Early 2020 Third Base Preview: Rankings, Tiers And More
Welcome to the next installment of my early positional previews for the 2020 fantasy baseball season. We have made it through the catcher position as well as first and second base. Now we move on to our third base preview. Time flies when you’re having fun!
Yes, plenty will change, and players will be moving up and down this list as more information is provided and signings or trades occur. This list will be updated throughout the off-season. Until then, I will break down my top 30 third base rankings as they now stand. I will also provide tiers and discuss players individually. Lastly, I included the 2020 steamer projections as well! Let’s dive on in.
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Early 2020 Positional Preview: Third Base
Tier 1: The Elite
This tier highlights the clear-cut, elite options at the position. Third base as a whole offers a lot of solid options. It has talent at all levels of the position and it’s also stronger than most positions. With as deep and strong as the position may be as we enter into 2020, these two names stand out above the rest.
I have seen both Nolan Arenado and Alex Bregman taken at various points in the first round of early drafts. I can understand if you prefer Bregman, but I don’t see enough difference in their potential stats to put Bregman ahead of Arenado. Arenado is as safe as they come and although Bregman has the upside for a few more steals, it is not enough to sway me from putting Arenado in the number one spot at the position. At the end of the day, both are first-round picks and both are fantastic building blocks to build a fantasy team around.
Tier 2: The Next Best Thing
This tier offers three names that provide a great floor but also still provide a high ceiling for the third base position. I view these players very similar in value, but they are all typically taken in the second round.
Anthony Rendon is just a safe player and he’s just like Arenado but doesn’t offer the same ceiling. The floor is high and the production is steady. He is just the type of player you draft and know what you are getting.
These next two have a little less certainty. We have seen the downside and floor of Jose Ramirez. Even during the slump he still stole bases and that carried his value. We saw him finally come out of the slump around the midseason mark of 2019. He finished the year hurt but he flashed enough to make people still feel comfortable taking him in the second round of fantasy drafts. I am willing to bet he will be closer to what we expect than that slumping version we saw. Not to mention, the steals really carry value in the early rounds and it is why he edges out Rafael Devers in my ranks.
Rafael Devers broke out in 2019 and all the Devers truthers rejoiced while making a huge profit on his draft-day price. He raised his chase rate BUT he also raised his O-Contact rate in the process. My concern is if that contact rate dips, so could the batting average a bit. It is a minor concern but a concern nonetheless and it is why I have him 5th in the ranks. I feel more confident in the names I placed ahead of him.
Tier 3: High Upside
This is where third base really separates itself from other positions. This tier could have multiple players outperform their ADP and, at the same time, can be great cornerstones to any team. It is a win/win situation. I love this tier and aim for at least one of these players on every roster.
I admit I am a bit high on Eugenio Suarez. He has just been such a solid power producer over the last couple of seasons. I have a hard time not being aggressive on him. He still remains in a great park, the lineup around him should continue to improve and even with a sluggish start to 2019, he tore it up in the second half. I don’t expect over 40 home runs again but ultimately he feels like a solid and safe source of power production and someone you can count on.
Another player I am a bit higher on is Yoan Moncada. He was in the middle of the long-awaited breakout season. It was derailed slightly by injury, but ultimately offered a look into what’s to come. The metrics back it up as well. There is five-category upside here and not to mention he is also a part of an improving team. With added lineup strength and protection comes added opportunity. I think he will end up on a lot of my teams this season.
Kris Bryant and Manny Machado are interchangeable. Bryant will just forever live in the shadow of his MVP season it seems. He is solid, safe, has a high floor and it always feels he just comes up short of the upside. You are paying for the floor here and there is a ton of profit potential.
