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Third base has more star power than it has in roughly a decade, and it’s largely young star power. Just think, a year ago we only had Donaldson as a five-star fantasy option. Fast forward 12 months, and we’re legitimately discussing a hot-corner quartet that could dominate the fantasy scene for the next few years. Pretty cool.

Five-star players are the studs at their position. In general, they are the players who will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they will fetch mixed-league 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 2016.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from last year’s PFM using a 12-team, standard 5×5 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'll 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.

FIVE STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Josh Donaldson

TOR

$41.06

$37.23

711

122

41

123

6

.297

Manny Machado

BAL

$35.13

$37.77

713

102

35

86

20

.286

Nolan Arenado

COL

$33.24

$34.95

665

97

42

130

2

.287

Kris Bryant

CHC

$24.33

$29.64

650

87

26

99

13

.276

It’s a fascinating grouping of players, all of whom offer elite fantasy production in four or five traditional categories. Machado and Bryant have the added bonus of double-digit steals—which is why Machado outperformed Donaldson in AL-only leagues last year—while bringing the lumber at the dish; however, Donaldson and Arenado are true mashers. It’s conceivable that Bryant could hit 35-plus long balls in 2016, too, but I think that type of power comes without a near-.300 batting average.

Five-Star Value Pick: Manny Machado
I wrote last year that Machado has blossomed into a bona fide superstar. And for fantasy purposes, the 23-year-old presents the best chance for true five-category domination at third base. The batting average dropped a touch in the second half when he posted a .282 BABIP, but it’s interesting to note that Machado has never had a BABIP that low in a full season during his entire professional career. He’s a guy who should hit for average and power, while stealing bases and scoring runs. The only question is whether the Orioles will bat him lower in the lineup, as he can better drive in his teammates that way.

FOUR STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Todd Frazier

CHW

$23.30

$29.70

678

82

35

89

13

.255

Matt Carpenter

STL

$20.40

$25.18

665

101

28

84

4

.272

Kyle Seager

SEA

$15.73

$21.20

686

85

26

74

6

.267

Maikel Franco

PHI

$-2.80

$8.79

335

45

14

50

1

.280

Sure, Franco is one of the most-exciting fantasy third basemen this year and Frazier proved that he’d stay active on the basepaths, but the most interesting aspect of this tier, to me, is how utterly consistent Kyle Seager has been. He’s hit 20, 22, 25, and 26 home runs in the past four years with a batting average between .259 and .268. That’s remarkably steady for a guy who’s supposedly entering his prime.

This tier lacks consistency across all categories. In other words, the players here have something truly dragging them downward. It could be Frazier’s batting average and his transition to the American League. It could be Carpenter’s lack of stolen bases and his inability to drive in an elite number of runs. Perhaps it’s Seager’s projected platoon issue—yes, even though he posted a .835 OPS against lefties (check the peripherals)—and his pedestrian speed/average numbers. Or maybe it’s the fact that we’re unsure what kind of hit tool Franco can display over 600 plate appearances. Whatever it is, all four of these players represent a step down from the elite quartet mentioned above.

Four-Star Value Pick: Matt Carpenter
I’m not ready to assume that Carpenter won’t hit .300 in 2016. If he does that and can hit 20-plus homers, he’ll easily be the cream of the crop in the four-star tier. The 30-year-old clearly adjusted his approach to maximize his power output last year; however, he’d been a great overall hitter through his first three major-league seasons. He’s still going to score runs and be a key cog in the Cardinals’ batting order. If his contact rates rebound to pre-2015 levels and a bit of the pop he showed remains, that’s money in the sixth round.

THREE STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Adrian Beltre

TEX

$12.76

$17.76

619

83

18

83

1

.288

Evan Longoria

TBR

$10.16

$16.87

670

74

21

73

3

.270

Mike Moustakas

KC

$11.36

$17.24

614

73

22

82

1

.284

Matt Duffy

SFG

$15.28

$23.22

612

77

12

77

12

.295

A couple of has-beens with a couple of upstarts. It feels like Beltre has been on the verge of a decline for years, but his swinging-strike rate has remained constant for the past three years and is almost two percentage points below his career norm. He’s also not chasing more pitches out of the zone. The power ain’t what it used to be, but, hey, that’s why he’s down in tier three. Doesn’t mean there’s nothing to like these days.

Moustakas and Duffy represent interesting case studies of one-year sample sizes. Moustakas learned to use the opposite field in 2015, but still makes a lot of weak contact that could torpedo his batting average. Duffy, on the other hand, almost hit more homers in 2015 than he did in his entire professional career before that (12 to 13, respectively). Not only that, but he also saw his walk rate crumble in the majors. Can those breakouts be trusted?

Three-Star Value Pick: Evan Longoria
Longoria has been a popular “bust” pick in recent seasons, and he somewhat proved that correct a year ago. He wasn’t terrible, as 21 homers is solid in that ballpark, but the franchise-defining talent is no longer visible in Tampa. Perhaps he’s just nothing more than 20 homers and a .265 batting average. That’s a lot like Kyle Seager’s profile, though. He just needs to score and drive in a few more runs. Perhaps this is the year.

