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2020 Fantasy Baseball Primer: Third Base

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Jul 16, 2020

Nolan Arenado is as steady as they come with elite average and 100-plus pace RBIs and runs each year.

If you fail to leave the draft with a third baseman that you’re happy with, you really, really had to try to mess up your draft. In fact, while it’s a stretch for a couple of them, you could fill out your entire lineup (not including catcher) with third base eligible players and feel pretty good about it.

Yes, the position is that deep.

We’re going to tier them out for you to help with the 60-game season, but you’ll notice that the disparity between tiers is not that great.

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2019 Recap

2019 was a standout year for the position, as players like Nolan Arenado, Alex Bregman, Rafael Devers, and Anthony Rendon returned first- or second-round value with their production. Devers showed why you don’t give up on someone after a down sophomore year when they have an elite pedigree.

Likewise, Manny Machado took a major step back last season, which leads to concerns that maybe he’s a guy who is built for Baltimore and not a place like San Diego. I mention it in the notes, but Machado is one of the hardest players for me to project this upcoming year.

As far as the out-of-nowhere guy who I’m not expecting to repeat his success, it’s tough to really find flaws in the top performers. You can look at Yoan Moncada and say that he won’t repeat his success due to his BABIP, but your focus should be on Yuli Gurriel, who turned into a power hitter out of nowhere. The most likely outcome based on his career is that Gurriel is an average asset that leaves much else to be desired.

2020 at a Glance

There are two first-round picks here, with Nolan Arenado and Alex Bregman, but with different strategies in the shortened season, one or both could fall into the second round in shallower leagues, which would be a steal.

Similar to first base and shortstop, you can slot in where you take a third baseman depending on how you’ve drafted early on. You can definitely take one of the big two and get across-the-board production, but if you want to tackle another position and then grab a starter, that works, too. If you do that, the guys in the second and third tier are still near-elite producers for fantasy.

Third base, as if often does, seems to have a ton of young guys who are on the verge of breaking out and climbing tiers. Guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Yoan Moncada, and Miguel Sano are knocking on the top tier’s door, while Nick Solak, Gio Urshela, Ryan McMahon, Miguel Andujar, and Austin Riley can be had late and offer different levels of difference-making for fantasy managers this year.

Grade Legend*

A: A no-doubt stud capable of winning you a category
B: A solid, consistent contributor
C: Won’t lose you the category, but won’t win it, either
D: You can do better here
F: You’re getting NOTHING

(*Grades listed are relative to the position and take positional depth into consideration.)

Tier 1

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Nolan Arenado COL A+ A A+ A+ D Arenado is as steady as they come with elite average and 100-plus pace RBIs and runs each year. The only thing he doesn’t offer is speed.
Alex Bregman HOU A A A+ A+ C+ Bregman is helped out by his home park for home runs. I’d think a 30 pace is a more likely outcome this year than 40-plus again.

If you want one of these guys, you’ll need to invest a first- or second-round pick in them. They separate themselves from the pack because of the elite production that they offer. They could start to be considered as early as eighth overall.

Tier 2

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Jose Ramirez CLE B- B- B+ B A- We saw the floor and ceiling for Ramirez last year in what was a tale of two seasons. In the end, the power and speed was still there.
Rafael Devers

BOS B B+ B+ B+ D Devers bounced back in a big way after his disappointing 2018 season. The key for him is to continue to improve against left-handed pitching.
Anthony Rendon

LAA A A- A- B+ C- Rendon cashed in on a career year by every measure, so we should expect some regression in the numbers. He’s still elite, and he’s not the best-kept secret in fantasy anymore. The change in ballpark hurts him a tad, as does Mike Trout‘s uncertainty.

These guys could easily make a leap into the elite, but there are certain aspects of their game that you can pick at to make you bump them down a tier. Look, we are still talking Round 2-3 value here, so they’re going to be great. If I have a top-four pick, I’d look at one of these guys in the third round.

Tier 3

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

TOR B+ A- A- B+ D Some feel that Guerrero’s rookie campaign was disappointing. He’s a generational talent, who has an elite ISO/K% rate. He has MVP potential, and it could start to show this year.
Yoan Moncada CHW C+ B B+ B B- A lot of people will point to Moncada’s BABIP as a reason for regression this year, but he’s another elite prospect who is finally breaking out. You’d like to see higher stolen base numbers, but it may be a team philosophy holding him back.
Kris Bryant CHC B- B B B C The power, RBIs, and runs just haven’t been there for Bryant over the past few years. We’re OK saying he is what he is at this point in his career, right?
OAK C+ A B B+ C- Chapman is one of the 10 best baseball players in the game because of his defense. He’s about 20 points of average away from becoming that for fantasy, too.
MIN B- A A A+ D You have to still be concerned with the calf injury that took parts of two seasons away from Donaldson, as well as his age, but man, after his 2019 season, it’s hard to pass on his type of production in that lineup in Minnesota.
Eugenio Suarez CIN C+ A- A A D Suarez finally became a household name last year, but a 49-homer pace doesn’t seem realistic to bank on again when he lived in the 30s before that.

