Third base is deep this year, perhaps the deepest of all positions. Unfortunately, many top third-base options qualify at other positions, meaning depending on your league, the position may be deeper than first base or as limited as second base. One of my favorite things to do in fantasy baseball is to create artificial positional scarcity: that is, to look at a position of seeming depth, as third base is this year, and draft four or five of the reasonable options. One can be played at third, one at CI, one or two (depending on league settings) at U, and through positional eligibility, you might play one in the outfield. This is possible because the position has returned to one of prominence; rather than filling the “third infield” role that it has held through most of modern baseball, it has become a corner position with numerous power options. Even missing Evan Longoria, third base is strong.
It’s that simple. Cabrera is the best third baseman, and no one is in his class. A healthy Evan Longoria is a near second, but with his recent setbacks, it’s unclear if Longoria will contribute this year at all. Cabrera is elite in four categories, leaving him ahead of the players in the next tier.
Certainly if you have Bautista or Wright (or both!) you’re not hurting, but Bautista cannot help your batting average, and it’s clear that at this point, Wright’s power potential is limited many more doubles than home runs. Wright steals bases as well, but speed is readily available in mixed leagues, so Bautista’s home runs keep him second at the position.
It is unfortunate that Brett Lawrie is nearly pacing to .290/20/20 while being viewed as a disappointment. ZiPS sees 11 homers and 11 steals remaining, and he has upside beyond those numbers, which is why I want him ahead of the other options here. Sandoval broke his hamate last year and took six weeks to regain his power, but when healthy he’ll pace at .300/25 for his floor, with upside in both categories beyond that. With three home runs in his last nine games, he may be ready to return to form. Beltre will provide similar numbers. Encarnacion at this point seems to have reached a new level of performance and should continue to hit for power, though clearly not as much as he has to date.
Check Moustakas’s splits against right handed pitching. He is an ideal platoon player in leagues where you can carry an option on the bench and he won’t hurt you if you have to play him every day.
Longoria is the second best third baseman if he returns, but when his own manager throws his hands up, it’s not a good sign. Headley is an immensely valuable player in reality; in fantasy, his home park suppresses his numbers. Had he been traded to Chicago, he’d immediately have become a prime target. He may yet be dealt; if he is, then watch the park factors. Any park will be an improvement over San Diego, but in a stadium friendly to right-handed power, he could leap solidly into the third tier.
With a deep set of strong players, you should be able to roster at least one of the top third basemen. If you can acquire more than one, you may force your league-mates to start an inferior player full time, as the drop from top to middling options is severe. Alex Rodriguez is in clear decline, Mark Trumbo’s new-found plate discipline has disappeared, Aramis Ramirez is injury prone and inconsistent, Hanley Ramirez has name value but no batting average, David Freese has no power, Will Middlebrooks has no hamstrings, Kevin Youkilis is old, and if you own Trevor Plouffe, you’re certainly using him at shortstop. With so many good options at the position, these players are hurting you if you play them at third. In keeping with the theme, players outside the top eight (plus lottery tickets in Headley and Longoria) are simply not worth a roster spot.
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