The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty League Third Basemen, Nos. 21-50
It’s the time of the year where we offer congratulations to those of you brave dynasty league owners that survived the offseason. The greatness that 2016 will surely offer is upon us and that means we’ll be spending the next six weeks moving our way through the positional landscape, offering thoughts on the respective values of roughly 700 players throughout the process.
We sincerely hope that you enjoy the countless hours of hard work that went into these rankings and continue to support The Dynasty Guru by showing your appreciation through this link or via the splendid ‘donate’ button located on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.
Players are ranked where they played 20 or more games at during the 2015 season at their highest position on the defensive spectrum, e.g. Chris Davis played 30 games in the outfield, meaning he’s an outfielder for our purposes. We can’t assume that a player will have eligibility at a position in the future (so no Hanley Ramirez at 1b for these rankings) or that a player will lose eligibility at a position in the future. This should clear things up for all non-Javier Baez/Jurickson Profar players, and we’ll do our best to explain where those players are ranked when the time comes. All DH types, such as Evan Gattis and David Ortiz, appear on the 1B rankings, as we will not be doing a UTIL rankings list.
Number 21 on our list is a player who has his fans reminiscing about a classic Tag Team hit from 1993:
21) Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 26)
Coming in number 21 is a viable, though unspectacular, option at the hot corner. Plouffe may actually define the term “league average,” as he finished 2015 with a .321 wOBA and 102 wRC+. He played in a career high 152 games last year, ranking in the top-ten at the position in both home runs and RBI, and finished 12th in runs scored. Plouffe won’t help with stolen bases, and will probably hurt your average, but you could definitely do worse. Plouffe there it is, I thought you knew.
22) Yasmany Tomas, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NA)
Coming into 2015, Tomas was one of the most talked about third basemen in dynasty leagues after signing a 6-year-deal with Arizona. The Cuban import never could figure out right-handed pitching in the majors during his rookie season, and it cost him a full-time job by midseason. Things only got worse for him as the season progressed, striking out in over one-third of his at-bats during the second-half, while walking in only a miniscule 2.5 percent of the time. There’s still a lot to like though with Tomas, as he has legit power, hits the ball to all fields, and is still young. Tomas owners will also need to keep an eye on how Arizona uses him, as he only played in 31 games at third base in 2015, and will likely play him in an everyday role after the trade of Ender Inciarte this offseason.
23) Hector Olivera, Atlanta Braves (Age: 31, Previous Rank: NA)
Another Cuban import, Olivera debuted for the Atlanta Braves in the last month of the 2015 season, after coming over from the Dodgers in the Alex Wood deal in July. Olivera’s a bit older than many other Cuban imports, however scouts were high on him at his time of signing, noting his bat speed, ability to hit to all fields, and pitch selection at the plate. Aside from his age, injuries are also a concern with Olivera, as he missed over a year in Cuba due to a blood clot, and had a delay in his signing due to reports of an injury to his UCL. As with Tomas, owners may not be able to write Olivera’s name in stone at third base, as it’s possible that the Braves will play him in left field on a regular basis in 2016.
24) Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 36)
Lamb followed up his 2014 cup of coffee with quite an unremarkable offensive showing in his sophomore season. The left-hander platooned almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers in 2015, taking nearly 90 percent of his cuts against opposite-side pitching. Lamb still hasn’t shown the ability to hit for average or a bit of power in the majors, as he did in the minor leagues, where he hit for a .321 average and slugged .552. The trade of Aaron Hill took away a possible third base option for Arizona in 2016, but Lamb faces plenty of internal competition in a crowded Diamondback infield for playing time. There’s a chance that if his power can translate to the major leagues, Lamb could be a good bargain at his current price.
25) Chase Headley, New York Yankees (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 18)
An elder statesmen on this list, Headley’s veteran legs should make him feel right at home in the Yankee lineup. If you take out Headley’s monster 2012 season, his season highs are 13 home runs, 64 RBI and 77 runs scored. Headley didn’t steal a bag last year, and his batting average as a Yankee of .259 further points to the uninspiring dynasty option that he is. Not great, not horrible, just meh.
