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Fantasy Baseball: The third base draft plan for 2017

In this Aug. 2, 2016, file photo, Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista hits a solo home run, the 300th home run of his career, career off Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers in the third inning of a baseball game, in Houston. Big names such as Kris Bryant, Jose Bautista and Adrian Gonzalez had their moments. But the postseason also belonged to near-unknowns like Ezequiel Carrera (Toronto), Conor Gillaspie (San Francisco) and Ryan Merritt (Cleveland). (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith, File)
(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith, File)

Each week I will take a look at the NFBC fantasy baseball leader board and break down by position what owners should expect and be looking for as they head into their drafts for the 2017 season. Analysis is based on standard 12-team leagues including options for those using a corner infield slot.

I’ve already broken down the catcher, first base and second base positions. Today we continue around the diamond stopping at third base. Just like second base, the third base position is deep in talent. Unlike second base, there are a number of top-tier selections, a half-dozen or so strong options in the next few tiers and the fallback options aren’t too shabby. Let’s dive right in.

Round 1 and 2

Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado are being taken four, five and eight, respectively. Their respective reaches are picks Nos. 1, 2 and 5, and none have made it out of Round 1. Given what this group has done and is capable of, their draft price is warranted.

Arenado has the power advantage of the group along with the Coors field effect. Bryant is the five-category guy giving you strong numbers across the board. Machado doesn’t run anymore, otherwise he would be right there with Bryant. He still has power, though, and qualifies for shortstop which is an added bonus.

Josh Donaldson is the veteran of the group, and is just as dangerous, power-wise, as Arenado. Unfortunately, he is 31, and fantasy owners love the new and shiny toys. This is why he is going 11 overall, being reached for at pick eight, and in some cases slipping to Round 2 at 16 overall. It is quite possible you could come out of Round 1 and two with a combination of Anthony Rizzo and Josh Donaldson if you pick late.

Jonathan Villar is an honorary member of this group – a consolation prize if you will – that is being taken with pick 20. Some have reached as high as eight overall to acquire him, but he has also slipped to number 30. While Villar may qualify for third base, he has far more value as a shortstop or second base (once he qualifies). There is some risk here as Villar has never displayed that type of power or that much speed. If you gamble on him this early you better make sure that your first and third picks are absolute studs.

Milwaukee Brewers Third baseman Jonathan Villar (5) [7949] scores after hitting a solo homer in the third inning during the Major League Baseball game between the Brewers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. (Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire)

Round 3 through 6

There is a huge gap between the top-tier and the next group. Outside of potential reaches, there are no third basemen being selected (on average) in Rounds 3, 4 and 5. 

Kyle Seager and Matt Carpenter are both mid- to late-sixth-round picks. Seager has an ADP of 66 while Carpenter is going at 71. Both have also been reached for at number 40 (Round 4) – something to keep in mind if you’re contemplating one of them. Seager is my top draft target, providing above-average consistent numbers across the board. Carpenter could produce similar numbers, and also provides roster flexibility with eligibility at first and second base.

Todd Frazier may have an ADP of 74, placing him in Round 7, but he has been reached for as high as both Seager and Carpenter. The power is on the rise; he hit a career-high 40 home runs last year and 35 in 2015. Frazier is also a lock for 80-plus in each of the run and RBI categories, and should also deliver double-digit steals. The batting average is what has many concerned. I can’t see it being any worse than last season and expect some improvements. Even if it stays the same, you’re still getting great production in the other four categories.

All three hitters have slipped to the late-eighth, early-ninth-round. I don’t see that happening too often. But if by some chance they do slide that far in your draft I advise you to pounce.

Round 7 and 8

Adrian Beltre (83 – end of Round 7) is still a solid bat, even at his age. If the above players are gone there is a chance he could be reached for in Round 6. He could also fall to Round 9 depending on the available talent as well as age bias. A worst-case scenario is a repeat of his 2015 season, making him Kyle Seager with less power but a better batting average.

Anthony Rendon is going eight picks after Beltre (Round 8), but has been taken as high as round five (58 overall). He is a risk/reward player. In the second half we saw the 2014 version of Rendon. Unfortunately, his 2015 season and the first half of 2016 are hard to ignore. Can he stay healthy and produce over a full season?

Alex Bregman could be the one person to far exceed his ADP (92) and overall ranking. He has the power to keep him in the top-12 conversation and the upside of the big-four in Round 1. As one of the final third baseman on the board, and one of the lowest reaches (71 – Round 6), this is a terrific place to roll the dice.

Jose Ramirez is going off the board at the end of Round 8. That is not a slight on his talent, evident by those that have reached for him at 61 overall. All of his underlying metrics point to a repeat of his 2016 season with a lower batting average. There is a slight chance of improved counting stats if he can see more at-bats above the fifth/sixth slot.

21 August 2016: Cleveland Indians Infield Jose Ramirez (11) [9522] hits a 2-run home run during the eighth inning of the Major League Baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Cleveland defeated Toronto 3-2. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

Round 9 through 11

That makes 11 third basemen potentially off the board after eight rounds; 12 if you count Villar. Since Villar and Carpenter could be used at other positions, we’ll need a few more to cover things in a 12-team league.

