Articles by Jack Moore

A listing of all the articles written by Jack Moore for the RotoWire Blog.

NBA Training Camp Notes: Dwight Howard To New Jersey?

Dwight Howard: Heading To New Jersey? The Dwight Howard rumor mill is turning yet again. This time, John Ireland, Lakers play-by-play man is turning the wheels: tonight on ESPN 710, the Lakers’ play-by-play man said he expects the Nets and Magic to complete a trade involving Howard by tomorrow. The Magic recently rejected a trade in which they would send Howard for Brook Lopez and five first round picks (every other year from 2012 through 2020), so one would imagine the Nets would somehow have to sweeten that deal, and I’m not quite sure what kind of asset New Jersey can dangle there — they already traded most of their young assets to Utah to acquire Deron Williams. We’ll see if Ireland was right or if this is just another loud rumor.

But if Howard does end up in New Jersey, the partnership with Williams could yield great dividends for Howard’s fantasy owners. Despite middling point guard play over the past few years (sorry, Jameer Nelson), Howard has managed to keep his shooting percentage around 60|PERCENT| and points per game around 20 despite the general lack of offensive help. With a player like Williams — probably one of the top three point guards in the NBA — Howard’s game could reach new heights in New Jersey (and later, Brooklyn).

Arron Afflalo: Five years, $43 million from Denver. The Nuggets reached a deal with Afflalo to keep him in Denver until 2017 Monday night. The restricted free agent put up his best season yet in 2010-11, scoring 12.6 points per game with 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game as well. Make no mistake: Afflalo is a specialist, and his game is the three. He average a three-pointer ever 22 minutes on the floor and does so extremely efficiently. For the third straight season, he drilled over 40|PERCENT| of his three-point attempts and now owns a career mark of 40.8|PERCENT|. His fantasy value for anything other than threes is marginal — he shoots too many threes to have a good overall field goal percentage and he doesn’t get to the line enough for his excellent shooting to help much there. But he’ll serve you well if you use him for his specialty, both on the court and on a fantasy roster.

Bismack Biyombo: Out of Spanish contract. Biyombo had yet to join Bobcats camp due to an ongoing dispute with his Spanish team, which claimed his contract with them was binding. The team and Biyombo have reached a settlement in which Biyombo will have to pay the club $1.5 million dollars for the right to break the contract. As such, Biyombo joined Bobcats camp Monday but was held out of Charlotte’s preseason game. The missed training camp will likely hurt the young rookie’s chances of big early minutes, but it’s a far sight better than the initial prediction of 18 months out of the NBA.

Baron Davis: Officially signed with Knicks The addition of Boom Dizzle AKA BDiddy is now official, but due to a herniated disk he won’t be able to play for eight-to-ten weeks. Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby will retain the point guard duties for now.

Kemba Walker: 18 points in debut. Although Bismack Biyombo wasn’t able to play, the Bobcats’ other top pick was in action and led all scorers in Monday’s game against the Hawks. Walker struggled from the field, only hitting 4-of-13 shots, but he managed to get to the line 11 times in just 19 minutes of action, hitting nine of the free throws. An ability to consistently draw fouls would be huge for Walker’s scoring ability in the NBA — the rookie shot 82|PERCENT| in his final season at UConn and should be able to do similarly well at the NBA level.

NBA Training Camp Notes

O.J. Mayo: Trade To Indiana dead. Just like prior to last year’s trade deadline, it looked Monday like O.J. May was headed from Memphis to Indiana, with some package involving Josh McRoberts and Brandon Rush heading back to Memphis. Perhaps it isn’t surprising the trade died — Mayo, who average 15.5 points per 36 minutes, is clearly the best player in the deal. Still, it would have been interesting to see how Mayo could have performed in Indiana, where he likely would have earned a starting shooting guard role, playing in a lineup with Darren Collison, Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert. It also wouldn’t be terribly surprising if the Pacers attempt to revive these talks before the trading deadline.

