The pool of third basemen is likely the deepest fielding position. The top-10 is very talented and the second tier has a lot of promise this season.
Every year, the group of fantasy-relevant third basemen continues to grow. The top five are extremely talented and could be ranked in any order. The next five are either younger talents or older veterans that can still produce. This group of players here has a lot more question marks.
The second 10 third basemen are either underdeveloped or veterans at the end of their careers. If you draft a third baseman from this group, there will be a big drop-off in production. It’s a big risk to wait on a third baseman, especially in a standard league. But if you play in a deeper league, there are the third basemen ranked 11 through 20.
I use a couple of different of criteria when developing my rankings. I look at their 2015 performance, where they finished on the Player Rater, their career performance and if this past season was an outlier, their surroundings (lineup support) and where I think they project this season. Some of it may be subjective, especially the projections, but I try to keep it in line with other fantasy sites.
The stats I use for the projections are runs, home runs, RBI, steals and batting average. I know there are leagues that use OBP or OPS instead of average, but they are in the minority. I will keep it for the majority that use ESPN standard five categories. I do factor in hits though because it more or less affects average (or OBP).
Here are two third basemen worth mentioning.
Chase Headley: I wrote about Headley’s 2016 projections here. His isolated power dropped from .212 in 2012 to .110 last season. His fly ball, HR/FB and hard hit rates have all dropped between the last two years, 32.0/11.7/35.5 and 30.4/8.1/27.8, respectively. Headley is getting up there in age, but the short right-field fence should keep his home runs in the double digits. He’s undraftable in standard leagues, though.
Here are the first 20 ranked third basemen of this season.
David Wright has greatly fallen down the ranks. He played in just 38 games last season, 134 games in 2014 and 112 in 2012. Most, if not all, of the missed time is due to injuries. I wrote that Wright is no longer a top-10 third baseman in February. I think anyone can make that case. As you can tell, Wright barely made it into my top 20.
The constant injuries are a big concern. And that’s the reason New York Mets management is limiting him to around 130 games this season. He is clearly the biggest risk-reward third baseman entering this season. I would do everything I can to avoid drafting him.
If, and that’s a big if, Wright can stay healthy, I like him in this Mets lineup. With Yoenis Cespedes back and the breakout performances of Michael Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud, Wright could have a 15/80 season.
While many fantasy owners are looking at the Chicago Cubs lineup, and with good reason. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup is very good as well. With their star players, the Pirates were 11th in runs scored and eighth in batting average. Unfortunately, Josh Harrison didn’t contribute much.
He played in 114 games, down from 143 in 2014. He hit just four home runs, 28 RBI and 287. He hit 13 HR/52 RBI/.315 in 2014. He had a 15.8 strikeout rate and .103 isolated power, both career worst. He also posted career-low 33.5 fly ball rate.
Harrison is slated to be the starting second baseman after Neil Walker was traded to the New York Mets. Jung Ho Kang moves over to third base and Jordy Mercer is back at shortstop. The reason I have Harrison in my third base rankings is because he will have second and third-base eligibility on Opening Day. With the depth at second base, Harrison might not have made the top-20.
The extra playing time as the starting second baseman will give Harrison a boost in value. I expect eight to 10 home runs with 70 RBI.
Nick Castellanos had a breakout season last year, after four years of being a highly sought after prospect. He was the 23rd-drafted third baseman and finished No. 23 on the Player Rater. The breakout came with the increase in numbers from 2014 to 2015. He played in 154 games and hit 15 home runs, 73 RBI and .255. He hit 11 HR/66 RBI/.259 in 148 games in 2014.
Castellanos’ second half gave optimism to fantasy owners. In 69 games, he hit nine home runs, 35 RBI and .269. He made great contact with the ball, too. He had a 27.7 line drive, 32.9 ground ball and 39.3 fly ball rate in the second half.
