Fantasy Baseball 2013: Third Base Primer

No matter how poorly you draft this year, it seems highly doubtful that you'll be able to screw up this position. Go ahead and try. Can't be done. Third base is uncommonly deep in 2013 — so deep, in fact, that the players we've slotted ninth and tenth in our preseason ranks, Chase Headley and Aramis Ramirez, both finished among the overall top-25 last season.

This position is so stacked that no one in the fantasy community even seems to care that we've lost Alex Rodriguez indefinitely — possibly for the entire season. We've already buried A-Rod in the desert, with Troy Glaus, Hank Blalock and Andy Marte. Thanks for the 600-something homers and 300-something steals, Alex. Your services are no longer needed.

[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

Seriously, in a standard mixed league, every owner is going to feel OK about their third baseman on draft day, whoever it is. The guy we've ranked 12th at the position, Mark Trumbo, hit 32 homers last season and drove in 95 runs. The player we've ranked 16th, Pedro Alvarez, hit 30 bombs and delivered 85 RBIs.

Under normal circumstances, when a position is this rich, we might tell you to avoid the guy who sits atop the ranks. But Miguel Cabrera is a unique case. Despite the impressive depth and talent at third, Cabrera still destroyed the position averages last year. He actually led all third basemen in four of the five standard fantasy categories, claiming a sort of quadruple crown. He's an obvious top-of-draft fantasy asset, the most reliable name in the player pool. Cabrera has hit .320 or better in seven of the past eight seasons. He always gives us 160 games, delivering 30-plus homers, 100-plus RBIs and 100-plus runs. No one ever lost a league because they invested in Miggy.

When Cabrera is off the board, however, things get interesting...

How do you plan to attack this position if you don't land one of the top-three overall draft picks, and thus miss out on Miggy? The second and third tiers at this spot are loaded. Is the difference between the No. 2 and the No. 10 third baseman worth the gap in ADP?

Scott - From the position prism, I see what you're pushing here. Yes, the position has excellent depth, and no, there isn't that much difference between Tier 2 and Tiers 3-4. That said, I'm looking for the safest stat collectors that I can get in the early rounds (without respect to position), so I won't hesitate to dial up a Beltre or Wright if the context seems to fit. A lot of these determinations get made as the bullets are flying; I don't like to lock up too much ahead of time. Flexibility is your friend.

Dalton - No, I do not think the difference is worth the gap in ADP. Basically, I want to come away with one of Beltre, Wright, Zimmerman, Longoria, Lawrie, Sandoval, Headley, Ramirez and maybe even extend that to Freese. But I definitely want one from that group. I'll then address the CI position almost certainly with a first baseman.

Brandon - Yeah, there seems to be plenty of depth here. Based upon ADP price, I love the deals you can get on Pablo Sandoval, Mark Trumbo and Mike Moustakas, to name a few. I'm definitely not going into drafts with a mindset that I have to grab one the top 5 hot corners. I'll just wait for the first really good deal that comes along.

We have a solid group of under-25 third basemen rising up the ranks — guys like Brett Lawrie, Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas, Nolan Arenado, Will Middlebrooks and Mike Olt. In your view, which of these guys is most likely to crack the top-10 in next year's position ranks? Which of them is going to be the best draft value of 2013?

Brandon - I'll go with Lawrie for top 10 in the rankings because of his five-tool makeup, and the fact that he was able to post that level of production in his 43-game MLB debut in '11. He's still only 23 years old, so we should see a production bump going forward. And he's in a ripe offensive environment in Toronto. But as far as draft value for this year, I'd go with Arenado because he's basically going undrafted in fantasy leagues and he's moved himself into a position of potentially making the Rockies' opening day roster. Even if he doesn't, there's a good chance he becomes this year's Will Middlebrooks and makes a big impact when he arrives this summer.

Andy - My stubborn faith in Brett Lawrie endures, even though he's already injured. Eventually, a five-cat year is coming. He gave us double-digit power and speed in his age-22 season, with a .273 average, so he wasn't exactly a dud in 2012. (You took a loss on his draft-day price, sure, but the final numbers weren't horrid). So Lawrie is my pick to have the highest rank, headed into 2014. The third baseman likely to deliver the greatest profit from the list above, however, is probably Will Middlebrooks. He could easily give us mid-20s power, and you can snag him around pick No. 160 in an average Yahoo! draft.

Brad - Realize I'm probably in the minority here, but I'll gladly place my money on Moose. He provided owners a glimpse of his immediate potential last year (first half: .268-15-47-41) before the wheels came off. Plus he's off to a monster spring. If he establishes consistency with his approach, he'll deliver a perennial 90-30-100-.270 line in short order.

Let's look further down the road: Give us a way-too-early preview of your top-10 third basemen for 2015...

Dalton - 1) Miguel Cabrera, 2) Brett Lawrie, 3) Ryan Zimmerman, 4) Evan Longoria, 5) David Wright, 6) Pablo Sandoval, 7) Chase Headley, 8) Adrian Beltre, 9) Pedro Alvarez, 10) Mike Moustakas.

Brad - 1) Miguel Cabrera, 2) Ryan Zimmerman, 3) David Wright, 4) Adrian Beltre, 5) Evan Longoria, 6) Mike Moustakas, 7) Brett Lawrie, 8) Pablo Sandoval, 9) Hanley Ramirez, 10) Nolan Arenado

Scott - 1) Cabrera, 2) Longoria, 3) Wright, 4) Headley, 5) Lawrie, 6) Hanley, 7) Panda, 8) Beltre, 9) Middlebrooks, 10) Moustakas. And to be clear, I'm pushing Machado to shortstop (perhaps wishful thinking).

