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AL Third Basemen: Day One
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Third Basemen with Positive Draft Value

Quick Key to the tables:
B = Bats.  T = Throws.  Age = Player's Age as of October 1, 2006.
Proj. = Rotohelp's projected 2006 stats and fantasy values for each player.
2006 = Each player's final 2006 stat line and fantasy values.
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2006.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement; aRAR = RAR adjusted to
consider a player's 2006 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

We ranked players by position 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 all players in the league where they began the season.

1.  Chone FigginsLA AngelsAge: 28B:S   T:R

While Figgins' performance didn't really differ from his past two campaigns, the lowest batting average of his career dragged down his OBP and SLG, as well as his stolen base total due to reduced opportunities. His downturn also cost him the Angels' leadoff job as Los Angeles signed Gary Matthews to replace Figgins atop the lineup. Perhaps that alignment will change if Matthews slumps as expected, but Figgins still seems a poor bet to improve on his 2006 output by any significant amount. Considering he also no longer qualifies at second base, bidding much past $30 for him just makes no sense. Even his rising homer total won't mean much if the move to the bottom of the order results in the normal hundred at-bat decrease experienced by most players making the same transition.

2.  Alex RodriguezNY YankeesAge: 31B:R   T:R

Easily the most underappreciated player in the game, ARod finished 2006 with better stats than he managed in his 2004 New York debut while ranking as the unquestioned top third baseman in the league and the second-best hitter on the Yankees. He just suffered the misfortune of self-destructing in the field even as Derek Jeter posted the best year of his career. Anything less than another MVP campaign from ARod will shock me, and if the Yankees' probable failure to win the Series leads to another round of bad press, watch ARod land the second $200M contract of his career after exercising his opt-out clause. More than a dozen clubs, including Baltimore, Boston, both Chicago teams, Detroit, Kansas City, both Los Angeles teams, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, and of course, both New York teams should enter next winter with the wherewithal to pay ARod $25M a year and the need for either a third baseman or shortstop to hit in the middle of their lineup. Consider this spring a superb opportunity to acquire this perennial $40 contender at a welcome discount right before he embarks upon the most important year of his Hall of Fame career. Feel free to push that $40 mark in any league where you want a four-category stud to anchor your team.

3.  Mark TeahenKC RoyalsAge: 25B:L   T:R

The decision to move Teahen to right field instead of second base baffles me considering his impressive range at third. Kansas City doesn't need anyone moving down the defensive spectrum sooner than necessary, so although I don't object to Alex Gordon bumping Teahen from third, sending him to the outfield isn't the best course of action. However, the real here news here centers on Teahen's bat, which forced him to the minors due to an awful .195/.241/.351 through the beginning of May. He then hit .380/.500/.658 with a 19:12 BB:K in 79 AB for AAA Omaha(PCL) and emerged as one of the best hitters in the game upon his return in June. Teahen hit .305/.352/.463 in 82 June at-bats, a stunning .319/.442/.692 in 91 July at-bats, and a strong .317/.368/.537 in 123 August at-bats before surgery to repair a torn right labrum ended his season in early September. He enters camp as the Royals' effectively unquestioned #3 hitter, and although he may eventually cede that job to Alex Gordon, I see no reason to doubt that Teahen will continue emerging as a premier young slugger this summer. Buying him for anything under $20 looks like a good investment, especially since David DeJesus and Ryan Shealy both seem set for breakout campaigns that will buoy Teahen's quantitative stats.

4.  Adrian BeltreSEA MarinersAge: 27B:R   T:R

Despite demonstrating marked improvement after a move to the #2 hole in the cushy spot behind Ichiro, Beltre stil doesn't resemble the slugger Seattle expected to see after anteing $64M for five years two winters ago. Yet with a career-best .89 G-F, welcome improvement in his plate patience, and another summer of excellent work in the field, Beltre remains an asset to the Mariners, especially since he only turns 28 in April and still could reemerge as a significant offensive threat. These last two comparatively sub-par performances make Beltre an ideal sleeper, so jump at the chance to roster him anywhere under $20. Even bids to $25 don't look like a terrible idea since someone along the lines of a .275-30-95 season seems quite logical given his skill set.

5.  Joe CredeCH White SoxAge: 28B:R   T:R

Widely assumed to be on his way out of town before hitting free agency after the 2008 season, Crede just might hang around The Cell longer than expected since I fully expect to see at least mild regression from this breakout campaign. While he emerged as a full-time starter and solid power option, a general lack of patience will prevent him from developing into an All-Star. The good news is that Crede's skills support both this level of power and a high BA, but the odds of him hitting $20 appear remote at best. Consider him merely a reasonably good investment at $15, primarily due to the fact that I can't see Kenny Williams dealing Crede during the year just to open a lineup slot for the ready-for-prime-time Josh Fields, who instead heads back to the minors for one more summer.

