The Fake Teams staff has been slowly unveiling their picks for their theoretical All-Star game between the American and National Leagues, and today it falls to me to honor a third baseman from each league. Representing the American League is a man who was on the fringe of most experts' preseason top 20 lists, while the National League representative has somehow blown the league away with a comeback that we can all claim to have seen coming. Following the jump is a retrospective of each player's season thus far, as well as a peak ahead into the future.
The Fake Teams American League All-Star representative at third base is also eligible at first base and designated hitter in most leagues, but he's not Miguel Cabrera. Our representative plays for the Toronto Blue Jays, but he's not Jose Bautista OR Brett Lawrie. No, the third base all-star is one Edwin Encarnacion. He's currently the 2nd third basemen on ESPN's Player Rater, barely behind Cabrera, and given his average draft position (and status as waiver wire fodder just a few short weeks ago), he's the easy choice to represent the AL.
Encarnacion lags behind Cabrera in batting average, but at .295 he's hardly a slouch, and those 22 home runs are tied for 6th in the league. There is room for some pessimism here, like an IFH% of 19.3 (!) and a career high 17.6 HR/FB%. However, while EE's high level of production hasn't gone unnoticed by fantasy owners, his name isn't hot enough that there's much value to be had in a sell-high type trade. Despite the red flags, Encarnacion should still be able to produce at a high level for the rest of the season. Maybe his performance in the field really was distracting him from his hitting.
By the way, there's absolutely no reason that SBN Pick 6 players shouldn't be taking advantage of Edwin Encarnacion's $1 price tag, which might be the biggest bargain in the whole game.
On the National League side, there's really only one viable choice, in my opinion: David Wright. Wright was a trendy pick in drafts thanks to new, more hitter-friendly dimensions at Citi Field, but in truth his bounceback year seems to have little to do with the moved-in fences. Wright won't be a huge difference-maker in the home run department - his 10 so far are nice, but not elite - but what he lacks in power he makes up in the other categories. His .354 average is just .002 behind the league leader, and though the BABIP seems (and is) high at .385, so far he's got the batted ball profile to support it somewhat.
The big story about Wright's year is his patience at the plate. He's always been able to draw walks - his rookie year is the only year he hasn't had a double-digit BB% - but this year he's on pace to set a career high. That's impressive in and of itself, but a decreased strikeout rate is all the more so. Wright's previous career low is a 16.0 K%, and this year he's besting that number by 2.7%. Overall, his BB/K is a quite healthy 1.07, well above his career average of 0.62. Pitch recognition appears to be a big part of the equation, as he is swinging at less pitches outside the zone than he did the previous two seasons, and when he does swing at those pitches, he's making more contact (71.3% vs. a career mark of 66.9). The good news is that as long as he continues to see the ball well, he will continue to produce even if his BABIP does take a dip.
One thing that struck me as I was looking through various players and deciding who to highlight was that third base is not nearly as shallow as many made it out to be at the season's outset. This was a trend that I picked up on in the preseason, but the position has ended up being even deeper than I thought it might be. Look around in your league: not very many teams will point to the hot corner as the main weakness they need to address moving forward. It's vitally important to constantly reassess the relative strengths and weaknesses of each position in order to be on top of player values. The state of third base is strong, thanks to players like Edwin Encarnacion who have stepped up their games and outperformed expectations.