Third base is a little deeper this year compared to 2014. Todd Frazier broke out to become a top option, Carlos Santana and Chris Davis played enough games to qualify, Josh Harrison emerged in Pittsburgh further adding to the depth chart and the Cubs made a trade clearing the way for Kris Bryant in 2015. You’ve also got veterans like David Wright, Evan Longoria, Kyle Seager, Adrian Beltre and Pablo Sandoval along with youthful stars like Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado and Xander Bogaerts. While the position is deep, the number of dependable high-end options are somewhat limited. You can afford to wait on your third baseman come draft day, but don’t wait too long to fill the position.
Below are our top 25 third basemen for the 2015 season. We used a 10 games started minimum requirement for eligibility so players like Miguel Cabrera did not qualify. If you feel we overlooked someone or would like to debate a player’s ranking, feel free to do so in the comment section below.
While you may be happy getting any one of the top 12 players, keep in mind that one half of those players qualify for another position. There is solid value in picks 13-20 although there is little guarantee on what type of numbers some of them will produce. Tomas, Bryant and Bogaerts are unproven, Machado is coming off surgery, Aramis is old and injury prone and Alvarez is hoping to bounce back. All great candidates for a backup but all a risk to depend on full-time. The final 5 have some potential, although Murphy and Lawrie will probably be utilized as middle infielders where their numbers will play better. So who are the players we are looking at (and avoiding) in 2015?
Players that you would reach for in the draft
Tommy: Nolan Arenado’s final stat line would have compared favorable to Beltre’s had he played a full season. He is a .300 hitter with 20-25 HR power and he plays in the best hitter’s park in baseball. He is being drafted in the 5th or 6th round, but I believe he will produce at close to the same level as Beltre and Donaldson.
Kevin: I’m going all-out for Miguel Cabrera at 3B for one more year. The other obvious is having Josh Donaldson in a much friendlier hitter’s park; he’s capable of 40 HR just like his teammates Bautista and Encarnacion.
Will: Kyle Seager – An increase in ISO and wOBA in each of the last three seasons has led to home run totals of 20, 22, and 25 respectively, over those seasons. As long as Nelson Cruz doesn’t take away too many of his RBI chances, he could be in for a career year. Also if Chris Davis has 3B eligibility in my leagues I may try to grab him early and back him up with someone in the middle rounds. As bad as overall season seemed, he still socked 26 homers and most have him projected for 30 or more in 2015.
Ron: So many question marks exist in this group that I will reach for a top eight option. I would be happy to have my 3B locked up within the first 70 picks in standard 5×5 roto leagues, especially deeper formats. Anthony Rendon with his dual position eligibility would look nice at the end of first round or start of the second depending on your league depth. Bats like Evan Longoria, Kyle Seager, and Nolan Arenado would be solid options between picks 50 and 70.
Jim: Anthony Rendon and Todd Frazier – I love 5 category players (as do most of us) and will always hold them above the rest, especially when it comes to infield positions. If both are gone before I can get one, Kyle Seager is my fallback option. He has hit 20 home runs for three straight seasons with reliable run and RBI totals. The average leaves something to be desired, but that overshadows the entire body of work and makes him an undervalued commodity on draft day.
Players you will avoid drafting
Tommy: If you want to do well in your league this year, do not draft Evan Longoria in the third round. Arenado and Frazier are both superior fantasy options and will be available 20-30 picks after Longoria goes off the board.
Kevin: Ryan Zimmerman still has a high ceiling for offensive production, but constant injuries and a shift in position worry me too much to bother. You don’t want known injury risks as your starting 3B. That also goes for Manny Machado; he’s a good keeper, but risky in redraft.
Will: Aramis Ramirez – He’ll be 36 come Opening Day (a little over two months away) and we have already seen some power decline. Productive 37-year-old third basemen (for fantasy purposes) are rare. I’m rooting for him, but I feel his best days are behind him.
Ron: David Wright will not likely make his way onto any of my 2015 rosters through the draft. He is the third base version of Dustin Pedroia and I will let him be someone else’s headache that is willing to pay for what little name value he has left. I have a feeling I will get priced out of the Kris Bryant sweepstakes by the overzealous rookie chasers as well.
Jim: I have a number of guys I’ll avoid for numerous reasons. Aramis Ramirez I’m avoiding for his age, declining numbers and first half slumps. Xander Bogaerts has loads of potential, but I see lots of growing pains in 2015 so cross him off my list. Brett Lawrie because I can find an injured third baseman anywhere (but I might gamble with one of my final two picks if he were there). Manny Machado may be very good one day, but with the off-season surgery and questions about his knee I’ll play it safe. Most of all, above all others, I’m avoiding Chase Headley. Never liked him, didn’t buy him after his “breakout year” and don’t think he is worthy of a roster spot regardless of the size of the league.
