Deep League Drafting: Third Base

Justin K. Aller

My coverage shifts to the hot corner where we look at positional durability and offensive production for deep leaguers in 2014. How is the position trending in terms of available players who will help your team? What does the future hold? Who are some players to target and avoid next year?

Since most fantasy commentary deals with 10-12 team leagues, and redraft leagues at that, I am continuing a series on deep league drafting (let's say 16+ teams) by looking at two primary factors: durability and offensive production. The basic premise is that you want to draft guys that will give you a whole season of PAs as well as guys who generally perform above league average offensively. You can read more about the methodology and philosophy in the first part of the series. Today we turn our attention to the hot corner.

From the 2011-2013 seasons there were 10, 15, and 15 third basemen who performed above average in wOBA and wRC+ and accrued a qualified amount of PAs. In shallow leagues, it means that this position is plenty deep for all your stat-stuffing needs. However, take note managers, this will most likely be the last year you can take advantage of Miguel Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion at 3B. There is still plenty of value to be had using these two at 1b in subsequent years, but peak value will be right now while they have 3b-eligibility. I'm not saying sell high...I'm just saying.

Additionally, while the cream of the hot-corner-crop continues to be headlined by the aforementioned veterans, there doesn't necessarily seem to be a treasure trove of young guys on the way this year. Sure Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman are entering their peak years, although I don't see much more upside in either. The youth movement in the majors already includes Manny Machado, Kyle Seager, and Nolan Arenado. However, Kris Bryant, Miguel Sano (if he sticks at 3b), and Maikel Franco are doubtful to make any impact for fantasy purposes this year.

After the stats come the observations:

2011 Stats

Name Team G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
1 Adrian Beltre Rangers 124 525 32 82 105 1 4.80% 10.10% 0.265 0.273 0.296 0.331 0.561 0.381 135
2 Aramis Ramirez Cubs 149 626 26 80 93 1 6.90% 11.00% 0.204 0.308 0.306 0.361 0.51 0.375 134
3 Michael Young Rangers 159 689 11 88 106 6 6.80% 11.30% 0.136 0.367 0.338 0.38 0.474 0.369 127
4 Evan Longoria Rays 133 574 31 78 99 3 13.90% 16.20% 0.251 0.239 0.244 0.355 0.495 0.367 136
5 Kevin Youkilis Red Sox 120 517 17 68 80 3 13.20% 19.30% 0.202 0.296 0.258 0.373 0.459 0.366 126
6 Mark Reynolds Orioles 155 620 37 84 86 6 12.10% 31.60% 0.262 0.266 0.221 0.323 0.483 0.35 116
7 Chipper Jones Braves 126 512 18 56 70 2 10.00% 15.60% 0.196 0.295 0.275 0.344 0.47 0.348 120
8 Edwin Encarnacion Blue Jays 134 530 17 70 55 8 8.10% 14.50% 0.181 0.292 0.272 0.334 0.453 0.343 113
9 Ryan Roberts Diamondbacks 143 555 19 86 65 18 11.90% 17.70% 0.178 0.275 0.249 0.341 0.427 0.339 109
10 Alberto Callaspo Angels 141 536 6 54 46 8 10.80% 9.00% 0.086 0.31 0.288 0.366 0.375 0.328 109

2012 Stats

Name Team G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
1 Miguel Cabrera Tigers 161 697 44 109 139 4 9.50% 14.10% 0.277 0.331 0.33 0.393 0.606 0.417 166
2 Adrian Beltre Rangers 156 654 36 95 102 1 5.50% 12.50% 0.24 0.319 0.321 0.359 0.561 0.388 142
3 Aramis Ramirez Brewers 149 630 27 92 105 9 7.00% 13.00% 0.24 0.31 0.3 0.36 0.54 0.384 141
4 Chase Headley Padres 161 699 31 95 115 17 12.30% 22.50% 0.212 0.337 0.286 0.376 0.498 0.378 145
5 David Wright Mets 156 670 21 91 93 15 12.10% 16.70% 0.186 0.347 0.306 0.391 0.492 0.376 141
6 David Freese Cardinals 144 567 20 70 79 3 10.10% 21.50% 0.174 0.352 0.293 0.372 0.467 0.365 133
7 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals 145 641 25 93 95 5 8.90% 18.10% 0.196 0.313 0.282 0.346 0.478 0.352 121
8 Alex Rodriguez Yankees 122 529 18 74 57 13 9.60% 21.90% 0.158 0.323 0.272 0.353 0.43 0.342 113
9 Pedro Alvarez Pirates 149 586 30 64 85 1 9.70% 30.70% 0.223 0.308 0.244 0.317 0.467 0.335 112
10 Chris Johnson - - - 136 528 15 48 76 5 5.90% 25.00% 0.17 0.354 0.281 0.326 0.451 0.334 108
11 Jordan Pacheco Rockies 132 505 5 51 54 7 4.40% 12.10% 0.112 0.344 0.309 0.341 0.421 0.33 92
12 Hanley Ramirez - - - 157 667 24 79 92 21 8.10% 19.80% 0.18 0.29 0.257 0.322 0.437 0.328 106
13 Kevin Youkilis - - - 122 509 19 72 60 10.00% 21.20% 0.174 0.268 0.235 0.336 0.409 0.328 103
14 Kyle Seager Mariners 155 651 20 62 86 13 7.10% 16.90% 0.163 0.286 0.259 0.316 0.423 0.321 108
15 Brett Lawrie Blue Jays 125 536 11 73 48 13 6.20% 16.00% 0.132 0.311 0.273 0.324 0.405 0.319 98

