We’re back! I’m sleep deprived, at one point this week it felt like spring here in NYC, and I’m talking about fantasy baseball! Third basemen style. Let’s go!
Just kidding. False start. Before we get going, there are two pieces of baseball news to get to. First, it would seem that the top has finally been blown off the free agent pot. Kind of. Something is better than nothing, I guess. That metaphor is also stretch, but leave me alone. My eye won’t stop twitching.
Anyways, Darvish is a Cub. JD is a member of the Red Sox. And Hosmer just wants to surf, so he signed with San Diego. What about the rest of those nerds? Spring Training has started, people. We’re anxiously awaiting the destinations of guys like Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas (more on him later), Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb. As Spring Training gets underway, and injuries start (Brent Honeywell-RIP), I’m sure these guys will find homes sooner rather than later.
As for the second bit of news, it’s gotta be the humidor. Chase Field in Arizona is apparently storing their balls in a little climate controlled ball chamber this season. Lolz. But for real, we have to wonder how that will affect the likes of Goldy, the ghost of JD Martinez and what could’ve been, and Jake Lamb (more on him later too). Will the power go down? Should we be upgrading Zack Greinke, Zack GODley, and others? Should I be loving Archie Bradley more than I already do?! Time will tell!
But we didn’t come here to talk balls in chambers staying nice and climate controlled! We came to talk third baseman! If you’re just joining the party, here’s some clickbait. Check out my 1B rankings here, and if you really have no life, here’s my second base rankings.
I NEED SLEEP.
TOP 20 THIRD BASEMAN for 2018
1. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
The first line in my notes says simply, “what a beast.” Arenado just polished off his 3rd season in a row of at least 37 HR, 97 R, and 130 RBI. That’s what we call a massive floor, folks. He’s a big-time slugger, but he doesn’t hack like one with a strikeout rate that has hung around 15% the last two seasons. Add in a 9% walk rate in each of those seasons as well, and you’ve got a guy who has suddenly vaulted his OBP to the elite tier for the position as well. What can’t he do?? You want average? Well, he finally crossed the .300 threshold last year with a .309. You want slugging? He’s been sitting in the mid to high .570s for years now. He’s going to bat third this season behind a complete package in Charlie Blackmon and a high-contact guy in LeMahieu, so 130 RBI doesn’t seem unreasonable. He’s the cream of the crop in a deep position, and he easily makes my top 10 overall for 2018.
Projection: 105 R/40 HR/125 RBI/3 SB/.295
2. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
While not quite possessing the power ceiling of Arenado, Bryant has established himself as a top-tier option at the position regardless. He hit 39 bombs in 2016, but a “down” year in 2017 meant he came back to 29. Part of that regression can be blamed on the nearly 8% loss in hard-hit rate. That seems like an outlier, and positive movement can be expected. Bryant should have no problem coming close to the 110-120 run floor he’s seemed to establish the last few years. Also, the 73 RBI from 2017 also feel like a fluke, and you can safely assume the 102 and 99 he posted in 2015 and 2016 respectively are closer to the real KB. Like Arenado, he traditionally flirts with a .300 average, but it’s the outstanding OBP that’s been close to .400 and improved each of the last 3 years that has me excited. He had the second-highest walk rate for all qualified third baseman a year ago, and the K% has been improving drastically every single year. He’s 26, made improvements across the board in his game, hits for above average contact, and I am not scared at all by the dip in counting stats from 2017. Draft confidently if he’s there in the second round.
Projection: 105 R/35 HR/95 RBI/8 SB/.296
3. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
I placed him here based on positional eligibility on Opening Day, but he will gain shortstop eligibility quickly if the Orioles commit to him there. I love the 20+ HR floor he’s established over the last 3 years, but what I really want to know is can he steal or not? He teased us with a 35 HR/20 SB season in 2015, but he followed that up with NARY A STEAL in 2016! He gave us 9 a year ago, but who is the real Machado?! Anyways, his counting stats took a hit in runs scored last year as the Orioles were a trash lineup, but the RBI stayed consistent. Trash lineup or not, there’s no denying his triple slash fell off the table a year ago. Take a look for yourself.
I warned you. The BABIP fell off the table too landing at .265, which a lazy fantasy baseball writer would say that means positive movement is coming. All in all, it just looks like Machado had a good ol’ fashioned slump that lasted an entire half-season. He went on a tear in the second half to make the season somewhat digestible, but he’s still young and brimming with talent. I’m not reaching, but I like a bounce-back from Machado this season. The skills to be a superstar are there.
