Originally written on Fantasy Baseball 365  |  Last updated 3/8/12
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Key Stats: What a strange career path Adrian Beltre’s bat has taken. He cashed in on a second place MVP finish at age 25 that many folks believe was a byproduct of steroids and headed to Seattle where he regressed tremendously for five seasons. Then he came to Boston and had another impossible to predict rise in production. Taking a stance on him last year was like taking a stance on a college football team in the state of Alabama. You either had to be a believer or you weren’t. Playing the middle ground meant that he wasn’t going to be on your team. He followed up on his great season in Boston with another in Texas – even after the contract was signed.

Looking at his splits, I’m actually a believer that Beltre was hindered by the friendly pitching conditions in Seattle. During his time with the Mariners, he hit 9 more home runs on the road and had a better road OPS all five seasons. Having spent the past two seasons in hitter friendly parks, Beltre has thrived – especially last year when his OPS was more than .300 better in Arlington.

Skeptics Say: Beltre is going to be 33 years old this season which makes the 37 games he missed last year with a hamstring injury a little scary. Beltre also had hamstring problems with the Red Sox in 2010 (although he never needed to go on the DL), so this is something that could obviously continue to plague him.

Peer Comparison: Perhaps the only third baseman that has taken a stranger career path than Beltre is David Wright. If we go back to the start of the 2009 season the choice between Wright and Beltre was easier than choosing between a rat or a puppy for a pet. The two players three averages heading into that season looked like this:

Player

Runs

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

OPS

Beltre

72

20

73

12

.269

.762

Wright

108

30

116

23

.312

.933

Wright was also four years younger. Looking at the numbers from the last two years (last two is better because it throws out Beltre’s Seattle days) and you would think that Beltre was the youthful one:

Player

Runs

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

OPS

Beltre

83

30

104

2

.309

.907

Wright

74

22

82

16

.272

.822

Despite these numbers, I’d still endorse Wright as the better third baseman in fantasy next season. Just on those two year average stats, Wright was worse in five out of the six categories, but the gap between the two players was greatest in steals. If we consider that Wright was the better player when you combine steals, home runs, and runs the idea that Wright is better seems a little more reasonable. Then again, the gaps are still huge between the two players.

Wright still is in the prime age of his career (though it won’t be his actual prime) and had a more serious injury to deal with than Beltre last season. I like Wright to recover better from his back injury and to stay on the field more this season. Though it is extremely close between the two players.

Lineup Outlook: Beltre hit clean up last year for most of the season and should end up there again this year. Then again, the Rangers are never healthy including Beltre, so things can always get shuffled. Regardless, Beltre will hit somewhere between third through fifth (even if Nelson Cruz is on one of those streaks). He is in prime position to have triple digit RBI if he can stay healthy.

What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #4 Third Baseman; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #3 Third Baseman & #27 Overall; Yahoo: #3 Third Baseman & #26 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP:  #3 Third Baseman & #30 Overall; RotoChamp: #61 Overall

Projection: I keep thinking that Wright will regain a little of his old form. And every year I’m wrong. Except this one. Wright will continue the trend of a lower strikeout rate and have his BABIP bumped just a little.
84 R 24 HR 92 RBI 22 SB .290 AVG .870 OPS

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