Third base is a really fun position — really, Really fun. The class of TRUE difference makers is probably deeper than any other position, except maybe first base, but it’s the depth that separates the two. I really want to aim for one of the players in the top-two tiers, but this is a position where you can settle on a lesser option and still be very happy. Below are the tiers breaking down.
Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant
Nolan Arenado – Nothing to be said here. One of only 3-4 players that you could argue as the best player in fantasy with the best ballpark in the world, and he is in his absolute prime.
Kris Bryant – I thought about putting Bryant in the next tier after a less impressive campaign to follow up his MVP season, and it felt like Arenado put a bit of a gap between the two. At the same time, Bryant is a bit like Mookie Betts for me. What I mean is that I feel like we just saw Bryant’s floor, just like Betts, and it was still really good. The contact skills have improved drastically, and the lineup around him is still strong. He may still have 50 homer potential one day, and even in his worst season, he was a top 10-ish hitter in points and top 30 in roto. Like Arenadom he is in his absolute prime, so I’ve made the executive decision to keep him with Arenado even though I currently prefer Arenado.
Manny Machado, Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Ramirez
Manny Machado – Some people might look at the argument I made for Bryant to be in tier one and then see Machado in tier 2 and say, “What the hell?” That’s a fair criticism. I think Machado had an unlucky season. I never quite accepted Machado as being quite on same level as the other two young studs, but I do think he’ll bounce back and that getting him in the second round is a potentially nice value. I do worry just a bit about the early career injuries -0 something to consider if you’re on the fence. This tier is full of legitimate studs, and the distinction between tier 1 and tier 2 is awfully thin.
Freddie Freeman – I wrote about in my first base tiers article. If you play in a league where he can be plugged in at third base, it’s a no-brainer. He’s an absolute stud, and I think he has slightly more value at third than first.
Josh Donaldson – He was a top three player just a few seasons ago. A weaker lineup and a balky calf have knocked him down a peg. I’m not sure he can score 120 runs anymore, and he’s getting older and is a legit injury risk, but he’s still a stud, and I wouldn’t avoid him 0- I just trust the studs above him more.
Jose Ramirez – I covered Ramirez during my second base tiers article. I’m very high on him, but you should really be aiming to deploy him at second, which is more shallow at the top. Still, the dual eligibility does give you flexibility if you have a value player fall to you at second base later on.
Anthony Rendon – You could definitely argue that he belongs in this tier or the next — something I argued with myself a good bit over. He seems to be back and has now delivered two amazing fantasy seasons in the last three. The injury history and weak season in ‘16 give me some pause. That said, I do think I’ll be getting a fair bit of Rendon this year because he’ll likely cost a good bit less than the guys above.
Matt Carpenter, Kyle Seager, Alex Bregman, and Adrian Beltre
Matt Carpenter – Have written about him in both the first and second base breakdowns (linked above). Still, he looked like an MVP candidate in the first half of 2016 before hurting his core. The batted ball and plate discipline numbers still look good, and I trust him apart from the injury risk.
Kyle Seager – “Corey’s Brother” is often disrespected. He had a monster 2016 before a much weaker 2017. He’s the same guy he has always been, yet fantasy players always seem to overlook him. He is solid and generally comes at a value.
Alex Bregman – He should be deployed at SS. He is an obvious breakout candidate who had a monster second half and big playoff moments. Bregman has the minor league track record and pedigree up the wazoo. I love him, but I’m a little worried about the hype train getting as out of hand as it did last year, raising his price tag and draft position beyond his value.
Adrian Beltre – Beltre is still awesome when he plays. He gets hurt more these days because he’s old as dirt. Still, I will keep ranking him decently until he falls off or retires. Beltre may come at a discount because of age bias and recent injury woes.
Justin Turner, Travis Shaw, Miguel Sano, Mike Moustakas, Eduardo Nunez, Nicholas Castellanos, Jake Lamb, and Maikel Franco
Justin Turner – I doubted him last year and was mostly wrong. I still don’t quite believe that he’s actually good, This ranking is a bit of a hedge because the Dodgers seem to have acquired some of the Cardinals “devil magic,” where they turn scrub players into stars.
Travis Shaw – I was a big believer coming into 2017 and was lucky to own a lot of shares, but I’m worried that it was a fluke. He stopped hitting fly balls at the rate he did in Fenway, and unless he gets out of the habit of hitting ground balls (42% rate), I’m worried that even Miller Park can’t save him from regression.
Miguel Sano – He’s been a bit disappointing so far in his career. This is nothing more than a hunch, but I’m calling him as a 2018 breakout. Judge and Stanton had their fun last year. Sano is of the same breed. The Twins seem primed to emerge this year, and I’m betting that Sano and Buxton are a big part of that.
Mike Moustakas – How can a 40-ish homer guy be this low? I don’t know; maybe ask Joey Gallo, who I’m not even going to talk about today. Moose has shown some flashes over the past few years. I’m having trouble buying all the way in, though I’m slowly getting there. His HR/FB rate was almost double his career, but so was 2016, so maybe this is the new normal. His strikeout rate is solid for a power hitter at 15%. Moustakas hit 46% of his balls in the air and pulled over 43% of the balls he hit into play. Although those are legit signs for a power hitter, I’m not sure he’ll be able to repeat that level of airborne contact. It feels like something pitchers will adjust to, and it’s hard for me to forget how bad he was for so long.
We also aren’t sure what park he’ll be playing in yet, and he does have an injury history. There’s a chance I’ve underranked him as I feel myself starting to believe, but not enough to rank him higher.
Eduardo Nunez – Wrote about him in the second base preview (linked above), and that is where you should deploy him. He is likely to be a three-category contributor, including SBs and average. Those stats are brutal to find these days, and so he deserves consideration. His multi-eligibility is a bonus.
Nicholas Castellanos – This guy is a saber darling. Analysts worried that the exit velocity guns might have been “running hot” in Detroit. He, Miggy, and others seemed have bad seasons in spite of hitting the ball very hard. According to Fangraphs, Castellanos hit the ball hard 43.4% of the time and medium 45.1% of the time. You could see why analysts think the gun might have been running a bit hot in Detroit, because that suggests he only hit the ball softly 11.5% of the time. He also got his strikeout rate down to 21% last year, which is a career best. Castellanos is an obvious breakout candidate and another one that feels like I’ve ranked too low, but it’s just a reflection of how good third base is.
Jake Lamb – Jake Lamb is so good. Then Jake Lamb is so bad. He struggles with lefties and has been benched against them. I had him a bunch of places, which was awesome for most of the year. And then I ended up having to drop him for the playoff push — he was THAT bad. I still like him, but I have no idea what to make of him. I believe I wrote almost the exact same thing last year. There are also questions on how the humidor will affect Arizona hitters.
Maikel Franco – He’s just one of my guys. He was better on a per AB basis than Kris Bryant in their respective rookie years. Franco has power and contact skills. We have a tendency to quit on prospects after they disappoint us a few times, but he’s still only 25 years old. Josh Donaldson didn’t break out until he was 28. I’m hoping that the emergence of Hoskins and the addition of Carlos Santana will help Franco break out. Franco should be considered a post-hype sleeper, though I may have to re-evaluate if he disappoints again this year.
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