2015 Third Base Bounce Backs

Bounceback Players LogoDuring preparation for 3B Week our group of writers at Fantasy Assembly collectively agreed that this was the toughest group to gauge in our position roll-outs to this point. Just wait until we get to shortstops next week. Ugh.

There’s a fairly even distribution of youth, guys in their prime, and aging veterans at the 3B position. This is perhaps why it was the toughest position to predict as we look into the five-year window ahead of us. You can have a look at our consensus 3B Dynasty/Keeper Rankings there. Of all the offensive groupings the hot corner might have the greatest collection of youth on the way. Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, and Miguel Sano offer reason to get excited about the position’s future. 3Bs solidly in their prime include Kyle Seager, Evan Longoria, Josh Donaldson, and Todd Frazier. The 3Bs in the 30+ range offer the most question marks as you have players like Adrian Beltre still posting one solid season after another and others like David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman who may remain in steady decline.

For this exercise I’m focusing on four names that fall in the category of being bounce back candidates after their largely disappointing 2014 campaigns. Value is often the key when landing a bounce back player and is a large component of identifying who you should attach your fantasy hopes to in the season ahead. All four of these players are likely to be drafted later than their 2014 ADP.

Let’s get started with some optimism right off the bat:

Manny Machado (Orioles – Age 23 in July 2015)
2014 Stat Line: .278/38/12/32/2 in 327 ABs

After a fairly impressive first full season in 2013 (.283/88/14/71/6), Machado seemed to come crashing back to Earth in 2014. In fairness, Machado had less than half as many at bats in 2014 as he did in 2013, so the stats look a little skewed because of that. If you extrapolate out Machado’s stat line based on the 667 ABs he had in 2014 you’d get a line of .278/77/24/65/4. So you’re essentially looking at a little less R + RBI production in exchange for a decent bump in HRs.

Where Machado failed in 2014 was an increased K-rate that went up 3.3%. Given his considerable bump in HR production it isn’t shocking to see that his HR/FB% nearly doubled in 2014. If Machado can avoid major injuries in 2015 and take the next step in his progression, then I like him to come close to the same value as the Longorias and Seagers of the hot corner. This isn’t to say that  Machado is ready to dominate but he could certainly be on his way to being a top 10 fixture at the 3B position as he steadily climbs the ranks over the next four or five years.

Bounce Back Potential: Choose a ball, any ball. The more air you pump into said ball, the bouncier it gets. Machado is your ball of choice that keeps getting a little more air pumped into it year after year as he makes his way towards his prime. In dynasty formats, this is a player you want to lock up. He may even gain SS eligibility eventually and then his value would go through the roof. The J.J. Hardy extension puts a little delay on the position change for now though. In re-draft leagues, Machado didn’t get a ton of love in 2014 and that seemed strange to me. His ESPN ADP for instance was a middle of the pack 111.6. If he slips anywhere past 120 in 2015 drafts, Machado is mine.

David Wright (Mets – Age 32 in December)
2014 Stat Line: .269/54/8/63/8 in 535 ABs

David Wright, AKA the third base version of Dustin Pedroia! You can see how I felt about Dustin Pedroia in my 2B Bounce Back Candidates write-up. These two players are wonderful names for the game of baseball and they head up marquee franchises in two major U.S. cities. Because of that, their name value is greater than their fantasy value and someone in your league is likely to overpay for the name on the back of the jersey. Let them make that mistake!

For Wright the K% is on the rise, the HR/FB% has plummeted, and the injuries have stacked up to the point it’s hard to imagine this player bouncing back anywhere near his former greatness. For 2015 I expect to see Wright drafted inside the top 50 or 60 overall and it’ll be hard for me to justify making him a part of my teams next year at that cost.

Bounce Back Potential: David Wright is likely to bounce back a little bit but it won’t be worthy of his cost. Wright’s value is like when you’re sick and you run to the store for some cold medication. You have the option to buy the marked up name brand stuff or you could go with the generic brand that contains the same exact active ingredients. In the case of David Wright, avoid him and go with the savings that come along with the generic stuff instead.

Pedro Alvarez (Pirates – Age 28 in February 2015)
2014 Stat Line: .231/46/18/56/8 in 398 ABs

I was foolishly all in on Pedro Alvarez in 2014. In my best attempt to guess who could breakout like Chris Davis did in 2013, I chose Alvarez. Going into the 2014 season I said that Alvarez would have to increase his FB% (he did), increase his BB% (he did), and decrease his K% (he did). I also might have mentioned that Alvarez would have to experience a correction to his BABIP (didn’t happen), slightly increase his HR/FB% (he actually lost 10%), and experience a slight bump in ABs (he lost 160 ABs).

