2010 Sleepers, Comebacks and Busts: Third Base

Third base has become a shallow position over the past few years.  With most of the elite talent going in the early rounds, will there be any value picks late?  Let’s take a look…

The Sleepers
Brandon Wood – It seems like forever ago that Brandon Wood was hitting 40-plus home runs at single-A and drawing comparisons to Cal Ripken Jr.  Those comps are long gone, but many still believe he will be an impact Major League player.  There is really nothing more for Wood to do at the minor league level and he has taken big strides in shortening his swing to cut down on strikeouts.  Now all he needs is regular playing time.  That is what he’ll get in 2010 as the starting third baseman for the Angels.  His swing still generates a bunch of swings and misses, but it also generates plenty of power.  He’ll be a nice late round flier for the power numbers, but along with the power comes worries about his AVG.  He’s bound to have some ups and downs, but in the end his numbers should be mixed league worthy.
Alex Gordon – Yeah, this seems to be the case every year.  Then, every year, Gordon ends up a bust.  While I’m not sold on Gordon as a breakout star or even a future superstar, I do think he has the ability to pay dividends at a shallow fantasy position.  He certainly has the potential to hit 20-plus home runs and steal 15 or so bases.
Jake Fox – Fox is in a tough spot.  There are a lot of pieces to fill the 1B/3B/DH spots for the A’s and Fox doesn’t have the defensive ability to hold off competition on that end.  He does, however, have some major pop in his bat.  While standard mixed leagues won’t need to draft Fox unless he is handed an everyday job this spring, deep leagues should find value in giving him a bench spot. 
I was thinking of adding Adrian Beltre in here, but I struggled with labeling him as a “sleeper” given the hype around his move to the Red Sox.  I do think Beltre will be a usable third base option this season, but by no means do I think he is going to have a huge breakout.
The Comeback
Chipper Jones – After three straight seasons of hitting .320 or better, Jones saw a major drop in AVG in 2009.  He still held a line drive rate of 20 percent, hit 18 home runs, scored 80 runs and drove in 71 runs.  While there is no doubt that Jones is getting older and the chances of him hitting the DL at close to 100 percent, he still can hit and a correction in BABIP from .287 last season should raise his AVG to a usable .290-plus range.  He’ll also remain in the heart of the Braves lineup giving him plenty of RBI opportunities.  If he falls far enough on draft day, he could provide some decent value (just have a backup plan in mind).
The Busts
Mark Reynolds – It is very hard to determine just how Reynolds’s 2010 season will turn out.  He strikes out so much that a repeat performance in AVG and power is unlikely.  Given that risk, I probably won’t be targeting him in any leagues because of the price acquire his services.
Michael Young – It seemed like Young found the fountain of youth in 2009 as his numbers reverted back to the year 2005.  The move to third base may have actually played a big role in keeping him healthy as it is a much less demanding position than shortstop.  Still, Young had the highest AB/HR rate of his career last season, which is unlikely to be repeated going forward.  I have a feeling too many people will pay for his 2009 numbers on draft day, thus over valuing him a bit.