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

Welcome back to our five-star, positional ranking series. Today, we’ll look at third base.

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 will fetch mixed-league auction bids over $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and 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 a regurgitation of last year's values but rather offer insight into what we expect will happen in 2017.

Positional eligibility for the series is determined by 20 games or more at a position in the majors, with priority determined using the following order: catcher, shortstop, second base, third base, outfield, first base, and designated hitter. Designated hitters were ranked with first basemen. Players who played fewer than 20 games at a position in the majors are ranked at the position they played most frequently. Players who did not play in the majors in 2016 are ranked at the position they played most in the minors. Yulieski Gurriel is slated to play first base this year but played third base in 2016, so he is eligible at third base only. While it may seem safe to assume that Gurriel will eventually be first base-eligible, as the great Winston Churchill once said, “the future is unknowable.” Even though Churchill passed away 52 years ago, I am reluctant to tamper with his unassailable wisdom.

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 we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. 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

Kris Bryant

CHC

$32.15

$34.22

699

121

39

102

8

.292

Nolan Arenado

COL

$33.28

$34.68

696

116

41

133

2

.295

Josh Donaldson

TOR

$27.97

$31.09

700

122

37

99

7

.284

Statistically speaking, 2016 was nearly identical for these three studs in the traditional 5×5 roto categories, with all three contributing big numbers across the board except in steals. Despite stealing the fewest bases among the trio, Arenado won the earnings battle thanks to a significant RBI advantage. You can use ink to write in 30 home runs for all three of these guys, and a 40 home run season for any of them isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Even in today’s power-oriented game, these three are a cut above nearly every hitter in fantasy.

Five-Star Value Pick: Josh Donaldson
Putting value aside, I’d prefer Bryant or Arenado, but Donaldson is being taken seven picks behind Arenado and eight picks behind Bryant in early NFBC drafts and as 2016’s numbers show, the difference is negligible. Donaldson’s average was a little bit lower than Bryant and Arenado’s and the Blue Jays lineup is softer this year without Edwin Encarnacion, but Donaldson is still a legitimate first-round pick in any format. Donaldson did fade post All-Star, but there was nothing in his trendlines to indicate that this was anything more than small-sample noise.

FOUR STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Kyle Seager

SEA

$17.36

$23.45

676

89

30

99

3

.278

Evan Longoria

TB

$16.28

$22.44

685

81

36

98

0

.273

Anthony Rendon

WAS

$14.89

$23.19

647

91

20

85

12

.270

Adrian Beltre

TEX

$19.97

$25.02

640

89

32

104

1

.300

Justin Turner

LAD

$12.88

$21.61

622

79

27

90

4

.275

This is one of the steadiest, most reliable groupings we have seen in the four-star tier at third base in years. Where in the past there was some speculation and/or projection for growth, these hitters are all established commodities. While the raw numbers in this tier make it seem that some of these hitters should be five-star players, the boost in power has reduced the value of home runs dramatically.

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Kyle Seager 2016

SEA

$17.36

$23.45

676

89

30

99

3

.278

Kyle Seager 2015

SEA

$16.72

$21.97

686

85

26

74

6

.267

Just as the five-star tier offers categorical consistency from player to player, the four-star tier does as well, with the exceptions of Rendon’s speed and Beltre’s batting average. It is fair to wonder how sustainable some of these performances are going forward. Longoria’s 36 home runs came off the heels of a 21 home run season in 2015 and a 22 home run year in 2014. Beltre saw a similar bump in power, swatting 32 home runs after two seasons where he combined for 37 dingers. Rendon was solid and managed to stay on the field for an entire year, but we are still waiting for two consistent seasons in a row from the Nationals’ third-sacker. These players would all be fine additions to your fantasy squad, but are clear downgrades from the big three.

