2019 Dynasty Risers and Fallers: Third Base
Strap yourself in! We’re back at it! I’m back, analyzing the 2018 season to see what players are going to be climbing up or falling down draft boards in 2019. I’m running through position by position to find guys I expect to be risers and fallers, or the guys I think you should know about as you gear up for drafts and trades during this non-existent off-season. This week we’re looking at third base!
Third base is a fairly deep position in dynasty these days. There’s also a decent amount of talent knocking on the door. Some kid called “Vladito” seems to be getting a lot of clout. He might be pretty good some day. These risers and fallers selections were easier than other positions, just because it seems so cut-and-dried. There were a handful of breakouts in 2018 from the position, but there were also some fallers that may just be connected to injury.
Whatever the case, I’ve written a lot for you to read. So grab a coffee, a beer, water, or your beverage of choice and get comfortable. I’ve got a lot to say this time around.
Third Base Risers
Eugenio Suarez 27, MLB CIN
There wasn’t a whole lot of hype around Suarez going into 2018, but there probably should have been. I stumbled upon Suarez’s improving profile when I was researching him for the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple Play. Suarez was making gradual changes that really came to fruition in 2017, but became more apparent to the fantasy community in 2018.
Suarez’s approach at the plate is fantastic. However, the major change between pre and post breakout here is the authority he displayed when hitting baseballs. He actually swung the bat more, maintained his strikeout rate, decreased his walk rate, and increased his contact. Specifically: his hard contact.
Wouldn’t you know: he hit the ball harder, it left the park more often, and his wOBA skyrocketed. Above average exit velocity, above average launch angle, and above average home run distance. That last one is important because we can speculate that the power increase is not simply a component of playing Great American Ballpark (further proof- Suarez hit 19 of his homers at home and 15 away).
There’s a reason the Reds signed Suarez to an extension in 2018, and that’s because he’s going to be very good for a while. At 27 years of age, playing in Great American Ballpark, playing third base, and displaying all the signs of growth an analyst could ask for. I’m still super stoked for Suarez for the next three to five years. I bought everywhere I could, and you should too.
Matt Chapman 25, MLB OAK
Maybe it’s just dudes named Matt who play for the Oakland Athletics, but I love them. Chapman had an incredible 2018, slashing .278/.356/.508. Everything looks legitimate and sustainable when analyzing Chapman, with the exception of his batting average. Chapman’s BABIP jumped to .290 to .338, and that’s likely unsustainable even though he crushes the ball (he finished in the top-five in exit velocity). Chapman has managed possesses a BABIP above .300 only once in the minors. He certainly won’t be aided by his speed, as he was graded 40/40 there by Fangraphs, though he did rank fifth in Sprint Speed according to Baseball Savant.
All that said, I’m not completely out on Chapman’s ability to hit for average. I’ve been looking at batted ball data and player performance, and Chapman’s 2018 line is what I consider elite.
|Year | Team||LD||GB||FB||ISO||Exit Velocity (MPH)|
|2018 | Athletics||20.4||40.3||39.3||.230||93|
Those ratios are very close to what I consider the sweet spot for hitters. All I’d ask for a few percentage points lower in ground ball percent, a either a tick up in line drives or fly balls. I’ve provided ISO and exit velocity just to further illustrate that those numbers are significant since he’s hitting the ball with so much authority. This isn’t a new development for Chapman either; he’s routinely put up similar lines in the minor leagues. Oh, and he also distributed the ball damn well last year.
My fellow Dynasty’s Child podcast talking head Keaton DeRocher wrote about Chapman in depth here. He also suggested the Chapman is a top-five third baseman, and after 2018 it’s hard to argue he isn’t. There is a ton to love about Chapman, including the fact that he’s only 25. I’d suggest hoping for a sluggish start, and then trying to acquire him in 2019.
Miguel Andujar 23, MLB NYY
There was a bit of a ruckus after Ohtani was announced as the Rookie of the Year. Yankees fans were outraged that Andujar was not selected, and there’s some weight behind their rationale. Even though Andujar walked away from his rookie season empty-handed as far as hardware is concerned, he put up a glorious first season in the bigs.
Andujar’s success in the majors largely replicates what has made him successful in the minors. He maintains an aggressive approach that relies on his quick hands to hit the ball sharply to all parts of the field, though he loves pulling the ball on the inner part of the plate.
It’s worth taking a look at Andujar’s swing to see just how he gets to those balls inside. It’s what got me excited about him when he was in the minors (though I did not see him being this good). Look at his hands and how he pulls them inside.