Take what I just said and insert Manny Machado’s name. His splits at and away from Camden are well known at this point. There is a chance this is who he is. Middling batting average with plus power. I believe he will still improve on last year. Another year in the system, the pressure slightly reduced after being a year removed from the mega-deal and a team getting better around him. This all lines up just right to vault him into a bounce-back year. Although I laid out the narrative, I still have my reservations. Ranking him 9th at the position is hedging the bet of a full-on bounce-back. This rank is not too high but not too low. It feels just right.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is just so tough for me to gauge. I faded him at his draft price last season and I think I am still lower than consensus on him. I need to see tangible change before buying in. He has mentioned committing to bettering his fitness in the off-season, which is a great first step. I’d rather be a year late than a year early on Vlad. The potential and pedigree is there but in order to gamble on it, you typically have to take him a lot higher than the more proven players still in their prime. I just am not there on him yet.
I was a big Matt Chapman guy last year. We saw him come into his own. He fell off at one point a bit but ultimately was a solid fantasy producer. He offers high enough ceiling to be in this tier, but the floor is lower than the rest of these players, thus being ranked at the bottom of the tier.
Tier 4: Solid and Safe
Solid and safe says it all. There is a lot to like here and all these players you can grab on draft day, set in your lineup and forget them.
You look at Josh Donaldson’s 2019 stat line and his 2020 steamer projections and you feel he needs to be ranked higher. He absolutely killed it last year and is projected to do very well again. What puts him in this tier for me is, first, he is now a true three-category producer, and second, the health issues remain a concern for me. Sure, he remained healthy for the whole season and did so while in the NL at that. I still have a hard time buying in that he’s completely beyond the injury concerns. It does not help he is entering his age-34 season and will likely be with a new team. Ultimately, the best way to describe my feelings on Donaldson’s is that I am cautiously optimistic.
This is the farthest down I have had Max Muncy outside of the top 10 at any given position he is eligible at. The power potential is there and he can easily be a 30-plus home run threat every season. The multi-positional eligibility is also a big bonus. The batting average can be a concern but hitting between .240 and .250 is not as bad as it once was.
D.J. LeMahieu and Jeff McNeil feel as though they are the same exact player. McNeil was getting LeMahieu comps entering the 2019 season as it is. I feel these two are as high of a floor you can get. D.J. LeMahieu flashed a level of production we never saw from him even in Colorado. I have a hard time completely buying into a 31-year-old breaking out in this fashion.
I really cannot get over how LeMahieu spent most of his career at Coors and after leaving is when he decides to break out. That is unheard of. With that said, I anticipate he will be hitting at the top of the lineup and still be a solid producer for runs and batting average. He may still hit 20 home runs but the high RBI total seems unlikely to repeat. Again, not bad at all and a great option to get as a roster stabilizer if you have a lot of high variance players on your roster already.
As far as Jeff McNeil goes, I believe it’s basically the same idea. Just a solid and stable piece to any lineup. He is not exciting but not every pick for a team needs to be exciting. Sometimes the “boring” players are the reason behind a winning fantasy team.
Regardless, if you need or favor the high floor types over the high ceiling guys I ranked just ahead of them I wouldn’t fault you. When you’re drafting players within this tier, it is typically need-based anyway.
Tier 5: The Fallback Options
There is still plenty to like about this tier. This is where I would like to address my corner infield position. In 15-team leagues, I would actually be just fine having one of these players as my starting third baseman entering 2020 as well.
Mike Moustakas is annually under-appreciated. He is basically good for 30 or so home runs with a .250 to .260 batting average. Where he lands as a free agent could move him up or move down the ranks. You have to assume he will land with a contender.
Justin Turner is just solid. You know you are getting a great hitter in the middle of a great lineup. He belongs in this tier, but I would not argue if he is lower in it for you. The health is always going to be a question but the production when he is healthy is not.
My love for J.D. Davis has been well documented already. I believe he will be starting for the Mets come opening day. The bat plays anywhere and we saw a lot of growth last year. He improved verse right-handed pitchers, he changed his batting stance a bit, changed the launch angle and overall had the breakout some have expected to be possible. I am all-in on Davis for 2020. I just hope the Mets don’t let me down. But it is the Mets, so being let down is a real possibility.
