Our 2012 keeper rankings focus on leagues that must gage the value of players for at least the next 3-5 years.
The third base keeper ranks feature some very solid talent toward the top, but some of the sophomores on this list should be taken with caution for various reasons.
Note: All players on keeper rankings lists have appeared in the major leagues. For prospect rankings, check out our 2012 5×5 rankings list. Some players are not listed here due to their value at other positions or likelihood that they will not retain 3B eligibility past 2012.
1. Evan Longoria, 26 – He’s one of the best young hitters in baseball. Chalk up his 2011 struggles to a small injury and a very unlucky .239 BABIP.
2. Brett Lawrie, 22 – There are some concerns that Lawrie’s poor defense will force him to a corner outfield spot, but for now it looks like the Blue Jays are set to work with him at third. 20/30 potential.
3. Pablo Sandoval, 25 – It’s amazing what happens when you work hard and stay in shape. Sandoval learned an important lesson during the summer of 2010 and he seems to be focused on staying in shape. While he might face long-term issues due to his tendency to swing at any pitch thrown toward home plate, he’s still only 25 and should posses enough bat speed to compensate well into his upper 20s.
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 27 – When healthy, there is no question that Zimmerman is one of the elite third base fantasy contributors. Unfortunately, he already has a significant injury history at age 27.
5. David Wright, 30 – Wright dealt with a back issue last season, which cut into his productivity, but he has seen higher strikeout rates over the last three seasons than he did earlier in his career. At age 30, there’s still a chance that he bounces back in the AVG/OBP categories, but he’ll need to make some adjustments to do so. At least we know that the fences in Citi Field are coming inward for the 2012 season, which gives a healthy Wright a very good shot at 25/15 production over the next few years (though it’s yet to be seen if he’ll still be in New York after this season).
6. Adrian Beltre, 33 – Beltre has actually been quite a consistent player, when healthy, since 2006. While his AVG/OBP have shown a tendency to fluctuate a bit, you can just about lock in at least 25 home runs. The one risk is in his lack of plate discipline, which should cause a quicker regression as he reaches his mid-30s.
7. Aramis Ramirez, 33 – Injuries affected the first half of A-Ram’s 2010 season, but his strong second half proved that his skills had not eroded, which was backed up by a strong 2011. Spending the next three seasons in Milwaukee should help him maintain his 20-25 home run power, but the regression in his chase rate is definitely something to worry about.
8. Alex Rodriguez, 36 – A-Rod seems to be warring down as evident by the fact that he hasn’t played in over 140 games since 2007. He still has the power to hit 25-30 home runs, but the stolen bases are all but gone and his ground ball rate has trended upward for three straight seasons, ending at about 49 percent in 2011.
9. Mike Moustakas, 23 – Mouse didn’t have a lot of success in his first go-around in the big leagues and he has some issues to work out like his struggles against left-handed pitching and his overly aggressive approach at the plate, but power should be his calling card. He’s probably not going to be a very good source of AVG/OBP in his career, but there’s potential for 25-30 home runs annually.
10. Kevin Youkilis, 32 – Youk’s best days are likely behind him as his bulky build perhaps led to some injuries last season as he transitioned to the hot corner full-time. If healthy, he should continue to hit for AVG/OBP and around 20 home runs.
11. Martin Prado, 28 – 2012 represents a great buy-low opportunity on Prado, whose production suffered due to injuries in 2011. His track record of tremendous line-drive contact makes him a good bet to hit around .300 most seasons with around 15 home runs.
12. David Freese, 29 – If it wasn’t for Freese’s track record of consistent injury issues, he’d rank higher.
13. Lonnie Chisenhall, 23 – I’ve always liked Chisenhall’s swing, but he has yet to refine his plate discipline, which could lead to little upside in the AVG/OBP categories going forward. He has some power, but will probably top out at around 20 homers.
14. Michael Young, 35 – Young posted the highest BABIP of his career in 2011, so it’s natural to speculate that his AVG will regress in 2012 and beyond. At age 35 and with regression power numbers, Young is a risky pick for those looking to invest more than one year.
15. Danny Valencia, 27 – Valencia is a victim of his own poor plate discipline. Which limits his AVG/OBP upside. That, on top of only mediocre power, keeps his overall value low.
16. Chase Headley, 27 – Headley has never slugged over .400 in his big league career. Perhaps Petco Park has something to do with that, but it’s more about his skill level than anything else. He’s a good baseball player, but he’s never going to be a fantasy baseball star.
17. Alex Liddi, 23 – Liddi has some huge raw power, but he also has a huge swing, which is likely to result in a ton of strikeouts at the big league level. He has upside for 25-30 home runs, but with a very low AVG.
18. Ryan Roberts, 31 – 2011 was a nice breakout for the gritty ballplayer they call “Tat Man”. Roberts displays good plate discipline, which makes him more valuable in OBP leagues. He hit .313 with five home runs in April and his next best month was July, in which he hit .275 with five homers. Roberts didn’t hit higher than .258 in May, June, August or September. 2011 might have been his career year.
19. Scott Sizemore, 27 – Sizemore has shown good plate discipline throughout his career, but his swing can get too long sometimes, resulting in high strikeout rates. If he can cut down on the strikeouts, he could turn into a .285/15 HR third baseman who posts above average OBPs.
20. Alberto Callaspo, 29 – Callaspo is one of those players who is much more valuable in real life than fantasy baseball, thanks in part to his excellent fielding and improved walk rate. At best he might net you a .290 AVG with 10 homers and 10 steals to go along with only mediocre R/RBI numbers.
21. Chris Davis, 26 – He’s the ultimate tease to fantasy owners. If you play in a Tripe-A-only league, feel free to rank Davis much higher, since he consistently crushes that level. However, his big swing has been exposed by big league pitching.
22. Juan Francisco, 24 – To say that Francisco takes a hack is an understatement. When he squares up a baseball, it travels a long way. The problem is that, more often than not, he’s not making contact. Power is his only asset and due to his bad plate discipline it’s an asset that may never be maximized in the big leagues.
23. Scott Rolen, 37 – Injuries and declining skills have slowed Rolen over the last few seasons and that’s a prognosis that should continue until he calls it a career.
24. Chipper Jones, 40 – In NL-only leagues, Chipper might be viewed as a one-year keeper option depending on the depth of the league. At age 40, however, he has no long-term value.
25. Placido Polanco, 36 – Age and injuries make Polanco an extremely risky player going forward.
More valuable at other positions or unlikely to retain 3B eligibility: Maicer Izturis, Edwin Encarnacion, Casey McGehee, Mark Reynolds, Jed Lowrie, Mat Gamel