6.  Melvin MoraBAL OriolesAge: 34B:R   T:R

Few contract extensions made less sense than the three-year, $25M pact awarded Mora last May. He clearly appears on the downside of his career, no longer qualifies as a capable #2 hitter, and realistically barely belongs in the lineup at all given the normal expectations of a third baseman. While the Orioles also lack anyone even approaching a capable replacement, this career-high at-bat total merely camouflaged his declining skills. Frankly I wouldn't be surprised if he fails to break double-digit homers or steals this year, but since I suspect a BA rebound at least will help Mora stay near $15 for one more season.

7.  Mike LowellBOS Red SoxAge: 32B:R   T:R

Few developments surprised me less than Lowell's rebound after the Marlins forced the Red Sox to take him if they wanted Josh Beckett. While Lowell both kept Kevin Youkilis at third base and prompted Boston to redeal Andy Marte to Cleveland, he also nearly returned to his 2004 level of excellence while even managing the second-best batting average of his career. Now he'll spend the summer batting behind three tremendous OBP sources in David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and J.D. Drew, so even if his power stagnates as suggested by his career-worst .91 G-F, Lowell still should post a solid BA and the accompanying high RBI total. Feel free to bid about $15 with the hope that his free agent push will carry him toward $20.

8.  Maicer IzturisLA AngelsAge: 26B:S   T:R

Yes, Izturis earned $15 on the strength of his steals and batting average, and if the Angels take advantage of a club like the Marlins by offering Chone Figgins for more pitching, Izturis could clear $20 as the starting third baseman. He owns excellent plate discipline, some hints of developing power, and sufficient speed to steal two-dozen bases as a full-time player. Yet he enters camp as an unquestioned backup likely to cost no more than a few bucks in almost every draft. Consider him a superb bargain even before accounting for the relative likelihood that he'll qualify for second base or shortstop by the beginning of summer. Letting Izturis go for anything below $5 is a definite error, and I see plenty of reasons to continue bidding even if his price approaches $10.

9.  Troy GlausTOR Blue JaysAge: 30B:R   T:R

Giving up Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista for Glaus didn't prove a terrible idea for the Jays, but Glaus didn't exactly contend for an MVP award either. He missed time with elbow problems, an ankle injury, back issues, knee tendonitis, and even a sinus infection. While he remains a prolific power hitter, Glaus also doesn't post a sufficiently high BA to exceed his .253/.357/.503 career norms by any significant amount. Hopefully hitting behind Frank Thomas will lead to more RBI opportunities, but given the injury questions facing both Thomas and Glaus, I expect to see Lyle Overbay receive plenty of time at cleanup. Unless you already own a superb BA foundation, Glaus really only deserves bids around $15 due to his narrow offensive profile.

10.  Shea HillenbrandTOR/SFAge: 31B:R   T:R

Providing the most concrete reason to date for the firing of Jays' manager John Gibbons, Hillenbrand entered the year as a respectable DH option for Toronto, performed as expected for three months, and then found himself DFA'd right after the break. Apparently Hillenbrand didn't properly communicate with the Jays regarding a brief absence from the club to finalize an adoption, and after returning slightly later than expected, his attitude resulted in a significant blowup with Gibbons, who enters a players' meeting and reportedly physically threatened Hillenbrand. GM J.P. Ricciardi effectively lost our respect by not only failing to fire Gibbons on the spot for ridiculously unprofessional behavior but can effectively canning Hillenbrand, who soon found himself dispatched to San Francisco with Vinnie Chulk for Jeremy Accardo. Although adding Accardo appears a decent move for the Jays, he isn't significantly better than Chulk and wasn't worth opening the Hillenbrand's lineup hole. Unfortunately, the journeyman didn't exactly impress upon his return to the NL, so while he earned a one-year deal to replace the injured Juan Rivera as the Angels' DH, the Jays' moves probably cost Hillenbrand plenty of money this winter. I suspect he missed his chance at a major payday since heading to a pitchers' park for the first time in his career likely will limit Hillenbrand's value to both Los Angeles and fantasy teams, leaving you little reason to bid much into the teens for him.

11.  Brandon IngeDET TigersAge: 29B:R   T:R

Making one of the quietest contributions to Detroit's pennant run, Inge nearly matched his combined home run total from the previous two seasons despite seeing seventy fewer at-bats than 2005 alone as he settled at the bottom of the lineup. Of course, he also suffered some plate discipline erosion that leaves him unlikely to improve upon this performance, especially after he lost all incentive from a potential free agent push by signing a four-year deal for $24M last month. Inge isn't a terrible option as your starting third baseman, but due to his questionable BA and uncertain homer total, bidding much above $10 just isn't a wise idea.

Third Base Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Paying the $35-40 to secure ARod's services easily seems the safest bet to fill your third base hole in AL leagues. I also like Mark Teahen and Adrian Beltre for less than $20, with Mike Lowell a reasonable option for a few bucks short of that price. Also remember to target Maicer Izturis anywhere you need a bargain cornerman or utility player who possesses both double-digit upside and excellent long-term keeper potential.

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