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Third basemen: The elite, the middle and the bargain

Three third basemen targets for three fantasy tiers.

Oakland Athleticsv New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Much like I wrote about in my first basemen edition of this series, you don’t want to wait too long for a third baseman in your drafts. There are 17 third basemen inside the top 150 picks according to NFBC data. As a whole, the position had the second-highest ISO (.182) in baseball and rarely are you going to want someone who doesn’t hit you some dingers.

The Elite

Kris Bryant (NFBC ADP: 15)

League Championship Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs - Game Three Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Heading into 2017, Bryant was the fifth overall selection in fantasy drafts. A year later, he’s dropped 10 spots. Why? He hit 10 fewer home runs and had an almost inexplicable 29-RBI drop. Before I start convincing you on why that shouldn’t matter, I’ll cede that he did hit the ball in the air a little less and his hard hit percentage dropped. But to drop 10 spots makes him one of the biggest steals on draft day.

Bryant upped his walk rate (14%) and lowered his strikeout rate (19%) for the third straight year. He’s making more contact in and out of the zone while swinging less overall. This is a sign of an already great player taking the necessary steps to become a superstar. Everything is trending in the right direction for Bryant. Don’t let RBIs dissuade you and know that his 2017 power output is the floor. I’m bullish on him and think he puts up 220 R+RBI with 35 home runs and a .275/.420/.560 line.

The Middle

Eugenio Suarez (NFBC ADP: 193)

Cincinnati Reds v Cleveland Indians Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

This is the lowest ADP I’ve used for a ‘middle’ target so far. This is the 16th round of a 12-team draft and a 12th round pick in a 15-teamer. Suarez is one of the most overlooked players in fantasy. He’s coming off a 26-home run season where he slashed .260/.367/.461. In the second half he dramatically altered his approach, going from a 32 percent fly ball rate in the first half to a 43 percent mark in the second half. He also pulled the ball more and hit it harder. As such, his slugging percentage went from .437 to .490. He’s still just 26 and the Reds like him so much that they are auditioning uber prospect Nick Senzel at shortstop. If you missed out on a few tiers of third basemen, be sure to snag Suarez on the cheap, especially in OBP leagues.

The Bargain

Matt Chapman (NFBC ADP: 284)

Kansas City Royals v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

One thing to know about Matt Chapman is that he’s a defensive wiz at third base. We’re talking “Probably-the-best-3B-in-the-AL” kind of good. This is going to ensure he gets 150 games this year barring injury. Because of this, Chapman is going to get a chance to hit a ton of bombs. In 133 games last year he hit 30 home runs. In 2015 at High-A he hit 23 in 80 games. In 2016 in Double-A and Triple-A he hit 36 in 135 games. The interesting thing with Chapman is he’s always been a pull-power type of guy, but in his 84-game stint in the majors he only pulled it 34 percent of the time and still got to his power. If he maintains an all fields approach and keeps his power, he could avoid becoming a shift-prone player.

Of course there are pitfalls, otherwise he wouldn’t be ranked so low. He strikes out almost 30 percent of the time and there’s a chance it goes north of that in 2018 as he adjusts in his first full season. But since 2015 he’s had a double-digit walk rate, which still gives him value. In points and average leagues, he’s a tough pill to swallow. In OBP/OPS/SLG leagues, he’s guaranteed to return a profit.