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The hot stove might be colder than ever, but the hot corner remains one of the hottest positions in fantasy baseball. The top three men below are all worth first round or early second round picks, and two more behind them shouldn’t drop past the first 25 picks. Follow them up with some buzz-worthy young stars, and this third base position starts to look like the cool kids’ table in the cafeteria.
There might be plenty of depth here, but if you want to grab one of the top-eight studs, you’re going to need to use a top-50 pick. One that has been going later than that so far in drafts is Rafael Devers. But with how talented he is, expect his ADP to creep higher and higher as we get closer to Opening Day.
* Player notes below rankings table.
Early 2018 Rankings
Third Base Player Notes
#1 Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
There haven’t been many better offensive threats than Nolan Arenado over the past three seasons. All he’s done in that stretch is hit .297 with 40 home runs, 131 RBI, and 104 runs per season. Sure, he plays half of his games at hitter’s haven Coors Field, but Arenado still had an OPS of .886 on the road last season. He could play 100% of his games on the road and still be no lower than second in these rankings.
He’s not a threat on the bases, but who cares? This is as good of a four-category stud as you can find in the first round. Don’t let Arenado slip past the top five picks.
#2 Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
A line of .295-29-73-111-7 would be an incredible season for most players in the majors. However, Kris Bryant isn’t most players. In a four-year stretch, he won the Golden Spikes Award (best collegiate player), Minor League Player of the Year, National League Rookie of the Year, and National League MVP, plus a World Series ring. At that rate, he is going to win the 2020 Presidential election in a landslide.
We crammed all 100 of Kris Bryant's home runs (94 regular season, 6 postseason) into an 82-second video. Enjoy!
— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) January 4, 2018
The power might have been down, but there were still some positives to take away from last season. His advanced metrics show that he’s making more contact on pitches both outside and inside the strike zone, and he’s also not chasing as many pitches, as evident by the 2.7% drop in his O-Swing percentage last season. Coming into the league, his contact rate was being questioned, not his power. Bryant is a big, powerful slugger who should have no issue climbing back up near 40 home runs in 2018.
#3 Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
On the surface, last season might appear to be a down season for the superstar third baseman. And if you compare it to Machado’s previous two seasons, it was to a degree. However, if you look at his numbers in the second half of the season, there’s plenty of hope that Machado can bounce back in 2018. After hitting just .230 with a .741 OPS in the first half, Machado was back to his old ways in the second half with a .290 average and .826 OPS.
Machado has a very similar skillset to Arenado; he’s just not quite on the same level as the Rockies’ wonderkid. Machado’s 2017 struggles likely will cause him to slip out of the first round in 2018 drafts, but be ready to pounce in the second round. This is still one of the best fantasy assets in the game and a top-three option at the third base position.
#4 Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
From my second base rankings:
“For the second straight season, Ramirez hit over .310 and increased his counting stats almost across the board. With the exception of stolen bases, Ramirez set career-highs in home runs (29), RBI (83), runs (107), doubles (56), hits (186), and in every percentage in his triple slash line. The Indians lost Carlos Santana to free agency, but Ramirez will still have plenty of talent hitting around him. The added eligibility of third base is just the cherry on top. He shouldn’t fall far past the second round in 2018 drafts.”
#5 Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
Injuries limited Donaldson to just 415 at-bats in 2017, and the results, while good, were below expectations. His OPS was right on par with the last two seasons, but his average dropped for the second straight year and he was on pace for only 85 runs after scoring 122 runs in both 2015 and 2016.
You can’t really blame him for the drop in runs, though. Edwin Encarnacion left for Cleveland and Jose Bautista has gone from fantasy gem to fantasy junk lately. Like with Machado, Donaldson got better after the season went on, and all signs point to a bounce-back season in 2018. He’ll likely drop in 2018 drafts to the point that he’s a good value pick in the third round.
#6 Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
From my shortstop rankings:
“The overall stat line, while good, doesn’t jump out at you. However, what does stand out is how much better he got as the season progressed.
