Tiers, Not Fears: Third Base

Brett Lawrie: Chairman of the Do Work Committee
Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Third base is normally considered a shallow fantasy position, but that notion is being turned on its head this year. Not only is the position top-heavy, but there is actually some length with the top 15 or 16 options all being starter-worthy fantasy plays. Granted, after you get past the first three players, you encounter a slew of dudes with question marks. Still, this is the deepest the position has been for some time.

This may take some getting used to. Almost like trying to come to grips with the fact that, after careful consideration, you’d actually bang Snooki. There may be several stages to go through before you finally reach “acceptance,” but luckily, you have your boy Dudley Do Work here to guide you. I’ve ranked 52 third basemen in this edition of “Tiers, Not Fears,” so breathe easy homie. We got you.

More after the jump:

The “Crown Me” Contingency
1. Jose Bautista
2. Miguel Cabrera
Both of these guys are vying not only for the top 3B spot, but the top overall pick in fantasy overall. We had to crown somebody … Aside from sucking each one of your dicks (or clits, for the females in the audience), I have no idea what Bautista needs to do to earn your proper respect. Don’t give me the “Well, he is a top five pick” talk. Joey Bats deserves to be the first player taken off the board in all drafts… period. The only argument I hear people using for why they think Cabrera is better is the dreaded “well, Bautista was a nobody before 2010.” Big f’ing deal. Bautista has been the most dangerous hitter in baseball since that time and I could give two shits what he was doing before his ascension. Miggy Smalls is a long-established star and has Bautista bested in the BA category, but Bautista is no slouch there. He hit .302 last year, which is pretty damn good in its own right. In terms of power, however, it’s really no competition. Bautista is coming off back-to-back .300-plus ISO seasons. Cabrera? He has exactly zero .300 ISO seasons. Bautista socked 13 more HRs than Cabrera in 2011, which is a huge advantage considering that power is down across the league. Still don’t think Bautista is better? Well, it seems major league pitchers do. You see, they walked Bautista an insane 20.2 percent of the time last year, compared to 15.7 for Cabrera. Bottom line is, Joey Bats has been a better fantasy weapon than Cabrera the last two years and there’s no reason to expect anything different this season. This is not at all a knock on Cabrera, but the significant difference in power potential between these players makes Bautista the king of the 3B position (and fantasy baseball) … Cabrera posted career-best marks last year in BB% (15.7), K% (12.9), Contact% (82.4) and BA (.344). His career .239 ISO shows he’s a premiere power threat, even if he can’t hang with Bautista. The real scary part about Miguel Cabrera is that he is still only 28 (29 in April). With Prince Fielder in town, it’s possible Cabrera has his best season yet in 2012.

The “Still Sick” Solo Society
3. Evan Longoria
Though he’s not quite up there with the top two stars, he’s elite in his own right … Longlorious owned a .251 ISO in 2011, which was his highest mark since his rookie campaign. The fact that he registered 31 HRs and 99 RBIs in just 133 games in ‘11 is pretty awesome as well. In fact, the peripherals say that his plate patience last year was the best its ever been (career-best 13.9 BB% and 16.2 K%). For that reason, his .244 BA (which came with a flukey .239 BABIP) should shoot up this year, especially when one considers that he made contact at a career-best rate last season (79.6 Contact%). Yeah he’s battled some nagging injuries during his major league career, but you shouldn’t have any fear hitching your title hopes to Longo.

