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Daily Fantasy Strategy: Third Base

Heath explores the hot corner for MLB DFS purposes.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Already in the books are:

Catcher

First Base

Second Base

Shortstop

And now, welcome to the second-most powerful position in MLB DFS. The most powerful distinction goes to first basemen. Still, we have some things to discuss. Let’s do this.

Second Place is the First Loser

Tell me you don’t remember those shirts from the 90s. I know you do. Anyway, check out isolated power totals from the three most powerful positions in baseball:

MLB first basemen ISO over the last three years: .185, .192, .211.

MLB third basemen ISO over the last three years: .160, .178, .182.

MLB outfielder ISO over the last three years: .158, .165, .176.

First basemen have been first in all three years, while third basemen have been second all three years. It isn’t a fair fight to include outfield, since there are so many defense-first or speed-first guys. Still, my reasons for doing this are to get a large picture in my head of what each position offers. For instance, third basemen offer a lot of power, generally more than outfielders—just not as much as first basemen.

Batting Average and the “Power Three”

First Basemen BA, last three years: .259, .255, .261

Third Basemen BA, last three years: .260, .264, .256

Outfielder BA, last three years: .260, .257, .260

Among the three most powerful positions, third basemen compare just fine. I said it in the first basemen DFS overview, but BA looks like a push among these three positions. And third basemen actually had the largest spike over one year’s time, with the .264 mark in 2016.

Third Basemen Steal?

Those at the hot corner stole 245 bags last year, compared to 175 for first basemen. Makes sense, as a third baseman would ideally offer more range and quicks than a first baseman.

Second basemen stole 485 and shortstops stole 424...making middle infield the place you go for speed (compared to the corners at least).

Eduardo Nunez (24) topped all third basemen in steals by a wide margin, and he did so with a shiny .313/.341/.460 slash on only 491 PA. He is an underrated way to begin the year strong in the steals department with Dustin Pedroia on the shelf for Boston.

Jose Ramirez is the premier do-it-all guy to pay up for, at least based on last year’s production. 29 home runs, 17 stolen bases, and a .318/.374/.583 slash line will pay the bills. All of that goodness came with a solid walk rate (8.1%) and a tidy strikeout rate (10.7%). Only Justin Turner had a better strikeout rate (10.3%) last year—and his came with a strong 10.9% walk rate, too. But he lacks the all-around statistics that Ramirez offers.

Aside from Ramirez, Alex Bregman and is the other premier power/speed threat with third base eligibility. Travis Shaw (10), Kris Bryant (7), Anthony Rendon (7), and Joey Gallo (7) are all power guys who offer some sneaky speed—but if you roster them you aren’t chasing steals. It’s good to remember that hitters accumulate their statistics over 162 games—so chasing single-digit steals is folly.

The Splits

Here is the coveted righty vs. lefty split from last year, with players who logged below 80 PA removed (there weren’t any notable omissions):

Top 25 Third Basemen vs. LHP in 2018 (sorted by ISO)

Name PA BB% K% OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA wRC+
Nolan Arenado 165 9.10% 10.30% 0.473 0.84 1.313 0.42 0.534 220
Josh Donaldson 100 15.00% 21.00% 0.38 0.671 1.051 0.4 0.427 171
Anthony Rendon 125 16.80% 10.40% 0.448 0.683 1.131 0.346 0.461 186
Todd Frazier 139 13.70% 20.90% 0.331 0.552 0.883 0.345 0.367 130
Justin Turner 172 12.80% 8.70% 0.477 0.704 1.181 0.324 0.484 206
Pat Valaika 83 6.00% 25.30% 0.333 0.605 0.939 0.316 0.389 125
Miguel Sano 116 12.90% 31.00% 0.388 0.604 0.992 0.307 0.408 156
Nick Castellanos 146 6.20% 15.80% 0.336 0.599 0.934 0.307 0.388 143
Jedd Gyorko 113 8.80% 13.30% 0.381 0.594 0.975 0.267 0.402 150
Wilmer Flores 110 1.80% 17.30% 0.309 0.553 0.862 0.262 0.351 119
Joey Gallo 128 13.30% 39.80% 0.359 0.481 0.841 0.255 0.362 122
Adrian Beltre 83 15.70% 9.60% 0.482 0.642 1.124 0.254 0.464 192
Jose Ramirez 229 6.60% 10.90% 0.371 0.582 0.953 0.254 0.395 147
Manny Machado 169 6.50% 16.00% 0.314 0.513 0.826 0.244 0.345 114
Alex Bregman 162 10.50% 13.00% 0.404 0.57 0.974 0.239 0.406 160
Eugenio Suarez 153 15.00% 24.20% 0.392 0.504 0.896 0.228 0.383 135
Matt Chapman 93 10.80% 33.30% 0.323 0.463 0.786 0.22 0.333 109
Kris Bryant 157 19.70% 15.30% 0.439 0.516 0.956 0.218 0.405 150
Travis Shaw 155 7.10% 27.10% 0.312 0.464 0.776 0.214 0.326 96
Kyle Seager 183 7.10% 18.60% 0.311 0.455 0.766 0.206 0.325 105
Matt Davidson 122 5.70% 30.30% 0.303 0.455 0.759 0.205 0.321 100
Mike Moustakas 159 3.80% 15.10% 0.296 0.467 0.763 0.197 0.321 98
Josh Harrison 128 7.80% 16.40% 0.375 0.482 0.857 0.196 0.365 125
Maikel Franco 162 7.40% 14.20% 0.272 0.385 0.657 0.176 0.277 66
Logan Forsythe 153 17.00% 24.20% 0.418 0.452 0.87 0.161 0.381 138

