2014 Fantasy Baseball 3rd Base Preview

We continue with our position by position rankings as we get you prepared for upcoming drafts. Yesterday, Ryan (@RYNoonan) released our first base rankings and we continue today as Steven (@SMartano) takes us to the other side of the infield to evaluate third base.  For the composite list, we’ll be using our writers’ rankings, but click on the link for both Steven’s andRyan’s individual positional ranks to see where they differ.  This year, there is significant power and value to be found at third base, but there is some injury risk and a lack of depth as the talent drops off relatively quickly.  Let’s take a look:

1 Miguel Cabrera Tigers
2 Adrian Beltre Rangers
3 Edwin Encarnacion Blue Jays
4 David Wright Mets
5 Evan Longoria Rays
6 Josh Donaldson Athletics
7 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals
8 Pablo Sandoval Giants
9 Jedd Gyorko Padres
10 Matt Carpenter Cardinals
11 Brett Lawrie Blue Jays
12 Kyle Seager Mariners
13 Martin Prado Diamondbacks
14 Pedro Alvarez Pirates
15 Xander Boegarts Red Sox
16 Aramis Ramirez Brewers
17 Chase Headley Padres
18 Will Middlebrooks Red Sox
19 Nolan Arenado Rockies
20 Manny Machado Orioles
21 Todd Frazier Reds
22 Jurickson Profar Rangers
23 David Freese Cardinals
24 Mike Moustakas Royals
25 Chris Johnson Braves
26 Matt Dominguez Astros
There are excellent options behind Miggy, but health has been an issue for several of the guys, and as we know, the best predictor of future injury is a history of previous injury.  In 2013, David Wright, and Brett Lawrie missed about 1/3 of the season, Ryan Zimmerman and Pablo Sandoval had their own health issue battles, missing time and playing through nagging injuries, and Manny Machado took a gruesome-looking baserunning spill late in the season that led to a nasty knee injury which he has been rehabbing since September.
The Gold Standard
Miguel Cabrera Tigers
Enjoy Miguel Cabrera at the hot corner while you can, this will most likely be his last season of third base eligibility.  The consensus number two pick overall, Miggy blows away his fellow third basemen and is easily the top qualifying 3B of 2014.  Per OPS+, Cabrera hit 87% better than league average, and expect him to better maintain his health n 2014 as he bounces between a less demanding first base and DH. Although his 3B playing days are most likely behind him, take advantage while you can.
Tried and True
Adrian Beltre Rangers
Edwin Encarnacion Blue Jays
David Wright Mets
Beyond Miggy, who is in a class of his own, Adrian Beltre has been a consistent fantasy player for years.  With Beltre, you know exactly what you are getting: a durable third baseman who hits for a .300 average and 25-30 HRs.  With a strong Texas lineup, and a hitter-friendly ballpark, Beltre is a great late first round draft pick.  Beltre is also a great player in OBP leagues, as he has a good contact rate a favorable 11% strikeout rate, well below league average.  After coming into his own power in 2012, Edwin Encarnacionanswered critics calls and showed his power is for real, mashing 36 HRs in 2013.  He qualifies at 3B and 1B and is a top 10 overall pick; look for E5 to put up 30+ HRs and 100+ RBIs in 2014.  David Wright is a legitimate second round pick going into 2014.  Wright is an average machine, guaranteed to be around .300, and hits for enough HRs to be considered a strong power/average combo.  With an OBP just shy of .400, Wright’s value is even higher in OBP leagues.  The two questions marks for Wright are his health, and his ability to rack up counting stats with an anemic Mets offense.
Risks and Rewards
Evan Longoria Rays
Josh Donaldson Athletics
Ryan Zimmerman Nationals
Evan Longoria is a strong second round pick who provides a 25-30 HRs and is likely to hit .260-.270 (league average in 2013 was .250).  One thing to beware of, Longo’s strikeout percentage has increased from 16% (2011) to 19% (2012) to 23% in 2013.  Although Ks are part of the game like never before, for fantasy purposes, they are the most useless offensive outcome.  AlthoughJosh Donaldson has a tremendous 2013, raking 24 HRs and finishing the season with a .301 batting average.  Donaldson doubled his walk rate from 2012 (when he played 75 games in Oakland) and lowered his K-rate.  He could be a decent sleeper as people fill out their OF and 1B after the top five or six 3B are drafted.  Ryan Zimmerman has a reputation for being somewhat injury prone, but the reality of it is, he’s started 140+ games in four of the last five seasons for Washington.  You can likely put him down for 20+ HRs and a .270+ average.  Not shabby for a guy you can probably pick up in the 5th or 6th round.
Midgrade Guys
Pablo Sandoval Giants
Jedd Gyorko Padres
Matt Carpenter Cardinals
Brett Lawrie Blue Jays
The leading candidate for ‘best-shape-of-his-life’ narrative coming into Spring Training, Pablo Sandova is a strong mid-round pick.  Don’t underestimate the ability to get in shape during a walk-year; Panda is a free agent after 2014.  An interesting case coming into 2014 is Jedd Gyrko.  Though he played most of 2013 at 2B, he qualifies for 3B in most leagues.  Considering he hit 23 HRs in only 125 games in 2013, I like him for 25 HRs and a .250-.260 average.  One thing to watch out for, is a low OBP.  At .301 last season, if that dips into the .290 range, there may be better options.  If you’ve drafted power from 1B or OF, and need a boost in average, Matt Carpenter is your guy, he should be around .300, and likely can hit 10 HRs.  Ah, the curious case of the Brett Lawrie.  I’ve heard about his potential for years, but the dude just hasn’t been able to stay on the field.  He has raw power and speed, but questions surrounding his health suggest a decent backup may be the best option.
Late Round Potential
Kyle Seager Mariners
Martin Prado Diamondbacks
Pedro Alvarez Pirates
Xander Boegarts Red Sox
The last two seasons, Kyle Seager has put up 20 HRs and a .260 batting average.  Playing in Seattle, he’s not likely to put up the counting stats of a Zimmerman or Sandoval, but he’s been steady.  The best part of Martin Pradois his qualification at multiple positions (2B, 3B, OF) which provides pretty fantastic versatility.  If come the mid-rounds of your draft you’re still looking for power, Pedro Alvarez is a good bet for 35+ HRs.  Be sure you have solid BA guys, as he’s not likely to hit much about .240.  Last season, particularly in the playoffs, we got a good sampling of Xander Boegarts’ potential.  His approach is excellent, but we haven’t seen him perform over the long haul.  He’s likely good for 10+ HRs and a .260ish BA.
Later Round Handcuffs
Aramis Ramirez Brewers
Chase Headley Padres
Will Middlebrooks Red Sox
Nolan Arenado Rockies
Manny Machado Orioles
Aramis Ramirez dealt with some health issues in 2013, and is going into his age-36 season.  He has potential for a 20 HR, .270 average season, but he’s clearly on the wrong side of the aging curve.  Chase HeadleyWill Middlebrooks and Nolan Arenado are decent backup candidates for riskier third baseman.  Manny Machado is one of those cases who makes a better real life player than fantasy player.
Draftable 3B in Deep Leagues
Todd Frazier Reds
Jurickson Profar Rangers
Mike Moustakas Royals
David Freese Cardinals
Chris Johnson Braves
Matt Dominguez Astros
These guys are draftable and can potentially provide some bench support in deeper leagues.  We’ve yet to see much from Jurickson Profar in the majors, but he should see some decent playing time in Texas.
Editor’s Note: Rankings changed as it is unlikley Hanley Ramirez will qualify at 3B in most leagues.