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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, May 3, 2012

Fantasy baseball: Third base replacement options

The good news: The Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman hopes to return from the disabled list on Tuesday, and the Rangers' Adrian Beltre hopes to be back from a leg ailment on Friday.

The bad: Otherwise, it has been a brutal week for third basemen.

-- The Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis was placed on the disabled list with a back injury to start the week.

-- On Tuesday, it was announced Rays stud Evan Longoria would miss 6 to 8 weeks because of a partially torn hamstring.

-- Today, we learned the Giants' Pablo Sandoval will undergo surgery for a broken bone in his hand and likely will be sidelined 4 to 6 weeks.

What in the name of Chipper Jones is going on here?

If you're hurting for a third baseman, you might be encouraged by the depth of the position in the early going. Let's look at the best of the best on the waiver wire. All of the following options are available in more than 70 percent of the leagues on

1. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates (owned in 27 percent of the ESPN leagues): In his last nine games through Thursday, Alvarez has batted .424 with five home runs, 10 RBI and 10 runs scored in 33 at-bats. He has seven homers, 14 RBI and a .912 OPS on the year. He was effective as a rookie in 2010, when he had 16 homers and 64 RBI in 347 at-bats. Last year, however, he was brutal -- a .191 average with 80 strikeouts in 235 at-bats. If you play in a points league in which you lose a point for a strikeout, Alvarez can be a dangerous start during weeks in which he's not racking up the homers. He has 24 Ks in 70 at-bats this season.

2. Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox (3.3 percent): He had two hits and a steal in his debut Wednesday. Middlebrooks should be a quality short-term fix, since he likely will head back to Triple-A once Youkilis returns. He played at all three levels of the minor leagues in 2011 and hit a combined .285 with 23 homers, 94 RBI and 10 steals in 439 at-bats. Prior to his call-up this year, Middlebrooks was batting .333 with nine homers, 27 RBI and a 1.057 OPS in 93 at-bats in Triple-A.

3. Jed Lowrie, Astros (26.5 percent): OK, he's a shortstop, not a third baseman. But ESPN and other popular sites allow you play Lowrie at third, so take advantage of it. He's hitting .329 with 11 runs, three homers, nine RBI and a .927 OPS in 70 at-bats. He has decent pop (22 homers, 126 RBI and 121 runs in 878 career at-bats), but don't expect him to continue batting better than .300. Lowrie is a career .259 hitter.

4. Chipper Jones, Braves (36.6 percent): The oft-injured 40-year-old is hitting .273 with four homers and 14 RBI. Sure, he'll get hurt again. He's not going to come close to his .304 career average (Jones has batted .264, .265 and .275 the last three seasons). But he still provides some pop, which often is necessary from a corner infielder. 

5. Robert Andino, Orioles (26.4 percent): He's a second baseman who, like Lowrie, is eligible at third. Andino is off to a hot start -- a .342 average with an .831 OPS -- that doesn't mesh with his career norms (.253 average and .650 OPS). He won't help you in the power departments (Andino has one homer and seven RBI this season), but he can be an asset in steals, though that hasn't been the case yet this season. Andino stole 13 bases last season, but is just 0-for-1 in steal attempts in 2012.

Possibilities for deeper leagues

1. Chris Johnson, Astros (2.4 percent): His numbers are somewhat deceiving, since both of his homers and six of his 14 RBI came in one game -- Wednesday against the Mets. But Johnson does have an .807 OPS, and he was effective in 2010, when he batted .308 with 11 homers and 52 RBI in 341 at-bats. Last season, he was terrible (.251, .669 OPS, 97 Ks in 378 at-bats), and he strikes out too much (24 Ks in 90 at-bats this season). But if you're desperate, you could do a lot worse.

2. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals (7.2 percent): He's primarily a first baseman, but you should be able to play him at third. Carpenter is batting .279 with one homer, 14 RBI and an .823 OPS in 68 at-bats as a rookie. In the minors, he did it all -- a .300 average, 27 homers, 161 RBI, 19 steals and an .859 OPS in 1,180 at-bats.

3. Jack Hannahan, Indians (7.3 percent): He's been great in the clutch, going 8-for-13 with one homer and 12 RBI with two outs and runners in scoring position thus far. Aside from that, Supermannahan has been pretty mediocre -- with no other homers and three other RBI on the year. He's also a .234 career hitter.

4. Alex Liddi, Mariners (1.9 percent): He's a more dangerous play than the others on this list because the Mariners are deep at third with Liddi and Kyle Seager. But Liddi has been getting regular at-bats of late, and he's hitting .295 with two homers, five RBI, one steal and an .809 OPS in 44 at-bats. Two causes for concern: Liddi batted only .259 and struck out 170 times in Triple-A in 2011. But he was very good in three other categories -- 121 runs, 30 homers and 104 RBI -- last season.

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