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Third base was a pretty good place to spend your auction dollars in 2016. The two guys who went for $30+ earned $30+, and most of the rest of the ten most expensive players at the hot corner earned roughly as much as their price tag suggested they would.

Let’s take a look at the 10 most expensive third basemen at auction in 2016 in NL-Only leagues:

Table 1: 10 Most Expensive* NL Third Basemen, 2016

Rank

Player

$

Price

+/-

1

Nolan Arenado

$33

$35

-2

2

Kris Bryant

$32

$33

-1

3

Anthony Rendon

$22

$23

-1

4

Maikel Franco

$16

$23

-7

5

Jung Ho Kang

$13

$16

-3

6

Justin Turner

$22

$15

6

7

Yangervis Solarte

$15

$14

2

8

Eugenio Suarez

$17

$12

5

9

David Wright

$4

$12

-9

10

Jhonny Peralta

$6

$11

-5

Average

$18

$20

-1

*Position eligibility in Table 1 is determined based on preseason eligibility. In addition, the figures in Table 1 are rounded to the nearest whole number. Expanded to two decimal points, the average earnings ($) were 18.11, the average price was 19.60 and the +/- was -1.49.

Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant lived up to their preseason prices, returning $30+ in value even if they technically earned a buck or two less than their salaries. Getting $30+ in stats from your $30+ players is what matters. If that happens, you’ll be in great shape. Arenado and Bryant should go for $30+ easily again this year and they’ll be worth it. Both are still only 25, although the Colorado stud will turn 26 in April. They’re both in their primes and could even improve and they both bat in the middle of power-packed lineups in hitting-friendly environments. Their lines were incredibly close last year, separated by two home runs, five runs and two points of batting average with single-digit stolen base totals. The big separator was RBI, where Arenado bested Bryant by 31, 133 to 102. And for what it’s worth, Bryant had the edge in steals, eight to two, narrowing the earnings gap created in the RBI category without quite eliminating it.

The position doesn’t exactly fall off a cliff after the two big boys, but there’s certainly a noticeable gap. And the third-highest earner at the hot corner was a big surprise.

Take a look at NL third basemen ranked by 2016 earnings:

Table 2: Top 10 NL Third Basemen, 2016

Rank

Player

$

Price

+/-

1

Nolan Arenado

$33

$35

-2

2

Kris Bryant

$32

$33

-1

3

Hernan Perez

$22

4

Anthony Rendon

$22

$23

-1

5

Justin Turner

$22

$15

6

6

Jake Lamb

$19

$11

8

7

Martin Prado

$19

$8

11

8

Eugenio Suarez

$17

$12

5

9

Maikel Franco

$16

$23

-7

10

Yangervis Solarte

$15

$14

2

Average

$22

$19

2

*The figures in Table 2 are rounded to the nearest whole number. Expanded to two decimal points, the average earnings ($) were 21.92 across all ten players. For the nine players purchased at auction, the average price was 19.48 and the +/- was 2.38.

The most unexpected name here is Hernan Perez, who went undrafted but ended up earning $22 in 2016 by hitting .272 with 13 home runs, 50 runs, 56 RBI and 34 stolen bases in 430 plate appearances for the Brewers after several nondescript seasons in the Tigers organization. Most of his value came from his contributions in the steals category, although the 13 homers were a welcome bonus for the owners who picked him up during the season. He isn’t a great bet to repeat his success from last year considering that he never stole as many bases or hit as many homers in any of his minor league seasons. He also isn’t guaranteed to be an everyday starter after the acquisition of Travis Shaw from Boston earlier this offseason.

