Anyone who has seen Abbott and Costello’s comedy routine “Who’s on first?” knows that the St. Louis Wolves’ third baseman in that classic schtick was someone named “I Don’t Know.”
Well, here we are roughly 80 years later, and the Fantasy Baseball hot corner is brimming with players for whom “I don’t know” is the answer to some key questions regarding their 2015 prospects.
Will Adrian Beltre’s power decline continue? Can Anthony Rendon and Josh Harrison repeat their breakout 2014 performances? Can Todd Frazier steal 20 bases again? Can Evan Longoria and David Wright bounce back from sub-par seasons?
How much does Pablo Sandoval weigh?
With so much uncertainty surrounding a position that isn’t chock full of elite talent in the first place, it’s important to identify some players who stand a decent chance of outperforming their current Average Draft Position (ADP).
3 Breakout Third Basemen for 2015
While the players profiled here carry some question marks of their own, they have flashed the kind of ability that makes them prime breakout candidates should they stay healthy and continue to progress in their respective careers. Don’t be shy about pulling the trigger at the appropriate time or when the price is right; that pick or bid could look like an absolute bargain come October.
Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
For those who think I might be arriving a year late to the Arenado Breakout party, allow me to call your attention to a number that might be lost among the fine stats the Rockies’ hot corner man posted in 2014: 111. That number represents his total appearances in 2014, with the balance of the season lost due to injuries, most notably a fractured finger and a bout with pneumonia. He was batting .302-6-28 through 49 games when he suffered the former injury in late May, which included a club-record 28-game hitting streak.
He scuffled a bit upon returning in early July, but raked out a torrid .336-5-13 line in August before missing more than half of September due to the second of his two major 2014 maladies. Clearly, there is much more in this 23-year-old’s tank than what he has already shown us, and this may be the last season that you’re able to obtain him at a reasonable price.
How good can he be? Well, let’s do a little extrapolation of his 2014 partial-season numbers and see what we come up with, shall we? Arenado’s 2014 line projects to .287-24-82 over the course of 150 games, which would have placed him firmly in the top tier of Fantasy third basemen.
Though, it is sometimes misleading to engage in such an exercise when the sample size is relatively small, one must remember that Arenado’s minor-league track record is one of distinction: he owns a .300 career batting average over six seasons, and he smacked 20 homers and plated 122 RBI at High-A ball back in 2011. This guy can flat-out hit, and I believe that the best is yet to come for the talented youngster.
Bear in mind that Arenado, like most Colorado hitters, enjoys significantly more success in his home yard: he slashed .303/.344/.584/.928 at home versus .269/.310/.403/.713 on the road last season, and 16 of his 18 homers came at Coors Field. Arenado’s current ADP is 62.3 according to FantasyPros, so he won’t come cheaply…but if he puts things together this season, he could be a top-40 pick in 2016.
— Colorado Rockies (@DPRockies) February 28, 2015
On a personal note, I saw Arenado play in the Arizona Fall League back in 2011; while the big news that year was the presence of some guys named Trout and Harper, it was Arenado who turned a lot of very knowledgeable heads by posting a hefty .388-6-33 line over his 29 AFL outings. I’m notoriously difficult to impress, but Arenado’s swing motivated me to post this little gem on my Facebook page. Every once in a while I get one right.
Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
Machado’s recovery from surgery for a torn ligament in his left knee delayed his 2014 debut until May 1, and the youngster endured a rather slow start when he finally made it back onto the field. He struggled to a lackluster .220-2-5 line that first month, but turned things around nicely to finish the first half with a .270-9-20 line. He turned it up another notch after the break, forging a .301 average with three homers and 12 RBI in just 83 at-bats before another torn ligament — this time in his right knee — ended his season in mid-August.
He underwent surgery shortly thereafter, and has reportedly suffered no setbacks during his recovery process. He is expected to be full-go come Opening Day, and if he can approach the kind of form that made him one of baseball’s top young talents following his big 2013 season, he could be an enormous bargain on draft day.
Machado possesses outstanding extra-base power, and he showed that pop by smacking 11 homers, 26 doubles and five triples in just 109 games at Double-A back in 2012. He continued hitting the gaps and clearing the fences the following season in the majors, posting a .283-14-71 line with a league-leading 51 doubles.
The O’s wunderkind made the All-Star team, won a Gold Glove and finished ninth in the MVP voting – all before he reached his 22nd birthday. His aforementioned knee injuries scuttled his 2014 season, but he is reported to be healthy and ready to go this spring.
Though, he’ll be entering his fourth big-league season in 2015, Machado won’t turn 23 years old until July; he has plenty of room to grow as he continues to hone his craft. His downside, of course, is his extensive injury history, but at his current ADP of 132 he’s a die worth rolling once the top-shelf options are off the board.
Buck Showalter on Manny Machado: “Looks good. Getting to the point where he looks bored. Good sign. So far so good.” pic.twitter.com/vr6O2BQl7g
— Gerry Sandusky (@GerrySandusky) February 26, 2015
Brett Lawrie, Oakland Athletics
I’ve already written about Lawrie in my second-base sleeper article, but I thought it prudent to mention him here since he also carries third-base eligibility, and he should be the A’s main man at the hot corner this season if…wait for it … he can remain healthy. We’ve seen snippets of Lawrie’s 20/20 potential; is this the year he delivers the goods? He’s as fragile as they come, but Lawrie’s upside makes him worth a late-round flier.
Freudian slip: Typed “bundle of injury,” rather than “bundle of energy,” when writing about Brett Lawrie.
— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) February 25, 2015
Well, I hope you enjoyed this look at a few breakout third basemen that could provide a nice return on their 2015 Draft Day value!
Nolan Arenado Photo Credit: Keith Allison
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