2011 Keeper Rankings: Third Base

The top three third base keepers are young and a good bet to be all-star fantasy studs for the foreseeable future. However, the rest of the pack has more than a few question marks.

Note: These are not positional rankings for 2011 and do not consider players with no major league experience (there are plenty of sources of prospect rankings for that). These players should help fantasy teams in 2011 as well as the foreseeable future. The number next to the player’s name represents his age on opening day 2011.

No-Doubt Keepers

Evan Longoria – 25
David Wright – 28
Ryan Zimmerman – 26
Alex Rodriguez – 36
Adrian Beltre – 32

It’s amazing to think of how good Evan Longoria already is and then realize that he’s only 25 years old. Expect the power to return in 2011 and continue into the future.

David Wright made us all forget about his ten home run 2009 campaign with 29 bombs in 2010. Wright’s strikeout rate spiked in 2009 and stayed in the mid-to-high 20 percent range once again in 2010. That, combined with a drop in contact rate and a rise in chase rate is a bit disconcerting in terms of his AVG. Still, being a 20/20 threat at third base for years to come holds extremely high value.

Only injuries kept Ryan Zimmerman from his second consecutive 30 home run season at age 25. About ten years older than Zimmerman, Alex Rodriguez is clearly not the player he once was. Injuries are beginning to creep in, but his power output should still deliver 30-plus home runs for the next 2-3 years.

Adrian Beltre barely makes this “No-Doubt” list. Not because he won’t put up nice numbers in Arlington, but because he won’t likely hit .300-plus again or progress much in power.

[Related: Adrian Beltre, Texas Ranger>>>]

The Maybes
Jose Bautista – 30
Casey McGehee – 28
Pedro Alvarez – 24
Pablo Sandoval – 24
Mark Reynolds – 27
Aramis Ramirez – 32
Michael Young – 34
Martin Prado – 27

How often do you see a player come out of nowhere, drop 50-plus bombs and then do it again the following season? Jose Bautista may have found his swing last season, but using a keeper on him and expecting 50 homers or even an AVG over .250 is risky business.

Casey McGehee and Pedro Alvarez are pretty close in 2011 rankings, but Alvarez has a distinct advantage in age and power potential. There is a chance, however, that Alvarez moves to first base before too long, especially if the Pirates take Anthony Rendon first overall in the June draft.
It’s hard to gauge what to really expect from Pablo Sandoval long-term. Players with weight problems tend to fight them throughout their career, or at least as far as I can think. Reports are stating that Sandoval has lost 20-plus pounds this offseason, so he could be in for a nice bounce-back 2011 campaign. What position he plays in the future is yet to be determined, but there is some optimism that he’ll stay at third base due to the rising star of first base prospect Brandon Belt.
Mark Reynolds could hit .260 with 40 bombs in 2011, but he’s just as likely to hit .220 with 35 bombs. At least the power is for real and his work to improve himself as a defender could keep him there a few more years.

Aramis Ramirez and Michael Young are both sort of in the same boat. Neither is the hitter they once were in their prime, but both should be productive for at least another year or two. Young’s biggest problem is the way the Rangers have shifted him around the last couple of years. Fantasy owners had better hope he gets enough games at 2B/3B/SS in 2011 so he can retain eligibility at at least one position other than DH.

As is the case in the second base keeper rankings, Martin Prado is a solid player, but lacks the upside to hold definite keeper value.

Deeper Keeper Considerations
Ian Stewart – 26
Chase Headley – 26
Danny Valencia – 26
Dyan Viciedo – 22

I still think Ian Stewart has the potential to hit 25-30 homers, but he once again struggled and was platooned against left-handed pitching in 2010. With such a crowded infield (Jose Lopez, Ty Wigginton and Eric Young Jr.) heading into the 2011 season, Stewart may once again lose at-bats against lefties.

Those looking for a Chase Headley breakout may be disappointed yet again. Headley is entering him prime, but has shown very little, if any signs that he’ll make a drastic improvement. In fact, his ISO has regressed for three straight seasons, ending at .111 last season. Like Headley, Danny Valencia may be nothing more than a fringe fantasy starter in mixed leagues. Valencia hit .311 with seven home runs in 299 at-bats for the Twins in 2010, but he was aided by a .345 BABIP. Valencia is already 26 and didn’t show much power projection in the minor leagues.

Stocky White Sox prospect Dyan Viciedo drew two, yes count em, TWO(!) walks in 106 plate appearances for the White Sox in 2010. He’s a legitimate power prospect, but not a lot of people see him sticking at third base long-term (He may even see some time in the outfield during spring training).