Chauncey Billups: Claimed by the Clippers. With the Chris Paul trade on life support — and likely just not happening before the start of the season — the Clippers have moved quickly to fix their point guard situation, claiming Chauncey Billups off amnesty waivers. The bid on Billups was close to a mere $2 million. It remains to be seen if Billups is willing to play for the Clippers — he was adamant that if the “wrong team” claimed him, he simply wouldn’t play — but he seems to be a great fit. Billups is a superior player to Mo Williams and should be able to perform similarly to his 16.8 points and 5.5 assists from last season, even at age 35. It’s worth noting that Billups can’t be part of a Chris Paul (or other) trade — amnesty pickups cannot be traded until the next offseason.

Kwame Brown: Agrees to one-year, $7 million deal with Golden State. As much as the name Kwame Brown elicits laughs directed in Michael Jordan’s direction, he turned into something of a decent player last season with Charlotte. Brown averaged nine points and seven minutes per game in just 26 minutes per game last season with the Bobcats. Right now, he’ll be behind Andris Biedrins on the Warriors’ depth chart, but if Biedrins doesn’t improve from his five points, five rebounds type performance from last season, Brown could work his way into a starting role. And as rich as $7 million sounds for Kwame Brown, keep in mind the Warriors likely need this deal to get over the salary floor — all the money they tried to spend on Tyson Chandler and Deandre Jordan was thwarted by the Knicks and Clippers repsectively.

NBA Training Camp Notes

Brandon Roy: No Amnesty in 2011. The Portland Trail Blazers have announced that they will not be using the amnesty clause on Brandon Roy. News out of Portland regarding Roy has been increasingly positive, with head coach Nate McMillan even dropping news that the Blazers would consider starting him at shooting guard this season. Obvoiusly, at this early stage in the game, it’s difficult to distinguish coach speak from actual, factual information, but if the Blazers are even considering giving him starter minutes, it’s a huge boon for both Roy’s short and long term value.

On the other hand, the Blazers have 19 back-to-backs and three back-to-back-to-backs this season, and most regular knees can’t handle that kind of strain, much less those without cartilage. Take McMillan’s quotes with a grain of salt.

Carl Landry and David West: In talks with Indiana. The Pacers were considered a bit of a surprising playoff team last season, but there was plenty to be intrigued about heading into the 2010-2011 season. Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert is by no means the next ?big three,? but they can play. The three combined for 46 points, 10 assists, and 16 rebounds per game as the Pacers snatched the less-than-elusive eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The toughness with which they played Chicago in the first round showed they can be a team on the rise, they just need more pieces.

Landry and West would each make sense in Indiana. The six lineups which logged at least 100 minutes for Indiana last year had either Josh McRoberts or Tyler Hansbrough at the power forward possession. Although both players had excellent numbers on a per-minute basis ? 18 points per 36 minutes for Hansbrough, 12 points and 8 rebounds per 36 minutes for McRoberts ? there are understandable question marks about how each would do in an expanded role.

Landry is the cheap option and the Pacers would be hoping for a rebound to his form from his time with Houston, where he posted true shooting percentages above 60|PERCENT| in each of three seasons (partial, in the case of 2009-10). His TS|PERCENT| of 55.5|PERCENT| in 2010-2011 would be acceptable given his excellent offensive rebounding, but is he necessarily an upgrade over McRoberts and Hansbrough? Both are similarly efficient, with PERs in the 16s compared to Landry’s 14.5 last season.

West, however, could be a game changer. He already has experience with Darren Collison from their days in New Orleans and would be able to take a load of the offense away from whoever fills the shooting guard role as well as Roy Hibbert, who struggled with turnovers last season. West has recorded an 18+ PER each of the last four years, a mark which would have led last year’s Pacers squad.

Thaddeus Young: Potential Nene replacement? The talk around the league is that Nene is headed towards a contract with an eight-figure average annual value and perhaps even one of the first max deals to be signed under the new CBA. That leaves the Nuggets searching for players to search the middle. According to Ken Berger of CBS, Sixers RFA Thaddeus Young is one of the Nuggets’ targets.

