Unlike the shortstop position, the third base roster of possibles is much more appealing to me. I pretty much always lock up at least one top ten third baseman in every draft I do. In leagues where I have a corner infield position I always prefer to fill it with a player manning the hot corner.
I don’t have any mind-blowing statistics to back up the validity of that strategy other than my own personal experience. I’ve played in hundreds of fantasy baseball leagues in every format you can imagine, but the strategy of grabbing one great third baseman and one up-and-coming third baseman I always implore to some degree.
For example, last year I grabbed Beltre, Headley, Freese, Middlebrooks, and Frazier in some order on all my teams. I don’t think I had one that didn’t have at least two of these guys. I missed on Moustakas and Lawrie(although with Lawrie’s ADP last year I didn’t draft him even though I really wanted him). Last year was a little unusual in that many of the best performers at the position came from relative anonymity. Look at Seager, Middlebrooks, Plouffe, and Frazier.
If you want to target players that have a chance to have that same path to success, I think Arenado, Gyorko, Chisenhall, and even Juan Francisco or Anthony Rendon have outside chances of returning huge game-changing value.
Guys I like:
Pablo Sandoval 3B SF- Apparently, I like the Panda more than all the other experts. I wouldn’t have figured that to be the case. I think batting average is going to be my main target out of the third base position. It seems to be rich with guys that can hit for an elite average.
As the steroid era has faded, we’ve seen batting averages drop as a whole. Nowadays, .260ish is the baseline. A .280 hitter is a good hitter, and anybody over .300 is elite. At the very minimum, Sandoval is a .280 hitter.
If Pablo can stay healthy and reach 600 at bats, he will be a top five third baseman that can be had with a pick in the 80′s. He’s not without his concerns: health, weight, attitude. I like that he’s a competitor and can throw with both arms. I like that he’s only 26. If I’ve waited until the 6th or 7th round and don’t have a third baseman, you better believe I’ll be grabbing Pablo Sandoval.
David Freese 3B STL- Almost in the mold stat-wise of Pablo, Freese will put up 20 HRs/80 RBIs/ .290 AVG. My favorite part of Freese is that he is a tough, clutch player. He can be streaky at times. Just take a look at his monthly splits, but when he’s on, he can hit with anybody.
I like his value as a daily play when he’s streaking. His stats seem to stabilize enough to warrant serious roto consideration. As for head-to-head leagues, I think his ups-and-downs could severely inhibit weeks. In the mock drafting I’ve done to this point, I always wind up with Freese. I don’t necessarily know if that means I really like him or if I really like where I get to draft him.
Nolan Arenado 3B COL- If this guy doesn’t break camp with the Rockies, he will be up in June. I love his approach. Nolan almost broke camp with the Rocks last year then had an unimpressive year with the double A affiliate. I think Arenado is the kind of player that needs a stage. Some guys are like this.
Maybe I’m trying to read into player’s mentalities too much, but it seems Arenado performs when he’s been given more important at bats. I would love to see him get an opportunity to show himself worthy. Imagine how good the Rockies infield could be over the next couple of years: Wilin Rosario, Nolan Arenado, Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Rutledge, and Tyler Colvin?
I expect a very similar line to Freese and Sandoval as Arenado matures. For now, expect growing pains, but flashes of greatness. He’s well worth a stash in deeper leagues.
Guys I don’t like:
Evan Longoria 3B TB- Every year we get so excited about Longoria. I know why. He’s a really good hitter. The problem is we place too high of expectations on him. He was a first-round pick in 2012. He didn’t deliver near that value. In fact, he’s only delivered top 20 value once.
Longo is entering his golden age 27 season, and he’ll have all the touts drooling over the possibility that we finally see that breakout where Longo stakes his claim as an elite third baseman. Personally, I would rather pay a discounted price on a player I thought could be elite than pay the elite price of Longo and pray that price breaks even.
It always goes back to the economics. Like I said earlier, I’m using this spot on my roster to concentrate on batting average. Longoria is a career .276 hitter. I’ll be setting my sights elsewhere. If you are getting drawn in by the possibilities of Longoria, I urge you to comparison shop with David Wright. Make a wise choice.