The top two players at third base in 2020 were Jose Ramirez (.292/45/17/46/10) and Manny Machado (.304/44/16/46/6). Both players were on pace for 40+ home runs and 120+ RBI.
In 2019, 15 players hit 30 home runs or more at third base, with eight of these players qualifying at other positions. Eugenio Suarez led the way with 49 home runs and 103 RBI, while Nolan Arenado (.315/102/41/118/3) remained a rock in the front of the third base pool.
Eight players scored over 100 runs, and eight players delivered over 100 RBI.
Anthony Rendon (.319/117/34/126/5) and Rafael Devers (.311/129/32/115/8) had the most significant step forward at third base.
In 2018, five third basemen had 100 runs or more, and five players drove in over 100 runs. Ten batters had over 30 home runs.
Here’s a grid showing the final stats for 2019 for the top 12 players at each position and their value ranked by SIscore (I didn’t use 2020 stats due to a small sample size):
In 2019, the average of the top 12 third basemen hit .289 with 92 runs, 32 home runs, 92 RBI, and six stolen bases over 512 at-bats. The third base position ranked third in overall hitter value by SIscore.
For comparison, here are the projections (3/15) for the top 12 third basemen at Sports Illustrated ranked by SIscore:
The stats highlighted by the yellow line show the average projections (.282 with 97 runs, 30 home runs, 97 RBI, and seven steals over 558 at-bats) for the top 12 third basemen in 2021.
Third Basemen Nos. 1 to 12
Here’s a look at the top 12 third basemen by 2021 NFBC ADPs (from March 8th through March 15th):
A fantasy owner can make a case to own any of the top 12 third basemen when adding ADP and overall skill set.
Jose Ramirez brings a five-tool foundation to a fantasy team. His ability to steal bases for third base separates him from most of the player pool at his position. He hits a ton of fly balls, leading to some easy outs and limiting the ceiling in batting average.
The Padres’ offense is on the move, and Manny Machado is a big part of the driving forces. San Diego wants to run, which adds extra value to his already 30/100 skill set. Machado isn’t a lock to help move the needle in batting average for a fantasy team. His floor remains high in home runs and RBI.
The next grouping of third basemen tends to be a coin flip, with each fantasy owner having a different option.
The one-off a stud-theory should give Anthony Rendon the edge. He hits for a high average, and Mike Trout will be on base well over 200 times in front of him in the batting order. His power is improving but not elite, while his value in runs falls on the backend of the Angels’ lineup.
Rafael Devers tends to the runner-up option in the big-four tier. His bat exploded onto the fantasy scene in 2019, but his strikeout rate had regression over the short season last year. Devers has 40+ home runs upside with a chip in feel in stolen bases. He’ll hit the ball hard when it's in play.
The home/road splits for Nolan Arenado give some fantasy owners the willies after the trade to St. Louis. The same could have been said about D.J. LeMahieu before signing with the Yankees. Arenado isn’t a high-volume strikeout guy. He has a long history of being clutch with runners on base with plenty of power. Ignore background noise and take the .280/30/100 floor with confidence.
Alex Bregman has two strikes on him heading into 2021. The Houston scandal before 2020 remains a question that many Astros’ hitters have to answer over a long season. The second is a battle with a hamstring issue last season and early in spring training. Bregman has one of the best approaches in the game. He’ll hit for average while expecting to offer an edge in runs, home runs, and RBI. If he regains his previous form in steals, Bregman will be a bargain based on his sliding ADP.
Eugenio Suarez continues to improve as an impact power hitter. The Reds will give time at shortstop in 2021, which also bumps up his fantasy value. Batting average can be a concern with his quest to drive the ball out of the park.
The wild card at third base in 2021 looks to be Yoan Moncada. He’s yet to unlock his minor league resume in steals while strikeouts remain an issue. In 2020, Moncada had an elite batting average when putting the ball in play, which wasn’t repeated last year. He claims Covid was his downfall. I say I need to see it on the field before taking on his batting average risk.
Next draft season, I expect Alec Bohm to be selected as a top 60 player. If he locks in a top-two spot in the Phillies’ batting order and adds more loft on his swing, Bohm will reward fantasy owners handsomely in 2021. His approach grades well, and he’ll add a handful of steals.
I recently debated with a fellow high-stakes player on the value and upside of Ke’Bryan Hayes this season. I understand how well he did last September, and I had him on some draft championship teams in 2020. His speed will be an edge, but Hayes isn’t quite there to be trusted for power. I believe he’s a year away from making an impact. At best, .270 with 15/75/15.
Third Basemen Nos. 13 to 24
For anyone cheating third base in 2021, it may be a challenge to hit on a difference-maker option. I see multiple complementary players with only a pair of potential breakouts.
Based on career resume, Josh Donaldson stands out in the second grouping at third base. Injuries have been a problem in three of the past four seasons. He tends to slide in drafts as no one wants to fight for Donaldson. When healthy, he takes walks and delivers home runs.
Justin Turner offers a plus batting average with a 20/80 skill set. His strike for me is that he tends to miss time each season. Turner has fewer than 480 at-bats in four straight years while only beating that number once for a full season.
The Braves don’t need Austin Riley to be an impact player to win. He’ll hit in the back half of their lineup, which takes the pressure off him to carry the offense. His power projects well, but Riley needs to make better contact to remove the batting average drag off his expected profile.
Willie Castro shined last September for the Tigers, but his minor resume suggests his ride may not be as exciting in 2021. I expect more speed with only mid-teen upside in home runs.
The player kicked to the curb at third base in many drafts is J.D. Davis. I see 25+ home runs with a reasonable chance to be at least a neutral player in batting average. His knock is the extra possible starting hitter on the Mets after signing Jonathan Villar.
The Nationals have a couple of young developing bats, which points to Carter Kieboom not being a lock to earn everyday at-bats out of the gate. He’ll have to hit his way into the starting lineup, which may take some time.