .246/.294/.383 (.677 OPS) with 15 HR, 72 RBI and 63 runs scored. With any luck, his BABIP could jump over .300 again and his 16.8 SO% came in below the league average, so he shouldn't hurt you much. There's a chance that with a healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, his points via counting stats could drastically increase. If not, he is still a good bet for 15-20 HR and 70 or more runs and RBI a piece.
Chipper Jones, Casey McGehee, Chase Headley
Mark Trumbo, ANA
2011 Points Scored: 332
Read my Mark Trumbo profile here. While Trumbo doesn't currently qualify for the 3B, there is talk of him seeing a lot of time there in spring training. The Angels are looking for a way to keep Trumbo in the lineup with the acquisition of Albert Pujols and if he gains 3B eligibility shortly after the season starts, he would immediately be amongst the top 10-12 in scoring at the position.
Alberto Callaspo, ANA
2011 Points Scored: 304
See Trumbo, Mark above. Albert Callaspo's 304 points were good for fourteenth best in 2011. However, with the threat of Trumbo taking away some of his plate appearances as well as the presence of Maicer Izturis on the team, Callaspo could be in line for a serious decrease in playing time in 2012.
Is there a third baseman you're excited about that didn't make the list? Comment below on these rankings or ask any of your general fantasy baseball questions.