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February 5, 2016

Fantasy Players to Avoid

Third Base

by BP Fantasy Staff

There are a lot of things in life you want to avoid, including but not limited to: bad fish, going into space without enough oxygen, and pointless arguments on social media. Below are five third basemen who members of our staff think you should avoid as well.

Evan Longoria, Rays
Evan Longoria is still only two years removed from being one of the most talented third basemen in the league, but that feels like ages ago. While name value may have carried him last season, that time is likely over. Even given that, he’s still not someone you want to be targeting. At his peak, Longoria was a consistent threat for 30-plus home runs. Those days are long gone, as he’s hit just 21 and 22 in the last two years while his ISO has fallen to .166 and .151. At the same time, he has watched his HR:FB ratio drop while his infield-flyball rate has risen, indicating consistently poorer contact. This brings us to his plate discipline, which has gone from near-elite to merely average. Last season, for example, he walked just 7.6 percent of the time while carrying a strikeout percentage of 19.7 percent. The main culprit has been an increased swing rate since his prime, particularly on pitches out of the zone. As the 11th third baseman coming off the board at NFBC drafts, the cost isn’t massive, but it also isn’t ideal. Preferably, you can grab one of the 10 third basemen in front of him. If not, you will be better off using your mid-round pick on a different position and either taking someone like Mike Moustakas or tossing a late-round flier on someone like Brett Lawrie, David Wright, or Nick Castellanos. —Matt Collins

Hector Olivera, Braves
This is certainly a deeper-league or NL-only recommendation as Olivera is currently the 20th third baseman being taken per ADP, but I am going to be shying away from him given the alternatives. Olivera showed the ability to hit for AVG last season, but that was mostly as a 30-year-old in Double-A. On the negative side, Olivera showed little power and his perceived injury-proneness showed up in the form of a DL stint at Double-A because of a hamstring injury. Considering that the Braves lineup does not figure to be all that good, I am very hesitant to invest in Olivera’s AVG-driven value, given the likely contextual limitations on runs and RBI. While it may be tempting to bet on whatever we believe Olivera’s upside to be if we miss on many of the excellent third-base options, Chase Headley, Martin Prado, Jake Lamb, Luis Valbuena, and David Freese are all cheaper and, to me, preferable options (particularly Headley and Prado). —Jeff Quinton

Matt Duffy, Giants
There is nothing wrong with what Matt Duffy did last year, and he should be a solid player in real life for the Giants. In fantasy, though, this isn’t the kind of player I want to draft as aggressively as Duffy has been drafted thus far in NFBC leagues. Duffy’s moderate increase in power isn’t something I have faith in him sustaining, at least not in the short term. His minor-league resume is mostly as a speed-first player who didn’t hit many balls over the fence, and while some hitters do find their power in the majors for the first time, Duffy’s extreme groundball profile does not speak to someone who should be hitting as many home runs as he did in 2015. A .280 hitter with five home runs and 20 stolen bases should continue to provide fantasy value at the hot corner, without a doubt. But this value doesn’t match where Duffy is currently being drafted. Duffy is being taken at the front end of the 10th round (138th overall on average) in NFBC drafts. He will likely have comparable value to players like Justin Turner and Trevor Plouffe, who are being taken seven or more rounds after Duffy. While lightning could strike twice and Duffy could put up another solid campaign, he has the kind of profile that doesn’t speak well to a repeat performance. —Mike Gianella

Danny Valencia, Oakland Athletics
When there are proven veterans still on the board, don’t invest in a 31-year-old career bench player who showed sudden and drastic improvement over a small sample. What, you want more nuance than that? Okay, fine.

Valencia has always mashed southpaws and I don’t doubt that he will again in 2016. Problem is, he’ll max out around 200 at-bats against lefties in an absolute best-case scenario. Only 10 players topped that total in 2015 and not one of them was a lefty killer who triggers an automatic late-inning call to the ‘pen for the platoon advantage. To make good on where he’s being drafted, Valencia will need to absolutely rake in those at-bats or approximate what he did against right-handers in 2015. I have no confidence he can pull off the latter.

In nearly a thousand plate appearances against righties prior to 2015, Valencia was a .226/.265/.361 hitter. He blew that out of the water in 2015, slashing .285/.325/.556 in 229 plate appearances versus northpaws. Old dogs do occasionally learn new tricks, but this reeks of small-sample noise to me. Valencia’s HR:FB rate was 27.1 percent against righties, which trailed only notable sluggers like Chris Davis, Pedro Alvarez, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Gonzalez, and Roberto Perez. Yes, Roberto Perez. I doubled checked, then I checked again. There are very few players who I think can keep that company from one year to the next. Needless to say, Valencia, with his dubious track record and unfavorable home park, is not among them. —Greg Wellemeyer

David Wright, Mets
Listen, I hope I'm wrong because David Wright is super fun to watch and seems like a good dude. He's also got the tools to be a top-15 fantasy 3B when healthy, even at his (relatively) advanced age. But at this point in his career, Wright doesn't bring enough upside to offset the huge amount of risk that comes with drafting him, and in deeper leagues where you'd count on Wright as a starter, that makes him an unattractive target. Wright played in just 38 games last season and has played in more than 120 just twice in the past five years. Someone who experiences this much trouble with his hamstrings and back is capable of going down again at any time, and while it's not crazy to think that Wright has the power to challenge for 20 bombs and the bat to hit .280, neither of those marks would be assured even if we could guarantee he'd play in 140 games. If you can grab Wright late as a CI option, go for it, but you better have a good backup plan. Otherwise, take a pass on the man with more name value than fantasy value. —Ben Carsley

BP Fantasy Staff is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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<< Previous Article
2016 Prospects: Washin... (02/04)
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Fantasy Article Dynasty League Positio... (02/05)

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