Of all the infield positions, third base traditionally offers the most production for fantasy owners. Fleet-footed, hard-swinging players are scattered throughout the league here, and there are plenty of old familiar faces as well as young stars at the hot corner. Third base has the most depth out of any infield position, but that doesn’t mean you can hang around and let the big names go by, because there are few as good as those atop the third base mountain this year.
So who should you be looking at to fill your 3B slot?
Note: These rankings are for standard roto leagues, with eligibility based on 20 games played at the position in 2017
1. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
Nolan Arenado is as consistent a star as you are likely to find this side of Mike Trout.
The Rockies third baseman has had at least 37 homers, 130 RBI, and 97 runs in the last three years, and his batting average has gone up each season to boot. At 26 he is still getting better, and he has been the model of health these last three seasons. He is a first-round pick in an absolute heartbeat with a high floor, a good home field advantage and a strong lineup around him. Do what you can to acquire his services in 2018.
2. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
Bryant had a disappointing 2017, just ask anyone. And yet his fantasy numbers were solid, and he had the peripherals to back it up.
While he “only” hit 29 home runs, the maintenance of a high batting average together with a strong run total, good health, and an RBI number hurt only by his spot in the lineup, Bryant was still a remarkably good fantasy player last season, and comfortably projects to be again this season. You never know how Joe Maddon with organize his lineup, but if Bryant is hitting in the#3 or #4 spot you can expect to see triple-digit RBIs again.
3. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
Machado’s first half of 2017 was a horror show for fantasy owners. His .230/.296/445 slash was a nightmare for anyone who invested in him, and while his counting numbers recovered his average never did.
A lot of Machado’s early struggles can be put down to bad luck. He had a BABIP of just .239 before the All-Star break, and .265 for the year.
This season should see a return to form for Baltimore’s main man, who will also gain shortstop eligibility. However, there are trade rumors swirling around him already as he enters his final year under contract with the Orioles. How that affects him is anyone’s guess, but a contract year usually finds a player in better form than otherwise.
4. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
Ramirez is also eligible at second base, which is really where you should play him as he is the clear #2 in that position. However, I have no problem with you choosing to play Ramirez at third should your draft pan out a certain way.
The Indians’ offense runs through Ramirez, and he has five-category production that is tough to find, and even if his power comes back down in 2018, he will be well worth an early pick.
5. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
A slow start and missed time due to a nagging leg injury has led to a lot of people overlooking Donaldson this year, but the former MVP is still a strong option.
The power totals have dipped the last two years, but his ISO rallied in 2017 and he has a terrific eye at the plate. Donaldson is as much of a lock for 30+ homers as anyone in baseball, and if he rebounds toward his MVP numbers then he will be a steal this year.
6. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
2017 was a monster year for Rendon at the plate. He set career highs in home runs, RBI, average, ISO, and strikeout rate.
In a normal case you would look at that and say regression is on the way, but Rendon may be immune to the usual fall back to earth. He made adjustments to his approach last year that have seemingly paid dividends. He moved closer to the plate and simplified his swing mechanics. The result was harder hit balls, fewer swings and misses, and more walks than strikeouts. All of that bodes well heading into 2018, but it is natural to think that his adjustment may be met this year with one from pitchers. I am cautiously optimistic in Rendon though, and the quality of the surrounding lineup will keep those counting stats high.
7. Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
Turner has been a terrific hitter ever since he signed with the Dodgers. He is positive at the plate, but patient when needed, and is quietly one of the best power hitters around.
The problem is one of health. He has played more than 130 games just once in his career, and that makes him a risky investment in fantasy. If you draft him you are likely to require a contingency plan, and that is costly. It also means his counting stats are never as high as they could be. While he carries a strong average, there is too much risk with Turner to be overly comfortable moving him ahead of lesser hitters like Rendon.
8. Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers
Shaw’s 2017 was a strong campaign. His power came to the fore, and he was able to cut down his strikeout rate which drastically improved his batting average.
There is some worry with Shaw about a regression, especially in batting average which has fluctuated by some 20 points year-to-year, but the lefty took big strides in being more selective with his swings last year and the power is real enough to pencil him in for at least 25 this season. Double-digit steals may be unlikely, but he can contribute some there as well.
9. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
If you draft Bregman, you will probably play him at shortstop, but he is a useful bat to have at third as well.
2017 was his first full season in the Majors, and all he did was post solid numbers across the board. His plate discipline and a nice combination of power and speed gives him an outside chance at a 20-20, .300 year, and even if he doesn’t hit those numbers, his high floor makes him a very safe pick in 2018.
10. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
Sano is returning from a major leg injury and is facing a potential suspension from the commissioner’s office. That is not a great combination.
What Sano does have going for him is long ball ability. He isn’t going to contribute in steals and the average is on remarkable shaky ground given a 35.8% strikeout rate in the Majors, but there are positives to his game, and in head-to-head formats, in particular, his hot streaks could be vitally important.
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