Third base is a lot like rock ‘n roll.
It has a great reputation for power players, and talent you’d shell out your hard-earned dollars to see play. But when you compare it to the 1970s and (early) 1980s, it falls short. And not by a little.
Fantasy players of a certain age fell in love with the sport that boasted Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, Wade Boggs, and George Brett. We even loved Bob Horner, partially in the same way fans love Bartolo Colon today. But the dude could crush. Those guys were the Stones, U2, Bowie, Queen, and in Horner’s case, Meatloaf.
Today? Sure, we’ve got Josh Donaldson and Nolan Arenado to remind us of yesteryear. They are Paramore and Mumford and Sons. They’re good artists with solid skills, but do they have staying power? Beyond that, we thumb through the record rack for someone with “that sound” – Anthony Rendon, David Wright, Todd Frazier. Will we still be playing them in five years, or tossing them into the discount bin at Wal-Mart? I mean, can Trevor Plouffe cut another good album this year?
The truth is there is a lot of good talent at third base. Before Arenado and Donaldson exploded for 40-plus HRs last season, not a single player from the position tallied either 30 HRs or 100 RBIs in 2014. So perhaps the hot corner might not be as hot offensively as we thought of it back in the day. But there is a lot to like at third base. If you grab one of the top choices early in the draft, you’re in great shape. But if you can’t, there are lots of players to speculate about at third base. Because the outright power numbers drop dramatically, so do the ADPs of most of the position. Therein lies opportunity. Let’s take a look.
Anthony Rendon – Just a brief word because his 2B eligibility makes him a much better choice there, and we covered him in that version of Crush or Flush. But his injury-filled 2015 season is dropping him much further in the ADPs than his actual talent level. I’m not suggesting he’s a first round talent, but Rendon at full health in a great Nationals lineup could easily yield second or third round value. He’s my favorite “risk” of the entire draft, especially at 2B. CRUSH
Matt Carpenter – You win some, you lose some. I wrote last year, “Nobody should draft Matt Carpenter this spring. Period.” He was a third basemen who just lost 2B eligibility and never showed much power (8 HRs, 59 RBIs in 2014). Sure, Carpenter scored a good number of runs and posted not horrible batting averages around .270. Then he went out and crushed 28 HRs and collected 84 RBIs – in fewer plate appearances than the year before. He essentially reversed his GB/FB percentages (41/35 in 2014, 30/41 in 2015), which is good news for his power. He hit the ball a little harder last season, but his 15.8 percent HR/FB rate was almost double his 8.5 percent career mark. He increased his average fly ball distance from 270 feet to 284 feet. So he should be closer to 28 HRs than eight HRs, but I don’t think it will be by much. I think 20-22 HRs might be the new Matt Carpenter line. But by the time I would draft him, someone else who envisions 28 HRs will have already called his name. FLUSH
Todd Frazier – “The ToddFather” is headed to the Windy City to bat in a good hitter’s park. His power numbers climbed last year – a season in which he increased his fly ball output and cut his groundball production. Don’t worry about his .255 average; his .271 BABIP last season suppressed that average probably about 20 points. Frazier doesn’t walk a ton, which limits his run scoring, but I’m being nitpicky. I think a huge season is his for the taking. He’s obviously early-in-the-draft talent, but I would even trade up a few spots to get him and fill a position that doesn’t produce tons of power anymore.
David Wright — Look, I’m a Mets fan. David Wright is a great Met and he deserved to play in a World Series. But he had a significant back injury last season, and he has been routinely hurt in recent seasons. Even when he was fully healthy, who really feared Wright? Nice player, great teammate, wonderful guy. If he has a fully healthy season (he won’t) in a good lineup, he might produce surprising power numbers (he won’t), particularly if he hits high in the lineup (he shouldn’t). I’ll root like hell for him to get his ring, but it would be for the Mets and not as a member of my Fantasy team. FLUSH
Kyle Seager – If there was a course about the effect a lineup has on Fantasy statistical output, Seager’s 2015 would be the centerpiece of the class. In 2014, he put up 25 HRs, 96 RBIs, 71 runs and a .268 average. He hit fourth, fifth or sixth in 150 of his 159 games. Last season, he batted second in the lineup 75 times. His line? 26 HRs, 74 RBIs, 85 runs and a .266 average. He’s a good contact hitter who doesn’t strike out much (why the Mariners like him hitting second), and he hits the ball pretty hard. I like him better in the middle of the lineup, but I think his RBI dip will drop him a little further than his talent dictates. Go into the draft knowing the Mariners plan for his lineup slot and draft accordingly, but in either case mark me down for a CRUSH.
