After the third base position entered 2020 as arguably the deepest spot in fantasy, there will be no such claims this time around. Several hot-corner veterans took a step backward last year, and a few sleepers continued to slumber. Third base is by no means a weak position for drafters, but it has become a spot that needs to be addressed with some sense of urgency. This is especially true in roto leagues, as many managers will scratch their heads when it’s time to fill their corner infield spot.
Third base offers a pair of superstars (Jose Ramirez, Manny Machado) and five established studs (DJ LeMahieu, Alex Bregman, Rafael Devers, Anthony Rendon, Nolan Arenado) before things start to get dicey. The next tier is loaded with players who struggled last season, such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Kris Bryant, and Yoan Moncada. Those who wait to fill the hot corner may need to cover themselves by drafting multiple members of that group.
Further down the list, there are plenty of sleepers for those who want to take a risk with their corner infield spot. But sleepers come with risk, and the likes of Dylan Moore and Andres Gimenez could easily become waiver-wire fodder by the summer.
Drafters also have some flexibility with the skill profile of their third baseman. Power options are abundant, and some of those sluggers can also hit for average. Speed sources are harder to come by, but there is a handful of players who could deliver a notable steals total.
PLAYERS I'D REACH FOR AT 3B
Cavan Biggio, Blue Jays (ADP 59)
Biggio offers the versatile skill set that fantasy managers covet in this era, having tallied 24 homers and 20 steals in 159 career games. The lefty slugger is also a run-scoring machine who should operate out of a premium spot in a Blue Jays lineup that is full of right-handed hitters. Eligibility at three positions (2B,3B,OF) is icing on the cake.
Eugenio Suarez, Reds (ADP 80)
One of baseball’s most underrated sluggers, Suarez ranks second in baseball in homers and 14th in RBIs since the outset of 2019. The career .261 hitter produced an unusually low .202 average last year that can be mostly explained by a 98-point year-over-year BABIP drop. Fantasy managers who look past the batting mark could get a high-end third baseman for a fraction of the draft cost.
Eduardo Escobar, Diamondbacks (ADP 228)
Although Escobar was due for some regression last season, a year-over-year 226-point OPS drop was more than expected. The 32-year-old is now late-round fodder in shallow leagues, despite being just one year removed from producing 35 homers, 118 RBIs, and 94 runs scored. Even a return to his 2018 form (23 HR, 84 RBIs) would make Escobar an excellent value pick.
THIRD BASEMEN I'M FADING
Nolan Arenado (ADP 21)
Yahoo! Drafters are apparently unfazed by Arenado’s departure from Colorado, tabbing him in the second round of most drafts. But the Coors Field effect is very real, and although the third baseman won’t perform at his career road levels (.793 OPS), he will suffer from no longer playing half his games in baseball’s best hitting venue. Additionally, Arenado needs to prove that he has moved past the shoulder injury that contributed to a miserable 2020 season (.738 OPS). Simply put, there is too much risk associated with the soon-to-be 30-year-old to call his name before Rd. 4.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (ADP 50)
An overweight Guerrero failed to break out during his sophomore season, delivering a .791 OPS that was barely better than his rookie mark. And while the soon-to-be 22-year-old deserves credit for getting himself into shape over the winter, his mediocre batting numbers were caused by more than an oversized waistline. Guerrero produces far too many ground balls (54.6 percent in 2020) to be a notable power hitter and must make major changes in his batting profile before he can reach his sky-high ceiling. Although the youngster will likely achieve greatness down the road, projecting a major breakout this year is an overly aggressive move.
Ke’Bryan Hayes (ADP 150)
Hayes was surprisingly great (1.124 OPS) across 95 plate appearances in his debut season. But his sample size of success is small, and before 2020 he had produced unimpressive career numbers (.752 OPS) in the Minors. Overall, fantasy managers need more evidence that this glove-first prospect has turned the corner offensively. Additionally, Hayes will be fighting an uphill battle to accumulate counting stats in a Pirates lineup that projects as one of baseball’s worst.