26) Jomar Reyes, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Already listed at 6-feet-3 inches and 220 pounds, Reyes has some eyewitnesses claiming he’s closer to 6-foot-6. The power is unquestioned, and his hit tool grades out pretty well for a player as young as he is. Reyes was promoted to the South Atlantic League in 2015, where he held his own, finishing the season slashing .278/.334/.440, impressive totals for a player in his age-18 season. There are currently two big risks with Reyes, the first of which is his age as it relates to his ETA to the majors and the other is that his size may impact his ability to stay at third and could shift him across the diamond before he reaches the majors. The latter is what owners will definitely have to keep an eye on over his next few minor league seasons as the continues to mature.
27) Martin Prado, Miami Marlins (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 19, 2B)
In years past, you could set your watch by a Martin Prado season. You could expect around 10 home runs, 60-70 RBI and runs, a couple of steals, and an average in the neighborhood of .280. As Prado creeps into his thirties, and injuries will likely continue to pop into the picture, as they did in 2014, the consistency might be gone. Prado will be a good fill-in when needed, but he’s not a guy to target in standard dynasty leagues at this point in his career.
28) Danny Valencia, Oakland Athletics (Age: 31, Previous Rank: UR)
What the A’s got in just 47 games last year is exactly what the five teams before Oakland, and countless fantasy owners, have wanted from Valencia for years. With the help of his late season surge, Valencia ended up slashing .290/.345/.519 and finished with an isolated power mark of .229. The power has never been the question for Valencia, it’s always been his hacking at the plate. If he can maintain his peripherals, Valencia may be a cheap option in deeper leagues for this year and beyond, particularly if he continues his late-season power surge from 2015.
29) Yunel Escobar, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 48, SS)
Yunel could probably be used as a synonym for boring. Escobar doesn’t really do anything well at this point of his career, but he’s played at least 133 games in the last eight years and always chips in enough home runs, runs, and RBI to hold down a starting gig. His .314 average last year–his highest since his rookie year–was almost surely due to his .347 BABIP, so expecting him to duplicate that as he moves to his fifth team in his ten year career, is probably not a good idea. You can most likely expect more of the same, boring stats, at an everyday low, low price.
30) Luis Valbuena, Houston Astros (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 35)
If you just look at Valbuena’s surface stats, “PLATOON PLAYER” flashes like neon lights. The lefty struggled against southpaws in 2015 to the tune of a .158 average, while maintaining a more usable .247 against righties. Look a little deeper, and you’ll see that Valbuena couldn’t catch a break, finishing with a BABIP of .163 against lefties, and a still below-average .263 mark against right-handers. Valbuena is never going to challenge for a batting title, but may be better than the .224 he hit last year. That will make it a bit easier to enjoy the cheap power he could bring to a fantasy team, particularly if the Astros give him a chance to be an everyday player.
31) Renato Nunez, Oakland Athletics (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Nunez used an advancement in approach at the plate to handle Double-A pitching with relative ease in 2015. He posted a career-low strikeout percentage, while slashing .278/.332/.480, and positioning himself to start the 2016 season in Triple-A. Power has always been Nunez’ best asset, so there aren’t too many questions about how it will translate as he moves up the ladder. The big question in 2016 will be if he can maintain his approach against better pitching. If he can, he may be able to contribute to dynasty teams by 2017. If he doesn’t, there’s a good chance he won’t even be rosterable down the road. There’s also a chance the A’s could choose to hand the third base keys to 2014 first round pick, Matt Chapman, which would severely hurt Nunez’ value if a move to first base is in his future.
