By Eddie Mayrose
Who’s Number Three?

With MLB teams in training camp and the weather here in the Northeast, finally, heating up, Fantasy Baseball draft prep is well underway. One of the answers being sought by Fantasy Owners during the process, whether the format is Roto or Head to Head, is, “what player should be selected with the third pick in the draft?”

For the last few seasons, with few exceptions, the first two players to come off the board in most Mixed drafts have been Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez.  Pujols for his general excellence and Ramirez for his statistical prowess across all categories at an annually weak position. The next pick, however, is one that varies from league to league and player to player.  If you’re actually sitting in that slot, yours is an important position.  You are not only laying the foundation for your own team, but you’ll be dictating the direction of the rest of the first round.

What follows is an analysis of those MLB stars that have appeared in the three hole of a large number of Mixed Mock Drafts.  We’ll give you a brief rundown of the pros and cons of each, then let you know where we stand.  No matter where you come down on this issue, don’t let position scarcity factor into your decision.  It’s way too early to pass on pure production for the sake of grabbing a guy at a weak spot.

Carlos Gonzalez- 2010 was a breakout season for CarGo, who turned out to be the world’s favorite sleeper.  While his 34 HR, 117 RBI and 26 SB did show the usual Home/Away splits of most Rockies, his numbers still justify elite status.  What concerns us, however, is a K/BB ratio of more than 3 to 1.

Troy Tulowitzki- CarGo’s running mate in the middle of Colorado’s order, Tulo’s September was one of the best months in Fantasy history.  The problem is, without that incredible stretch, his season would have been a disappointment.  Despite being one of the game’s best, Tulo has spent time on the DL twice in three years.

Evan Longoria- Moonlight’s first selection at number nine last year, Longoria produce very good, if not incredible, numbers.  Absolutely in the discussion of the game’s best players, we’re very concerned about how many pitches he’ll actually see now that the lineup around him has been decimated

Ryan Braun- The Milwaukee left fielder has been consistent as anyone in the bigs since bursting on the scene four years ago.  So much so, that Fantasy guru Ron Shandler, grabbed him with the second pick in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Draft earlier this month.  His HR ratio has dropped each of the last three seasons, however, as his K rate has also dropped.  Good for him that he’s making more contact, but we need dingers in such a high slot.

Robinson Cano- A breakout player at a weak position, Cano was the Yankees’ MVP last season.  We’d love to see Joe Girardi hit him third in the order where he belongs, but, until then, he’ll lose RBI opportunities behind Texeira and ARod homers. He’s a lock for 200 H and 100 R, but we’ll need better than 3 SB to spend such a high pick on him.

Josh Hamilton- If Hamilton’s health wasn’t an issue, he’d be our first pick, ahead of Pujols.  Health is an issue, though, as the Rangers’ superstar has completed just one season in the last three.  Despite being the AL MVP, he’s too big a risk to be considered here.

Miguel Cabrera
– A perennial Triple Crown threat, Cabrera’s status took a huge hit when he was arrested last week on DUI charges.  It’s his second go-round in his battle with alcohol, one that casts entirely too much uncertainty on his 2011 season.

So, where does that leave us?  The number three pick here, the one we’ll be calling at the TK-40 Roto Draft on March 24th, is Reds’ first baseman, Joey Votto.   While his ridiculous 2010 totals are impressive enough, (.324, 37, 113) what blows us away is that he’s improved over each of his three major league seasons, he’s got protection in the order and plays in a band box of a ball park.  With an OBP of better than 1.000 and 16 SB, we believe he’s only scratched the surface and won’t be swayed by the argument about position scarcity.  As we’ve stated ad nauseum, there is no consideration to be given to the fact that there are other first baseman of similar ability that can be taken later.  In the first round, championship teams get value; regardless of position.  And, from where we’re sitting, there is no greater value at number three than the Reds’ superstar first baseman.

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