Four-Star Value Pick: Justin Turner
Turner garnered more than 500 at-bats for the first time in the majors and proved he could stay healthy/on the field over the course of a full season. The 31-year-old former Oriole and Met posted the best ISO of his career, and held his own with the other high power options at third base. Turner does a little bit of everything and it is not difficult to imagine him bumping his batting average back up to the .290 range. Turner is being drafted well outside of the top 100 but could easily return sixth- or seventh-round value in a 15-team mixer.

THREE STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Todd Frazier

CHW

$19.83

$27.09

666

89

40

98

15

.225

Alex Bregman

HOU

($11.44)

$1.87

217

31

8

34

2

.264

Jose Ramirez

CLE

$18.83

$26.97

618

84

11

76

22

.312

Mike Moustakas

KC

($20.41)

($2.71)

113

12

7

13

0

.240

Maikel Franco

PHI

$7.15

$17.45

630

67

25

88

1

.255

Jake Lamb

ARI

$12.19

$21.13

594

81

29

91

6

.249

Nick Castellanos

DET

$0.01

$10.37

447

54

18

58

1

.285

Yulieski Gurriel

HOU

($20.18)

($2.43)

137

13

3

15

1

.262

After two “boring”/stable tiers, here is where the divergence comes where performance versus potential is concerned. Last year, Frazier was better than any of the third basemen in the four-star tier except for Beltre, but the swinging strike profile and a lack of confidence the sustainability of his stolen bases led to several staff votes to push him down into the three-star tier. On the positive side, Frazier is in a good power park and his average batted-ball distance remained static. If you can stomach the bad batting average, Frazier could be a viable target.

Ramirez and Lamb both had career years that came with wildly divergent stat lines. Always a good contact hitter, Ramirez got an opportunity to start and ran with it, compiling a 11 home run, 22 steals season that was in line with his career norms on an at bat by at bat basis. The batting average was somewhat BABIP driven, but even if Ramirez “only” hits .280, the power and speed are legitimate. Lamb nearly doubled his previous career high in home runs as a professional, even though his hard-hit and fly-ball rates didn’t jump significantly. He should be a solid contributor, but there is some risk in his batted-ball profile.

There are a few hitters in the three-star tier whose potential is somewhat masked by last year’s injuries or time spent in the minors. Six hundred plate appearances of Bregman’s 2016 would have made him comparable to Franco and Lamb. The draft market is paying for Bregman’s ceiling, though, as his ADP is 30 slots higher than Franco’s and 49 slots higher than Lamb’s. Castellanos took a big step forward last year, but his progress was masked by a broken bone in his left hand. He and Moustakas are being discounted somewhat due to their depressed numbers, but there is no reason not to believe they both can’t provide 20-25 home runs apiece.

Three-Star Value Pick: Yulieski Gurriel
Based solely on last year’s performance, an argument could be made to stick Gurriel in the one-star tier. I initially had Gurriel in the two-star tier, but many on our staff where vehement about moving him up. Bret Sayre calls Gurriel “the best hitter in Cuba of (his) generation” and notes that the transition year is always rough. Gurriel has 20+ home run power potential, and his home venue will help considerably. Gurriel has the potential to do what many of the hitters in this tier can but with a higher batting average, yet is being drafted considerably later. There is some risk, but Gurriel’s mid-200s ADP gives him plenty of room to be a significant bargain.

TWO STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Miguel Sano

MIN

$2.24

$10.79

495

57

25

66

1

.236

Ryon Healy

OAK

($7.23)

$4.40

283

36

13

37

0

.305

Yangervis Solarte

SD

$1.00

$12.41

443

55

15

71

1

.286

Eugenio Suarez

CIN

$8.24

$18.91

627

78

21

70

11

.248

Jurickson Profar

TEX

($14.16)

$0.52

307

35

5

20

2

.239

Trevor Plouffe

OAK

($7.34)

$4.41

344

35

12

47

1

.260

Martin Prado

MIA

$6.04

$16.26

658

70

8

75

2

.305

Jung-ho Kang

PIT

($1.27)

$10.78

370

45

21

62

3

.255

Yoan Moncada

CHW

($26.81)

($6.41)

20

3

0

1

0

.211

Hernan Perez

MIL

$9.70

$21.81

430

50

13

56

34

.272

The two-star tier is a mix of predictable, low-end, deep mixed league options and upside that is tied to playing time risk. The most significant risk in this tier belong to Kang. Based on performance alone, Kang belongs in the three-star tier, but not only is there risk of a suspension by MLB but the possibility of an indictment in South Korea for alleged DUI.

