Why do they consider third base to be the “hot corner”?
Well, since batters tend to hit for the highest exit velocity to their pull-side, third basemen have to be on the lookout defensively. As time has gone on, the position has turned into a stacked spot for defensive gems, which is much different than we’ve come to expect.
Hopefully, that doesn’t come at the expense and fantasy production! In my experience, most of the fantasy baseball content available is focused on category/roto leagues. Nevertheless, a great majority of fantasy baseball players play in points league; shouldn’t there be more content focused on that?
There are a lot of differences between points leagues and category leagues. In the latter, you’re focused on trying to hit certain benchmarks on specific categories. In points leagues, however, you can aim to just draft the best team possible! Whether it’s a team full of sluggers or hitters who don’t strike out, all fantasy points count the same.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how players are going to produce from a points league perspective. Usually, this is accomplished through standard rankings, which utilize data, intuition, and gut feeling to put players in a specific order of expected production. However, I think we can have more success if we break things down further.
What do I mean like this? As opposed to standard rankings, these are my own manual projections, with a full explanation here. While there may be players that I prefer that are ranked below certain players, I am aiming to establish enough objectivity to go with the subjective touch of manual projections.
With that, let us get to the rankings! Today, we’ll be focusing on the third base position. Sadly, the “hot corner” doesn’t appear to be as deep in terms of offensive productivity. However, that can change; there are a lot of intriguing breakout and bounce-back candidates at the position.
So, which third basemen should you be targeting or avoiding? Which third basemen get a boost or drop-off in points leagues as compared to category leagues. Let us dive into it!
Stats via Fangraphs and Baseball Savant
Category League Third Base Projections & Tiers HERE
2022 Points League Third Base Rankings
|Kris Bryant||COL||3B, OF||385|
|DJ LeMahieu||NYY||1B, 2B, 3B||339|
|Eduardo Escobar||NYM||2B, 3B||316|
|Luis Urias||MIL||2B, SS, 3B||303|
|Luis Arraez||MIN||2B, 3B, OF||294|
|Ryan McMahon||COL||2B, SS||283|
|Yandy Diaz||TB||1B, 3B||279|
|Eugenio Suarez||SEA||3B, SS||271|
|Wilmer Flores||SF||1B, 2B, 3B||260|
|Josh Harrison||CHW||2B, 3B, OF||248|
|Hae-Song Kim||SD||2B, 3B, SS||245|
|Jonathan Villar||CHC||3B, SS||240|
|Gio Urshela||MIN||3B, SS||235|
|Joey Wendle||MIA||3B, SS||232|
|Hunter Dozier||KC||3B, OF||221|
|Abraham Toro||SEA||2B, 3B||217|
|Rougned Odor||BAL||2B, 3B||175|
|Tyler Wade||LAA||3B, SS, OF||130|
Who Gets a Boost In Points Leagues?
|Player||Team||Roto Rnk||Points Rnk||Diff|
- The second base position is deep for points leagues, leading to Luis Arraez flying slightly under the radar. However, he’s a solid utility target given his ability to contribute in the middle infield, third base, or outfielder. This is a player projected to strike out less than 10% of the time, and his versatility will allow him to accumulate more than enough plate appearances. If his stock continues to fall due to the recent infield acquisitions the Twins have made, he might become a strong value pick.
- On the contrary, Mike Moustakas has become a much more intriguing player for fantasy with Eugenio Suarez now a member of the Mariners. Prior to last season, where he dealt with several injuries, he had four straight seasons with an isolated power (ISO) of at least .208, with a weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+) of 105 or higher; he was at least 5% better than league average in every season from 2017 to 2020. Playing in a very favorable ballpark with potential everyday playing time, he’s a great corner infield target with the upside to be more than that, especially if he gets his strikeout rate back to 20% or lower.