Trevor Plouffe – Posted career-high 22 HRs and 86 RBIs while his average declined 14 points to .244. In a nutshell, his HRs will decline (I say 16 or 17), his RBIs will flirt with 80 and he’ll hit .260s this season. He’s a safe bet, but entering his age 30 season I don’t see him building off of 22/86. If you draft Plouffe counting on that production, he’s a flush for sure. But consistency is a good quality. If he consistently hit .270 I’d be more enthusiastic. It’s close and he’s fine, but I gotta FLUSH
Mike Moustakas – I hyped Moose last spring and drafted him as a temporary fill-in for Anthony Rendon in a high-priced league. He delivered, both in Kansas City and on my roster. I was only hoping for a .255-ish average but he busted through at a .284 rate. When someone has a .220 BABIP in 500 plate appearance, it’s as good as a lock that he’ll increase his output the following season. Moustakas’ 22 HRs/82 RBIs and 73 runs was a result of decent patience and a great fit in that Royals lineup. Now the question is: Is this the real Mike Moustakas? I’m always wary of the post-breakout season; I believe that stats generally regress to the average, but I’m all in on Moose because this is the age 27 season and his second half showed a much greater fly ball tendency. If you accept a .260 batting average and a chance at 25/90 from a hitter drafted around 170, join me in my CRUSH
Yangervis Solarte – Solarte got better throughout the year and, like most Padres hitters, he owned interesting splits. He hit .300 at home with just five HRs, but on the road he hit nine long balls with just a .242 average. He’s very Daniel Murphy-esque. He not only plays 1B, 2B and 3B, but, like Murphy, makes excellent contact, owns good but not great power, and does not walk or strikeout often. He’s in his age 28 season, so a breakout is not out of the question. If you’re a believer in the second half being a precursor to the next season, he might give you 20 HRs, 80 RBIs, and a .280 average. I will temper that enthusiasm but still think he produces 16 HRs, 72 RBIs and .270. Not bad for a player on nobody’s radar. I love his numbers best as a 2B, but he only played 17 games there, so he should qualify at both corner positions. Since he won’t be drafted high at all, I love him as a late corner infielder or utility hitter. CRUSH
Luis Valbuena – The hardest part about winning a Fantasy baseball league is the daily attention you have to pay; which position players are off and who should I slot in? What starters are going today (and tomorrow in case I forget to set my lineup). Valbuena is the very definition of the streaming replacement player. His power is off the charts. His swing stinks. He won’t produce elite numbers in any one category and his average, RBI and run stats will sink your team if he’s in your lineup every day. But, gosh, it’s nice to get a home run from the hot corner on a day when Josh Donaldson is off, isn’t it? Valbuena is being drafted in the 270-ish area. Do not get all wide-eyed and think this is THE YEAR. Take him at face value and enjoy some streaming power. If you do, you’ll have a CRUSH
Nick Castellanos – Castellanos is not a guy anyone will build a draft or a team around, but he’s exactly the type of player I’m talking about when I discuss good talent at the hot corner. He walks too little and strikes out too often, but he doesn’t make soft contact. So while he’ll take a K, he pops the ball up very little too. And he’s got one of the lowest groundball rates among third basemen (36 percent last year). He saw a slight boost in power (15 HRs, 73 RBIs, up from 11/66). His average will linger in the .260 range, so we’re not talking about an MVP candidate here, but we are talking about a player who can quietly produce value and is being drafted in the 230 range (though Yahoo players are selecting him around 190). He’s a nice get down there. CRUSH
Yunel Escobar – His .314 batting average was the headline here, but that was the product of a .347 BABIP (.306 is his career average BABIP). He’s really a .275 hitter, more or less, who will struggle to reach even 10 HRs over a full season. He’s 33, so decline will take hold in 3….2….1…. FLUSH
Pablo Sandoval. Don’t. Just. Don’t. FLUSH
Danny Valencia – His 18 HRs/66 RBIs opened some eyes last season. But his groundball rate soared to 52 percent from 45 percent and he only hit fly balls 30 percent of the time. A .290 average is fine, but assume .280. He’s 31, so don’t get too excited about continued growth. FLUSH