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THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2022 TOP 50 DYNASTY LEAGUE THIRD BASEMAN, #1-10

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1. José Ramírez, Cleveland Guardians (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 1)

Jose Ramírez had a miserable first half of the 2019 season. Since then, he’s been almost flawless. He salvaged 2019 with a huge second half, finished runner-up in the 2020 AL MVP voting, and this past season slashed .266/.355/.538 with 36 HR, 27 SB, 111 R, and 103 RBI. More of the same seems likely for the foreseeable future.

That production could come in a different uniform. The Guardians have an $11 million option on Ramírez for 2023 which they would be insane not to pick up. They’re far too frugal to pay him what he’ll want beyond that, so a trade at some point in the next two years is likely. That may not be a bad thing for his fantasy value – it’s not like Cleveland has an especially great lineup or park to hit in. They are aggressive on the basepaths, so Ramírez could lose some steal opportunities elsewhere, but that wouldn’t be nearly enough to remove him from the ranks of the elite. (Ben Sanders)

2. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 2)

Rafael Devers’ 2020 was mildly disappointing but was wisely written off by most as merely a small-sample blip on his inevitable rise to superstardom. He rebounded with a monster 2021 line of .279/.352/.538 with 38 HR, 101 runs, and 113 RBIs – almost as good as his 2019 numbers. He has massive power, improving plate discipline, hits in a stacked Boston lineup in hitter-friendly Fenway Park, and is just entering his prime years. What’s not to love?

Perhaps a few more stolen bases would be nice, as that’s all that’s keeping Jose Ramirez ahead of him in these rankings, but even without them, I expect Devers to eventually claim the top spot at the hot corner and probably have a long reign there. (Ben Sanders)

3. Manny Machado, San Diego Padres (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 5)

Manny Machado has been one of the most dependable players in baseball over the past decade. He was sidelined for nine games in 2021, the most he’s missed in any season since 2014. Even in his relatively bad years, he’s been good for 30 HR, 80 R, and 80 RBI. He had a down year in the homer department this past season, only hitting 28, but they came with 92 R, 106 RBI, and 12 SB. Not much to complain about there.

Machado might be capable of even better. He slashed .304/.370/.580 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign and was on pace to set career-best marks in just about every offensive category. Though he didn’t come close to repeating those numbers in 2021, there may have been bad fortune involved. Machado’s .380 xwOBA was 30 points higher than his actual wOBA, and he hit the ball harder than ever (119.6 max exit velocity, 93.1 average). There might be an MVP-caliber year in him, but even if not, there should be many more productive seasons. (Ben Sanders)

4. Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 20)

Austin Riley’s power was never in question, so the 33 home runs he produced in his 2021 breakout season weren’t a shock. What was surprising is that all those bombs came with a .303 batting average, as he hit just .232 over his first two MLB campaigns. There was some good fortune on batted balls involved – it’s hard to hit .300 with a 25.4% K-rate, and his .368 BABIP is highly unlikely to repeat.

Riley probably won’t hit .300 again, but he won’t have to. What he did last season still looks really good even if you regress the batting average to .270 or so. He’s young and will hit in the heart of what should be an excellent Braves lineup for the foreseeable future. There are likely more 30-HR, 100-RBI seasons on the way. (Ben Sanders)

5. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 3)

Alex Bregman will probably never repeat his monster 2019 season. His mediocre exit velocities certainly don’t support 41 home runs, a number that was aided by luck, Houston’s short porch in left field, and perhaps the nefarious clanging of trash can lids. On the other hand, he’s probably capable of more power than the 18 HR he produced in 133 games over the past two injury-plagued campaigns. He’s talked about running the bases smarter to stay healthy, which doesn’t bode well for a return to his best base-stealing days.

