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We have finally reached the other side of the diamond after discussing the first and second base position rankings for 2018. To say I am excited is an understatement. The hot corner is fun to look at because it has to be one of the deepest positions in fantasy going into this season. There are a lot of big names, both young and old. From Adrian Beltre to Rafael Devers, there seems to be a never ending supply of talent at the position.
Fantasy owners won’t find much speed or average at this position. Of the 22 third baseman that had at least 500 plate appearances in 2017, 5 of them maintained an average north of .290 and 4 that stole double digits bases. Out of those same 22 third baseman, 16 of them hit at least 20 home runs or more this past year. This is a premium position for power and you don’t need to grab one of the top third baseman to have a successful season. Even guys like Travis Shaw or Kyle Seager are beneficial to your team without costing a high round draft pick. So let’s get into the rankings and breakdowns of each of these great players that man their team’s hot corner.
These rankings were done based on the standard 5×5 head to head leagues.
You can listen to our full discussion of the elite talents and more at the hot corner in the latest episode of Six Man Roto here:
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Tier 1- The Elite
1) Nolan Arenado- There shouldn’t be any doubt that Arenado is the number one third baseman coming into 2018. He has averaged 40 home runs, 131 RBI, and a .296 batting average over the past 3 years. Oh wait. I haven’t even mentioned the 104 runs he also averaged in the middle of the Rockies lineup. Arenado has even gotten much better with his pitch selection and walk rate since 2015. The only thing that he doesn’t excel at is bringing speed to the basepaths, but that’s not a big deal when he is the best 4 category contributor at the position. The Rockies lineup could be even better than it was last year. With Carlos Gonzalez becoming a free agent and the possible addition of Ryan McMahon, these moves will only help Arenado maintain what he has done over the past few years.
2) Kris Bryant- Kris Bryant had a seemingly down year last year for fantasy owners, but that was largely due to the loss of 29 RBI and 10 HRs from the previous year. If you were to take away the name recognition of Bryant and look at the statline of 29 home runs, 111 runs, and 73 RBI with a .295 batting average, you would be excited to get that kind of production. Not to mention that he had an OPS over .900 and also swiped 7 bags. A lot of the loss in RBI for Bryant was thanks to the instability at the leadoff spot for the Chicago Cubs. The problem has yet to be fixed by Theo Epstein, but it is hard to believe they will let it be an issue for too long in 2018
Tier 2- The Next Best Thing
3) Manny Machado- I know. Machado being ranked as a third baseman sounds ludicrous after the recent news of Machado becoming the Orioles new starting shortstop. We know Machado is much more valuable as a shortstop, but the extra eligibility is still nice to have. 2017 was a tale of two halves for the young superstar. The first half was tough on the young Oriole as he only hit for a .230 average in his first 83 games of the season, but did bounce back for a .290 average over the final 73 games. The biggest difference between the two halves was the strikeout rate as Machado struck out 29 more times in the first half than the second half of the season. Machado will bring at least 30 home runs and 90 RBI to your team in 2018, but the stolen bases seem like a thing of the past unfortunately. Manny stole 9 bases this past season and none the previous year. We have yet to see what a full season in the bigs as a shortstop will do to Machado’s stamina and body, but I wouldn’t have too many fears about him not matching his production from 2017.
4) Jose Ramirez- I already discussed Jose Ramirez in length in our second base rankings article, but that is his most valuable position. With how deep third base is, I don’t see many fantasy owners using him at third base even though he is a five category contributor. I think 2017 was the true ceiling for Jose Ramirez in terms of power as he battered 29 long balls along with 56 doubles. The juiced ball definitely boosted his value, but with a HR/FB rate of 14.1% compared to a career number below 6% before 2017, I think we will see Ramirez drop closer to 21 home runs during 2018. Even with that, Ramirez is one of my favorite players to own this year because of his elite average, stolen base potential, and the positional flexibility.
5) Josh Donaldson- Even in a year where the ball was juiced, it is weird to think that Josh Donaldson was able to have a disappointing year. However, the 2017 season got off to a rough start for the then 31-year-old slugger after he sustained a calf injury, which sidelined him until May 26th. The injury clearly lingered through the first half of the season as the Bringer of Rain was only able to muster 9 home runs through 46 games along with a .261 average. Once he got the week off for the All-Star Break, it seemed like the extra days off really helped him get back into form. In the second half, Donaldson was one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball. He slugged 24 home runs while also hitting for a .276 average. The RBI and run opportunities were limited all-season due to a Blue Jays offense that featured 2 hitters with an OBP north of .350 in at least 300 at-bats (Smoak and Donaldson were those two hitters). The Blue Jays offense looks to be about the same this year, which hurts Donaldson’s usually high value.