Miguel Sano flashed just the type of upside he has last season. The power is very real and he can be a true difference-maker in that stat. My only concern is the batting average and health. If he stays healthy, 40-plus home runs are easily within reach. He is better in points and OBP formats.
There are a lot of mouths to feed in St. Louis. If Tommy Edman earns full-time playing time, there is some real value to be had. The speed is very real and so are the contact skills. Take him where he is going and if the playing time concerns alleviate, reap the rewards.
Yuli Gurriel is just so solid and safe. The hit tool is never a concern. If the ball does lose some juice, his profile and history suggest he may be affected more than the average player. He lacks the upside of others ahead of him. I’m aware I may be too low on him but until playing time and roles for a few guys ahead of him are figured out, I will continue to favor the upside of said players ahead of the known commodity at this portion of drafts.
Eduardo Escobar is my biggest regression candidate for the 2020 season. He overachieved in most categories and I expect him to come back down to earth. Even if he sustains part of the growth in production, he offers similar home run and batting average output to Moustakas. I keep going back and forth on him or Edman this draft season. I feel it is truly need-based and it is why they are in the same tier. As far as a season goes I do not expect him to be able to repeat last year’s stat line. I’d expect something like 25 home runs and .250 or so batting. Steamer seems to agree.
Tier 6: Late Round Targets
This is where third base shows its depth and showcases just how great of a position it is from top to bottom.
Miguel Andujar is coming off a completely lost season. I am not sure where exactly he will play, but regardless it appears he will be in the starting lineup. Obviously the health is a concern but there is enough upside to target him late. It also does not hurt to be in that potent lineup and favorable home park.
I really like Nick Solak as a sleeper this year. There is a bit of power and speed upside to be had here. Solak flashed it in the minors and it wouldn’t surprise me to see some growth this year after his short stint in the majors in 2019.
Giovanny Urshela was a waiver wire darling last season. He was a great find for fantasy owners and helped a lot of teams through injuries or just gave the boost to struggling teams in general. I am a bit skeptical of older breakouts, but it appears he has a spot in the lineup as of now and, just like I mentioned with Andujar, the lineup and home park are reason enough to roster anyone starting for the Yankees.
I have come down on my optimism of Yandy Diaz since I did my first base ranks. Yes, he is a projected starter but he has playing time questions entering 2020. The ceiling appears to be pretty high and I do like his value in early drafts. If he secured everyday playing time or reports start suggesting as much I will likely move him back up my ranks.
*Since writing about him and ranking him, the Rays DFA’d Jesus Aguilar. There are fewer questions about playing time and now I’d move him to the top of the tier ahead of Andujar at 23rd overall. Moving the rest down a slot accordingly. He’s on the brink of moving up a tier altogether. I am still concerned the Rays will sign someone that could ruin this. Stay tuned.
Jon Berti is one of the few fantasy-relevant names on the Miami Marlins. It is simple. There is upside for 20-plus stolen bases and a decent batting average. He is the projected leadoff batter and could, or should, have a green light to run for a team that will need to manufacture runs.
As the roster currently stands, Scott Kingery is in line to be a starter. I feel the Phillies are going to go try and make a splash and grab a bat or two in free agency. That could lead to a big question mark for consistent playing time. There is power and speed upside to be had but the batting average could be a drain and, again, I am not banking on the playing time.
Lastly, Tommy La Stella rounds off the top 30. He is a player who committed to the swing change trend. La Stella added lift to his swing and the home runs followed. With such a high likelihood of a solid batting average, if he can hit 20 home runs with that swing change, he offers a pretty high floor to grab late in drafts. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a boring player.
That is going to do it for the early third base preview. A lot has yet to happen in regards to signings, trades and spring training. Stick around for updates as the off-season continues. Fantasy baseball season never ends over here for us at Fantrax. We are just getting started.
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