UPDATED MARCH 12, 2103: Third base continues to be a nice source of power in the fantasy realm, but while it seems to be deeper than it has been over the last two or three years, it still thins out pretty quickly once those top 10 or 12 come off the board. Because of that drop-off in talent, and the power potential available, those first dozen third basemen come off the board fairly quickly. If you want one of them….and really, if you’re going to succeed, you really should have one of them…then you’re going to have to adjust your draft strategy around taking one of them with one of your first few picks. Obviously, Miguel Cabrera is a top three pick overall, but the rest of them start flying off the board in the second and third rounds. Before you know it, if you haven’t made a move, then you end up having to wait, but not for too long as the second wave starts getting taken early as well, as people look to stock up on their corner infielders. Here’s a look at how they are ranking right now:
Check out the rest of our 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings.
1. Miguel Cabrera, DET
2012: .330 AVG, 44 HR, 139 RBI, 109 runs, 4 SB
Really. Is there anything that needs to be said where his numbers don’t already do the talking? How about that he lost his first base eligibility and now only qualifies at third? That's about all the new news we can give about a guy who won the first Triple Crown since 1967. Even with a small regression in his numbers, he's still a top three overall pick.
2. Adrian Beltre, TEX
2012: .321, 36 HR, 102 RBI, 95 runs, 1 SB
After Beltre had a career year in 2004 and followed it up with a busted season in Seattle, people thought he was done. When he got hurt in 2009 and only had eight dingers after three straight seasons with 25 or more home runs, people started writing him off. But Beltre has done a solid job silencing the critics when he powered back up in Boston and then moved over to Texas where he's had two straight 30-plus home run seasons. There's nothing in his batted ball data that says he shouldn't be able to do it again, so feel confident in drafting him with that second round pick.
3. David Wright, NYM
2012: .306, 21 HR, 93 RBI, 91 runs, 15 SB
Wright had a solid rebound from an injury-plagued 2011 and saw improvements right across the board. He posted a stronger average and on-base percentage, he showed more power, cut down the strikeouts and even improved an already solid walk rate. It was really one of those "total package" seasons. If you want to find one area of concern, it was in his stolen base percentage. Going 15-for-25 (60%)in stolen base attempts isn't exactly a mark that makes managers feel comfortable about giving the green light, so we might see a reduction in speed numbers this year. With any luck, he'll compensate fantasy owners with a little more power.
4. Aramis Ramirez, MIL
2012: .300 AVG, 27 HR, 105 RBI, 92 runs, 9 SB
Even at the age of 35, Ramirez just keeps pounding away at the ball. After back to back 25-plus home run seasons with the Cubs, A-Ram moved north to Milwaukee where he enjoyed sitting right behind Ryan Braun in the lineup. With a slight uptick in power (.240 ISO), he was able to continue producing as he had done and looks like a smart choice moving forward. Some will cite his injury history as a caveat, but he doesn't appear to be at any more of a risk than any other ballplayer out there. Expect it to be business as usualy out there this season.
5. Evan Longoria, TB
2012: .289 AVG, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 39 runs, 2 SB
Longoria has now battled injuries in back-to-back seasons, and while it's tough to tag him with the "injury prone" label, it's obviously something you need to keep in mind when drafting him. Last year was devastating for owners as he played in just 74 games in a year where he was just entering his prime and supposed to be pushing his power to new heights. Well, we can't live in the past and based on what he has done in years where his health has been fine, his numbers are easily top three potential for third basemen. His walk rate is sound, his strikeouts are acceptable, and he still maintains a sub-1.00 GB/FB with a line drive rate that hovers around 20-percent. With a full year this season, at age-27, we're hoping the sky is the limit.
6. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS
2012: .282 AVG, 25 HR, 95 RBI, 93 runs, 5 SB
Similarly to Longoria, Zimmerman has dealt with his fair share of injuries as well, from back and shoulder injuries last year to abdominal surgery the year before. But just like his AL counterpart, Zimmerman just has too much potential to ignore and in years where he's been healthy, he's been a fantastic producer at the hot corner. You can be wary about drafting him, but if he gets in a full year, there are very few who will be able to match his level of production. The reward should outweight the risk here.
