Miguel Cabrera

On Feb. 22, I took a look at second basemen. Now, let’s shift to third basemen.

Which third baseman should go off the board first?

Miguel Cabrera (DET) – This isn’t even a debate, and you all know that.

Who is making a comeback from a disappointing 2013 season?

Aramis Ramirez (MIL) – Ramirez battled injuries in 2013 and wasn’t even owned in most leagues throughout the season. After playing just 92 games last year, he is most likely going to miss the first few games of spring training after having a polyp removed from his colon. However, when he is playing, he can be effective. He has always been a consistent fantasy contributor when healthy, hitting more than 25 homers in each season in which he has had at least 450 plate appearances. Ramirez will also maintain a solid batting average, get you doubles and plenty of runs batted in.

Don’t sleep on this guy

Chris Johnson (ATL) – Despite losing McCann, the Braves lineup should be pretty strong again this year. Last year, Johnson broke out and finished fifth in the majors in batting average at .321. He isn’t very powerful at the plate or the best source for runs batted in, but he had 34 doubles last season, and I expect his other numbers to improve. Johnson is currently being ranked in the 20-25 range. He is better than that, and if you find yourself stuck without a third baseman in the late rounds, Johnson will provide tremendous value.

Bound to bust

Kyle Seager (SEA) – Seager has never appealed to me. With Cano on his team, he is expected to produce more, but I don’t see it coming to fruition. Although Seager has hit 20+ homers the past two seasons, his average is never good and none of his numbers stand out. He is currently being ranked in the 10-15 range among third baseman, but I project him finishing worse than that.

My Pre-Season Rankings: Third Basemen

  1. Miguel Cabrera (DET)
  2. Adrian Beltre (TEX)
  3. Evan Longoria (TB)
  4. David Wright (NYM)
  5. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)
  6. Matt Carpenter (STL)
  7. Ryan Zimmerman (WAS)
  8. Manny Machado (BAL)
  9. Pedro Alvarez (PIT)
  10. Pablo Sandoval (SF)
  11. Josh Donaldson (OAK)
  12. Aramis Ramirez (MIL)
  13. Brett Lawrie (TOR)
  14. Nolan Arenado (COL)
  15. Jurickson Profar (TEX)
  16. Chris Johnson (ATL)
  17. Martin Prado (ARI)
  18. Todd Frazier (CIN)
  19. Kyle Seager (SEA)
  20. Jedd Gyorko (SD)

I’ll leave you with this...

Third base might be stronger than it has ever been in fantasy baseball this season. Cabrera, Beltre, Longoria, Wright and Encarnacion may very well all be gone within the first three rounds of any fantasy draft, but there is no need to panic if you do not end up with one of the top-tier guys because the players below them aren’t too shabby. Third baseman like Carpenter, Zimmerman, Machado, Alvarez and Sandoval are all solid fantasy contributors who have a chance to really shine. This year, it may even be best to pass on drafting a third baseman in the early rounds and wait until the later rounds to pick up potential breakout players like Profar, Arenado or Johnson.

Each week, Adam will give his two cents about the players at each position, naming a clear-cut number one, a comeback player, a sleeper/breakout, a bust, his full rankings and a little advice as to what to do in your draft and throughout the season.

On Feb. 14, I took a look at catchers. Now, let’s preview the first basemen.

Which first baseman should go off the board first?

Chris Davis (BAL) – Davis exploded last season, hitting 53 home runs, knocking in 138 runs and posting a solid .286 batting average. His on-base plus slugging percentage was a very high 1.004, just behind Miguel Cabrera. Last year’s success doesn’t mean he is going to do it again in 2014, but he seems like he is seeing the ball better at the plate. The power has always been there for Davis, but now the average is going up. Sure, you could go with Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt and be fine, possibly even better, but I am all in for Davis as the number one first baseman.

Who is making a comeback from a disappointing 2013 season?

Albert Pujols (LAA) – Unfortunately for me, Pujols was my first-round pick last season, and he had the worst season of his entire career last year in a limited 99 games due to his plantar fascia in his left foot. However, this is Pujols we are talking about here, who is one of the best baseball players of all time. He will aim to turn things around in a big way in 2014. The fact that some fantasy experts rank him as low as 10th at his position is a rare site. Pujols should provide great value, especially when you can draft him later than he is used to being drafted in previous years. Also, look out for Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers.

