3 UP / 3 DOWN: 2014 Third Base Position

Evan Longoria - Steven Kovich

Matt takes a look at some of the third basemen around the league that could see their fantasy value increase or decline during the 2014 season.

One of the most important elements of winning in fantasy baseball comes down to finding those players that take a step forward and outperform their draft positions by breaking out or having their career years. We will be reviewing certain players at each position and discussing whether their fantasy value will be on the rise or decline heading into the 2014 baseball season and if you should target or avoid them in your draft. Every Friday we will be reviewing a new position here at faketeams.com. The next position we will be taking a look at is third base, a great place to find your fantasy team’s power source for 2014. Now, let’s take a look at the third basemen that could improve or hurt their fantasy value during the upcoming baseball season.

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Evan Longoria – Longoria is already considered a top 25 fantasy hitter and top 5 fantasy option at 3B. So why is he on the rising list? Let’s take a look at the top fantasy options at the third base position. You have to start the conversation with Miggy when discussing third base. But after the Tigers traded Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers, it became clear that the team is planning on shifting Cabrera back to first base. So after 2014, there is a strong possibility that Miguel Cabrera will not be 3B-eligible. Then there are David Wright and Adrian Beltre. Wright will be 32 years-old in 2014 after battling injuries and missing time in 2013. Adrian Beltre will also turn 35 years-old during the first week of the 2014 season. As the rest of the position starts to fade away, Longoria is just 28 years-old and will still be in his prime for at least a few more years. He has already shown us he can carry fantasy teams for stretches at a time and has three seasons of at least 30 HR’s. If Longo can stay healthy in 2014, he could become the top third baseman for fantasy leagues by 2015.

Brett Lawrie – This hard-nosed hustler gives it his all on the diamond and Lawrie’s love for the game is easy to see in his play. But Lawrie’s all out play has led to multiple injuries since his call-up in 2011. While on the field, Lawrie has shown glimpses of his immense talent that made him a top ranked prospect. In 2013, Lawrie totaled just 401 AB’s after missing time with a strained side and later a sprained ankle. His approach to the game will render him an injury risk until he becomes more cautious with his body. But his attitude might also be what helps Lawrie take his game to the next level. With a nice mix of speed and power, Lawrie has the ability to be a 5-category producer for fantasy owners. If he can get anywhere close to 550 AB’s in 2014, fantasy owners will be very content with the return they received from the young third baseman.

Nolan Arenado – The Rockies third baseman played most of the 2013 season in the majors at the age of 22. After breaking out in the minors in 2011, Arenado failed to produce the same numbers in 2012. But after a quick start with the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox in 2013, he was quickly promoted and handed the everyday duties. The results after his promotion were mixed, but signs point in the right direction for Arenado. He improved his batting average in the second half of the season by hitting .298, opposed to his .244 BA in the 1st half. Most of Nolan’s struggles came while batting in the 7-hole in the batting order. He was much better while batting higher in the batting order. If the Rockies noticed that, then he will likely be slotted in a little higher in the batting order next year, which could also lead to better results with the counting stats.

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Matt Carpenter – Carpenter came just 1 hit shy of joining the 200-Hit Club in 2013. The Swiss army knife was able to hit for a .318 batting average on the year while qualifying at multiple positions in many leagues. But the high average was driven by a .359 BABIP. With just a slight drop in BABIP, which should be expected, Carpenter’s batting average could be back in the .290’s. If he is on base less, then the 126 runs will be even tougher to repeat. Never before in any minor or major league season had Carpenter ever totaled 80 runs before 2013. He doesn’t do enough in HR’s, RBI’s, and SB’s to be able to overcome a drop in BA and/or R’s to remain a top fantasy option. Carpenter will also be making the move to 3B in 2014. With the move to 3B, Kolten Wong and Mark Ellis could take up enough starts at 2B that 2014 might be Carpenter’s last year of multi-position eligibility. Too many signs point in the wrong direction here. Don’t pay for a repeat.

Pablo Sandoval – The Panda continues to get over-ranked based on his strong 2009 and 2011 seasons. Paying for a return to those seasons left many fantasy managers disappointed in 2012 and 2013. And yet again, most rankings have Sandoval inside the top 10-15 third basemen. The last time he hit over .283 was in 2011. He hasn’t totaled 80 RBI’s in any of the past 4 seasons, and has never totaled 80 runs in a season ever. The Panda won’t steal you more than a few bases, meaning a return to the power levels of a few years ago is needed to deserve being anyone’s starting fantasy third baseman. One of his main problems over the years has been his weight, which is tougher to maintain as you get older. If Sandoval gets serious and shows up to camp in great shape, there is a chance he could get back to his elite numbers again. But if he doesn’t start taking better care of himself, his descent from baseball could come rather quickly.

Chris Johnson – Everything I just wrote about Matt Carpenter, goes double for Chris Johnson. Johnson’s run at the batting title in 2013 was driven by an outrageous .394 BABIP!!! He did hit for a .308 BA in 2010 with the Astros, but that was his only major league season with a batting average over .281. The high average in 2013 was carried by 2 very hot months in April and July. May, June, August, and September were much more in line with his career norms. Johnson’s counting stats were still very pedestrian despite the high average in 2013. Like Carpenter, if the batting average drops, the value goes down tremendously. Astute fantasy managers won’t be paying for a repeat of this third baseman’s 2013 stats.

Which third basemen do you think could break-out next year?

Which third basemen will be over-drafted in 2014?

Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below...

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