7. Chase Headley, SD
2012: .286 AVG, 31 HR, 115 RBI, 95 runs, 17 SB
What a ridiculous year 2012 was for Headley who saw his ISO nearly double that of his previous two years' marks and hit more home runs than he did in his three previous seasons combined. The funny thing though is that he did it while still increasing his ground ball total, striking out a little more often with an unimpressive 11-percent swinging strike rate, and making below average contact. So where did this power come from? Hard to say. But at 28-years old it's not totally unheard of. However, what it also means is that the likelihood of a serious regression seems strong. Some people are totally sold, though, and you'll see him jump to the top seven, heck even top five in some cases. We feel that more than just one season is needed to surpass some of the upper-tier talent at this position.
8. Hanley Ramirez, LAD
2012: .257 AVG, 24 HR, 92 RBI, 79 runs, 21 SB
The power and overall performances of the upper tier third basemen really push Ramirez down in the rankings over here, and while we expect him to have a bounce-back season, that alone cannot vault him up higher. That's why drafting him as shortstop is the no-brainer move here. Even without the expectation of a rebound, his numbers stand head and shoulders above most at the shortstop position.
9. Brett Lawrie, TOR
2012: .273 AVG, 11 HR, 48 RBI, 73 runs, 13 SB
Lawrie took a step back in his second season for a multitude of reasons. The first is, obviously, the injuries. Lawrie dealt with issue with his knee, his back, his calf and he even lost some time to an oblique problem. He'll need to continue working on his strength and conditioning though as his all-out dirtdog style leaves him prone to a few extra dings and dents. But Lawrie also saw a huge spike in ground balls which was probably a result of his increased swing rates, both in and outside the zone. He'll need to be a little more selective in the future and no go up there and hack away because he is too eager or trying to be overly-aggressive. The good thing is that he is still just 23-years old and has plenty of time and opportunity to make the necessary adjustments. Couple that with a stronger surrounding lineup and you could be looking at a major spike in offensive production.
10. Pablo Sandoval, SF
2012: .283 AVG, 12 HR, 63 RBI, 59 runs, 1 SB
The bad news is that it was another down year for Kung Fu Panda thanks to another broken hamate bone in his hand. The good news is that he has no more hamate bones to break anymore as both have been removed. Not that there's any proven logic behind the "every other year" theory, but if Sandoval stays injury-free this season, then we are likely looking at another solid year of production from him. He still keeps the strikeouts down, he still makes good contact and this past season he actually increased his walk rate. If he maintains decent plate discipline and stays next to Buster Posey in the lineup, he's going to see some nice pitches to hit and should be a decent option at the hot corner once again.
11. Martin Prado, ARI
2012: .301 AVG, 10 HR, 70 RBI, 81 runs, 17 SB
You've got to love a guy like Prado who, depending on your league rules, could conceivably qualify everywhere. OK, maybe an exaggeration there, but if your league has a 20-game minimum, then he can be used at third and in the outfield. If it's 10 games or more, then add in shortstop and second base as well. Ideally, drafting him as a shortstop is probably best, but despite a lack of real power, third base ain't so bad either. You should be looking at a strong average, low strikeouts and decent stolen bases to go along with the mid to low-end power. He'll likely be staying in left field for most of the year unless the Braves end up bringing back Michael Bourn, but even then, he would also spell Juan Francisco here at third every so often. FANTASY UPDATE: Since these rankings wer first done, Prado has since been dealt to Arizona, and that actually makes me like him more. He still hovers just outside the top 10, but now in a favorable hitter's park, he could see a nice uptick in power.
12. Kyle Seager, SEA
2012: .259 AVG, 20 HR, 86 RBI, 62 runs, 13 SB
Seager was a nice bright spot in the Mariners' offense last season thanks to a tasty 21.9-percent line drive rate and a solid showing of power. He did have his struggles against lefties, something he'll have to work on and fast, but he also struggled mightily at home, batting just .223 with five home runs at Safeco and .293 with 15 homers everywhere else. The fences being moved in at Safeco next year should help that a bit, but he's going to have to make adjustments to how the pitchers are pitching him and learn to perform better at home. Once the necessary adjustments are made, then the average should climb a bit but not at the expense of his power.
