We’ve gone over the Top 25 Catchers, Top 25 First Basemen, Top 25 Second Basemen, and Top 25 Shortstops, and today we’re covering the Top 25 Third Basemen for your fantasy leagues.
Tier 1: The Mob Bosses
1. Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies) — If baseball happened to be illegal and guys who were really good at it worked their way up to patriarchal positions atop syndicated crime organizations through fearmongering and ruthlessness, this tier of unsavory gentlemen would be your godfathers and cartel heads. The prolific work of Nolan Arenado at the plate continues to manifest itself in numbers that make you rub your eyes to double-check that you’re not hallucinating. You may call him Don Corleonolan, if you are even worthy of addressing him directly at all. Entering his fifth year in the majors, Colorado’s 3B whiz kid has accomplished such feats as amassing 130-plus RBI and 40-plus HRs over each of the past two seasons and batting for never lower than a .287 average in so doing. Usually, I find myself doing the hard-to-please “Not Bad Obama” sneer of approval when surveying really impressive fantasy stats; but upon reacquainting myself with Arenado’s résumé, my jaw did go a little slack in disbelief all over again. Hard contact percentage of 37.9% and over 90% contact in the zone would likely make him a joy to own in fantasy no matter what, but when you remember he is a hitter going yard and generating runs in the previously heralded offense factory that is Coors Field it’s that much more appealing to pick him up. If some unlucky accident should befall your fantasy team this year, understand that Arenado’s work could still very well keep you in the postseason mix right until the very end. Arenado is the real deal and, frankly, if he stole bases with any frequency or statistical significance it would be difficult to snub him from the top spot in fantasy rankings across any position. Own him at all costs.
2. Kris Bryant (Chicago Cubs) — Third base is Bryant’s primary position, but his eligibility at 1B means his fantasy prognosis just one year removed from National League MVP honors was given a proper synopsis in those rankings earlier this week. It perhaps will comes as no surprise that he topped that leaderboard with his exciting blend of power and industriousness at the dish. Among this short list of the most highly touted 3B, speed is one category of which Bryant could find himself the leader, as he is the most innovative baserunner of the four. Consider him the ambitious Tony Montana of the fantasy baseball world. As his owner, you just want what’s coming to you in the form of lots and lots of points. Bryant is projected to post the lowest SLG of this group, by admittedly just mere thousandths of a point. You’d do well to pick him up, obviously. [Unrelated but worth your time: if you haven’t stumbled across this fantastic prank that was played on Bryant during spring training BP that went viral over the weekend, do yourself a favor and check it out.]
3. Josh Donaldson (Toronto Blue Jays) — If I were Josh Donaldson, I bet it would feel pretty good to have 2016—in which I hit for .284 and 37 homers while scoring 122 times and 99 RBI—to be viewed as an underachieving performance, in the context of me having won the 2015 AL MVP award with an even better set of credentials. A pioneer of irreverent conversation-starting hairstyles, Donaldson can do whatever he wants stylistically when he mashes the baseball as well as he has over the last four seasons. His batting prowess has come into its own during his two-year stint in Toronto, which must be bittersweet for fans of the Oakland As who got only a mere taste of what was yet to come for the now superstar. The man posted a nearly unfathomable hard-to-soft contact differential of 24 percentage points last year. I like him for 33 homers and an average of .281 this year, which are tasty morsels in and of themselves. Served alongside 95 each in runs and RBI? That’s a feast that Donaldson will surely enjoy helping you eat. He was a ton of fun to own in a year-long points league last season, and the enjoyment should continue across all formats in 2017 for fantasy owners. I was personally a bit surprised to find his Z-contact to be as low as 83.7%, but that’s a minor concern given the output he generates. He is the Heisenberg of fantasy baseball, operating within his carved-out territory among 3B as a bat-breaking bruiser of competition. Opponents of fantasy teams with Donaldson will be aware that he is dangerous: if he doesn’t get rostered during the first round of all drafts, something unacceptably strange is going on and you can be sure I won’t be pleased to hear of such balderdash. Sidenote: He is dealing with a calf injury during spring training, but it shouldn’t affect his draft stock as he’ll be fully prepared for opening day.
4. Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles) — This name should sound awfully familiar, as we explained why 2017 could be a year in which he enjoys a statistically dominant outing as the best SS-eligible player in the league in Pitcher List’s Top 25 Shortstops rankings. The gents above him here are expected to slightly outperform Machado in a few metrics, but the lines of separation between all four members of this vaunted clan should be paper-thin when the dust settles. Machado is Al Capone in the fantasy world: baseball gives him joy, and owning him as an integral part of your team is a real no-brainer.
Tier 2: The Consiglieres
5. Adrian Beltre (Texas Rangers) — This tier consists of the most trusted right (and left) handed men in the business. Every true leader needs an experienced and powerfully resourceful executive by their side to aid in the tying of loose ends and the smoothing over of poorly managed crises. Adrian Beltre is the first man up for the job. He’s a career .286 hitter coming off a 2016 in which he owned a slash line of .300/.350/.474 and drove in 104 RBI. Along with Machado, Beltre should post one of the best averages this coming year at the position and he features prominently in a Texas lineup right behind the recently added Mike Napoli, top-flight catcher Jonathan Lucroy and the slugging of 2B Rougned Odor. All of that help means he might be able to outpace his 89 runs scored last year as the premier Rangers bat, making him circumstantially more valuable than many might have been thinking. 32 HRs might be hard to repeat, but the soon-to-be 38-year-old still threatens mid-to-high 20s in jacks, and he boasts competitive HR/FB and BB/K ratios for extra reassurance. Like Tom Hagen, who kept his cool in the face of brash trash talk while ultimately getting the upper hand, Beltre will be exceedingly calm while making much of your fantasy opposition look ridiculous. Some concern about his age may make his draft position fall a bit, but I am confident he will be hitting up an extra-base storm all over again. Exceptional value if you can nab him slightly later than perhaps his skills merit, as one of the first eight 3B taken.
6. Kyle Seager (Seattle Mariners) — Mr. and Mrs. Seager have to be extremely proud of the genetics they contributed to the athletic superiority of the physical specimen they spawned. We mentioned the younger Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers in our shortstop rankings, but his elder brother Kyle figures to be one of the highlights of a revamped Mariner lineup this year. He blew 30 homers out of the park in 2016, and he’s a strong candidate for 25 this year as part of the output a .270ish average could provide. An ISO in the low .210s would be about par for the course, and the suggestion of 90 RBI with a complementary 80 runs doesn’t raise my eyebrows even slightly. Just as the ever-confident Winston Wolf shows unrivaled prowess in aiding those in charge of cleanup duties, Seager is going to calm the nerves of an on-base Nelson Cruz during when he arrives at the plate directly. Like Donaldson above, Seager also had a 24-percentage-point split between soft and hard contact last year; his BB/K rate has never been better, and he could steal you five bases too. Strike while the iron is hot on Seager: I’d suggesting at least being open to the possibility of committing to him somewhere between the fifth and eighth rounds of a 12-team league draft.
7. Matt Carpenter (St. Louis Cardinals) — 3B is a strange position in fantasy baseball, because the top echelon is unbelievably elite and the dropoff is rather more pronounced than at first, second or short (the last of which is the deepest in top-to-bottom talent, in my opinion). That being said, the first man in Pitcher List’s hitter rankings history to make an appearance in three separate lists by virtue of his multi-position eligibility is Matt Carpenter. He was our 11th-ranked 2B and our 14th-ranked 1B, but his potential legitimately has “Top 10 caliber” written all over it among the fellows playing at the hot corner. Much like a purveyor of a wide variety of weapons is a vital resource to whom any successful criminal or vigilante can turn, Carpenter will prove very valuable for everything he brings your proverbial fantasy duffel bag. (Confession: When I initially looked up this clip, the pun of Carpenter being a Boondock Saint Louis Cardinal had not occurred to me but it gave me great pleasure to realize it after the fact. I will not apologize for this groan-inducing bit of accidental cleverness.)
8. Jonathan Villar (Milwaukee Brewers) — Another name that keeps popping up in these rankings is the aggressive base thief that is Jonathan Villar. We’ll stop inundating you with redundant links to the pieces on where some of the more versatile utility guys fit in to positional hierarchies, but Villar’s value has already been expounded upon in our Top 25 Second Basemen. As a guy who’s also 2B/SS-eligible on top of playing third every now and then, Milwaukee’s leadoff man is going to be a saving grace if and when your fantasy baseball empire starts to show signs of possibly crumbling. The amount of trust you can place in his 5×5 contributions is akin to how much faith infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar rightly had in his cousin, Gustavo Gaviria, who loyally refused to snitch right up until his torturous demise.
9. Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays) — Thirty-six balls put out of play past the gloves of outfielders are a big reason the fantasy value of Evan Longoria’s bat is close to being as high than it’s ever been. Thrice in his MLB career has Longoria tallied at least 30 bombs in a season, so this is no fluke. Also worth noting is his 2016 RBI total of 98, the highest he’s posted in half a decade. While he’s posted better HR/FB and BB/K ratios in seasons further back in our memory than his most recent, his power and production are nowhere near hitting the brakes. It’s huge for his RBI potential again this year that he follows Brad Miller in the batting order, and I see 85 as a bare minimum in that department. He doesn’t steal bases and his average is a competitive but not dazzling .270, if recent trends hold true. Longoria is like the Doug Stamper of the fantasy baseball that you, as the cunning Frank Underwood, own: on a Rays team that has tended of late to not be in the postseason mix in real life, he’ll quietly do things for you with chilling efficiency and your opponent will be left to wonder where the body of their fantasy hopes got buried. Make sure you get stolen bases accounted for somewhere else in your draft if you proceed with the otherwise highly-advised acquisition of Longoria.
10. Maikel Franco (Philadelphia Phillies) — Neck and neck with Longoria in nearly every criteria you need to consider for 5×5 success, Maikel Franco will be targeting mid-to-high 20s in HRs with a chance of a better BA than his central Florida counterpart. A 2016 BA of .255 should not be cause for concern, as I see Franco’s experience having gotten through the grind of his first full MLB season as the touchstone for him to evolve as a major crux of Philadelphia’s offense. Steamer projects him to hit for .272, assuming slightly more favorable BABIP than the .271 under the conditions of which he still managed to propel 25 homers last year. Both hard contact percentage and contact made outside the strike zone have been ever increasing for Franco, and high 70s for runs and low 80s for RBI should be considered robustly probable likelihoods. The major production he will dutifully generate by your side should generally cover your bases—in both a literal and figurative sense—during the violent gunfight that is H2H fantasy warfare. I have a feeling he’s going to be sneaky low in ADP because he offers more consistency than the single-strength flash of the three guys who finish out the tier.
11. Todd Frazier (Chicago White Sox) — Todd Frazier is one of the flawed but indispensable guys who occupy the bottom portion of this cadre of 3B. His HR production is his most brilliant attribute, with steals being an underrated part of his arsenal because it’s so easy to focus on the power when looking at box scores or highlight reels throughout the season. Owners have to accept that his BA will be regrettably low, however. He’s an enforcer with limitations and will get the job done for your team, if in imperfect fashion. Frazier’s bat has to be sorely missed in Cincinnati, especially since he improbably hit 40 bombs for Chicago last year after it might have seemed his 35-shot campaign for the Reds in 2015 would be hard to top. You could see him go early because of the worth many will place on his lopsidedly good numbers in two categories. If you as a prospective owner are more patient, better overall fantasy competitiveness across multiple metrics—and thus higher eventual value for lower cost—in other occupants of this tier can be procured.
12. Miguel Sano (Minnesota Twins) — Ditto what was said about Frazier. Run and RBI production are perfectly fine and nothing to worry about, home run potential is sky-high while his BA will leave something left to be desired. Without the steals, to compensate for blatant inefficiencies hitting for average, he necessarily has to rank below Frazier. Noteworthy is Sano’s usage by Minnesota in the outfield as well, so he has eligibility at another position to improve his roster flexibility for you in the event you’d like to draft him.