The 22-year-old Young completed his first 82-game season of his career last year, and even though it was in a bench role, he was quite productive. The 6-8 forward hit 54|PERCENT| of his shots and posted career highs in points per 36 minutes (17.6), rebounds per 36 minutes (7.3), PER (18.4), and usage rage (22.1) while also posting a turnover rate below 10|PERCENT| for the first time. As good as Nene was with Denver, he’s never been a focal point of the offense, posting usage rates below 20|PERCENT| in every full season. Young has the ability to shoulder as much of the offense as Nene, if not more, and even with some drop in efficiency, the Nuggets could rely on him as an inside player with big-time upside at a fraction of the cost.

Training Camp Notes

Mike Miller: Casualty of the CBA? Thanks to the eight-figure salaries owed to LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat will definitely be over the luxury tax threshold in the 2012 season. Much of the debate over the new CBA was geared toward stiffer punishment for taxpaying teams. That punishment could mean the end of Mike Miller in Miami. The Heat will almost certainly use the full mid-level exception on a center (Samuel Dalembert, perhaps?), and as a result, the Heat may benefit most from using the new amnesty provision to remove Miller’s contract from their salary cap.

The backup shooting guard role isn’t a big-minute role in Miami thanks to Wade’s presence, but we could see a name like a Michael Redd or a Tracy McGrady brought in to play a veteran bench role in a title chase. Miller should have some suitors on the supplemental waiver wire if he is cut using the amnesty provision. in just over 20 minutes per game last season, he hit one three-pointer per game and averaged 5.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. A team lacking shooters off the bench would be wise to put in a bid on him.

Paul Millsap: Headed to Indianapolis? Elsewhere? 2011 was a breakout season for Millsap. After being a reliable double-digit point scorer for the Jazz in ’09 and ’10, Millsap thrived without Carlos Boozer and later without Deron Williams. Millsap hit 53|PERCENT| of his shots and averaged 17.3 points and 7.6 rebounds with the new-look Jazz team.

The Jazz may be looking to sell high on the 25-year-old with Derrick Favors in tow as the spoils from the Williams trade and Enes Kanter added with the #3 pick in the draft. News has been flying of an offer from the Indiana Pacers for the budding small forward, and according to the Salt Lake Tribune, Millsap was also on the block during last year’s draft. Given Millsap’s youth and improvement last season, he should be a target both for NBA teams and for fantasy owners alike.

Andrei Kirilenko: Is he really injured? Kirilenko’s Russian team is reporting that he is out until January with a shoulder injury. His agent says otherwise, noting only a broken nose and no shoulder issue. At this point, it’s all coming out as one big game of telephone, so we’ll keep an eye on this as the story develops and clearer reports come out of Kirilenko’s Mother Russia, if he even decides to return to the NBA at all. He is an unrestricted free agent and could decide to finish his contract with CSKA Moscow instead.

Brandon Roy: Will Portland amnesty him? With the degeneration of Brandon Roy’s knees, it seemed like his max contract running through 2013-2014 would be one of the easiest choices under the new amnesty clause. But there is a wrinkle: the amnesty clause can be held and used during any season under the current CBA. This year, the Blazers could waive Roy, still have to pay him, but merely get under the luxury tax line and earn the rights to use the mid-level exception again. If they hold Roy for 2011-2012 and then amnesty him before next season, Portland can get another semi-healthy year out of their investment and create some cap space.

The decision seems to hinge on just how cheap Blazers owner Paul Allen is feeling. Given his prominence as a hardliner in the lockout negotiations, I could quite easily see him taking the cheap option, even if the other option helps his team more in the long run.

The Turbulent White Sox Bullpen

On Tuesday, White Sox manager and all-around wild-and-crazy guy Ozzie Guillen announced that LHP Matt Thornton would no longer receive the bulk of the save opportunities on the South Side of Chicago. Less than a day later, Guillen sat helplessly in the dugout as Thornton and three other White Sox relievers orchestrated a complete late-innings meltdown, allowing six runs in two innings to propel the A’s to a 7-4 victory. With saves at such a premium in many fantasy leagues, how can owners take advantage of the newly tumultuous situation in Chicago’s bullpen?