2013 Stats

Name Team G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
1 Miguel Cabrera Tigers 148 652 44 103 137 3 13.80% 14.40% 0.288 0.356 0.348 0.442 0.636 0.455 192
2 Josh Donaldson Athletics 158 668 24 89 93 5 11.40% 16.50% 0.199 0.333 0.301 0.384 0.499 0.384 148
3 Adrian Beltre Rangers 161 690 30 88 92 1 7.20% 11.30% 0.193 0.322 0.315 0.371 0.509 0.379 135
4 Evan Longoria Rays 160 693 32 91 88 1 10.10% 23.40% 0.23 0.312 0.269 0.343 0.498 0.36 133
5 Chris Johnson Braves 142 547 12 54 68 5.30% 21.20% 0.136 0.394 0.321 0.358 0.457 0.354 127
6 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals 147 633 26 84 79 6 9.50% 21.00% 0.19 0.316 0.275 0.344 0.465 0.353 125
7 Kyle Seager Mariners 160 695 22 79 69 9 9.80% 17.60% 0.166 0.29 0.26 0.338 0.426 0.337 113
8 Pablo Sandoval Giants 141 584 14 52 79 8.00% 13.50% 0.139 0.301 0.278 0.341 0.417 0.331 115
9 Chase Headley Padres 141 600 13 59 50 8 11.20% 23.70% 0.15 0.319 0.25 0.347 0.4 0.33 113
10 Pedro Alvarez Pirates 152 614 36 70 100 2 7.80% 30.30% 0.24 0.276 0.233 0.296 0.473 0.33 111
11 Martin Prado Diamondbacks 155 664 14 70 82 3 7.10% 8.00% 0.135 0.288 0.282 0.333 0.417 0.328 103
12 Manny Machado Orioles 156 710 14 88 71 6 4.10% 15.90% 0.148 0.322 0.283 0.314 0.432 0.325 101
13 David Freese Cardinals 138 521 9 53 60 1 9.00% 20.30% 0.119 0.32 0.262 0.34 0.381 0.322 106
14 Michael Young - - - 147 565 8 52 46 1 7.60% 14.70% 0.116 0.319 0.279 0.335 0.395 0.32 102
15 Todd Frazier Reds 150 600 19 63 73 6 8.30% 20.80% 0.173 0.269 0.234 0.314 0.407 0.319 100

Observations:

1. There is only one name who made the list three years running and has been the most consistent, safe fantasy producer at the position: Adrian Beltre. There is no reason to believe he won't put up similar numbers this year with the Rangers' revamped lineup.

2. Just like my shortstop observations, third base is an extremely demanding position physically. Therefore, it wouldn't hurt to draft a starter and a backup, as remaining durable throughout an entire season is difficult. Finding a multi-positional eligible guy like a late-round Kelly Johnson or Mike Aviles would not be a bad bench spot.

3. I mentioned the Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman above for good reason. These are two guys who are always good at the position, but consistently overrated in my opinion (and in this guy's opinion, too). Honestly, if I want power like Longoria I'd rather wait and get Pedro Alvarez later. With a bit of BABIP luck I could almost get Ryan Zimmerman's 2013 from Todd Frazier, all things considered. Point is unless you're getting an elite guy, you might as well wait.

4. Looking at Josh Donaldson, I was going to say don't overpay in 2014, but then Jeff Zimmerman took the words right out of my mouth.

5. For those of you still dreaming about those dreamy 170 PAs (.293/.373/.580 with 9 HR and 7 SBs) from Brett Lawrie in 2011, keep dreaming because I don't think that guy is coming back. He might be better than last year but he might be who he is at this point.

Target

Pedro Alvarez, PIT. It's not like he's a sleeper anymore, but hear me out. The guy is 27 this season and a late bloomer. The power is real, the Ks are real. However, if he has a little more regression to the mean in BABIP, could you stomach this: .250/.320/.480 with 35+ HR and 100+ RBI? Uh, yeah, I thought you might. By the way, he was #3 overall in batted ball distance last year behind only Carlos Gonzalez and Paul Goldschmidt...he beat Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. Yahtzee!

Avoid

Manny Machado, BAL. This is not a commentary on Machado the real-life baseball player. That guy is really good. No, I'm talking about the miscast-at-the-hot-corner-fantasy-baseball Manny Machado. The prospect hype train is still rolling strong here for this guy but I don't want a ticket to ride. His 710 PAs last year gave us 14 HRs, 6 SBs, .283/.314/.381. Blech. Yes, he's young and he's going to get better, but you don't want him in 2014. Start signing the "Get J.J. Hardy out of Camden" petition and then I'll be singing a different tune. Buy low at the end of this year.

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