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State of the Position: Third Basemen in 2020

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Heath examines the hot corner with a fantasy baseball slant.

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Third base is deep. When sluggers like Matt Chapman, Josh Donaldson, and Miguel Sano can be drafted after pick 90 or so, you know a position is stacked. Those guys aren’t even being drafted inside the top 12 at the position, for reference. Garrett chatted up Justin Turner as a quality target earlier this week, and I agree. Turner is the 22nd third baseman off the board per NFBC data, and is being drafted after pick 160 on average. For such a stud hitter (when healthy), that’s a bargain. And another indicator of the sort of depth you can find here.

So, it’s deep. But let’s discuss a little...deeper.

Los Angeles Angels Introduce - Anthony Rendon Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Elites: Alex Bregman to Rafael Devers

To me, it’s a clear top five. Alex Bregman, Nolan Arenado, Jose Ramirez, Anthony Rendon, and Rafael Devers are all being drafted inside the first 22 picks on average. The “floor” drafter in me really digs Arenado at the end of Round 1. The same rings true for Rendon and Devers around pick 20. Jose Ramirez is the wild card, the guy who could be a top five value or drive you totally mad. But I still think the upside and the power/speed combo makes him worthy of a top 20 pick. That, and the shallow nature of the keystone and Ramirez’s eligibility there all factor in. In the top five, I don’t think you can go wrong. Not even with Bregman, who I’m having a tough time liking on a personal level. But he’s still a heck of a baseball player. Which is sort of the deal with Houston all along. They were already a great team—why the need to cheat? But I digress.

Back to baseball, the guy I think I need to not ignore (i.e. not be afraid to draft in Round 2) is Devers. His .295 xBA, 92.1 mph average exit velocity, and 47.5% hard hit rate all ranked inside the top 10% of the MLB last year. He’s another guy whose Statcast page is “alllll reds.” He even has a little speed, as his 27.1 ft/s mark was in the 55th percentile last year. Devers was able to chip in with eight thefts, which is nothing to gloss over. I’m sold on him in Round 2 of 15-teamers, anytime around pick 20 or so.

Minnesota Twins Spring Training Workout Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

The One to Target: Josh Donaldson

Donaldson’s ADP of 93 is pretty enticing to me. He’s Miguel Sano, except with less power and a better strikeout rate. He’s also batting higher in the order. Anyway, Donaldson’s resurgent 37-homer season for Atlanta from 2019 has me feeling all warm and fuzzy about the encore, especially in a loaded Minnesota lineup. Steamer projections have Donaldson finishing fourth in homers, second in runs, and second in RBIs among third basemen. His projected .267 batting average won’t hurt you, and for a career .273 hitter that doesn’t seem like a tall order. So despite projecting so highly among his brethren in these key categories, Donaldson is currently the 15th third baseman off the boards per the last month of NFBC data. In last night’s Fake Teams and Friends draft, I snagged Donaldson at pick 93, the 15th third baseman off the board. If healthy, I think there’s zero chance that 14 third basemen finish ahead of Donaldson in 2020.

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The One to Avoid: Eugenio Suarez

Look, I don’t really hate any of the third basemen really. This was a tough decision, one that pains me. Suarez has been one of my favorite buys for the last two years. And by all accounts, his offseason shoulder surgery was minor. Still, he really sold out for power last year, setting a career-high 28.5% strikeout rate—which ranked inside the bottom 10% of the MLB. He also pulled the ball more and with more loft than ever before. You can argue he really sold out for power given the state of the bouncy fun ball last year. Professional hitters can make adjustments year-to-year. Jose Altuve is a similar question mark in 2020, for example. Can both of these guys dial back a bit on the whiffs if the ball isn’t quite the same? Probably so, but that’s not the only risk with Suarez. If his shoulder is balky early on and he can’t give you power, is he really worth it as a top 70 pick? He’s not going to run, after all. He could be an absolute steal if he falls in your draft, as he did in Fake Teams and Friends last night (pick 100). But I can’t stomach taking on the shoulder risk around pick 70 when I can get currently healthy guys like Matt Chapman or Josh Donaldson 20+ picks later.

Atlanta Braves v. New York Mets Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Sleeper: J.D. Davis

Davis isn’t a new name for fantasy pundits, not for those who have been drafting for some time now. He’s a Statcast darling, as his exit velocity, hard hit rate, xBA, xwOBA, and xSLG marks all rank 90th percentile or better. To cite the iconic movie Rounders, we say “allllllllll reds.” Anyway, Davis does all of that and has lowered his strikeout rate these past three years (29.4%, 25.7%, 21.4%). His walk rates the past two years are very tolerable, at 8.8% and 8.4%. Fangraphs isn’t currently loading for me, but my understanding is that Jeff McNeil will get the lion’s share of hot corner duties, which means Davis should man a corner outfield spot in 2020. So you can also enjoy the added eligibility on your fake rosters. Davis is a trendy pick this season, but I definitely see the logic here.

The Prospect to Watch: Alec Bohm

You can stay right here at Fake Teams and visit The Good Phight, where the question is whether or not Bohm is the third baseman that Philly has been searching for since the departure of one Scott Rolen. Bohm was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, and he advanced from Single-A to High-A to Double-A just last year. That’s the literal embodiment of a “fast track” to the big leagues, people. Bohm’s combined slash line across all levels as a minor leaguer last year was .305/.378/.518. As far as the infield in concerned, if Bohm were to take control over third base and Didi Gregorius settles into shortstop, I’d assume Jean Segura handles the keystone while Scott Kingery moves into the center field, displacing Adam Haseley. There’s room for Bohm to make his mark in 2020, is all I’m saying.

How about you guys? Do you have different elites, targets, sleepers? Another prospect you are excited about for 2020?