He did have a 1.3 percent increase in his strikeout rate, so the batting average isn’t where it needs to be. His power is there, but not at a top-15 level and playing at Comerica Park is not helping him. He should stay around 15 home runs and 70 RBI with a .265 average. That will definitely get him into the top 15.
Mike Moustakas was thought to be one of the top prospects in the 2009 season. Fast forward seven years and he’s a top-20 third baseman in all of baseball. He showed off his power, just like in the minors, but it didn’t covert into a high batting average. He had a collective .236 average in his first four seasons. Then, 2015 happened.
He had a great 2014 postseason, hitting five home runs and seven RBI. That carried over into last season. He finished with career highs in home runs (22), RBI (82) and average (.284). He was voted into his first All-Star game and finished 21st in the American League MVP voting. He was 10th among third basemen on the Player Rater.
Moustakas developed better patience at the plate last year. He kept his walk rate at seven percent while his strikeout rate dropped 2.4 percent. He also mayde better contact with the ball, dropping his soft hit rate by 2.1 percent.
With the depth at the position, it’s hard to put Moustakas any higher. If he has another season like he did in 2015, then there’s no question he belongs in the top 12, maybe higher. I predict a little regression, 18-20 home runs and 65-70 RBI with a .265 average.
Danny Valencia has bounced around a lot throughout his short career. He spent time with the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays before landed with the Oakland A’s (for now). Last season was undoubtedly the best of his career.
He played in 105 games, and hit 18 home runs, 66 RBI and .290. Toronto waived him on August 1 and the A’s claimed him just two days later. In 47 games with Oakland, he hit 11 HR/37 RBI/.284. He struck out 40 times, but also walked 20. Valencia’s been known as a lefty-crusher, but was able to hit righties well last season, .881 OPS. If he can continue doing that, he’ll have a job for a few more years.
Valencia’s defense at third base is a question. He has a career .965 fielding percentage in 399 games at third base. If the A’s were to move him around, Jedd Lowrie is playing second, he’ll get a little more fantasy value.
I’m not predicting a full 150-game season for Valencia, mostly because he hasn’t proven himself. In 115 games, he should hit 13 home runs, 60 RBI and .264. He’ll be a good late-round pick as a corner infielder.
I know I ranked Anthony Rendon as my No. 13 second baseman heading into this season, but he belongs on this list as well. With the signing of Daniel Murphy, Rendon will be slotted as the third baseman.
He had a great 2014 season, hitting 21 home runs, 83 RBI and .287 in 153 games. Last year wasn’t even close to the same production. He played in just 80 games due to knee and oblique injuries. He hit five home runs, 25 RBI and .264 in that span. As a fourth-round pick, he was a huge bust.
Rendon did make good contact with the ball when he did play. He had a 55 medium hit percentage and a 12.7 soft hit percentage. He did see an increase in his ground ball rate, mostly because of the injuries. With a healthy spring, Rendon should get his power back.
If he can stay healthy this season, hitting in the new Washington Nationals lineup, I can see Rendon getting back to his 2014 numbers. The move to third base should help him get back his speed that he lost last season. He won’t need to move as much as he did at second, so getting 15 steals should add to his value.
Now a member of the Chicago White Sox, Brett Lawrie finished as the No. 16 third baseman on the Player Rater. He spent four years with the Toronot Blue Jays before joining the Oakland A’s last season. Last year was his best power performace to date. He hit 16 home runs, 60 RBI and .260 in a career-high 149 games.
Lawrie hit 16 home runs last year, but only six were hit in Oakland. Leaving the O.co Coliseum and now calling U.S. Cellular Field home will do wonders for him. Just look at what happened to Josh Donaldson when he left Oakland.
However, the field doesn’t help his ability to hit the ball. He had a 23.9 strikeout rate, almost seven percent higher than the previous four seasons averaged. Despite hitting 16 homers, his ground ball rate rose by about two percent and his fly ball rate dropped almost seven. The increased playing time does factor into these ratios.