- Speaking of players who dealt with injuries last season, Alex Bregman was one of the early-round disappointments at the position, showcasing little power (.152 ISO) while his walk rate regressed to 11%. That being said, you expect the power to be better considering he was dealing with a wrist injury last season, and there is nothing, outside of there being no juiced baseball, to suggest his power suddenly fell off. He still gets to have his power boosted by playing in Houston, walks as much as he strikes out, and hits in the middle of a strong lineup. Particularly in points leagues, I’d bet on a bounce-back.
- I’m much more inclined to take a chance on Anthony Rendon in points leagues. He only had 249 plate appearances with poor production (95 wRC+, .143 ISO) due to a hip injury, so you’ll be banking on him being fully recovered from the injury. At his peak, he walks around as much as he strikes out, and brings above-average power to the table. It’s a bit concerning that his barrel rates were already in the decline in 2020, and there’s a chance this is the beginning of a decline phase for him. That being said, I can understand giving him a mulligan for next year; he’s a very difficult case study on how much injury can affect performance, and if the injuries persist even after they are supposedly “recovered”.
- The debate between Rafael Devers and Manny Machado is a very close one- you can’t go wrong! In category leagues, Devers likely gets the edge in terms of runs + RBI value as well as slightly more power. In points leagues, though, Machado takes that edge right back. His plate skills (15.9% K, 9.8% BB) play well in this format, while he still posted a .211 ISO despite having four home runs less than expected, per Baseball Savant. In the second round, he’s an easy target to build your team around, especially with how thin the position is.
Whose Value Decreases In Points Leagues?
|Player||Team||Roto Rnk||Points Rnk||Diff|
- There may be no greater microcosm of the difference between points leagues and roto leagues than the value of Adalberto Mondesí. In the latter format, with the 40+ stolen bases he could provide, he’s a high-upside pick you’ll see drafted in the first four to five rounds. However, in points leagues, the sub-.300 on-base percentage he’ll have, as well as the poor plate discipline (4.4% BB, 31.6% K in 2021) completely suppresses his value. In this format, target productive hitters over stolen bases.
- It’s easy to look at Patrick Wisdom‘s 28 home runs in 375 plate appearances and his overall offensive success (115 wRC+, .287 ISO) and think that makes him a sleeper target late in drafts. Yet, that’s likely not the case. Expecting him to repeat a 30.8% home run/fly ball rate is asking a lot of him, and the 40.8% strikeout rate he had last year is as much of a red flag as there is. Particularly in this format, he’s not someone I would be targeting.
- What version of Gio Urshela will we see in 2022? The move from New York to Minnesota won’t help his power output, but the real key is his plate skills. His strikeout rate (24.4% K) ballooned last year, which not only hurts his point total directly, but also hurts his on-base ability. If he struggles, we could see him lose the starting role altogether, so his early production will be critical.
- The career trajectory of Austin Riley is quite fascinating. In 2019, he showcased plenty of power (13.7% barrel), but also made little contact with a 36.4% strikeout rate. Meanwhile, in 2020, he made much more contact (23.4% K), but his power regressed (.176 ISO). Then in 2021, he put it altogether with a reasonable 25.4% strikeout rate to go along with a 13.3% barrel rate. He’ll post a solid batting average, power, and RBIs, but, in points leagues, the plate discipline metrics drop him down a bit. He’s still a quality starting third baseman target, though not at the same level as in roto leagues.
- The move from Oakland to Toronto boosts Matt Chapman‘s stock notably. With four fewer home runs than expected, per Baseball Savant, he was clearly impacted negatively by the ballpark he’s in, while he’ll have plenty of RBI opportunities in a far superior lineup. Unfortunately, though, if he can’t get his strikeout issues (32.5% K in 2021), that will hurt his value significantly in this format.
Top Target: 3B Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Guardians
This one may seem obvious. However, taking Jose Ramirez with the first overall pick may not seem as obvious.
Let us take a second to appreciate the player that Ramirez has become. After initially starting out as a contact-oriented role player without much power, he’s reformed into one of the better hitters in all of baseball. Now, he’s never been someone who posted gaudy barrel rates. What he does, though, is get the most of his power.