32) DJ Peterson, Seattle Mariners (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 21)
In all reality, this is probably Peterson’s last year in the third base rankings. Not because he regressed so epically in his second season in Double-A, but because he spent the entire AFL season at first base, and that doesn’t seem to be changing heading into 2016. The move across the diamond is going to lower an already tumbling stock, as Peterson followed up an elite 2014 season with an injury-addled .223/.289/.346 line over his second taste in Jackson. There is enough power to play at first base, and his awful 2015 could open the door to a potential buy-low opportunity with Peterson, but buyer beware of a 2015 repeat.
33) Richie Shaffer, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)
Like Peterson, there’s a good chance that Shaffer makes the move across the diamond on a full-time basis or even to the outfield, starting as soon as the 2016 season. Shaffer used a stellar 2015 season to parlay his way into his Major League debut near the end of the year. Last year, across the top two minor league levels, Shaffer blasted 26 home runs in just 108 games. He didn’t fare as well in Tampa, striking out over 36 percent of the time, but still ended up with a .203 ISO in 88 plate appearances in the majors. Shaffer’s 2016 role in Tampa is unclear at this point, a situation further complicated by the Rays trade for Corey Dickerson, so there’s value in taking a chance on him now in the instance he can build off his 2015 minor league season and somehow find a way to stick at third base.
34) Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
The 25th overall pick in the 2014 draft thoroughly enjoyed his time in the Cal League in 2015, blasting a team-high 23 home runs. The power he displayed a Stockton may be a bit Cal League aided, but there is still power potential there. Unfortunately, scouts don’t see too many other positive offensive attributes to help fantasy teams. Chapman is, however, known for his great defense, which may be enough to catapult him to the starting job in Oakland–and would move the previously mentioned Renato Nunez to first base. If that’s the case, Chapman may be worth a look, especially if the power he showed in High-A ball ends up being for real.
35) David Freese, Free Agent (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 38)
If you take away his World Series heroics, which came in his career-best season in 2012, you get the true David Freese. He’s a player approaching his mid-thirties who will chip in 10 home runs, 50 runs, and 55-60 RBI. Freese may be a good plug-and-play in deeper leagues, but not someone you want to start every week. Couple his mediocre stats with the growing injury risks, as well as the fact that he’s currently a man without a team, you may want to look elsewhere, even for a backup option.
36) Yangervis Solarte, San Diego Padres (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 48)
Solarte was more aggressive at the plate in 2015, swinging at pitches outside of the zone at a higher rate, which resulted in fewer walks and a lower on-base percentage of .320. However, it also led to the highest isolated power of his professional career (.158), as he pulled the ball more often and hit it with greater authority. The net result was a more valuable profile, so a continued emphasis on his new approach could reap dividends.
37) Colin Moran, Houston Astros (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 41)
In his age-22 season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Moran posted a .306 batting average with encouraging walk and strikeout rates. His elevated batting average on balls in play rates over his minor league career were fueled by an extreme ground ball profile, which may ultimately cap his power potential. Regardless, the offseason departure of Jed Lowrie should provide him with a major league audition sometime in the near future.
38) Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 24)
With the arrival of Giovanny Urshela, Chisenhall is projected to begin the 2016 season manning an outfield corner for the big league club. It’s unclear how long that experiment will last, as he was a mess at the plate last year, swinging at 40 percent of pitches outside of the zone. Pair that with a ridiculous 20 percent infield fly ball rate, and a career low hard contact rate, and you’ve got the ingredients for a demotion back to the farm.
39) Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NA)
After being selected in the supplemental round of the 2015 amateur draft by the Atlanta Braves, Riley got off to a quick start at rookie ball, demonstrating impressive power and on-base skills. A high strikeout rate may ultimately limit his potential to develop into a complete hitter, but he has shown enough promise in his early professional career to give him the benefit of the doubt as Riley looks to be one of the more impressive power bats of the draft class.
40) Eric Jagielo, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 45)
Jagielo was sent to Cincinnati this offseason as part of the Aroldis Chapman deal, where he will likely have an opportunity to play sooner rather than later for the rebuilding Reds, particularly with Todd Frazier out of the picture. He has battled injuries throughout his minor league career, but has shown good power when healthy. The power has been his lone stand-out tool, so his ability to maintain it as he faces more accomplished pitchers will dictate his future.
