Brian Creagh opened Third Base week here at Fake Teams with the landscape of the position for fantasy purposes earlier this morning. Today we bring you our consensus fantasy third base rankings for 2016. We used a points system for each of the 30 third baseman ranked by each of the Fake Teams writers who participated in the consensus rankings series.
The writers who participated in this series are the following:
We feel that by providing you our consensus position rankings, you get an average ranking from the Fake Teams writers, rather than one writers' opinion, which inherently may include some bias. You will see some players ranked higher by one Fake Teams writer than the others, so this helps the reader see both sides of the argument for/against a certain player who might be getting too much love this offseason.
Each of the position rankings will be split into two parts, rankings and player profiles for third basemen ranked 1 - 15 in part 1, and rankings and player profiles for third basemen ranked 16 - 30 in part 2 to be published on Tuesday morning. Consensus rankings should bring about discussion amongst you, our readers, and the Fake Teams writers who participated in this series.
In addition, our rankings are based on the standard 5 x 5 fantasy/roto baseball league scoring, including: batting average, runs scored, home runs, RBI and stolen bases for the hitters, and wins, saves, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts for the pitchers, relievers and closers.
Finally, we are using 5 games as our eligibility requirements to be ranked at a particular position. Your leagues may have more games played requirements to be eligible at a position, so keep that in mind when viewing our rankings.
Our Consensus Third Base Rankings for 2016:
1. Manny Machado, Orioles (Last Year: 10)
Machado's 2015 breakout campaign might seem long overdue--that is, until we recall that the Orioles' third baseman is six months and two days younger than Kris Bryant. Machado made his Major-League debut on August 9, 2012, one month and three days after he turned 20, so he already has played three full seasons and part of a fourth. Only in 2015, however, did his enormous talent translate into offensive production worthy of a first-round draft pick. Indeed, last season's .286/.359/.502 slash with 35 HR and 20 SB probably does not represent Machado's stratospheric ceiling. He should be one of the first 8-12 hitters off the board and could make a case for being the first third baseman drafted.
2. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays (LY: 1)
Last offseason's trade from Oakland to Toronto turned Donaldson from a nice, late-blooming, one-time All-Star into the 2015 American League MVP. No one would dispute the MVP-worthiness of a .297/.371/.568 season with 41 HR, 123 RBI, 122 R, and 41 doubles, and with the 2016 Blue Jays looking like an offensive juggernaut for at least one more year, there's no reason to expect a major dropoff in Donaldson's production. It is worth noting, however, that he'll turn 31 in December, and he's only a year removed from a sub-.800 OPS, so if you want to dream on another MVP-campaign, go right ahead--it's certainly possible--but it's also possible that 2015 was Donaldson's career season.
3. Nolan Arenado, Rockies (LY: 7)
A three-time National League Gold Glove winner, the 24-year-old Arenado in 2015 posted offensive numbers every bit as spectacular as his defensive accomplishments. He obliterated his own career highs in nearly every major category, including an NL-best 42 HR and 130 RBI. Most impressive of all, perhaps, these numbers were not Coors-inflated, for 22 of his 42 HR and 20 of his 43 doubles came on the road. He even hit 6 of those 22 road homers in 9 games at San Francisco's power-suppressing AT&T Park. While it will be difficult to surpass these numbers, Arenado should have another strong lineup around him, and he won't turn 25 until mid-April, so fantasy owners should select him with confidence in one of the first two rounds.
4. Kris Bryant, Cubs (LY: 19)
In 2015, Bryant's long-anticipated debut fulfilled expectations in nearly every way. After a scorching spring training at the plate and a brief-yet-controversial demotion designed to delay future arbitration and free agency, Bryant got the call-up on April 17 and began raking. Apart from a rough July, he never really stopped. One senses that a .275 average with 26 HR and 99 RBI represents only the beginning for this soon-to-be megastar. Fantasy owners should be aware, however, that Bryant's home/road splits are very pronounced; 21 of his 26 homers came at Wrigley Field. Furthermore, all prospective owners but especially those in head-to-head leagues should consider what to make of Bryant's ghastly 199 strikeouts, by far the most among third basemen. In short, there are some blemishes here, but Bryant's ceiling and the relentless hype surrounding him and his team will make him a sure-fire second-round pick.