6) Anthony Rendon- After having the best offensive year of his career, Anthony Rendon earned a sweet $12 million to avoid arbitration with the Nationals. However, fantasy owners fear not because he won’t cost you that much this year in your fantasy drafts as he is currently going as the 53rd player off the board on Fantrax. Rendon is only 27-years-old and is in the middle of a great Nationals lineup. He is still growing as a hitter and I think we still haven’t seen his best offensive season yet. Early in his career he had issues staying healthy, but with that no longer a concern, fantasy owners will see him have another .300/.400/.500 season with at least 25 home runs and close to 100 RBI. He has a ton of value if he is falling outside of the top 50 in your draft.
7) Justin Turner- Turner is one of the hardest players to strikeout in all of baseball as he finished 2017 walking 10.9% of the time and only striking out 10.3% of the time. He is in the same kind of mold as Anthony Rendon, but he doesn’t seem to have the same ceiling in terms of counting stats. Turner might net you one steal a month, but don’t expect much else out of the Dodgers’ man at the hot corner. If you are in an OBP league, Turner is one of the best to own without forcing you to overspend.
Tier 3- The Middle Ground
8) Miguel Sano- Before I even go into Sano’s stats from 2017, I want to warn you how risky of a pick Sano can be to start the 2018 season. After being accused of sexual assault near the end of 2017, there has been no update to Sano’s status for the upcoming season. If the MLB acts as harshly on sexual assault as they did to domestic violence, we could see him suspended for at least 30 games. That being said, the slugger has been improving his play on the field every year since his debut and finally crossed the 70 RBI mark last year. He also added more power to his game as he slugged 28 home runs (3 more than he hit in 2016), but only 15 doubles. Sano does walk close to 11% of the time, but strikeouts have been a huge issue as he has struck out over 35% of his time in the major leagues. It would be tolerable if he had over the top power like Aaron Judge or Joey Gallo, but he just hasn’t found it yet.
9) Jake Lamb- Ahh, the Salvador Perez of third baseman. There is a lot to like with the Lamb, but he hasn’t been able to put together a full season in his career. After tearing up the league in the first half of 2017 for 20 HR, 67 RBI, and a .279 batting average, Lamb hit like he was on the lam. Not only did he struggle to hit for power (10 home runs in the final 64 games), but he barely hit above the Mendoza line at .204. The same thing happened in 2016 as well, so it is very hard to trust Lamb for the entire season.
One more issue with the Diamondbacks third baseman is the addition of a humidor to Chase Field. The addition of a humidor to Chase Field could make it an extreme pitchers park. If you do snag Lamb in the draft, I suggest having a back up plan for the second half or being extremely active on the waiver wire and trade block come the All-Star Break in 2018.
10) Alex Bregman- Bregman took a huge step forward in his sophomore year for the Houston Astros even though they weren’t in dire need of offense this past year. He lowered his strikeout rate by nearly 10% and that allowed him to boost his batting average by 20 points. Bregman didn’t tap into his power as much as people thought he would with only 19 HR, but he terrorized opposing pitchers with his speed as he stole 17 bases. The Astros third baseman could have had more power, but with a 10% increase in ground balls and a league average exit velocity of 87.7. Bregman is still breaking out and growing as a hitter, but he needs to work on hitting the ball with better authority to tap into the power that fantasy owners are dreaming of.
11) Mike Moustakas- The Moose is another victim of the slow 2018 off-season. After having the best offensive output of his career (seems like there is a recurring theme here with third baseman eh?), Moustakas is still sitting at home waiting for a decent contract offer. He was able to launch 38 dingers this past season with a .272 average in Kaufmann Stadium, one of the worst ballparks for power. There were rumblings that Moose could land on the Mets, Giants, or Angels earlier in the offseason, but each of those teams have filled their need at the hot corner. The Royals don’t seem likely to bring him back either. Regardless of where he lands, he was able to produce that much power in Kaufmann, so don’t worry that it will disappear should he change venues.
