Today I'll be taking a look at the 2014 ESPN expert rankings for fantasy 3rd basemen, specifically breaking down who I think the expert community likes a bit too much and is overrating going into the season. My "round" projections assume a 10-team league.
2014 Steamer Projection: 146 Games, .264/.352/.492, 30HR, 96RBI, 86Runs, 2SB
ESPN Rank: 25 (3rd Round)
Where I'd Rank Him: 38-42 (late 4th to early 5th round)
Evan Longoria is one of those players who always get ranked based on what his talent could produce, rather than what his prior history suggests he really will produce. It's not that he's a bad player at all, he's just not good enough or healthy enough to justify going as high as he is. For the sake of illustrating this let's take a look at two players and their individual stat-lines last year.
Player A: 160 Games, .269/.343/.498, 32HR, 91Runs, 88RBI, 1SB
Player B: 147 Games, .275/.344/.465, 26HR, 84Runs, 79RBI, 6SB
Those are pretty similar looking players wouldn't you say? We'd probably give the edge to player A for staying healthy all season and hitting those extra 6 home runs, but then again the handful of steals Player B gave you makes that gap a lot smaller than it might otherwise be. "A" is probably the better player, but it's close enough that you wouldn't be heartbroken getting one over the other on draft day.
What would you say if I told you Player A is Evan Longoria, and Player B is Ryan Zimmerman who is going a full 3 rounds after Longoria as the 58th overall player in the expert rankings. And what would you say if I also told you that I had to restrict my sample in this example to last year alone because Longoria had only played 74 games in 2012 (and only 133 in 2011). Personally I'd say I'd rather have the extra 3 rounds and Ryan Zimmerman on draft day.
This is the heart of my issue with where Longoria is ranked by the expert community. Despite his nagging injuries the last few years, everyone always said that on a per-game basis Longoria was an elite fantasy player, and if he could just stay healthy and get a full season's worth of at-bats, he'd be a huge fantasy asset. After two injury plagued seasons, he finally got those at-bats last season, and in those at-bats he essentially gave you Ryan Zimmerman's season, plus a bit of power, minus a bit of speed. That's a good player, but it's not an elite one. He's not someone who should be going within a couple picks of David Wright who has demonstrated a more well rounded game and overall higher ceiling . And once again, that's all still assuming he can stay healthy for a full season this year, something I don't think you can really expect with Longoria. No matter how you look at it, I just don't think you can justify a mid 3rd round pick on a guy like that.
2014 Steamer Projection: 122 Games, .273/.342/.461, 20HR, 71RBI, 63Runs, 3SB
ESPN Rank: 79 (late 8th round)
Where I'd Rank Him: 100-105 (11th round)
To be honest, it's insane to rank Aramis Ramirez ahead of Pedro Alvarez. Ramirez is a 35 year old 3rd baseman who will be turning 36 this June and who's already always had a big problem staying healthy, something that only got worse in 2013 when he only played 92 games due to injuries to his ankle, knee and wrist. He's certainly a useful player and he showed what he was capable of in 2012 when he hit .300 with 27 home runs, 105 RBI, 92 runs, and 9 stolen bases. I just don't think you can expect that again from a 36 year old player. Hope for it maybe, but not expect it. It's true he has the potential to be a very good player, but he also has the potential to play in 100 games and drive in 40-50 runs with 8 home runs. I think that mix of real potential and a high risk of busting sounds a lot like Brett Lawrie and that's around where I think Aramis Ramirez should go, in the 11th round, after Pedro Alvarez.
2014 Steamer Projection: 105 Games, .268/.313/.426, 12HR, 52RBI, 58Runs, 7SB
ESPN Rank: 113 (12th round)
Where I'd Rank Him: 130-133 (14th round)
My issue with Manny Machado has nothing to do with his talent, which is immense. Rather, what has me concerned about his coming season is how he ended his last one. I don't need to go into the details to tell you how bad of a knee injury he suffered last year, other than to say I couldn't watch sports highlights that night for fear of seeing it again.
Months later he's still not fully healthy, and there are rumblings that his rehab assignment might extend past Opening Day. Once he does make it back onto the field, we can't really know how long it will take him to get back to being the type of player he was last year. In the long term, I'm not worried at all about Machado. I think he's going to be an MVP one day, especially if the Orioles ever move him back to his natural position at shortstop. For 2014 though he scares me. While I'd take the over on his games played predicted by Steamer, I don't really know how much over they'll be. When you compare him to other players ranked around him, I'd much rather take a great catcher like Brian McCann, gamble on the speed of Everth Cabrera, or chase the power of Matt Adams. Machado just comes with too many question marks to take him at his current rank.