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Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy: Third Basemen (2023)

Jan 26, 2023
Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy: Third Basemen (2023)

The high-quality third baseman will be gone quickly in this year’s fantasy baseball drafts and auctions.

There is one mega-star at third base. There are five very good third basemen behind the mega-star, and there are two pretty good third basemen behind them. After that, things get dicey.

Check out the other Fantasy Baseball draft rankings, tiers & strategy articles in this series:

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy

Your approach to the 3B position should factor in the parameters of your league. How many teams are there? Do you have to field a third baseman and a 1B/3B corner man? The greater the number of third basemen who will be rostered in your league, the greater your incentive to get one early.

In a 15-team mixed league that requires you to start a third baseman and a corner man, the 3B position will get away from some managers before they know it, and they’ll end up with someone like Yandy Diaz at the hot corner. Nothing against Yandy — I’m sure he’s a lovely fellow — but I have greater aspirations for my third baseman.

If your league requires you to fill a corner position, understand that first base is a shallow position, too. When you look at first basemen and third basemen together, there are maybe a dozen high-quality players at those two positions. You should endeavor to roster at least one of them, and getting two would give you a nice edge at the corners.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Third Basemen

As I noted in my overview of first basemen, positional scarcity at the corners is likely to make middle-class corner infields more expensive than middle-class outfielders or middle infielders. Why? Because fantasy managers need to fill those positions, and if they don’t fill them in the early rounds of a draft (or in the big-money phase of an auction), they’re more likely to overpay for middle-class corner infielders later on. Outfielder and middle infield production is more abundant, so it’s easier to get quality production at those positions without paying up for big stars.

As a result, when you’re in the middle rounds of your draft, the best available outfielder or middle infielder is likely to be a more productive player than the best available corner infielder.

I intend to attach the corner infield positions aggressively in my drafts and auctions this year, and I recommend that you do the same.

Let’s get into the third base tiers. In addition to the rankings and tiers themselves, I’ll offer a few words about some of the players from each tier.

(Please note that these rankings are limited to players who appeared in at least 20 games at first base or played more games there than at any other position.)

Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings: Third Basemen

Fantasy Baseball First Basemen Tiers & Draft Advice

Tier 1

If I draw pick 1.01 in a mixed-league draft, I’m taking Jose Ramirez. He’s a five-category contributor at a scarce position, and the 30-year-old Ramirez is squarely in the prime of his career. You can count on Ramirez for about 30 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs, 20 stolen bases and a solid batting average. Ramirez finished fourth in the AL MVP voting last year despite playing through a wrist injury down the stretch.

Tier 2

Manny Machado was one of only five players to reach 100 runs and 100 RBI in 2022. He also belted 32 home runs — the sixth 30-HR season of his career. Machado has a career batting average of .282 and has batted .291 over the last three years. He’ll even chip in a few stolen bases (but don’t expect more than 6-10). This will be Machado’s 12th season in the big leagues, yet he’s still only 30. Machado is a pillar of consistence and well worth a top-15 draft pick.

An elite prospect, Bobby Witt Jr. lived up to the hype as a rookie, finishing his first season in the big leagues with 20 HR, 80 RBI, 82 runs and 30 stolen bases. He batted .254 with too many strikeouts and too few walks, but his BA perked up after it stood at .216 at the end of April. Witt is the only third baseman to offer elite speed, and there should be more power on the way.

Rafael Devers slumped in the second half of 2022 after batting .324 with 22 homers in the first half. The Red Sox were hardly alarmed by the second-half swoon, handing Devers an 11-year, $331 million contract extension in January. Over his last three full seasons, Devers has averaged 32.3 home runs, 105.3 RBI and 104.7 runs. One concern is that a weak supporting cast could threaten Devers’ run and RBI totals. But Devers packs a big bat, and at 26, he’s just entering his prime.

Austin Riley’s batting average dipped over the final two months of 2022, and he was 1-of-15 in the Braves’ four-game NLDS loss to the Phillies, but those are small nits to pick. Riley led all third basemen with 38 home runs last season after mashing 33 HRs a year earlier. His batting average fell from .303 in 2021 to .273 in 2022, but with all the hard contact Riley makes, he’s destined to be an asset in that category. About the only thing Riley won’t give you is stolen bases, but he more than makes up for it with his prodigious power.

