Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2011 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued and Undervalued: Third Base

Now that my draft is over and my rankings are no longer a state secret from those who would use them against me, it's time to share the, um, knowledge. Or, at least, try to get something out of all of the work that I did in draft prep. Use in good health.

Overvalued

1) Pablo Sandoval, Giants. Do you know what you get if you halve the difference between King Fu GIDP's magical rookie year and his disastrous second year? A .300 BA, .350 OBA and .490 SLG... which in Pac Bell with better options for the higher spots in the lineup translates to 19 HRS and 77 RBIs. It's OK, but is that really what you want to start at third in a shallow mixed league? The sad fact about the Panda is that he's an absolute masher at catchers, but not so much at third, assuming you aren't in a deep or NL-only league, even given the fairly sad state of third base these days. And that's also assuming that he's going to have a serious bounce-back. Why do we think that again, since any intelligent pitcher stopped throwing him a fastball near the strike zone in August 2009?

If Panda struggles again this year - and considering that he doesn't really look that much like Vlad Guerrero, aka the only guy in the majors in the past 15 years to have a great career while swinging at everything - the Giants could go with Aubrey Huff at third, especially when they've got one of their stud right-handers on the mound. This would also give rookie first baseman Brandon Belt more time, or maybe a day off for Buster Posey while they wake up backup catcher Eli Whiteside. Miguel Tejada can play third, and so can Mike Fontenot. The point is this: unlike 2009, the Giants have options, and aren't going to just live with Panda stink; they did, after all, win the World Series with him on the bench.

So you've got a guy with possible playing time issues, whose OBA is never going to be much past replacement level. Even if he keeps the weight off and his bat in the lineup, you were not going to get 30 bombs. And even if he's skinny (well, ok, skinnier), he still won't be swift, so he's not going to start stealing enough bags to matter.

So why are you thinking about drafting him again? Right, so you can feel smart for calling the bounce back. He won't be doing it on my roster. .285 / 18 / 80.

2) Alex Rodriguez, Yankees. The former first overall pick can still mash, has a great home park for offense, and will be in the thick of a big time offense. That was the story last year, when he had 125 RBIs in just 137 games. But he's increasingly injury-prone - shocking for a Roid Boy! - and doesn't run anymore, with just 4 steals all year, his lowest total since he was a pup of 20. Those SBs (he has 301 for his career) used to make him unique; now, they just show what he's lost.

In 2010, I'm seeing more DL moments, some general slowing, and less RBI luck. He also hasn't broken 35 homers in a year since 2007 -- you know, back before anyone knew that he was pharmaceutically enhanced. At age 35, I'm betting that he doesn't have the thunder anymore, or the quicks. So let someone else overpay for .289 / 29 / 97 with 10 steals and two trips to the DL. (Besides, even Yankee Fan doesn't really like rooting for this guy. So why inflict him on your fake team?)

3) Mark Reynolds, Orioles. All in for the bounce-back to poor man's A-Rod status, right? Not so fast. While it's unlikely that Reynolds will hit for under .200 again while threatening his own records for strikeouts, that's only because he's no longer with his original organization, and hence won't get the opportunity. On an Oriole team that rarely oversees career development, the Human Wind Machine isn't going to suddenly learn how to cut down his swing with 2 strikes or stop swinging through so much, which means that when he's in one of those funks, he's going to find some pine. Hopefully with both maps and a coach helping him, because I'm not ready to cede that he would not swing and miss at that, too. 2009's 44 homers and 24 steals isn't coming back folks. .230 / 30 / 90 and 10 SBs.

Undervalued

1) Adrian Beltre, Rangers
. Yes, we know, he signed a contract and has nothing more to prove, and the older guys who remember him turning into a slug following his MVP year in Dodger Land won't get fooled again. But the difference between Safeco and Arlington is mind-boggling, and so is the difference between the Mariners offense and the defending AL champions. He's also not ancient, and given the number of douchebags in Boston that decided to play tag with his head last year, probably motivated to show them something. I'm looking for .300 / 30 / 105 with a few steals, and you won't pay that price to get him.

In Texas, Belt re will play against significantly weaker staffs then he faced in the AL East, and that includes inter-league, too. He might not have his career year - honestly, he's starting to build a case for Coopers town, though it would be one of those 15-year ones - but he's going to have a year. .300 / 30 / 110 and 5 SBs.

2) Martin Prado, Braves. More useful as a middle infielder and in batting average leagues, Prado is sneaky great as a source of batting average and runs scored, and a nice fit for teams that have power studs at other positions. He's had three straight years with over an .800 OPS, and has scored 210 runs in his last 346 games... so the skills are legitimae, and triple digits in runs in 2011 is entirely possible, and as he's just turned 27, the 15 homers from last year just might see a few more.

Finally, the Braves offense looks better in 2011, which is all to the good for Prado. In the late rounds for teams that targeted other positions, he could be just what you need to take down the title. .305 / 18 / 75, with 110 runs and 5 steals.

3) Placido Polanco, Phillies. Opportunity, thy name is Polanco. The 35-year-old has kept a consistent OPS for the past two years, and reasonable counting stats for a fill-in guy... but this year, with Chase Utley on the shelf, he has a reasonable chance at hitting third behind Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, and getting driven in by Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez. In a bandbox, on a daily basis, with the opposition under constant pressure to scrape across runs against the Philly aces. Your chances for extreme breakout aren't great, but a nice under-the-radar value play, especially in batting average leagues, is good. .305 / 10 / 75, with 5 steals and 80 runs.

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