First off, Matt Thornton is still valuable.  He will still be used in save situations, just not all available save situations.  Even if he only records 15 saves this year instead of the 30 or 40 some may have expected, he’ll continue to light up the radar gun, record tons of strikeouts, and likely have a sub-3.00 ERA. That has value in 60-70 innings, so Thornton could be a solid buy-low candidate.

However, the door is now open for two more Sox relievers to pick up saves and increase their value.  Young left-hander Chris Sale will probably see the biggest boost to his stock, as he was the primary competitor with Thornton for the closing job in spring training.  Sale isn’t the strikeout monster that Thornton is, but he should put up solid numbers in ERA, WHIP and Ks.  The other reliever who looks to gain from this situation is Jesse Crain, the best right-hander out of Guillen’s bullpen.  Crain is just a straight-up worse pitcher than the other two – think a 3.50 ERA guy with far fewer strikeouts – but as a righty, he may be the smart play against right-handed-heavy lineups.

We should eventually expect Thornton to work his way back into sole ownership of the closing role. Only four of his 10 runs so far have been earned, and he still has the big fastball that brought him so much success last season.  And, more importantly, Thornton is the most talented pitcher in the group.  For now, though, the entire Thornton-Sale-Crain trio could be picking up saves, so in leagues where saves are scarce (read: most), all three have value now, despite Wednesday’s fiasco.

Undrafted Gems

Your draft or auction is over and Opening Day has arrived, meaning all you need do is sit back and watch your team dominate, right? Of course not. Savvy owners will hit the waiver wire immediately after the draft, looking for high-upside players who may have slipped through the cracks. Here is a look at one player at each position who could be available and could make a big impact from the free agent list.

The average draft position (ADP) and draft percentage data come from Mock Draft Central.

Catcher: Chris Iannetta, Rockies
ADP: 325
Draft Percentage: 54.5|PERCENT| of leagues

Iannetta’s career in Colorado has been sabotaged at nearly every turn, whether it’s been by management or by ridiculous breakout years from such saps as Miguel Olivo and Yorvit Torrealba.  As a result, Iannetta has been limited to no more than 333 at-bats in any single season. This year, the Rockies don’t look to have much of a choice but to play him.  Their best backup is Jose Morales, and he’s, well, bad.  Our projections currently have Iannetta for a .238 batting average, 18 HR, 45 R and 58 RBI (no stolen bases).  However, if he can get up to 400 at-bats, our projections of his counting stats increase by 20 percent – 22 HRs, 55 R, 70 RBIs, well above the catcher averages. He’s no guarantee and the low average hurts, but the catcher position is so thin that even his initial projections warrant a roster spot in any league with 10 or more teams.

Honorable mention
: John Jaso (39.3|PERCENT|)

First Base: Derrek Lee, Orioles
ADP: 277
Draft Percentage: 66.9|PERCENT|

Lee had a down year between the Cubs and Atlanta last season, and at age 35 there is reason to be concerned about his performance.  However, that down year still saw a .260 average, 80 R, 80 RBI and 19 HR from Lee in 547 at-bats.  Obviously, that’s not the kind of elite performance one hopes for in a first baseman, but stat lines like that are also the reason that the UTIL slot is so often filled by first basemen.  Lee’s strikeout rate jumped 5 percent last year, which may be age catching up with him, but also could be random variation.  We should expect fewer strikeouts this year, which should help his batting average climb back toward the league mean.  Don’t expect .300 out of Lee ever again, but .280 is more likely to happen next year than .260, which will look pretty solid out of UTIL or a second 1B when paired with Lee’s still-solid counting stats.