The “Wounded” Warriors
4. Hanley Ramirez
5. Alex Rodriguez
Their health keeps them out of the top two tiers, but each player here has the chance to turn in a huge season … Ramirez earns this spot on the rankings because of his SS eligibility, which is where anybody who drafts him should be playing him. For analysis on Ramirez, peep the SS rankings … Though he’s played in under 140 games in each of the last four years, Rodriguez is still intriguing enough to gamble on. Sure he’s 37 years old, but New York’s lineup is still diesel and his home park remains hitter-friendly. Obviously, his health and declining production are a concern. A-Rod has posted a LD% below 15 percent in each of the last two seasons and his ISO dropped to .185 last year. Some of that can be attributed to his knee and shoulder injuries. The procedure he had in Germany on these body parts (on the strength of a Kobe Bryant recommendation) gives hope to better health in 2012. Kobe, who had the procedure on his ankle, had it performed a mere weeks before the NBA season got underway and has reported no problems with the affected area. The Yankees also have the DH spot open, so Rodriguez will get plenty of ABs there if he needs them. Keep in mind that in the 13 seasons prior to 2011, Rodriguez had at least 30 HRs and 100 RBIs. His age and down year in 2011 will have people sleeping, but this is one of the greatest right-handed hitters ever playing in one of the best offenses in baseball. Don’t count the old man out.

The “Consolation” Crew
6. Adrian Beltre
7. Brett Lawrie
8. David Wright
9. Pablo Sandoval
10. Ryan Zimmerman
You may not have gotten one of the top players to hold down your 3B slot, but you can’t be mad if you have to “settle” for one of these guys … Proving that his great numbers with Boston were no fluke, Beltre did work last year despite being limited to 124 games (.296 BA, 32 HRs, .265 ISO, 105 RBIs, 82 Rs). He even posted career-best marks in K% (10.1) and Contact% (84.9). That’s two impressive offensive seasons for Beltre in a row, and he looks capable of doing it again in Texas. Yet there’s a reason he’s not higher up on the list. He’s been a bit injury-prone over the last few years (sans 2010) and he’s turning 33 in April. Plus, while a jump in power production was expected when he left Safeco Field, the numbers he’s throwing up in the last two years are incredible compared to his Seattle production. I can’t imagine his numbers getting much better and you can argue that they may even come back to Earth a bit … With the cocksure attitude of a young Razor Ramon, Lawrie looks like a legit breakout candidate. He’s got the potential to hit 25-30 HRs and steal 20-25 bases. Unfortunately, the hype is already ridiculous. You’ll have to fork over a fourth or fifth round pick, which makes the chance of a profit slim. Keep in mind that his power was just OK before 2011 and he’s someone who could see his Ks creep up … Dealing with a rib injury in Spring Training that is lasting longer than the Mets expected, Wright is admittedly a risky pick. Wright’s ISO fell to .172 last year, but he should get a power boost in 2012 since the Mets are moving the fences in. He’s hit 26 or more HRs five times and can steal 15-20 bases, which makes him one of the rare power/speed guys at the 3B position. Of course, things aren’t all rosy with Wright. His supporting cast in New York is terrible, so opposing hurlers can avoid giving him good pitches to hit. Also, Wright has struggled with strikeouts over the last three seasons and saw his BA drop to .254 in 2011 … He’s shaped like a sideways jelly bean and was limited to just 117 games last year, but it’s hard not to like the upside of Sandoval. He rocked a career-high .237 ISO and 16.0 HR/FB last year, and that was with a shoulder injury for much of the second half. His health is obviously a concern, as well as the fact that his SwStr% sat at a career-worst 10.6 mark in 2011. For a player whose value lies heavily on a .300-plus BA, it’s never good to see an increase in swings and misses. Still, if you get 140 games out of the Pablano Sandwich, you’ll probably be pretty content with the production … Zimmerman is overrated if you think about it. He’s been injury-prone for most of his career (one 150 game season in the last four years) and he posted pedestrian numbers in ISO (.154), LD% (15.7), and HR/FB (10.9) in 2011. He’s hit 30 HRs before and is a career .288 hitter, so the talent is obviously there. He’s also only 27, so there’s room for him to grow. The problem is, people are willing to pay for his ceiling, meaning he will end up nowhere near my fantasy rosters.

