Toronto Blue Jays’ 3B Brett Lawrie has some of the highest expectations in all of fantasy baseball in 2012. He had a terrific taste of the majors last season, but it was only a taste. Be cautious and don’t build your team around a strategy that includes Lawrie being picked before Alex Rodriguez, Aramis Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and Kevin Youkilis.
2012 Mixed League 5×5 ADP Top 20 third basemen
1. Evan Longoria, 3B, TB: I say bounce, you say back. Batting average on balls in play says he was unlucky in 2012. BABIP was .240 last year after .310+ in each of the previous four seasons.
2. Adrian Beltre, 3B, TEX: Despite only 487 at-bat’s last year (Ichiro Suzuki’s 677 led all of baseball in 2011), Beltre went 82-32-105 and hit .296.
3. David Wright, 3B, NYM: Missed 60 games last year but still flashed that speed-power mix that had him flirting with top-3 overall status a few years ago.Projection-makers are not going all-in on him. I recommend you follow suit.
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS: Missed 60 games last year, so injury has to be part of this conversation. However, if he’s healthy, and I suspect he will be, expect a return to 80-20-80-.285
5. Brett Lawrie, 3B, TOR: During an impressive 2011 that saw him impress in the majors and dominate in triple-A, the hype train has pushed Lawrie’s ADP up to 54 overall (he’s been picked as high as 26th). But he’s only 22. In redraft leagues, be cautious drafting any batter younger than 28, especially one with so few Major League at-bats.
6. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NYY: I’m not sure if he has a 550-at-bat season in him, but A-Rod is a rare slugger who can put up 80-25-100. A-Rod has missed 112 games in the last three seasons, but he’s still a safer pick than Lawrie.
7. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, MIL: Ramirez should put up solid numbers in the Brewers offense. Expect something close to an average of his last two years 75-25-85. His .306 average in 2012 was no fluke either.
8. Pablo Sandoval, 3B, SF: Sandoval, 25, says a shoulder strain that plagued him in 2011 is a thing of the past. He went 55-23-70-.315 in only 117 games last season. His home run to fly ball rate was out of this world, so don’t expect many gains there, but it’s not a stretch to expect 15 more runs and 20 more RBI if he plays a full season.
9. Kevin Youkilis, 3B, BOS: After missing 40 or more games in each of the last two seasons, the 33-year-old Youkilis has some considerable risk. He also has career bests of 100 runs, 29 homers, 115 RBI and a .312 average. The question marks over players heads will only get more frequent as we continue down this list.
10. Mark Reynolds, 3B, BAL: One of the more underrated players because his batting average is prohibitive. It will drag down your team average, but his contributions in the other counting categories — especially as a third-baseman being picked around 115 overall — more than make up for it.
11. David Freese, 3B, STL: The I-N-J-U-R-Y keys are getting worn out on my keyboard thanks to these third-basemen. When Freese did play in 2012, he flashed the best home run to fly ball rate of his career (16.7) and the lowest fly ball percentage (23.1). If he hits more FBs, returning closer to his career mark (26.6) even, and doesn’t miss 65 games, 20 homers is not out of the question.
12. Ryan Roberts, 3B/2B, ARI: Expecting a repeat of Roberts’ 2011 is a fool’s play. It was career year. The 31-year-old has shown power-speed skills before but he must get the opportunity to score 85 runs and drive in 65 more to be a valuable pick.
13. Mike Moustakas, 3B, KC: While Lawrie has more of a pedigree than Moustakas, this is the spot in your draft where you should consider taking a chance on a younger unproven player. He’s being picked around 214 overall. He’s been picked as early as 125 at Mock Draft Central, that’s too early.
14. Chase Headley, 3B, SD: I wouldn’t draft Headley in a mixed league. He’ll turn 28 in May, so there is a small amount of upside.
15. Chipper Jones, 3B, ATL: Chipper has no upside and is clearly on the downside of a great career. Like Headley, he’s the kind of player I’d add off waivers if he were on a hot streak.
16. Mike Aviles, 3B/2B, BOS: The 31-year-old is no longer a prospect, so that 10-steal, 10-homer profile is likely all you’re going to get.
17. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, CLE: While Chisenhall has only 66 Major League games and 66 in triple-A, it’s worth taking a chance this late on his 20-homer upside.
18 and 19. Casey McGehee/Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT: Early drafters are liking McGehee better than Alvarez here, but not by much. Personally, I’m intrigued to see what Alvarez does the year after hype drove his ADP to unrealistic heights in 2011.
20. Mat Gamel, 3B, MIL: It’s a make or break season or Gamel, who will move to 1B thanks to the departure of Prince Fielder. While the highly touted prospect has failed to meet expectations, he did hit 28 homers with 90 runs, 96 RBI and a .310 average at triple-A in 2011.
The next five: Ty Wigginton, 3B/1B, PHI; Danny Valencia, 3B, MIN; Chone Figgins, 3B, SEA; Miguel Tejada, 3B/SS, FA; Brent Morel, 3B, CHW.