Projection: 90 R/35 HR/95 RBI/8 SB/.280
4. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
Injuries limited The Bringer of Rain to just 496 plate appearances a year ago, but he still managed to rake a line of 65 R/33 HR/78 RBI/.270. He had the 5th most home runs at the position, mind you! The slugger is flying slightly under the radar because of the injuries and possibly his age, but make no mistake that this is one of the top power options at the position. His floor since coming north of the border has been close to 40 HR, and there’s no indication that’s changing anytime soon. A red flag from his 2017 season rests with the growing strikeout rate that ballooned to 22% up from 17% the previous year. He also had slight decreases in batting average, hard hit rate, and opposite field power. But let’s just call that injuries…for now. He’s still got an elite walk rate that was 15% a year ago. Also, among his positional peers, he finished with the 4th best OBP, 3rd best slugging percentage, and top 4 in both wOBA and wRC+. Donaldson may have begun the aging process, but he’s doing it gracefully. When he was out there last year, he was very good. Assuming health, he’s still a top-tier option.
Projection: 90 R/39 HR/100 RBI/2 SB/.280
5. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
Bregman’s first full season in the big leagues was a good one. And it all finished with a World Series title. It’s all downhill from here, kid! Jokes aside, Bregman posted a line of 88 R/19 HR/71 RBI/17 SB with a triple slash of .284/.352/.475. He’s quickly established himself as the top power-speed option at the position, and he’s still a spring chicken. His K% improved mightily from his 2016 cup of coffee as it fell to 15% after being 24% the year before. Someone hit the cage hard in the offseason! His 0.55 BB/K rate already places him above average in terms of plate discipline, and I’m in love with the 85% contact rate as well. There are so many arrows pointing up for Bregman that it’s hard not to get carried away.
Projections: 85 R/25 HR/90 RBI/15 SB/.280
6. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
You know how they say you develop personal biases against certain players for one reason or another? That was me with Rendon after I drafted him in 2015. I got burned, he was injured, and I wrote him off. My b! Rendon is just a tick below the top tier, and honestly, it’s only because the top tier is so crowded already that he’s not with them. Rendon’s floor appears to be something around 85 R/20-25 HR/90 RBI with a few steals and a high average. YAS, multiple category contributor!!! He solidified his status as a fantasy stud a year ago with his 81 R/25 HR/100 RBI/7 SB season and a .301/.403/.533 triple slash to boot. He was top 5 in RBI, and he was one of the few in baseball who had a higher walk rate than strikeout rate. That’s absurd. Among the third baseman, he was one of just 4 to hit over .300 last season, ranked 3rd in OBP, 5th in slugging, and top 5 in wRC+ and wOBA. His .937 OPS was not only his career best, but it was 100 points better than any previous mark he’d set. The high contact rate also rustles my jimmies, and steals are the only reason he’s behind Bregman.
Projection: 85 R/23 HR/87 RBI/5 SB/.300
7. Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
What hasn’t Justin Turner done the last two years since becoming a full-time player with the Dodgers? Sure, the counting stats will never lead the league, but he’s a hell of a hitter and always has a beautiful triple slash à la his 2017 mark of .322/.415/.530. That wasn’t the stat line from my video game Justin Turner on Diamond Dynasty. That was last year for him. In fact, his OBP, wOBA, wRC+, and average all ranked tops among qualified third baseman last year. And he was 6th in slugging. He’s established a sexy floor of about 75 R/20 HR/75 RBI with an absurd on-base percentage and high average. Remember how Rendon had a higher walk rate than K%? Oh, Turner did that too. His contact rate has stayed around 85%, which we just love, and there’s no reason to think the skills are falling off anytime soon. He’s top 5 in OBP leagues, but he only gets a minor bump down in every other format.
Projection: 75 R/23 HR/80 RBI/3 SB/.295
8. Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks
Without the humidor, he’d be tempting to list higher than this, but alas. Here we are. The last two years have established Jake Lamb as a full-blown, 30 HR threat, and he bats in the middle of a very good Diamondbacks lineup. A playoff squad from last year you may recall. He’s probably not going to ever live under the 20% strikeout rate, but you can swallow that as long as his 13% walk rate stays consistent. The power is for real, as are the counting stats, but this is not your guy for a solid batting average. Though he sits around average in contact rate, he looks like a career .250 hitter with a few outliers sure to come here and there. If you are in OBP leagues, draft with confidence as he rocked .357 a year ago thanks to the high walk rate. After this past week’s trade, he’s currently slotted for 4th behind Goldy and in front of Steven Souza Jr. The only question you have to answer is how much will the humidor affect him?