Honorable Mention
Freddie Freeman (49.7|PERCENT|)

Second Base: Neil Walker, Pirates
ADP: 326
Draft Percentage: 40.0|PERCENT|

One has to be careful with players like Walker.  When rookies post years like Walker’s 2010 campaign with Pittsburgh, in which he batted .296 with 12 HRs, 66 RBIs and 57 R, some are quick to expect improvement the next season when regression may instead be in order.  That doesn’t appear to be the case with Walker, as people seem to be convinced that he’s much worse than his 2010 numbers – which would likely be top-12 second baseman material over a full season.  Indeed, we predict Walker to regress – a projected .278 batting average – but his increase in playing time will make up for the reduced rate of accumulating counting stats.  With 100-150 more at-bats, Walker should be able to pick up 15 HR, 80 RBI and 70 R – something that I don’t feel comfortable saying about Brian Roberts (100|PERCENT|), Mike Aviles (97.9|PERCENT|) or Howie Kendrick (84.8|PERCENT|).

Honorable Mention: Omar Infante (67.6|PERCENT|)

Shortstop: J.J. Hardy, Orioles

ADP: 358
Draft Percentage: 30.3|PERCENT|

When he was on the field last year, Hardy was an above-average fantasy SS.  He compiled a .268 average to go with 6 HRs, 44 R and 38 RBIs in 375 plate appearances.  No, that’s not a good line at all, without the context of position.  But consider that, given 375 plate appearances, the league average shortstop hit 4 HRs, scored 43 runs, and had 34 RBIs while batting .262.  Hardy’s numbers were right in line with his career averages, except for his power numbers, which were a bit down.  That should be rectified with a move from spacious Target Field to Camden Yards, a very friendly place for right-handed batters, particularly with regards to home runs.  Hardy should once again be an above-average fantasy shortstop, and with a full season under his belt, that makes him well worth a roster a spot in many 10-team leagues.

Honorable Mention: Jed Lowrie (12.4|PERCENT|)

Third Base: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
ADP: 352
Draft Percentage: 35.9|PERCENT|

It’s difficult to blame drafters for missing on Edwin “E5” Encarnacion, as the news that he would have the starting role at 3B in Toronto didn’t break until Tuesday.  However, now that Encarnacion has a cemented role, we can feel better about projecting him for more than 380 at-bats.  He was already down for 21 HR, 54 RBI and 52 R, which help offset the pain of a .240-ish batting average.  Encarnacion isn’t the kind of guy you want to rely on in a starting role, but he makes an excellent fill-in and can help you in three categories.  As a starter for Toronto, Encarnacion could hit 30 HRs – Rogers Centre is the best place for righties to hit homers in the league – and should see his R/RBI totals jump as well. 

Honorable Mention: Placido Polanco (59.3|PERCENT|)

Outfield: J.D. Drew (45.5|PERCENT|)
ADP: 335
Draft Percentage: 45.5|PERCENT|

When forced to choose between Drew and a fantasy player higher up the list – say, Ryan Ludwick, who has been drafted in 97 percent of leagues – the following question has to be asked: Do I prefer 450 plate appearances of good-to-great performance or 600 plate appearances of average performance?  Apparently the worries about J.D. Drew’s injuries are enough to keep him on the waiver wire in most leagues.  The worries are legitimate, but it’s hard to beat Drew’s production when he plays – a .270 batting average, 20 HRs, 60 RBI and 70 R.  When you throw in the player you slot in for those 200 or so at-bats while Drew is on the DL, that could be 30 HRs, 75 RBI and 85 R out of one of your OF slots, if not better. 

Honorable Mention: Josh Willingham (29.7|PERCENT|)

Starting Pitcher: James McDonald, Pirates
ADP: 357
Draft Percentage: 37.9|PERCENT|

McDonald made an immediate impact for Pittsburgh last season after coming over as part of a deadline deal with the Dodgers.  The right-hander struck out 61 batters in just 64 innings en route to posting a 4-5 record, a 3.52 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.  The Pirates shouldn’t be 100-loss team again in 2011 – they could challenge for a .500 record if things go right – but 70-75 wins is more likely. As a result, McDonald should be able to post a respectable win total – think 10-13 – if he can pitch at all like he did last season.  Expect a small dropoff – an ERA closer to 3.80 and a WHIP closer to 1.40 – but McDonald should be a major asset in strikeouts once again, and with the other three pitching stats coming in at respectable or better, he deserves a roster spot.