What do I mean by this? Based on research we’ve done in the past, pulling the ball and hitting the ball in the air at a high frequency are the best way to overachieve your expected powers, similar to what Marcus Semien has done. In 2021, he took it to another level with a 54.7% pull rate, while he hit plenty of balls in the air with just a 36.1% ground-ball rate. Add in the fact that he simply posted more barrels (11.1%) as well, and he had plenty of power to go around. Hey, considering he even had a home run less than expected and should be overachieving those numbers, you can imagine even more power than the .272 ISO he had if he can sustain the barrel rate.
Meanwhile, even with the power uptick, Ramirez’s plate discipline and contact skills didn’t take a hit. His 5.6% swinging-strike rate and a 14.9% whiff rate were elite and consistent with his career norms, as was his 13.7% strikeout rate. Meanwhile, his underlying statistics (24.1% chase, 46.8% zone, 51.1% first-pitch strike) are support his walk rate (11.3% BB), which adds even more to his profile. He’s going to make a lot of contact, get on base, hit for power, play every day, provide runs, and steal bases. What else could you want?
Another edge Ramirez may have over the likes of Juan Soto, Gerrit Cole, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is positional scarcity. If you have the top-five pick to take Ramirez, it’s not a given that you’ll be able to draft Manny Machado or Rafael Devers in the second round. If so, the talent pool at the third base position falls off dramatically. Thus, taking Ramirez not only gives you a definite edge over your peers but allows you simply draft a team of the best available players rather than being forced into a third baseman you don’t really want on your team. In my opinion, the opportunity cost of not drafting Ramirez is much higher than the opportunity cost created by making him your top selection. If you have the chance, don’t hesitate to add the Cleveland third baseman to your roster!
Top Fade: Jeimer Candelario, Detroit Tigers
There aren’t a lot of conventional “fades” at the third base position, which actually may speak to how thin the position is in terms of talent. Either as a starting option for deeper leagues or in the corner infield spot, Jeimer Candelario may seem like an optimal target. After all, since 2020, he has posted a 123 wRC+, and has solidified himself in the middle of the order for the Tigers lineup.
There are some positive indicators from Candelario’s 2021 performance (119 wRC+). He posted a career-low 21.6% strikeout rate, with an expected strikeout rate lower than that. He made an effort to be more aggressive in the zone, leading to fewer called strikes (15.6%) than ever; the combination of the two makes me confident that can stick. Thus, the plate skills will not be the issue.
Rather, it’s the rest of profile that’s the issue. Candelario’s 9% barrel rate is fine on the surface. However, based on his lackluster 91.7 MPH exit velocity on fly balls and line drives, lower than Joey Wendle, Donovan Solano, and Jack Mayfield, his expected barrel rate was closer to to 6.5%. Now, barrel rate is a pretty sticky statistic year-to-year, but this much of a gap is concerning.
Then, there is his batted-ball luck. After struggling in the batting average department, Candelario has turned a corner in that regard, posting a .271 batting average. However, that was mainly fueled by a high .333 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Sure, it was backed up by a 28.9% line-drive rate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legitimate. See, as we’ve discussed in the past, line drive rate lacks the consistency year-to-year that you would hope for. We can say that Candelario has made a legitimate change to hit more line drives, yet there’s nothing to suggest what changes, and it’s not something he has complete control over.
In fact, given the line-drive rate, the barrel rate looks less impressive. Remember, Candelario is going to continue to play half of his games at Comerica Park, which remains not ideal for his power output. It’s likely he starts the year in the #4 or #5 spot in the lineup, but with Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene on the way, he could easily move further down if he can’t sustain his 2021 performance.
Even with his peak year last year, he still only averaged 2.8 Fantrax fantasy points per game, and 15th overall. Thus, he’s essentially being priced at close to his ceiling. When that’s the case, it’s generally advisable to move on to other targets. Hopefully, the “Candy man” can keep on giving in 2022, but, sadly, I have some doubts.