TWO STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

David Wright

NYM

$-15.32

$1.29

174

24

5

17

2

.290

Justin Turner

LAD

$3.48

$14.60

439

55

16

60

5

.294

Pablo Sandoval

BOS

$-5.93

$4.13

505

43

10

47

0

.245

Danny Valencia

OAK

$3.51

$13.30

378

59

18

66

2

.290

Nick Castellanos

DET

$-0.52

$8.71

595

42

15

73

0

.255

Trevor Plouffe

MIN

$9.17

$15.38

632

74

22

86

2

.244

Yasmany Tomas

AZ

$-2.91

$9.35

426

40

9

48

5

.273

Hector Olivera

ATL

$-24.25

$-2.77

87

4

2

11

0

.253

Yangervis Solarte

SDP

$2.75

$13.27

571

63

14

63

1

.270

Luis Valbuena

HOU

$1.18

$9.48

493

62

25

56

1

.224

Jake Lamb

AZ

$-8.09

$5.27

390

38

6

34

3

.263

The two-star tier consists of a lot of players who have significant playing-time worries, as well as a few who aren’t very good but should see plenty of plate appearances. David Wright is a shell of his former self. It’s difficult to advocate for him in fantasy circles because the injury questions are too potent.

Turner, Valencia, and Lamb were solid enough to pique some interest. It’s just difficult to see them reaching 500 plate appearances, and that will naturally limit any full-season value. Deeper leagues can really benefit from these types of players, though, and should absolutely aim to get bulk stats from part-time guys.

I’ll readily admit that Tomas and Olivera are two unknown quantities this season. The two-star tier feels about the right place for the Cuban duo. Both have lost their luster, but both could surprise some folks with 15-plus homers and decent contextual statistics.

Two-Star Value Pick: Pablo Sandoval
There’s just too much track record here. He never compiled a BABIP below .290 in his professional career—his long professional career—but it plummeted to .270 in 2015. That largely explains his batting-average decline. It’s highly unlikely that such batted-ball luck carries over into the upcoming season. And I should note that I understand the aging concerns; I just don’t really find them persuasive.

ONE STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Chase Headley

NYY

$2.74

$10.28

642

74

11

62

0

.259

Martin Prado

MIA

$0.54

$11.82

551

52

9

63

1

.288

Lonnie Chisenhall

CLE

$-6.89

$5.74

362

38

7

44

4

.246

Yunel Escobar

LAA

$6.67

$15.87

591

75

9

56

2

.314

Derek Dietrich

MIA

$-10.89

$3.22

289

38

10

24

0

.256

Adonis Garcia

ATL

$-14.02

$1.51

198

20

10

26

0

.278

David Freese

FA

$-1.03

$7.72

470

53

14

56

1

.257

These aren’t good options, and I don’t have much to say about them. If you need power, gamble with Dietrich or Garcia. If you need average, Prado or Escobar. If you need someone who will get consistent playing time, Headley is probably your best bet. Don’t draft Lonnie Chisenhall, if you can help it. We don’t even know if David Freese will have a job in 2016.

One-Star Value Pick: Adonis Garcia
I kinda hate all of these fantasy options, so I’ll take the dude who hit 10 homers in under 200 plate appearances. Of course, he’s a 30-year-old journeyman and may not even be the everyday guy at third base. So, yeah, it’s far from ideal. But if you’re scrambling for a starter at this point, you’re either in a stupid league or you’ve done something terribly wrong.

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preciseja
2/02
Does Anthony Rendon not qualify for third base this year?
jimmyb1799
2/02
He was included in the second base rankings this year.
preciseja
2/02
Definitely missed that thanks.
GTesters122125
2/02
What about Sano? Is he being bundled in the "DH" category?
jgergeni
2/02
I, too, am curious about this. Sano has 3B eligility in Yahoo.
mattstupp
2/02
I'll "third" that. Sano has 3B (and soon will likely have OF) eligibility in Yahoo.
jimmyb1799
2/02
Sano should have 3B eligibility, for sure, but within the constraints of this ranking series, he's considered a 1B/DH and was featured on that list.
TeamPineTar
2/02
My unquantified impression is that there is probably no player about whom commentary across the websites/experts world is more mixed than Matt Duffy. One can read that the breakout was legit, that it was a mirage, and everything between. There is some "turning of the wheel" of aging and change here, too, but I'm stunned to see Duffy in a tier with Longoria and Beltre. Any Duffy owners or people who have delved into his value care to comment? Thanks, everyone.
jfranco77
2/02
That was really shocking to me as well. Then again ADP data seems to support it (big 4, then frazier/seager/carpenter, then beltre/franco, then 15ish picks to duffy and longoria, then another 15ish picks to Moustakas.
sldetckl16
2/02
I'm in a H2H points league (gasp! a different format!) and owned Duffy - Duffy came in at 350 last year while Beltre was 405 (412 in '14), Moose was at 394, and Longoria was 337 (364 in '14). Duffy was reliably consistent with his output, especially in the second half, so while I couldn't count on 30 point explosions, he was a steady contributor week to week. To the degree Duffy is listed as the 'last' of the third tier, I could possibly buy in, only because there does seem to be a legitimate drop-off in production to the next tier. I might just prefer that Beltre is pushed up a tier and all would be right in the world...
evaldi
2/02
"But if you’re scrambling for a starter at this point, you’re either in a stupid league or you’ve done something terribly wrong." - or you are in a deep AL or NL only league and have committed auction $ or draft picks to other roster spots.
bhalpern
2/03
Regarding Pablo's luck, he hit GB both at significantly higher rate and hit them softly at a notable higher rate. I'm not sure that's luck. Not saying he can't turn that around but it (and he) looks like a little more than a sample size problem.