- 1st Half: 8 HR, 27 RBI, 40 R, 8 SB, .256/.338/.419/.757
- 2nd Half: 11 HR, 44 RBI, 48 R, 9 SB, .315/.367/.536/.903
Don’t let his small stature fool you, either. There’s 30 home run power in his bat to go along with a solid batting average. When you look at his splits above, the second half splits are more indicative of Bregman’s skills. His 85.7% contact rate was top-10 in MLB, so assuming he doesn’t run into some bad batted ball luck, Bregman should eclipse .300 next season. A .300+ average with 25 home runs and 20 steals in 2018 seems very attainable. Plus, runs and RBI will be bountiful hitting high in Houston’s dangerous lineup.”
For more on Bregman, check out Keith Farnsworth’s 2018 player profile.
#7 Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
After missing a lot of time early in his career to injuries, Rendon has managed to stay on the field for an average of 151.5 games per season over the last two years. In 2017, Rendon hit over 20 home runs and topped both 80 RBI and 80 runs scored for the third time in four seasons.
The biggest difference in 2017 was that Rendon became a better overall hitter. His BB% and ISO went up, K% went down, and Rendon’s selectiveness at the plate took a big step forward, as well. His O-Swing% dropped from 27.8% to 23.3%, and his Z-Contact% rose from 86.9% to 92.3%. All of that helped Rendon hit over .300 for the first time in his career. If he can maintain those improvements this season, Rendon could knock on the door of the top five at the third base position when 2018 concludes.
#8 Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
As a Red Sox fan, I had the opportunity to watch Rafael Devers hit on a daily basis last season on TV, as well as in-person during his time with Double-A Portland. The one saying I’ve said aloud more than once is, “Man, can this kid hit!” After mashing 20 home runs in 322 at-bats in the minors to start 2017, the Red Sox called him up in late-July. The 20-year-old Dominican native sure didn’t disappoint, either. In 222 at-bats, Devers hit .284 with 10 homers, 30 RBI, and 34 runs scored. Before I continue, enjoy an opposite-field blast from Devers on a 102.8 mph heater from Aroldis Chapman.
— Cut4 (@Cut4) November 29, 2017
I was watching this game on TV and quite possibly yelled loud enough to wake up my children when this happened.
The calling card for Devers has always been his plus raw power. Right field in Fenway Park has played tough on left-handed power, but Devers shouldn’t have any problems muscling up for 30+ bombs in 2018. He might only be 21, but Devers is already a top-10 fantasy third baseman. There’s a lot to be excited about here.
#9 Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
Owning Turner might not be as fun and exciting as owning young rising stars like Bregman or Devers, but he’s been one of the most consistently solid options at the third base position over the last couple of seasons. Turner’s average rose almost 50 points from .275 to .322 in 2017, but his BABIP wasn’t overly high, so he wasn’t getting lucky. What Turner did do was improve his pitch selectiveness and contact rates across the board, including making less soft contact and more hard contact.
#10 Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
When I originally started compiling this list, Miguel Sano was a couple of spots higher. However, recent allegations of sexual misconduct have put a massive black cloud over his 2018 fantasy value. Sano did vehemently deny these allegations right off the bat, so we’ll have to play the waiting game to see how long he gets suspended for this, if even at all.
When Sano is on the field, he’s one of the best power bats in the game. However, he’s yet to stay on the field for more than 116 games and has totalled just 230 games played and 861 at-bats combined over the last two seasons. All of the third basemen directly behind him have concerns of their own, so Sano’s upside keeps him in the top-10. There’s a lot of talent here, but drafting Sano could blow up in your face for a number of reasons. It’s probably best to let someone else worry about that.
#11 Mike Moustakas, Free Agent
Up here in Maine, we’re very familiar with Moose and the damage they can cause. However, I don’t think many envisioned Kansas City’s “Moose” blasting 38 dingers last season. How much of that was legitimate and how much was due to the alleged juiced ball of 2017? Hard to tell. What we can tell is that Moustakas’ home run, RBI, and runs scored numbers last season were all career highs. Can he do it again? Even if he can, his 75 runs and 85 RBI weren’t that special with offense on the rise across MLB. Moustakas is a fine player to own, but his lower upside makes him more of a corner infield option than your starter at third base.
#12 Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks
You know what you’re getting with this piece of lamb chop. Lamb has been remarkably consistent the last two years:
2016 (523 AB): 29 HR, 31 2B, 91 RBI, 81 R, 6 SB .249/.332/.509/.840
2017 (536 AB): 30 HR, 30 2B, 105 RBI, 89 R, 6 SB .248/.357/.487/.844
Hitting right behind Paul Goldschmidt is a nice way to keep your RBI totals high, and that’s exactly where Lamb will be again in 2018.
