Third Base features an elite four: Donaldson, Machado, Bryant, and Arenado. You can rank them any way you like; all are elite talents in fantasy baseball. After that, there is somewhat of a dropoff. You have Todd Frazier who for the past two years has disappeared in the second half. Youngsters like Sano and Maikel Franco help are other intriguing options mixed in with the ever so consistent Kyle Seager. Finally, there are some decent late round options that provide stability (Murphy) or upside (Kang). With regards to strategy, it would be best to grab either one of the elite four or someone from the next tier. You can go high upside with Sano, or consistency in Seager.
- Josh Donaldson: The AL MVP had his best season to date. He’s been one of the best third baseman over the past three seasons. He might not hit forty home runs as his HR/FB% and ISO were very high. He looks to be a good bet for 35 however. His batting average will be in the .290 range. I believe 2014 was an anomaly due to him having a below average BABIP. Batting in the potent Blue Jays lineup gives great potential for him to once again exceed 100 runs and RBIS. Donaldson is the number one third baseman.
- Manny Machado: Machado broke out in a big way with career highs in every one of the five main categories. Machado hit more home runs last year (35) than he did in his 289 games before this season (33). His HR/FB% and ISO were well above career average but we have been expecting this aspect of Machado’s game. While he may not hit 35, 30 home runs is achievable. Machado had a career low swinging strike percentage and he made more contact on route to a .286 average. Machado took more walks and stole 20 bases. The steals will likely decrease to the 10-15 range, but his five category production is impressive. Machado is a first round talent.
- Nolan Arenado: Nolan Arenado is a beast. He’s batted .287 in each of the past two years and he belted 42 homers last year. While his HR/FB% was high, it was him cutting down on popups that led to more flyballs. Arenado plays at Coors: that should be reason enough to draft him. Arenado could very well hit .300. He makes good contact and has a career 14.6% strikeout percentage. Draft him with confidence knowing you’ve got a solid batting average, lots of counting stats, and 30+ home runs.
- Kris Bryant: Bryant ended up with 650 plate appearances in 151 games. He hit 26 home runs with a .275 average. His BABIP was very high at .378. While some will argue this should regress heavily, Bryant’s speed, and hard hitting should keep it above .300 and close to .330. He has also showcased above average BABIPs in the minors. Bryant also had a 30% strikeout rate which is horrendous. He never had a strikeout percentage that high in the minors which leads me to believe Bryant, with another year of growth, should be able to do better in this regard. Making more contact will help offset some of the BABIP loss. Bryant stole 13 bases which shouldn’t be a problem this season either as Maddon loves to run. Kris Bryant is one of the top players at third base as heads into his second season. The Cubs offence will be one of the best giving him ample run scoring and RBI opportunities.
- Todd Frazier: Frazier put together his best season yet delivering a .255 average with 35 home runs. He moves to US Cellular Field in Chicago where he will continue to enjoy being in a batters’ park. Frazier’s .255 average was largely the result of a .271 BABIP. This should regress up to his career average but with an increase in the amount of pulled balls in play, I’m don’t think his average goes higher than .260. His HR/FB% was right in line with his career. He hit more flyballs which is a welcome sign for a power hitter. Frazier’s 2016 will be a lot like his 2015. He should see more opportunities to drive in runs, and he may hit around five less home runs, but everything else should be consistent.
- Miguel Sano: Sano is incredibly talented. The 22-year-old Dominican had his power on display hitting 18 home runs in half a season. He has been described as having Giancarlo Stanton type power. That distinction isn’t given out lightly. The power is legitimate. His BABIP was close to .400. Sano may be a risk to hit .240, but over a full season, Sano has the potential to hit 30+ home runs with lots of counting stats. In addition, Sano showed good patience at the plate with a 15% walk rate but also had a scary 35% strikeout rate. With that said, the sky is the limit for Sano. He may not put it together in 2016, but the raw power is enough to make you excited.
