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If you’re about to draft and you’re all, like, “damn, I don’t know who I should target for third base,” you should definitely keep reading.

Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
Pedro Alvarez was hurt for pretty much the entire second half of last year, plain and simple. He missed all of September with a foot injury, and it was a really tough one from a hitting mechanics standpoint. Alvarez’s left foot pain likely played a significant role in his second-half nosedive by severely limiting his ability to drive off his back foot and create power through his hip rotation. But through the end of June he was showing some interesting signs of growth at the dish, while keeping his power production relatively consistent. Over his first 324 plate appearances of the season, his whiff rate was down to 23.8 percent—a stark improvement over the 30-plus percent rates he’d posted over the previous two and a half seasons. And his walk rate checked in at a robust 11.1 percent, which represented a gain of more than three points on last year’s 7.8 percent rate. His home-run (24.9 PA/HR) and run (4.15 PA/(R+RBI)) production rates, meanwhile, both remained well in line with his career clips.

There were areas of potential unrealized growth on top of the approach gains as well. While Alvarez’s batted ball distance tumbled out of the top six in all of baseball for the first time in three years, it tumbled all of 20 spots to 23rd overall. And that total included two months of weaker, injury-addled contact. Point being, the loss of 10 percentage points off his HR:FB rate was probably not warranted by his contact results. Meanwhile his line-drive rate—notoriously among the most fickle of batted-ball indicators—plummeted to 15.8 percent last year after failing to come in south of 18.7 percent in any previous season.

He’s currently going as the 17th third baseman off the board in early NFSB drafts, with an ADP over 200. His 2013 efforts—the same ones he was on pace to approximate last year with another half-season of normal production—were good for 11th among the third base ranks and the overall 82nd-best mixed league value. The opportunity for surplus return on investment here is significant, particularly if he can carry over the approach progress he showed in the first three months of 2014. —Wilson Karaman

Nolan Arenado, Rockies
Fantasy owners have kind of forgotten about Arenado because the Rockies haven’t been good and he’s struggled to remain healthy, but he could be a breakout star in 2015. He’s the same age as uber-prospect Kris Bryant. He also posted a .213 ISO with a .287/.328/.500 with 18 homers. That’s a better ISO than Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, and Todd Frazier—all of whom launched at least 25 homers a year ago. If Arenado can eclipse the 600 PA mark this year and remain healthy, he’s easily a top-five third baseman in fantasy.

The 23-year-old may not steal many bases, but he has proven that he can hit for average, power, and accumulate run/RBI totals. It certainly helps that he plays most of his games at Coors. While scouts and analysts may suggest that augments his “true” ability, fantasy owners don’t care. Fantasy owners will take the inflated offensive numbers from Colorado Rockies players and run with it, especially when he’s currently being ranked in the same tier as Matt Carpenter.

There’s also the age factor that’s coming into play. He’s not even close to his prime, and although he shouldn’t be expected to magically improve because he’s young, his place on the hypothetical development curve is attractive. Furthermore, he’s a defensive whiz at third base. That doesn’t impact fantasy owners, but it should keep him in the everyday lineup — even if he goes through an extended slump at any point in the near future.

All in all, Arenado possesses the ability to hit .280-plus with at least 20 homers, solid run totals and even a couple stolen bases. His current average-draft position is ninth amongst third basemen. That’s not crazy good value or anything of the sort, but I think he has the potential to be a top-five third baseman by the end of the year. —J.P. Breen

Manny Machado, Orioles
Recently, I ranted about the inanity of labeling up-and-coming players as sleepers even though everyone is scrutinizing them through a magnifying glass. However, sometimes there is the rare opportunity to save a little auction cash on an up-and-coming player who is being undervalued. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is a good idea to try and jump all over the buying window.

Manny Machado presents us with this rare type of opportunity. Kris Bryant and his zero major league at bats are being drafted 48 slots ahead of Machado in early NFBC drafts, while Yasmany Tomas and his zero at bats of professional experience are being drafted a mere three slots behind Machado. Meanwhile, all Machado has done as a big leaguer since 2013 is hit 26 home runs, swat 103 RBI, score 126 times, and hit .282 in 1,064 plate appearances. Despite the knee injuries, Machado has still been a productive hitter when he has taken the field.

Last year’s injury also hid the fact that there were some encouraging signs of growth in Machado’s power profile. His ISO and TAv both crept up slightly, but more importantly Machado’s HR/PA moved up significantly. Machado was on pace for a 23 home run season across 156 games last year, compared to the 14 home runs he hit in 156 games in 2013. Machado jumped up from 168th overall in batted-ball distance in 2013 to 111th last year.

