Straight to the rankings… (Note: Rankings are based on 5×5 Rotisserie scoring).
1. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: He’s not a shortstop any more, but he’s still the best at his position. Rodriguez hit .286 with 36 homers, 28 steals, 112 runs and 106 RBIs last year, and that was considered a down year by many people.
Rodriguez is still only 29 years old, and I see no reason why he can’t at least match last year’s numbers and probably even rebound a bit. He should hit .290-.300 with 35-40 homers, 20-25 steals, 110-120 runs and 110-120 RBIs.
2. Scott Rolen, Cardinals: Last season was easily the best of Rolen’s career, and I don’t think he’ll do quite that well again. But he was proven as a very good producer at third base before last season, and he will be again this season.
Rolen only turns 30 in early April, so he shouldn’t be facing a decline in production yet. I think he’ll hit .290-.300 with 30-32 homers, 7-10 steals, 100-110 runs and 110-120 RBIs.
3. Adrian Beltre, Mariners: Beltre had a phenomenal season last year, hitting .334 with 48 home runs, and finally capitalizing on all the potential he showed early in his career. However, his production was so far above anything he had done before that I don’t think he can match it. I’m not saying it was a fluke, per se, but rather that he’ll decline to a point that’s still better than anything he had done before last year, just not by such a ridiculous amount.
My expectations for him are a .300-.310 average, 33-37 home runs, 7-10 steals, 80-90 runs and 100-110 RBIs. He may very well outproduce Rolen, but I like Rolen a little better because he has a track record rather than just one great season.
4. Eric Chavez, A’s: Had Chavez not missed 37 games last season due to injury, he would have put up some of the best numbers of his career. He controlled the strike zone better and finally hit left-handed pitching and hit as many homers as in 2003, but in 113 fewer at-bats.
Now, Chavez is 27 years old, which is right in the middle of a player’s prime, so there’s no reason he can’t keep improving. I expect him to hit .275-.280 with 30-35 homers, half a dozen steals, 95-100 runs and 100-110 RBIs.
5. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: Ramirez was very impressive last year, hitting .318 with 36 homers, 99 runs and 103 RBIs. I think he’s a good hitter, but I don’t think he’s quite that good.
Still, he doesn’t turn 27 until June, so he’s definitely right in his prime and even if he takes a step back, it shouldn’t be a big one. I’d say he’ll hit .290-.300 with 32-37 homers, 85-90 runs and 100-110 RBIs.
6. Aubrey Huff, Devil Rays: Huff struggled to start the year, hitting just .191 in April. But he recovered well enough to finish at .297 with 29 homers, 92 runs and 104 RBIs. At 28 years old, he’s right in his prime and he should continue to hit at least as well as he has over the last three seasons.
My prediction for Huff is that he’ll hit .300-.310 with 30-35 homers, a handful of steals, 85-90 runs and 100-110 RBIs.
7. Hank Blalock, Rangers: Blalock struggled mightily after the All-Star break, hitting .240 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in 271 at-bats. Still, he finished the season with a .276 average, 32 homers and 110 RBIs. He’s proven that he can be a 30-100 hitter in his two full seasons, the question is whether he’ll hit around .300 like in 2003 or in the .270s like last year.
My guess is he’ll fall somewhere in between, hitting .285-.290 with 30-35 homers, 100-110 runs and 100-110 RBIs.
8. David Wright, Mets: This kid (22 years old) is the real deal. At three levels (AA, AAA, majors) last year, he hit .320 with 32 homers, 28 steals, 103 runs and 97 RBIs. He may struggle at times in his first full season in the majors, but I have no doubt that he’ll have a very productive season.
I think he can definitely hit around .300 with 25-30 homers, 20-25 steals, 80-90 runs and 80-90 RBIs. Even if he struggles, I think he can give you a .280 average with 20 homers and 15 steals. So, he’s got a ton of upside and I don’t think he’s a huge risk.
9. Chipper Jones, Braves: Jones only hit .248 last year, but that’s mostly because he struggled with some injuries in the first half of the season. After the All-Star break, he hit .278 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs, and he finished with 30 homers and 96 RBIs.
He’s starting to get old enough (33 in April) that he’s declining, but he can still hit when he’s healthy and moving back to third base is big for his fantasy status. He should be able to hit .280-.290 with 30-35 homers, 80-85 runs and 95-100 RBIs.
10. Melvin Mora, Orioles: Mora has turned himself into a great hitter the last two seasons, but he’s had some trouble staying in the lineup. He played a solid 140 games last year, but only 96 the year before.
He’s also 33 years old, and I don’t know if he can hit quite as well as he did last year (.340-27-104). I’d expect him to hit .300-.310 with 20-25 homers, 5-10 steals, 100-110 runs and 90-100 RBIs.