Steamer projects a .269/.380/.484 line with 27 HR, 90 R, and 91 RBI, and that seems like a reasonable expectation. Bregman is still in his prime, on a loaded Astros team, and his plate discipline should help his game age well. He’s not a bad trade target if you can find an overly concerned manager – just don’t overpay dreaming of more MVP-caliber numbers. (Ben Sanders)

6. Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 4)

Nolan Arenado was really easy to value for a long time. He had a five-year run as an elite third baseman, rarely missing a game and taking full advantage of the thin air in Colorado to produce excellent numbers in four categories. But after an injury-plagued 2020, dynasty managers had to wonder if age was catching up to him and if a move from Coors Field to Busch Stadium would water down his numbers.

Arenado answered those questions fairly well, hitting 34 homers and driving in 105 in his first season in St. Louis. His .255 batting average and 81 runs scored were a bit of a letdown, although those may just be consequences of playing at a normal elevation. He’s no longer a fantasy superstar, but Arenado should still be a trustworthy power source for several more seasons. (Ben Sanders)

7. Yoán Moncada, Chicago White Sox (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 7)

More like Yawn Moncada, amirite? Five years ago, Moncada was the most electrifying prospect in all of fantasy baseball, a potential superstar with loud tools. In 2021, he slashed .263/.375/.412 with 14 home runs and three stolen bases. He wasn’t a bad player, producing 4.5 WAR thanks to his OBP and great defense, but he didn’t do the fun things that help us win fantasy baseball leagues. What happened to the massive power and blazing speed we were once promised?

Maybe health is the issue. A nasty bout with COVID-19 tanked Moncada’s 2020 season, and he battled several nagging injuries last year. Hopefully, he can recapture his 2019 form, when he slashed .315/.367/.548 with 25 homers and 10 steals in just 132 games. He might be able to do even better, as his walk and strikeout rates both took a step in the right direction last season. There’s still a big upside here, but another boring campaign could send him tumbling out of the top 10. (Ben Sanders)

8. Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 6)

Anthony Rendon was one of the most consistent hitters in baseball until last season when he struggled to .240/.329/.382 line in 58 games before having season-ending hip surgery. That puts his career at a bit of a crossroads. Hip problems shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially at an age when many players start their decline phase anyway.

Rendon does have a few things working in his favor. His plate discipline metrics are excellent – he swings at the right pitches and doesn’t miss very often. He also gets to hit near the top of a lineup that includes Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. He can provide plenty of fantasy value through batting average and run production, even if his power starts to fade and he never steals another base. Rendon is riskier than he used to be, but it’s too soon to write him off. (Ben Sanders)

9. Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 12)

Ke’Brya Hayes looked like a breakthrough star in 2020, posting an OPS of 1.124 over his first 95 PA in the big leagues. Last season he missed significant time due to wrist issues, hit far too many groundballs when healthy, and finished with a .689 OPS. You could write off his hot start as a small-sample fluke, or blame 2021 on the injuries, but what I would do is just look at them together.

Overall, Hayes has 491 PA and is slashing .280/.340/.432 with 11 home runs, 66 runs, 49 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases. It’s about what you’d expect based on his scouting reports and minor-league stats – a solid but unspectacular start from a high-floor prospect valued largely for his glove. I’d use that as a baseline going forward, with the potential for more power if he can raise his launch angle. (Ben Sanders)

10. Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 14 at SS)

Adalberto Mondesi is MLB’s best base stealer, swiping a bag roughly once every 10 plate appearances. That would easily carry a fantasy team in that category over the course of a full season – if he ever actually played one. His career-high is 443 PA, and durability is just one in a long list of concerns. Chief among them is plate discipline. He has exactly seven times as many strikeouts as walks for his career, which is why he’s only once eclipsed the .300 OBP mark.

When Mondesi is on, he’s among the most valuable players in fantasy baseball, combining 20-plus HR power with his elite speed. When he’s not, he can leave you wondering how he even holds down a job. He’s already moved down the defensive spectrum, and it’s not out of the question he could someday be relegated to a utility role if he doesn’t start making more consistent contact. Whether he’s a gamble worth taking or a headache to avoid probably comes down to your risk tolerance. (Ben Sanders)

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Ben Sanders

Ben Sanders

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