Waiting Game: Comparing Third Base Tiers

Method

This series goes position by position, comparing the average production you get out of the top 5 ranked, the next 5 players, and so on. We’re looking for where the value of players starts to drop, so that you can see how long you can wait on a position and what kind of hit in production you’ll take if you do. One thing to note is that I’m not restricting players to only one position for the stat information. If a guy qualifies at 2B, SS, and OF, his numbers are going to appear in all three sets.

There’s a lot of discussion about tiers in ranking players. Some fantasy managers live by it, because they like to make cut-off points where they feel the talent is noticeably different between one group of players and the next group. Other managers don’t like it and prefer a simple straight ranking. I’ve always enjoyed tiers, and depending on the format of your league, there really can be obvious gaps in talent level at a certain number of players. 

I’ve done two things here. First I use CBS’s ranking info for 5×5 roto leagues, and I show the average numbers for the top 5 players at a position compared to players 6-10, and then 11-15. Next I’ll take data from a private CBS points league and show the averages for the same breakdowns (1-5, 6-10, 11-15). Although it’s a custom scoring league, there aren’t major differences from CBS’s public points system, and anyway, a lot of times the points rankings are very close to the 5×5. The nice thing is that it boils down production to a common denominator (points) regardless of whether a player was more speed or power.

The 5×5 Roto Comparisons

Here are your 5×5 averages of the top 5 third basemen, followed by 6-10 and 11-15. I’ve rounded to whole numbers. Stolen bases aren’t much of a factor here again. Yes, Frazier and Harrison reached double digits, but most won’t, so any SB number you get is gravy.

  • #1-5: 94R, 28 HR, 94 RBI, 10 SB, .280 BA in 581 AB
  • #6-10: 76 R, 21 HR, 80 RBI, 7 SB, .276 BA in 565 AB
  • #11-15: 75 R, 13 HR, 66 RBI, 4 SB, .277 BA in 546 AB

There are always BA stinkers, but as a whole you’ll find a steady average at third base. There’s also plenty of power at the top, with 8 of the top 10 ranked 3B posting 20+ HR. However, power drops in the #11-15 range, with Arenado (18) and Sandoval (16) the best two in HR. What really makes a difference at third base is the run production. Top-5 talent is leaps and bounds above the rest, despite not many more AB. Then between the lower two tiers, there’s another large drop in RBI.

The Points Comparison

Here’s the breakdown. Remember that in points leagues, power is more valuable than speed.

  • Range, 1-5: 574 – 688, avg. 615 points
  • Range, 6-10: 511.5 – 552, avg. 531.8 points
  • Range, 11-15: 457 – 511.5, avg. 489.1 points
  • Difference between avg. of 1-5 and 6-10 = 83.2 points = 15.6% more
  • Difference between avg. of 1-5 and 11-15 = 125.9 points = 25.7% more
  • Difference between avg. of 6-10 and 11-15 = 42.7 points = 8.7% more

.

  • Range, 1-5: 574 – 688, avg. 615 points
  • Range, 6-15: 457 – 552, avg. 510.5 points
  • Difference between avg. of 1-5 and 6-15 = 104.5 points = 20.5% more

 .

  • Range, 1-10: 511.5 – 688, avg. 573.4 points
  • Range, 11-20: 392 – 511.5, avg. 450.9 points
  • Difference between avg. of 1-10 and 11-20 = 122.5 points = 27.2% more

In points leagues, there’s still a good gap between the top-tier and the second tier, but the gap between tiers two and three is half that. Average, and even AB to a degree, isn’t as essential in points leagues. It doesn’t matter how you reach the points or in how many AB. Therefore if you do miss out on the top third basemen, you can likely afford to wait unless it’s a deep league.

The Bottom Line: In roto leagues I want a top-5 third baseman. Granted that the landscape will change some (such as Miggy not qualifying anymore), and that may bring down the top-5 average, but it also means there’s one fewer elite bats that can play at 3B. I want someone who can hit for BA as well, because only three 3B in the top-15 hit above .300, and the next highest 3 were in the .280s. Most important, though, is R and RBI, which are more scarce here. For points leagues, you want a top-10 3B for sure, but I still want a top-5. Those extra R and RBI add a lot of points, plus the big power is at the top as well.

Compare tiers for the rest of the positions

CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird Base ShortstopOutfieldStarting PitcherRelievers

Kevin Jebens

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Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.