It’s officially February, which means you have some important decisions to make. If you don’t have a dinner reservation for Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to get on that. More importantly, it’s time to figure out who you’re going to target for third base in fantasy baseball this season. The position has a lot of nice options in the top two tiers, and if you draft the right player he can be an anchor in your lineup.
If you’re in an OBP or points league, then there’s extra value to be found from a select group at the position. Who should you be giving a little extra attention? That’s the question we’ll try and answer in this week’s Adjuster.
Collectively, third baseman hit .264/.331/.442 a season ago. As George Bissell mentioned in his “State of the Position,” third base offered more power production than any position outside of first last year. Third basemen ran an 8.3 percent walk rate last season, which is right in line with the league rate of 8.2 percent. Don’t let that fool you though. There are a few players who could supply some nice additional value thanks to their on-base skills in this format.
Josh Donaldson, TOR – If you owned Josh Donaldson last season, you were thrilled with his production. If you owned Josh Donaldson in an OBP league you might have been tempted to name your child after him. Donaldson added eight dollars of additional value in OBP leagues. For context, Kris Bryant came in second at the position with just under four dollars of additional value. It’s unlikely he’ll replicate his .404 OBP from a year ago, but if his walk rate jump holds it’s possible. Depending on his spot in the new look Toronto lineup, you could see some shifts in his counting stats. In OBP leagues, he’s probably the best at the position. Standard: Five Stars, OBP: Best 3B available
Kyle Seager, SEA – Maybe you’re not looking to make the kind of investment required to acquire Donaldson. If that’s the case, you might want to give some extra attention to Kyle Seager. He’s as dependable as they come in fantasy, and he’s regularly undervalued. If you play in an OBP format, his production is even more desirable. He had a career high OBP in 2016 which was fueled by his walk rate finally bumping above 10 percent. If it holds, he’s a top-five player at the position. Standard: Four Stars, OBP High-Four Stars
Miguel Sano, MIN – Sano’s power makes him an enticing option, but owners know there are some drawbacks to his game. Over the past two seasons, his strikeout rate has stayed north of 35 percent. That reality will suppress his batting average in a standard league, but those in OBP formats find a little more relief. A double-digit walk rate will help prop up his OBP. He won’t give you great production in the category, but it will hurt less than his average will in standard leagues. Standard: Two Stars, OBP: Three Stars
Jung Ho Kang, PIT – Kang finished 2016 with essentially the same OBP he accumulated in the 2015 season. However, he accomplished this with declines to his batting average and BABIP. However, Kang’s walk rate did increase to 9.7 percent (up from 6 percent). All three of these categories will likely move a little closer back to what you’d expect this season. Only Donaldson and Bryant accumulated more additional value by a change to this format last year. Standard: Two Stars, OBP: Low-Three Stars
Others: Kris Bryant finished second in OBP by a third baseman in 2016. The fact that he did that with a dip in his BABIP points to good things for him in the format. Todd Frazier’s OBP wasn’t great. Yet, it wasn’t nearly as bad as his batting average. There are plenty of warning signs about his trajectory, but you’ll lose a little less value drafting him in OBP leagues. For the second straight season, Anthony Rendon reached a 10 percent walk rate. Even with the worst BABIP of his career he posted a .348 OBP. He’s a pretty safe bet to provide some additional value here.
Evan Longoria, TAM – Longoria lost the second most value of any player in our tiered rankings when shifting from standard to OBP. Not only that, but there isn’t another player at or above his tier within nine spots of him by value lost. If you’re set on grabbing a third baseman from the five or four-star tier, steer clear of Longoria in this format. His walk rate has declined for five straight seasons, and it now sits at an unappealing 6.1 percent. Standard: Four Stars, OBP: Three Stars
Maikel Franco, PHI – If you didn’t pay much attention to Franco last season, you might see his .255 batting average and assume he’d be more valuable in OBP formats. That assumption would be incorrect. Franco’s walk rate, BABIP, and batting average all took steps back in 2016. If he can gain ground in those areas his OBP won’t be as bad, but there are safer options in his tier. Standard: Three Stars, OBP: Two Stars
Hernan Perez, MIL – The 2016 fantasy season gave us several surprises. Hernan Perez’s production was one of them. Perez accumulated the sixth most value of any player at the position. However, owners in OBP formats received a little less value last year. Perez’s 4.2 percent walk rate will suppress his OBP. You might be willing to take a chance on him this season, just know he comes with some additional baggage in this format. Standard: Two Stars, OBP: One Star
Ryon Healy, OAK – Healy appeared in just 72 games last season, but he’s in line to be the A’s starter at third in 2017. There are a few factors that make him a little less valuable in this format. He has the potential to hit for a relatively high average, and he displayed a 4.2 percent walk rate in 2016. Those factors taken together mean you should look elsewhere for added value in OBP leagues. Standard: Two Stars: OBP: One Star
Others: Jose Ramirez had a breakout season in 2016, and it’s fair to wonder if he can do it again. An uncharacteristically high batting average and BABIP drove up his OBP. Don’t expect him to get on base at a .363 clip again, especially considering his walk rate. Prior to last season, Nick Castellanos never had an OBP above .306. Gains in batting average and BABIP made his OBP respectable, but don’t expect a repeat performance of last season. Martin Prado’s batting average is consistently high enough that it eliminates the hope of additional value in OBP leagues.
