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2018 Third Base Preview And Rankings: The Hot Corner Is Stacked

2018 Third Base Preview and Rankings
Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Welcome back to our positional previews and rankings. We continue our Fantasy analysis with a look at third base. The third base position is stacked with many of the elite players in the league. Several of the elite options are young and provide more value in keeper or dynasty leagues.

There are also intriguing players in the lower tiers. You can still get a good bat with promising upside later in your drafts. In fact, I would actually target multiple players at this position. Fantasy owners would do their rosters a disservice if they missed out on the elite depth. The wealth of options should force owners not to neglect this position.

Let’s take a deeper analysis of the third base position. Who are the third basemen to avoid this season? Which rookies will step up and help your Fantasy roster? Which third baseman will breakout in 2018?  You can find the answers to those questions and more in the 2018 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Preview and Rankings.

2018 Third Base Preview and Rankings

Who are the third basemen to avoid in 2018?

Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins

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There are many concerns regarding Twins third baseman Miguel Sano coming into the 2018 season. He missed much of the final couple of months of the season and underwent shin surgery. Is he recovered from the surgery? Will he need to start the season on the DL? Additionally, he came into camp out of shape. His conditioning has often been a topic of conversation in the Twins organization. Lastly and most importantly, he is facing a likely suspension arising out of the allegations of sexual assault levied against him late in the year.

Sano hit .264/.352/.507 with 28 homers and 77 RBI in 114 games last season. While this looks like an impressive ratio, he still failed to finish as a Top-30 player ranked by Isolated Power. Also, it is unlikely that his 27.5% HR/FB rate will be repeated in 2018. It was the sixth highest rate in the majors and more than double the 13.2% that was the average for the Twins. His enormous 35.8% career strikeout rate was slowly pulling down his batting average to only hitting .236 post All-Star Break last season.

Sano is still getting love in Fantasy drafts. He is currently being drafted as the 11th third baseman and 100th overall according to FantasyPros. While he could make contributions in three categories in 2018, that does not outweigh the suspension and injury risks in selecting Sano in the first five rounds. I am avoiding Miguel Sano in 2018.

Evan Longoria, San Francisco Giants

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Evan Longoria’s move to the Giants is a huge improvement at third base for San Francisco but doesn’t even create a blip on the Fantasy radar. He struggled at the plate last season. He hit .261 with 20 homers and knocked in 86 RBI. His .737 on-base plus slugging percentage was the second-lowest of his career. Longoria will provide a minor jolt to a Giants offense that ranked last in the majors in slugging percentage in 2017.

Longoria has basically been a league-average hitter since 2014,  and he’s entering his age-32 season in 2018 and he appears to have passed his peak production years. His best asset is his health, having averaged 160 games played over the past five seasons. Using wOBA average, which takes into account the type of hit a batter gets to reach base, Longoria’s .312 wOBA in 2017 was the lowest of his career to date in MLB.

What will Longoria give Fantasy owners? He hasn’t hit above .275 since 2012, hasn’t had an OBP north of .330 since 2013 and produced a career low in walks in 2017. He hit only 20 homers in the most homer-crazy season of all time. As the 22nd third baseman off the board, he won’t kill you, but then again he won’t help you win a Fantasy championship either. Instead of settling for Longoria, shoot for the upside of Miguel Andujar or Nick Senzel as a late-round target.

Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies

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Maikel Franco followed up a disappointing 2016 season by hitting .230 with a .690 OPS and posted the fourth-lowest OBP among major league regulars (.281). Since the start of the 2016 season, 24 major-league third basemen have logged at least 900 plate appearances. In that group, Franco’s .712 OPS ranks last. His .294 on-base percentage? Last. His 2.0 offensive WAR? You guessed it-Last!

Franco, more than anyone on the Phillies’ roster, may need a hot start to the 2018 season. He finished last season sharing time at third base with prospect J.P. Crawford. This spring, another highly regarded prospect, second baseman Scott Kingery is taking reps at third base. With a collection of young hitters vying for at-bats and a stacked free-agent class looming next season, Franco is failing to emerge as a lineup threat the Phillies thought he was ready to be.

