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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fantasy baseball: Miguel Cabrera returns to third base

If you're an Indians fan, the news of the Tigers' signing of Prince Fielder was a Travis Hafner-sized blow to your team's hopes of winning its division.

If you're a fantasy baseball owner who takes the fake game more seriously than the real one, Fielder's nine-year, $214 million comes with a bonus: Miguel Cabrera's return to third base.

Prior to the news, I had Cabrera ranked second at first base, behind Albert Pujols. I have yet to compile my overall top 100, but Cabrera was a given to crack the top five.

Now, he seems to be a lock to be No. 2 overall -- again behind Pujols.

If you draft Cabrera with the intention of playing him at third base, keep in mind you'll likely have to wait a couple of weeks until he becomes eligible at the hot corner. But it will be well worth it.

Prior to the news of Cabrera's position switch, another player changing positions -- the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez -- seemed set to be the top fantasy third baseman.

In the early rankings I have compiled, the top eight third basemen prior to Cabrera's move were Ramirez, Evan Longoria, David Wright, Adrian Beltre, Kevin Youkilis, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Zimmerman and Pablo Sandoval. None of the eight had 500 at-bats last season.

Ramirez batted .243 -- one point worse than Longoria -- in 2011. Wright hit .254, Beltre is injury-prone, Zimmerman failed to get 400 at-bats because of injury, Youkilis has had a combined 793 at-bats the last two seasons, and A-Rod finished 27 at-bats shy of 400. Sandoval had only 426 at-bats, 55 runs and 70 RBI last season.

All of which makes Cabrera a much more valuable third baseman than a first baseman. Especially when you consider that in eight full major-league seasons (discounting his 314 at-bats as a rookie with the Marlins in 2003), he has batted .320 with averages of 102 runs, 33 homers and 115 RBI.

Miggy is a career .317 hitter. His on-base percentage is .395 and his OPS is .950.

In the last three seasons, he has batted .324, .328 and .344.

In the last two years, his OPS is 1.042 and 1.034.

He's been so good he will get serious consideration at No. 1 overall.

I'd take Pujols ahead of Cabrera, though the latter's move to third makes it a much more difficult decision than we're accustomed to in the annual Albert vs. Miggy debate.

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