The “Down Year” Delinquents
11. Michael Young
12. Kevin Youkilis
13. Aramis Ramirez
These players are very capable of posting great fantasy numbers, but they are getting up their in age and could very well perform below market value … His 2B eligibility (in Yahoo! leagues) is the main reason Young is so high on this list. While he did post career-best numbers in K% (11.3), BA (.338), and LD% (26.2) in 2011, his power continued its decline (.136 ISO and 11 HRs). Young has been crazy durable in his career and is a fixture in the middle of Texas’ deadly lineup. Yet at 35 years old, it’s only natural to anticipate a regression in 2012 … Youkilis has played under 140 games in the last three seasons and at age 33, he has become a risky fantasy option. It doesn’t help that he reportedly isn’t in the greatest shape and is coming off a disappointing campaign (.258 BA in 2011). Youkilis has topped 25 HRs just once in his career and posted a career-low 81.5 Contact% in 2011. He has shown that he can produce when healthy and hitting in the middle of Boston’s lineup. Just know that if you take Youkilis in your draft, you are taking a chance on an aging, relatively fragile player with a history of poor body conditioning who has hit under 20 HRs the last two years. That’s more red flags than a race track … A-Ram bounced back nicely in 2011 (.306 BA, 26 HRs, 93 RBIs, 80 Rs). He even posted a career-best 23.2 LD% and increased his contact rate. Don’t get too excited. He’s turning 34 in June and has been rather injury-prone in the last few years. Ramirez also hasn’t sniffed 30 HRs since 2006 and will be without Ryan Braun for 50 games to start the season. Granted, A-Ram is still solid, but he’s past his prime.

The “Low-Risk” Lieutenants
14. Mark Reynolds
15. Emilio Bonifacio
The reason these dudes are low risk is because of the price tag. Sure you are taking a chance in the sense that they may be underwhelming fantasy options compared to other players at the position, but there’s profit to be had … With a career .246 ISO and 36 HRs per 162 games, Reynolds is a bonafide power beast in fantasy. He gets a bad rap for his BA, but it shouldn’t be assumed that he’ll flirt with a .200 mark. For starters, Reynolds has hit at least .260 twice before in his five year career. Also, he’s actually cut down on the whiffs. His 16.3 SwStr% (although still high by normal standards) is the lowest of his career. If he was able to hit for a decent average before with more swings and misses, there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again, especially if he continues to cut down on the Ks. This is one of the best power hitters in baseball and he comes with a pretty cheap price tag all things considered. He’s worth taking a chance on if you are in need of power and his BA may surprise people … Bonifacio ends up in this spot thanks to his SS eligiblity. He enjoyed a very solid 2011, finishing with a .296 BA, 40 SBs, and 78 Rs. What’s really encouraging is that his walk rate has improved over the last two years and he’s also making consistently hard contact to boot. He’ll be undervalued thanks to the perception that he’s more of a utility player than an everyday starter, but the strides he’s made in his game should not be ignored. He’s the front-runner for the CF gig in Miami and would be a great source of steals in 2012.

The “Hype Train” Hooligans
16. David Freese
17. Mike Moustakas
Both players have obvious upside, but if their buzz continues to build, they may cost you way more than they should … It’s easy to see why people are so enthusiastic about Freese. He had a monster post-season, hit .297 last year, and drove the ball in 2011 (24.6 LD% and 16.7 HR/FB). However, I’m not convinced that he’s a top 12 fantasy 3B. For starters, he’s turning 29 in April and was never considered a big-time offensive prospect. Yes he put up impressive power numbers in AAA, but that was in the PCL league. His power in the majors really hasn’t been shit as he posted a .144 ISO last season and had a .108 mark in 2010. Plus, with Albert Pujols gone, the RBI opportunities will not be the same … Moustakas had a .241 ISO in AAA between 2010 and 2011, but don’t get it twisted. That production came in the PCL league, where bums like Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez look like Babe Ruth. We can’t sell Moustakas completely short. After all, he does make a lot of contact and had a 20.4 LD% in the majors last year. However, his power did not make the trip to the bigs with him as he posted a meager .104 ISO and 4.2 HR/FB last year. Kauffman Stadium is not doing Moustakas any favors, so expecting even 20 HRs is somewhat of a stretch.

