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Tiered Third Base Rankings Analysis

Brian Creagh digs deeper into the projections to find the implied tiers in third base rankings.

MLB: Chicago Cubs-Workouts Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Third Base Week rolls on with my favorite article of the week—implied tiers analysis. If you missed this same article from Catcher Week, I would recommend giving the overview a quick read. The concept remains the same: using a relatively vanilla projection model (Steamer) we discern the implied tiers where production makes a big drop from one player to the next. Furthermore, looking at current ADP values (via FanGraphs) we discover where it may be advantageous to take a third baseman in drafts.

For each position, we will only rank as many players as are typically owned in your standard 5x5, 12-man league. For third base this means approximately 27 players, since your 28th and 29th third basemen are likely going undrafted in this format. So without further ado, here are the implied tiers for third base:

Again, a few explanations - zSUM is the sum of all a player’s z-scores for each of the 5 categories. A zSUM of 1 means that the player is one standard deviation better than the average player at this position. It is not the be-all and end-all definition of a player’s value, because a player’s worth to a team is dependent to the construction of that specific team (i.e. Billy Hamilton doesn’t mean as much to a team that already has Dee Gordon). It is an excellent approximation of a player’s general value compared to the rest of the position and a helpful metric for organizing similar expected output.

Tiers are represented by the solid black line and were generated subjectively by looking at both zSUM and current ADP. The double black line beneath Justin Turner represents the average production at the position - players above the line are “above-average” and players below the line are “below-average.” It is my goal to leave every draft with an above-average player at each position, so having this break-even point in mind is extremely helpful.

Next we need to compare this zSUM metric to where each player is currently being drafted. If we can wait a round or two and get the same production as an earlier pick, we are setting ourselves up for success. The graph below plots each player’s zSUM vs. their current ADP with a trend line running through the scatter plot. A simple way of interpreting the chart is: players above the line represent good value, while players below the line represent poor value at their current ADP.

(click image to zoom)


Manny Machado over Nolan Arenado is an interesting result. Driven by his projected eight stolen bases, Machado nudges past Arenado in the rankings. I still have Arenado ranked higher, but the difference in ADP is worth noting—Machado at the back end of the second round is looking like a great value.

There is such a steep drop after the top seven third basemen. In the table above, the drop appears to be after Alex Bregman, the sixth ranked third basemen, but I feel Anthony Rendon is undervalued in these projections so the top seven is the big breaking point for me. I need to have one of these top seven hitters in my auctions/drafts.

Evan Longoria is looking like great value going outside the top 200 picks. He should hit fourth behind Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey. 2018 will be Longoria’s age 32 season and he’s been durable for so many years, I would be very comfortable with Longoria in one of my CI spots.

Josh Harrison is also looking like a solid option in the last rounds of the draft. 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases is a really good floor when combined with his leadoff spot in the batting order. Other projection systems like Harrison even more, giving a 15 HR/15 SB floor with a .280 average. At Round 23 of your draft, that is unbeatable value.

The model is very down on Travis Shaw this year, projecting a decrease of 20 runs batted in and 14 runs. With Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain now batting in front of Shaw, I find myself more optimistic than Steamer.

It’s also worth pointing out the poor Miguel Sano projection. Steamer only projects 473 plate appearances for Sano this season, which is holding back his counting stats. I’m not sure what will happen with sexual misconduct allegations or how the Logan Morrison/Erick Aybar signings will impact playing time, but it’s hard to be too optimistic on Sano right now. I expect his ADP to start falling.

If you have any questions or comments or just want to chat further about your league, please don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter @BrianCreagh or via email