11. Troy Glaus, Diamondbacks: Glaus is one of the biggest risk-reward players in all of fantasy baseball. He can hit a ton, but he has huge injury questions. He could either be one of the top five fantasy third basemen, or he could fail to be among the top 25 players at his position.
If he’s healthy and plays 140-150 games, Glaus will hit .250-.260 with 35-40 homers, 100-110 runs and 100-110 RBI. However, he’s only played 149 games combined the last two years. Reports say that his shoulder looks good this spring, but it’s still a gamble to count on him.
12. Mike Lowell, Marlins: Lowell represents the drop-off point in the third base pool. He and everybody ahead of him should be able to hit well enough to be solid starters for you if they stay healthy. After Lowell, there are a lot of question marks.
As for Lowell himself, he should be able to hit .280-.290 with 25-30 homers, 80-90 runs and 90-100 RBIs. He’s not spectacular, but he gets the job done.
13. Aaron Boone, Indians: Remember him? He missed all of last season after a pickup basketball injury, but before that he had 50 homers and 53 steals combined in the previous two seasons. He won’t hit for a real high average, but his combination of power and speed makes him useful as long as he hasn’t lost much because of the injury.
I’d expect him to hit .260-.270 with 20-25 homers, 15-20 steals, 75-80 runs and 80-90 RBIs. He’s a bit of a risk because he didn’t play last year, but he has some nice potential.
14. Corey Koskie, Blue Jays: Koskie’s career has kind of been all over the place. He’s generally played well when healthy, but he’s had trouble staying in the lineup and his batting average has fluctuated wildly over the seasons.
Now he’s getting a little older (31) and he’s not really in a good lineup. Still, he should be able to give you a .270-.275 average, 20-25 homers, 10-15 steals, 75-80 runs and 80-90 RBIs. He might do a little better than that if he can play 150 games, but he’s only done that once in his career.
15. Casey Blake, Indians: Blake took a huge step forward last year, going from hitting .257 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs to hitting .271 with 28 homers and 88 RBIs. He’s moving to the outfield this season to make room for Boone, so he won’t be as valuable next season, but you can take advantage of his third base eligibility this season.
He should be able to hit .265-.270 with 20-25 homers, 5-8 steals, 80-85 runs and 75-80 RBIs, which makes him a solid option as either a backup or a starter in leagues with a corner infield position.
16. Dallas McPherson, Angels: McPherson’s minor-league numbers are very, very impressive. Last year at two levels (AA and AAA), he hit .317 with 40 homers, 107 runs and 126 RBIs in just 500 at-bats. The question is whether his strikeouts (169 of them) mean major-league pitchers will be able to exploit a hole in his game.
He only had a brief taste of major-league action last year, so it doesn’t mean much, but it wasn’t encouraging. In 40 at-bats, he struck out 17 times and hit just .225, although he did have three homers. He has the potential to hit 30 homers, but he could also struggle and hit .235-.240.
17. Ryan Freel, Reds: Freel’s not a particularly good hitter, but he is fast, as his 37 steals last year attest. If he can stay in the lineup on a regular basis, especially if he can stay in the leadoff spot, he could put up some decent numbers. He’ll probably only hit .270 with a few homers, but he can steal 35-40 bases again and could score 90-100 runs.
18. Bill Mueller, Red Sox: Mueller would be higher on this list if he wasn’t an injury risk. He’s 34 years old, and he’s only played more than 111 games once in the last four seasons. He’s also coming off knee surgery that might hamper him a little at the beginning of the season.
If he stays healthy enough to play 140 games, however, Mueller can hit .290-.300 with about 15 homers, 80-90 runs and 70-75 RBIs.
19. Eric Hinske, Blue Jays: Hinske’s been a huge disappointment since his nice rookie season, hitting .245 with just 27 homers combined over the last two seasons. The only thing keeping him on this list is that he’s stolen a dozen (or a baker’s dozen) bases every season.
He’ll probably hit .260-.265 with 15-20 homers, 10-12 steals, 70-80 runs and 70-80 RBIs. He’ll probably be playing first base or DH most of this season, so he might not qualify at third base next year, which would pretty much make him useless except in deep leagues.
20. Sean Burroughs, Padres: The main things Burroughs has going for him are that he can hit for a high average, and he’s still young enough (24) that he might develop some power. He better hope so, because he’s shown absolutely none over his three years in the majors, with a grand total of 10 homers in 1,232 at-bats.
This year, I’d expect him to hit .300-.310 with 5-8 homers, a handful of steals, 75-80 runs and 50-55 RBIs. If he can hit even 10-12 homers, he’d be a lot more useful.