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February 11, 2014

Fantasy Tiered Rankings

Third Basemen

by Mike Gianella

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To read the previous editions in this series, follow the links below:

Today, our positional tier rankings series continues with a look at third base.

Players at each position are divided into five tiers, represented by a numerical star rating. Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players that will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year’s values but rather try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen in 2014.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from this year’s PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and, as we did last year, we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. Players needed to play in 20 games at a position to qualify there. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format, you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players’ dollar values.

Players with multi-position eligibility are listed at the position where it is most likely they would start in a standard fantasy league. Second base and third base both have a similar amount of depth, so Matt Carpenter—who was listed in the second base tier rankings—is listed here as well.

Five Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Miguel Cabrera

DET

$42.14

$31.27

645

97

33

108

3

.323

Miggy is in a class by himself and Mike Trout is the only player in the game who can arguably be called a better fantasy option. What Cabrera is lacking for in steals he more than makes up for across the board as a four-category monster. It’s hard to say the move back to first base will help Cabrera’s value; what more can he do that he hasn’t already done?

Five Star Value Pick: Miguel Cabrera
It’s hard to call Cabrera a value pick given that he’ll go 1:1 or 1:2 in every draft and for $40 or so in auctions, but given the other options at third base he’s a nice play who will return value barring injury.

Four Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

David Wright

NYM

$17.59

$22.47

606

77

19

75

17

.272

Adrian Beltre

TEX

$21.60

$22.42

658

79

25

92

2

.290

Evan Longoria

TB

$15.01

$18.67

582

76

25

85

4

.266

Ryan Zimmerman

WAS

$6.81

$16.64

534

66

20

73

4

.279

Josh Donaldson

OAK

$17.69

$19.26

635

86

23

75

8

.257

If you can’t get Cabrera, Beltre is the next best thing. He has been money ever since leaving the spacious confines of Seattle behind in 2009, and has been a virtual lock for .300/30/100 for the last four years. He will be 35 this year, which is somewhat concerning, but it is difficult to ding Beltre too much for what might happen when he has been such a mortal lock to perform and has played in 154 or more games in three of the last four seasons.

There was a time when it seemed inevitable that Longoria would be a no-brainer, perennial $30-plus earner. But his earnings the last three years are an underwhelming $23, $14, and $20. Some of this is due to injury, but Longoria hasn’t run since 2010 and he has been a poor batting average hitter two of the last three years. He’s getting pushed to the second round in early drafts, which is chasing him to a ceiling he has seldom reached.

Donaldson sparked some internal debate over whether or not he belonged here or in the next tier down. He is the weakest option in the four-star range, but the adjustments he made at the plate after walking one time in his first 100 or so plate appearances in 2012 have paid off significantly. Donaldson isn’t going to take another big step forward but is a cut above the hitters in the three-star tier.

Four-Star Value Pick: Ryan Zimmerman
Zimmerman often gets tagged with the injury-prone label, but he has played 142 games or more in four of the last five seasons and has earned $25 or more in NL-only four of the last five seasons. He’s getting drafted 2-3 rounds after Longoria and Wright but is likely to produce comparable value.

Three Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Matt Carpenter

STL

$12.45

$17.22

648

80

12

65

4

.289

Pedro Alvarez

PIT

$4.82

$13.49

561

66

25

78

2

.234

Aramis Ramirez

MIL

$11.54

$18.21

591

71

23

81

3

.272

Martin Prado

ARI

$3.54

$14.49

573

60

12

64

6

.280

Kyle Seager

SEA

$13.13

$18.19

628

81

17

66

11

.265

Manny Machado

BAL

$4.32

$14.22

588

70

15

61

7

.263

You might be better off slotting Carpenter or Prado in at second base instead of third base, but third base has enough question marks at the bottom of the category that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you stuck either hitter here. The idea that you have to get thump from both of your corners is as antiquated in fantasy as it is in real life; there’s nothing wrong with paying for batting average and all around production at the hot corner should you choose to go that route.

Alvarez does bring the thump but also brings an awful batting average to go along with it. In recent years, hitters like Alvarez seem to have a short shelf life, but unless Alvarez slips below .200, he should endure as a top power source in all formats.

Unless you’re in a league that counts doubles or extra base hits, you’re betting on a step forward if you take Machado here. There is no doubting the talent and there is a strong chance that we are looking at one of baseball’s future stars, but the road to stardom is seldom quick or linear. Machado’s injury status might also dampen his value. He is ahead of schedule in his recovery, but it is still possible he might not be ready for Opening Day.