So where did I go wrong? ADP! That’s where. Picked 89th on average over at ESPN, I neglected to see that there was too much risk in calling for a guy to breakout at the cost of a top 100 pick. I don’t know if I feel Pedro Alvarez will bounce back or not in 2015. I feel a little jaded by him to be honest. What I do know is that his value should most definitely bounce back. There’s no way anyone’s picking Pedro Alvarez inside the top 100 picks in 2015. It would not surprise me at all if he drifts outside of the top 200 in many 2015 drafts. This is where you want to pick a guy like Alvarez.

Bounce Back Potential: Imagine you stop by one of those kiosks in the mall. You know the ones; pimply faced kid selling Made for TV crap and everything is buy one get three free plus this fancy goop that can make bear claw marks disappear from your car’s hood. Today this high school band geek with the cracking voice is trying to sell you Pedro Alvarez. But wait! Today is special; you’re getting Pedro Alvarez for 40 cents on the dollar versus what he was selling for just a year ago. And that’s not all! The zit kid is also going to let you select from one of three different mystery accessories to go along with your Pedro Alvarez purchase. One is a trade to San Diego. Two is a timeshare in Pittsburgh. And three is a set of underlying stats that see Pedro Alvarez repeat his improved FB%, BB%, and K% from 2014 to go along with a boost back to the 25% range for his HR/FB rate as well as a BABIP that approaches .300. Here’s hoping we get option number three in 2015 and laugh all the way to the championship on the back of our 220th overall pick. Even if we get the timeshare in Pittsburgh option, at least it won’t hurt as bad when we have to drop Alvarez to waivers.

Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals – Age 31 in September 2015)
2014 Stat Line: .313/26/5/38/0 in 214 ABs

At this point, Zimmerman is a headache. Maybe even a migraine. Take what I said about David Wright’s injury issues above and multiply it to the nth degree with Zimmerman. When he plays, Zimmerman can still have flashes of his prior greatness. At this point I think we might be headed for a nice discount on Zimmerman by comparison to recent draft seasons. If that’s the case I might have a different approach on him than I would with Wright. I know Wright’s still going to get picked too high. With Zimmerman, we could see him slip well beyond pick 100 overall. If he starts to slip into the 120-150 range we might have something worth taking a shot on here. For now I’ll say that I’m intrigued in shallower leagues and planning to stay away in deeper formats.

It’s interesting to note that since his career began in 2005 Zimmerman has put up a season of less than 470 PAs followed by two seasons of 600+ PAs on three different occasions. 2014 began the fourth set of three-season groupings and sure enough he only accumulated just 240 PAs. I’m not usually one to put much weight on stat oddities like this but Washington’s desire to move Zimmerman across the diamond to play first base should help him stay on the field and perhaps preserve him for a season of 500+ ABs in 2015.

Should we see a bounce back in Zimmerman’s ability to stay on the field, the one underlying stat area that needs to see a bounce back is his HR/FB ratio. Since his first full season in 2006, Zimmerman has never seen his HR/FB ratio drop below 10.9%. In 2014 that number fell all the way to 7.8%. We have seen how shoulder injuries have sapped the power of guys like Adrian Gonzalez in recent seasons and Zimmerman has a degenerative shoulder injury of his own. If the injury is corrected, the power eventually returns as Gonzalez put on display in 2014. It remains to be seen if a move to 1B can reduce the amount of stressful throws that have plagued Zimmerman in the past and serve as a way to preserve his shoulder through a full season.

Bounce Back Potential: I liken Zimmerman’s value to what we saw with the Ford Motor Corporation’s stock price since the year 2000. In 2000, the stock price peaked at just over $37, only to bottom out in the middle of the recession to a price of $1.43 in 2008. If you play the stock market, hopefully you put the faith in the rock solid and reliable Ford Motor Corporation when they bottomed out. Today that stock price has rebounded to over $14. Zimmerman is that reliable player who once held a high price tag and just bottomed out in 2014. He won’t get back all of the value he once held but we should be in for a bounce back in 2015 and if the ADP is right you may want to make him a part of your 2015 plans.

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