- Adrian Beltre: Beltre’s still go it! After a poor first half, Beltre was on fire throughout the second half culimating in a .344 batting average in September. The soon to be 37-year-old reduced his strikeout rate and continued to make contact at above average levels. There is a little risk in Beltre due to him being 37, but there has been no indication of a drop in play. His first half stunk largely in part to a depressed BABIP and thumb injury, but his power was consistent. Gone are the days where Adrian will hit 30 homers; he has settled into 15-20 territory. Belter should provide a good batting average and plenty of counting stats.
- Maikel Franco: Franco is a bit of a risky pick considering he has yet to play a full season. Franco hit .280 with 14 home runs last season. Franco has an advanced approach at the plate not often seen by players as young as him (23). He makes above average contact relative to his peers and had a solid .217 ISO last season. While Franco doesn’t have the best environment for counting stats, even the worst teams can have there best batter exceed 80+ RBIs and runs. Franco is a solid fallback option at third if you miss out on the elite four.
- Kyle Seager: Seager is consistent, and he is less of a risk that Franco above as well as Sano. In the past four years, he has hit higher than .259 in each season, and has amassed 93 home runs. Seager cut down on his strikeout rate by four percentage points compared to 2014. He had a slightly below career average BABIP; it isn’t unreasonable to believe he could have hit .270 had his BABIP been at his career mark. With a rejuvenated Cano and the addition of Adam Lind, I think we can see Seager end up with 80+ runs and RBIs. While he may be overshadowed by his younger brother in a couple of years, Kyle Seager is one of the top ten players at third base and provides consistency.
- Evan Longoria: There isn’t anything to suggest Longoria will be the player he was before 2014. Two consecutive seasons of a lower HR/FB% and ISO indicate he will now hover around the 20 home run marl. The acquisition of Corey Dickerson and some potential growth from Steve Souza will give Evan more run scoring and RBI opportunities. He very well could get to 90 RBIs. At age 30, Longoria’s best days are behind him. He’s the tenth best fantasy baseball third baseman in my book; I expect him to produce a similar line to last years with a few more runs and RBIs.
- Anthony Rendon: I wrote about Rendon here. Rendon’s key to success will be to stay healthy. It’s high risk high reward.
- Matt Carpenter: I discussed Carpenter in greater depth here. The basic gist of it is that Carpenter changed his approach from making contact to hitting for power. He will regress to around 20 Home runs.
- Mike Moustakas: Moustakas is coming off a career year culminating in a World Series win with the Kansas City Royals. His .284 average was a career high, largely on the back of a .294 BABIP. Now you might be thinking, that’s good, that’s right around league average. But his career BABIP is .268 and then you’ll get a sense as to why I’m not optimistic. But then you see Moustakas cut down on his strikeout rate for the fourth consecutive season and sprayed the ball all over the field. Whether or not he sticks with this approach and makes further improvements will dictate just how he will fare in 2016. The 22 home runs represented a career high and the second time he reached the 20 home run mark (2012). From 2013-2014 he combined for 27 home runs. His ISO and HR/FB% were the highest of his career. It’s tough to figure out what you are getting with Moustakas. On one hand, you have a player who made adjustments to his approach and saw and uptick in production. On the other hand, you’re not really sure if he will keep these gains and whether or not he will continue improving.
- Daniel Murphy: I wrote about Daniel Murphy here. Murphy has been fairly consistent. His BABIP was depressed and he makes elite contact rendering him a good candidate to bat .300.
- Josh Harrison: Josh Harrison was discussed a little more extensively here. Harrison is a tough one to gauge. He will likely put up stats that are in the middle of his last two seasons. Something like a .290 average with 5-10 home runs.
- Jung Ho-Kang: Kang will miss part of the season with injury and there may be some lingering effects early on which hurts his value. His first major league season was quite the success as he batted .287 and hit 15 home runs. The power looks legitimate as his ISO wasn’t anything crazy. He hit lots of home runs in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). Kang’s batting average on balls in play was .344, tied for 21st highest in the league amongst batters with a minimum of 450 plate appearances. It is reasonable to expect this to come down closer to .300 leaving Kang batting around .260. Kang is a tough one to analyze due to him coming over from the KBO and only having one played one MLB season. Kang could very well bat .280 and hit 20 home runs. If you’re comfortable with his baseline, by all means go for it. The rewards could be even greater.
