2016 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Third Base
There is a lot of power available at the hot corner, although the position is without three of its top ten producers from last season with Alex Rodriguez, Chris Davis and Xander Bogaerts all losing 3B eligibility. Combine those three with Carlos Santana, Pedro Alvarez, Marcus Semien, Miguel Sano and Ryan Zimmerman, and a staggering 182 home runs vanish from the position.
Like second base, there is sleeper potential here. Remember, despite being undrafted in most leagues last year, Mike Moustakas and Matt Duffy out-produced third base stalwarts Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria.
Maikel Franco – Phillies
Franco was promoted from the minors on 15 May. Two days later he went 2-for-4 with a triple and a home run. He was on fire for the next five weeks with ten home runs, a batting average of .331 and a 1.009 OPS. He slumped back to normality for the next 40 games before landing on the DL with a fractured wrist. The 22-year-old finished with a .840 OPS and is one of the central pieces around which the Phillies are rebuilding. Unless he becomes a trendy, overrated pick before draft day, he should easily outperform his draft position with the potential to finish in the top five.
Danny Valencia – Athletics
The 31-year-old journeyman thrived in Oakland after a deadline trade. He slashed .284/.356/.530 in 47 games with 11 home runs, which over a full season, is 38 home run pace. Obviously, it is unrealistic to expect that level of production throughout a full season, but the Athletics have shown the ability to convert average players into consistent home run hitters. Despite only having 378 at-bats, Valencia hit a career-high 18 home runs in 2015. Currently, he has little competition at third base in Oakland and is expected to be the A’s clean-up hitter.
Nick Castellanos – Tigers
It is easy to forget that Castellanos is only 23-years-old. The former first-rounder has not set the game on fire in his first 313 games but there is still untapped potential. He dramatically improved against left-handed pitching last year. In 2014, his slash line was .237/.319/.374 vs LHP compared to the much more impressive 2015 line of .351/.400/.570. He also improved throughout the season with just a .658 OPS in the first half and .800 OPS in the second half. He should grow into 20-25 home run power.
Lonnie Chisenhall – Indians
The Indians would like their former first round pick to emulate Alex Gordon and transform himself from a struggling third baseman into a superior outfielder with a reliable bat. The 27-year-old has stretches of elite production followed by horrendous slumps. After he was recalled from the minors at the end of July, he slashed .405/.470/.554 until the end of August. Unfortunately, he cooled off in September with a .183 AVG and .513 OPS. The upside and the guarantee of playing time could make him worth a speculative pick in the final rounds.
Hector Olivera – Braves
The 30-year-old Cuban risks being completely overlooked this year. In his 10 seasons in Cuba, the right-handed third baseman hit 96 home runs with a .912 OPS. He has above-average plate discipline and will likely man left-field for the Braves, although expect to see him get playing at second and third base. Draft with the hope of 10-15 home runs and a batting average in the region of .300
Jake Lamb – Diamondbacks
The 25-year-old was sensational at the start of last year with a .414 AVG and 1.204 OPS in his first ten games until a foot injury derailed his season. Lamb struggled when he returned to the lineup, with just a .671 OPS over the final 97 games. He will enter Spring Training this year in good health, hoping to recapture the form that helped him slash .321/.408/.552 in the minor leagues. Expect him to sit against some right-handed pitchers to give Aaron Hill at-bats. Lamb will need to hit from the outset to prevent the Diamondbacks’ No. 5 prospect, Brandon Drury, from being given the opportunity at third base. The exciting Diamondbacks’ lineup and the hitting-friendly environment of Chase Field combine to ensure that Jake Lamb should be a name you keep tabs on this year.