TOP-30 THIRD BASEMEN
1. Nolan Arenado
Although average draft position (ADP) has Nolan Arenado second at his position, our cumulative ranks have the Rockies third baseman at the very top. Arenado has hit at least 40 home runs and drove in 130 or more runs in each of the last two seasons. He is not a BABIP driven player in regards to average and improved his walk rate last year while lowering his strikeout percentage. Entering his prime, Arenado could be in line for a new career high in home runs, as his hard contact improved for the second straight year.
2. Kris Bryant
As the defending National League MVP, there is no bargain for attaining Kris Bryant for fantasy purposes. Bryant fooled many in the industry by cutting his strikeout percentage by more than eight points last year and improving his contact rate by seven percent. Add in a hard contact rate over 40 percent with a blend of speed and Bryant looks to reach 40 home runs in 2017, but the stolen bases may not reach double digits. A fair trade for a player entering his peak years.
3. Josh Donaldson
Once again, our ranks have strayed from early ADP with Josh Donaldson third overall at the position. With Arenado and Bryant going inside the top five in most drafts, Donaldson is a very strong consolation prize at the tail end of the first round. He improved in plate discipline last year with a 15.6 walk percentage and 17 percent strikeout rate. His overall numbers look strong despite a hip injury limiting him to three home runs and a .222 average the last month of the season. Donaldson’s .284/.404/.549 slash line over the last three seasons speaks to a strong skill set for fantasy.
4. Manny Machado
Despite adding shortstop eligibility to his resume, Manny Machado is fourth in the ranks. It feels like he is older than he is, but Machado is just scratching the surface of his talent. During his age-23 season, Machado launched 37 home runs with a .294/.343/.533 slash line. However, part of his fantasy infatuation vanished when he stole zero bases after swiping 20 in 2015. While the speed may not return, he should steal a few. Machado seems to getting more aggressive as his swinging strike rate rose last year and his contact rate declined. His upside suggests 40 home runs as soon as this year.
5. Jonathan Villar
While other players on the list could have more upside, Jonathan Villar will be on many lists as a player due for regression. This could be true, but his multiple eligibility and speed make him an interesting target. Villar played 108 games at shortstop, 42 games at third base and 11 at second. He is in line to start at second for Milwaukee and hit lead-off. His average is due to migrate a bit to the mean, but his speed can maintain a high BABIP. Runs and steals make Villar attractive and if he can hit 15 or more home runs with 40 or more steals, another strong fantasy campaign is on the horizon.
6. Kyle Seager
There is nothing exciting about drafting Kyle Seager but there is nothing wrong with that. It is only perception. Seager has improved his home run total in each season since 2012 and missed his first 100 RBI season by one last year. He had a career best 10.2 walk percentage, his best OPS (.859) and his hard contact spiked to 38.7 percent. A stable skill set that will not break the bank is hard to find. The elder Seager is just that.
7. Todd Frazier
Fantasy owners are trying to discern if last season was a blip or foreshadowing of struggles to come. Todd Frazier still stuffed the stat sheet with his first 40-home-run season, 98 RBI and 15 stolen bases. But his BABIP collapsed to .236 which cratered his slash line to .225/.302/.464. This takes some of the luster off his counting stats. Frazier did see his walk rate go up, but so did his strikeouts. Underneath the statistics, Frazier had his hard contact rate drop to 31.3 percent and his contact rate drop. He enters the spring with questions about a finger injury and is someone to treat with caution entering 2017.
T8. Matt Carpenter
After a career year in home runs in 2015, Matt Carpenter was in line for a near repeat, but injuries limited him to fewer at-bats. But his home run per fly ball gains were not lost and Carpenter was able to finish 2016 with a higher OPS, lower strikeout percentage and higher walk rate. Over the last two years, Carpenter has a home run every 21.4 at-bats. If others are scared off by his results last year, be prepared to pounce on draft day.
T8. Adrian Beltre
There may be no other major league player who provides a gif better than Adrian Beltre. He had a tremendous bounce-back campaign in 2016 with 32 home runs, 104 RBI and a .300/.358/.521 slash line. Beltre has an OPS of .879 or better in three of the last four years. While his home runs may regress back to the mid-20’s, he is worthy of the investment in regards to his present ADP.