- Brett Lawrie: Lawrie will be in a more batter friendly park and a better lineup. He has some good things going for him.He very well could hit 20 home runs. More can be found here.
- Justin Turner: Turner is a tough one ot figure out. Over the past two seasons, he has been pretty good. He made some adjustments and it has paid dividends. His 16 home runs this past year look like they were an anomaly as his previous career high was 7 and his HR/FB% was above career average. Turner cut back on the strikeouts compared to 2014 and he managed to make more contact. Turner is a late bloomer; he very well could attain some of the highest value at third base. His contact skills are good, and he hits enough home runs to make him an intriguing late option. Depending on how much you believe in Turner, he very well could be a justifiable top 12 pick at third base.
- Matt Duffy: Duffy was just one home run shy of tying his cumulative minor league home run totals. It’s likely Duffy only hit five. I would imagine the BABIP regresses but he should be good for 10-15 steals. If he is able to bat near the top of the Giants lineup, Duffy could exceed 70 runs once again
- David Wright: Injuries have hampered Wright and this is an area of concern heading into the new season. In 38 games Wright batted .289 but with a .351 BABIP. Keep in mind his career BABIP is .339 so with some regression, Wright could very well bat .270. There isn’t enough 2015 data to conclude Wright may be back. It is best to defer to 2014 and that seems realistic for the 33-year old. In a full season, Wright would be able to bat .270 and hit 10-15 home runs. Can’t ask for too much more for a late round third baseman.
- Nick Castellanos: Castellanos has not yet lived up to the hype and he probably never will. Over the past two years, Castellanos has established a respectable floor for deep leagues. He’s batted .257 and averaged 13 home runs per year. He had a solid second half where his .348 BABIP led to an average just under .270 with 9 dingers. Castellanos sprays the ball all over the field with a healthy 25%-line drive rate thus far in his career. While there may be some room for growth, Castellanos looks to be a safe bet to hit .260 with 10-15 home runs. This late, you will be hard pressed to find a better batter with a higher ceiling.
- Trevor Plouffe: Amidst playing time concerns, Plouffe will carry less value going into the draft. 2015 represents the power ceiling for him as he knocked 22 home runs. A low average, and 15-20 home runs is realistic for Trevor. You could platoon him against lefties.
- Yasmany Tomas: Tomas had a respectable batting average largely due to one of the higher BABIPs in the majors. He only hit 9 home runs and was largely a disappointment. He strikes out way too much and puts the ball on the ground way too much. You can pay for a breakout, or you can go with safer options.
- Pablo Sandoval: You either believe in a bounceback or you don’t. Sandoval’s 2015 was a nightmare for him and Red Sox fans everywhere. The walk rate was down for the second consecutive season and the strikeout rate up. His BABIP was depressed indicating regression could have him bat .270. I think he hits right around 10 home runs. His HR/FB% was close to the previous two seasons.
- Danny Valencia: Valencia had a career season split with the Blue Jays and the Oakland Athletics. His success mainly had to do with figuring out how to hit right handed pitchers as he has been a career lefty masher. His 2016 season will hinge on whether he has turned a new corner against righties making him quite the risk as a starter, but a good upside pick late in drafts. If he continues to post a groundball rate higher than 50%, I doubt he will be able to hit more than 10 home runs.
This concludes the third base rankings. Thank you for your time. The top four sluggers can all end up top five players in fantasy baseball. After that there is the ever so consistent Adrian Beltre with the young phenom Miguel Sano also in the mix. In deeper leagues, you can choose players with upside like Kang and Turner or go the safe route and take Trevor Plouffe. Third base will be an interesting position to watch. There could be a few players that may exceed expectations and we might know if it is the end of the line for a couple of batters.