13. David Freese, STL
2012: .293 AVG, 20 HR, 79 RBI, 70 runs, 3 SB
Freese was finally able to put together an entire season without a major injury and it worked out well for those who bought into the hype after his 2011 playoff heroics. The fact that he strikes out more than 21-percent of the time keeps his contact rates low, but when he does connect, he usually puts the ball in play, hence the high BABIP marks he's had over the last few seasons. If he regresses there, he could be in a little trouble, but he still maintains the power to have another 20-homer season. Keep in mind, though, that Freese is a late-bloomer and while he's relatively new to the majors, he's still turning 30 this season. While it doesn't seem like the power will subside just yet, keep in mind that he's more of a year to year option and not someone you should be counting on to get better in the long-run.
14. Mike Moustakas, KC
2012: .242 AVG, 20 HR, 73 RBI, 69 runs, 5 SB
Moustakas did a real nice job in what was really his first full season, and while there are obvious things he can do to improve overall, the 24-year old also has plenty of time to learn the ropes and make the necessary adjustments. Some over-aggressiveness at the plate, evidenced by his high swing percentage on pitches both in and out of the zone, caused a rise in strikeouts and because he was swinging at so many pitches out of the zone, the contact he was making wasn't clean, for the most part and his BABIP suffered. That obviously drained the batting average. On the plus side, he did post a .171 ISO and as he matures both physically and as a hitter, he's definitely got the potential of posting 25-30 home runs sometime in the future.
15. Michael Young, PHI
2012: .277 AVG, 8 HR, 67 RBI, 79 runs, 2 SB
We covered Young back with the first basemen and while we should have also included him at second base (probably around 15 or 16 as well) with his 16 games played, we've got him right about in the same place here at the hot corner. He makes for a great utility guy as he can be slotted basically anywhere in the infield but shortstop. It's that kind of versatility that should be celebrated in this game and why he's got such a nice ranking after two down years in Texas.
16. Pedro Alvarez, PIT
2012: .244 AVG, 30 HR, 85 RBI, 64 runs, 1 SB
Big power and big strikeouts, that's what we've come to expect from Alvarez who has posted a strikeout rate in excess of 30-percent through 848 major league plate appearances. His walk rate is slightly above average for the league and his .223 ISO is really no joke, but he can be such a streaky hitter that it's super-frustrating to people, especially those who own him in head to head leagues. There's a glimmer of hope that he improves his plate discipline and if he does, he could become a much more well-balanced player, and by that we mean big power with a sound batting average.
17. Will Middlebrooks, BOS
2012: .288 AVG, 15 HR, 54 RBI, 34 runs, 4 SB
The 24-year old slugger was on his way to producing one heck of a first season until a broken wrist put an end to his year rather abruptly. How that broken wrist will affect his power moving forward is still up in the air, but considering his age and the fact that he was still likely developing, it's possible that it doesn't really affect him here in the sense that it hurts his power but that it just stunts his overall growth. He might not start white hot out of the gate, but it shouldn't be too long before you see the power that allowed them to get rid of Kevin Youkilis.
18. Todd Frazier, CIN
2012: .273 AVG, 19 HR, 67 RBI, 55 runs, 3 SB
After injuries to Scott Rolen and Joey Votto kept Frazier in the lineup regularly last season and allowed him to show off his power potential, he is becoming a trendy pick for many as Rolen likely heads to retirement, leaving Frazier with the job all to himself. Given his average, his contact rates and his 22.2-percent strikeout rate, you're likely going to see some struggles during the year which should result in a slight regression. He should still post numbers worthy of using this season, but let someone else do the reaching for him on draft day.