The “Sketchy” Squadron
18. Ryan Roberts
19. Edwin Encarnacion
This duo is interesting enough, but they also have fatal flaws attached to them … With 2B eligibility, Roberts finds himself at a decent spot in our rankings. Of course, expecting him to again hit 19 HRs and swipe 18 bags is foolish. His power track record in the minors suggests he’s more of a 13-15 HR guy. Plus, he’s 31, and these come-out-of-nowhere stories have a way of disappearing just as quickly as they arrived … Encarnacion is a classic post-hype sleeper. His .193 career ISO is pretty good for a 3B and the team got him some playing time in LF during winter ball to increase his versatility (he may play in left this season). Of course, it’s important to note that he’ll need to produce to keep an everyday job because the team does have options to go in case Encarnacion sucks.

The “Recovery” Renegades
20. Chone Figgins
21. Martin Prado
22. Ian Stewart
23. Chipper Jones
24. Chris Davis
These players are all viewed as terrible fantasy players, but they can make amends for their past mistakes … Early mock draft results have fantasy owners completely giving up on Figgins, but he may actually be a decent cheap target. Now there’s obviously a lot of obstacles standing in his way to a bounce back campaign. He’s 34 years old, injury-prone, stealing fewer bases (11 SBs in 17 attempts in 2011), walking less, and has been an absolute bust in Seattle. That’s quite a laundry list of cons, but there’s hope for 2012. It sounds like Figgins will bat leadoff this year, which is where he’s spent most of his career doing work. Figgins also posted a career-best 89.9 Contact% and should have a better BA in 2012 (.215 BABIP last year). He does jack shit in the HR/RBI categories, but could still steal 20 or 30 bases and hit for a good BA if healthy. Those aren’t the most attractive attributes in a fantasy 3B, but for the dirt cheap price, they’ll do … You just knew Prado’s 15 HR/100 R season in 2010 was too good to be true. Runs are hard to predict unless you are on a consistently great offense (which the Braves are not) and his power was not about to lead him to 20 HRs. So when people flocked to Prado as their 2B in 2011, it was laughable. Truth is, his lack of pop or speed do not play well at 3B or OF. That said, Prado will slot in behind Michael Bourn and ahead of Brian McCann in the lineup, which is an ideal spot … Stewart is only 27 and is getting a clean slate in Chicago. The owner of a career .192 ISO and 10.3 BB%, Stewart always had potential. He just needs to figure out how to stop striking out so damn much (career 29.7 K%). The whiffs have killed his average, as he has a career .236 BA. Aside from the strikeouts, his health and problems versus southpaws (.223 BA and 30.1 K%) really hamstring his value. You have to think Theo Epstein and co. did their homework when they traded for him, and Stewart’s power potential does make him interesting. Fortunately, you won’t have to spend much to land him … Chipper is always hurt and has already undergone knee surgery a week before the start of the regular season. Yet his power actually came back a bit in 2011 (.196 ISO) and he’s reportedly paid more attention to his diet and workout regiment during the offseason in order to keep himself healthy for a full season. Sure that plan hasn’t worked out early in 2012, but at least he is trying to take better care of himself. Problem is, Jones is turning 40 in April and hasn’t taken 500 ABs since 2007. Jones’ BA (which was once consistently above .300) has also fallen below .275 in each of the last three years. Still, he’s a respectable option when healthy … Davis will probably go undrafted in most leagues, but I still like him more than the rest of the bums ranked below. Strikeouts are a killer (career 31.5 K%) and he could always end up as a platoon player thanks to his struggles with lefties (career .236/.282/.418). Fortunately, his competition for ABs is pathetic (Nick Johnson and Josh Bell), so Davis will get a chance to stick at 1B for the O’s. He hit .266 with Baltimore after getting traded from Texas and has flashed premiere power in the past. With Baltimore’s ballpark and underrated lineup, there’s still a microcosm of hope for Davis.

