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February 12, 2014

Fantasy Three-Year Projections

Third Basemen

by Ben Carsley

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Everyone in fantasy sports loves to look ahead. Even in the throes of a pennant race, you can fire up a conversation about next year’s first round and it will go on for an hour. With that in mind, the BP fantasy team will be taking a long-view look at every position this offseason with three-year rankings (composite value over the next three seasons).

As I wrote in the third base primer piece, this is a position that's about to undergo plenty of change from a fantasy perspective. While there are four clear top dogs right now, one is moving off the position and one is entering his mid-30s, leading to a clear changing of the guard. Add in boring, safe veterans and a group of high-upside, risky young players, and forecasting third base over the next few years is a difficult task.

1. Evan Longoria, Rays
2. David Wright, Mets

Longoria and Wright sit atop the rankings as two fairly young third baseman who figure to be top selections for each of the next three years, though Wright could be in the early stages of decline by 2016. You can argue that Longoria should be in a tier of his own, but I think Wright has enough talent to decline gracefully rather than fall off a cliff.

3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
4. Adrian Beltre, Rangers
5. Manny Machado, Orioles
6. Josh Donaldson, Athletics

Cabrera would obviously top this list were he staying at third base for even one more year, but 2014 figures to be his last season of eligibility here. That he still ranks this high tells you all you need to know about him. Beltre is a good bet for 2014 but he's entering his age-35 season. Machado's power is going to come—if not in 2014, then 2015—and if he tops these rankings by 2016, I wouldn't be shocked. Donaldson's lack of track record scares some people but he'll be 28 for the entire 2014 season and his ability to hit for power is real.

7. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
8. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
9. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
10. Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays
11. Kyle Seager, Mariners

There's no real common theme to this group. Zimmerman's value will start to decline soon, especially amid rumors that he's headed to first base in 2015, but he's still a strong play right now. Alvarez offers little but power but is still young enough where he could improve, while Carpenter offers little but average but has a lot of contextual factors in his favor. Lawrie has the upside to be ranked higher but needs to prove he can stay healthy, while Seager is a safe option for the next several years.

12. Chase Headley, Padres
13. Nick Castellanos, Tigers
14. Martin Prado, Diamondbacks
15. Pablo Sandoval, Giants
16. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers
17. Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox
18. Nolan Arenado, Rockies

Boring, high-floor options and exciting, high-risk options mark this group. Headley could get a bump if he leaves Petco after 2014, but his days of running are probably over and questions about his power remain. Prado and Sandoval don't do anything particularly well or poorly, and are good bets to keep up their current production for a while. Ramirez has more upside than either, but he'll turn 36 this season and should be headed to first base soon. Middlebrooks has huge power but it might come with a terrible average, while Castellanos and Arenado can hit but might not have much power. The last three players mentioned are all enticing, but none is a safe bet to become a top-10 third baseman.

19. Miguel Sano, Twins
20. Kris Bryant, Cubs

Swoon. Sano and Bryant are two of the best eight fantasy prospects in the game by my ranking, but neither is likely to have much value in 2014. That "lost year," plus the likelihood that each will struggle at times in their early years, drops them here. That being said, they have more upside than anyone on this list after the first five options. Bryant may move to the outfield, but that's not a given.

21. David Freese, Angels
22. Mike Moustakas, Royals
23. Todd Frazier, Reds
24. Chris Johnson, Braves

More like the tepid corner, amirite? Freese and Johnson can hit for average but their power ceilings are questionable and both are older than you think. Frazier is perhaps too low here but I'm not confident in his ability to hit for average and the power ceiling isn't much better than with Freese or Johnson. Moustakas is an enigma: I think the power is there still, but he legitimately might be a platoon player. He's still worth a gamble, but it's hard to be overly optimistic.

25. Matt Davidson, White Sox
26. Matt Dominguez, Astros
27. Cody Asche, Phillies
28. Mark Reynolds, Brewers
29. Maikel Franco, Phillies
30. Mike Olt, Cubs

There's a lot of power and not much else here other than Asche, who is so vanilla he should be a Cardinals middle infielder. I like Davidson for what he is, but he's in the same boat as Dominguez—they can hit you 25 homers, but those might come with a .230 average. Reynolds is sort of the worst-case outcome for Middlebrooks: He could hit 30 homers, but he might only have 75 other hits over 600 PA. Franco has a better hit tool, but the odds are even that he moves to first base, and Olt has a lot to prove after a miserable 2013. Franco and Davidson are the names to gamble on here, but they are gambles indeed.

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

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