Being the fantasy baseball nerd that I am, I wanted to take a look at who has been the best third baseman in the majors for the past few years and who it should be this year. I have to give credit to jeff550 for putting a question like this up in the comments section of a post. Right now, the three best third baseman in the league are probably David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, and Evan Longoria. I'll compare these three guys and give a final conclusion. Now, on to the analysis.
In the ESPN league and most other fantasy leagues, the usual consensus is that Longoria is the best, or has more value than Zimm and Wright. Last year, it was probably a toss up between Wright and Longo, but only because of RBI's.Compare their numbers in 2010:
Zimmerman: .307/25/85 with 4 SB's
Longoria: .294/22/104 with 15 SB's
Wright: .283/29/103 with 19 SB's.
I would have to say that Zimmerman's and Longoria's HR numbers were a bit down from what you could expect. Obviously, Longo and Wright having 20 more RBI's than Zimm is notable, but that is what makes the league think that Longo is the best third baseman in the league. The 10 - 15 extra SB's per year is also something Longo and Wright do better than Zimm (even though Zim could steal as much as Longo and Wright if the Nats let him). The thing that Zimm is better at than the other two is hitting for average, probably about 10-25 points above Longoria and Wright per year. If you disregard RBI's, because it usually only tells us how good the rest of the player's team is (unless if the player chokes in the clutch situations), Zimm , Wright, and Longo were about equal in performance in 2010.
Here's the catch for 2011: the Rays got rid of alot of their 2010 starting lineup, like Crawford, Bartlett, Pena, etc. This means less RBI's for Longoria, maybe about 10. Also, Zimm had about 50 less at bats than both Longo and Wright did. Basically, if Zimm got those extra 50 or 60 at bats, it would be reasonable to say that he would get three or four extra home runs and 10 extra RBI's. Wright also gets about 20-30 more strikeouts per season than the other two, so that diminishes his value a bit. Also, looking at Wright's 2009 with just 10 HR's and 72 RBI's, it is difficult to say if he repeats 2010 in 2011. Defensively, I would say that Zimm probably has another edge on defense because although the league doesn't recognize it, he definitely has the most range and best glove by far out of these three studs. Longoria makes 1-2 less errors per year but his range isn't as good and Wright makes about 5 more errors than Zimm per year and also probably has less range. Oh yeah, Zimmerman also had the highest OBP out of all of 'em at .388 in 2010.Another thing I want to mention is that I am kind of ignoring what Wright did a few years back because of the stadium change. Looking at what Wright did from '06 to '08, we could definitely expect less power and average from him from here on out because of the new, spacious Citi Field.
Looking at these factors, assuming that Zimmerman doesn't get injured like last year (which cut him about 50 AB's), my best guess would be that Zimmerman has the most production out of all third baseman in the majors in 2011. Say what you want about how much of a stud Longoria is and how perfect David Wright is, but looking at the factors coming into 2011, Zimm has the best chance to be the best out of all of them.