13. Jose Ramirez (Cleveland Indians) — The final selection to the tier because of a hard-to-discount propensity to truly excel in a couple of categories while having trouble in other, J-Ram is the best shot you have to land some significant steals at the 3B position while keeping your run production where it should be for a starter. He hit wonderfully for average last season for Cleveland in a transcendent personal turnaround, so that sweetens the purse for those gambling on him to repeat his habit of losing his helmet while successfully scampering around the bags. Not much power to bank on, but I could see nine homers still happening even with some expected BABIP normalization down from a dream 2016. The BA could almost certainly experience a return to sub-.300 levels, but it does appear as though he’s turned a corner as far as batted ball consistency goes. Ramirez has been trending more toward hitting line drives and fly balls, while sending his ground ball percentage plummeting: this has allowed him to actually convert the excellent speed he’s always had into meaningful baserunning. I expect this to continue in 2017. Fantastic pickup if you can snag him in the draft for relatively low expenditure. Ramirez also has outfield eligibility on the heels of 48 games started at LF.
14. Anthony Rendon (Washington Nationals) — Rendon will vie for supremacy in this tier for four of the five relevant categories discussed in standard 5×5 formats: the separation between the first several individuals here should be be quite minimal, and lead changes in R, RBI, HR and BA could very well happen deep into the season. Rendon is top of the heap though: all things canceling out otherwise between these guys, he should get you 10 steals.
15. Eduardo Nunez (San Francisco Giants) — The most tenuous of the huge-upside, fatally flawed bottom half of this tier, Nunez’s breakout season as a 40-SB guy is why he’s here. Able to hit for .280 or better the last two years makes that seem like a hedged bet, I mentioned that I only expect 11 HRs from him in our Top 25 Shortstops article. The run production being slightly below Ramirez’s and the comparable relative lack of proven power are what slot Nunez here instead of higher. 27 SB is what I think you can reasonably expect this year.
Tier 3: Enforcers Who’ve Yet To Become Made Men
16. Eugenio Suarez (Cincinnati Reds) — These are the guys you can get at phenomenal value: muscle who can get the job done without it looking extremely pretty or sophisticated. Tier 3 players aren’t necessarily fantasy superstars yet nor do they have horrendous shortcomings that are offset by a spiked statistic. Jacks of all trades, masters of none, as it were. I admit I don’t like putting Suarez this high because I don’t think there’s any way he appears in 159 games like he did last year: that allowed for the sizeable production he did earn. However, 21 HRs and double-digit steals necessitate, in this diffuse middle tier of competition, that I can’t justify sinking him lower if he can hold up that end of his bargain. This is tentative and will be re-addressed accordingly throughout the season.
17. Justin Turner (Los Angeles Dodgers) — An excellent nominee for potential re-admittance into the 20-HR club during 2017, Justin Turner should be able to parlay an advantageous spot in a ridiculous Dodger lineup between Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez into plentiful scoring of both runs and RBI. Turner is a very interesting case as far as approach and evolution go: he’s morphed into a pure power bat since moving to Los Angeles, even though he used to be more of an efficiency hit-for-average guy. BABIP, BA, general plate discipline and SB have all declined in three successive seasons while his hard contact, HR/FB ratio, and the ensuing production that come along with those (R, RBI, HR) have all soared. A .280/.350/.450 slash line is well within reach.
19. Mike Moustakas (Kansas City Royals) — The tradeoff you get for Moustakas if you pass on Bregman is more home runs for fewer steals, albeit with a lower projected batting average than Justin Turner. Runs and RBI ceilings for all these guys should be slotted in around the high 70s if things go according to plan and playing time is fairly assumed to be equal amongst them.
20. Jake Lamb (Arizona Diamondbacks) — Lamb is going to hit probably .020 less in BA than the trio above him but should absolutely hit 22-25 or so HRs, if his 39.4% hard contact in 2016 was not an aberration (the assertion that it was NOT a fluke is supported obliquely by a .294 BABIP). The .260 ISO is almost certainly not sustainable, however. Although I like Lamb’s chances to ascend the rankings as much as I dislike Suarez’s odds of staying put at his current spot right now, I need a little more empirical data to reinforce the chance of consistency at the things he’s shown he can accomplish. Perhaps 70s in both runs and RBI, and unfortunately no speed to salvage a higher spot in the rankings at the moment. Thus, here we sit.