41) Giovanny Urshela, Cleveland Indians (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 49)
Urshela got his first taste of the bigs in 2015, and posted an unimpressive .225/.279/.330 line over 288 plate appearances for the Indians. The power has begun to emerge in recent years, and he was a line-drive machine for Triple-A Columbus and Cleveland in 2015, so there is a chance that he begins to put it all together in 2016. He could provide solid batting averages and double digit home runs with continued development.
42) Adonis Garcia, Atlanta Braves (Age: 30, Previous Rank: NR)
His parent’s first choice was “Ridiculously Good Looking Garcia”, but they settled on a more subtle name. His stat line in 2015 wasn’t half bad either, as he hit for a solid average and excellent power in Atlanta. Garcia will have every opportunity to play for the rebuilding Braves, but as 2016 will be his age-30 season, his upside is likely limited. It’s only a matter of time before they turn their focus to developing their young talent. That Austin Riley is so hot right now.
43) Mark Reynolds, Colorado Rockies (Age: 32, Previous Rank: NR)
Reynolds had a relatively disappointing 2015, failing to hit 20 home runs for the first time since 2007. Hopefully a move to Coors Field will help him get back on track, because he hasn’t been much of a contributor in any other category for quite some time. Without a return to previous home run totals, he’s unlikely to have much value for fantasy purposes.
44) Will Middlebrooks, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 46)
His 2012 season seems like an eternity ago. Middlebrooks took the AL East by storm, mashing 15 home runs in half a season while hitting a solid .287. Since that time, his power and batting average have cratered, leading to his departure from both Boston and San Diego. Now a member of the Brewers, he’ll get a shot this spring at the starting third base job. There are a few reasons for optimism, including plenty of hard contact, a strikeout rate trending in the right direction, and a move to a ballpark that inflates power.
45) Juan Uribe, New York Mets (Age: 37, Previous Rank: 32)
As a part time player, Uribe has provided useful stats over the past few years. At the age of 37, the limited exposure should keep him healthy enough to contribute double digit home runs and a handful of stolen bags. His versatility on the diamond makes him a useful bench piece for deep dynasty leagues.
46) Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 26, SS)
Another useful bench piece when he’s healthy, Lowrie offers double digit home runs and even an occasional plus batting average at both shortstop and third base. A return to Oakland certainly doesn’t bode well for his power numbers, but he hit 15 home runs playing half of his games at the Coliseum as recently as 2013, so it’s not out of the question to expect a similar output this season.
47) Garin Cecchini, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 25)
Cecchini has faltered since graduating to the upper levels of the minors, failing to reproduce the batting average and walk rates that made him a promising prospect just a few years ago. He’s getting a (much-needed) fresh start this year after the Red Sox front office sent him to Milwaukee for some beer money– but without significant improvement, he’s likely to just be organizational depth at this point.
48) Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NA)
The Pirates took the high school prep third baseman with the 32nd pick in the 2015 amateur draft. The son of former big leaguer Charlie Hayes demonstrated his advanced bat and plate discipline in rookie ball, and he could quickly rise up the prospect ranks if he begins to develop some power this season.
49) Jeimer Candelario, Chicago Cubs (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Candelario improved across the board in 2015, demonstrating promising plate skills and walking more often than he struck out after his midseason promotion to Double-A Tennessee. Entering his age-22 season in 2016, he’ll need to maintain the improvements that he made last season in order to remain on the prospect radar, but he most likely won’t be overtaking any of the current Cubs infielders even if he does.
50) Trey Michalczewski, Chicago White Sox (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Michalczewski struggled in his first full season at High-A ball in 2015, posting a poor average and power numbers while striking out 21 percent of the time across 532 plate appearances. He’ll need to show significant improvement this year to remain on the list.
Commentary by Jesse Meehan and Eric Erhardt