5. Todd Frazier, White Sox (LY: 6)
It's difficult to predict how the move from Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark to Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field will affect Frazier's numbers this coming season. What we do know is that in 2015 Frazier collapsed after the All-Star Break, finishing last among qualified third baseman with a .220 batting average. He also turned 30 last week. Still, he did hit 16 of his 35 HR on the road, and he'll go from batting cleanup behind Joey Votto to batting cleanup behind Jose Abreu, which means that even if his average declines he should continue to be a very good source of power and run production.
6. Miguel Sano, Twins (LY: not ranked)
If you love 50-homer potential--and I imagine you do--then Sano is your guy at the hot corner. Long regarded as one of baseball's top prospects, the 22-year-old Sano, now 6'4" and 260 lbs, should provide elite power and run production from the middle of the Twins' order. Following his debut on July 2, 2015, Sano mashed his way to 18 HR, 52 RBI, and a .916 OPS in slightly less than half a season. Like most sluggers, Sano also presents the threat of enormous strikeout totals (119 in 80 games), so head-to-head owners beware. Meanwhile, all fantasy leaguers should take note that Sano played only nine games at 3B last season, and in 2016 the Twins will move him to the outfield, so in your league he likely will not be eligible at 3B beyond this coming season, assuming he even qualifies there now. Wherever he plays, Sano and his 80-grade raw power will come off the board in the early rounds.
7. Kyle Seager, Mariners (LY: 4)
With a $100 million contract and an All-Star Game appearance under his belt, Kyle Seager, who turned 28 in November, might bristle at being called "Corey Seager's older brother," and with good reason. Since 2012, Kyle Seager has been one of Seattle's most consistent hitters, posting 20-26 HR each season, with an OPS+ between 108 and 126, and playing at least 155 games. Indeed, Safeco Field, Seattle's offense-suppressing home stadium, is about the only thing keeping Seager from challenging for AL MVP honors. At home he hit only .237 with 7 HR and 25 RBI, but on the road he was a different player, posting .295 with 19 HR and 49 RBI. He also hit 46 points higher and knocked 13 of his 26 HR against lefties. In short, Seager might be the most underrated player on this list, and as long as he languishes at Safeco that's unlikely to change.
8. Adrian Beltre, Rangers (LY: 3)
All four of Beltre's All-Star Game appearances and all but one of his top-20 finishes in the MVP balloting have come since 2010, when he turned 31. The once-ballyhooed prospect spent much of his career as a tantalizing underachiever with the Dodgers and Mariners, but now, after five consecutive seasons of OPS+ numbers between 131 and 144, and a sixth season--2015--in which he finished seventh in the AL MVP vote, he could garner some consideration as a dark-horse candidate for the Hall of Fame. All of this means that fantasy owners should keep in mind Beltre's age--he turns 37 in April--but, given his late-career surge, they also should not overlook him as an affordable source of batting average (career .309 with Texas), power, and run production.
9. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals (LY: 10)
Another top-tier third baseman in his early thirties, Carpenter has additional fantasy appeal because he also qualifies at second base, where he played 11 games last season. Carpenter has only 13 steals in five career seasons, which could dissuade speed-needy owners from using him at second base. Otherwise, his 44 doubles, which led all Major-League third basemen, 101 runs scored (3rd), and 28 HR (5th) will play anywhere. Carpenter, like Josh Donaldson, has been a late-bloomer, so his track record and ceiling are both limited. Unlike Donaldson, Carpenter did not profile as a power-hitter prior to 2015 and had never hit more than 11 HR in a single season, so while there's plenty of value here, owners should be careful not to count on another 25-30 HR campaign.
