Third Base Rankings 2017

Third base is a deep position this year. There’s a big four, followed by capable youngsters (Villar) and grizzly vets (Beltre). The position has players capable of immense power (Sano), high batting averages (Ramirez), intriguing resumes (Carpenter), and those that can do a little bit of everything (Rendon).

Before I begin, here are the OBP Risers and Fallers in OBP Leagues. Third Base OBP

In OBP leagues, Miguel Sano gets one of the largest boosts. Jake Lamb and Jonathan Billar also get boosts. Nick Castellanos hasn’t shown much patience at the plate thus far in his career; his OBP is more dependent on batting average. You get a similar story with Franco. Matt Carpenter’s value increases quite a bit in OBP leagues.

Tier I

  1. Kris Bryant (1B/3B/OF, Chicago Cubs): Bryant put all his skills together in 2016 playing a key role in the Cubs first World Series win in over 100 years. Bryant saw a decrease in his strikeout rate while increasing his ISO and batting average without going into unsustainable territory. 2017 should bring another strong season from the Cubs multi-positional player. The ability to put him at up to three positions gives Bryant the edge over Arenado.
  1. Nolan Arenado (3B, Colorado Rockies): Arenado has had back to back seasons with 40+ HR and 130+ RBI. He increased his walk rate and set a career high with his.294 batting average. Arenado is a potential top 3 pick this year thanks to his strong past record of results.
  1. Manny Machado (3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles): Arguably the biggest wildcard in the 3B Big Four, Machado’s value this season might just hinge on stolen bases. He’s averaged 36 HR over the past two years with a .290 batting average and strong counting stats. He stole 20 bases in 2015 but had a goose egg last year. Considering he averaged around 3 stolen bases before his 2015, I wouldn’t bet on him stealing bags. Futhermore, Machado saw his walk rate improvement from 2015 dip. You can write the same story with strikeouts as his swinging strikeout rate went from 6.8% in 2015 to 10% in 2016. This isn’t ideal; Machado also continues to have an issue with pop-ups. With all that said, Machado has a career .284 batting average and has 72 HR over the past two seasons. I give Machado the edge over Donaldson because of his ability to play at SS.
  1. Josh Donaldson (3B, Toronto Blue Jays): Already one of the league’s best hitters entering 2016, Donaldson continued to improve as he increased his walk rate while striking out less. Over the past two years, Donaldson has hit 78 HR and averaged 122 runs scored. Enjoy the safety and security of Donaldson as your starting third baseman.

Tier 2

  1. Jonathan Villar (2B/3B/SS, Milwaukeee Brewers): I went over Villar in greater detail here. I think he hits closer to .270 while being a threat to steal 40 bases with 15 HR.
  1. Matt Carpenter (1B/2B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals): I love Carpenter so much that I will show the same graph again! It’s the back injury that should concern potential owners. The talent is there.wOBA vs ISO for QH 15-16
  1. Adrian Beltre (3B, Texas Rangers): Beltre has had a hall of fame caliber career and at 38, he’s still going strong. Beltre hit more flyballs leading to more balls out of the park. His ISO was the highest since 2012. I wouldn’t treat him like a 30 HR hitter given that 37 in the two years preceding 2016. I think he’s comfortably in that 22-27 range. Beltre has not showing signs of decline in hitting ability. The home runs will come, the batting average will be solid, as should the counting stats. Other than age, there’s little reason to believe Beltre won’t have another productive season. Oh, and he has stolen exactly one base in each of the last seven seasons.

  1. Kyle Seager (3B, Seattle Mariners): Consistency is the name of the game for Kyle Seager. He’s hit 20+ HR in each of the past five seasons, including 25 or more in the past three. Seager’s career batting average is .266; you kind of know what to expect from Kyle. In each of his last five seasons, Seager has reached 650 plate appearances; good health plus consistency is what you want out of a top 5 pick.
  1. Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals): Rendon comes with an inherent injury risk, there’s no way around it. I’m buying Rendon as what he’s been in his two full major league seasons: roughly a .275 batting average, 20 HR, 10 SB, and plenty of counting stats. Based on his swinging strike rate, Rendon’s contact ability is something that I can see returning closer to 2014 levels. I’m excited to see how he fares this year
  1. Todd Frazier (1B/3B, Chicago White Sox): Frazier was one of the more frustrating players to own last year. On one side of the coin, Frazier hit 40 home runs with 98 RBI. On the other side, Frazier hit .225 spending most the season hovering close to the Mendoza line. He’ll likely settle into the 30-35 range for home runs this season and should can provide good counting stats. The batting average should be better considering Frazier had a career worst line drive rate and BABIP. With 48 stolen bases over the past three seasons, Frazier is a rare source of steals at first base. Lastly, Frazier has appeared in 150 or more games in each of his last four seasons.