Considering the track record and history, it’s funny seeing Evan Longoria being taken at the end of Round 9(104 ADP). Like Ramirez above, this goes to show how much talent there is at third base. The gamble with Longoria is you never know if you’re going to get the 2013/2016 version or the 2014/2015 guy. Both are solid values, just one has more power potential.

Javier Baez is a Swiss army knife, eligible at third base as well as both middle infield positions. His versatility makes him a solid corner/middle infield option, but the lack of at-bats limit his value as a starting third baseman. An ADP of 115 (Round 10) is perfect, but don’t reach into Round 6 and seven like some owners have.

Maikel Franco and Justin Turner are going within several picks of each other in Round 11. They have been reached for in Round 6 or 7 but they have each slipped past Round 14. That’s a variation of over 100 spots showing their value (or lack thereof) among drafters.

Franco has top-12 potential, but there is an equal chance for regression. Turner is also a gamble as he is a late-bloomer that never displayed this type of power before. I like both at the current ADP. You can even make a case for reaching a round early if you’re a believer. If you are not sold on Franco or Turner, there are still a number of third base options below to choose from.

Corner Infield Options

That makes 13 players plus three multi-eligible guys available for third base through Round 11 (top-108). In years past we would look to first base for our corner infield players. As I pointed out several weeks ago, the talent level at first base takes a dramatic dive once the top-12 or so players are gone. While third base does take somewhat of a downturn at that same point, there is still a better pool of players, which more upside, to choose from.

Jake Lamb had a terrific first half followed by or horrible second. Still, anybody capable of hitting 29 home runs is worth a gamble in Rounds 12 or 13.

Everyone assumes Travis Shaw will be the man in Milwaukee. That makes Hernan Perez a potential sleeper should he be available at his current ADP of 167 (Round 14). He has speed (34 steals), could reach double-digits in power, and is eligible at second base and outfield.

Ryon Healy is an even bigger sleeper at 194 overall (Round 17), and has a clear path to playing time. He hit over .300 in Double-A and Triple-A, and last year he had 48 doubles and 27 home runs across three levels.

Mike Moustakas lost his 2016 sleeper tag after missing the season. Now he is a bargain at 199 overall (Round 17). There may be some rust, but there is 20-plus home run potential here.

Nick Castellanos has not lived up to the hype so far, but he has made incremental improvements each season. He could be on the verge of a breakout at age 25.

Jung Ho Kang would be going higher than pick 244 (Round 21) if not for an impending suspension. This makes him a draft-and-stash power option if you have a deep bench.

(Icon Sportswire)

Fallback Options

I have just named 22 third base-eligible players – that should be enough for everyone. However, there are still some interesting names available and being selected outside the top-250 (Round 21 onward).

  • Eugenio Suarez hit .248, had 32 combined home runs and steals, and should have a long leash.
  • Yulieski Gurriel received a lot of hype upon his promotion last year and could start the season at first base.
  • Yangervis Solarte can hit for a decent average, has moderate power and also qualifies for second base.
  • Travis Shaw gets a fresh start to build on what he did in Boston. He does have some competition, though, so he’ll need to produce.
  • Danny Valencia is a late-bloomer who produced solid numbers for Toronto and Oakland. He should see the lion’s share of starts at first base in Seattle.
  • Pablo Sandoval is “allegedly” in shape, healthy and will receive another shot in Boston.

In addition to those players, you have Martin Prado, Adonis Garcia, Chase Headley, Trevor Plouffe and David Wright. I would not draft any of them, but they are names to keep an eye on – you never know.

The Third Base Draft Plan

Do you take one of the stud third basemen in Round 1, or do you settle for the players available in Rounds 5 through 8? That is what the third base plan comes down to.

With the first-round players, you are getting an absolute stud that will provide top-tier numbers. If you settle for the players in Rounds 5 through 8 – settling isn’t a bad thing – you are still getting solid production. Some of the players do have their faults and limitations, but overall you should be happy.

Maybe you’ll be left with little choice if you pick first (Trout). Things don’t get any easier with a second-overall pick; Betts, Bryant, Goldschmidt, Arenado and Altuve have all been taken second overall. It is also possible a decision could be made for you if all four are gone before you get a chance to draft.

My draft plan involves taking Goldschmidt or Rizzo in Round 1, followed by a shortstop in Round 2. I’ll need to call an audible if both my first basemen are gone and, say, Josh Donaldson is staring at me.

There is no right or wrong plan with third base. And reaching a round or two early here to get “your guy” is also not a bad idea – you’ll still get value (or break even). I might even reach for two third basemen and lock up my corner spot. Then again, I may call another audible and look for value beyond Round 8.

Whatever your plan is, make sure it involves getting one of those top-13. Otherwise, you’ll be playing catch-up all season hoping for a breakout from one of those corner infield players.

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