With Miguel Cabrera no longer eligible, a new king of third base emerged in 2015: Washington Nationals Anthony Rendon, who slashed .287/.351/.473 with 21 home runs, 111 runs, 83 RBI and 17 steals in his first full season. Rendon, 24, is not only eligible at third base but second base, too, making the Nationals offensive MVP from 2014 even more valuable.
We've seen a shift from former greats like Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria and David Wright dominating the position. Beltre finished third at the position but saw a big drop in power, while Rendon, Todd Frazier, Josh Donaldson, Josh Harrison and Kyle Seager all finished ahead of Longoria and Wright. The average third baseman hit .258/.318/.396 in 2015 (compared to .256/.317/.398 in 2014), while we saw an overall drop in power from 659 home runs in 2014 to 603 in 2015.
While not a single third baseman hit 30 home runs in 2014 (Donaldson was closest with 29), it's still in your best interest to look to the potential power hitters at third base as you fill out your roster.
The Great Divide (AL/NL)
The American League wins this battle with slightly more guys at the top, but the emergence of Rendon, Nolan Arenado and Frazier in the National League doesn't leave the Senior Circuit far behind. I'll still take Donaldson and Seager over those guys, and don't forget about Baltimore's two-headed monster of Manny Machado, who has the elite pedigree, and Chris Davis, who has a 53-home run season.
I also give the American League the advantage in terms of depth, with players like Pablo Sandoval moving to the AL in Boston and Brett Lawrie staying in the AL in Oakland. I'm not sure what to make of Ryan Zimmerman this year; the once elite fantasy third baseman is moving to first, but he doesn't have the cleanest track record and can't stay on the field. He's on arguably the best team in the NL, hitting in the middle of the Nationals lineup, and could be worth the risk at his current Average Draft Position of 117.75, according to NESN.com's NFBC ADP.
Aramis Ramirez is another year older, but the production is still there when he plays, and Martin Prado will continue to be a valuable super-utility type in Miami with third-base eligibility among others. I'm still high on Nick Castellanos and his hitting tool, and Pedro Alvarez still has some of the biggest power in the game today.
The Draft Strategy
I can go back and forth between Donaldson and Rendon all day long and still end up nowhere. Without a clear-cut No. 1 at the position, I don't advocate taking your first third basemen within the first 12 picks. The end of Round 1 is where Rendon is going, and I'm not a fan of using the early pick on the As much as I love Rendon, I'd much rather take Donaldson (23.10 ADP) ten picks later in the second round.
Given the depth of the position, however, I won't be discouraged if I don't end up with either. After years of avoiding Longoria, this is the season I'll probably end up taking the plunge. He's going late in the fourth, and if you can get him in the fifth I can really sign off. Give me Longoria and his 57.23 ADP over Frazier, whose 2014 breakout is pushing him into Beltre territory. Frazier isn't hitting .273 again, and Longoria will post comparable numbers in the counting stats, minus steals. I trust the track record of Longoria, even if he's not putting up stud numbers anymore.
I'm also a little worried about Arenado's fourth-round ADP, as I'm that guy who likes to see it more than once before getting my feet wet. I do think Arenado owners will be pleased with his 2015 output, but the fourth round isn't for me. Then you'll find the Seagers, Wrights, Zimmermans, Sandovals and Carlos Santanas of the world. That's the world I'm living in. I'll pass on Josh Harrison (93.64) and Matt Carpenter (134.85), but would love to have either in my corner infield spot.
My draft strategy almost always revolves around finding value (unless certain poisons are involved), and third base is a position you can definitely find it. Don't stress on missing the Big 1, 2 or 3, because, well, there no longer is one at third base.
Daniel Kelley will have more on draft strategy on Wednesday.
The New Guys
Chicago Cubs 2013 first-round pick Kris Bryant headlines a young group of third basemen set to take the league by storm. The one with the dreamy eyes likely won't start the year with the big-league club, but a late April arrival isn't so crazy. Bryant spent 2014 abusing minor-league pitching, blasting 43 home runs in 138 games between Double-A and Triple-A. The 23-year-old's upside is through the roof, with the potential of being an annual first-round pick in fantasy leagues.
The hype is real, and Bryant is currently being drafted as the No. 10 third baseman despite logging no games at the big-league level. You have to be all over Bryant in keeper or dynasty leagues, but I would pump the brakes in re-draft leagues. I personally ranked Bryant as my No. 15 third baseman in the upcoming Fake Teams Consensus Rankings set to publish in a few hours.
Philadelphia's Maikel Franco and Minnesota's Miguel Sano could find their way onto the big-league roster sooner rather than later, while Joey Gallo is another candidate for a late-season call up. Gallo's pure power rivals Giancarlo Stanton.
The Fake Teams Prospect Staff will have player profiles on Bryant and Franco, as well as the top-15 fantasy third-base prospects first thing Tuesday morning.
We have a lot of great third base content on deck from the talented group of writers at Fake Teams, including rankings, "sleepers," targets/avoids, player profiles and much, much more. Be sure to check back real soon as Ray releases Part 1 of the Fake Teams consensus ranks. Let's play two!
Time Slot/Day Monday 2/23/2015 Tuesday 2/24/2015 Wednesday 2/25/2015 Thursday 2/26/2015 Friday 2/27/2015 7am State of the Position Top 15 Third Base Prospects Top 30 Third Base Rankings, Part 2 Third Baseman to Target Third Baseman to Avoid 10am Top 30 Third Base Rankings, Part 1 Prospect Profile: Kris Bryant Third Base Profile: Ryan Zimmerman Prospect Profile: Maikel Franco NL/AL-only Sleepers 12pm Third Base Profile: Brett Lawrie Third Base Profile: Nolan Arenado 2015 Third Base Draft Strategy Third Base Profile:Chase Headley Third Base Profile: Chris Davis 2pm Third Base Profile: David Wright Third Base Profile: Manny Machado Third Base Eligibility Third Base Projections from Steamer Rankings Rumble: Todd Frazier 4pm Third Base Profile: Kyle Seager