    Smaller HR SB Qu
    Both Frazier and Dozier are power + speed threats at their position with constraints on batting average.
  1. Miguel Sano (3B/OF, Minnesota Twins): The tough thing about valuing Sano is that any marked improvement in his first half was gone in the second half. Before the all-star break, Sano posted a 12.5% swinging strike rate and a 33% strikeout rate (I know it’s terrible but at least it was a sign of improvement…). After the break, the swinging strike rate jumped to 15.7% and the strikeout rate to 36%. The high strikeout rate remains a detriment to owning Sano, especially in leagues that don’t count walks. On the positive end of the spectrum, Sano reportedly has become more fit (don’t they all…). So far in his young career, Sano doesn’t have a platoon issue that is commonly seen with young hitters (wRC+: 126 vs LHP, 124 vs RHP). Furthermore, Sano has Stanton-esque power exemplified by a .240 ISO and scouting grades. Lastly, Sano has strong plate coverage he’s one of the more patient hitters in the league especially when considering his age. Really, he might benefit from swinging more on counts with two strikes. There are certainly reasons to avoid Sano however the upside is enormous. I’m a believer Sano can deliver 30+ HR and not have a batting average that will crater. In his first 196 games, Sano has hit .249 with 43 HR. There’s a special talent hidden somewhere in there.
  1. Justin Turner (1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers): Turner is one of the league’s most underrated players thanks to being a late bloomer. Aside from maybe a couple too many home runs, nothing about Turner’s profile screams “REGRESSION!” (negative in this case). He’s a career .280 hitter with 20 HR power.
  1. Jake Lamb (3B, Arizona Diamondbacks): Lamb’s swing change yielded fantastic results in the first half of the season before the league adjusted and Lamb was unable to adjust back. Lamb also dealt with a wrist injury which no doubt impacted his performance. These struggles will be a reason why he won’t be a hot commodity on draft day. I think Lamb’s power is akin to that of a 25 HR batter going forward. Although he continued to struggle against left handed pitchers, Lamb did post a respectable ISO (.182) and an impressive walk rate (13%) against them in 129 plate appearances. There’s some room for growth here. I’ll be interested to see if he makes an effort to hit fewer grounders and more flyballs as well as limiting the strikeouts.
  1. Maikel Franco (3B, Philadelphia Phillies): On a Phillies team that wasn’t particularly good, Franco did a good job racking up counting stats to go along with his 25 home runs. The biggest detriment to his season was a poor .271 BABIP. I think there’s some additional power potential here that Franco will flirt with 30 HR; he’s 24, has shown a higher power output in both the minors and in his half season display in 2015. The big issue for Franco is infield flyballs (17% last season) and a swinging strikeout rate of 11%. If he can make strides for the pop-ups issue, Franco’s got a shot at hitting above his career average (.258). He likes to swing a lot; unless he changes his approach, I don’t think he will ever be an OBP monster. Franco’s a tantalizing player whom I don’t think is done developing.
  1. Jose Ramirez (3B/OF, Cleveland): Ramirez delivered a strong season in Cleveland playing a role in the club’s World Series appearance. Ramirez comes with two distinct qualities: contact and speed. The first is evident with a contact rate nearing 90% and a 10% strikeout rate last year. The second is evident with his 22 SB last year and the 20 he stole in 165 games from 2014-2015. He looks to have that 8-12 HR ability as shown by his ISO. Ramirez did post an above average BABIP, something that will dictate whether he’s a .300 hitter. With elite contact skills, Ramirez brings a good batting average floor (.280) with a relatively high ceiling (.310).
  1. Nick Castellanos (3B, Detroit Tigers): Castellanos does a lot of things that should lead to more success that he’s had thus far. For one, he hits more line drives (25.5%) than the average player (21%). He also doesn’t like to get into easy outs as shown by his miniscule pop-up rate (1.8%). He makes good contact; his barrels per plate appearance were the 16th highest in the majors last season. The issue with Castellanos is that he seems to struggle to know which pitch to make contact on. Castellanos swings a lot; last season only 10 players had a higher swing percentage. I think if he were to be more selective in his approach, Castellanos would be a lot more successful. Or maybe I’m just being hard on a player who has only three full MLB seasons. The Tigers third baseman has strikeout issues that did not alleviate in his third full season in the majors. Ranking Castellanos is tough; he has good bat skills, but his approach makes me hesitant to totally buy in.