If you’re in a points league, then there are several options at third base that could return some nice additional value. Of the primary power positions in your lineup (1B, 3B, and OF), third basemen ran the only strikeout rate under 20 percent (19.9 percent) a year ago. There’s a lot of power potential in the top tiers, and several of those players won’t crush you with an elevated whiff rate.
Nolan Arenado, COL – What Josh Donaldson is in OBP formats, Arenado is in points leagues. He finished top three at the position in HR, RBI, and R. He also finished top 10 in doubles with 35. Take that production, mix it in with a 14.8 percent strikeout rate, and…you’ve got a stew going. Standard: Five Stars, Points: Best at the position
Adrian Beltre, TEX – Don’t tell Adrian Beltre about aging curves. Six of his seven best offensive seasons have come since his 30th birthday. Beltre was my “third baseman to target” earlier this week, and that’s especially true in points formats. His 10.3 percent strikeout rate was third best at the position, and it’s the second straight year he’s kept it under 11 percent. He’s going to give you solid production, and give back fewer points than almost anyone else at third. Standard: Four Starts, Points: High-Four Stars/Low-Five Stars
Jose Ramirez, CLE – The concerns you should have about Ramirez in an OBP league dissipate in a points league. Even if Ramirez doesn’t duplicate his production from a season ago, he’s shown an ability to keep his whiff rate under 15 percent. In fact, it was a career best 10 percent in 2016. Even if he doesn’t give you quite as much positive value, he’s not going to be a significant drain on your total. Also, Ramirez’s 46 doubles were best at the position. Standard: Three Stars, Points: Four Stars
Mike Moustakas, KC – Moustakas’ season only lasted 27 games last year thanks to a torn ACL. It’s fair to be cautious until you see what he looks like post-injury, but he’s worth an additional look in this format. In 2015 he was top 10 at the position in home runs and doubles. His strikeout rate has declined in four straight seasons, and in three of those four it’s been below 15 percent. The potential for 20+ home runs, and an above average whiff rate makes him a nice option in this format. Standard: Three Stars, Points: Low-Four Stars
Others: Kyle Seager is worth an additional look in this format. He finished inside the top 10 at the position for strikeout rate, and he racked up a 10 percent extra base hit rate. That’s a pretty safe play in points formats. Justin Turner also produced a 10 percent extra base hit rate, and he finished the season with 34 doubles (11th best at the position). His whiff rate was a little higher than Seager’s, but not much. Yangervis Solarte might not give you the counting stats others at the position will, but his 14.2 percent strikeout rate makes him a safe play. His whiff rate did climb last season, so it’s something to keep an eye on early.
Kris Bryant, CHC – Kris Bryant accomplished a lot in 2016. He was the second most valuable third baseman by dollar values. He got married. He did some modeling for Express. Oh, he also racked up a strikeout rate above 20 percent for the second straight season. Admittedly, it was down from the 30.6 percent rate he earned as a rookie, but it’s still considerably higher than anyone else in his tier. Bryant is the only third baseman in the five- or four-star tiers to fall into the bottom 10 of whiff rate. There’s a chance it improves again, but if it doesn’t he’s giving a considerable amount of value back. Standard: Five Stars, Points: High-Four Stars
Todd Frazier, CHW – You’re probably not surprised to see Todd Frazier getting “arrows down” for the second time in the same article. Yes, he finished second in home runs at third base. However, there are a few warnings signs pointing to that being on the decline. His 21 doubles aren’t anything to write home about, and his whiff rate rose to 24.5 percent. If the home runs drop, his rising swing and miss numbers hurt even more. Only Frazier and Eugenio Suarez finished in the bottom five by strikeout rate, and failed to have an extra base hit rate over 10 percent. Standard: Three Stars, Points: Two Stars
Miguel Sano, MIN – In the time it took you to read this sentence, Miguel Sano probably struck out again. He had the seventh worst strikeout rate in the league (36 percent) among all major-league hitters with at least 100 PA. The counting stats just aren’t high enough to justify how much value you stand to lose with this many strikeouts. Standard: Two Stars, Points: High-One Star
Eugenio Suarez, CIN – It’s unlikely the Reds will call up Nick Senzel this season, so Suarez should see most of the playing time at third. He did hit over 20 home runs for the first time in his career in 2016 which is a plus. However, he also struck out 24.7 percent of the time. Suarez had the worst extra base hit rate at the position among the bottom five in strikeout rate. Standard: Two Stars, Points: One Star
Others: Jake Lamb had the worst strikeout rate among third baseman not named Miguel Sano. His 12 percent extra base hit rate is nice, but you’ll have to decide if he loses too much value. Alex Bregman is deservedly getting a lot of buzz heading in to 2017, but owners in points leagues should know he’s bringing an above average strikeout rate with him. Jung Ho Kang and Danny Valencia are safe bets to cost you some additional points in this format.