The Phillies need to see that he can still be the player who, as a rookie, hit .280 with a .343 OBP and .497 slugging percentage and 14 home runs in 335 plate appearances. Despite last year’s struggles, he still hit 24 home runs. His 49 homers in the last two seasons are tied for 11th among 24 third basemen with at least 750 plate appearances. But his .281 on-base percentage was the lowest among all third baseman and fourth worst among all hitters. He walked just 41 times, and his .409 slugging percentage was the fourth lowest by a corner infielder.

He has combined his poor performance on the field with an increasing number of off-field incidents. Franco is at risk of losing his position and while he will not cost you anything really, the risk outweighs the reward. Fantasy owners should draft for upside in Matt Chapman or even Josh Harrison.


Which Third base prospects could make a Fantasy impact in 2018?

Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees

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Miguel Andujar has no desire to see Scranton this year. He is doing everything in his power to give the Yankees something to think about regarding third base. There is a reason the Yankees didn’t bring back Todd Frazier and traded Chase Headley and that’s Miguel Andujar. He is coming off a spectacular minor league season. He posted a .315/.351/.498 slash line with 16 homers in 125 games between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

The Yankees believe his bat has middle-of-the-order potential, eventually, if not now. Andujar is competing for the third base job this spring. He has been the Yankees’ best hitter this spring. Andujar’s chances of winning the Yankees’ open third base job dropped from decent to longshot when Brandon Drury was acquired in a trade. He is proving his bat is MLB ready by hitting four home runs this spring.

If Andújar can get everyday at-bats this season, he will be worth a late-round pick. He has a knack to drive in runs and there will be plenty of opportunities no matter where he hits in the lineup. He doesn’t offer superstar upside but with a solid average and the ability to drive in runs, he can be a very sneaky selection late in your Fantasy drafts.

Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds

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Nick Senzel was outstanding both at A-ball and Double-A last season for the Reds. He hit .305 and .340 respectively at both levels and hit a combined 14 home runs and stole 14 bases. In Double-A, he began turning doubles into home runs as the HR/FB ratio jumped to 19.2%. He tallied nearly as many home runs in 57 Double-A games (10) than he previously hit in 130 games (11).

The Reds are trying to find the fastest way to get Senzel up to the bigs. That path may see him play more shortstop than third base. Although he may not break camp with the club, we will see him up in the big leagues early in the season.

The power/speed/average combo is very apparent with Nick Senzel. Since the Reds are in full rebuild mode, he has a great opportunity to provide Fantasy numbers immediately this season. He has the potential to be a 25/25 player and profiles as a high batting average player with some speed and power upside.

ZIPS projects him to have a .271/.332/.450 slash line with 15 homers and 13 stolen bases. If Senzel can be a 15/15 player with a .270 batting average, that should make him a Top 200 Fantasy option in most leagues.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays

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While only 18 years old, he seems like the type of “cant-miss” prospect that will define a generation. He was signed as an international prospect and is the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero. He embarked on a 2017 Class A season in which he hit .323/.425/.485 with 13 home runs and 76 RBI in 119 games. This led to him earning the first ever score of 80 for a hit tool by MLB Pipeline.

Guerrero was ranked third on the Baseball America list, as well as on the MLB Pipeline rankings, behind only Ronald Acuna of the Braves and Shohei Ohtani of the Angels, both of whom are expected to play in the big leagues this year, shedding their prospect status. Baseball Prospectus had him at #4 as well, and it’s pretty much universally assumed that he’ll be baseball’s top prospect by the next rankings update.

Really the only question is where he winds up defensively. He seems to be the heir apparent for the third base position, once that role is vacated by Josh Donaldson. There has been a ton of speculation that he will eventually get moved to the outfield or even first base.

