I keep saying it...the fantasy baseball season is NIGH. Yes, I am conveniently ignoring the MLB lockout. After all, this is a place for punditry, not legalese. It feels like fantasy baseball content is tone deaf without at least acknowledging the lockout. Consider said box checked. Now back to third base...
Spoiler alert: the hot corner is NOT hot. If you’ve seen The Office episode entitled Prince Family Paper, you’d know that the office eventually concluded that Hilary Swank was hot. And while Stanley’s advice in this ‘hot or not’ debate was surprisingly lucid—he said that pointing out flaws was no way to live life—his wisdom doesn’t hold up in the realm of fantasy baseball analysis.
So what follows are a list of five ‘Hilary Swanks’ at the hot corner—players we think...are hot? Maybe this wasn’t the best lede...
Alex Bregman, Houston Astros (Mark Abell)
NFBC ADP: 101.61
Draft rank: 7th
An injury-laden season is no reason to run from someone in the prime of his career who has proven a near .300 level of hitting with 100+ runs and RBIs. I think Bregman has a legitimate chance to be a top third baseman by the end of this season. His ADP seems like a real bargain for someone who should be a top 40 player given his career production up until last year. If he is on the board past pick 50, I am grabbing him with gusto in this classic ‘buy low’ situation.
Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates (Skyler Carlin)
NFBC ADP: 132.74
Draft rank: 11th
Injuries prevented Ke’Bryan Hayes from having an opportunity to put together a special rookie season in 2021. In just the second game of last season, Hayes suffered a hand/wrist injury that sidelined him from early April until early June. Following his return, he would finish the season with six HRs, 38 RBIs, and nine SBs as he admitted that the hand injury affected his performance last season. While there is some concern with his injury, there is reason for optimism as he showed tons of upside in 2020 in the 24 games he played. Even though it’s tough to expect him to produce a .306 ISO and a wOBA of .464 like he did in 2020, it’s clear that Hayes has upside with his bat and there’s a chance we can get double-digit steals if he can remain healthy. Despite not producing massive numbers in 2021, Hayes was still 71st percentile in average EV, 78th percentile in max EV, and 75th percentile in hard-hit rate. Hayes should be batting near the top of the order for the Pittsburgh Pirates and has an opportunity to break out in 2022.
Josh Donaldson, Minnesota Twins (Garrett Atkins)
NFBC ADP: 207.09
Draft rank: 19th
Josh Donaldson may be the most slept on hitter in fantasy baseball this season. His Statcast page is elite. Last year, his average exit velocity of 94.1 MPH was fourth-best in baseball. His hard hit rate of 52.7% was tied for 10th-best. Lastly, his barrels per plate appearance percentage of 11.2% was third-best. Combine that with 74 walks (good for 21st overall) and Donaldson actually underperforms in his base stats. How much you ask? Donaldson’s xStats showcase this. He had an xBA of .269 compared to a BA of .247, an xSLG of .542 compared to a SLG of .475, and an xwOBA of .388 compared to a .353 wOBA. It doesn’t take much imagination to see Donaldson putting up a top 50 overall hitter performance in 2022. He’s currently being drafted around pick 200.
Yours truly also has to chime in on Donaldson. I love taking Rafael Devers at the 1/2 turn if I don’t land Jose Ramirez in Round 1. Devers’ ADP is currently 17ish, so while others are a little tentative on him as a first-round value, I’m bullish on him at a paper-thin third base position, especially in a late draft position. But if Ramirez and Devers aren’t possibilities, Donaldson is a spot I’m eager to leap ADP for in 2022. He’s 36 years old, but he’s still a premier hitter in the big leagues. Garrett already mentioned the batted ball quality. But this is also a guy who posted a 21.0% strikeout rate last year, his best mark since 2016. His ability to log consistently-high walk rates (career 12.7%) means he gets on base a ton, too. His plate discipline is stellar—he only chased 26.3% of the time in 2021, despite the MLB average being over 31 percent. He’s judicious when he swings, and he knocks the snot out of the ball? His is annually a top 10 mark in hard hit rate. The only issue is getting enough batted ball events to qualify. But where he’s being drafted, I’m willing to take the chance. (Heath Capps)
Alec Bohm, Philadelphia Phillies (Andrés Chávez)
NFBC ADP: 286.52
Draft rank: 26th
I’ll keep it simple: I don’t see how a batter with a 49.5% hard hit rate (in the 90th percentile, per Statcast) can post such a low OPS (.647). The problem was, mainly, groundballs. Bohm had a 52.7% ground ball rate, and hit 2.32 grounders for every fly ball. He hit his fair share of fly balls in the minors, so I expect him to correct this with experience and coaching. In fact, I’m willing to pounce on his current ADP because I’m confident he will greatly outperform it. I see a .270-type hitter with 25-30 home run potential.