Andy - 1) Miggy, 2) Longoria, 3) Lawrie, 4) Zimmerman, 5) Starlin Castro (I'm making room in Chicago for Javier Baez), 6) Headley, 7) Wright, 8) Moustakas, 9) Hanley, 10) Arenado.

Please rank these four names strictly for HR potential in 2013: Chase Headley, Pedro Alvarez, Mark Reynolds and Juan Francisco. Feel free to offer a thought or two on any or all.

Brad - 1) Pedro Alvarez, 2) Mark Reynolds, 3) Juan Francisco, 4) Chase Headley. If the Bravo can cut back on the Ks and assert himself as the primary option, he has legitimate 30-homer upside.

Andy - 1) Pedro, 2) Headley, 3) Reynolds, 4) Francisco. Headley is obviously the best fantasy bet from this list, as he almost certainly won't be a liability in any category. Pedro and Reynolds are pure power plays, likely to kneecap your team's batting average. Francisco is a nice enough N.L.-only name, as he'll have the preferred side a platoon at third for the Braves.

Scott - Alvarez is the safest bet for 30, and he'll try to go deep on every pitch. I'll go Reynolds second, though I still see Headley as a safe overall play. (In other words, I'll consider paying sticker price). I'm not drinking Francisco's Kool Aid yet.

Mark Trumbo looked like an MVP candidate before the break last year (22 HR, .306/.358/.608), but he was a mess in the second-half (10 HR, .227/.271/.359). We already know how Dalton feels about him. (Not bullish). Let's get a projection from everyone else...

Andy - I'm actually less bullish on Trumbo than Del Don, ranking him No. 15 at the position. But really, that ranks says more about the depth at third. Trumbo is a high-K, no-walk slugger, the sort of player you should target only for power stats. I'd be somewhat surprised if he can repeat last year's full-season average, even though it wasn't anything special (.268). Put me down for a 68-29-86-5-.257 fantasy line.

Brandon - I'm not going to get overly concerned about a couple of down months. Sure, there's an ugly K/BB rate here, but Trumbo doesn't have any platoon disadvantages, and he's got big-time power. Same as he ever was: 70-30-90-.260.

Brad - The anti-Trumbo narrative is asinine. The man battled through nagging injuries, the root cause of his downward spiral, over the second half. Now healthy and slated to be the Angels' No. 6 hitter and everyday DH, he's should amass a line in range of 75-33-95-6-.265.

Scott - Relatively Sad Trumbo: 73-25-82-4-.251.

Pick one: Todd Frazier or Kyle Seager?

Brandon - I have these two very close, and the only strong reason I'd go Seager ahead of Frazier is the fact that Seager has 2B eligibility.

Andy - Frazier, please. We're talking about two fairly similar fantasy assets, however. These guys qualify at multiple positions (edge to Seager for 2B eligibility), and both offer respectable power and speed potential. I prefer the team context for Frazier, so he gets a small edge on my board.

Dalton - I have these two ranked nearly back-to-back, and I really don't feel strongly either way. The easy answer would be to say Frazier offers more power upside, while Seager is likely a safer BA option and will chip in some steals, so it depends on your roster construction when this decision needs to be made. In a vacuum, I'll say Seager, but Frazier has the better setup (home park, league, lineup).

Please give us your favorite third baseman of the pre-fantasy era. (Dalton, if you have no memory of the pre-fantasy era, you're allowed to cheat).

Brandon - I gotta go with George Brett. In '79, the year before he hit .390, he posted a .329/23/107/119/17 fantasy line, and he also recorded 42 doubles and 20 triples that season. Besides the obvious talent, loved his passion (see: Billy Martin, pine tar incident) and his loyalty (21 seasons with Kansas City, including 19 home runs and 75 RBI for the Royals in his last season ('93) at age 40)

Scott - Paul Molitor might be my favorite baseball player of all time; certainly the smartest baserunner I ever saw. If you didn't love Harvey's Wallbangers, something is wrong with you. And I was in on George Brett, as everyone should be — absolutely gorgeous swing.

Brad - Ron Cey was debated heavily here, but George Brett is most deserving. His grittiness, infectious zeal and all-around smoothness made him an icon. His 87-24-118-15-.390 campaign in just 117 games remains stunning today. And his Hulk-like rage displayed during the Pine-Tar Incident is still one of my favorite baseball moments of all-time.

Andy - If we're being honest here, then I have to say Eric Soderholm. And yeah, I'm aware that there are a thousand better choices. But Soderholm played third for the '77 White Sox, the first Chicago team (not the last) that really messed me up.

Dalton - Matt Williams was by far my favorite player growing up. That's as close as I can get to the pre-fantasy era. In 1994, Williams had 43 homers over 112 games, a pace that equates to 62 over a full season, before the strike ended the year prematurely.


Position averages for the top-20 fantasy third basemen, last three years

2012 – 80.0 R, 24.1 HR, 87.7 RBIs, 8.5 SB, .283 AVG
2011 – 69.1 R, 18.6 HR, 71.0 RBIs, 7.0 SB, .280 AVG
2010 – 79.5 R, 21.7 HR, 83.9 RBIs, 5.8 SB, .280 AVG

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