If you decide to pass on the two tiers, this is a great tier to target to find your starting third baseman in. Guerrero and Moncada both have first-round upside in their profiles. The rest of the guys have a solid blend of floor and ceiling that you like to have in the draft. All of those guys have big power, too.

Tier 4

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
SD B- B- B B- C+ I just have no idea what to do with Machado this year. He seems like a guy who was made for Baltimore, but we know all of the skills that he has.
Hunter Dozier KC B B- B- B+ D+ Dozier offer multi-positional eligibility, and the peripherals supported his early-2019 production. Don’t sleep on him because of where he plays.
Justin Turner LAD B C+ B B+ D+ Age has to start to become a concern for Turner, but Big Red is still producing when healthy. He’s a nice fallback option.
Miguel Sano MIN D A+ A- A- D First base is a nice landing spot for Sano for him to stay healthy and stay in the lineup. He’s the less expensive version of Joey Gallo.
Eduardo Escobar ARI B- B B B+ C The underlying numbers just don’t support Escobar’s surface numbers. You’re playing with fire here.

We’re getting toward the end of the players with the upside to climb tiers here, as only Machado and Sano could realistically climb to Tier 3 or Tier 2 if they performed at their peak. Turner is a nice safety net, but it makes sense passing on Escobar and Dozier here if you have concerns about the legitimacy of their outcomes from 2019.

Tier 5

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
J.D Davis
NYM B B B B+ D We’re counting on the Mets not messing (Metssing?) this up with Davis. Playing time is the only hurdle for him to overcome.
Gio Urshela NYY B C+ B- B- C- Urshela made the most of Miguel Andujar‘s injury last year by breaking out as the everyday third baseman. It’s his job to lose this year, too.
PHI C- C B- C B+ In a shortened season, there’s potential for a 10/10 season here.
NYY B B- B+ B+ D Andujar is a man without a position right now, but the Yankees have him working out all over the field. He’ll get his chance to prove himself after injuries wiped out his 2019.
ATL D C+ C C+ D The strikeouts killed Riley at the dish, but the power is real, as is the chance to be the everyday designated hitter.
TEX B+ C C+ C+ C Rougned Odor nor Todd Frazier pose real threats to playing time for Solak, who can flat-out rake. He’s my pick for Rookie of the Year.
TEX C+ C+ B- C+ B Don’t fall into the trap. There’s a reason outlier seasons exist. Santana was the definition of one.
STL B C+ C C+ B+ Everyone is all in on Edman, but why? I tend to not trust the out-of-nowhere breakout.
BOS C- B- B- C+ D Chavis should start regularly, and he came out of the gate on fire last year. That quickly cooled down, as he struck out far too often.

There is some upside here in this tier with Davis and Solak especially. Kingery being eligible at multiple positions is great, and you probably won’t use him at third base. In a regular season, I liked grabbing both Yankees, but in a short season, you may not have time to see how the battle at the position works out. Santana, Edman, and Chavis are pretty easy fades here.

Tier 6

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
SD D+ C B- C+ B The designated hitter may help Myers just as much as anyone in the National League.
Maikel Franco KC D C C C D He’s still only 27. Maybe a change of scenery will give Franco new life.
Brian Anderson MIA C+ B- B- B- C+ Anderson is a safe option if you take a riskier player early on. He’s never going to be more than he is right now, which is OK.
Ian Happ CHC C- C B- C B Happ quietly put together a solid season when he was in the big leagues for the Cubs last year. Contact is still a concern, but there’s pedigree here that you shouldn’t give up on yet.
Travis Shaw TOR D- B+ C C+ D Shaw made offseason changes to his swing, which could have him return to the 30-plus homer asset that he was in 2017 and 2018. Toronto is the perfect ballpark for him.

Myers, along with Ryan Braun and Yoenis Cespedes, is one of the biggest benefactors of the universal DH this season. He’s a nice late-round grab. Anderson is the perfect player to pair with a riskier option earlier in the draft. Shaw is my favorite player to grab from this tier, as he’ll be playing third base every day with Guerrero shifting across the diamond.

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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