Draft This, Not That: Third Basemen

We are now into the fourth installment of Draft This, Not That. Catchers, First Basemen, and Second Basemen have been covered the previous three weeks. Today and all this week on FantasyAssemly.com, the focus is on the hot corner.

The thing about Draft This, Not That is I sort of have to go against the grain with what I am preaching here. This really is not a matter of liking the player I am telling you to draft more than the player I am telling you not to draft. What this boils down to is my preference for the expected value of the player I am telling you to draft over the expected value of the player I am telling you to pass on, coupled with the idea that you can find similar value in a later pick.

For third basemen, you might want to dip into the pool a little sooner than you would at other positions. Things get pretty sketchy as you move outside of the seven or eight 3Bs. Most of my draft plans will likely lead me to rostering my 3B within the first 100 players off the board. Since most of us play with the corner infield spot in our active rosters, the later round 3B options will certainly need to be considered as well. For this segment of Draft This, Not That I focus on a player to target early on and one you can most likely have much later.

Draft Kyle Seager, Not Josh Donaldson

I write this knowing it will not lead to any popularity contest victories for me. That invite to the cool kid table is going to have to wait for another day. The trade to Toronto has given Josh Donaldson baseball rock star status and perhaps deservedly so. Aside from getting to hit in a much better home ballpark, Donaldson will also get to hit in the middle of a considerably stronger lineup, situated just after Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. This all sounds great to me too. Where I get a little perplexed is whether or not this makes Donaldson a top 15-25 overall pick? He has gone as early as 11th overall in one of the NFBC Slow Drafts. I am getting kind of an Evan Longoria vibe on this one. Longoria has bounced between being a first or second round pick in recent years and even though he is productive, he always fails to meet people’s hopes. 

With a full season of Austin Jackson as well as the arrival of both Seth Smith and Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager happens to be getting quite a lineup boost as well. To go with the improved surrounding lineup Seager offers a stable BABIP that has fallen between .286 and .296 in each of the past three seasons. His LD% has consistently come in just above 20% and he has trended in the right direction with his HR/FB% while maintain a fly ball rate greater than 40% each season.

Donaldson has had some heavy variance in his BABIP over the past few seasons as it has floated from as low as .278 to as high as .333. Donaldson’s LD% fell from 20.6% in 2013 to 13.5% this past season and this was likely the leading culprit to why his BABIP fell and consequently why his batting average came in at just .255 in 2014. This past season Donaldson seemed to trade some line drives for an increased fly ball rate that rose from 35.6% in 2013 to 41.1% in 2014.

Both Donaldson and Seager should hit out of the five-spot in their respective batting orders. Their similarities do not end there. Each should offer something in the neighborhood of 5-10 stolen bases, a chance to tally at least 160 R + RBI, and a similar batting average. I will give the slight power nod to Donaldson but it is not significant. Is it worth it to pass on five or six extra home runs and settle for Seager 30+ picks later? Let’s look at few different draft scenarios to see if we should pass on Donaldson or not.

You could draft:

3B/SP Combo #1: Madison Bumgarner/Seager or Donaldson/Cole Hamels
3B/SP Combo #2: Stephen Strasburg/Seager or Donaldson/Jordan Zimmermann
3B/OF Combo: Ryan Braun/Seager of Donaldson/Charlie Blackmon

In the face of the greatest amount of quality pitching the game has seen in years I have pointed out in my Pocket Aces write-up that true aces are now more important than ever. Looking at the draft combo options above, Madison Bumgarner and Stephen Strasburg offer the true upside of an elite number one where Cole Hamels and Jordan Zimmermann offer low-end number one upside with a more likely outcome of them pitching like top end number two rotation arms for fantasy purposes.

I am not sure how to feel about Ryan Braun but I certainly feel better about him than Charlie Blackmon heading into 2015. I need to see a repeat performance from Blackmon as his draft cost has us paying for what looks like a career year for him. This is making the 3B/OF combo option more appealing for the Seager side as well.