Don’t sleep on this guy

Justin Morneau (COL) – In December, Morneau signed with the Colorado Rockies. Let me repeat that. Morneau just signed with the Colorado Rockies. This means he will be in a lineup with Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Troy Tulowitzki, Wilin Rosario and Dexter Fowler, all good hitters. This also means Morneau will be playing 81 games in Coors Field where the air is thin in the mile high city of Denver, Colorado. The ball will travel much further than it will in any other park, so this could very well help his home run numbers. He has potential to be the guy he used to be in Minnesota, and he is going to have a better-than-expected season for the Rockies.

Bound to bust

Allen Craig (STL) – This is going against what I believe in because the St. Louis Cardinals are the gold standard of baseball in my opinion. However, Craig is ahead of guys like David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Trumbo on fantasy rankings out there. I don’t see him being better than those guys this season. He had a great year last year and has performed well in place of Pujols for the Cardinals, but he is being picked among consistent fantasy stars. He may prove me wrong, but I don’t see him being as good as he is ranked or as good as last year.

My Pre-Season Rankings: First Baseman

  1. Chris Davis (BAL)
  2. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)
  3. Prince Fielder (TEX)
  4. Joey Votto (CIN)
  5. Freddie Freeman (CIN)
  6. Albert Pujols (LAA)
  7. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)
  8. Adrian Gonzalez (LAD)
  9. David Ortiz (BOS)
  10. Mark Trumbo (ARI)
  11. Michael Cuddyer (COL)
  12. Allen Craig (STL)
  13. Eric Hosmer (KC)
  14. Brandon Belt (SF)
  15. Mike Napoli (BOS)
  16. Justin Morneau (COL)
  17. Anthony Rizzo (CHC)
  18. Victor Martinez (DET)
  19. Mark Teixeira (NYY)
  20. Ryan Howard (PHI)

I’ll leave you with this...

First of all, keep in mind that I left off guys like Buster Posey, Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana because I have them as catchers. In addition, I left off Miguel Cabrera. There is no doubt that Cabrera would have been the number one first baseman, but I still have him at third base.

First base is generally a pretty deep position; so don’t feel like you need to grab one in the early rounds, unless of course a stud like Davis or Goldschmidt is available. Good luck.

Each week, Adam will give his two cents about the players at each position, naming a clear-cut number one, a comeback player, a sleeper, a bust, his full rankings and a little advice as to what to do in your draft and throughout the season.

The decision to call up Trout may have saved Las Angelas' season. He has been playing at an MVP level while guiding the Anels back into playoff contention after a poor start.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The date was Apr. 27, a day that could very possibly go down in baseball infamy. The Angels had just been walked off by the Cleveland Indians, bringing their record to a blasphemous 6-14, dropping them nine games back of the Texas Rangers. Then general manager Jerry Dipoto made a move that the rest of the baseball world had been clamoring for in weeks prior as the Angels dug themselves a deeper and deeper hole in the division race only three weeks into the season. He called up the dynamic Mike Trout. It remains to be seen if the Angels can slide their way into the last wild card spot before the postseason begins, but if they don’t, Trout will carry none of the blame.

While Trout is out on the West Coast bringing back old memories of Mickey Mantle, Miguel Cabrera is possibly in the midst of the quietest Triple Crown hunt since Carl Yastrzemski did it back in 1967. He leads the American League in RBIs with 133 and boasts the league’s best average at .329. He has 42 home runs, trailing the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton by only one. One would have to assume that even in the midst of Trout’s transcendent rookie campaign, if Miguel Cabrera ends up pulling off the Triple Crown, the award is all but his.

And while sabermetricians and baseball purists rage war over who should win between Cabrera and Trout, there are three other names in the American League, among others, that should at least be given consideration. If Cabrera and Trout weren’t in the midst of historical seasons, these three would be given much more notice than what they’ve received.