His power will continue to grow and he comes with a high floor and as well as a high ceiling. Guerrero walked more than he struck out while finishing second in the minors in OBP. With his advanced feel for hitting, he could be hitting bombs in Toronto sooner than we think. While it is a longshot that he makes his MLB debut in 2018, dynasty owners should be ahead of the curve not behind it. Go get Vladimir Guerrero!


Who is this year’s Travis Shaw?

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Through the first two seasons of his MLB career, Travis Shaw hit .251/.312/.442 with 29 homers and 107 RBI in 778 plate appearances. Entering his age-27 season, he was viewed as a serviceable backup and occasional starter, but nothing really beyond that. Then he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers and blossomed as the Brewers’ cleanup hitter. He set career highs in numerous offensive categories, including batting average (.273), on-base percentage (.349), slugging percentage (.513), runs (84), home runs (34), RBI (101) and even stolen bases (10), without ever being caught!

His 66 extra bases hits show his ability to drive the ball with power, and playing in Miller Park never hurts. He developed immensely in Milwaukee and increased his confidence which changed his approach to be more aggressive. This mindset brought about the desired results. His hard-hit rate increased to 37/1%, while his soft-hit rate plummeted to 15.8%.

Which player will blossom and have a career season?

Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers

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In 2018, Nick Castellanos is fully expected to hit in the heart of the Tigers’ lineup. He also gives your roster flexibility with both third base and outfield eligibility. Castellanos posted career-highs in several offensive categories last season, including home runs (26) and RBI (101), and he led the American League with 10 triples. He also improved his plate approach and dropped his strikeout rate down to 21.4%.

Entering his age-26 season, Castellanos will be the focal point of the Tigers offense this season. After batting throughout the Tigers lineup for much of the season, he moved to hitting fourth and hit behind Miguel Cabrera. He will likely have a full season there, even if Cabrera and Victor Martinez are healthy. Castellanos dominated from the fourth hole this past season. He posted a slash line of .397/.443/.644 along with three home runs in 79 at-bats.

The one thing that separated him from other hitters was his hard-hit rate (43.4%); he ranked fifth overall among players with at least 500 plate appearances. Castellanos also had 72 extra-base hits, which gives him plenty of room for his stat lines to grow with a healthy Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez along with the emerging Jeimer Candelario and James McCann around him. Just 11 Major League players hit more balls than Castellanos with an exit velocity of 95 mph or greater this past season, according to Statcast™, and just nine players had more barreled balls.

Nick Castellanos is currently being drafted near the 10th round in most leagues. He has a healthy lineup around him and is playing a less demanding position for the entire season. He definitely should be drafted a round or two sooner and watch his stats pile up in his breakout season on your Fantasy roster.


RankPlayerECRVS. ECR
1Nolan Arenado, Rockies 10
2Kris Bryant. Cubs20
3Manny Machado, Orioles30
4Jose Ramirez, Indians 40
5Anthony Rendon, Nationals 8+3
6Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays5-1
7Alex Bregman, Astros 70
8Justin Turner, Dodgers80
9Rafael Devers, Red Sox 90
10Kyle Seager, Mariners12+2
11Adrian Beltre, Rangers 110
12Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks 15+3
13Nick Castellanos, Tigers16+3
14Joey Gallo, Rangers 17+3
15Mike Moustakas, FA14-1
16Travis Shaw, Brewers 10-6
17Eduardo Nunez, Red Sox 21+4
18Eugenio Suarez, Reds19+1
19Matt Chapman, A's28+9
20Miguel Sano, Twins 13-7
21Marwin Gonzalez. Astros220
22Miguel Andujar, Yankess 42+19
23Todd Frazier, Mets25+2
24Josh Harrison, Pirates 27+3
25Jedd Gyorko, Cardinals29+4
26Evan Longoria, Giants 20-6
27Maikel Franco, Phillies 23-4
28Ryon Healy, Mariners 27-1
29Nick Senzel, Reds 45+16
30Yangervis Solarte, Blue Jays 366


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