SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 30, 2013

Fantasy Forecast: Third basemen are dropping like flies this spring

Fantasy Forecast
Andy Silva

---- — It has seemingly been a war of attrition at the hot corner this spring.

Six out of the top 13 third basemen based on average draft position in Yahoo! leagues have fallen prey to the injury bug this spring. Some (like David Wright) appear to be progressing nicely and may yet be in the lineup on Opening Day. Others (like Hanley Ramirez, David Freese and Brett Lawrie) are starting the season on the DL. It’s looking like it will be an all or nothing proposition when it comes to selecting a third baseman if your draft is coming up this weekend.

With so many on the hot corner in the infirmary, the best bet is really either to get your third baseman early (say Miguel Cabrera or Adrian Beltre) or wait until toward the end with Baltimore’s Manny Machado or old friend Kevin Youkilis available around the 20th round.

You could roll the dice on Evan Longoria (average draft position 22.2) or Ryan Zimmerman (43.6), but these two are seemingly always hurt and guaranteed to spend at least part of the season on the disabled list. There are intriguing names like Will Middlebrooks (155.2) or Pedro Alvarez (165.4), but I might be more inclined to go with the upside of the young Machado or the consistency of the old pro Youkilis — at least ahead of the streaky, homer-or-bust nature of Alvarez (30 home runs last season, but just a .244 average).

If you find yourself in need of a replacement third baseman, your best bet will probably be the Indians’ Lonnie Chisenhall. The third baseman has hit 4 homers with 12 RBI and a .426 average this spring and figures to be the everyday third baseman for Terry Francona. He has a limited major league resume, but he appears to be the best of the rest that can be found on the waiver wire after drafts.

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Kyle Lohse’s offseason of discontent finally came to an end this week when the former Cardinal signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.

While his agent Scott Boras bemoans the changes to the free agent system which he believes hurt Lohse’s value, it’s time for Lohse to put that all behind him and get ready for the season. Lohse has been building up arm strength throughout spring training, getting up to 95 pitches in outings against college players.

Lohse made his 2013 Cactus League debut on Thursday, giving up one run on four hits while striking out one and walking a pair in 32/3 innings of work. Lohse said prior to the start that he would like to make his first start of the season in the Brewers’ second series, but the team has not committed itself to a timetable and says it will not rush its new hurler.

Lohse had a strong 2012 campaign, going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA and a 6.1 strike out per nine rate (his best since 2007). The outlying stats appear to be relatively consistent to his recent output, so the question will be how will his stuff translate to Miller Park and with a slightly less accomplished defense behind him. Lohse has an average draft position of 215.2 in ESPN leagues, although that represents an increase of 12.7 spots in the last seven days, and is currently owned in 62.2 percent of leagues.

If you have realistic expectations, Lohse could prove to be a value pick toward the middle or end of fantasy drafts. He won’t be a No. 1 fantasy pitcher, but he’ll be useful and certainly worth owning at the right price.

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Throughout spring training, Bruce Rondon has been thought to be in the mix for the closer’s role in Detroit. However, the events of Thursday put an end to that train of thought.

Rondon, who was shaky at the start of spring training but had been improving of late, was optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday, setting up the Tigers to have a closer by committee, at least for the time being. I had liked Rondon due to his pure stuff, but he had been wild throughout the spring. It’s hard to get excited by any of the internal candidates the Tigers have for the ninth inning, so it would really be like taking a shot in dark to suggest one over any of the others. Former Tigers closer Jose Valverde is still out on the free agent market and threw a bullpen session for scouts on Thursday, but a report from MLB.com still classified a possible reunion as unlikely. But, should the closer by committee struggle or Rondon stagnate at Triple-A perhaps a reunion will become more likely. Stay tuned.

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Andy Silva writes the Fantasy Forecast column for The Salem News. You can read his blog at blogs.salemnews.com/fantasyforecast and reach him at asilva@salemnews.com. You can also follow Fantasy Forecast on Twitter at twitter.com/sn_fantasysport.