Third base is deep. It is definitely a position you can choose to wait on if you would rather shore up other areas that do not enjoy the same amount of production. Players like Travis Shaw, Matt Chapman, Wil Myers, and Mike Moustakas all offer solid production with a 100+ ADP, making it less likely that you will suffer if you do not secure one of the top options.
Taking that approach is going to be hard, however, due to some of the amazing players currently holding third base eligibility. Jose Ramirez, Javier Baez, and Nolan Arenado are a few of those options, but one that I think could eclipse almost all of them is Astros third baseman Alex Bregman.
Alex Bregman secured his position as a top-tier fantasy option at the hot corner with a big 2018 (.286/.394/.532 with 31 HR and 10 SB). While those numbers are impressive enough to garner the attention of most owners, Bregman’s .396 wOBA is the real story of his 2018 season. wOBA is a newer statistic designed to measure a hitter’s overall offensive value. Like other metrics (OPS, SLG, etc.), wOBA operates under the notion that not all hits should be equally weighted, though it disagrees with other existing measurements on the exact value of those differences. wOBA combines all aspects of hitting into one measurement and assigns weight based on actual run value.
While useful for calculating other value-related metrics like WAR, wOBA can also be a useful way to examine and value players for fantasy purposes. Bregman’s .396 wOBA was the best mark among third basemen in 2018 and came in behind only this quartet for all of MLB: Mookie Betts (.449 wOBA), Mike Trout (.447 wOBA), J.D. Martinez (.427 wOBA), and Christian Yelich (.422 wOBA). Not a bad group to trail. Putting it into further context, here are the only third basemen to meet or exceed that mark over the past decade (2009 – 2018):
Only nine players produced marks equal to or above Bregman’s wOBA at the position, including three who did it twice (Cabrera, Donaldson, Bryant). Each of these players, with the exception of Jose Ramirez, were also several years older than Bregman (24 in 2018) during those seasons. I am aware that wOBA is not currently a tracked category in most leagues, but further looks into Bregman’s 2018 season should have you salivating at the opportunity of drafting the Astro for your 2019 infield.
Bregman’s already strong plate discipline rose to another level last season. Since his debut in 2016, Bregman’s K% has consistently decreased (24%, 15.5%, 12.1%) while his BB% has taken the opposing path (6.9%, 8.8%. 13.6%). The same pattern of improvement has been seen in his O-Swing% (27.2%, 25.8%, 20%), O-Contact% (59.8%, 75%, 79.1%), and SwStr% (11.8%, 6.4%, 4.3%). That last rate was second only to Michael Brantley (4% SwStr% in 2018) for all of MLB.
His quality of contact improved as well, with jumps in Barrel% (+2.9%), Exit Velocity (+1.8 MPH), and Hard Hit% (+5.5%) all contributing to stellar expected production levels (.269 XBA/.369 XWOBA/.463 XSLG). This upgraded quality of contact also partially fed the rise in Bregman’s HR/FB% (+3.8%), combining with changes to his FB% (+3.5%) and Pull% (+5.8%).
On the base paths, Bregman dipped from 17 stolen bases to 10, though he still tied for fourth among third basemen in the category and rated well per UBR (3.6). The quality of Houston’s lineup may dampen his stolen base numbers moving forward, though he should still provide solid value there in addition to his other numbers.
Despite recent elbow surgery, the Astros expect Bregman to be ready for Opening Day and he should rate among the best players in fantasy for the coming year. The only third baseman who clearly edges out Bregman is Jose Ramirez, due to his plus stolen base potential, but Bregman’s 2018 places him at the same level as other elites at his position, even in direct comparison to perennial leader Nolan Arenado:
Bregman will cost you a late first, early second round pick in 2018, but he very well could be worth every penny.