The idea of being able to land Seager at least 30 picks later in 2015 drafts is making him look quite appealing for my general plan of making sure I land a high-end ace or two in the early rounds. I am going to pass on the hype train attached to Donaldson’s bloated value and look to make someone like Kyle Seager part of my 2015 3B plans instead.

Draft Pedro Alvarez, Not Kris Bryant

If that first Seager/Donaldson blurb didn’t get me invited to the cool kid table this one certainly will, right? No? Wait, what was that? You want my lunch money? Go on, the comments section is located just a few mouse scrolls down. Let me have it!

Did you come back? Alright, good. First, remember that nerds will rule the world one day and you might already be calling one, “boss.” Second, know that we are talking about a possible 100 pick difference between Pedro Alvarez and Kris Bryant in 2015 drafts. How do you like that for boldness? Check out the following triple-A numbers for a sec:

Player A 22/23 426 58 18 72 4 .270 .335 12.7% 25.8%
Player B 22 297 57 21 52 7 .295 .367 14.5% 28.6%

Player A is Pedro Alvarez’s combined triple-A time between the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Player B is Kris Bryant’s triple-A performance in 2014. While both home run displays are solid, it is clearly impressive that Bryant out-homered Alvarez in 129 less triple-A plate appearances. Either way, both profiles point to a player who should arrive with a boom stick from jump. As for the remainder of each stat line, there is nothing but parallels there as well.

So, what did Alvarez do upon his big league arrival? In his first go around in the big leagues, it went like this:

Alvarez-2010 386 42 16 64 0 .256 .341 9.6% 30.8%

Overall, it looks like Alvarez held his own during his first go around in the big leagues. That said, it’s interesting to see his 25.8% triple-A K-rate translated to a 30.8% K-rate in his rookie season. Makes one wonder what Bryant’s 28.5% K-rate will translate to in 2015? Also notice that the BB% went down significantly. As for that .256 batting average, it came with a heavy amount of luck given Alvarez’s K%. In 2014, there were 23 players to reach 350 plate appearances with a K-rate greater than 27%. Of those 23 players, only four of them hit greater than .241. My thought here is that MLB pitchers will end up treating Kris Bryant much as they did with Alvarez upon his arrival. MLB level pitchers are able to spot up more consistently and can call on a full arsenal of polished pitches to attack a hitter and expose weakness.

Earlier this off-season I wrote a piece where I attempted to figure out what Kris Bryant’s Fantasy Doppelganger will look like for 2015 and in the future. In that piece I came to the prediction that he would produce a 64/24/75/8/.235 if given a chance to reach 600 plate appearances.

64/24/75/8/.235 is something Pedro Alvarez can certainly come close to and he could possibly blow right past those numbers. He has done it before. Those numbers or anything close to it do not look like anything you or I will be happy with if it requires something in the vicinity of the 100th overall pick it might take to roster Kris Bryant through 2015 drafts. Give us those numbers attached to Pedro Alvarez sometime just after the top 200 players are off the board though and now you have something. Do not forget that Kris Bryant still stands a reasonable chance of starting the year back in triple-A while the Cubs preserve his arbitration years.

If I feel secure in the batting average category I will likely pass on Kris Bryant in re-draft leagues and settle for the bounce back candidate heading for a hefty 2015 discount in Pedro Alvarez instead. One more nod to Pedro Alvarez is that he could come with added first base eligibility shortly into the season as well.

Draft This: Not That
Catcher First BaseSecond BaseThird Base Shortstop
Outfield Part 1 Outfield Part 2 – Pitcher Part 1 – Pitchers Part 2 – Relievers

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Freddie Freeman vs Lucas Duda – FantasyBlackBook.com
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Devin Mesoraco or Yadier Molina – SoCalledFantasyExperts.com
Elvis Andrus or Starlin Castro – WeTalkFantasySports.com
Pablo Sandoval or Josh Harrison – WeTalkFantasySports.com