KEEPERS: Dynasty reload - Third basemen

This is the fourth of a 10-column series designed to help owners playing in keeper league (KL) and dynasty formats look ahead over the next few years to address their weak spots. From now through December, we'll be putting forth by-position lists of our favorite low-dollar players and prospects. All could be relatively available in your leagues -- and could earn double-digit dollars sometime over the next three seasons, between 2012 and 2014. Our criterion includes the following:

  • Player must be growth-age -- 27 years old -- or younger as of Opening Day
  • Player must have earned less than $10 in 2011
  • Player must have accumulated at least 100 AB above A+ ball

It's easy to identify the top players at a given position looking forward, even without numbers at our fingertips. But while Adam Dunn's miserable 2011 reminds us that there are no sure things, the one certainty is that most "established" players are already firmly entrenched on one of your league's 2012 keeper rosters -- and likely available only via trade offer of equal value. The ability of dynasty owners to identify available breakout-ready talent is a must in order to compete on an ongoing basis.

The 3B landscape is at least interesting in terms of variety if not quantity. We have a few names with significant upside, but more whose near-term opportunity is primarily responsible for their inclusion on our list. The bottom line is that for many MLB clubs, 3B needs ongoing attention. Dynasty owners will have to stay vigilant in order to be first-in on the new names and opportunities that will emerge in 2012.

Brett Lawrie (3B, TOR) is the gem here, and likely already unattainable in your league for anything less than a steep price. After roaring through AAA -- .347/.414/.647 with 13 SB -- while showing an improved ability to command the strike zone, Lawrie sustained a hairline wrist fracture from a HBP that delayed his TOR debut. But his eventual August-September performance -- .941 OPS, 10% bb%, 171 PX and 7 SB in 150 AB -- says this didn't slow him down at all. Recent reports suggest that his improved defense will help him remain at the position, where he could be the complete package from the get-go -- and a perennial All-Star soon.

Lonnie Chisenhall (3B, CLE) hit only .255 in his 212 AB debut with CLE, and his 4% bb% clearly needs work. But he put up an 80% ct% in August and September -- and along with a .279 BA / .271 xBA in September, he also hit four HR, all against the LHP that gave him so much trouble in the minors. A scout favorite, Chisenhall brings a sweet line-drive swing and skills that should generate above-average power and solid BA in his prime. Chisenhall isn't there yet -- he hasn't recorded outstanding minor-league numbers, and has always been young for his leagues -- but his late-season run hints he might not be a complete liability in the meantime.

Another highly-touted prospect who made his MLB debut in 2011, Mike Moustakas (3B, KC) hit only one HR in his first 250 AB. But he turned up both the power (4 HR, 133 PX) and contact (88% ct%) in September, suggesting that he was beginning to learn on the job. Moustakas displayed this same power-and-contact skill set throughout his minor league career, though pitch selection and patience remain big issues. He still has some MLB growing pains to work through, but at age 23, he has plenty of time -- and currently without real competition for the KC 3B job.

Though Pedro Alvarez (3B, PIT) entered spring training with a firm grip on the PIT 3B job, he reported to camp out of shape, and things went downhill quickly. After batting just .208 with two HR through May 19, Alvarez landed on the DL with a quad injury and never regained his 2010 rookie form during subsequent MLB recalls. He still owns the 2H power (16 HR, 172 PX) from his MLB debut, but a chronic sub-70% ct%, futility vs. LHP, and attitude questions have put his future in doubt entering 2012. Still only 24 years old, he's a high risk / high reward player.

Scott Sizemore (3B, OAK) seized the OAK 3B job quickly after his trade from DET. Coming on the heels of an encouraging 2010 second half (120 PX), Sizemore's 2H 157 PX, 10 HR, and 13% bb% suggest a full-season breakout may be imminent. But be aware that this power was built on a 16% hr/f -- and that his 70% ct% and .242 xBA say that any production could come at a BA cost. Still, he's worth a flyer.

Ian Stewart's (3B, COL) performance and skills fell off cliff due in part to h% issues and multiple injuries, all of which led to the loss of his job. His BA and 70% ct% remain underwater, durability is in question and he's never solved LHP. But he continues to own a double-digit bb% and the power he's displayed over the past three seasons -- 147-168-129 PX from 2008 through 2010. And he still plays in Coors, where the Rockies are still searching for 3B help. He'll rebound to double-digit HR if healthy, but the track record advises not to invest much.

Entering September with a .250 BA, 2% bb% and 2 HR, Brent Morel (3B, CHW) turned heads with an uncharacteristic 8 HR, 197 PX and 15% bb% in that final month. Morel sold out good contact to post this surprise on the back of a 30% hr/f, which suggests that most of this performance isn't sustainable. He owns the CHW 3B job for now, and we're curious as to which Morel shows up in March -- but he still looks like a long-shot to succeed.

Missed the cut, but worth mentioning ...

Kyle Seager (3B, SEA): Career minor league .300 hitter with good batting eye and the inside track on SEA job. LD% held up in 2011 MLB debut, but lack of power, speed peg him as utility guy over the long haul.

Alex Liddi (3B, SEA): The power side of SEA 3B hopefuls, hit 30 HR in AAA, while whiffing 170 times. Showed the same in 40 MLB AB (3 HR, 17 Ks). At age 23, should spend most of 2012 at AAA.

James Darnell (3B, SD): Now showing power to go along with BA and patience. Ready to hit at the MLB level; whether he can stay at 3B defensively is in question. May need new position, may need a trade.

Jedd Gyorko (3B, SD): Rapidly improving hitter, more likely than Darnell to eventually inherit 3B from Chase Headley (3B, SD). But he's still at least a year away, and PETCO should give you pause.

Juan Francisco (3B, CIN): Career AAA BA of .300, and power is legit. Hasn't looked overmatched in brief MLB stints, but contact, patience and defense could be problematic with more exposure.

Todd Frazier (OF/3B CIN): Another Red who could get a shot after the next Scott Rolen (3B, CIN) injury or his contract expiration in 2012. Perennial double-digit HRs in minors, not quite Francisco's power, but a better defender.

Nolan Arenado (3B, COL): Doesn't have AB above A+, but his skills, likely venue and COL's 3B issues advise us to waive this filter. Solid contact, growing power and improving defense; he has an outside shot at seeing Coors in late 2012.

Taylor Green (3B, MIL): Has handedness, solid batting eye and patience, and is coming off PCL-inflated career year (.336 BA, 22 HR). With only Casey McGehee (3B, MIL) currently in his way, he may have a window.

Chris Davis (1B/3B, BAL): BA gain not supported by ct% or xBA, and once-prodigious power has been MIA for a couple of years. But groin injury may have been a factor, he has opportunity, and we still remember 2008.

Jimmy Paredes (3B, HOU): A slap hitter with a little speed and zero patience, long-term prognosis looks grim. But HOU needs a 3B, and 50 SBs at AA in 2010 say he might run into double-digit earnings.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.