August third base rankings

Most fantasy rankings are forged on “gut calls” and the whimsical notions of whoever is compiling the list. Some experts don’t pay for saves, some don’t pay for steals, some wait on pitching, some value upside, some value reliability, and so on. While it might be nice to see plenty of different opinions, it probably doesn’t truly help unless you understand the biases of each individual ranker. This is why some of the writers here at The Hardball Times have created their own, objective valuation methods, outlined here and here (reading, or at least skimming, these introductory articles will give you a much better understanding of the rankings that follow and should help to answer most potential questions).

In accompaniment with Oliver’s ZiPS’ rest-of-season forecasts, we will use these objective formulas to create objective rankings. You may not agree with a particular rank, but you will know how the ranking was calculated and you won’t have to guess what the ranker was thinking. This should make adding your own personal adjustments and biases much easier. And perhaps this type of ranking will introduce some potential buys and sells that you may have otherwise overlooked.

These rankings will assume a 12-team league in adjusting for league average. The ordering of players, however, is unaffected; players will rank in identical order for leagues of all sizes.

Previous installments:
First Basemen
Second Basemen {/exp:list_maker}

1Miguel Cabrera20634123910.3161.322.1712.95
2Jose Bautista17132143330.2630.730.9311.31
3David Wright1892973170.2910.520.7910.73
4Brett Lawrie2163182680.2780.450.6310.54
5Hanley Ramirez18328726100.2680.290.2710.08
6Adrian Beltre1952793110.2970.180.359.78
7Ryan Zimmerman1923082910.281-
8Edwin Encarnacion17126102730.269-0.07-0.229.09
9Aramis Ramirez1802673410.283-0.11-0.118.95
10Evan Longoria1482582930.277-0.14-0.288.87
11Alex Rodriguez1612482840.267-0.23-0.488.63
12Pablo Sandoval1812572710.298-0.25-0.288.57
13Mike Moustakas2202782910.268-0.35-0.528.30
14Martin Prado2052842330.288-0.49-0.547.91
15Michael Young2192642720.283-0.56-0.697.71
16Chase Headley1872452350.273-0.56-0.887.70
17Pedro Alvarez18023102710.244-0.64-1.187.48
18Mark Reynolds17326102730.214-0.65-1.297.45
19Chris Davis1872292610.251-0.75-1.317.18
20Kyle Seager1942542440.263-0.79-1.187.06
21Todd Frazier1732272430.249-0.84-1.446.91
22Emilio Bonifacio16723110130.263-0.88-1.476.81
23Chris Johnson1812152510.271-0.98-1.486.52
24Kevin Youkilis1492372210.248-1.03-1.646.40
25David Freese1431852310.287-1.03-1.576.39
26Juan Francisco1541872410.26-1.05-1.746.35
27Mike Aviles1661942050.265-1.06-1.716.32
28Trevor Plouffe1742472010.247-1.12-1.766.15
29Josh Harrison1612321650.267-1.22-1.805.87
30Chipper Jones1291752110.279-1.22-1.905.85
31Steve Lombardozzi2022221650.267-1.28-1.905.71
32Casey McGehee17619625 0.25-1.28-2.055.69
33Daniel Murphy1551722120.29-1.31-1.925.60
34Will Middlebrooks1701562120.259-1.31-2.195.60
35Jose Lopez1651852210.261-1.32-2.075.59
36Jordan Pacheco1771722220.271-1.46-2.205.19
37Alberto Callaspo1712031910.269-1.47-2.165.18
38Ryan Roberts1511941750.232-1.47-2.425.17
39DJ LeMahieu1561511630.295-1.54-2.284.96
40Wilson Betemit1351651710.259-1.58-2.504.86

*Full season = the raw (non-adjusted) full season pace roto score using the roto points-above-replacement method. This is, essentially, the amount of expected roto points each player would score above an empty spot in a lineup over a full season.


Alex Rodriguez— Rodriguez will have X-rays on his fractured hand sometime in the near future. Until then, we won’t have a timetable for when he might return. The general sense is that he may be out up to two months. With roughly two months left in the season, this could mean that Rodriguez misses anywhere from 75 to 100 percent of the remaining games this year.

Since ZiPS doesn’t know his timetable, it still has him projected for 161 at-bats. This is probably far too high, especially with the Yankees’ position six and a half games ahead of Baltimore and Tampa Bay in the AL East. They could play it safe and wait until the playoffs to bring Rodriguez back. This injury should probably push Rodriguez out of the top-40 third basemen entirely, as he won’t be very useful in fantasy until 2013.

Mike Olt and Michael Young—The Texas Rangers summoned third base prospect Olt on Thursday, leaving Michael Young’s playing time in serious jeopardy. As Dave Cameron mentioned in his analysis of the call-up, Young hasn’t hit a home run since May 7 and has hit just .247/.275/.306 since then.