Want to see something really cool?










Adrian Beltre Age 19-21









Manny Machado Age 19-21









Gary Sheffield Age 19-21









(data from Baseball Reference)

Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are frequently discussed as baseball’s young superstar and the next-great-thing, but based on his performance at such a young age Machado belongs in this conversation as well. Players who man the hot corner capably across 1,000-plus plate appearances starting in their age-19 seasons are future superstars more often than not. In case you believe this is cherry picking, only Eddie Matthews, Ron Santo, and Freddie Lindstrom have exceeded Machado’s OPS+ in 1000 or more plate appearances at third base through their age-21 seasons. Do the multiple knee injuries concern me? Of course. But Machado is a player who still has superstar potential and is being treated like Pablo Sandoval in early drafts. The floor isn’t that low and the ceiling is a top-10 third baseman. —Mike Gianella

Aramis Ramirez, Brewers
While he's often been thought of as old and fragile, Ramirez played in 130-plus games in 2014, marking the third time in four years that's happened. What hasn't happened over the course of those four years, is a poor offensive seasons. From 2011-2014, Ramirez has recorded TAvs of .307, .303, .288, and .265, respectively. Obviously no fantasy league uses TAv as a category, but as an approximate value of offensive contributions, it shows how useful the 36-year-old Ramirez can be.

The thing you'll notice about those TAvs is the downward trend, and last year certainly wasn't his best, as his walk rate dipped below five percent for the first time since 2000. The play with Ramirez isn't just for production, but production relative to draft position or dollars paid. With his advancing age and injury history, many are too shy to pull the trigger on a guy who has remained mostly healthy in recent years. Even his down season included a .285/.330/.427 slash line, and a miraculous three stolen bases. He will miss some time, but it's more likely to be of the 15-day variety than the 60-day, and he's productive when he's on the field. There's also a decent chance he can get back to the 20-homer plateau he's reached in season's past rather than settling for the 15 he offered in 2014. Ramirez's innate hitting ability plays up as well, as he rarely strikes out, and more balls in play with a good batting average is a plus.

While he's no dominant force in a fantasy lineup, he's a nice down-draft option for those who choose to focus on other positions early. Outside of runs, he was comparable to Pablo Sandoval last year, and they were and will be valued drastically differently come draft day (though this year is a little more understandable given the park/lineup for Sandoval). —Craig Goldstein

David Wright, Mets
It’s pretty rare to head into a season with a legitimate household name being undervalued, but here we are. Judging by some early draft data and rankings, David Wright is being viewed as somewhere around the ninth- or tenth-best third baseman. If your league values him in a similar manner, there is a good chance at getting some serious value with this selection.

Obviously, the reason Wright is so low in so many rankings is that he’s coming off a highly disappointing 2014. His .269 AVG was the second lowest of his career and he only managed eight home runs with 63 RBI and 54 runs scored. Even his stolen-base total fell to single digits for the first time since his rookie year. There were clearly some issues last season for Wright, but there are also plenty of reasons for optimism in 2015.

The 32-year-old suffered through shoulder injuries throughout the past year, a major contributor to his utter lack of power. By all accounts, he appears to be healthy as we get closer to spring training, and that revamped health should go a long way towards bringing that home run total back near the 20 mark we’re accustomed to. On top of the health issues, Wright also saw his home run to fly ball ratio fall to a career-low 3.4 percent, and the Mets will be bringing in the fences at Citi Field. With no noticeably significant changes to his plate discipline, it’s not crazy to view his plummeting walk-rate as an aberration. His OBP should get back up to the .360-.375 range, and with it his runs and stolen bases total will rise as well.

Instead of using an earlier-round pick on someone like Todd Frazier, Nolan Arenado, or Josh Harrison, use that pick to strengthen other positions on your roster. Wright should still be around near the 90th pick of your draft, and could be one of the best value picks by the end of 2015. —Matt Collins

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The thing I worry about with Aramis is collapse in his BB rate to 4% and downward trend of both FB rate and HR/FB. He's a guy I'd rather get away from too early because the drop off is going to be sudden and steep.
Hey JP, I love Arenado right along with ya, but I haven't seen him going that late at 3B. I know FantasyPros lists him at 9th, but they include Miggy & EE in their 3Bs for some reason. NFBC has him 6th among 3B and 59th overall.
Machado's knee injuries and that he needed special training to correct how he naturally runs, scares the heck out me.