19. Manny Machado, BAL
2012: .262 AVG, 7 HR, 26 RBI, 24 runs, 2 SB
Perhaps it was the adrenalin, but when Machado was bumped up so quickly and got his first big league opportunity rather than spending time in Triple-A, his owners were treated to immediate bursts of power. However, reality soon set in and things leveled off, bringing him back to Earth. The strikeouts began, there were very few walks, and there were times when the youngster looked a little over-matched out there. He is going to stick, given the club's gaping hole at the hot corner, and he is expected to eventually blossom into a star, but keep your early expectations in check for right now.
20. Chris Johnson, ATL
2012: .281 AVG, 15 HR, 76 RBI, 48 runs, 5 SB
Though his numbers took a major spike when he left Houston and went to play for Arizona, there is really no reason to expect that Johnson will continue to produce at that level. With a 25-percent strikeout rate and a .354 BABIP, Johnson should see a serious regression if he can't fix his plate discipline. He has shown, at times, strong contact rates in the minors that can sustain such a strong BABIP, but the fluctuation has been too great to consider any of his numbers as truly reliable. He could be a decent corner infield option considering he'll play regularly, but don't expect too much overall. FANTASY UPDATE: Johnson was shipped to the Braves since these rankings were first published, and while the situation is a little less favorable, betweenthe ballpark and the fact that he is going to lose time to Juan Francisco, he still maintains his ranking just at the edge of the top 20 third basemen.
21. Josh Donaldson, OAK
2012: .241 AVG, 9 HR, 33 RBI, 34 runs, 4 SB
As a utility infielder, Donaldson is capable of playing all around the infield, but third base was where he was needed most and where he spent the majority of his time last season. Defensively he was sound and has earned himself the opportunity to start the year off as the team's primary third baseman, but don't be surprised if his inconsistencies at the plate cause him to start sharing time. He was notoriously streaky last year which doesn't really make him a worthwhile pick in head to head leagues, but he does have modest power that could push him towards a 20-home run season.
22. Kevin Youkilis, NYY
2012: .235 AVG, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 72 runs
Youkilis was the first casualty of the Bobby Valentine era as the team, on the whole, endured a very troubling first half of the season. He was shipped off to Chicago where his struggles continued and the drop-off that had been coming with the array of injuries he suffered, was in full swing again. Strikeouts coninued to pile up and the Greek god of walks suddenly wasn;t walking nearly as much as he grew more and more impatient at the plate. The White Sox opted to let him walk and he signed on to play with the Yankees fairly early into the offseason. While that has the potential of being a good move, he, in fact, is more of a band-aid as the team waits for Alex Rodriguez to return from yet another hip surgery. With little or no guarantee that A-Rod will make a full recovery, Youkilis could see a full season's worth of at-bats, but that's not really something you want to bank on when deciding on a thrid baseman to draft. FANTASY UPDATE: With Mark Teixeira out at least until the end of May, there's the chance that Youk could slide over to first for a little while which would be less taxing on the body.
23. Placido Polanco, MIA
2012: .257 AVG, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 28 runs
Given Polaco's age (37) and the fact that lower back problems limited him to just 90 games last year, it wasn't much of a surprise to see the Phillies decline his option and let him walk. The Marlins signed him to a fairly cheap deal and have slated him for third base duties this year. He'll actually be competing with Greg Dobbs and Kevin Kouzmanoff this spring, but his experience and defense should tip the scales in his favor. Hitting-wise, his biggest asset has always been his low strikeouts and high batting average. He doesn't have much in power, especially at this stage of his career, so look for him more as a low-end depth guy that you can plug and play during his better stretches.
24. Chris Nelson, COL
2012: .301 AVG, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 45 runs, 2 SB
Nelson's work as a utility player last year has earned him the chance to play third base full time for the Rockies, however, with second base eligibility, the choice is simple as to wear you would draft him. However, he will technically be competing with Jordan Pacheco, so while he might have the leg up right now, nothing is set in stone. Should he end up in a platoon, something the Rockies have shown no aversion to, his value will be even more limited and he would be best left to the waiver wire.
