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NL Third Basemen: Day One
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

National League Third Basemen with Positive Draft Value

Quick Key to the tables:
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.  B = Bats.  T = Throws.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2005.
Age = Player's Age as of October 2, 2005.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement in 2005; Adjusted RAR = RAR modified to
consider a player's 2005 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

We ranked players in order from the highest draft value in a 4x4 league to the lowest. As the majority of fantasy leagues allow you to keep anyone traded to the other league, we listed each player in the league where he started the season.

Miguel Cabrera613198.3233311611063O
FLO Marlins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22B:R    T:R373665.752.4

Cabrera's current list of
David Wright575176.3062710217993
NY Mets4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22B:R    T:R373549.442.2

While I considered Wright a future star two years ago, I completely missed this outright breakout last summer. Wright fixed the temporarily reduced plate discipline of his 2004 debut, adding more power, speed, and patience in his first full big league season. Only Miguel Cabrera's return to the infield prevents Wright from owning the top spot here, and after this winter's moves, Wright moves ahead of Cabrera based on his SB upside and probable RBI opportunities. Bid to $29 quickly in the hope of stealing the Mets' best player for five bucks below his true value. Hopefully, New York soon will move him to the #2 or #3 hole where he will spend most of his career

Morgan Ensberg526149.283361016863
HOU Astros4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30B:R    T:R262547.540.8

An everyday job finally resulted in the breakout expected from Ensberg for the last few years. He registered the best skills of his career as the sole consistent force in Houston's unimpressive offense. Adding both a fully healthy Lance Berkman and Preston Wilson provides more support for the Astros' third baseman, but Ensberg's post-season exposure may overprice him in many leagues. Remember that he never will contribute an excellent batting average, leaving 2005 as a good estimate of his peak value. Definitely do not approach $30 in any leagues without severe inflation.

Aramis Ramirez463140.30231920723
CH Cubs4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:R    T:R24233925.6

Multiple minor injuries over the initial months of the season merely preceded a severe quad strain that cost Ramirez the last six weeks of 2005. When analyzing his campaign, remember that he missed somewhere near a hundred at-bats due to injury, costing him a superb chance at 40 homers, 110 RBI, and over $30 of roto value. Ramirez just reached his prime and could remain one of the game's most consistent power sources for the next few years, especially if the Cubs lock up Derrek Lee in the #3 hole ahead of him. Acquiring Aramis Ramirez anywhere around $25 virtually insures a solid .300/30/100 season at minimum from a potential perennial All-Star even with the ascent of Miguel Cabrera and David Wright.

Chipper Jones358106.29621725663
ATL Braves4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 33B:S    T:R181841.835

A bruised foot and strained oblique led to additional foot problems that pushed Jones to the DL from May until the All-Star Break. Shoulder problems slowed him in August, a sore quad briefly sidelined him in September, and then a post-season reworking of his contract insured Jones will remain a fragile third baseman rather than make the logical move to a less demanding position. That renegotiation also resulted in the trade of Andy Marte, costing the Braves their best hitting prospect since Andruw Jones a decade ago. Of course, Chipper remains an offensive force when healthy, on pace to reach the Hall of Fame if he echoes these numbers for a few more years, but he similarly seems far too volatile to trust as a fantasy anchor. Push much past $20 only with the full awareness that he no longer looks like the player that did not hit the DL from 1996 through 2003.

Troy Glaus538139.25837974783
ARI Diamondbacks4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:R    T:R181835.231.5

Finally healthy after two troublesome campaigns, Glaus reemerged as a premier power threat, exceeding his 2003 and 2004 combined totals in HR, RBI, BB, 2B, AB, and K. His move to Toronto places him in an even better hitters' park, in a better hitters' league, and in a lineup generally superior to the Diamondbacks' unimpressive attack. While playing on turf will not help, occasional DH stints should limit the likelihood of further knee problems, so expect Glaus to echo his MVP-caliber numbers from 2000. A .280ish BA could combine with superior power numbers to push his value much closer to $30.

Garrett Atkins519149.28713890623
COL Rockies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25B:R    T:R151514.612.4

Missing most of April with a strained hamstring did not cause nearly as many problems for Atkins as his dramatic inconsistency during the year, which was highlighted by his dropping from a .914 OPS in June to a .549 mark the next month despite improved plate discipline. The key here is noticing his massive platoon split, which qualifies him as a necessity in national contests yet renders him barely a marginal acquisition in most standard leagues. Remember also that Atkins lacks any significant secondary skills, does not project to hit for much more power, and could lose his job as soon as this fall to Ian Stewart. Generally avoid him in spring drafts, especially if your league overvalues Colorado hitters based on upside alone.

Joe Randa555153.27617680713
Age: 36B:R    T:R121314.920.3

Randa and the Reds played the free agent game perfectly as the club netted two quality pitching prospects by dealing him to the Padres, and he resuscitated his career, posting a career-high OPS in Cincinnati, which resulted in the Pirates overlooking his 150-point OPS drop in San Diego. Although his one-year deal with the Pirates does not necessitate a similar trade this summer with Jose Bautista likely needing a full AAA season, Randa remains at severe risk for a collapse given his age, unimpressive skill set, and change in ballparks. Expecting more than an empty .275 BA seems unwise from a player with the potential to post as little as $6-8.

Third Base Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Attempt to splurge on one of the top four third basemen listed here. All four appear on track for no less than respectable echoes of their 2005 numbers and yet at least one of them should hang on the board somewhere near $25.

Click here to read the previous article.

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