Honorable Mention: Jake Westbrook (20.0|PERCENT|)

Relief Pitcher: Aroldis Chapman, Reds
ADP: 333
Draft Percentage: 46.2|PERCENT|

Remember, saves are only 20 percent of what a reliever provides in a 5×5 format.  Chapman projects to be one of the best relievers – if not <i>the</i> best – in the other four categories.  Anybody who has seen Chapman pitch realizes that he’s nearly untouchable when he can truly dial it in for short stints out of the bullpen.  He’s a lock for at least one strikeout per inning and should be able to maintain an ERA below 3.00. The Reds are going to win a decent amount of games this year, and inevitably some will be credited to relievers.  The only potential issue is walks, but he’s been much better with his control in the bullpen than out of the rotation. In addition, Francisco Cordero, the Reds’ 35-year-old closer, could collapse at any second, and Chapman might be the first to step in and pick up the available saves.

Honorable Mention
: Joel Hanrahan (73.1|PERCENT|)

Third Base Tiers

Last time around, I took a look at the second baseman, a group that looked shallow even before the gloom-and-doom scenarios revolving around Chase Utley’s knee took hold.  Today, I tier another group that contains much more chaff than grain: third baseman.

Please note that these rankings are my own and may differ from the main RotoWire cheatsheet.

Tier 1: Very Good
David Wright (NYM)
Evan Longoria (TB)
Ryan Zimmerman (WAS)

Before we even begin talking about the third basemen in this tier, it’s important to note that none of these players can truly be called elite.  None of them are projected to break a .300 batting average, none are locks or necessarily even good bets for 30 HRs, and only Wright has a history of high stolen base totals.  The top of every non-catcher, non-shortstop position will give you better performance.

The aforementioned stolen bases give Wright the edge at the top of the position, albeit a tenuous one.  The problems with Wright mostly stem from his home park, Citi Field.  His struggles in year one of the Mets’ new home are well documented, as he only managed 10 HRs and 72 RBIs.  Last year, the power returned, but Wright’s average fell to .283.  The principles of regression tell us that these things will even out, but the days of .325/30/113 out of Wright (namely, 2007) are just as gone as Shea Stadium. 

Evan Longoria might have a yearly case for MVP, but defense doesn’t count for anything in fantasy leagues (and I refuse to recognize any league that uses errors as a category).  He’s probably the best pure hitter at the position, but his best attribute at the plate is his patience and discipline.   His solid but not-quite-elite performances at all five categories, likely subdued by the pitcher-friendly Trop, leave him as a close second to Wright.

Zimmerman is the National League version of Longoria.  Excellent player, probably one of the top five overall talents in the league, but so much of his value comes from defense and patience that his fantasy value is well below his actual MLB value.  Zimmerman’s .334 BABIP last season may not be sustainable, and the park in Washington won’t do him any favors.  Still, Zimmerman is in the top five at the position in every category besides stolen bases, and that’s more than enough to put him up with Wright and Longoria.

Tier 2: Just Below
Adrian Beltre (TEX)
Alex Rodriguez (NYY)

Beltre and Rodriguez clearly round out the top five at the position, which will be readily apparent as we continue through this list.  The order in which they are ranked is completely based on your confidence in Beltre’s swift return from a calf injury.  He started playing in games last week and expected to be ready for Opening Day, so I feel confident ranking him fourth, just ahead of Rodriguez.

After languishing in Seattle for five seasons, Beltre showed us what he could do in a park not specifically designed to nullify much of his offensive production.  The Green Monster certainly helped Beltre return to offensive prominence for this first time since his classic 48-HR campaign in 2004 with the Dodgers.  Of course, at 32, that’s not happening anywhere – not even Texas, one of the best places for right-handed hitters to thrive in the entire league.  Standard age concerns apply, but look for Beltre to be solid all-around in 2010, even if his .321 batting average from last season isn’t repeatable.

