311 different players started at one of the infield positions in the National League last season. The position with the most number of players to start was in the National League Central at third base where 34 different players started a game at the hot corner.
The Cubs and Brewers were the only two teams to have only one player start more than 10 games at third. Neither team has that guy this year.
Instead Aramis Ramirez has moved from the Cubs to the Brewers and Casey McGehee was traded by the Brewers to the Pirates where he appears headed for some sort of two position platoon at first and third.
Scott Rolen returns to third for the Reds this season after starting only 60 games last season before a shoulder injury sidelined him for most of the second half. It will be his 18th big league season and the Reds are hoping he can show up for more games this season. He has missed at least 30 games every season since 2004.
Rolen’s health and some situations that seem to be settled should drop the number of starters at the position this year and bring some clarity to the rankings at that position.
2012 3rd Base Rankings
1. Aramis Ramirez
The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers won the division despite getting almost nothing out of starting third baseman Casey MCGehee. They gave him 139 starts and 600 at bats during the regular season with no other option in their system and eventually benched him at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs before sending him off to Pittsburgh in a trade.
Brewer fans can expect much more this season with the off season signing of Ramirez who is coming off another solid season in 2011 where he won the Silver Slugger award. He hit .306 with 26 HR’s and 93 RBI despite playing for a Cubs team that had clearly mailed it in.
It was a big comeback for Ramirez after a disappointing .241 average in 2010 on the heels of seven straight years of .280 or better. He hit 25 or more home runs in 8 of the last 9 seasons. The one season he didn’t was in 2009 when he had 15 in just 82 games.
He is also a better defender than McGehee and should help the team improve on what was a dismal fielding season in 2011.
There will be pressure on Ramirez to replace the departed Prince Fielder at the cleanup position but that will need to be a group effort and the team can expect about a .280 average with 25 HR’s and 100 RBI which makes Ramirez the best at his position in 2012.
2. David Freese
There were many reasons why the St. Louis Cardinals found their way to the playoffs and ultimately the championship in 2011 but none were as big when it came to making and winning the World Series than World Series MVP David Freese.
- He drove in four runs in round 1 against Philadelphia to force a game 5
- He hit .545 with 3 HR’s, 9 RBI and 7 runs scored in the NLCS and was named the MVP of that series as well
- His two run triple with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth sent game 6 of the World Series to extra innings where he then hit a walk off to force a game seven
Freese came to the Cardinals in a trade for Jim Edmunds and really had not done much heading into the post season. At 28 and with only 184 games of big league experience there are few who could have predicted the flurry in October.
Freese heads into 2012 as the starter at third and will face the task of carrying that type of play for an entire system as the Cardinals look to replace the consistent production Albert Pujols took with him to Anaheim.
He should hit around .300 and his power numbers probably won’t match Ramirez but with Rolen’s injury history and age, Freese has a chance to carry his late season success into a full season and be the second best player at his position.
3. Scott Rolen
Originally drafted by Philadelphia in 1993, Rolen has had quite a career with over 300 HR’s, 500 Doubles and he went over 2000 hits before the injury last season. He has collected 8 gold gloves at third base and made 7 All Star appearances.
None of that matters if he doesn’t stay healthy this year for the Reds. He missed over 100 games for the Cardinals in 2005 after injuring his shoulder and things have really not been the same since. He missed 50 more in 2007 and 47 in 2008 with Toronto before playing in 133 games for the Reds in 2010.
18 years is a long time to play any sport and the suspicion here is that there is no way Rolen can make it through another season unscathed. He has only 77 HR’s since the injury in 2005 and hasn’t hit over .300 since 2004. It wouldn’t be the first time an aging veteran rose up (Berkman 2011) and had a great season but there is just as much of a chance that the Reds will get less than 100 games.
4. Jimmy Paredes
Paredes was acquired by the Astros in the Lance Berkman trade in 2010 after the Dominican had been signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent at 18 years old. He spent his entire career at various minor league stops before being called up in August of 2011 and did well enough that he enters this spring with plans on starting at third all season.
Now 23, Paredes will need to hold off previous starter Chris Johnson and they split some time there. The Astros will most likely approach 100 losses again this year and it is likely that they will give a player like Paredes a long leash as they try to figure out who will emerge to be the future of this struggling franchise.
5. Ian Stewart
A former first round pick of the Colorado Rockies, Stewart failed to live up to expectations and ultimately the Rockies gave up on him before being traded to the Cubs this past offseason. He brings a very poor .236 lifetime batting average to the table and despite tearing up the minors at times has never evolved into a consistent enough hitter.
In 2011 he hit just .156 with no home runs in 48 games. This was after showing some signs in ’09 and ’10 that he was progressing. He hit 25 home runs in 147 games in 2009 and 18 more in 2010 before the bottom dropped out last season.
A change of scenery can at times help a player become what they couldn’t somewhere else. The Cubs and Stewart are hoping the move to Wrigley Field and a fresh start will do just that.
6. Pedro Alvarez
Amazingly, Stewart does not have the lowest career batting average of the NLC 3rd basemen this year. That dubious title goes to Pedro Alvarez with a career .230 average.
Alvarez was the second overall pick in the 2008 draft and had some decent success in the big leagues in 2010 when he hit 16 HR’s in just 95 games. Unfortunately, the steps forward in 2010 did not continue in 2011 as he struggled mightily hitting just 4 HR’s in 74 games and batting just .191 before an injury sent him to the DL.
He returned from the DL and was optioned to AAA where he spent the rest of the season. If Alvarez struggles again early this year he may find himself back at AAA and Casey McGehee in his place. Neither option would change the ranking in this case.