There is plenty of 20+ home run power potential in the two-star tier, with Healy and Plouffe having the greatest potential to join Sano and Suarez in the club this year. Perez offers a great deal of upside, but even with Perez’s gaudy 2016 line, it’s difficult to recommend him too highly based on playing time concerns. Perez’s TAv exposes his risk of losing playing time and becoming a part-timer in a surprisingly stacked/deep Brewers’ infield

Profar is yet another hitter who could have a better ranking based on talent alone but is difficult to recommend more highly than this based his 2016 numbers. Last year should be viewed as a consolidation season for a 23-year-old returning from a severe injury. It’s too soon to write Profar off completely as a lost cause. Prado is the boring quantity who will provide you with safe batting average, runs, and RBI in deep mixers. In shallower mixed leagues, you are better off playing the upside game with another hitter.

There has already been plenty of vigorous debate about Moncada’s true ability and potential, but in fantasy his speed will carry him if he is starting regardless of what does with the bat. He’s currently blocked in the White Sox infield, although some reports have the Sox moving Moncada to the outfield. The potential is undeniable, but the uncertainly of his situation and a disappointing major league line keep Moncada in this tier.

Two-Star Value Pick: Trevor Plouffe
Plouffe was on pace for another 20+ home run season before injuries cut him down and limited him to 84 games. Even so, Plouffe managed to hit 12 home runs in 344 plate appearances while keeping his batting average at an acceptable level. Plouffe is expected to be the Athletics regular third baseman and is being drafted like a longshot reserve pick in NFBC leagues. Plouffe could do most of what Suarez does minus the steals at a much cheaper cost.

ONE STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Brandon Drury

ARI

$1.63

$12.51

499

59

16

53

1

.282

Jhonny Peralta

STL

($11.32)

$3.41

313

37

8

29

0

.260

Jose Reyes

NYM

($7.38)

$6.43

279

45

8

24

9

.267

Pablo Sandoval

BOS

($27.77)

($6.97)

7

0

0

0

0

.000

There are plenty of options below these four players in the one-star tier who are all but guaranteed regular playing time, but the four hitters listed here are more about potential upside than steady, predictable performance. Reyes is behind the perpetually injured David Wright while Peralta could get a healthy amount of at bats at either third base (over Jedd Gyorko) second base (Kolten Wong) or both.

If you’re in a deeper league and must draft playing time, Drury is the guy you want, although there is some concern that Ketel Marte’s defense and potential will force him into the conversation in Arizona’s middle infield and force either Drury or Chris Owings out. Boston bent over backwards to clear space for Sandoval, and if you haven’t seen video of a healthy, in-shape Sandoval working out you haven’t been paying attention. He’s fine in this tier, but don’t get sucked in too far to the Panda hype. Even when he was healthy and productive, he was more of a 15-20 home run hitter than a 25-30 one.

One-Star Value Pick: Jose Reyes
Reyes is a Wright injury away from being a starter, which is to say that he’s one of the more reliable backups you can draft in fantasy. There is 15 home run and 15 steal potential if Reyes gets 500 plate appearances. Given the lack of speed at third base, drafting Reyes in the hopes of obtaining that kind of upside is worth the low-end gamble in mixed leagues. Reyes is also an injury risk himself, but while he’s on the field he will produce more value per at-bat than some of the two-star options will.