Today we're going to take a look at three players who can help owners in deep mixed leagues, round out your corner infield spot in shallow mixed leagues and who will certainly be owned in AL only formats. As always, I'll take a look at three American League, third base eligible players, and offer up which type of league they should be targeted in. The first player has been around for years, but coming off the worst season of his career, will provide late value. The second player has been a source of much debate during the ranking process and has nice power potential. The final player appears to have his clubs third base job locked down, and sometimes playing time is all you need in an AL only format. Let's go.
Kevin Youkilis - NYY
I am still debating which is going to be more weird - Kevin Youkilis in pin stripes, or Kevin Youkilis clean shaven. Anyways... There is little doubt Youkilis is starting to slow down and at 34 years old, expectations shouldn't be sky high for the former fantasy star. Since his short 2010 season, we've witnessed Youkilis' power, batting average and on base percentage all start to decline. Youk is still hitting line drives at a decent clip, and his HR/FB rate is holding steady, however, he's been trading fly balls for ground balls at an alarming rate the last two seasons. Fortunately Youkilis will continue to play his home games in a hitter friendly park, and should have plenty of run producing opportunities hitting 6th or so in the Yankee batting order. One area of concern is his continued decline against right handed pitching (about 3/4ths of all starting pitchers), as well as his home/road splits over the last two seasons. All things considered, 20 home runs should still be in sight for Youk next year, with decent counting stats, and a .255-.260 batting average. I would target Youkilis in AL only leagues as either a starting option if you decide to wait on third basemen, or as a CI option and solid backup if you get one of the top options early on. In standard mixed leagues I'd look for someone with more upside. Which brings us to our next player...
Mike Moustakas - KAN
As I mentioned in the open, Moustakas has been a great source of debate between many in the fantasy baseball community. Moustakas is the type of player fantasy managers fall in love with. These managers can be rewarded for their faith as we've seen players like Moose go from end of draft, dollar pick, to top 5 producer at their position over the years. To me it appears Moustakas will be one of those players that will need a couple of seasons to fully adjust to big league pitching. He needs to cut down his strike outs, attempt to take a few more free passes, and try to lower both his fly ball rate (49.8% in 2012 - 41.2% in 2011) and in field fly ball rate (17.6% in 2012 - 21.0% in 2011). It might just be me, but that's a lot to fix from one year to the next. It's not all bad for Moustakas however, as I do see him cutting his K rate to a degree (15.53% in the minors and a 14.0% in 89 games his 2011 season). While his batting average isn't likely to take a huge step forward in 2013, most would agree a .250-.255 average looks better than a .242. Funny how the brain works, but progress is progress. Finally, the power. It's the main reason we're targeting Moose in 2013. While I actually have him projected between 18-20 homers for next year, as I believe he works on hitting the ball with more authority as compared to swinging for the fences every at bat, the potential for a breakout power season is every year with a player like Moustakas. Hitting 5th or 6th in the Royals lineup will provide ample Run & RBI chances, and with no real competition behind him, he should see a seasons worth of at bats in 2013. I would target Moustakas as a starter in AL only leagues for the power upside alone, and for the same reason he's an excellent target at a CI spot in mixed leagues.
Lonnie Chisenhall - CLE
In AL only play sometimes all you're looking for is at bats. Enter Lonnie Chisenhall. If I had to make a bet today, I'd place my money on the 24 year old, former top prospect, as the starter in Cleveland at the hot corner. The presence of Mike Aviles, who is capable of handling third base, and is looking for at bats, makes me a little less bullish on this call, but I believe the Indians want to see what they have in Chisenhall this year. On top of that, a natural platoon could emerge between the two as Lonnie has struggled against lefties early in his career, while Aviles has hit .295/.339/.458 against left handed pitching, compared to .269/.294/.386 against right handed pitching. While it would take some at bats away from Chisenhall, it could actually help his batting average at the end of the year, and at least he's on the right side of the platoon split. (see what I did there). Chisenhall isn't going to blow you away in any one area next year, but should provide typical old school type production at third base in 2013. I believe the .268 batting average we saw last year is a safe projection, and would not be surprised if we saw it creep into the high .270's or even low .280's. Last year Chisenhall had a contact rate of 85.7% (MLB average was 79.6%), including a 93.4% contact rate on pitches in the zone. If he can stop chasing pitches out of the zone (38.3% swing rate on pitches out of the zone - 30.8% MLB average in 2012) he could be a solid hitter at the hot corner as early as next year. Chisenhall is a great option as an upside play at CI in AL only leagues, and can probably stay on the waiver wire as an injury replacement in 12-14 team mixed leagues.