With Alex Rodriguez, it can be easy to forget that he’s already been in the majors for 17 seasons.  Although almost any other player would take his .270/.341/.506, 30-HR 2010 season and take it gladly, for Rodriguez, it’s a reminder that he will turn 36 this season and the decline may be on its way.  His .274 BABIP from 2010 is likely to rebound in 2011, which will bring his overall average, as well as his R and RBI totals, up with it.  New Yankee Stadium is a nice park for homers, too, which should help stave off a decline in power numbers.  The most worrisome part about “36” for A-Rod is the injuries and wear-and-tear that come with it.  When Rodriguez is on the field, he will be a very worthwhile fantasy contributor.

Tier 3: The Elephant In The Room
Jose Bautista (TOR)

So yeah, about those 54 home runs…

Bautista is not a “true talent” 54 home run hitter.  But nobody is, except for maybe Barry Bonds in the early 2000s (and of course, what you define as true talent in that case may be blurry).  The combination of what we’ve seen from Bautista over the course of the last three or four years suggests that he does have good power.  Not 50-plus HR power, necessarily, but we absolutely shouldn’t be surprised if he breaks 30 HRs this season.  Rogers Centre is heaven for power-inclined right-handers, and it’s not like Bautista was a slouch earlier in his career.  He’s now averaging 25 HRs per 600 plate appearances, and as we should count more recent performance most heavily when projecting, 30 HRs seems quite possible, maybe even probable, for this season.

The question may be with the other stats.  Bautista’s average should sit around .260 again, and with prolific homer talent should come runs and RBIs.  The average and lack of SBs leaves him below the first tier for sure, and uncertainty leaves him below the second tier, but Bautista is a solid draft option and definitely one of the better third base options in 2011.

Tier 4: Good
Martin Prado (ATL)
Casey McGehee (MIL)
Aramis Ramirez (CHC)
Pablo Sandoval (SFG)
Michael Young (TEX)

Things start to get dicey here, as we have two players with clear flaws in multiple categories and one guy who fell off a cliff last season followed by two players with major question marks surrounding their place on their team.

Prado, as mentioned in the second base post, is an elite batting average talent, particularly in this group.  He is one of just two players eligible at third base we project to eclipse a .300 average. Prado will score runs, but won’t contribute much else.

McGehee, unlike those players who top this list, is a player with greater fantasy value than real life value.  His best attribute at the dish is his contact, which combines with a moderate amount of power to give a player capable of 20 HRs and 100 RBIs.  However, batting behind the good hitters in the Brewers lineup makes it difficult for McGehee to rack up runs, and with that frame, he’s not running anywhere.

Ramirez was the victim of a massive BABIP slide in 2010.  Although the accompanying rise in strikeouts should be concerning, the 2011 version of Ramirez will be far closer to the player he was in 2009 than 2010.  Look for a .270-.290 batting average to go with 20 homers, 70 runs, and 80 RBIs.  At 33, injuries and decline are a concern, but Ramirez should be a fantastic value with the concern over last year’s dreadful batting line. 

Sandoval lost 38 pounds and is a new man according to many covering the Giants.  It’s hard to imagine that being a bad thing, but there are still question marks surrounding his complete inability to hit a baseball last season.  He’s still young and there’s still time, but banking on Sandoval seems like a bad idea.  He’s perfectly capable of a .300 average and decent power, but this isn’t a guy you reach for in 2011.  Taking him as a late value pick is the advised strategy here.

Well, now where does Michael Young play?  He’s not a third baseman any more, he’s not playing shortstop, and the Rangers seem to like Mitch Moreland at first base.  That leaves the DH spot, and according to studies, hitters tend to hit noticeably worse as a DH than they do as a regular fielder.  Young is still decent in most categories, so even with the decline, that’s enough to put him over so many in this weak, weak position.  However, just make sure you know that Michael Young the name carries far more value than Michael Young the player.

