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AL Third Basemen: Day Two
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.

12.  Hank BlalockTEX RangersAge: 25B:L   T:R

Despite seeming on the verge of a fantasy breakout for years, Blalock only turned 26 in November, and after the replacement of Buck Showalter with Ron Washington, might have the mentor necessary to take him to the next level. The shoulder surgery he underwent after the season hopefully will fix his major problem on defense, leaving only a rising groundball rate particularly worrisome for me. Blalock otherwise possesses a strong foundation for continued development, which includes posting the best combination of walk and contact rates in his career to date last summer. If healthy and comfortable batting behind Mike Young and Mark Teixeira, a .300/30/100 season seems a reasonable target. While those numbers appear a little lofty, I have a really good feeling about Blalock in 2007. Any salary under $20 will look like a giant steal by the All-Star game, and even bids to $25 might be warranted depending on your league.

13.  Aubrey HuffTB/HOUAge: 29B:L   T:R

Brought to Baltimore to provide needed flexibility to a lineup with surprisingly few reliable offensive performers at any position, Huff should spent most of 2007 as the Orioles' left fielder. His move to the Astros in July netted Tampa a couple of nice prospects in Ben Zobrist and Mitch Talbot, and although Huff didn't prosper in Houston, his past performance warranted more consideration than the three-year, $20M deal Baltimore provided. As Huff still owns impressive core skills and only turned 30 last month, he seems in a surprisingly favorable situation to reemerge as a potential All-Star. I view $15 as a good target price for someone capable of providing a corner outfielder's production while manning third for you.

14.  Eric ChavezOAK AthleticsAge: 28B:L   T:R

Nothing appears fundamentally wrong with Chavez's skills. His plate discipline rebounded near his 2004 levels while his power potential remained fairly constant. A 28-point BA drop claimed responsibility for the .786 OPS, and even that appears primarily due to the variety of health issues encountered by Chavez. He opened 2006 still struggling with shoulder issues from the previous summer, which he quickly followed with food poisoning, a bruised left hand, back tightness, forearm tendonitis, and a sprained ankle, all occurring in addition to a strained hamstring that bothered him all year. Perhaps Chavez just can't stay healthy, but I see the foundation for an MVP candidate here, so I see no choice but to endorse him anywhere near $20 unless he encounters further health issues during spring training.

15.  B.J. UptonTB Devil RaysAge: 22B:R   T:R

The relevant facts regarding Upton are that he initially cruised to the majors scarcely two years after Tampa took him with the second pick of the 2002 draft, he possesses as much quantitative upside as anyone in the league, and he enters 2007 with nowhere to play due to massive difficulties with consistently throwing to first base. Yes, he chafed badly by the Rays' decision to keep him at AAA Durham for over a thousand at-bats. His public irritation at those demotions was justified; his arrest for DUI in June certainly was not. If you can look past such an egregious lapse of judgment, you'll see someone capable of stealing a base every three games, a dynamic young player who just turned 22 in August and possesses the patience of a ten-year veteran. You simply can't ignore his fantasy potential, and if Joe Maddon enacts his plan to deploy Upton as a super utilityman, we could see him emerge as a Chone Figgins clone with power and plate discipline. Upton only needs an everyday job to blow past $30, so if you see the Rays at least commit to keeping him in the majors, don't even think about letting him slide for less than $20 in your draft. He could turn a 100% profit on that investment, posting the kind of stats that win championships for gambling owners.

16.  Aaron BooneCLE IndiansAge: 33B:R   T:R

While the Indians didn't deal Boone, they essentially benched him down the stretch in favor of Andy Marte. Now the former All-Star heads to Florida as Wes Helms' replacement, though since Boone lacks Helms' pure power, he may not even see much time as Mike Jacobs' platoon partner. Perhaps Fredi Gonzalez will return to Boone to his former role as a utilityman, nicely increasing his value in most fantasy leagues. At least the move from Jacobs Field to Dolphins Stadium won't affect his stats adversely, though I just don't see much upside in the skills of this aging journeyman. Don't consider Boone as more than an end-round corner filler on a team far more desperate for a few steals than adding the power normally required at that position.

17.  Russ BranyanTB/SDAge: 30B:L   T:R

Signing Branyan to a minor league deal last winter netted Tampa decent in-season filler and then a couple of prospects when the Rays shipped him to the Padres for Evan Meek and a PTBN. The journeyman slugger excelled with the Padres, posting a .292/.416/.556 in 72 at-bats they helped boost them past the Dodgers into the playoffs. San Diego eagerly retained him for 2007, and although the acquisition of Kevin Kouzmanoff should relegate Branyan to part-time duty by summer, he still offers plenty of upside for anyone capable of absorbing his poor BA. Branyan really needs a shot at DH or 1B on a team with a pure station-to-station offense, perhaps someplace like Toronto if Frank Thomas can't stay healthy. Few players possess his pure power, which makes him a decent roto option even if San Diego. Unfortunately, until Branyan finds at least a platoon starting job, he never will attain sufficient fantasy value to warrant more than minimal bids.

18.  Dallas McPhersonLA AngelsAge: 26B:L   T:R

A third campaign at AAA Salt Lake(PCL) resulted in another outwardly impressive .250/.307/.596 performance for McPherson, along with 17 HR, 45 RBI, and a 15:88 BB:K in 208 AB. However, between his waning plate discipline and a complete inability to stay healthy, he no longer looks like the Angels' long-term solution at any position. The back problems that slowed McPherson throughout the second half could lead to major long-term problems, and even if he avoids the DL, third base no longer seems a likely destination for him. He similarly remains blocked by Shea Hillenbrand, Casey Kotchman, and Kendry Morales at first, so although I won't completely advise against taking a reserve-round flyer on McPherson, drafting before Dollar Days just makes no sense right now.

Third Base Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: While Eric Chavez and Aubrey Huff look like relatively low-risk investments, Hank Blalock and B.J. Upton possess as much fantasy upside as almost anyone in the game. Yes, I envision Blalock's ceiling somewhere around $30 for 2007, but I expect him to come drastically closer to reaching that goal than he managed over the past few years. Upton similarly still seems a special player, lacking only the playing time necessary to blossom as a fantasy beast. Unless you lose players dealt to the NL, going the extra dollar for him offers massive potential since the Rays correctly appear unwilling to send him to force him back to Durham for a fourth International League campaign.

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