I’ve been doing a Top 10 or so for each week, but apparently third basemen slay left-handed pitching. Only the last two guys were below the average ISO of .182 that third basemen set in 2017, but Top 25 is cooler than Top 23, so here we are.

Outside of the obvious (Arenado and Donaldson, mainly) there are a few things that stick out.

Anthony Rendon and Justin Turner can rake, man. Those power numbers, healthy walk rates, low strikeout rates...sheesh! I can’t imagine many scenarios where these two begin the year with anything close to the type of ownership that Arenado or Donaldson will command. But when there’s a southpaw on the mound, they definitely should be considered...

Against lefties, Frazier, Valaika, and Sano offer you cheap power but a lot of downside with those large strikeout rates. Joey Gallo, too. Mercy, a 39.8% K-rate. Tread lightly!

How about Jedd Gyorko comparing very favorably to everyone’s darling, Nicholas Castellanos? At least against southpaws. Gyorko is ticketed to man the hot corner for the Cardinals this year, and looks like a sneaky source of production against lefties if he gets a lineup boost. He’s slated to bat seventh right now.

Travis Shaw, Kyle Seager, and Mike Moustakas are of significant interest to me, as they are left-handed hitters who can hit left-handed pitching. This is a split I hope to take advantage of in 2018, as most DFSers will gravitate towards the righty vs. lefty split. Joey Gallo is a lefty, too, but that strikeout rate is nuts, man.

Top 30 Third Basemen vs. RHP in 2018 (sorted by ISO)

Name PA BB% K% OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA wRC+
Joey Gallo 404 14.40% 35.90% 0.324 0.554 0.878 0.35 0.364 124
Jose Ramirez 416 8.90% 10.60% 0.375 0.583 0.958 0.272 0.397 149
Jake Lamb 479 14.00% 20.50% 0.386 0.552 0.938 0.27 0.386 133
Mike Moustakas 439 6.40% 15.90% 0.321 0.541 0.862 0.268 0.353 119
Ryan Schimpf 146 14.40% 36.30% 0.288 0.418 0.706 0.262 0.304 88
Josh Donaldson 396 15.40% 22.70% 0.386 0.53 0.917 0.261 0.389 144
Kris Bryant 508 12.60% 20.50% 0.4 0.544 0.943 0.249 0.397 145
Travis Shaw 451 10.90% 21.30% 0.361 0.53 0.892 0.249 0.373 127
Luis Valbuena 354 11.90% 27.10% 0.305 0.46 0.765 0.249 0.324 104
Matt Chapman 233 9.40% 26.20% 0.309 0.476 0.785 0.245 0.331 108
Pat Valaika 112 1.80% 28.60% 0.248 0.481 0.729 0.245 0.301 67
Matt Davidson 321 3.70% 39.90% 0.243 0.45 0.693 0.242 0.288 77
Nolan Arenado 515 9.10% 17.30% 0.341 0.502 0.843 0.23 0.351 100
Miguel Sano 367 10.60% 37.30% 0.341 0.477 0.817 0.223 0.346 114
Eduardo Escobar 321 5.90% 20.90% 0.303 0.47 0.773 0.216 0.324 99
Drew Robinson 101 11.90% 35.60% 0.297 0.416 0.713 0.213 0.307 85
Adrian Beltre 306 8.50% 14.40% 0.356 0.505 0.862 0.212 0.363 123
Anthony Rendon 480 13.10% 14.40% 0.392 0.495 0.887 0.203 0.377 131
Manny Machado 521 7.50% 16.90% 0.309 0.458 0.767 0.203 0.322 98
Kyle Seager 467 9.60% 16.30% 0.328 0.448 0.776 0.199 0.327 107
Rafael Devers 183 6.00% 21.90% 0.295 0.448 0.743 0.198 0.309 87
Wilmer Flores 252 6.00% 13.90% 0.306 0.459 0.765 0.197 0.323 101
Nick Castellanos 519 6.20% 22.90% 0.316 0.459 0.775 0.193 0.328 102
Eugenio Suarez 479 12.70% 23.00% 0.359 0.447 0.806 0.192 0.348 112
Derek Dietrich 377 8.00% 21.20% 0.318 0.426 0.744 0.19 0.315 94
Maikel Franco 461 6.30% 15.60% 0.284 0.417 0.701 0.18 0.297 79
Tommy La Stella 138 14.50% 12.30% 0.39 0.455 0.845 0.179 0.363 122
Jedd Gyorko 368 10.10% 24.50% 0.329 0.434 0.763 0.178 0.327 101
Alex Bregman 464 8.20% 16.40% 0.334 0.442 0.776 0.174 0.332 109
Todd Frazier 437 14.60% 22.00% 0.348 0.388 0.736 0.173 0.324 101