It’s a thing of beauty. The one thing about his swing is that Andujar sometimes gets on top of the ball. He topped 34.8% of the baseballs he made contact with, which no doubt contributed to his 44% ground-ball rate. He out preformed his xBA of .272, but even if he hadn’t done that his would still be a fantastic first campaign.
The biggest trouble with projecting Andujar’s future comes from where he’ll end up playing. Frankly, Andujar is a train wreck at third base. According to Fangraphs, his play at third was good for a -15.5 defensive war. If you’re not familiar with WAR, that’s bad. The bat is good enough to be a excellent fantasy third basemen. The bat is also good enough to play at first. That being said, you’re unlikely to acquire him for a decent price now, but if you have him then hold.
Third Base Fallers
Rafael Devers 21, MLB BOS
Oh, my beautiful awkwardly-shaped Baby Devers. The Babe’s [ Ed. Note- no.] first full season in the bigs didn’t quite live up to the massive amount of hype that accompanied him. Poor batted-ball luck (.281 BABIP), some pretty gruesome defense (-3.0 Def WAR), and too many ground balls (46.2%) resulted in a underwhelming season. So, are we buying low on the baby third baseman, or are we trying to sell as post-hype?
Hitting the ball on the ground is nothing new to this man-baby. He’s generally floated around the mid 40%’s throughout the minor leagues, but he hits the ball with such authority and distributes it well that he can afford to. Despite hitting the ball on the ground so often, Devers does damage when he hits it in the air.
Baby Devers can hit the ball out of Fenway park no matter the location, Devers can bring the thunder. Something important to remember is that Devers is 21 years-old and rushed to the big leagues. He is still developing, and requires patience from his owners.
The overall numbers didn’t look great for the Boston third baseman, but there were still positive take aways. For starters, he had the same amount of homers as years on this earth, and he also snagged five bases. Next, while his plate discipline wasn’t perfect, it was damn good for his age (7.8% BB and 24.7%K). Not everyone can be Juan Soto, and with a couple of adjustments to his approach (and some better batted-ball luck), we’re still looking a dynasty stud. Buy low where you can.
Josh Donaldson, 32, MLB ATL
Not a whole lot of production came from Donaldson in 2018. A shoulder injury had him sidelined most of the year, and then was part of a marginally criticized trade between Cleveland and Toronto. The plate skills were still there when he did play, showing the same elite walk and decent strike out ratios. He even had a .200 ISO when he played, but he you could tell he wasn’t fully healthy as he hit a lot more ground balls. He just wasn’t able to lift the ball like he can when fully healthy.
According to our own Dr. Mike Tanner, the shoulder fatigue is a nerve injury, better known as Dead-Arm amongst pitchers. When pitchers are suffering from Dead-Arm they are unable to throw with as much velocity. That means that primarily the shoulder injury was impacting Donaldson’s defensive throws from third rather than his bat. However, he also suffered multiple leg injuries throughout the year and it’s likely that both injuries impacted his ability to lift the ball.
Dr. Mike seems mostly unfazed by the injury, and expects Donaldson to return to his elite power hitting ways. That’s good news for us dynasty owners, and could make for a very strong buy-low candidate in most leagues. Go inquire about his price in your league!
Kris Bryant, 26, MLB CHC
Another third baseman whose stock has fallen due to injury. I checked in with Dr. Tanner about the Cubs third basemen, and he’s slightly less optimistic about Bryant than he is with Donaldson. Though there may be a buying opportunity here for dynasty owners who are rebuilding. Let me get into the nitty gritty of it.
Bryant Injured himself sliding into first (don’t do that!). The Cubs have done MRIs and said he doesn’t need surgery. Dr. Tanner suggests that he likely jammed down on the shoulder and strained his AC joint. He thinks there are three possibilities as to the severity of the injury.
- A grade one or two strain, which has very few side effects other than discomfort. By next year or the year after he should be fine.
- Bursitis. Same as the strain; he may have a down 2019, but should be back to his power hitting ways in 2020.
- A labral tear. This is the real bad one. We’re looking at a player who wouldn’t fully recover until 2021, and at that point Bryant has aged and won’t be able to generate the same power as he did before.
We can’t know for sure as the Cubs have only referred to the injury as should inflammation. That’s a bit too ambiguous for us to draw any real conclusions. Bryant will need to be watched closely in Spring Training. If he is displaying the power he is known for, well then that’s a safer buying opportunity. If he’s not hitting for power though, well it might not be a bad idea to explore the trade market. You can gamble now and try and snag a deal, but buyer beware!
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