Average Joe, the players that you would wait on and settle for.
Tommy: Ryan Zimmerman is not an average Joe, but he may be priced like one in 2015. Most of his 2014 power outage can be attributed to a thumb injury and a HR/FB rate too low for his average fly ball distance. Matt Carpenter is another player to target in the mid rounds. He won’t get many HRs or SBs, but he is an on base machine. His price tag should also be far more affordable than he was in 2014, but he is still very much the same player.
Kevin: Aramis Ramirez also misses time, but he’s pretty reliable in terms of what you can project him for. I also like Martin Prado, who is okay as a CI slot for those leagues that use them.
Will: Manny Machado – The knee surgeries have driven down the draft value for Manny, but he still posted fairly decent numbers in just 354 PA in ’14. Stretch that over a full season and he could be a steal in the middle-ish rounds.
Ron: Josh Harrison does a little of everything and should consistently find his name near the top of the Pittsburgh lineup in 2015. I like the balanced approach for my offense and Harrison checks all the boxes. His consistency in 2014 gives me comfort that it was not a fluke.
Jim: Ryan Zimmerman – The move to first base will ease half the stress that causes his shoulder issues. That gives him a better than average chance of not only staying healthy but producing numbers good enough to put him in the top 5. Best part is, he will come at a major discount as most people will avoid him like the plague.
Late round picks that could make an impact
Tommy: Pedro Alvarez is now atop the Bucs depth chart at first base. If he can hold off Corey Hart, he could make an excellent value. Just 1 season removed from 36 HRs, the power is still there. The only question is whether or not Alvarez will get enough ABs to make him a mixed league option. Also, if you want to have some fun, give ARod a shot with one of your final picks. 2 years ago, he had 7 HRs and 4 SBs in just 44 games. If he can perform in spring training, he is likely to open the season as the Yanks’ primary DH. It was not too long ago that ARod was the best hitter in baseball, so don’t be afraid to give him a shot. If he stinks, he will make an easy drop.
Kevin: Kris Bryant is the wild card here, obviously. Will he pull a 1 in 100 chance of breaking out like Trout? Or will he struggle? In redraft, I wouldn’t draft him ahead of the top-18, but as a CI option he’s worth the gamble. It also remains to be seen whether youngsters Nick Castellanos and Xander Bogaerts take big steps forward.
Will: Chase Headley – Remember Headley is not that far removed from a 31 home run campaign and now he will play roughly half his games in hitter friendly Yankee Stadium.
Ron: I suppose this could be the year Brett Lawrie stays on the field and produces like Josh Harrison did a season ago. For that reason I suppose he remains a relevant late option. Chase Headley looks like a solid option as he gets another chance to take aim at the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium.
Jim: Nick Castellanos – He has some quality bats protecting him in the lineup; while I’m not a fan of his personally, I won’t ignore the potential for improvement. He could put up numbers similar to Kyle Seager if everything comes together. My next choice would be Pedro Alvarez who is capable of hitting 30+ home runs and driving in 90+. Those are Jay Bruce numbers and can be gotten in the later rounds after last years showing. While the strikeouts have always been bad, he did increase his walks totals last year while putting up a batting average in line with his 2013 season. A small uptick in average and you might have a winner here.
Defend Your Rankings
Players ranked higher or lower than the rest of the group that need some explaining.
Tommy: David Wright – David Wright’s 2014 season looked a lot like Dustin Pedroia’s. A shoulder injury sapped all of his power and his 5.1% HR/FB rate is fully supported by his average fly ball distance of 266 feet. Wright is also getting older, so we can no longer count on him for double digit SB totals. He opted not to have shoulder surgery in the off-season, and while he claims to be feeling good now, how long will that last?
Kevin: Yasmani Tomas – He’s a high-risk, high-reward guy like Abreu. He may not be in his prime like Abreu, but I think if all breaks right, he could end up looking a lot like Longoria or Seager. Think .265 with 20+ HR.
Will: Matt Carpenter – If he stays atop the Cardinal lineup (which I understand is up in the air, right now) he can provide some fantasy goodness. Why? Tell ’em Brad Pitt in Moneyball? He. Gets. On. Base. He consistently has a very good OBP and only three third basemen have a better weighted runs created plus than Carpenter over the past two seasons. Even with some prjected regression, he is top five or six at creating runs from the 3B position.
Jim: Ryan Zimmerman – I explained myself when we covered first base and the same words and sentiment apply here. Half the injury risk is alleviated with the move to first and Zimm can be a top 5 third baseman when healthy. If not for the emergence of a few other worthy players at third, I might have had Zimm higher.
Still need more rankings, head on over to Fantasy Rundown where Goose will be compiling rankings for the 2015 season as well as prospect rankings and the best baseball links available this off-season.