Third base has historically been one of the stronger and deeper positions on a fantasy roster. That pattern does NOT hold for this season, where there is a drop off after the first five or six options, and then a morass underachievers from 2010, and unproven candidates who may, or may not break out.
I apologize to my readers for getting this out so late, but I will have each of the remaining positions (SS, OF, SP, RP) up by the end of the week, in case you are in a league that drafts late, or are just looking for some insight before scouring the waiver wires.
1. Evan Longoria - Tampa Bay Rays Despite the recent oblique strain which has landed him on the disabled list for the immediate future, Longoria remains the cream of the third basemen crop. His power numbers did dip a bit last season (from 33 HR to 22), but that seems like an aberration, as his HR/Fly Ball ratio slipped to a paltry 11 percent. All the other numbers are headed in the right direction, and he should bounce back from this injury to finish as the top dog at the hot corner. I project 31 HR, 103 runs and 112 RBI, and a chance at double-digit steals, which sets him a cut above the other options.
2. David Wright - New York Mets Unlike Longoria, Wright's power returned last season (29 HR) after posting a career-low 10 homers in the inaugural season at Citi Field. Other than last season, Wright has consistently posted 25+ HR/100+ RBI/90+ run seasons since his first full-time season in 2005, so don't look for that to stop now. One negative to be aware of, Wright's strikeout numbers have risen in each of the last four seasons, as the Mets have gotten worse and worse, and he has felt the weight of the team more heavily on his shoulders. Don't let that stat deter you from taking what is sure to be one of the few elite options at the position. Look for 33 HR, 95 runs and 108 RBI.
3. Ryan Zimmerman - Washington Nationals A few years ago, Zim was touted as the poor-man's David Wright, going late or undrafted in most leagues, but posting solid power and average totals that surely pleased whoever took a flier on the young third baseman. Now, he stands on his own as one of the most solid options to fill the position. His batting average has risen in each of the past three seasons, and despite having slightly less pop and speed than the first two candidates, Zim should remain among the best in the league with a .309 average, 26 HR and 101 RBI.
4. Alex Rodriguez - New York Yankees He isn't the sure-fire first rounder he was over the past decade, but the 35 year-old Yankee deserves mention here as the final elite option at the hot corner. The average and power have slipped the past few seasons, and with his injury history he may never steal 15+ bags again, but the aging star should still have a few good seasons left in him. I expect at least 30 HR, and 115 RBI if he stays healthy, but low runs scored (82) and batting average (.272) projections keep him from moving higher.
5. Jose Bautista - Toronto Blue Jays Last season's home run king had a very middling start to his seven year career, never posting more than 16 homers before exploding for 54 bombs last season. Much has been made of an overhaul of his approach at the plate, and I, for one, am a believer. Bautista is a dead-pull hitter and he should continue to pepper the left field seats with souvenirs in 2011, but he will most likely hurt you in batting average, although he should finish above his career mark of .245. I expect 46 HR, and 117 RBI and 99 runs.
6. Adrian Beltre - Texas Rangers After a one-year stop in Boston, Beltre moves to the Ballpark at Arlington after enjoying his best season since posting a .334 average with 48 dingers in his last season in Los Angeles in 2004. While not having to clear the Green Monster might result in a bump in his power numbers, look for the batting average to regress to closer to his career average of .275, as the only two seasons in which he topped .300 were contract years. Expect a 25/95/85 (HR/RBI/R) kind of season from Beltre.
7. Casey McGehee - Milwaukee Brewers McGehee posted 23 HR and 104 RBI in 2010 batting behind the duo of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. For his first full-time season in the bigs (157 games played) those are very respectable numbers, and very repeatable numbers in that lineup. McGehee is 28, so he is still in his prime years, and he showed decent skill at adjusting to counter the adjustments made by pitchers after his breakout year in 2009. I expect a .290 average with 28 homers, 77 runs and 113 RBI.
8. Aramis Ramirez - Chicago Cubs Ramirez fought through an injured thumb for the first half of 2010, batting just .207 with 10 home runs before the All-Star Break. He came on strong in the second half, and has shown that he is a viable candidate to bounce back to his career norms if he can stay healthy. He could make a push for 30 long balls to go along with 100+ RBI and 80+ runs. Look for his average to rebound to the .280 plateau.
9. Pablo Sandoval - San Francisco Giants The Kung-Fu Panda had a disappointing 2010 campaign, but a rigorous off-season training program has in tremendous shape and primed to bounce back. Sandoval, who had never picked up a weight before this winter according to a recent ESPN the Magazine article, is capable of batting over .320, as he did in his break-out 2009 campaign (.330). I anticipate a return to his 2009 levels, with 28 HR, 77 runs and 98 RBI - Skadoosh.
10. Pedro Alvarez - Pittsburgh Pirates A mid-season call-up last season, Alvarez swatted 16 HR in 95 games, a very promising start for the 24 year-old rookie. Not as promising was the fact that he struck out in over a third of his at-bats (119 whiffs in 347 AB). Obviously, he will have to adjust to big-league pitching in order to avoid becoming the next Mark Reynolds, but his minor league numbers hint that he should be slightly less K-happy (27.8 percent of his 707 ABs). I think Pedro will turn in a solid sophomore campaign with 29 homers, 83 RBI and 75 runs scored.