T10. Anthony Rendon
What a difference a year makes. Last season, Anthony Rendon was a player to be careful of taking due to his return from injury and propensity for injury. But Rendon was able to play in 153 games last year with 20 home runs and 12 stolen bases. His health showed in the second half, when he hit 11 home runs with 52 RBI and a .291/.357/.508 slash line in 68 games. After the All-Star break, Rendon increased his fly ball rate but kept his home run per fly ball percentage steady. This may be the year to buy in for a 25-home-run season with 100 RBI on Rendon.
T10. Justin Turner
Considering Turner is the 16th third baseman off the board, it appears quite a few people are not buying his 27-home-run performance at age 31. Recent hard hit, fly ball and ISO data suggest it is for real, and the plate discipline is there as well. However, his age and unimpressive track record make Turner a gamble as your starting third baseman. He is an excellent gamble, though, as a corner infielder.
12. Evan Longoria
Given the up and down nature of Longoria’s hard hit rate, it is hard to predict when a 30-home-run season will come — he has had four such seasons (and just missed a fifth) in his nine-year career. His floor is that of a 22-home-run hitter with 80 plus in each the run and RBI categories. If you bid on these numbers you’ll be happy – even more so if he turns in a 30-home-run performance.
13. Alex Bregman
The former LSU standout has speed and power beyond what he has displayed so far. Streamer forecasts Bregman for 19 home runs, 74 RBIs, 75 runs, eight stolen bases, and a .267 average. This could be a conservative estimate, or those numbers could be slightly lower if the contact and strikeout rate don’t improve. Expect his ADP, and in turn risk, to increase as the season draws near.
T14. Jose Ramirez
All the plate discipline and batted ball profile numbers suggest Ramirez could repeat his 2016 season – albeit with a slightly lower batting average. There is also nothing to suggest he will improve upon his 2016 season, so don’t count on a step forward. Ramirez doesn’t stand out in any category, but he’ll give you solid production across the board.
T14. Jung-Ho Kang
There are inconsistencies in the batting average, but with 19 doubles and 21 home runs over 318 at-bats combined with an ISO over .200 and hard hit rate close to 40 percent, you’re drafting Kang for his power. A looming suspension for a DUI charge and an alleged sexual assault has sunk his draft value. This makes Kang and his 243 ADP an excellent late-round bench stash.
16. Miguel Sano
There is obvious home run potential here: 41 percent hard hit rate (top five), 44 percent fly ball ratio, .240 ISO. There are also holes in his game: 35.8 percent strikeout rate (league worst), 14.7 percent swinging strikeout rate, 63.8 percent contact rate (league worst). Will Sano take a step forward, or will he be the next Chris Carter? Draft a suitable backup in case it’s the latter.
17. Eduardo Nunez
The ISO, hard hit rate and infield fly ball ratio say the power is not repeatable. A 16 percent line drive rate doesn’t bode well for the batting average, and the 28 steals in 2010 (major and minor) represent his previous high. As a middle infielder I can see taking a gamble, but as a third baseman or corner infielder – there are much safer options.
18. Maikel Franco
It wasn’t the breakout many expected, but 25 home runs and 88 RBIs in his first full year on an offensively inept team isn’t bad. There were good batting months (.267, .270, .278) and bad ones (.230, .233, .223) — mostly due to a below par 77 percent contact rate. The batted ball profile, hard hit rate and low strikeouts are positive signs, but it may be another year before he puts it all together. Expect similar struggles and results along with modest improvements.
19. Jake Lamb
Jake came in like a lion (.291/.371/.612), but went out like a lamb (.197/.283/.380). In the second half, we saw the strikeouts rise (27.5 percent), line drive rate plummet (13.5 percent), and the HR/FB ratio fall despite a seven percent increase in fly balls and solid 36 percent hard hit rate. Maybe the injury is to blame; the minor league numbers suggests he can do better, but he’ll need to improve on the plate discipline first.
20. Mike Moustakas
Last year’s potential sleeper/breakout is this year’s afterthought with an ADP close to 200. There is little risk considering where he is being drafted, with a repeat of his 2015 season being a best case scenario (13th on the ESPN player rater). Moustakas is a free agent after the 2017 season so he has a lot of incentive to step things up – just something to consider.