Adrian Beltre: While Beltre isn’t having nearly the year the other two front-runners are having, his season is nothing to sneeze at, not by a long shot. He’s eighth in the league in RBIs with 98, sixth in the league with 35 homers and fifth in average, sporting .315. While none of the numbers are earth-shattering, he is arguably the most valuable player on the best team in the American League. He’s been on a torrid pace since August, hitting .323 and belting 11 home runs and has by far been the most clutch contributor in the lineup. He is the best defensive third basemen in the game, consistently taking base hits away from the opposition, and defense is often an underrated aspect of the voting.

Josh Hamilton: Continuing with the Rangers theme, Hamilton has turned in quite the season himself. First in the league with 43 home runs, second in RBIs with 124, but the case gets a bit fuzzier when you analyze the average. While his .285 average isn’t bad by any stretch, he falls short compared to the elite he’s being compared with in 2012. He hit an eye-popping .359 in his 2010 MVP campaign, so he will fall well below what everyone knows he is capable of. Through the first quarter of the season, it looked like Hamilton was well on his way to his second MVP, belting 21 home runs by the end of May and hitting .368. Then the bottom fell out for about a six-week stretch, and Hamilton has yet to make up the ground that Cabrera and Trout did since then.

Adam Jones: With the “Angels in the Outfield”-type story going on up in Baltimore, you have to include one on the list. Step on up, Adam Jones. Leading the charge for the magical Orioles, Jones has career highs in home runs with 32, a batting average of .292 and will likely break his career record for RBIs. He has 81 thus far and only needs two more over the last eight days of the season to surpass his high water mark. Jones has been the heart and soul for a team looking to make the playoffs since 1997. He has an offensive Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 5.5, second to only Cabrera and Trout. While the pitching has held among other factors, Jones’ stellar season has largely contributed to the Orioles rise from the dead.

While there are other candidates that deserve to get some notice for the campaigns they have put up, such as Derek Jeter’s amazing comeback from a subpar 2011, Joe Mauer’s consistently great numbers up in the lowly Twin Cities or Edwin Encarnacion’s power surge in Toronto, there are really only two horses in this race. If Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, you can probably raise the white flag on the whole contest. If Hamilton can fend him off and if Trout leads the Angels to the postseason after their embarrassing start, things will get awfully hairy for the voters. It’s been a wild ride thus far, and the final week of the season might upstage the whole thing.

MLB Playoffs

Miguel Cabrera hits a solo home run in the seventh inning of a 5-2 win against the Rangers in game three of the ALCS.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

DETROIT — Doug Fister delivered another strong start in a game Detroit needed and Miguel Cabrera homered and hit a tiebreaking double to lead the Tigers past the Texas Rangers 5-2 Tuesday night in Game 3 of the AL championship series.

Detroit dropped the first two games in Texas before turning to Fister, who won the decisive fifth game of the division series at Yankee Stadium last week. He was sharp again, allowing two runs and seven hits with no walks in 7 1-3 innings.

Jose Valverde, after pitching a season-high two innings the day before, worked around a leadoff double in the ninth for his third playoff save. He got some help from Cabrera, who made a diving play at first base.

“It’s going to be a long series,” Cabrera said. “Nobody (said) it’s going to be easy. You’ve got to be patient.”

Game 4 is Wednesday afternoon. Matt Harrison starts for Texas against Rick Porcello — both went 14-9 this season.
Cabrera’s double in the fifth put the Tigers ahead 2-1 and he added a towering solo homer in the seventh.

Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta also went deep for the Tigers. Austin Jackson broke out of his postseason slump with three hits, including an RBI single.

Texas right-hander Colby Lewis, who entered 4-0 in five postseason starts, allowed four runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out six and walked two.

“He throws strikes and every now and then he’s going to give up some long balls. I thought it was a pretty good ballgame,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He kept us in the ballgame. It was Fister that did the job out there tonight.”

Detroit provided more than enough offense for Fister, who was terrific down the stretch after the Tigers acquired him in a trade with Seattle shortly before the July 31 deadline. He retired his final batter Tuesday on an unusual unassisted putout, fielding Endy Chavez’s grounder and then hustling over to first because Cabrera was well off the bag, trying to position himself for a potential play on the ball.

Printed on Thursday, October 13, 2011 as: Cruz delivers for Rangers in extras