By Michael Seff and RotoRob
Welcome back to our series of 2015 Fantasy baseball cheat sheets. So while you Joe Nathan owners agonize over the loss of your closer, let’s turn our attention to the hot corner.
Third base is a tough position to rank this year because there aren’t necessarily distinct tiers. Having said that, there are quite a few productive options here — even with Miguel Cabrera no longer eligible at the position (and Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Zimmerman to join those ranks in 2016).
Some questions facing the hot corner landscape this year: Can Carlos Santana enjoy another massive power season? Does David Wright have another monster season left in his bat, or have we reached the new normal with him? Will Pedro Alvarez — freed from the embarrassment of fielding third base — return to his 35+ homer ways? Just how good can Kris Bryant be as a rookie? How much growth will we see from Nick Castellanos this season?
While we use 20 games for eligibility before we rank a player at that position, note that Miguel Cabrera played in 10 games at third base last year, so he may qualify in your league. If so, he’s obviously No. 1.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays (7): Donaldson has a chance to help Jose Reyes enjoy a major comeback (see video below). Donaldson didn’t hit as well last year as he struck out more often, but he made up for that with better power and speed numbers.
2. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (2): Beltre is getting long in the tooth, but remains one of the safest options at third base. He got off to a bit of a slow start in 2015 before snapping a mini skid. Many believe that Beltre will really regress this year, and certainly the power drop off last year was worrisome, but we’ll believe it when we see it. We’re definitely expecting his BA to dip after last year’s .345 BABIP, but otherwise he’ll be a very productive option once again.
3. Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds (18): For Frazier’s profile, see our First Base Rankings.
4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (15): Although his second season was cut short by injury, Arenado displayed more patience last year. His slugging also showed dramatic improvement, making us wonder what his power upside is should he finally stay healthy enough to play 150 games. Expect big, big things here.
5. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (3): For the first time in his career, Longo didn’t miss a single game last year. So, monster season, right? Well, he had his highest steal total since 2010, but where did the power and BA go? Longoria had his worst OBP ever. His kingdom for some lineup protection!
6. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners (9): Seager lacks one dominant tool, but he is not weak at anything. There’s a reason the Mariners locked him up for seven years and invested $100 million into him, right? Seager’s been durable, recording three straight seasons of at least 590 at-bats, and his power continues to develop, culminating in his first 25-homer campaign last year. Unfortunately, his base stealing skills have been heading in the opposite direction. Still, with Seager entering his power prime this year, you have to wonder if a run at 30 homers could be in the cards.
7. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals (18 at 2B): For Rendon’s profile, see our Second Base Rankings.
8. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles (3 at 1B): For Davis’ profile, see our First Base Rankings.
9. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (28 at 1B): For Santana’s profile, see our First Base Rankings.
10. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (5): Injuries limited Zimmerman to just 240 plate appearances last season as first a broken thumb and then a strained hamstring cost him nearly 100 games in total. He hit well while active, although his slugging continues to regress. That six-year, $100 million extension which kicked in last year is already looking like an albatross for the Nats. Keeper league owners need to be aware that Zimmerman will likely only qualify at first base next season, thereby greatly affecting his value. Zimmerman also qualifies in the Outfield.
11. David Wright, New York Mets (4): Despite a .333 BA through eight games, Wright’s batting eye had not been strong so far this season. Now, a hammy woe will sideline him for about three weeks. Last year, he stayed somewhat healthier, but too many of his homers turned into doubles and his basestealing skills took a big plummet in what was arguably his worst season ever.
12. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (8): Carpenter is an extremely patient hitter, drawing 95 walks last year, but for a guy with his build, he’s not exactly a speed merchant (last year’s five swipes more than doubled his career total). He’s been durable the last couple of seasons, and if he could bump up his steals closer to double digits, we’d be thrilled, given his BA skills and modest power. Carpenter really shines in OBP leagues. If your format rewards that skill, bump him up a bit.
13. Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates (6): Alvarez has shifted over to first base this year, so keeper league owners need to be cognizant that he’s expected to lose third base eligibility next year. He’s a tremendous power hitter that shared the NL lead in homers in 2013, but fell apart last year as he tried to improve his weak area — contact. Well, Alvarez did strike out less often and enjoyed the finest walk rate of his career in 2014, but his BA actually regressed and his homer total was halved. So far this season, he looks like he’s back to his high-strikeout, high-homer self.
14. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles (14): Machado’s return to health should provide a massive boost to the B-More infield. Still just 22, it’s his potential that excites you the most. It’s not showing this season yet, but Machado is going to hit for a fine average, but learning to draw more walks would be a good start.
15. Pablo Sandoval, Boston Red Sox (10): Sandoval, who just got removed from Jonathan Schoop’s Christmas card list, improved his contact rate with the Giants last year, earning a big money deal from the BoSox this winter. So far, Panda’s game has continued to deteriorate in Beantown as his extra-base pop has been completely non-existent, but at least he’s scoring plenty of runs.
16. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox (17): For Bogaerts’ profile, see our Shortstop Rankings.
17. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (45): One of the most anticipated prospects in the game has arrived, and after a bad first game, came through with his first career RBI. Expect plenty more where that came from. Bryant also showed great patience — a fantastic sign for a young hitter — drawing three walks. This kid is going to be special.
18. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers (12): Power has always been A-Ram’s best quality, but that portion of his game has been in free fall mode the last couple of years as he nears the end of his career. Last year, he made better contact, helping his BA rebound slightly, but his OBP crashed thanks to his walk rate. In this, his final season, Ramirez has lost his extra-base power — at least early on.
19. Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers (20): A .303 career hitter in the minors, Castellanos is capable of hitting for a much higher average than he showed as a rookie. Early on in 2015, we’re already seeing him make strides in this regard. The other very promising sign from Castellanos is that his walk rate is significantly higher so far. Given that this has always been his weak spot, it speaks to his maturation as a hitter. There’s some very big upside here, so Castellanos is an ideal backup at this stage, one that could force his way into your team’s lineup at some point this season.
20. Martin Prado, Miami Marlins (13): A superb contact hitter, Prado wasn’t hitting quite as well last year for Arizona before he got dealt to the Yanks. Once he donned the Pinstripes, he seemed to channel Babe Ruth, hitting better than ever before. Prado doesn’t offer traditional third base power, but his value is enhanced by multi-positional eligibility. Prado also qualifies at Second Base.
Others to Consider
21. Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR): Harrison also qualifies at Outfield.
22. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (NR)
23. Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals (21)
24. Chase Headley, New York Yankees (19)
25. Brett Lawrie, Oakland Athletics (11): For Lawrie’s profile, see our Second Base Rankings.
26. Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins (26)
27. Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians (36)
28. Marcus Semien, Chicago White Sox (37): For Semien’s profile, see our Second Base Rankings. Note that he will soon also qualify at Shortstop.
29. Luis Valbuena, Houston Astros (50): Valbuena is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
30. Casey McGehee, San Francisco Giants (30)
31. David Freese, Los Angeles Angels (23)
32. Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR)
33. Chris Johnson, Atlanta Braves (16)
34. Cody Asche, Philadelphia Phillies (29)
35. Will Middlebrooks, San Diego Padres (22)
36. Conor Gillaspie, Chicago White Sox (43)
37. Juan Uribe, Los Angeles Dodgers (31)
38. Mark Reynolds, St. Louis Cardinals (27): Reynolds is also listed in our First Base Rankings.
39. Yangervis Solarte, San Diego Padres (NR): Solarte also qualifies at Second Base.
40. Brock Holt, Boston Red Sox (NR): Holt also qualifies at Outfield.
41. Alexi Amarista, San Diego Padres (49 at 2B): Amarista is also listed in our Second Base and Shortstop Rankings. He also qualifies in the Outfield.
42. Eduardo Escobar, Minnesota Twins (NR): Escobar also qualifies at Shortstop.
43. Mike Olt, Chicago Cubs (42)
44. Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies (44): Note that he also played 23 games at first in the minors and five more there in the majors.
45. Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR)
46. Mike Aviles, Cleveland Indians (32): Aviles is also listed in our Second Base Rankings. He also qualifies at Outfield.
47. Ryan Flaherty, Baltimore Orioles (27 at 2B): Flaherty is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings. He also qualifies at Second Base.
48. Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers (NR)
49. Kelly Johnson, Atlanta Braves (72 at OF): Johnson also qualifies at First Base.
50. Danny Valencia, Toronto Blue Jays (6 at DH): Valencia also qualifies at First Base.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who’s missing, who’s too high or too low.
RotoRob Fantasy Baseball Weekly Podcast
Crave more in-depth Fantasy analysis? Then join us every Thursday at 9 p.m. EST for RotoRob Fantasy Baseball Weekly Podcast on Blogtalkradio as we entertain and edify you for an hour or more each week. This week our guest is Tim McLeod from Pattonandco.com. Tune in here.