21. Nick Castellanos
Few players hit the ball as squarely as Nick Castellanos does. Over his three-plus seasons in the majors, he has produced line drives on more than one out of every four hit balls. Last season, he popped out a total of three times. Castellanos will still be just 25 on opening day, and with growing power, he could be a trendy pick. Poor plate discipline is all that may be holding him back from being a top-15 third baseman.
22. Ryon Healy
Prior to last season, Ryon Healy hadn’t been much of a power hitter in the minors, even in the power-drenched California League. That all changed, as Healy mashed 14 homers in 85 games split between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. That earned him a call-up just after the All-Star break, and he kept the power party going with 13 home runs in 72 games for the Athletics. Banking on Healy to produce at this level for a full season is risky, but the upside could be considerable. After all, he ranked eighth among all third basemen with at least 200 plate appearances with a .364 wOBA.
23. Eugenio Suarez
Three seasons ago, Eugenio Suarez crept onto our radar as a Tigers farmhand who was showing some additional power in his second tour of Double-A. Last year, Suarez made good on his promise in his first full major league season, blasting 21 home runs and knocking in 70 runs. He also paid for a 24.7 percent K-rate by batting .248, and he is enough of a fly ball hitter that he will make his fair share of outs on balls in play. His speed may be a little underrated – Suarez stole 11 bases in 2016 – and it could partially compensate for a low batting average.
T24. Brandon Drury
For the most part, Brandon Drury’s 2016 season was a tease for fantasy owners. He got off to a hot start, batting .301 with eight homers through May 27, but he slumped badly through the next three months, and his playing time was more sporadic. After a strong finish, Drury enters the 2017 season as the frontrunner to be the Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting second baseman, and the 24-year-old could have an opportunity to build consistency.
T24. Yangervis Solarte
Yangervis Solarte had some sleeper appeal heading into 2016, as he batted .288 with 12 home runs over his final 81 games of 2015. He mirrored that performance last year by batting .286 with 15 home runs, despite missing more than a month with a hamstring injury. Solarte isn’t likely to be as far under the radar this season, but he should still be available in the late rounds in mixed Roto leagues.
T26. Hernan Perez
Perez was one of the biggest surprises of the 2016 season, finishing 14th among all third basemen in Roto value, despite accruing only 430 plate appearances. Yet, Perez’s 34 stolen bases shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise, since he was a fairly prolific base stealer coming up through the Tigers’ farm system. The biggest obstacle to Perez achieving similar value in 2017 is a lack of opportunity for playing time as the Brewers’ utility man. Even in that role, it’s conceivable he could pitch in with at least 20 steals.
T26. Jedd Gyorko
Despite playing sparingly in the first half, Jedd Gyorko made 2016 his best offensive year to date. Though Gyorko batted just .243, he clubbed 30 home runs, and he was tied for the second-most home runs in the second half with 23. With the late surge, Gyorko earned a chance to compete to be the Cardinals’ starting third baseman this spring. If he wins out, he could produce another 30-plus homer season, though in all likelihood, that would come with another sub-.250 batting average.
T28. Javier Baez
Javier Baez gained national notice with his defensive wizardry in the postseason, but at times, he also looked lost at the plate. Baez’s glovework may not be enough to win him regular playing time in a loaded Cubs lineup, but even in platoon and utility roles, he could produce a 15-15 season. Should Baez work his way into a more prominent role, he would need to be widely owned in mixed leagues.
T28. Yoan Moncada
Now that Yoan Moncada has departed the Red Sox for the White Sox, we no longer have to wrack our brains trying to figure out where there is room in the lineup for him to play. Moncada is expected to be the White Sox’s second baseman of the future – probably the very near future. He could use a little more time in the minors to work on his contact skills, but having posted a .254 Iso at Double-A Portland, his power game may already be sufficiently honed for the majors.
T28. Martin Prado
Martin Prado had his best season in four years, as he batted .305 with eight home runs and 37 doubles. Because Prado’s best offensive assets are his strong contact skills and line drive approach, he is best suited for points leagues, where his low strikeout rate and high doubles count matter more than they would in Roto. Even in points formats, Prado’s relative lack of power and speed render him as a late-rounder at best in standard mixed leagues.