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The O-Zone: End-game third basemen
Posted by Joe Oberkrieser at 3/16/2007 5:22:00 PM
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A few days ago, it was 70. Now itís snowing. Ah, March in New Hampshire!

I need to warm up, so letís go to the hot corner. Hereís a quartet of fine end-game picks.

WILLY AYBAR

Aybar has a sore wrist and might begin the year on the DL. Once heís back -- and this injury doesnít sound as if it will keep him out long -- expect Aybar to contribute to your fantasy team.

Aybar has a fine batting eye (63/52 K/BB between the minors and majors last year), so he should be able to hit for a decent average. Heís also flashed some power in the minors (10 homers in just 207 at-bats at Triple-A last year), and you could always use a little pop from an infielder.

Of course, ability is nothing without opportunity, but Iíd expect Aybar to get a chance to play at some point. With oft-injured Chipper Jones at third and unproven Kelly Johnson at second, there should be opportunity somewhere along the line.

RUSSELL BRANYAN

We all know the drawbacks: lots of Kís, low batting average. But Branyan also has a ton of power -- 18 homers in 241 at-bats last year -- and could see some playing time if Kevin Kouzmanoff struggles at third or the Terrmel Sledge/Jose Cruz tandem fails in left field.

JEFF CIRILLO

Three good things:

1. Cirillo hit a dandy .319 last year, and his fine 33/21 K/BB proves he can keep his average high (though probably not THAT high).

2. Cirillo is going to start at DH against lefties, and itís not hard to imagine him wresting some third-base at-bats from Nick Punto now and then.

3. In many leagues, he qualifies at second base.

Cirillo wonít hit for any power or steal any bases, but what do you want for a buck?

SCOTT SPIEZIO

I donít think highly of Spiezioís skill set or ability, but heís going to get plenty of playing time for a one-dollar player. Between Scott Rolen (shoulder) at third, David Eckstein (always hurt) at short and Adam Kennedy (not very good) at second, there will be opportunity aplenty in the infield. In addition, with Jim Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion starting the year on the DL, Spiezio can pick up some at-bats in the outfield, too.

What he does with those at-bats remains to be seen, but hey, at least heíll be in there.


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