The “I’d Rather Not” Individuals
25. Chase Headley
26. Daniel Murphy
27. Mat Gamel
28. Mike Aviles
29. Jed Lowrie
30. Lonnie Chisenhall
31. Danny Valencia
32. Brent Morel
You would rather not have to rely on any of these dudes, but at least you can take solace in the fact that these players have some merit … Headley does a good job of getting on base (11.8 BB% in 2011) and has registered double-digit SBs the last three years, but goddamn the power is pathetic (career .123 ISO). He showed good pop in the minors in 2007 and 2008, but the upside here is that of a 15/15 season … Murphy is 2B eligible and should be in line for a lot of PAs in New York with the dearth of talent on the Mets. He hit .320 last year and can top .300 again, but don’t expect much else. He has little power, no speed, and cannot be counted for great counting stats in New York’s lineup … Let’s be clear about one thing: Gamel is only starting at 1B this year because the Brewers couldn’t find anyone else. His play on the field certainly hasn’t warranted a promotion (.222 BA and 34.5 K% in 194 big league PAs). One may think Gamel has some post-hype sleeper appeal, but he really was never that impressive of a prospect to begin with. His .211 ISO at AAA came in the PCL league, so you can’t trust that he will ever hit for power in the majors … Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said he believes Aviles has the “DNA” of an everyday shortstop. Considering that the team’s other options at SS are Jose Iglesias (all glove/no bat) or Nick Punto (all scrub/no love), that’s good enough to coax an endorsement out of Big Poppa Pockets. Aviles is eligible at 2B, SS, 3B and even if he somehow doesn’t win the starting SS gig, the Red Sox have brittle players in their infield whose injuries would open up playing time for Aviles. While he doesn’t offer much power (career .131 ISO), he could still hit 10-15 HRs and swipe 15-20 bases while generating favorable counting stats in a loaded Boston lineup … He doesn’t steal many bases (three for his career) and struggles versus right-handed pitching (career .210 BA), but fantasy owners can find a sliver of silver lining in the flashes of power Lowrie has shown in the bigs. Of course, it’s possible that he simply flames out since his career ISO in 920 big league PAs is a pedestrian .156. It’s a good thing he’s a SS, because if he was only 3B eligible, he’d be buried further down this list … Chisenhall has 20 HR potential and has no serious competition for the 3B gig (unless you count GM Chris Antonetti’s declaration that Chisenhall will “battle” Jack Hanahan for the starting job). Yet there really isn’t anything too special about Lonnie Chins ’N Balls. His power wasn’t all that in the minors (.180 ISO) and his 10.4 SwStr% and 22.0 K% from last year do not portend BA success (.255 last year). It’s also worth mentioning that he had an atrocious 3.6 BB% last year … 15 HRs and 72 RBIs are nothing to sneeze at for deeper league owners in leagues that use CIs, but the upside is limited with Valencia. He could provide a BA in the .290-.300 range, but Danny V doesn’t steal or take many bases. Good thing he has little competition at 3B … The Morel of the story is: this guy just isn’t that good. Yet he’s the likely Opening Day starter, owns a career .305 BA in the minors, and has an outside shot at 20 HRs. That’s intriguing enough for him to slide into this tier.