Three-Star Value Pick: Aramis Ramirez
His age (36) makes me a little wary and I’m not expecting a return to 25-30 home runs, but 20 home runs for Ramirez is well within reach and he’s being drafted well below most of the other players in this tier. If you’re in an OBP league, Ramirez is all the better for your fantasy squad.

Two Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Brett Lawrie

TOR

$2.74

$15.38

509

60

15

62

13

.268

Xander Bogaerts

BOS

-$0.04

$11.53

552

62

17

66

1

.259

Chase Headley

SD

$8.24

$17.05

610

71

15

69

12

.260

Pablo Sandoval

SF

$9.63

$18.15

587

68

20

78

2

.288

Chris Johnson

ATL

$1.00

$13.57

587

60

15

69

2

.271

Lawrie seems like a significant disappointment, but that’s only because he was overhyped coming off of 43 terrific games as a 21-year-old in 2011. Even if Lawrie stands still, a 15/15 season isn’t unrealistic and that’s not a bad value proposition.

As predicted by many, Headley’s surprising power burst from 2012 didn’t carry over into last year. However, he was banged up for most of the season and played through it. This doesn’t automatically make him a bounce back candidate, but he should be a reliable player if he can keep healthy and on the field.

Bogaerts has the highest ceiling of any of the players in the two-star group, but some caution must be exercised given his age. In keeper formats, he rates much higher, but in redraft leagues there is no good reason to push expecting 25-30 home runs.

Two-Star Value Pick: Chris Johnson
Johnson gets dismissed because he is seen as nothing more than an empty batting average, but the numbers in the chart above don’t lie. He is capable of putting up comparable HR/RBI as the rest of the hitters in this tier but is being drafted significantly later according to ADP. His xBABIP shows that while Johnson might not be a .321 hitter, he is a better batting average bet than many realize.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Nolan Arenado

COL

-$0.27

$12.17

580

64

14

60

1

.268

Todd Frazier

CIN

$2.43

$13.84

520

62

20

68

8

.243

Juan Uribe

LAD

-$0.39

$11.71

586

60

17

68

4

.243

Will Middlebrooks

BOS

$11.01

$18.00

547

68

26

80

6

.260

Mike Moustakas

KC

-4.82

$9.28

535

54

14

61

3

.247

David Freese

LAA

$3.16

$13.52

597

65

16

70

2

.270

Trevor Plouffe

MIN

$2.06

$12.53

579

63

20

73

3

.242

Matt Dominguez

HOU

-$6.32

$8.31

509

53

16

59

0

.246

Matt Davidson

CHW

-$16.07

$4.51

393

43

14

47

0

.230

Lonnie Chisenhall

CLE

-$7.81

$8.40

443

50

14

54

2

.260

Mark Reynolds

MIL

-$2.71

$9.95

423

58

22

60

4

.222

Casey McGehee

FLA

-$18.27

$4.45

416

41

9

43

1

.245

Alberto Callaspo

OAK

-$9.87

$6.25

490

49

7

46

3

.258

A common thread for many of the one-star third basemen is that their batting averages project poorly. While all of them offer some power, there is either earnings risk due to batting average or playing time risk. Davidson seemed like the clear starter a couple of weeks ago, but now the White Sox are making noise about him having to win the job. There are a lot of young non-rookies at third who could take the next step forward. Arenado, Middlebrooks, Moustakas, Dominguez, and Chisenhall are all young players who could be good post-hype sleeper candidates in standard mixed. All of them have risk, though, and none of them is a sure thing, which explains why they’re one star.

One-Star Value Pick: Todd Frazier
Frazier gets knocked for his batting average, but he offers a pretty solid amount of power. He could put up more power than many of the third basemen ranked higher. If you can stomach the batting average, he is a pretty good play.

-Only League Notes

National League: Luis Valbuena, Mike Olt, and Donnie Murphy will all compete for the Cubs third base job this spring. Olt has the biggest upside, and is the hitter you want in a deeper mixed. Cody Asche will start the year as the starter in Philadelphia, but a fast start by Maikel Franco could force the Phillies hand as early as June. Juan Francisco had more value before the Brewers brought in Matt Reynolds. Francisco is useful, but with Reynolds now in Milwaukee Francisco won’t be a full timer again this year. Eric Chavez is worth starting as a third corner.

American League: Nearly every deep American League third baseman option also plays another position, including Jose Iglesias, Mike Aviles, Maicer Izturis, and Jeff Keppinger. There isn’t a lot of upside with any of these players; even if there is an injury, the value is negligible. Danny Valencia is 3B only but as a platoon player on the wrong side of a 3B platoon doesn’t carry much usefulness even in AL-only leagues.

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

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Fantasy Article Graphical Fantasy Rank... (02/11)
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