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Career Year Analysis - Third Base

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A look at who is coming off a career year and how it impacts their draft stock.

MLB: NLDS-Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Building on what I put together last week for shortstops, let’s take a look at third basemen coming off of career-best and career-worst seasons in 2017.

Before reviewing the entire table, a few notes about each field:

  • Age is as of the 2017 season
  • Only seasons with greater than 400 plate appearances are considered. This means career averages are a little different from what you will find on baseball-reference or FanGraphs.
  • Each of the “Above Career Average” field is measured in the same units as the metric in question. So Freddie Freeman being 4.43 HR above career average means he hit 4.43 more home runs then his career average in 2017.
  • The last column “Career Year Index” is a combination of all five categories to measure who exceeded their career averages the most across all five statistics. This statistic is normalized for plate appearances, so players who earned more runs, home runs, etc. solely because of more playing time do not score well here. Each stat besides average is taken on a per plate appearance basis.

Do not fall for the trap of “Player X greatly exceeded his career average, he must regress!” But do consider Player X is worth a deeper dive to see if his improvement is driven by a change in approach/skill set development or if it was fueled by luck/randomness and regression is to be expected.

Career Year Analysis

Name Age (2017 season) R above Career Average HR above Career Average RBI above Career Average AVG above Career Average SB above Career Average zSUM
Name Age (2017 season) R above Career Average HR above Career Average RBI above Career Average AVG above Career Average SB above Career Average zSUM
Freddie Freeman 27 0 4.43 -12.57 0.017 4.14 5.48
Nolan Arenado 26 16 7.4 28.8 0.02 0.8 5.47
Jedd Gyorko 28 3.4 0.2 7.6 0.028 4 5.12
Justin Turner 32 8.25 4 3 0.034 1.25 5.06
Travis Shaw 27 10.5 7.5 15 0.016 2.5 4.88
Eduardo Escobar 28 8 8 17 -0.01 2.33 3.67
Nick Castellanos 25 18.25 8.5 26.5 0.004 2.25 3.64
Anthony Rendon 27 -13.33 3 10.67 0.015 -5 3.3
Miguel Sano 24 9 1.5 5.5 0.014 -0.5 2.71
Jose Ramirez 24 11.5 9 3.5 0.003 -2.5 1.56
Luis Valbuena 31 -15.33 1 7.67 -0.025 -0.67 1.12
Eugenio Suarez 25 4.5 2.5 6 0.006 -3.5 0.75
Josh Donaldson 31 -33.2 0.2 -20.2 -0.011 -3.6 0.59
Chase Headley 33 10.33 -1.44 -0.56 0.009 -0.89 0.33
Yangervis Solarte 29 -6.75 3.75 2.5 -0.013 1.75 0.22
Jake Lamb 26 4 0.5 7 -0.001 0 0
Asdrubal Cabrera 31 -0.2 0.4 -1.8 0.011 -5.6 -0.2
Alex Bregman 23 0 0 0 0 0 -0.23
Cory Spangenberg 26 0 0 0 0 0 -0.23
Joey Gallo 23 0 0 0 0 0 -0.23
Matt Davidson 26 0 0 0 0 0 -0.23
Ryon Healy 25 0 0 0 0 0 -0.23
Eduardo Nunez 30 -6.5 -2 -4.5 0.013 -8 -0.32
Manny Machado 24 -13 3.25 8 -0.022 0.25 -0.74
Derek Dietrich 27 8.5 3 5.5 -0.015 -0.5 -0.85
Josh Harrison 29 1.75 6.75 0.5 -0.017 -2.75 -1.62
Kyle Seager 29 -4.33 2 2.67 -0.014 -4.67 -1.84
Kris Bryant 25 4.67 -2.33 -18.33 0.008 -2.33 -2.32
Maikel Franco 24 -0.5 -0.5 -6 -0.013 -0.5 -2.52
David Freese 34 -12 -2.67 -7.5 -0.005 -1 -2.71
Matt Carpenter 31 -8.6 4.8 -2.6 -0.034 -0.8 -2.87
Jose Reyes 34 -8.38 4.25 5.25 -0.042 -8.25 -4.12
Evan Longoria 31 -11.33 -7.11 -7 -0.008 0.56 -4.23
Todd Frazier 31 -1.17 -1.17 -4.5 -0.033 -6.17 -5.31
Hernan Perez 26 -1.5 0.5 -2.5 -0.007 -10.5 -5.86
Logan Forsythe 30 -11 -8.33 -16 -0.032 -3 -7.23

The table is meant largely to help others fuel their own research and come to their own conclusions. Please share them in the comments, or reach out via Twitter/email. I have a few of my own thoughts below as well.

Observations

Evan Longoria is coming off a tough year where the supporting cast wasn’t there in Tampa Bay and his BABIP was the second worst in his career at .282 (career average is .299). I love what San Francisco did this off-season, and the Giants offense is going to be productive. Buy low on Longoria.

This is the second article I’ve done during third base week which suggests Nolan Arenado may be going a little too high. His spot on this list is driven largely by his career best in batting average (.309) which was fueled by a career best BABIP of .320 (career average .297). Arenado didn’t see any significant change in batted ball profile so I expect his batting average to drop closer to his .290 range in 2018. He’s still an ultra safe pick at the top of drafts, but don’t pencil him in to repeat his numbers from last season.

It’s been a crazy little roller coaster ride with Matt Carpenter the last few years, but I’m ready to buy back in. The power is still there and the surrounding offense improved with the addition of Marcell Ozuna. There is an upside of Carpenter flirting with 90 runs and 20 home runs at the small price of a 15th round draft pick. He has started to see a decline in line drive rate (from 30% to 27%) but he’s worth the gamble that 2017 was variance and not a sign of Carpenter’s decline—he is only 32 years old this year.

The brother of Corey Seager is another great bounceback candidate in 2018. Another guy who saw a wicked BABIP drop without a corresponding change in batted ball profile, Seager hit a career worst .249. He’s only 30 years old this year and I am expecting 26 home runs and a .260ish batting average from Kyle Seager.

I’m starting to think I’m too low on Anthony Rendon. His career averages are wonky since he was a run-heavy producer when batting 2nd in the Nationals lineup to start his career, but after moving to the 5th/6th hole has seen his RBI totals increase and his runs decrease. The profile is so solid and should continue that way in 2018, with the exception of a small regression in home runs after his career-high HR/FB rate in 2017.

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 bcreagh119@gmail.com.