#13 Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers
All he needed was a change of scenery and a switch to the National League. Shaw’s first year in the senior circuit was quite productive for the 27-year-old third baseman from Ohio. He slashed .273/.349/.513/.862 with 31 home runs, 101 RBI, 84 runs, and 10 stolen bases. Every single number I just mentioned was a career-high for Shaw. He showed some decent pop in the minors, so these 31 homers shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. There’s not a high ceiling here, but Shaw makes for a nice corner infielder or utility player on fantasy rosters.
#14 Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Old man Beltre isn’t riding off into the sunset quite yet. We get at least one more year of teammates pissing him off by touching his head, hilarious death stares at Elvis Andrus on the infield, and my personal favorite, home runs off one knee. It’s hard not to like Beltre. Last year, Beltre was limited to 340 at-bats after recording at least 549 in each of the previous five seasons. If you extrapolate his numbers out to the 583 at-bats he got in 2016, he would’ve had 29 home runs, 121 RBI, and 80 runs scored. Don’t overlook Beltre on draft day. He’s still a fine fantasy third baseman and someone worth starting at corner infield or utility.
#15 Nicholas Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
It’s about damn time, Nick. We’ve been waiting for this type of production for the last few seasons, and Castellanos finally came through in 2017. His 2016 numbers hinted at a breakout when he slugged 18 home runs in just 411, leading into his 26 home run performance last year. His uptick in power can directly be related to the rise in his ISO and a much-improved HR/RB rate. Still just 26 years old for the 2018 season, another step forward could lead to Castellanos’ first 30 home run season.
For more on Castellanos, check out Keith Farnsworth’s 2018 player profile.
#16 Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners
You’d be hard-pressed to find many more consistent AL sluggers than Seager over the last six seasons. In that timeframe, he’s hit between .249 and .278 each season along with 20-30 home runs, 69-99 RBI, and 62-89 runs. There are no anomaly seasons or stats here, just consistent production. Notice how I didn’t say consistently GREAT production. The older Seager brother is a good, but not great, fantasy asset and a fine choice as your corner infielder or one of your utility starters.
#17 Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
I’m torn here. Part of me thinks that Joey Gallo is Adam Dunn 2.0 and the batting average, while subpar, won’t make you want to rip your hair out every year like it did in 2017. On the other hand, another part of me wants to dub him the second coming of Chris Carter. In 2017, he was on the Carter end of the spectrum. The 41 dingers were great, but the .209 average and 36.8% K rate are enough to give even the toughest human being nightmares.
To put that K% in perspective, the old-school and new-school kings of the strikeout, Reggie Jackson and Mark Reynolds, had a career-high K% of 30.6% and 35.4%, respectively. One of these days, Gallo is going to break Reynolds’ record of 223 punchouts in a season. If you’re considering drafting Gallo, you need to ask yourself one question. Do you feel lucky?
#18 Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
From my first base rankings:
“This ranking might seem a tad low, but I’ve never been excited about Matt Carpenter. Outside of runs, everything about his fantasy profile screams “okay.” Not good, just okay. He usually settles in around .270 with 20-25 home runs and 65-85 RBIs Again. Those are okay stats, but not worth using as much more than a utility starter or bench piece.”
#19 Evan Longoria, San Francisco Giants
He might not be a top-five third base option anymore, but Longoria is settling in as a solid mid-round fantasy hitter. Over the past five seasons, Longoria has managed to shake the injury demons that haunted him early in his career, playing in at least 156 games each season since 2013. His numbers have been consistent over the last five seasons as well, with over 20 home runs, 70 RBI, and 70 runs every season. There aren’t many safer options in the middle rounds.
For more on the deal that sent Longoria to the Giants, check out Jeff Zimmerman’s trade breakdown.
#20 Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals
“The 25 home runs DeJong hit in 417 at-bats last season shouldn’t come as a surprise. During his minor league career, he hit 44 homers in 929 at-bats. With Aledmys Diaz now out of the picture, shortstop in St. Louis is DeJong’s for 2018. He’s not much of a speedster, but has .275-30-80-80 potential, which makes him a solid selection to fill your middle infield or utility slots.”