    Castellanos
    As Shown By Chris Johnson, a high line drive rate and low pop-up rate isn’t always key to success
  1. Alex Bregman (3B, Houston Astros): There’s a lot to like about the soon to be 23-year-old. He’s a former top prospect whose minor-league track record and scouting reports hint at a better hitter than he was in his short spell in the majors. When a player posts a strikeout rate in the 9-10% range, you might have something good cooking. This contact ability will likely have him bat higher in the lineup bringing all those counting stats. Bregman has been pegged as a high average, okay power type of hitter. In his prime, he will likely hit 15-20 HR with an average around .300 and 10+ SB. For this season, I expect Bregman to be a good contact hitter with speed but wouldn’t expect more than 15 HR. I see him as sort of Dustin Pedroia like. He might not reach those heights this season. What you get out of Bregman is similar to what you’ll get out of Jose Ramirez. Feel free to draft him higher than I’ve got him ranked; he’s talented enough to pay dividends.
  1. Evan Longoria (3B, Tampa Bay Rays): Longoria’s changed approach yielded some of the best results of his career; at least in terms of fantasy. He looked a lot like the Longoria of 2013, the one who could hit for power without sacrificing his batting average. With that said, Longoria’s swinging strike rate rose to the highest mark of his career (12%) and his walk rate dipped for the fifth consecutive season. Longoria’s HR/FB% was 5 points higher than his previous two seasons. If Longoria is to hit 30 home runs again, I think it comes with a loss of batting average.
  1. Eduardo Nunez (3B/SS, San Francisco Giants): Biggest reason for Nunez’s breakout last season? Playing time. His .145 ISO was fairly consistent with his career and his .288 batting average was a tad higher than it likely should have been. He might not get 50 steal attempts in San Francisco. Nunez is a decent hitter with decent pop and the speed to swipe 25-30 bags.