Projection: 85 R/29 HR/95 RBI/5 SB/.250
9. Nicholas Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
It feels like he’s been around forever, but he’s just 25 years young. Last year he took a big step forward in his counting stats after consistently disappointing owners for years. Take a look.
Sorry, there was confusion there. That’s just some clown shoes.
Ok, then. He still has a very high K% even though it “improved” to 21% a year ago. He also refuses to take a walk, and so it should come across as no surprise that his BB/K mark was 0.29. Rough. Last year was most certainly the breakout we’ve all been waiting for, but was that the outlier or the skills all coming together? Based on the ranking, you can tell I believe the latter. He’s just now entering his prime years, and I expect him to build off of last year’s improvements. I think the Tigers will be trash, and I hate that he hits behind Cabrera and V-Mart. However, he’s going to be a lone bright spot, and I expect top 10 production at the position. Big things coming for Nicholas.
Projection: 75 R/25 HR/87 RBI/3 SB/.270
10. Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
11. Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers
I went over him in the first base rankings. Just click it already.
12. Mike Moustakas, Free Agent
As soon as we get more information, I will have a more definitive idea of where he fits. For now, I have to drop him here. I don’t like it, trust me. As soon as he signs, he vaults to the top of this tier easy. I think he’s got top 10 talent, but if he lands in like…Miami (he won’t duh), I’m keeping him here. Anyways, Moustakas broke out into a slugging machine a year ago with a 75 R/38 HR/85 RBI line and a triple slash of .272/.314/.521. Those were career highs in HR, R, and RBI, by the way. We’d seen him flash power before, but nothing of this magnitude. While selling out for the power, though, his K% jumped up to its highest mark since 2013. That could also explain his trash OBP and falling walk rate. And staying on the power shift theme, Moose posted a 0.76 GB/FB rate, which was significantly down from his 1.06 mark from 2016. More flyballs, more home runs, less contact as you swing more for the fences, etc. You get the picture. Anyways, when Moustakas gets in 600 plate appearances, he traditionally has a floor of at least 20 HR. Assuming he won’t choose a black hole for power, I like the skills, and I will be moving him up as we get more info.
Projection: 70 R/30 HR/82 RBI/1 SB/.265
13. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
There’s a very legitimate playing time concern here as his off-the-field issues run their course. A suspension could be coming down from the MLB, but as of right now, nothing has happened. Let’s proceed as if he will be eligible to play on Opening Day. Sano was once again limited by injuries for the second year in a row, but he still amassed another 25+ HR season with 77 RBI and 75 R. He stayed on brand with his 35% strikeout rate, which is just a tick lower than Joey Gallo albeit with a much better average. The walk rate has stayed in the double digits, which is encouraging, and he made big strides in his triple slash last year improving to .264/.352/.507. That was good enough to jump his OPS from .781 in 2016 to .859 a season ago. The biggest hole, besides the strikeouts, is the poor contact rate, which sat at 62% a season ago. That was even down from the previous year’s 65%. That’s also bad. Still, Sano hits in a pretty good lineup and should have plenty of opportunities to produce.
Projection: 80 R/30 HR/85 RBI/1 SB/.245
14. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
One of my favorite picks below Tier 2, Devers is brimming with talent and a prospect pedigree that should have him off the board in the mid-rounds of any draft this season. Over his 240 plate appearance debut last year, he posted a line of 34 R/10 HR/30 RBI/3 SB with a triple slash of .284/.338/.482. Now, let’s see what he can do with a full year of at-bats as the Red Sox starting third bagger. He is only 21, so his strikeout rate was predictably high at 23% in 2017, but he projects to be a high average guy with good contact eventually. What has me in awe is the 1.38 GB/FB rate from last year indicating a groundball-leaning hitter, and yet, he still has the potential to crush 20 bombs a year at least. Devers is a pure-hitter type who will contribute in a multitude of categories including OBP, and I am jumping on this bandwagon. He’s projected to hit right behind JD Martinez in the 5-hole as well. Let’s go.
Projection: 75 R/20 HR/85 RBI/8 SB/.280
Tier 4: Fergie’s National Anthem
15. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
It looks like the utility man will head over to third this season for the Redbirds, which explains why I held him off until these rankings. The last three seasons have been a flip of the script for Carpenter as he’s tapped into 20 HR power each year. However, that has resulted in lower batting averages and a climbing strikeout rate while he swings for the fences. Jackin’ dongs has its drawbacks, as they say. Regardless, he’s always among the elite in OBP (I see you 17% walk rate!), and he is a consistent source of runs in the higher part of an always solid Cardinals lineup. The power version of Matt Carpenter seems here to stay as his flyball and hard contact rates have both taken off the last three seasons. The fact that he’s at #15 should tell you a lot about the depth at third this season.