25. Trevor Plouffe, MIN
2012: .235 AVG, 24 HR, 55 RBI, 56 runs, 1 SB
Plouffe developed into one of the biggest surprises last year when he started to hit for power and went on a huge binge at the plate, batting .327 with 11 home runs in the month of June alone. Unfortunately though, a thumb injury derailed all of that and when he eventually returned to the lineup, he just wasn't the same. He'll get the chance to start at third again for the Twins, but questionable defense and some suspect plate discipline could result in another platoon role eventually.
26. Ian Stewart, CHC
2012: .201 AVG, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 16 runs
In his first year as the Cubs third baseman, Stewart failed miserably, batting just above the Mendoza line and then eventually succumbing to a wrist injury that led to season-ending surgery. He says that his wrist now feels better than it has in years and he is ready to resume his role with the team. He'll probably have to compete with Josh Vitters and Luis Valbuena for the job, but, unless that wrist doesn't hold up, then his power potential should give him the edge.
27. Juan Francisco, ATL
2012: .234 AVG, 9 HR, 32 RBI, 17 runs, 1 SB
His playing time is still hanging in limbo and won't be decided until the Braves make the ultimate decision as to whether or not they will re-sign Michael Bourn. If they do, then Francisco goes to the bench while Martin Prado takes over at third. If they don't, then obviously Prado will be needed in the outfield. With a full season's worth of at-bats, Francisco could have some interesting value. He is a high power, low OBP guy who could throw you some decent home runs. However, he also strikes out at an alarming rate, posting a 34.1-percent strikeout rate in just 205 at-bats last year. Keep an eye on the situation, but really, don't expect much out of him this season. FANTASY UPDATE: It looks like he's in a fairly even split for playing time with Chris Johnson right now, but one of them is likely to surpass the other and steal away the starting job. The hunch says Francisco becomes the odd man out.
28. Jeff Keppinger, CHW
2012: .325 AVG, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 46 runs, 1 SB
Keppinger was covered over in the second base section and if you're thinking about grabbing him, that is the positon at which he should be drafted. His value is much lower at third, a position often reserved for more power-oriented hitters. Obviously you could still choose to use him here, although it's hard to imagine why you would choose to make such an oddball choice.
29. Matt Dominguez, HOU
2012: .284 AVG, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 14 runs
While some have said that Dominguez makes for a decent prospect and could be a good choice at third base, they were speaking in terms of his glove and not his bat or fantasy value. His power has diminished with each move to a new level and he was one of few players who struggled at the plate in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He'll get a shot with the Astros this year, but if he continues to struggle at the plate and looks over-matched, they could opt to use Tyler Greene a little more.
30. Lonnie Chisenhall, CLE
2012: .268 AVG, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 16 runs, 2 SB
Once again, Chisenhall saw limited time with the Indians and, for the most part, produced exactly as he had done the year before, stat-wise. He did, however, make the improvement in both walks and strikeouts, although both were fairly minimal in growth. Still, it's a step in the right direction and the club has been dying to fill that gaping hole at third for some time now. But not everyone inside the organization believes in Chisenhall's ability to consistently hit major league pitching and the team brought in utility-man Mike Aviles to work in there. And depending on how Chisenhall performs, he could end up with the job outright. Watch this battle during the spring and see what unfolds. We already know what Aviles can do. The question remains as to whether or not Chisenhall can live up to be a close-to-20-home run guy in the long run.
Check out the rest of our 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings.
31. Luis Cruz, LAD
32. Alex Rodriguez, NYY
33. Alberto Callaspo, LAA
34. Jordan Pacheco, COL
35. Pedro Ciriaco, BOS
36. Mike Olt, TEX
37. Ryan Roberts, TB
38. Matt Carpenter, STL
39. Jamey Carroll, MIN
40. Wilson Betemit, BAL
41. Maicer Izturis, TOR
42. Greg Dobbs, MIA
43. Ty Wigginton, STL
44. Daniel Descalso, STL
45. Eric Chavez, ARI
46. Jerry Hairston, Jr., LAD
47. Luis Valbuena, CHC
48. Kevin Frandsen, PHI
49. Jack Hanahan, CIN
50. Josh Vitters, CHC
Check out the rest of our 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For questions, thoughts or comments you can find him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.