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NL Third Basemen: Day Two
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

National 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.

8.  Chad TracyARI DiamondbacksAge: 26B:L   T:R

Signed through 2010 in May, Tracy's seasonal OPS hit .900 for the last time in 2006 a week after he landed the contract extension. He badly slipped over the last four months of the season, however his improvement from a .07 walk rate to a .09 mark helps compensate for a contact rate drop from .84 to .78. Any rebound in that mark should push him back near the .300 average we expect from Tracy, and with further power growth on the horizon given his age and skill trends, investing in him this spring should pay welcome dividends. While Arizona shopped him this winter due to the presence of available alternatives Alberto Callaspo, Brian Barden, and Mark Reynolds, the Diamondbacks need Tracy's left-handed power to leaven the right-handed bats of Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin, and Chris Young, so feel free to exceed $20 in any format since I don't see Tracy going anywhere.

9.  Mike LambHOU AstrosAge: 31B:L   T:R

With Mark Loretta replacing Aubrey Huff as the Astros' 10th man, Lamb may pick up a few extra at-bats against right-handed hitters. However, unless Luke Scott can handle center, Lamb shouldn't start over Scott and certainly won't play over Lance Berkman or Carlos Lee, once again leaving him competing with Morgan Ensberg for playing time at third base. Realistically Lamb will spend at least some time at all four corner positions, and though I anticipate some erosion in his performance, his improved skills still make him a solid option in standard leagues. Target him for your corner slot at anything under $5 while hoping for a Dollar Days steal.

10.  Edwin EncarnacionCIN RedsAge: 23B:R   T:R

The departure of Rich Aurilia finally clears third base for Encarnacion by leaving Juan Castro and Jeff Conine as the most viable alternatives at the Reds' hot corner. Jerry Narron no longer should cite defensive concerns for keeping Encarnacion out of the lineup, especially with Alex Gonzalez now at shortstop. Of course, Encarnacion's bat demands an everyday job, and though he missed a month with a sprained ankle and badly slumped in September, he otherwise compiled very impressive stats that indicate plenty of room for further growth. Encarnacion only turned 24 this month, and as he possesses intriguing patience and a good base of power skills, further improvement in his contact rate, coupled with an expected increase in at-bats, should push Encarnacion to $20 or higher. If you don't want to pay for one of the $30 bats at third, spending about $15 for Encarnacion should net you a tidy profit and a superb keeper.

11.  Wes HelmsFLO MarlinsAge: 30B:R   T:R

Helms quietly played a major role in Florida's playoff run, posting career-best .329/.375/.575 averages that secured him a two-year deal to start for the Phillies. While he could slid back into a platoon role, his overall development and previous success as a starter suggests he should excel in Philly, especially if he hits behind Ryan Howard as expected. I wouldn't be shocked to see 25 homers and 100 RBI from the journeyman, although since he only exceeded 275 AB once in his career to date, a 20/80 campaign seems a reasonable goal. Despite the inevitable drop in Helms' batting average, nabbing him for anything in single digits looks like a good idea.

12.  David BellPHI/MILAge: 34B:R   T:R

Dealt to the Brewers at mid-season for pitching prospect Wilfrido Laureano, Bell didn't distinguish himself for either team and hasn't attracted much attention in free agency with spring training less than a month away. Few teams desire a third baseman with limited power skills despite Bell's respectable plate discipline and defensive chops. If the Brewers opt to keep Tony Graffanino, the American League appears Bell's best bet for playing time, most likely with the Orioles, Yankees, Rangers, Angels, or even his dad's Royals. Of course, with no starting job forthcoming, Bell looks like no more than endgame roster filler for a good fantasy teams. I see little reason to invest in him given the plethora of corner options with far more upside.

13.  Wilson BetemitATL/LADAge: 26B:S   T:R

Pilfered from the Braves for Danys Baez and Willy Aybar, Betemit should enter the season as the Dodgers' starting third baseman, but the presence of Andy LaRoche leaves him little margin for error if he wants to remain an everyday player in Los Angeles. He'll turn 27 this summer, and while he remains a very solid utilityman, Betemit lacks LaRoche's power, a needed trait in the Dodgers' featherweight lineup. I suspect he'll shift to second base by year's end given the general fragility of Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra on the right side of the infield, though a retreat into part-time duty also wouldn't shock me. Given Betemit's lack of position flexibility and somewhat mediocre skills, definitely drop out of any bidding that heads into the teens.

14.  Jeff CirilloMIL BrewersAge: 37B:R   T:R

Departing the Brewers once again for the prospect of more playing time, Cirillo appears unlikely to see an overt increase in at-bats given that his likely role on Minnesota as a cornerman and DH option appears no more than a fallback option should Nick Punto or Rondell White falter. Like Cirillo, both current Twins hit better against left-handers, so this move makes little sense to me. The change in ballparks also should result in a diminishment of Cirllo's already-meager power numbers, effectively rendering him little more than roster filler for the vast majority of fantasy teams.

15.  Scott SpiezioSTL CardinalsAge: 34B:S   T:R

Still possessing solid skills despite two horrid years in Seattle, Spiezio parlayed an NRI into a regular pinch-hitting gig that developed into a part-time starting job, which resulted in the best overall performance of Spiezio's career and a two-year extension in St. Louis. Although his batting average appears certain to fall given his contact rate, he remains a solid power threat quite likely to smack another dozen or so homers. Of course, only a serious injury to Scott Rolen or Albert Pujols will lead to an everyday gig for Spiezio, so unless you're looking for insurance after rostering the Cardinals' best players, don't ante more than a minimal bid for this inconsistent journeyman.

16.  Pedro FelizSF GiantsAge: 29B:R   T:R

A below-average player clearly unworthy of the riches San Francisco continues to lavish on him, Feliz wisely remained with the only team likely to let him play every day in the majors. Even the time-defying performances of Bonds, Ray Durham, and Omar Vizquel can't compensate for a third baseman unable to return his OPS above .725. Feliz doesn't even own a favorable platoon split, so while his decent power stroke inevitably leads to superficially impressive quantitative stats, he isn't an asset to the Giants and doesn't warrant more than a fantasy afterthought due to his combination of a poor BA and high at-bats totals that can wreck your team's average. Only owners invested heavily in Rockies, Phillies, and other high-average players should bother adding Feliz's two-category production to their roster.

Third Base Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Despite the upside suggested by Wilson Betemit's age, Tracy and Encarnacion easily possess the most upside here due to their combination of developing skills and very favorable home parks. Wes Helms also looks like a sleeper, and given his low profile despite his new starting job in Philadelphia, he appears a potentially superb fit for most teams' corner slots, far superior to probable backups like Lamb and Spiezio.

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