The “It’s Getting to that Point” Posse
33. Robert Andino
34. Casey Blake
35. Pedro Alvarez
36. Wilson Betemit
37. Ty Wigginton
Yup, it’s getting to that point that deep leaguers dread. It’s that moment where you try to decide which of these leftovers is the “least crappy” and could potentially develop into something useful … With Brian Roberts presumably dead from a concussion, Andino takes over as Baltimore’s everyday 2B. He’ll hit leadoff and can steal 15-20 bases, but don’t expect much else. He’s a career .245/.302/.344 hitter and only makes this list because Baltimore’s offense will probably carry his counting stats to respectability … Prior to 2011, Blake had hit at least 17 HRs in eight straight years and is now moving to Coors Field as Colorado’s starting third baseman. Yet he’s turning 39 in August and the team has no shortage of chippy, infield types who can take over for Blake if his struggles at the plate from last year continue … Alvarez has tremendous power potential, but he strikes out like whoa (30.5 K% last year and .191 BA). Put it this way, when a team decides to bring in Casey McGehee as insurance, you know their faith in Alvarez is not 100 percent. There is some sleeper appeal with Alvarez, but just keep in mind that he was completely over-matched last year and will need to make a ton of adjustments to be a worthy fantasy option … The Orioles signed Betemit to be their primary DH, but you know the team will let Matt Wieters bat there when he isn’t catching, making Betemit something of a platoon player. Betemit earns points for having pretty good pop, moving to a great hitter’s park, and joining a solid lineup … Wigginton’s early season value cannot be denied as he figures to get a fair amount of playing time with Ryan Howard out until at least May. The Phillies do have injury-prone players around their infield, so Wiggy should have little trouble eclipsing 450 PAs by season’s end. Just be aware that he’s 34 years old, has hit under .250 the last two seasons, and posted modest power numbers in a great hitter’s park last year … Aviles doesn’t have a starting job at the moment, but he’s eligible at 2B, SS, 3B and is even working out in the OF to increase his versatility. The Red Sox have brittle players in their infield and Aviles played well for Boston last year after coming over from Kansas City, so one has to assume he’ll be the greatest benefactor of an injury. That said, he doesn’t offer much power (career .131 ISO) and is platooning at SS with Nick Punto to start the season. Aviles literally needs an injury or two to get ample playing time. Even if he gets that, there are no guarantees that he’ll keep a regular gig as the team also has Jose Iglesias’ superior glove waiting in the wings.

The “Jesus, Do I Have To?” Jabronis
38. Alberto Callaspo
39. Jimmy Paredes
40. Juan Uribe
41. Placido Polanco
42. Scott Rolen
43. Sean Rodriguez
44. Daniel Descalso
Fortunately, it won’t have to come down to this for most of you. The rest of you having to pick from among these dudes… good luck suckas … It’s not that Callaspo is a terrible player, but he just doesn’t do much in fantasy. He’s a career .281 hitter with no power (career .108 ISO) and no speed (eight SBs last year a career-high). Plus, it’s possible Mark Trumbo supplants Callaspo as the starting 3B … Paredes may have to fend off Brett Wallace for 3B duties, but he seems like a pretty good bet to start when Opening Day arrives. While he could steal 20-30 bases, Paredes has no AAA experience and meager power (.127 ISO in the minors). If he becomes overmatched, the team could opt to go with Matt Downs or give another youngster a shot. After all, Houston is in complete rebuilding mode so no one’s job is safe as the team tries to figure out what they have on their roster … Though he showed good power in his two years with the Giants, Uribe managed just a .089 ISO last year as he struggled to stay healthy. Injuries have been an issue with Uribe in the past, so even though he should start when he’s on the field, Uribe could go down at any moment … Polanco hit .277 last year, but is 36 years old and has no power/speed potential. If this was the Phillies offense of four years ago, then yeah, there would be room for him on fantasy rosters. Yet this current Philadelphia lineup is just OK and certainly not good enough to cover up Polanco’s offensive shortcomings … Rolen is just a year removed from a 20 HR/83 RBI season, but is turning 37 in April and has Juan Francisco nipping at his heels. Injuries continue to be an issue for Rolen as he hasn’t played in 150 games in five years … He’s engaged in a position battle with Reid Brignac and there’s a reason Rodriguez has never accumulated 450 PAs in a single season. Rodriguez’s power in the minors came mostly in the PCL league and it shows. He has a weak .138 ISO in the majors and also struggles mightily versus right handed pitchers (career .212 BA). He’s the definition of a major league platoon or bench player … Descalso will compete against Tyler Greene for the 2B position, but he would be lucky to reach double-digit HRs or SBs with a full season of PAs. Additionally, Descalso would likely find himself hitting in the bottom of a suddenly mediocre Cardinals lineup and would have Greene and veteran Skip Schumaker breathing down his neck for playing time.