12) Kyle Seager- Unfortunately, even though Kyle carries the Seager name, he doesn’t have anything flashy about him. Seager’s final line will likely drop his draft stock this year because he mustered a .249 average even though his 27 HR, 72 runs, and 88 RBI were fairly consistent compared to previous seasons. Seager’s batting average was so low due to some bad luck as his BABIP was 23 points lower than his career number all while getting better contact on the ball. He lowered his soft contact percentage from 14.7% to 13.1%, but also lost 3 points off of his hard contact percentage. At 132nd off the board on Fantrax, he is definitely one of the best values of the third tier.
13) Travis Shaw- I don’t understand why so many people are doubting the Mayor of Ding Dong City. After being moved to the Milwaukee Brewers this past off-season, Shaw proved his doubters wrong as he put up 31 HR, 101 RBI, and an impressive .273 batting average. There was a slight drop off in production in the second half for the lefty slugger, but the Brewers team was inconsistent after the All-Star Break as well. Shaw hit the ball with even better authority in the second half as he dropped his soft contact percentage from 16.6% in the first half to 14.9% in the second half. However, the Mayor ran into some bad BABIP luck after the All-Star Break due to an increase in fly balls. With the additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain to the top of the Brew Crew’s lineup, Shaw is set up perfectly for a great year in the cleanup spot once again. I love Shaw this year, especially as the 92nd player off the board.
14) Adrian Beltre- Adrian Beltre just seems ageless doesn’t he? Even though last year was his age-38 season, he still put up 17 HR, 71 RBI, and a .312 average in the 94 games he played. Beltre was shut down for the last month of 2017 due to a Grade 2 strain to his left hamstring. He also had some right calf tightness that clearly limited him through the first half of the season as shown by his 35 games played. The fact that he was able to compile the stats he did in just over half a season shows that the old dog still has it. There is of course some risk with Beltre due to the questions surrounding his health as he turns 39, but there is a ton of value as the 160th player off the board.
Tier 4- For Better or For Worse
15) Evan Longoria- Once held in a high regard as one of the best third baseman to own, Longoria has tumbled down the rankings since he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays. Evan was moved to the Bay Area this past off-season and the Giants are ready for his bat to be in the middle of their lineup. That being said, the Giants offense seems to still be fairly volatile. The power has been falling off for the 32-year-old and moving to AT&T Park isn’t going to help him. He only hit 20 home runs last year and I fear that the power will continue to be limited. In his 156 games played last year, he hit ground balls at a 43% clip. On top of that, the great walk percentage that he once carried has disappeared as well. The last time that Longoria walked at least 10% of the time was back in 2013 and now he is sitting around 6%. Maybe the move to a new and competitive team resurges something in the veteran, but there is too much volatility in his game for my liking.
16) Nick Castellanos- Castellanos is a Statcast darling to many fantasy owners. He seems to constantly be on every breakout list year in and year out, but has yet to be able to put it all together for a full season. He hits the ball with authority every chance he gets as shown by his hard and medium contact percentages. His ground ball percentage is something he needs to get control of because it fluctuates dramatically between the two halves every season. There might be a season that he puts it altogether, but his counting stats are likely to be down this year thanks to the loss of Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez from the Detroit Tigers lineup.
17) Rafael Devers- Devers could easily ascend up this list by the time that we hit mid-season, but with the hype that surrounds the young Red Sox slugger, there isn’t a ton of value at his current draft position. He is going as the 91st player off the board and has only played 58 games at the major league level. Devers is a very polished hitter with a sweet swing, but there is some concern His hard contact percentage in those 58 games sits around 34.5%, but he is able to spray the ball to all fields, which will help attain some good BABIP luck. Devers is a pure slugger and doesn’t offer much upside in terms of stolen bases, nor does he have an elite walk rate to help boost his run scoring opportunities. Devers is great for dynasty leagues, but I am letting someone else take the risk on Devers at his current price, which is likely to inflate even more the closer we get to the season.
18) Eugenio Suarez- Suarez had a breakout season in 2017, but I don’t know how likely it is that he can repeat it. The strikeout rate didn’t change much from previous years while Suarez’ walk rate jumped up a full 5 points. On top of that, he wasn’t able to hit the ball with as much authority as his soft contact percentage jumped up 3 points. There was a spike in his HR/FB rate as well, up to 18%, without seeing much change in his exit velocity. Suarez is only 26-years-old so you can’t rule out the possibility of a breakout, but I think 2017 was the offensive ceiling for the Reds third baseman.