Lawrie will, just like Rendon, have eligibility at second base. So, if you are in a bind and need someone to fill in at middle infield or second base, Lawrie could be your guy. He is hitting in a better lineup with the White Sox, so he should I expect him to hit 18 home runs, 63 RBI and .260.
Justin Turner spent some time with the New York Mets after a brief stint with the Baltimore Orioles. He signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014 and signed a one-year deal last January, which was well-earned.
He played in 126 games and had 113 hits, 16 home runs, 60 RBI and .294. He did undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is on track to make his debut on Monday. However, there is some rumors that the Dodgers may give him another week or two to recover.
Even with the increased at bats, Turner was able to keep his strikeout rate at 16.2 percent. He had a 1.00 GB/FB ratio, which would have put him 38th among qualified hitters. The National League West has some great pitching spread around the division, so Turner able to have an 11.9 soft hit rate is a great sign for this year and beyond.
I think the 16 homers will be his career high. I expect him to go back to the 12-14 range with 60-65 RBI and a .285 average. That is a great combination of contact and power. He finished 12th on the Player Rater last year an could see him back in the top-15 this season.
After dealing with injuries early in his career, Evan Longoria has been healthy the last three years. He’s played in at least 160 games in that span, including all 162 in 2014. Even with that, he still just finished 11th on the Player Rater, which shows how talented third base is.
He hit 21 home runs, 73 RBI and .270 last season. While his home run and RBI totals dropped, he had a .435 slugging percentage, mostly because he hit 35 doubles, nine more than 2014.
Longoria did see a slight increase in his strikeout rate and decrease in his walk rate. His ground ball, line drive and fly ball rates were practically identical from 2014 to 2015. There was about a two percent drop in his hard hit rate, which could be part of the reason for the drop in home runs.
The Tampa Bay Rays offense did not have a lot of stars like their division opponents had over the last few seasons. However, the team has brought in some pieces and has some younger talent with a lot of upside. If those players are able to produce, Longoria should have better counting stats. I can see him hitting 25 home runs, 80 RBI and .265 in 155 games.
Maikel Franco may be my biggest high-upside pick as I rank him as my No. 11 third baseman. He is one of a few young players to watch while the Philadelphia Phillies continue the rebuilding process. He played in just 16 games in 2014 and exceeded his rookie status last season.
He played in just 80 games, he was called up late and had a fractured wrist, but hit 14 home runs, 50 RBI and .280. In that short amount of time, he was able to finish 20th among third basemen on the Player Rater.
My colleague Brad Kelly called Franco a breakout candidate for this season. He dominated right-handed pitching, .294/9 HR/36 RBI/.844 OPS. He did struggle against lefties, .232/5 HR/14 RBI/.825 OPS, but that was in just 83 plate appearances. He went on to say that Franco has a good eye at the plate, but needs to make better contact with the ball. Franco needs to cut down in ground ball rate in order to take advantage of his power potential.
The Phillies offense is one of the worst in the league, so I don’t expect the counting stats to be high. Over a full season, I expect 22-25 home runs with 75 RBI and a .280 average. The National League East doesn’t have the best pitching, so he could take advantage of that. If he was able to develop some speed, he may have made it into my top 10.
So, there you have it. The third basemen ranked 11 through 20. There are some players that were in the top 10 just a few years ago, and others that have the potential to be there in a couple of years. As I said at the beginning, the pool of talented third basemen is deep, which benefits those in deeper leagues.
There are some players that I’m looking forward to see this season. One of them is Franco. I want to see how he hits in a full season, and with the lackluster Phillies lineup. A true star is able to perform regardless of his supporting case. Another player is Wright, for maybe the complete opposite reasons. He had a good team around him, but has been injury prone over the last few seasons. If he can stay healthy, what kind of season will he have?
Even those ranked outside my top 20 could be a factor during the season. I ranked some of the unproven players a little higher, but I’m all in on their potential breakout season this year.
Did I miss anyone? Did I overrate or underrate anyone on this list? Let me know in the comments.
Get ready for the overloaded top-10 third basemen for 2016.