Young has been an above league-average player every year since 2003, but his -1.5 WAR in 2012—second worst in baseball (Jeff Francoeur)—became too much for the Rangers to take. Olt’s arrival likely means the end of Young as an everyday player. Despite Young’s overall ineptitude this year, he has remained solid against lefties, hitting for a 104 wRC+ against them, so he could still see at-bats in a platoon situation against lefties.

In the first game of the Olt era last night, he hit eighth and played first base, while Young remained in the lineup and hit sixth against lefty C.J. Wilson. We still don’t know if Young will be a strict platoon player for the rest of the year, but the Rangers didn’t call up Olt to sit on the bench, and with Young’s wRC+ of 50 against right handers, they would be best served to keep Young on the bench against them in favor of Mitch Moreland and his career 114 wRC+ against righties. However this situation ends up shaking out, it is not going to be good for Young’s fantasy value.

Arbitrary adjustments: For Michael Young, it would probably be safe to assume he loses close to half of the 219 at-bats that ZiPS has him projected for the rest of the way, which moves him out of the top-40 third basemen completely.

As for Olt, getting a gauge of what he will do in a two-month sample is tricky. He hit .288/.398/.579, with 28 home runs this year at Double-A, but he also struck out in 24 percent of his plate appearances. ZiPS does not have a projection for Olt yet, but he should provide good power with a low batting average, and will benefit greatly from his home park and the dangerous Rangers lineup. Putting a specific ranking on him is almost futile, due to the excessively large range of reasonable outcomes, but he is absolutely worth an add if you have a need a third base or a corner infield slot.

Juan Francisco and Josh Harrison — I am not sure why ZiPS is so aggressive in the playing time projections for Francisco and Harrison. Both players have been used primarily as pinch hitters. Since the beginning of July, Francisco compiled more than one plate appearance in just five games, while Harrison has had six such games. Both have skill sets that would be worth keeping an eye on should either of them stumble their way into regular at-bats, but as of now, they should probably be left on the waiver wire in mixed leagues.

Will Middlebrooks— ZiPS projects Middlebrooks for a 15/6/21/2/.259 fantasy line in 180 plate appearances the rest of the way. I have no problem with the projected batting average regression, and, while six home runs translates out to only 20 over a 600-plate appearance sample, I don’t have a huge problem with being cautious on a player with a 66-game major league track record and horrible plate discipline. I do, however, have an issue with the low run and RBI totals that ZiPS projects for Middlebrooks.

So far this year, Middlebrooks has 32 runs scored (0.125 runs per plate appearance) and 48 RBI (0.188 RBI per plate appearance). ZiPS, however, projects just 15 runs (0.833 runs/PA) and 21 RBI (0.117 RBI/PA). Runs and RBI are difficult to predict and there is surely regression coming in these two areas for Middlebrooks, but that seems too steep.

ZiPS projects a .294 OBP and .165 ISO for Middlebrooks for the rest of the season. Using FanGraphs’ new leaderboard filter, I extracted all hitters who have posted an on-base percentage between .290 and .300 in either 2011 or this year. The average runs scored rate for these players was 0.109 runs per plate appearance. I also extracted the hitters who had an isolated power between .155 and .175 over that same time period. The average RBI rate for this batch of players was 0.118 RBI per plate appearance.

The players on these two lists came from various teams, but most teams aren’t the Boston Red Sox. Despite losing key players in Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury for long periods of time this year, Boston still ranks eighth in baseball in wOBA. The lineup looks fully healthy now and could easily hit like it did in 2011, when it produced a league-best 116 wRC+.

Arbitrary adjustment: If we adjust the average run and RBI rate of players similar to Middlebrooks to reflect a 110 team-wRC+, something Boston should easily be capable of coming close to going forward, then he would average 0.120 runs and 0.130 RBI per plate appearance. I would also bump his playing time projection to 200 plate appearances. Under these circumstances, Middlebrooks’ rest of season projection looks like this: 24 runs, seven home runs, 26 RBI, two steals and a .259 average. Since he typically hits sixth or seventh, we could probably add a couple of RBIs and subtract a couple of runs from that line, but the overall result would be similar, a boost into the 17th spot among third basemen.

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Chipper is so low due to playing time issues and counting stats concerns, but given his performance and rate stats (when he does play, of course), isn’t he very valuable in a platoon role, provided one has the roster space to use him effectively?

Or should I cut him loose for, say, Chris Davis?

Jesse Sakstrup
Jesse Sakstrup

Yeah, if you extrapolate Chipper’s numbers to 200 ABs, he becomes a borderline top-10 third baseman. He is still very effective when healthy, and if you are in a league with daily lineups and have ample bench size to take on a platoon partner, then you should absolutely keep playing him.

With deeper rosters, you can platoon your way to top-10 numbers at almost any position for next no cost if you get creative. Chipper is a good guy to do this with.