Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening —whichever is applicable to you. In 2011, Adrian Beltre’s .296 AVG with 32 HR, 85 Runs and 105 RBI was the class of the 3B position. Joining him among the elite in the game were Aramis Ramirez (.306/26/80/93), Michael Young (.338/11/88/106), and Evan Longoria (.244/31/78/99). Other notable performances included Mark Reynolds (yes, that Mark Reynolds) and the one and only Ryan Roberts. Beyond that distinguished group was a collection of .250-.280 hitters with 12-18 home runs with no big run/RBI totals to speak of. At that point in time, the premiere hitters in the game resided on the other side of the diamond.
Here we are five years later and third base could be the premium position in fantasy. Bryant, Donaldson, Machado, and Arenado were all among the top-12 in NFBC drafts. Not one of those guys disappointed their perspective owners in 2016. Jonathan Villar, Jose Ramirez, and Justin Turner emerged as top-tier fantasy options in 2016, while steady, solid selections such as Beltre, Seager, Longoria, and Frazier met or exceeded expectations. Anthony Rendon returned from a lost 2015 and put together a solid season across the board. Matt Carpenter battled injuries but was the player you’ve come to expect when healthy. Let us not forget about the new crop of prospects who made their presence felt at various points in 2016: Alex Bregman, Miguel Sano, and Maikel Franco.
In this brief summary alone, I’ve listed 16 players who have top-tier level talent. In theory, that means in 10, 12, and 14 team formats, everyone will have a solid third base option to lean on throughout the season. This is where the first base fallout has come into effect. In years past the majority of teams filled their CI, or utility spots with 1B overfill. The impact overfill now belongs to the 3B position, meaning more and more teams are drafting the impact 3B options, ultimately leaving league mates slumming for something positive out of the position.
In redraft type leagues you can make a conscientious decision to target a solid third base option in the draft. As most owners take these types of things into consideration you typically find teams have comparable talent. If a dynasty league has any life to it, you often find an unbalance among the teams in regards to team strengths. Some teams have elite pitching and below average hitting. Some teams feature a loaded lineup and damage control pitching. In this particular instance there is also a strong likelihood that teams feature more than one of the elite options at the position. A Machado-Bryant 3B/CI battery won’t happen in a redraft format, but in a dynasty format, that scenario happens rather often.
So what exactly is one to do when facing such a disadvantage? How you answer this question could very well define not only your success this season, but for many seasons to come. As is the case with any dynasty decision, evaluate your roster strengths. If you have a roster that is void of superstar talent but loaded with solid production, target an undervalued player who’s not likely to hurt you.
Adrian Beltre – Dynasty owners’ love of youth is only matched by their angst for age. At 37, Beltre is coming off another excellent season, having once again posted a .300 AVG or better while clearing both 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for the first time since 2012.
Matt Carpenter – Injuries tend to place a discounted price tag on players. Combine that with the emergence of first year players such as Bregman, Healy, or perhaps Jose Ramirez and you could find yourself as the benefactor of an owner who wants to create roster space. Carpenter’s power outburst of 2015 carried over into 2016 as he cleared 20 home runs once again despite appearing in only 129 Games. Obviously his lineup spot will dictate what counting numbers he’ll assist with, but regardless of which one it is, 100+ production seems reasonable.
Let’s say your roster is that of a contender, but as you’re looking over your roster the dependence on breakouts becomes very apparent. For me, rosters such as these need to be filled with more boom or bust/high upside options:
Jake Lamb – Despite a very good breakout season, Lamb’s 2016 will ultimately be remembered for his disastrous second half rather than the breakout. Lamb slashed .291/.371/.983 before the break, and .197/.283/.663 in the second half. The first half success was fueled by a huge pull rate of more than 50% and an unlikely to repeat 28% HR/FB rate. Those numbers lead me to believe that Lamb isn’t the 35-40 HR threat he showed in the first half.
On the plus side, his second half swoon was ultimately more BABIP driven than declining plate discipline. For me, Lamb will settle in as a 20-30 HR bat whose average will be determined by his K%. If the 26% rate of 2016 remains the baseline then a .250-ish mark should be expected. If that rate can continue to improve into the lower 20’s, a .275 could be the baseline and Lamb could be a Top 5-10 third base option year after year.
Nick Castellanos – Castellanos finally established himself as a steady offensive presence in an injury-shortened 2016 season. It feels like he’s been around forever, but the reality is he will be a freshly minted 25-year-old when 2017 begins. On a down note, the gains made in 2016 were not the results of improved plate discipline as his walk and strikeout percentages were right in line with his totals from the previous two seasons.
One area that does lead you to believe that 30+ home runs is in the cards would be his batted ball profile. Castellanos has established three consecutive seasons of increased FB%. His 43% mark from last year would have ranked among the top-20 in baseball. The fly ball tendencies may prevent Castellanos from approaching .300, but a 25-year-old with 30 home run potential in the middle of a very good lineup is certainly worth your interest.
Hernan Perez – Over my years of playing fantasy baseball, I have found players from bad teams more often than not are undervalued. I suspect Hernan Perez will be no exception next season. Since coming over from the Tigers, Perez has transitioned from a bench player into an everyday role. His minor league profile isn’t that of an elite prospect, but he has managed to establish himself with a solid skill set. That skill set is one of a respectable batting average with 40 stolen base potential. In the midst of a rebuild the Brewers don’t figure to hit the free agent market aggressively. A quiet off season will result in Perez becoming a full-time player for the first time in his career. A full-time regular with speed, playing for the team who led the majors in stolen bases last season by 42.
Your team is fully blown, so let’s blow this thing up and start from scratch. Don’t waste your time with Mike Moustakas, Justin Turner, or Eugenio Suarez types. Make no mistake, these types of players have value. Some could very well produce top-10 seasons at some point. But I’m rather confident that the year in and year out Top 5-10 production will not be there. Take your lumps, sell off remaining pieces and obtain that future top 5 talent. Struggling also affords you the opportunity to take chances on prospects whose shine has dimmed of late:
Alex Bregman – I’m fully invested in Bregman. To me the ascension to superstardom will be a quick trip. He won’t produce the stat lines of a Bryant, Machado, or Arenado, but year in and year out there will be plus production in all 5 categories.
Miguel Sano – I’m interested in seeing exactly how far his stock will drop after batting .236 with a 36% strikeout rate in 2016. He has a bit of an batting average risk feel for me, but the power will result in 40 home run seasons. Chris Davis is a lazy comparison, but it applies. Sano will have some top-5 seasons, but he’ll be void of the consistency of Bregman.
Joey Gallo – Huge strikeout rates and a lack of faith from the organization have certainly dimmed Gallo’s once promising prospect status. Personally I’m not a believer in Gallo’s ability to make enough contact to really maximize on the obvious power potential. At 22, Gallo’s career is hardly defined though, and improvements can be made. A 30% K-rate isn’t an easy path to success – let alone to superstardom, but Chris Carter has made fantasy owners happy from time to time. Perhaps Gallo can do the same.
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