The “Long Shot” Lunatics
45. Matt Downs
46. Juan Francisco
Playing time is an issue for these two coming into the season, but they could turn into interesting fantasy plays if given the opportunity … Eligible at 1B, 2B, and 3B, Downs was a super-sub for the Astros last year, posting an impressive .241 ISO in 222 PAs. He reminds me of a young Ty Wigginton, and Downs could find himself in a regular role with Houston if some of their young players struggle. The classic pull hitter has holes in his swing and would likely yield an unattractive BA (think in the .250 range), but his pop could make the rest of his line tolerable … Francisco is an interesting prospect (if a bit overrated), but Dusty Baker has already come out and said he envisions him getting 40 starts at 3B if Rolen is healthy. Of course, Rolen is fragile as fuck and could always get hurt for an extended period. Yet the fact that ole’ Dusty is already sticking with Rolen as his primary option at 3B doesn’t bode well for Francisco’s value.

The “Stop-Gap” Goons
47. Maicer Izturis
48. Casey McGehee
49. Chris Johnson
These three will start the season off on the bench, but could perhaps hold some stop gap value at some point this season … The Angels are now loaded at the infield positions and that kills Izturis’ value. He could always get traded, but even if he plays everyday, the upside is limited. He has a career .114 ISO and has never stolen more than 14 bags. His short-term value would be derived from hitting in front of Albert Pujols … The only reason McGehee makes this list is because Pedro Alvarez looked so atrocious last year. The team brought McGehee on as insurance, but it’s a pretty crappy insurance plan if you ask me. He’s posted a LD% under 17.0 percent the last two years, has seen his GB% climb over 50.0 percent, and hit just .223 in 2011 … A popular sleeper last year, Johnson has become an afterthought in Houston. Of course, since the team is giving every young, unproven player a try, it’s feasible that some of these experiments will not pan out and open up the opportunity for Johnson to be a starter again. His come-out-of-nowhere performance late in 2010 helped many fantasy teams and he has decent-enough pop to become a solid fill-in player in 2012. Just be mindful that his strikeouts will lead to a bad BA, so he’ll need to hit for power in order to have a shred of fantasy value.

The “Rookie” Rabble
50. Vincent Catricala
51. Chase D’Arnaud
52. Taylor Green
These fresh faces all look like very capable fantasy options down the road, but a combination of minor league dominance and injuries to the big league roster could lead to them making an impact in 2012 … Catricala is a promising power prospect in Seattle who simply destroyed it in AA last year (276 PAs, .347 BA, .285 ISO, .464 wOBA). He still needs some seasoning in AAA, but is worth keeping in the back of your mind in case Figgins struggles and Catricala continues to mash … D’Arnaud has wheels (20 SBs in 24 attempts in 74 AAA games last year) and let’s face it, Clint Barmes is not a very tall hurdle to pass. Still, D’Arnaud has some holes in his swing he’ll need to correct in order to post a decent BA. With little power, D’Arnaud’s ceiling is that of a three-category contributor … With a breakout season at AAA last year, Green hit .336 with a .248 ISO. Mat Gamel doesn’t seem long for a starting gig in the bigs, but note that Gamel himself was a AAA killer in the PCL and look how that turned out. I have a lot more faith in Green since his peripheral numbers in AAA are more intriguing, but he wouldn’t be the first PCL hitter to completely bust in the majors.

*Last updated March 25th, 2012.


About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.