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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Breaking Down the NL East: Third Basemen

The NL East has arguably the best set of their basemen in the League, including its AL counterpart. It consists of two solid All-Star caliber players, a defensive whiz, one up and coming guy, and a no-namer. One is a borderline hall-of-famer. Another, should he keep on keepin’ on, has the potential to be enshrined as well. But this blog post isn’t about who may or may not be hall of fame material, no, this is about the NL East third basemen and where they rank in the division. So here goes.

First (Score 1.75): A winner of a tie break because of his overall performance at the position, New York’s David Wright is possibly the most offensive third baseman since, well, the guys that’s number two on this list. Averaging nearly 30 home runs and 116 RBI, he is a machine at the plate who makes an overrated Jose Reyes valuable as a run scorer. A really good hitter overall, he maintains a .300 average and a decent OBP. He has also been a done well in the clutch hitting .306 and slugging .510 with runners in scoring position. This year I project him to do much of the same, .306/33/122, as he continues to carve out an outstanding career.

Second (1.75): Chipper Jones, whether a left fielder or a third baseman, has to carry a team even despite any contributions from Brian McCann. Hopefully for Atlanta and Chipper, the Braves’ pitching will surprise the world and become the reincarnates of the early 90’s teams. Unlikely as it is, the Braves’ best shot at winning the division will Chipper and his ability to pound the baseball. If he manages to flirt with .400 late into the season, and stay healthy, the rest of the lineup will have plenty of opportunities to not be a detriment. While I don’t expect Chipper to hit .380, .350 is not out of the realm of possibility. I also expect him to maintain a nice output power, hitting around 23 dingers and driving in at least 80 RBI. It all depends on the rest of that lineup.

Third (2.875): Philadelphia Phillie, Pedro Feliz has had a steadily decreasing offensive output the last three years. That being said, he is probably the best defensive third baseman on the list and why his job is extremely secure in Philly as long as he can come back from his back problem. It’s almost a shame that his back can’t be blamed for an abhorrent on base percentage (.291 over the past three years). But despite that, onlookers need to understand that Pedro doesn’t need to be money at the plate. He’ll be batting seventh behind guys that will take care of all of the offense, as long as he covers the hot corner.

Fourth (3.625): A couple of years ago, I would have thought that the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman would be pushing David Wright for the top spot on this list, but after a completely lackluster 2008 he will have to come out like gangbusters and totally annihilate opposing pitchers. Still considered by many to be a rising star in the league, he needs to prove that he can do it with RISP, particularly with two outs as he hasn’t hit better than .217 over the last two years. If he can come back to form, barring any lingering affects from a 2008 injury, I’m proposing that he will hit .280/16/75 this year, which may be low since he now has Adam Dunn behind him in the lineup.

Fifth (5.95): I would say that Don McPherson is going to be a horrible third baseman starting for a horrible Florida Marlins team, but that would be horribly premature and shortsighted. For years this team had young players come through for them and this guy might just be ready to break out. Who knows? He’s played a total of 128 games in his career and what better place to play and get experience than in front of 37 fans? Much like Andersen Hernandez, the second baseman of the Nationals, McPherson just doesn’t have the track record to warrant anything but fifth place on this list. I would be surprised if he hit anything more than the minimum to keep him in the show. He goes for .227/4/31 in my book.

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