Tier 5: The What-Ifs
Pedro Alvarez (PIT)
Ian Stewart (COL)
Mark Reynolds (BAL)
Chase Headley (SD)

These three players have, for some reason or another, shown potential to be great at their position, but something is holding them back from achieving that, whether it’s a temporary roadblock or a permanent one

Alvarez was as good as could be expected last season as a rookie, although there is still clearly room to grow.  Unfortunately for Alvarez, the sophomore wall (a fancy name for “regression”) will probably hit at some point.  Even if Alvarez’s superficial numbers drop, though, it doesn’t mean that he is getting worse, as it could just be some hits not falling when they did last season.  At the same token, though, if Alvarez can improve his contact rate, his average can push into the .270s or .280s and he could move into the top 10 in the position. 

Stewart has always had prodigious power (54 HR in just over 1,200 career PA, .206 career Isolated Power).  The question is whether he can put the bat on the ball enough times to make it count.  The last three seasons have been encouraging on that front, as Stewart’s strikeout rate has fallen from 35.3|PERCENT| to 32.5|PERCENT| to 28.5|PERCENT| since 2008. If that trend continues, Stewart should provide excellent power numbers and a survivable batting average at third base, which puts him in the top half of starting third basemen. However, you’ll need to keep an eye on his knee injury, which may leave him at less than 100 percent on Opening Day.

Reynolds is in a similar boat as Stewart, although with 2,285 career PA and the reverse trend in terms of strikeout rate, we can be sure that the Ks and horrible batting averages are here to stay.  A move out of Arizona won’t help, but Camden Yards won’t kill Reynolds’s value either.  The key is if his BABIP returns to the prolific, .320+ rates he saw in Arizona from ’07-’09.  Any increase will help Reynolds return to respectability, and a .240 average this year to go with the great power is far more likely than last year’s .198 mark.

Headley fits well in this tier, although there’s a good chance that he could end up, in terms of raw numbers, with either the tier above or the tier below.  The monkey wrench in the whole Headley equation is PETCO Park.  He has good real-life value, but PETCO will destroy his power numbers and his walk rate doesn’t really translate into fantasy value.  Double-digit homers and solid run totals are to be expected here, but the fantasy value won’t come unless the average can get up above .270 or .280.

Tier 6: Hey, I remember these guys!
Placido Polanco (PHI)
Miguel Tejada (SF)

Yeah, I remember them too.  And although they’re not exactly what they once were, they can still help a little bit in a fantasy setting.

Polanco, like the guys at the top of this list, is a defense-first player whose actual value isn’t captured in the abstract world of fantasy sports.  Unlike those players, his deficiencies at the dish are enough to push him quite far down the list, behind many players who can’t approach his real-world value.  Polanco will make plenty of contact and should put up an average near .300, but his power and SB numbers leave much to be desired and his run totals are typically average at best.

Tejada showed he still has some life in him last season as he took over the shortstop position for the Padres.  At 37 in May, neither his legs nor his bat likely have enough juice to bring his BABIP up to .300 again, but he makes enough contact and has just enough power to stay alive in this league.  Look for double-digit homers and solid runs and RBI numbers to help offset his mediocre batting average and lack of stolen bases.

Tier 7: Bottom of the Barrel
Danny Valencia (MIN)
Omar Infante (FLA)
Scott Rolen (CIN)

Valencia might be a hot pick this year, coming off a .311 batting average in his rookie season, but the fantasy value just isn’t there yet.  The batting average is precariously based on a .345 BABIP that will likely crumble with more exposure to MLB pitching.  The counting stats already weren’t there, as Valencia was only on pace for roughly 14 HRs, 80 RBI and 60 R, and those numbers will also be adversely affected by the impending BABIP regression. Avoid.

Infante, as mentioned in the second base post, can pick up some value from his average, but he lacks in the other categories.  Basically, at this point, he’s a not-as-good version of Placido Polanco.  There’s some value here, but don’t go thinking “hey, Omar Infante was an All-Star last year!”

Rolen rounds out my top 20.  At 35, he’s looking like something of an ageless wonder, and that will likely start catching up to him this season.  However, thanks to the magic of the Great American Ballpark, he should be able to put up some usable fantasy numbers this year.  Look for double-digit homers and the workable R/RBI totals that come with it, but not much else.  And, of course, as with all the other veterans, injuries will be a constant concern.