It’s been over two months since the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, ending the 2016 baseball season. But if you’re like most fantasy baseball owners, those two months probably feel like two years. Considering it’s still another month until Spring Training even starts, late January has to be the worst time to be a baseball fan. It’s too late to reflect on last year, but next season is too far ahead to look forward to. Luckily, with a little help from The Dynasty Guru, the next month is survivable, as we’ll be ranking and commenting on a whole lot of players over the next six weeks.
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You can view our rankings for previous positions, and the dates future rankings will come out, by clicking the link to TDG’s 2017 Consensus Dynasty Baseball Rankings splash page. With that, let’s take a look at our star-studded, top-20 third basemen.
1) Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 2)
Becoming the 21st player ever to win both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards cemented Kris Bryant’s status as one of the premier options in fantasy baseball. This 25-year-old stud smoothed out the few kinks in his armor in year two by dropping that 30+% K rate to a slick 22%. His BABIP fell 46 points but he still posted a stronger wRC+ while pushing his slugging percentage up by 70 points. He hit more line drives, fewer grounders, and absolutely scorched the baseball leading to an excellent hard hit rate. Even though this is hot corner talk, it also doesn’t hurt that he qualifies all over the diamond. Dude plays in a good hitters park and is surrounded by a stacked Cubbies lineup. Not many players come with virtually no concerns, but Bryant is one of them. We are looking at a certified monster here that coild challenge 45 home runs with a near .300/.400/.600 slash line in his prime, while even chipping in a few steals.
2) Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 4)
More of a 1b than a #2, Mr. Arenado brings just as much joy to the hearts of his owners as KB. In some categories, he has actually outperformed Bryant as well. As the position leader in homers and RBI, Arenado also bested Bryant in isolated power, slugging percentage, strikeout rate, and average in 2016. So, why is he not first, you ask? First off, he showed some platoon split with struggles against southpaws, while also hitting far better at Coors Field than at away ballparks. Now, his splits aren’t bad by any means, most players would love the weaker side of his splits as their line. But they would need to be stronger to take over that top spot. Of course, if your league counts defense, you could consider flipping them in the rankings.
3) Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 3)
Succeeding in his quest to show his MVP season was no fluke, Donny checks all the boxes required of a top third baseman. He will approach 40 home runs and 120 RBI year in and year out, with great ratios and an elite walk rate. Donaldson also sprinkle in a few steals to go with a nifty 88% career success rate (who knew?). Being a tad older than the top two knocks him down a bit, but he still has plenty of elite years left in him. To back that up, Donaldson is still finding ways to improve as he upped his BB rate to 15.6%, a five percent increase from the year before. He’s getting to the point where it wouldn’t surprise us if he walked more than he struck out. Even with the Ed-wing out of town, Donaldson is a strong bet to maintain his overall numbers due to an elite skill set.
4) Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 7)
One of the most underrated guys around, some owners don’t appreciate Kyle Seager until they own him in a league. I was issued a membership card in that club last year and he didn’t disappoint. If you count the minor leagues, Seager set a career high in homers for the 7th straight year. He also established new career highs in virtually every category. Improvements in the M’s offense could also mean his best season is yet to come, especially if the top of the lineup can disrupt opposing pitchers with their speed. Ignore the fact his name doesn’t hold the same cache as the guys above ,or some of the hyped former top prospects below, and enjoy the production.
5) Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals, (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 3rd at 2B)
After a frustrating, injury-plagued 2015, Rendon bounced back with a great all-around performance last season to reestablish himself as a top third base option. Owners of Rendon shares may also be glad to see he seems done with second base for the foreseeable future: no need to risk his sometimes fragile lower half with those extra physical demands, says I. Now the job of turning my hair white will belong exclusively to my family. At the dish, the talented Rendon has all the ability one could want from a first tier third baseman…we have not yet seen his best, and there should be plenty 20/10 seasons with great ratios to come, health permitting.
6) Alex Bregman, Houston Astros (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 22nd at SS)
It only took 383 days of assaulting minor league pitching for Alex Bregman to earn his MLB call up, and, make no mistake, he is here to stay. The soon-to-be 23 year old’s skill set is just as impressive as his lineup protection, which should stave off any potential sophomore slump. Combine that with his plus makeup and great home park, and Bregman could move up this list sooner than later. Word on the street is that players that finish their minor league careers with more walks than strikeouts and .300/.400/.580 slash lines tend to thrive. His prime production may be a couple of years away, but expect continued growth from his stud in the making.
7) Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 11)
After a couple of down years in the counting stats, Evan Longoria roared back with one of his best pro seasons in 2016. While he didn’t quite turn back the clock to vintage Longo, 36 home runs is nothing to sneeze at. That said, 2016 was Longoria’s 5th straight year with declining OBP and walk rates, and a tradeoff from contact to power was clear, as he recorded a career low contact rate. Still, Longoria showed he can still be an elite hitter at 31-years-old, and should be able to continue producing for fantasy owners. Just be careful not to buy too much into the resurgence, as there are signs that he could continue to decline in the future.
8) Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 6)
The next guy on this list seemed so hell bent on reaching 40 home runs that he somewhat lost his way at the plate. Todd Frazier saw his average come crashing down and his doubles return to pre-2015 levels, but did reach the 40 home run plateau, also pitching in 15 steals. The Toddfather will likely see his power regress a bit downwards next season, but his average should rise as a result, making him a valuable player at the hot corner provided your team can survive his poor batting average.
9) Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 5)
Sano was unable to follow up an exciting rookie season, watching his power, batting average, and plate discipline regress. He still has the talent to be an elite power option at third base, but the risk is higher after a 36% strikeout rate in 2016. There are signs of a bounce back in year three, such as incremental improvements to his contact rate, fly ball rate, and swing mechanics, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him crush 30+ dingers next season. If the contact issues persist, Sano could become a major bust, but it’s foolish to give up on that massive power potential anytime soon.
10) Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (Age: 38, Previous Rank: 12)
The 38-year-old future HOFer enjoyed a nice bounce back year last season. At this point, if you don’t know who Beltre is, you will never, ever know him. He’s shown who he is, a remarkably consistent star who is a great bet to hit for power and average for your fantasy team. The inevitable risk of Father Time makes Beltre a bit riskier of an investment, and is worth trading off if your fantasy team is in the midst of a youth movement, but is an excellent fantasy investment elsewhere. Beltre just had his 5th straight year of over 600 PAs, and, despite a dip in power in 2014 and 2015, should continue raking for a few more years. Still, given Beltre’s advanced age, it may be prudent to go year to year with him.
11) Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 17)
The “is this for real” question has long been answered. Since the beginning of the 2014 season, 235 players have come to the plate 1000 times or more. Turner ranks 18th in wRC+ in that span. He combines above average plate discipline with loud contact and tons of fly balls. The only concern is his age, but his profile looks like one that will age gracefully.
12) Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 18)
If the current version of Justin Turner were eight years younger and about to begin his fourth full MLB season, he’d look a lot like Castellanos. He’s run an absurd line drive rate for three straight years, he doesn’t pop up, and his isolated power has increased every year. His batted ball profile is eerily similar to Joey Votto’s and you can safely assume that isn’t a bad thing. If you can’t get your hands on one of the elite guys at the position and are looking for the guy on the verge of joining that group, here he is.
13) Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Raise your hand if you saw this coming (I’m not raising my hand). His ability to make contact, hit for a good batting average, and steal 15-25 bases will keep him valuable, but 2016 may be the best we see from Ramirez. Last season, 199 players put the ball in play at least 250 times. 125 of them averaged a higher exit velocity than Jose Ramirez, including the two guys next on the list. I, personally, recommend selling high this off-season, but the potential for another 10/20 season with great ratios is still plenty valuable.
14) Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 10)
Franco can hit and his plate discipline isn’t as bad as you think. He’s closer to the 2015 version of himself than the 2016 version. The lineup around him is improving and his home park is one of the better parks for right-handed power. There’s a run of .275 average, 30 home runs seasons coming soon and I’d bet that run starts in 2017.
15) Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 24)
Lamb officially broke out in 2016. His .260 ISO was right in line with the elite at the position (Bryant .262, Donaldson .265, Arenado – Coors Field), but he struck out a little more than you’d like. His numbers against left-handed pitching were ugly and he will always be fighting off a platoon partner, but his new manager said he “sees Lamb as an everyday player in 2017.” Lamb murdered the ball when he hit it last year, averaging an exit velocity identical to Paul Goldschmidt and in the Chris Carter/Yoenis Cespedes range. If he improves against left-handed pitching in 2017 and improves his contact rates, we are looking at a rise up this list into easy top-10 territory.
16) Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 15)
Devers will get his first taste of the upper levels of minor league pitching this season, but most evaluators don’t seem to think he’ll have a problem with that. He’s a big kid with plus bat speed and contact skills, and the power is on its way. 2019 is probably the best case for fantasy contributions, but he could make a huge impact with the bat immediately upon arrival. It wouldn’t surprise me if Devers debuts somewhere other than Boston, though, as Dombrowski still has plenty of Dombrowski left in him.
17) Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 14)
Moustakas seems a bit underrated heading into 2017 after an injury-ravaged season. He was the 13th ranked third baseman in 2015 (ESPN player rater) and looked to improve nearly everything about his game at the plate. He began using the whole field hitting the ball harder. Those two things combined never make things worse for a hitter. He looks like Daniel Murphy before he decided to be one the best hitters in the world without telling anyone.
18) Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 8)
I’m not sure where to begin, so I’ll start with the strikeouts. I don’t care what anyone tells you or what you read, he cannot and will not be successful with a 40+ percent strikeout rate. The good(?) news: he shaved it to 35 percent this year in AAA. To steal a line from the great Jason Parks, he has grotesque raw power and that manifests itself in isolated slugging numbers that hover around .300 in the upper levels of the minors. With all that said, I can see Chris Carter with 3B eligibility, but I can also see a pinch hitting, platoon four corners guy in the left-handed Steve Pearce mold. In short:
19) Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
This ranking should tell you everything you need to know about how incredibly deep third base is at the moment. Senzel should move quickly and be ready to contribute by 2018. He doesn’t seem to have the top-five at the position ceiling, but if he continues to show the ability to steal bases, he’s a safe bet to be an above average player in the Jason Kipnis mold.
20) Jung Ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 9 – SS)
Kang’s performance on the field has been a pleasant surprise for the Pirates. His 131 wRC+ ranks 22nd among all hitters in MLB with at least 800 plate appearances in his first two seasons. That mark is tied with Justin Turner and Ryan Braun. Unfortunately, he’s had a few issues off the field and there is no way to know how that will impact his playing time moving forward. By talent alone, he should be seven or eight spots higher on the list, but he appears to be prone to the occasional terrible decision. If you are looking for a potential top 10 third baseman at a discounted rate, look no further.
Comments by Mikey Garrison and Frank Sides