Tier 4: Hired Hands
21. Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs) — This tier is occupied by those guys I want to get value out of but can’t necessarily see starting at 3B just yet. I’ll use them as mercenaries to do dirty work for the family in a pinch because they have traits I like but also things about them I don’t entirely trust through-and-through, as the status quo stands right now. They are disposable if need be but paid for their services to accomplish the overarching goal, and with success, they could earn their way up this hierarchy. Many will be up in arms about Baez being this low in the 3B rankings, after he had a solid postseason and was a versatile chess piece for Joe Maddon’s Cubs during and leading up to their World Series-winning performance against Cleveland. I talked about his prognosis as both a a 2B- and SS-eligible fantasy player in previous analyses, but at this point his run/RBI volume is too low for me to rationally place him any higher than the swath of .250-.280 hitters who could get close to 20 HRs, assuming Baez can do both of those things. I am on record saying I think he is in the running for 13-18 jacks and 11 stolen bases. Baez being rated at mid-60s in run production of both types of scoring and shy of the 70s expectation marks set by Turner, Bregman, Moustakas and Lamb in the tier above means that is a 20-run swing that I’m not willing to forgive for a few steals with the chance of less power.
22. Jedd Gyorko (St. Louis Cardinals) — Another multi-position guy that I’m not high on as a starter but instead as a UTIL play. As he is the 18th and 17th-ranked of second basemen and shortstops, respectively, Gyorko belongs right here, consistently under Baez as he was in the other articles.
23. Ryon Healy (Oakland Athletics) — Projected by Steamer to hit .274, get 60 runs and 70 RBI with 17 homers. Done deal for the considerably low spot where you’ll be able to get him in the draft to add depth.
24. Nick Castellanos (Detroit Tigers) — Using a tier-within-a-tier approach once again, Castellanos figures to produce sequentially fewer HRs and a more modest BA than Healy while projecting to accrue scoring comparably but still coming up short of the Oakland man.
25. Martin Prado (Miami Marlins) — Going with Martin Prado here is almost entirely a volume pick over the upside that Yulieski Gurriel below him has considerably more of. He’ll hit nicely for average, get you 10 bombs and rival Healy’s production in Oakland for combined total of runs and RBI. That’s hard to pass up if you are forced to pick between the two at the current juncture.
The On Deck Circle — Honorable Mentions
Yulieski Gurriel (Houston Astros) — He’s slotted at the moment to only play in 113 games, but even so, if the guy can belt 12 homers and hit for better average than Healy with five SB, you have to like what he could eventually capable of after his speedy ascension through the Houston farm system after the organization took him on as a free agent from international play last summer.
Matt Duffy (Tampa Bay Rays) — Was tempted to throw him in somewhere within the Top 25 because of the expectation for 10 SB, but he’s likely just an afterthought because of run/RBI predictions in the 50s WITHOUT compensatory power production. Keep an eye on how his season goes, but a low wOBA prognosis of .310 is probably reason enough to stay away for the time being. He’s a very fresh prospect up from AAA with plenty of potential, but he needs to work on a lot of things to become a relied-upon contributor in 5×5 formats.
Jung Ho Kang (Pittsburgh Pirates) — Since we have literally no timeline on when he’ll be done with legal proceedings following his winter DUI in South Korea, the promising 3B with off-the-field issues has jeopardized his career and thus his fantasy outlook for current viability on your team. Because his draft value will sink with this uncertainty, if you trust that he can rebound from this setback and whatever suspension the league levies on him, your patience will be rewarded with the shortened-season production of a Top 10 fantasy play later on in the year. Treat him like you would the injured Wilson Ramos as far as catchers go, except the downside here is that you’ll be using a bench spot and not a DL slot to stash him for future use.
Yangervis Solarte (San Diego Padres) — A good fill-in should you need some moderate production. Expected to play in 113 games per Steamer and 13 HRs with a .268 with a mid-50s floor is a dynamite free agency acquisition, should you need one.
LEMONs — Leading Every Manager On, Not Startable
Adonis Garcia (Atlanta Braves) — Has the starting nod as of right now, but Kurt Suzuki could press him for playing time and the volume of run production even at a .270 clip is likely too low for you to bother with Garcia from a fantasy standpoint right now.
Pablo Sandoval (Boston Red Sox) — He doesn’t have a guaranteed starting spot yet in real life and therefore should likely be avoided in fantasy drafts until that happens. That said, he’s still projected to hit for .272 and 12 HRs while maybe sniffing 50 runs and RBI each. Watch list flagging is recommended here.