Everybody loves blind resumes. Fans love testing their baseball knowledge and we also love surprises. One of the biggest surprises about third base this year was the resurgence of power at the position. In 2011, there were only five third basemen that hit 20 or more home runs. In 2012, that number rose to 12, which is an increase of 140%. Both of the following players had good seasons despite only playing in a combined 236 games. (ADPs taken from MockDraftCentral.com)
The stats are pretty close here. Player B has the slight edge in home runs and had five more RBI, while Player A has the slight edge in batting average and tallied five more runs. Neither player really contributed in terms of steals. Player A, Pablo Sandoval, was a top third baseman coming into most drafts, and was thought to be a great bargain in the fifth round. Player B, Todd Frazier, wasn’t on any owner’s draft board, but impressed with a great rookie season off the waiver wire.
Looking ahead to 2013, owners are not sure what they are going to get from Sandoval. His career high for every 5X5 category came in 2009, and in the past two seasons he’s only played in 225 games. Although Sandoval dealt with some hamstring issues midseason, it’s evident that the injury is behind him. The postseason stats that the reigning World Series MVP put up are enough to relieve any doubts about a lingering injury.
Looking at Sandoval’s expected stats, thanks to slash12 over at Beyond the Boxscore, will show you that his batting average lines up with his expected numbers. His .282 xAVG and .300 xBABIP are almost identical to the .283 and .301 numbers that he actually put up. Although his power numbers did drop last year, Sandoval hit 42% (5 out of 12) of his home runs in September. That, combined with the gaudy postseason numbers, assure me that the low power numbers were just an aberration. Look for Sandoval to have a nice rebound season next year and be one of the top third basemen in fantasy.
Frazier on the other hand, seems less likely to repeat his nice rookie season. Although he batted .273 with a .312 BABIP, his expected stats tell you that he should have really batted .264 with a .303 BABIP. Also, 32% (6 out of 19) of Frazier’s home runs classified as “just enough” homers; shots that barely cleared the fence. With Scott Rolen retiring, Frazier will probably get a full season worth of at bats next year. But even with more playing time, I don’t see his power numbers rising. However, playing full time will allow Frazier to accumulate more runs and RBI, and that partially compensates for the drop in power and average.
According to ESPN’s Player Rater, Frazier was ranked as the 21st third baseman last year. However, he also spent time filling in for Joey Votto at first base and played a little outfield as well. While he might not be a top twelve third baseman, the position eligibility really increases his value. Frazier is definitely worth a roster spot and if he can cut down on his strikeouts (22.2 K%) and stay in the Reds lineup for the whole season I could see him being a viable starting third baseman for fantasy teams next year.