Thirdbase is my hands down favorite position in the fantasy landscape in 2016. It has a little bit of everything, from reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, to NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant, and a group of youngsters who have already established themselves as dominant offensive threats in Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado. Third basemen will come at a premium in all drafts and auctions given the pedigree and upside so many options contain, and given the lack of depth below the top 7 or 8 options, I think the play should be to pony up and pay for one of the top options. Let's take a look at some general tiers within the position and identify top options in each.
This is the group I'm looking to buy into for any re-draft league. Josh Donaldson could arguably be in a class by his own after last season's performance, and I see little reason for him not to repeat a similar performance. The counting stats (122 Rs and 123 RBIs) will be tough to duplicate, but the elite AVG, HR, and OBP totals are repeatable. Also in this group, I would include Kris Bryant and Manny Machado who each have the potential to be the #1 fantasy players in 2016. I am concerned with Bryant's strikeout rates, and while his current ADP is receiving mixed opinions from the fantasy community, I think he's a worthwhile gamble in the 2nd round of the draft. Manny Machado is another elite option who isn't receiving the same publicity as Bryant or Donaldson. He's also going in the tail end of the first round and is a much safer play than Kris Bryant. 35 HRs and 20 SBs is an elite profile, and at 23 years old there is no fear of regressing or diminishing talent.
Mixed League Starters
This group contains the third basemen who will be drafted in all standard formats and are firmly considered Top 10 options at the position. Matt Carpenter is one of my favorite mid-draft sleepers of the year. His power increase in 2015 is largely seen as unsustainable, but the peripherals back the numbers and the OBP and counting stats are borderline elite. There are concerns with the Cardinals lineup, but I bet Carpenter plays a huge role in an offense that is much better than people expect. Nolan Arenado could arguably be in the elite option, but I think the 42 HRs last year are a bit of a mirage and he'll come back down to earth this year. Todd Frazier is an intriguing option in this group going much later in drafts - I like his move to U.S. Cellular Field and think that lineup will help prop up his counting stats. Another cheaper play that I would pump up into this group is Jung-Ho Kang. He might miss the first few weeks of the season due to his broken leg, but he was a great surprise last year and the SS eligibility is a nice bonus. A few other options in this tier I really like are Mike Moustakas, Kyle Seager, and Adrian Beltre
Here are guys, who will likely be starters in most formats, but depending on price, I'm likely to let them go to a different owner. Matt Duffy is the prime target here. His 12 HRs last year are such an outlier from the rest of his minor and collegiate career, I have little faith he can duplicate it. Evan Longoria is another guy whose productivity is slowly been slipping, but his brand name continues to keep his ADP higher than it should. Justin Turner is someone whose final 2015 numbers look great, but are really the bi-product of an awesome month of June. I'd rather take a flier on one of the rookie outlined below before paying the requisite price for these options.
The rookie class at 3B is headlined by Miguel Sano and Maikel Franco. Each player could be 1st round selections next year if they exhibit the same talent they showed in the cup of coffee last year. Sano is the name everyone knows about the 40+ HR power is very real. He has the same swing-and-miss concerns as Bryant, but he's still too young to say that it's an issue that will hamper his career - there's plenty of time for him to learn to adjust. Maikel Franco is my favorite sleeper at the position. He hit 14 HRs in just 80 games last year and put together excellent ratios to go along with it. I'll have Franco every where, and I hope his stock stays deflated heading into drafts. A few other young names to consider in your drafts - Jake Lamb and Joey Gallo. I'm all-in on Gallo and have no fears about his contact rates.
Nick Castellanos, Brett Lawrie, Yasmany Tomas headline a list of sleepers going late in drafts and retain 3B eligibility. I love these three options and will probably roll the dice on these guys as starters in a few leagues to pay up for pitching earlier in the draft/auction. Some other sneaky waiver plays to keep an eye on include Josh Harrison, Yangervis Solarte, Jonathan Villar, and Trevor Plouffe.