For a brief tutorial on how to use my head-to-head ranks, please visit here. For all of my in-depth rankings breakdowns, please visit http://fp911.com/author/albertlang/. For spreadsheets of rankings visit here.
Mark Reynolds (#118 Hitter, #27 1B, #15 3B) was covered in the first basemen preview here.
In the minors, Mike Moustakas (#137 Hitter, #16 3B) was a power dynamo, slugging 36 HRs between AA and AAA in 2010. He seemed to get his stroke back at the beginning of 2012, socking 15 HRs in the first half, but finished with just 20 total bombs. He posted solid (if unspectacular) HR/FB rates in the early months, but posted dismal showings from July-October. Moustakas really tried to power up last season, hitting a ton of fly balls (nearly 50%) and infield flies (17.6%). This will probably make him a batting average liability – however he has shown the ability to post double digit HR/FB ratios. If he can get that back (and there’s a possibility a knee injury zapped his power last season), you’re looking at a rosy 25+ HR season from Moustakas. The batting average likely won’t surpass .260, but a .260 hitting, 25 HR third baseman is nothing to scoff at.
My treasure trove of Wilson Betemit (#178 Hitter, #26 3B, #38 1B, #90 OF) rookie cards has nothing to do with me being the only fantasy writer to consistently trumpet his value – honest. For a while now, Betemit has been a good bat against righties and terrible against lefties, which puts him solidly on the fantasy helpful side of the platoon. The path seems to be there for Betemit to be a platoon guy for the O’s this season as there are no Jim Thome’s blocking at bats. He did hit 12 HRs in just 102 games last season and should improve on that number: .267 with 15 HRs and a surprising amount of RBIs (70).
For coverage of Eduardo Nunez (#184 Hitter, #27 SS, #27 3B), check out the shortstop preview.
Much like Betemit, Jeff Keppinger (#185 Hitter, #28 3B, #26 2B, #39 1B) draws his paychecks by dominating a platoon – in this case, Keppinger destroys lefties. That said, he has slowly been batting better against righties: .302/.352/.403 last season; .273/.302/.343 in 2011; and .282/.344/.375 in 2010. They aren’t massive career-long samples, but he does have a good bit of at bats against righties – enough to show that he’s no longer a pushover. Still, Keppinger, for one reason or another, hasn’t ever topped 140 games, so expecting 550+ at bats seems lofty. Keppinger should bat .285, score a decent amount of runs (70) and collect 10+ round trippers.
Matt Carpenter (#261 Hitter, #41 3B, #58 1B, #123 OF) seems to be generating a ton of buzz right now, so you’ll do best to reach a bit for him at the moment. In addition, Carpenter makes a sneaky selection in the hopes he attains second base eligibility. The reason the Cards are trying to force Carpenter’s glove at second is his bat. In his last full stint at AAA, Carpenter batted .302/.419/.465, which followed a similar performance in 2010 at AA. He did about what we’d expect in his first taste of the majors last season—he walked a good bit, put the bat on the ball and got on base. He doesn’t necessarily profile to offer a ton of power, but he is 27 and should be nearing his athletic peak. Without knowing if Carpenter will stick at second, it’s hard to put a projection: but full playing time upside is to a .290 average, 12-15 HRs, and 70-80 runs/RBIs. In short, he could be a better version of Betemit.
Ryan Flaherty (#324 Hitter, #53 3B, #52 2B, #156 OF) is one of the few recent Rule-5 picks to make a discernible impact in the majors. He appeared in just 77 games last season for the O’s, but hit six HRs. He batted poorly (.216/.258/.359), but is two years removed from a solid 2011 in AA (.305/.384/.523). Outside of AL-only leagues, there probably isn’t much there on Flaherty—a reasonable projection gets him to a .240 average and 8-10 HRs. Still, there is a little wiggle here, with an optimistic person seeing Flaherty inch closer to .250 and 15 HRs.
The greatest third base battle is about to take place: Juan Francisco (#350 Hitter, #58 3B) versus Chris Johnson. Johnson is an uninspiring solid performer. Francisco does some special things on the diamond, when it comes to power. Of course, he also strikes out a ton and can’t hit lefties. Still, for his career, Francisco has performed well against righties (.272/.320/.487). You’d think he’d get a ton of opportunities this season to benefit from that platoon, but, of course, most of his at bats were against righties last season and he managed a pretty putrid line. If the price is cheap and Francisco ultimately gets the lion’s share of at bats against righties, he could end up with 15 HRs easy and a .260 or so average. At the least, if you own him, you’ll get one absolute moonshot, which is pretty darn cool.
Stephen Lombardozzi (#311 Hitter, #46 2B, #49 3B, #151 OF) was covered in the second baseman preview here.