Maikel Franco was a bit of a disappointment, posting a .255/.306/.427 line across 630 plate appearances with 25 HR, 88 RBI, 67 runs and one stolen base. That’s not bad for a player in their age-23 season playing a full slate of games in the majors for the first time in their career. However, it’s not quite as good as a lot of people expected heading into the 2016 season given his prospect pedigree. Still headed towards his physical prime rather than heading away from it, Franco looks like someone who could consolidate the lessons he learned during the 2016 season and take a step forward. You shouldn’t buy him at a price that reflects a significant step forward, but you should be willing to take your 2017 bid a couple of bucks past his 2016 earnings figure.

In Los Angeles, Justin Turner turned in another solid season and earned a mild profit in the process. As my colleagues Mike Gianella, Bret Sayre and George Bissell noted in episode 117 of Flags Fly Forever, Turner is the kind of boring, unspectacular player who usually comes at a slight bargain on auction day. He’ll be 32 years old for the 2017 season, but he has been pretty consistent with the Dodgers over the last few years and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down any time soon.

One of these years, Anthony Rendon is going to turn in a massive season. It feels like he will, anyway. His production was well rounded in 2016 – it was his second season with 20+ home runs, 10+ stolen bases and a .270+ average in the last three years. He turns 27 in June, so if he’s going to have that monster season at some point, 2017 is as good a bet as any year. He also carries some injury risk, however, giving him a wider set of error bars than most of the players on this list.

Here are a few lower tier options at third base in NL-only leagues that are worth investigating as long as they stay inexpensive.

Adonis Garcia – Braves (2016 NL-only earnings: $15)

Adonis Garcia could return to obscurity as quickly as he emerged from it. Playing his first major league season at age 30, Garcia earned $15 by hitting .273 with 14 home runs, 65 runs, 65 RBI and three steals. There are a lot of scenarios in which Garcia loses playing time while the rebuilding Braves put pieces in place for 2018 and beyond while there aren’t many scenarios in which he holds on to a starting position all year. Someone in your league will probably pay for Garcia as if he’ll repeat his 2016 performance in 2017. Don’t be that someone.

Jhonny Peralta – Cardinals ($6)
A thumb injury early in the season cost Jhonny Peralta half the season and his starting spot at shortstop. The emergence of Aledmys Diaz means that the 34-year-old won’t be returning to shortstop any time soon. To start the 2017 season, Peralta will likely be splitting time with Jedd Gyorko at third base while Kolten Wong plays second base. However, given Wong’s struggles last year and the surplus of infielders on the roster, the situation could turn into one where three players rotate between two positions in St. Louis. If Peralta gets off to a strong start and stays healthy, he could get a starter’s share of playing time. His struggles in 2016 will probably keep his price low at auction this spring, making him a potential bargain, albeit a fairly unexciting one.

Brandon Drury – Diamondbacks ($14)
2017 will probably be the last year that Brandon Drury is eligible as a third baseman in roto since Jake Lamb established himself at the position last season in Arizona. Drury is the frontrunner for the starting job at second base with the Diamondbacks, but he’ll need to beat out some combination of Ketel Marte, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed for the job. Even if he doesn’t have a full-time gig on Opening Day, he’s a decent bet to get plenty of plate appearances after hitting .282/.329/.458 with 16 home runs in 499 plate appearances.

Conor Gillaspie – Giants ($5)
He’s no great shakes but his .262/.307/.440 line isn’t bad for a part-time player. He doesn’t have an everyday job heading into the 2017 season with the Giants, but the guy ahead of him on the depth chart at third base, Eduardo Nunez, is coming off a year in which he significantly outperformed his career numbers. If Nunez reverts to the form he showed prior to 2016 and loses playing time, Gillaspie could be the beneficiary.

David Wright – Mets ($4)
The Mets stalwart played less than 40 games for the second consecutive season due to serious back and neck problems. Even in the best-case scenario, Wright won’t play more than 130 games, and he’ll probably play significantly fewer than that. Don’t pay much for Wright since he’s about as big a health risk as there is among position players, but you could do a lot worse for $1 in the endgame portion of your auction at a corner infield spot since he could get 80-100 games hitting in the middle of a good lineup over the course of the season.