19) Todd Frazier- With as long as Frazier sat waiting this off-season, he has to be happy he has found a home. He was able to remain in New York, but he is now manning the hot corner for the Mets. Frazier is becoming more and more of a true three outcome hitter as he gets older. He has a good amount of pop still in his bat as showcased by the 27 home runs last year, but he hit less than 20 doubles for the first time in his career. Frazier is going to drag down your average and not provide any stolen bases. I have some concerns with how many plodders will be in that Mets daily lineup as well. They aren’t a team that will specialize in getting on-base at a high clip, which will limit the ability for Frazier to pile up the counting stats in 2018.
20) Jeimer Candelario- Candelario has been on prospect radars for a long time and was one of the most blocked prospects all at the same time. He was blocked by Kris Bryant originally, but was dealt to the Motor City this past summer and finally got his shot at a full time job. He did well for the Detroit franchise by putting together a triple slash of .283/.359/.425 along with 3 HR and 16 RBI in 38 games. The strikeout and walk rates were what everyone expected for the young prospect. The biggest issue I have with Candelario is he hasn’t been consistent with his game power and is only projected to have average game and raw power for the future. I wouldn’t expect Candelario to find his power just yet, especially with very little protection in the middle of the Tigers rebuilding lineup.
21) Colin Moran- Moran got a bit more love than I expected, but he is finally getting his chance to prove himself. Colin is great at controlling the strike zone and taking pitches, but has a limit to his batting average thanks to his pull heavy approach. There are some definite things to like about Colin Moran, but the ground ball rate is a concern. Moran hit the ball over 40% of the time in the minors before 2017, but he was finally able to get a bit more loft this past year. It has yet to be seen if that was a fluke, but Moran was the big piece in the Gerrit Cole trade this off-season, so he will get all the playing time he can handle at third for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
22) Matt Chapman- Chapman is an intriguing name when it comes to power potential from the hot corner. At only 24-years-old, Chapman has a ton of raw power and flashed some of it during his 84-game stint with the Athletics in 2017. He hit 14 home runs in that span, but only mustered up a .234 average, which is to be expected with the nearly 30% strikeout rate and 50% flyball rate. Even though his average is so low, Chapman should get a bump in OBP leagues because of his ability to draw a walk nearly 10% of the time he stepped up to the plate. The big-bodied third baseman is going outside the top 200 in early season drafts, but is a great flyer for late round power.
23) Maikel Franco- Maikel Franco owners were forced to suffer through a rough season with the Phillies third baseman. It felt like he was always ready to turn a corner and get back to his 2016 production, but it never really came for him. Franco has a lot of issues that he has to work through as he hits an infield flyball or ground ball in nearly 60% of his trips to the dish. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for mistakes in the rest of his plate appearances. Even though Franco has a pull heavy approach, he hasn’t hit the ball with great authority since coming into the league. I am avoiding in all leagues if at all possible with all the improvements he needs to make to his game.
24) Eduardo Nunez- Nunez is like Jose Ramirez Lite. He has an ability to steal 20 bases, hit double digit home runs, and produce a .300 batting average. Walks aren’t a huge part of his game, nor are strikeouts. He knows how to put the bat on the ball effectively in conjunction with his great speed. At this moment, Nunez seems to have a contract agreement with the Boston Red Sox pending a physical. He has the flexibility to play in the outfield or most infield positions, which makes him that much more desirable. Nunez is currently going in the 12th round of drafts, which is pretty stellar value considering he is a solid all-around contributor.
25) Ryon Healy- Healy was another third baseman that was moved this off-season, but obviously with much less pomp and circumstance. Healy is expected to be the everyday first baseman for the Seattle Mariners. He doesn’t walk and he strikes out a good amount. However, when he does swing, he doesn’t miss a whole lot as he has a career swinging strike rate of 11.2%. Even though Healy is going to be in an underrated Mariners lineup, he may end up in the 7th or 8th spot daily because of their depth in the lineup limiting his upside for runs and RBI. If Healy can get hot early in the season, he might be able to find his way into the 6th spot in the lineup, but he get any higher than that. Healy would be a good utility spot hitter for your fantasy team with little to no risk as he is going outside the top 200, especially with him being sidelined 4-6 weeks thanks to a bone spur in his right hand.
Thanks for taking the time to read the 2018 early breakdown of third baseman. Next week I will be releasing our rankings for shortstops and breaking down each of the players ranked along with some that were not ranked. You can follow me on Twitter @DadSox for any fantasy questions you have. You can also listen to our site’s fantasy baseball podcast Six Man Roto here and send in your questions to our Twitter @SixManRoto.