Okay, now I’m just getting greedy with a Top 30. But I really like including Maikel Franco, who I am not ready to give up on. Any young player with that sort of a batting eye (low K-rate) is someone I’m not casting aside quickly. I drafted him at pick 232 as my corner infield bat in a recent industry mock. That’s a juncture where you are taking players who are uninspiring (Porcello went in that round) or have playing time concerns (Willie Calhoun). Maikel has a pathway to PT and should hit fifth or sixth in a promising Phillies lineup. I’m intrigued, for season-long and DFS purposes.

So, Gallo is nothing if not consistent, eh? If you roster him, just know he comes with considerable downside with his strikeout rate. I am more interested in him for season-long purposes where I can make up for his sinkhole of a batting average by drafting some high-average guys earlier. And where I will actually get the benefit of the steals he will chip in.

Jake Lamb is going to be someone DFSers are split on to begin the season, though the industry consensus is to be “down” on him due to the advent of the humidor. For my part, I am going to be more intrigued by Arizona starting pitchers to begin the season—especially in the spring before things start to heat up in the summer. I’ll take a look at Lamb if he gets a park boost on the road against a right-handed pitcher.

Two days ago when I checked, Ryan Schimpf had 16 strikeouts in 22 AB this spring. The new addition to Atlanta is basically a guarantee to walk, strike out, or hit a home run in every at-bat. I can’t see him being a viable option in MLB DFS this year. If he does, something has gone terribly wrong in Atlanta.

If you were wondering about half of Willie Calhoun’s replacement in Texas, Drew Robinson is likely to bat ninth in the order with that atrocious 35.6% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching. Robinson is a lefty, so that makes this his preferred split, too. Can we not just let Calhoun DH?!?

Mike Moustakas leaps out at me again—that walk rate is below average, but the 15.9% strikeout rate is solid for a guy with his power potential. I think “Moose” was underpaid this year after only obtaining a one-year deal with $6.5 million guaranteed. I mean, the dude cranked 38 home runs in 2018. I’ll be buying into his power against right-handers and left-handers in 2018.

There are a lot of ideas to glean from a list this long, but I’ll leave you with a final thought about Derek Dietrich. Dietrich is slated to hit leadoff for the Marlins this year, likely ahead of J.T. Realmuto and Justin Bour. Starlin Castro is there, too. Perhaps Lewis Brinson works his way into the top of the order at some point, but when we begin the year Dietrich looks like a great DFS value if he’s hitting leadoff and the Marlins are facing a right-handed pitcher. Dietrich has a career .254/.344/.438 slash against right-handers. Against southpaws that line plummets to .235/.306/.354 with a poor 3.8% walk rate—so you and the Marlins will need to find an alternative if it’s a lefty on the mound.

That’s about it for me on the hot corner. Next up, outfield. Let me know if you had any thoughts or questions. You can comment below, find me on Twitter at @HeathCapps, or shoot me an email at heathcapps19@gmail.com. Peace!