#21 Eduardo Nunez, Free Agent
“It’s remarkable what going from a pitcher’s park to a hitter’s park can do to a player’s fantasy value. If it weren’t for the different body type, ethnicity, and 92-year gap in birth year, you would’ve mistaken Eduardo Nunez for Babe Ruth for the first few weeks after his trade to the Boston Red Sox. His 2018 value largely hinges on if he signs with a team that wants to make him their starter at second or third base. If that does happen, bump him up a few spots.”
#22 Ryon Healy, Seattle Mariners
One might think that getting out of Oakland’s spacious confines would help Healy, but oddly enough, his home/road splits strongly lean to the home side. For his career, Healy has an OPS of .832 at home and .748 on the road, including a lowly .629 OPS at Safeco Field, his new home ballpark. He’s a fine choice in the later rounds, but the upside here isn’t great.
For more on the trade that sent Healy to Seattle, check out Jeff Zimmerman’s trade breakdown.
#23 Todd Frazier, Free Agent
What happened to your batting average, Todd? I don’t know about you, but I prefer 2014-2015 Frazier much more than 2016-2017 Frazier. The power has remained consistent, but his average has dropped into the low-.200s the last two seasons, which has really limited his fantasy value. A return to the Yankees would be the best thing for his fantasy value right now, as he needs all the power he can get to offset the expected paltry batting average.
#24 Zack Cozart, Los Angeles Angels
I broke down Cozart’s 2018 fantasy value when he signed with the Angels.
#25 Scooter Gennett, Cincinnati Reds
From my second base rankings:
“Warning: regression ahead. Potentially severe. Gennett’s 2017 resurgence made him one of the waiver wire gems of the season, but I’m not buying it. He barely hit more fly balls than he did in 2016, but his HR/FB rate nearly doubled from 10.5% to 20.8%. Regression and a drop in value appear likely here.”
For more on Gennett, check out Anthony Franco’s 2018 player profile.
Other Players to Watch
#28 Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies
The hype train on Maikel Franco was full steam ahead early in 2016 after his monstrous spring training. Now two years later, that train has run out of steam. Franco is merely an average hitter with so-so power, no speed, and a batting average that has dropped 25 points in two straight seasons. If you want to use a late-round flier on him, fine. But you can do better.
#29 Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics
Raise your hand if you like home runs. For all who raised their hands, Matt Chapman would like to have a word with you. Chapman slugged 30 home runs in only 472 combined at-bats between Triple-A and the majors last season after hitting 36 in 514 at-bats in 2016. The average has and likely will always stink, but Chapman appears to be the second coming of Mark Reynolds. Give him a look in the last of couple rounds if your team is lacking power.
#30 Jeimer Candelario, Detroit Tigers
With Bryant manning third, Candelario wasn’t going to be sniffing significant at-bats with the Cubs. Luckily for him, a trade to Detroit and Castellanos’ position change has opened up regular at-bats in 2018. The upside here isn’t great, but a solid approach at the plate should help him keep his average respectable to go along with 20-25 home run power.
#37 Christian Arroyo, Tampa Bay Rays
I can sum up Christian Arroyo with just the next sentence. He has a plus hit tool, minimal power or speed, and a starting job in Tampa Bay. That’s about it. He’s best left on the waiver wire to start the season.
#39 Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds
At third base, there are two elite prospects, and Nick Senzel is one of them. The other, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., likely won’t be up until 2019. Senzel, on the other hand, likely will be up sometime this summer. In his first full professional season in 2017, Senzel hit .321 with 14 home runs, 40 doubles, and 14 stolen bases in 455 combined at bats between high Single-A and Double-A. You won’t find many more polished hitters in the minors than Senzel, and his power/speed combination makes him worth a stash.
#40 Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees
If I could guarantee that Miguel Andujar would be a full-time regular this season, I’d bump him up about 12-15 spots in these rankings. However, it’s likely that the Yankees add a free agent bat at third base, which might end up being the return of Frazier. Keep an eye on Andujar throughout the off-season. If he’s a starter in 2018, he’s worth a late-round flier for his plus hit tool and blossoming power.
I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question that I didn’t cover here? Then follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there.