Projection: 90 R/25 HR/70 RBI/3 SB/.250
16. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners
He’s quietly been one of the safer options at third over the years especially in terms of power. In fact, he’s hit at least 20 bombs each of the last 6 seasons. Last year saw his batting average dip below .250 for the first time in his big league career, and he also saw minor dips in OBP and slugging as well. However, I don’t think there’s too much to panic about. We’re talking a difference of a handful of hits and a few walks here and there. I am a tad concerned with the contact rate that has fallen each of the last three years, though, and being on the wrong side of 30 doesn’t help his cause. If he’s able to reignite 2016 Kyle Seager again, he will go down as one of the bigger bargains of the draft. Don’t sleep on Corey’s brother. The floor is quite nice despite the regression last year.
Projection: 80 R/27 HR/89 RBI/3 SB/.260
17. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
The ageless wonder was limited to just 389 plate appearances last year thanks to injuries, but at 38, what do you expect? Though he only recorded about a half-season’s worth of plate appearances, he was actually very good. 47 R/17 HR/71 RBI over 389 plate appearances actually put him on track to come close to his outstanding 2016 where he posted a line of 89 R/32 HR/104 RBI. Also, his triple slash was .312/.383/.532. Take that, young whippersnappers! And don’t touch his head! As if that doesn’t convince you, he posted a CAREER BEST walk rate of 10% and a strikeout rate of just 13%. He always will possess that great eye until he retires. I don’t know about you, but I love the guy. He’s been a rock solid contributor even into his twilight, and if this is the end, I’ll be sad.
Projection: 70 R/22 HR/85 RBI/1 SB/.295
18. Evan Longoria, San Francisco Giants
It feels dirty to type “San Francisco” next to his name. Regardless, I can’t think of a worse situation for Longo to play out his career than this ballpark. Notorious for being a pitcher’s park, it will be tough for the 33-year-old to be anything more than a 20 HR/70 RBI type with a .260 average. That’s not bad, but it’s not 2016 Longoria. Last year in Tampa, Longoria actually improved his K% to 16%, and now that he’s brought it down each of the last two seasons, we can guess that the trend continues. Ignoring what appears to be an outlier in 2016, his triple slash has been amazingly consistent the last four seasons. Even though the power should take a hit, I don’t expect the OBP or average to take a hit. I’m encouraged by his contact percentage of 81% in 2017, which was the highest of his career. But that seemed to also lead to an increase in groundball percentage. Although…continuing to trade power for contact will be the name of the game in San Francisco.
Projection: 70 R/22 HR/75 RBI/3 SB/.270
Tier 5: Rosanne Barr’s National Anthem
19. Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds
Suarez broke out as a 20 HR threat 2 seasons ago, and given the ballpark, it’s safe to assume that’s becoming a floor. His excellent walk rate of 13% in 2017 was a tad higher than his minor league profile, but he’s entering his prime at age 26. That feels like an adjustment to me. I don’t love that 23% strikeout rate that he’s danced around the last three years, and the batting average leaves something to be desired as well. In OBP leagues, he’s a better option as he had a .367 mark last year, and even with regression there, he’s still above average in that category. I don’t expect much from that lineup in Cincinnati, but the floor is very usable. There’s some sneaky value here, and it feels like he should be higher.
Projection: 80 R/23 HR/75 RBI/3 SB/.265
20. Eduardo Nunez, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox look like they’re going to move him over to second with Devers manning third, but Nunez will be eligible at third to start the season. Multiple eligibility alert! Anyways, Nunez is a late bloomer type who stole 40 bags in 2016 and “just” 24 a year ago with the Giants and Red Sox. He’s also got 15 HR potential, and with his traditionally high average, this is a solid option at #20. Third base is deep, y’all! The contact percentage has always lived in the mid-80s, so even without more than 500 plate appearances aka a bigger sample size, I’d say the .313/.341/.460 triple slash isn’t that far off the mark. The biggest red flag to me is him hitting in the 9 hole, which is just gross. However, the Red Sox look to be loaded this year, and stats could be acquired anywhere in that lineup.
Projection: 50 R/12 HR/60 RBI/20 SB/.295
Thanks for reading, guys. You made it. I made it! It’s time for me to sleep for about 12 hours solid. Spring Training games are on, and the season is a month away!
Follow me @jakebridges03 on the Twitz.
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