10. Anthony Rendon, Nationals (LY: 2)
Like Matt Carpenter, Rendon will qualify at 2B and 3B, which brings added appeal. Unlike Carpenter, Rendon scuffled through an unproductive and injury-plagued 2015 season that resulted in a .264 average, 5 HR and 25 RBI in 80 games. Even when active, Rendon was unusable in fantasy leagues. He's still only 25, however, and is a year removed from a .287-21-83 campaign in which he led the NL with 111 runs scored and finished 5th in the MVP balloting. Fantasy owners will not have forgotten about Rendon's 2014 breakout, so expect the Nationals' young infielder to come off the board in the early rounds.
11. Maikel Franco, Phillies (LY: not ranked)
The Phillies' #1 prospect entering 2014, Franco struggled as a 21-year-old at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but he turned it around with a scorching start to 2015, got the call-up to Philadelphia in mid-May, and then spent the next three months showing why the Phils consider him a cornerstone in their ongoing rebuild. In 80 games prior to an August injury that cost him nearly all of the season's final seven weeks (he returned for the team's final series in October), Franco hit .280 with 14 HR and 50 RBI. He had nine RBI in the first five days of August, so before the injury he showed no signs of slowing. Fantasy owners in search of value should consider drafting Franco once the elite third basemen are off the board, for it won't be long before he joins that group.
12. Evan Longoria, Rays (LY: 5)
Longoria followed up a 6th-place finish in the 2013 AL MVP vote with back-to-back subpar seasons in which his OPS fell below .800 for the first time in his career. The Rays' $144 million man made three consecutive All-Star Games during Tampa's hopeful heyday of 2008-10, when Crawford, Upton, Zobrist, etc. made for a more potent lineup than the one the Rays have deployed in recent years. Still, there's room for optimism here. Longoria has been durable, appearing at least 160 games in each of the past three seasons. Plus, the Rays this offseason have made a few interesting additions to their offense, including former Colorado OF Corey Dickerson. Longoria is coming off two straight seasons of pedestrian numbers, and he turned 30 in October, but his 20-25 HR and 80+ RBI should continue to offer value as one of the first 8-12 third basemen off the board.
13. Mike Moustakas, Royals (LY: 28)
It seems like Moustakas has been around forever, but Kansas City's former #1 prospect is still only 27--he won't turn 28 until September--and is coming off a 2015 season in which he set career highs with 22 HR, 73 R, 82 RBI, a .284 average, and an .817 OPS. He also made his first All-Star Game. Because of his early-career struggles, Moustakas still carries the tag of a disappointment, perhaps even a platoon-ish type player. His 2015 breakthrough, however, came with impressive splits, including a .282 average and 10 HR in 206 ABs vs. left-handed pitching. He might not have the upside of a Maikel Franco, but, depending on the size of your league and your level of confidence in Moustakas, a selection in rounds 6-9 should not be out of the question.
14. Justin Turner, Dodgers (LY: not ranked)
With all the money the Dodgers have spent in recent years, it's impossible to believe they envisioned journeyman Justin Turner as their Opening-Day starter at third base and projected #3 hitter, but that's exactly what Turner has become. Last season Turner managed 26 doubles, 16 HR, and 60 RBI in only 439 PA. Had he qualified, his .861 OPS, which was 36 points lower than the .897 OPS he posted the previous year, would have tied Manny Machado for 4th among all Major-League third baseman. His overall tools and track record are limited, particularly as an everyday starter, but the hit-tool appears to have developed just fine, which makes Turner a plausible fantasy option at 3B and a good one at corner infield.
15. Daniel Murphy, Nationals (LY: not ranked)
With his otherworldly postseason fresh in their minds, the Nationals signed Murphy away from the rival Mets and will install him as their everyday second baseman. Had New York won the World Series, Murphy's 7 HR and 11 RBI in 9 games against the Dodgers and Cubs would be the stuff of playoff legend. As it stands, they're a nice memory, but fantasy owners should be careful not to view them as a harbinger of things to come in 2016. Though Murphy is a quality hitter, he has never reached 15 HR in a season, and his career OPS is .755. He'll get you some average and some run production that will serve you will at second base. At the hot corner, he's a fringe starter.
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