Mike Olt is hoping to get a crack at the Cubs’ third base job. (Bleachernation.com)
By Josh Johnson, Jake Watroba, RotoRob and Tim McLeod
We’re back, with more of the 2014 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit today. So while Matt Harvey’s rehab from Tommy John surgery continues, let’s take a look at the top 52 third basemen in Fantasy baseball for 2014.
The hot corner is a position known to produce power bats and acrobatic defensive belly flops. The class of 2014 MLB third basemen is no exception. If you are lucky enough to get Miguel Cabrera (who is listed as a 3B), you will enjoy 1B eligibility for him as soon as he hits your league minimum. If Cabrera doesn’t fall to you, don’t worry –Adrian Beltre or Pedro Alvarez will suffice.
There are also many fine young third base prospects waiting for their chance. Guys like Mike Olt and Kris Bryant leave us excited for their eventually call-up. The mid-level guys like Mike Moustakas and Trevor Plouffe figure to have improved campaigns. Basically, there are a lot of hot corner dudes to mull over. Drink in our list from top to bottom and whomever bubbles up might be your man. — JJ
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (1): Once again, the best player in baseball is going to have dual eligibility as he regains first base eligibility early this season. When the Tigers sent Prince Fielder south in exchange for Ian Kinsler, it surprised many but what it left was an opportunity for Cabrera to focus on hitting. Fielding at third base has done him no favours, physically. Playing first will keep Cabrera fresh and stretched out. He is the rare power hitter that also hits for average. There just aren’t many non-enhanced players like Miggy in recent memory. To say he is a mix of Eddie Mathews and a right-handed Ted Williams is high praise, but it’s true in our eyes. We could spew several paragraphs of the statistical yet impressive jargon on Cabrera, but come on you know who he is. Unless you have the first overall pick, Cabrera will be probably be unreachable. If you are picking first and you start to wonder if Cabrera has peaked, you can rest assured that there is no avalanche in the forecast. In fact, Miggy could probably lead the league in hitting even if he was a zombie (see video below). — JJ
2. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (2): Besides one lost season in Seattle, Beltre has always swung a wicked stick. He has now produced three straight 30-homer campaign in his 30s. He torched lefties for a .325 BA last season and he hit .345 against southpaw starters. Of course, that .312 BA vs. righties wasn’t half bad either. The Rangers added Shin-Soo Choo and Fielder this offseason, while retaining Alex Rios. While Fielder may be the centrerpiece, Beltre is the most seasoned of the bunch. Expect Beltre to bash at 25 homers with 80+ RBI and hover around .300/.345/.490. He is old but that matters not given his career averages and his current environment. Depending on your scoring system you can expect to draft Beltre as early as round two (near the start of the round, too) and in some head-to-head cases in round five. — JJ
3. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (3): A slow start, extra-base wise, for Longoria was part of an overall theme in Tampa Bay at the beginning of 2013. Still, the normally injury prone player was able to set a career high by playing in 160 games. That’s the good news. The bad news is his overall work at the plate regressed. Longoria’s walk rate dipped for the second straight season and he never runs anymore. This former college star has enjoyed a fine career to date, but you can’t shake the feeling that he hasn’t had that true breakthrough yet. Is a 40-homer season coming one of these years? Well, he’ll need to stop the two-year trend of regressing extra-base pop first. Longoria is a no-nonsense player that will do whatever he can to be the best. Is 2014 the season he finally puts it all together? — RR
4. David Wright, New York Mets (6): Wright will be the heart of a virtual no name order for the Mets this season. He strikes out like the average major leaguer but his walk rate is three percentage points higher than the average. Wright’s career slash line of .301/.382/.506 speaks for itself. His age (31) doesn’t worry us at all. Wright is a leader because he always pushed himself. You can expect him to hit 20-plus homers with a respectable number of RBI and at least a dozen swipes. He will hover around .300 and his OBP should be on the leader board. If we have one tiny little concern, it’s his lack of protection in the batting order. That means Wright’s power numbers could regress slightly but his runs, steals and OBP will thrive. Until he has a bad year, Wright remains a top option at third. If he is there in round three apologize to Matt Kemp and make the Wright decision. But it would be surprising to see Wright last longer than, say, late second round. — JJ
5. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (5): There’s something to be said for slow and steady performers. Zimmerman has tended to be a better second half player in recent seasons, but overall he’s been quite consistent. It was nice to see his walk rate bounce back last year and he did well on the basepaths in the limited times he opted to run. Perhaps there’s another .500 slugging season in Zimmerman’s future, although he trended in the wrong direction in that regard last year. Still, given that his shoulder was not 100 per cent for most the season, we’re willing to give him somewhat of a mulligan. Zimmerman is going to see some action at first base this year, but he’ll remain third base eligible for the foreseeable future. This one-time superb defender who was filled with offensive potential has never had that one season to justify all the hype, but no way can you call him a disappointment, either. One thing we’ll need to see from Zimmerman this year is better contact. — RR
6. Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates (16): We are talking about a true slugger here. Alvarez has legitimate 30-homer pop. He will do some damage to your team BA, but he can mash so as long as you ensure you’re covered, who cares? Alvarez is a prime example of someone ready to reach his major league maturity. With 1,848 plate appearances of experience already, this 27-year-old is destined to take flight. He crushed an NL-leading 36 round trippers with 100 RBI last year, but also led the league with 186 strikeouts. Generally, most power hitters strike out a lot, so don’t let that scare you. We believe a player of his age that already has power can only get better. Alvarez is currently going around the sixth round as finding a real source of big-time power like this isn’t so easy anymore. — JJ
7. Josh Donaldson, Oakland A’s (26): A member of the coveted RotoRob Wire Troll All-Star Team last year, Donaldson is a former catcher that was converted to third base to try to help the A’s with their black hole situation there. And did he ever! Batting all over the A’s lineup last year, he once again improved his contact rates, flashed a bit of speed and wound up as one of the AL’s most valuable players. Donaldson will settle into the two-hole this year, so hopefully his contact sharpens further, as he’ll likely drive in less runs, but will score more. We doubt he again leads the A’s in ribbies, and frankly, he’ll be hard pressed to rank 11th in the bigs in wRC. Donaldson outperformed his expectations as much as almost anyone in the game last year, leaving him little room to grow. Expect some regression. — RR
8. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (42): For Carpenter’s profile, see our Second Base Rankings.
9. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners (14): One of the top emerging third basemen in the league, Seager finally got some help this offseason when the Mariners signed Robinson Cano. An average hitter, Seager showed better patience at the plate last season and backed up his power numbers from his 2012 campaign. With the addition of Cano, we’d expect to see Seager hitting of out the five hole in the M’s lineup, which makes sense when you consider he hit .356/.426/.600 in 23 games there last season. That should mean an increase in his RBI totals this year as he’ll actually have someone to drive home now. Seager won’t hit 30 bombs or drive in 100 runs this season, but he’s a great value pick in middle rounds of your draft. — JW
10. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants (9): Kung Fu Panda is only 27, yet it seems he has been in the majors for a decade. He has broken the hamate bone in both of his hands during his career — is that the kind of player you want playing the hot corner? At this point Sandoval should be primed for a career year. Yet, we feel he is an OBP guy over a BA guy inclusively now. The switch hitter can be dangerous at times but 20 homers may not ever happen again. With Buster Posey in the same lineup, Sandoval can still mature into an more patient hitter. His career GO/AO rate of 1.04 will hopefully lower, because let’s face it, infield hits aren’t his thing given his build. Sandoval still has upside because he has at least five good years left in him. When looking at second-tier third basemen, there are certainly less experienced choices. — JJ
11. Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays (10): Last year was a season to forget for the young Canadian. Injuries limited Lawrie to 107 games and resulted in a decline in nearly major hitting statistic. However, entering his third full season, there is still hope for Lawrie which means he has “draft steal” written all over him. The one downside to taking him is it’s still a question mark as to where he will hit in the Blue Jays lineup. Last year, Lawrie saw good amount of time in each spot of the batting order with the exception of leadoff, second, and clean-up. His slugging percentage was down from a year ago, but his isolated power numbers were up, something that owners can look to in hope for an increase in power. The Jays lineup, which also includes Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, and Melky Cabrera, offers plenty of opportunities for Lawrie to succeed at the plate this season. — JW
12. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers (8): “Age ain’t nothing but a number” must be Ramirez’s mantra. When healthy, he simply produces. A-Ram will turn 36 before the All-Star break, so he’s getting long in the tooth. However, you could pick a riskier third baseman. His power is good and he has always been a run producer. If Ramirez plays over 120 games expect 20-to-25 homers and 70-to-85 RBI with a BA that won’t kill your overall team average. A true middle rounder at this point, going with Ramirez is a good, steady plan. — JJ
13. Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks (11): For Prado’s profile, see our Second Base Rankings. He is also listed in our Outfield Rankings, coming shortly.
14. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles (18): For a brief moment last year, it appeared Machado was going to smash the single-season doubles record of 67 set by Earl Webb in 1931. Alas, Machado fell well short, yet still finished with a league-leading 51. We think this kid will be a superstar one day, but don’t overvalue him because he hit .283 last year. Machado still struck out 113 times compared to 29 walks. It’s okay to be encouraged but the book is out on him. Pitchers can now sit down and watch video of him striking out in multiple ways. We do believe his double power will evolve into home run power, but with that comes a learning curve of many whips. Machado’s keeper stature is considerably robust considering the things he’s accomplished at such a tender age. As for redraft formats, he is s middle tier player bursting with potential. — JJ
15. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (50): Arenado had a good rookie year, though he certainly had some ups and downs (like a .225 July, followed by a .317 August). What impressed us most was his 14 per cent strike out rate which 5 percentage points lower than the league average. Arenado also slapped 29 doubles and with more at-bats and strength, those gap shots should leave the yard. Don’t forget, even with the humidor there is still an advantage at Coors Field. We expect Arenado to product 15-to-20 homers, 70+ RBI and a slash line of around .280/.320/.435. Look for him to go in the mid rounds and provide a fine return for NL-only owners, while offering a fine backup for mixed leaguers. — JJ
16. Chris Johnson, Atlanta Braves (21): Johnson was a throw-in as part of the deal that landed Justin Upton in Atlanta, but he proved to be much more than an afterthought with a batting line of .321/.358./.458 for the Braves last season. Johnson has never been a power hitter, but his line drive swing just connects perfectly on occasion. The righty scorched lefties in 2013 (.383/.413/.588). Since he has been mostly a platoon player up until last year, his age (29) does accurately tell his story. Johnson’s learning process may be a little stunted because he hasn’t been an everyday player. Now finally he can fully mature as somewhat of a late bloomer. Johnson was devastating early in at-bats last season with a .424 BA on the first pitch, .390 BA on 1-0 counts, .419 BA on 0-1 counts and .456 BA on 1-1 counts, so being aggressive works for him. He also hit .336 with RISP. With Johnson’s lack of power and the loss of his first base eligibility, he will be a late rounder. He might not hit .321 again but we don’t see him regressing too far. — JJ
17. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox (NR): For Bogaerts’ profile, see our Shortstop Rankings.
18. Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds (17): Frazier was once a top prospect. Many considered him to be Jay Bruce 2.0. It took him awhile make it to the majors but after back-to-back 19-homer seasons, Frazier appears to be to rock. His BA took a 40-point dip last season but that doesn’t worry us because he also received 600 plate appearances for the first time in his pro career. With the decline in BA his GB/FB rate jumped from .49 in 2012 to .73 2013. He is an aggressive free swinger with a slash line of .291/.325./.633 on the first pitch. Given his age (28) and the fact he has 1,186 major league plate appearances, we feel Frazier is a sleeper. While most mixed leaguers will go for more of a sure thing at third, NL-only gamblers can roll the dice with Frazier — and may be quite pleased with what they wind up with. — JJ
19. Chase Headley, San Diego Padres (7): While Headley’s career strikeout rate of 22.6 per cent is four percentage points higher than the league average, his walk rate of 10.4 per cent is two percentage points higher. You can read into that whatever you’d like, but it’s clear that he doesn’t make a lot of contact. Headley’s 2012 season seemed to be enigma, as he smashed 31 homers and drove in a league leading 115 runs with an OPS of 875. Besides that season his career high for homers is 13 in 2013, for RBI is 64 in 2009 and for OPS is 773 in 2011. After his 2012 explosion, he became a top 10 third baseman in our eyes. Now, not so much. However, Headley is entering a contract year, so he could be a mid-round steal in mixed leagues and a messiah of sorts in NL-only formats. — JJ
20. Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers (NR) Some have put an Aramis Ramirez ceiling on Castellanos. We think that while that comparison is flattering, it’s too early to tell. We feel Castellanos’ career minor league slash line of .303/.359/.445 is far more important to his future than his power numbers. He will be 22 at the start of the season. So, with just 18 major league at-bats to his credit, you can bet Castellanos will have his struggles. He did only strike out once in those 18 at-bats which is pretty impressive. Detroit seems to be set with Castellanos as its starting third baseman, but at his age we can see a minor league stint as a possibility. He is currently going at the end of drafts as a sleeper hopeful. Note that in leagues in which Castellanos does not yet qualify at third base, he will achieve that early in the season. — JJ
21. Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals (13): The intrigue that clouds our rational thought process is that Moustakas has all the tools to be a 25-to-30 homer guy that drives home 80+ as a .270 hitter. Last year, he was 13th in our third base rankings as we suggested another season of modest growth. However, in early June Moustakas was hitting .177 with a BABIP of .183 — surely his luck had to turnaround. It did, as he finished the season with a .233 BA and .257 BABIP. While those numbers aren’t grand it should be noted he hit just .195 in September/October (so his second half was better without those final few weeks). Moustakas is still very young, so at this point he should be considered a late round potential sleeper/keeper snag. He makes a decent insurance policy in mixed leagues, while AL-only owners should use caution and prayer when considering Moustakas. — JJ
Others to Consider
22. Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox (12)
23. David Freese, Los Angeles Angels (15): The powers that be in St. Louis felt that adding Peter Bourjos made it worth getting rid of their feel good story Freese. Considering Freese was once traded for Jim Edmonds that may seem like a downgrade. Freese regressed mightily 2013 by losing 30 points of his BA and OBP as well as experiencing his SLG plummet from .467 to a career-worst .381. Are the Cardinals getting off a sinking ship like they always do? We think they are and even though Freese hasn’t completely thawed we believe he is no Johnson or Seager. Freese is currently a late round flier special in mixed leagues. There is hope that hitting behind Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton will give his bat some new life. — JJ
24. Matt Davidson, Chicago White Sox (NR)
25. Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers (47 at SS): Iglesias is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
26. Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins (20)
27. Mark Reynolds, Milwaukee Brewers (31 at 1B): Reynolds is also listed in our First Base Rankings.
28. Matt Dominguez, Houston Astros (31)
29. Cody Asche, Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
30. Casey McGehee, Miami Marlins (NR)
31. Juan Uribe, Los Angeles Dodgers (54)
32. Mike Aviles, Cleveland Indians (28 at SS) Aviles is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
33. Eric Chavez, Arizona Diamondbacks (38)
34. Juan Francisco, Milwaukee Brewers (40): Francisco is also listed in our First Base Rankings.
35. Alberto Callaspo, Oakland A’s (22): Callaspo is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
36. Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians (32)
37. Marcus Semien, Chicago White Sox: Semien is also listed in our Second Base and Shortstop Rankings.
38. Daniel Descalso, St. Louis Cardinals (53): Also listed in our Second Base and Shortstop Rankings.
39. Ed Lucas, Miami Marlins (NR): Lucas is also listed in our First Base and Second Base Rankings.
40. Donnie Murphy, Chicago Cubs (NR)
41. Wilmer Flores, New York Mets (NR)
42. Mike Olt, Chicago Cubs (4 at DH)
43. Conor Gillaspie, Chicago White Sox (NR)
44. Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
45. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (NR)
46. Don Kelly, Detroit Tigers (NR) Also qualifies in the Outfield.
47. Placido Polanco, Miami Marlins (44)
48. Maicer Izturis, Toronto Blue Jays (35): Izturis is also listed in our Second Base and Shortstop Rankings.
49. Kaleb Cowart, Los Angeles Angels (NR)
50. Luis Valbuena, Chicago Cubs (55)
51. Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox (23): Also qualifies at First Base and is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below whether you agree or disagree with our rankings.
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