Some people worried about how the move from Colorado to St. Louis two years ago would affect Arenado’s numbers. There has indeed been a dip, with Arenado’s production going from superhuman to merely awesome. From 2015 to 2019, Arenado averaged 39.8 home runs and 124.2 RBI for the Rockies. Over the last two seasons, Arenado has averaged 32 home runs and 104 RBI for the Rockies. He’s now had at least 30 homers and 100 RBI in his last seven full seasons (discounting only the Covid-shortened 2020 season). The only thing Arenado investors will regret is that his stellar defense doesn’t count in our little game.

Tier 3

Alex Bregman and Gunnar Henderson are the barricades between the elite third basemen and the hoi polloi of the position.

Bregman seemed to be on a star trajectory after big seasons in 2018 and 2019, but the magic has faded. He rebounded somewhat from a disappointing 2021, finishing 2022 with 23 home runs 93 RBI and 93 runs, but this .277 career hitter batted only .259 last year. Bregman’s elite plate patience makes him far more valuable in OBP leagues than in BA leagues.

Henderson, who’ll play shortstop for Baltimore this year but has eligibility at third base, is a cornerstone of the Orioles’ renaissance. He batted .259 and had four home runs in his first 132 plate appearance for the O’s, but he’s expected to contribute power and speed in 2023.

Tier 4

Justin Turner is 38, but this late bloomer keeps getting better with age, and now he gets to hit in Fenway Park. His age will keep his price down, making Turner a potential bargain. He won’t give you speed or elite power, but he’ll boost your batting average and provide runs and RBI.

Matt Chapman and Eugenio Suarez have similar profiles. They’ll boost your home run total while tanking your team batting average. Pray they bat .238 for you and not .202.

Ke’Bryan Hayes, a former first-round pick in the amateur draft, has provided little other than speed in his first two full MLB seasons, but he’s still young, so there’s time for the power to develop. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to bet on a well-regarded prospect who’s been labeled a disappointment before age 26.

We keep waiting for Ryan McMahon to give us a big power season in Coors Field, but he’s given us 24, 23 and 20 home runs in his first three full seasons. McMahon also has a mediocre .244 career average. On the bright side, he’s started chipping in about a half-dozen steals per year.

Tier 5

Few third basemen are capable of delivering 20+ stolen bases. Josh Rojas swiped 23 bags for Arizona last season, with 15 of them coming in the second half. He offers little power, however.

Once an elite offensive performer, Anthony Rendon has been thwarted by injuries, making only 442 plate appearances over the last two seasons and batting an uncharacteristic .235 over that span. Rendon turns 33 in June. He can be rostered inexpensively, but a return to past glory seems like a long shot at this point.

I may have seemed dismissive of Yandy Diaz in the introduction to this article, but he has a .278 career batting average and is expected to be a regular for the Rays. Move Diaz up a tier in OBP leagues — he has elite plate patience and had a .career-best 401 OBP last year.

Ha-Seong Kim delivered 11 HRs and 12 SBs in his second MLB season and could make even greater contributions in 2023 now that he’s settled in.

Tier 6

Now in his mid-30s, D.J. LeMahieu has produced ordinary batting averages the last two years (.268 and .261). If LeMahieu isn’t giving you a big boost in batting average, there’s not much reason to roster him, because he offers little in the way of power or speed.

Power-hitting prospect Josh Jung is probably going to deliver his first 30-HR season before long, but his batting average could absolutely crush you. In his first 104 plate appearances for the Rangers last year, Jung whiffed 39 times and drew only four walks.

The chances of the oft-injured Josh Donaldson making it through the 2023 season without at least one lengthy stay on the IL are remote. He’s now a liability in batting average, and with 15 home runs in 478 at-bats last season, Donaldson’s power is no longer rewarding enough to offset the bad stuff. Pass.

Luis Rengifo never hit more than 12 home runs in any season, majors or minors, before smacking 17 HRs for the Angels last year. Don’t bet on a repeat.

Beyond our fantasy baseball content, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our free mock Draft Simulator – which allows you to mock draft against realistic opponents – to our Draft Assistant – which optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball draft season.

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