Tier 3

  1. Ryon Healy (3B, Oakland Athletics): Healy made a swing adjustment to improve his game. The results showed a player with more power potential than previously anticipated. Couple that information in with someone who has made a healthy amount of contact in the minors, and you’ve got a pretty good sleeper candidate. Healy’s .352 BABIP is high no doubt however he is a player who has had above average BABIPs consistently in the minors. Healy reminds me of Bregman heading into this season; good batting average, average power, and both play third base. Bregman gets the edge because of a better lineup and stolen bases but the difference in ADP might not be worth it depending on team composition. I’m joining the Healy bandwagon due to what looks like above average power output and good contact skills.
  1. Yuli Gurriel (3B, Houston Astros): Gurriel is a wild card. The Cuban sensation was okay in his first taste of MLB action. He showed good contact skills, meh power. There is certainly room for growth in the walk department as a walk rate below 4% is ugly. Based on his swinging strikeout rate (8.7%), I have a hard time believing Gurriel will post a sub 10% strikeout rate unless he improves here. With that said, it was only 36 games. I think Gurriel’s worth a late round flier based on his pedigree.
  1. Mike Moustakas (3B, Kansas City Royals): Moustakas 2016 campaign was cut short due to injury. Heading into 2016, Moustakas had set career highs in batting average and home runs. The increased power might have been due to natural progression. There aren’t many indicators suggesting he did try to elevate the ball more. Moustakas lowered his strikeout rate for four straight seasons. He went from being pull heavy to being closer to league average when it came to the direction of his batted balls. This aided the Royals third baseman to post his best BABIP and batting average. He has not been able to solve his popup problem. All of this adds up to Moustakas being a 15-20 HR hitter with some batting average volatility; he could go as high as .270 or as low as .250.
  1. Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds): Suarez played his first full season delivering 21 HR and 11 SB in addition to a .248 batting average. Both his ISO and HR/FB% were consistent with his career, thus putting him in that 15-20 HR range. There aren’t any red flags for Suarez. There is potential growth in walk rate and strikeout rate. Suarez looks to have a nice floor.
  1. Matt Duffy (3B/SS, Tampa Bay Rays): Duffy reminds me of his former teammate Joe Panik but with more speed. He’s stolen 20 bases over the past two years to go along with 17 home runs. Duffy’s batting average was low partly due to a .290 BABIP. As a hitter who loves to go opposite way, rarely pops up, has above average speed. and owns an above average strikeout rate, Duffy fits the profile on someone who’s BABIP should be over .300. Capability to get a combined 20 HR+SB are there (if not more) as well as a batting average bounce-back is there for Duffy. Duffy is currently injured but has not been ruled out for opening day just yet.
  1. Javi Baez (2B/3B/SS, Chicago Cubs): I went into more detail on Baez here.
  1. Ryan Schimpf (2B/3B, San Diego Padres): I went into more detail on Schimpf here.
  1. Jung-Ho Kang (3B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates): All things considered, Kang’s had a pretty successful transition to the MLB. A .273 batting average and 36 home runs across the past two seasons suggest a decent player. The issue with Kang is how much playing time he will miss due to his infraction.
  1. Hernan Perez (2B/3B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers): The soon to be 26-year-old Perez came out of nowhere to hit .272 with 13 HR and 34 steals. Swinging strikeout rate was high showing there are concerns to his game and that his batting average will likely be lower. Perez’s minor league numbers weren’t anything to write home about. If he gets sufficient playing time, there might be something here. Otherwise, there’s not much to be excited about. He’s worth a late round flier to see if there is anything more there.
  1. Danny Valencia (1B/3B/OF, Oakland Athletics): Valencia has managed to transform himself into a pretty good hitter over the past couple of years. The growth has come from being able to hit right handed pitchers. Upside is limited due to an Athletics lineup that isn’t overtly impressive. Playing time may be an issue throughout the year.
  1. Yangervis Solarte (2B/3B, San Diego Padres): 29 home runs over past two seasons, career .271 batting average, and doesn’t steal bases. Not the worst starter at third base, certainly not the best.

Others To Consider

  • Jose Reyes (3B/SS, New York Mets): In 66 games, Reyes put up a good line. The problem is that Reyes showed a power level not seen since 2008 making it more likely the increase in home runs was due to something other than his skills. He struck out way more than he’s ever done and the pop-ups remain an issue. At the end of the day, Reyes is capable of going 10/20. The batting average will likely hinge on how big of an issue the strikeouts are and whether he gets a BABIP boost.
  • Martin Prado (2B, Miami Marlins): Prado’s always been a good contact hitter. He posted a contact rate slightly above 90% for the sixth time in his career. I’d imagine his average goes down from the .305 in 2016 to something closer to his career .293 if not lower.
  • Jedd Gyorko (1B/2B/3B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals): BABIP was low even by his standards and HR/FB% was very high (24.4%). Likely hits .250 with 20 HR if he gets sufficient playing time.
  • Brandon Drury (2B/3B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks): Benefits include multi-position eligibility, moderate power (10-15 HR) and potential for improvement (24 years old, less than 600 plate appearances).
  • Yoan Moncada (3B, Chicago White Sox): It’s unclear as to when arguably the best MLB prospect gets called up. Moncada has an intriguing blend of power, speed, and contact ability. If there is word of a call-up, Moncada is the type of player you stay up all night to get off the waiver wire. Or draft and stash!

After the big four, third base is full of an interesting blend of players. You get your choice of big power, low average, speed + power, average + speed, really there’s a chock full of options.

 

Stats from: FanGraphs, Baseball Savant

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