When looking over the field of third basemen in 2009 you have a large number of (close-to) sure things masking a, perhaps, even larger group of sleepers and deep-sleepers. For anyone just joining in, feel free to read over my introductory post for the scoring break-down in a generic points-based fantasy baseball league as well as the subsequent posts centering on catchers, first basemen, and second basemen.
Obviously, the third base position takes a hit with the loss of Ryan Braun, who played zero games at the hot corner in 2008, from the 2009 eligibility roster. However, with the loss of one player comes the advent of another, as Evan Longoria joins Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, and Aramis Ramirez as the "powerhouses" of the position. Aside from these four no-brainers, there are a smorgasbord of alternative options for teams looking to drafts batters for this power position later in their respective fantasy drafts.
Beginning with the points-per-opportunity (pts/opp.) slugging break-down, Chone Figgins (not surprisingly at 2.1 pts/opp.) and Twins probable third baseman, Brian Buscher (2.0) round out the bottom of the list with Texas' Chris Davis (2.9) taking the top-spot nearly a full-point higher.
Now, when I first crunched these numbers and saw the mashing potential of Chris Davis I got giddy, no lie. I couldn't believe that this virtual rookie was ranked ahead of guys like A-Rod, D. Wright, and notorious mashers like Troy Glaus. Combine the numbers with the Rangers' history of cultivating young, slugging position players (thanks in large part to Rudy Jaramillo) and I was sold that I found the sleeper of the year!
...that is... until I noticed everyone coming to the same conclusion.
So, there we have it. Chris Davis is 2009's Josh Hamilton, someone who could be a sleeper, but, due to a huge amount of hype, won't be come fantasy-draft season. If you remember back to last season, Hamilton was getting so much love from a variety of fantasy baseball sources that he was being insanely overvalued in drafts everywhere. Obviously, the fantasy talking-heads earned their paychecks with this prediction, as Hamilton was a first-half fantasy MVP.
Just below Davis' 2.9 pts/opp. are Alex Rodriguez and Mark Reynolds who tie for second 2.67 pts/opp. We all know A-Rod's deal, so it's silly to waste space talking about how great he is, so I want to shift my attention to Mark Reynolds.
Last year, Reynolds was about as all-or-nothing as someone not-named Jack Cust can get. He batted a horrific .239 for the year, all the while knocking in 97 RBI with 28 long-balls. The reason for this drastic difference was essentially strike-outs. If Reynolds can just down on blindly hacking at anything thrown in the direction of home plate he's be an awesome option for 2009. Bill James anticipates a .270 BA with a near-.350 OBP, which is a huge improvement from both categories in 2008. However, before I decide to endorse Mark Reynolds in 2009, let's shift our attention from pts/opp. to points-per-plate-appearance (pts./pa), which (as you all know) is an indication of OPS in points-based fantasy leagues.
We return to a bit of normalcy in this category with Alex Rodriguez topping the position once again with a ridiculous 1.03 pts/pa. However, our good friend, the unfortunately overhyped Chris Davis places second with a 1.02 pts/pa (also ridiculous). Our "average" player(s) in this position are Edwin Encarnacion (.83), Alex Gordon (.82), and Scott Rolen (.81). This should answer any break-out questions surrounding Encarnacion and Gordon. Unless you're satisfied with an "average" player in a "power position," I'd let another owner take a risk on one of these young players in 2009.
Interestingly, Garrett Atkins (.80) falls BELOW average in 2009. This might be a player to rank a bit lower on your draft list this season, especially with younger players like Davis (1.02), Reynolds (.93), and the Brewers' Mat Gamel (.85).
A few more notables who fell well below average in the points-per-plate appearance category were Joe Crede (.74), Mike Lowell (.76), Jorge Cantu (.77), Chone Figgins (.77), and Kevin Kouzmanof (.77).
It's important to remember not to overrate players based purely on name. So far, of all the positions I've analyzed, there's a huge risk of this at the third base position. Don't be the owner who's pointed and laughed at for thinking Mike Lowell deserves a spot on your roster... please.