2020 Third Baseman Safest Bet - Sports Illustrated

2020 Fantasy Baseball: Third Baseman Safest Bet

There's no such thing as a sure thing. However, this third baseman safe bet will minimize the risk for your fantasy baseball team.
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Safest Bet series: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS

No matter how much you study and prepare for your fantasy baseball draft, something unexpected will inevitably happen. Maybe an under-the-radar sleeper you thought only you knew about gets drafted in the middle rounds. Maybe there's a huge positional run. Maybe some of your favorite players continued to fall, so you loaded up at positions you didn't expect to fill in the early rounds.

Whatever the case may be, things will happen on draft day that you didn't anticipate and can't adequately prepare. Therefore, it's crucial to know the point of no return at the infield positions.

While you'll field multiple players at the outfield and pitcher spots—positions that have depth—having a significant disadvantage at an infield position can be a glaring weakness in both head-to-head and rotisserie leagues. How do you combat that? How do you find that aforementioned point of no return? By finding your "safety school" player. Your safest bet and we're covering each position.

You remember the term "safety school," right? It's the one college/trade school you knew you, or a friend/family member could get into if you wanted, even if it wasn't the ideal one. The same concept applies here. Who is the last player in your positional rankings that you'd be willing to begin the season with as a starter? That's your "safety school" player.

Here’s who that player is for me at third base in a standard 12-team, 5x5 mixed league.

Starlin Castro, Washington Nationals

2020 162-Game Projection: 64R - 18HR - 75RBI - 3SB - .278 (495 ABs)

Castro is one of the most underrated players in fantasy. I know it feels like he's been around forever—and in some ways, he has since he debuted as a 20-year-old. However, he recently turned 30 and is poised to hit third in the Nationals lineup behind Trea Turner and Adam Eaton and ahead of Juan Soto. That's a tremendous spot for both RBI opportunities and runs scored.

Castro has been a pretty consistent player in his career thus far. He’s a career .280 hitter averaging 73 runs, 15 home runs and 70 RBI per 162 games played. Some baseball fans may have forgotten about him in Miami, but he had a line of 68-22-86-2-.270 in 2019. He’s eligible and both second and third base and can be your safety net at either position.

Let's dive into the numbers. His 64 runs project as tied for 20th among all 3B-eligible players. His 18 projected home runs are tied for 24th, and his 75 RBI rank 17th. His batting average is where the significant value is. Projected to hit .278, Castro ranks tied for 7th among all 3B-eligible players. Big-name players like Jose Ramirez, Kris Bryant, Yoan Moncada, and Josh Donaldson are all projected to finish behind Castro in that category. Keep in mind that all of these rankings include multi-eligible players like Bryant, Yuli Gurriel, and Scott Kingery, so Castro will likely rank higher in every category when compared to players starting at 3B in your league.

Castro's real value is how he performs reasonably well in three categories (runs, home runs, RBI) and excels in one (batting average). That formula can be used to identify value in the late rounds. He's my No. 17-ranked 3B, but his ADP is outside the Top 30 at the position.

Given that he outperformed my projected 2020 counting numbers last season in a significantly worse lineup and ballpark, there's a bit of upside here too. If the third base position gets away from you on draft day, you'll be perfectly fine starting the season with Castro.

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