Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 11/24/12
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With a rebound season in the books, the “hot” corner is once again living up to its name. Here are 12 thoughts I had about the 2012 season from a third base perspective. Trevor Plouffe popped more than a few dingers last year. His 24 bombs were good for seventh best in baseball in 2012, and it looks completely repeatable. Unfortunately, it looks like a repeat of his .235 BA is in store, too. Adrian Beltre is now officially a contributor in batting average! In five seasons from 2005-2009, Beltre had a cumulative .266 BA that never topped .276 in any single season. In three seasons from 2010-2012, Beltre has twice batted .321 sandwiching a still-better-than-former-Beltre .296 BA. Despite his walk and line-drive rates remaining similar, his strikeout rate has dropped into the mid-12s from the 15%-17% range, and that accounts for the boon to his batting average. In an era where sluggers remain impactful until their late 30s, 34-year-old Aramis Ramirez had a rebound season for the ages (slight hyperbole). He put up recent bests in several categories: 630 PA (most since 2008), 27 HR (2008), 92 R (2008), 105 RBI (2008), 9 SB (career best), .240 ISO (2006). Chase Headley was awesome. So was Pedro Alvarez by Pedro Alvarez standards. I’ll give David Freese a B- for his 2012 season. On the one hand, he did deliver to a degree on the promise he showed during the 2011 postseason. His 20 HR were twice as many as last year, and he did manage to stay healthy for 144 games. His walk rate also jumped over 10%, something I like in a young slugger. On the other hand, Freese scored just 70 R with 79 RBI and was wildly inconsistent from month-to-month. Freese still has a lot to prove in 2013. Imagine how good Evan Longoria would be if he could just stay healthy. Miguel Cabrera‘s 44 HR were six more than his previous career best. While he did post a career-best HR/FB rate (23.0%), his 36.0 FB% was ordinary at best. You can also attribute the extra homers to Cabrera drawing fewer walks (9.5 BB% in 2012, 15.7% in 2011, 11.7% career). That means more at-bats and more chances at homers. Todd Frazier broke out with 19 HR and a respectable .273 BA. With Scott Rolen out the door in Cincy and Frazier competing for the value fourth slot in an MLB lineup, he could be a sleeper stud next season. Pablo Sandoval is pulling a Lance Berkman, alternating good and bad seasons. The good news for prospective Panda owners is 2013 should be a good year…if you believe in that kind of stuff. Will Middlebrooks had a strikeout problem in the minors and proceeded to have a strikeout problem in the majors (24.5%). I would be moderately surprised if he batted .288 again next season, but the right-handed hitter will love peppering The Monster. Hopefully Boston will have people on base for Middlebrooks to drive in. I expected a lot more out of Brett Lawrie, but a 29.8 FB% and a 9.0% HR/FB rate aren’t going to get it done. The good news is Toronto’s lineup looks suddenly lethal, and the pressure on Lawrie will be lessened. Bon voyage, Chipper Jones!
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