Welcome back for another edition of the 2024 Top Keepers. The journey continues this week with a look at the top third baseman.

So far in this series we have gone over:

Unlike the shortstop position, the depth at third base is pretty bare. Once you get past the top 10 players, nearly every third baseman has a hole or two in their games. There are plenty of players who will provide homers, but few of them will also provide a solid slash line and even fewer will even provide steals.

Because the talent pool is relatively shallow, these rankings are based just as much on a player’s potential over the next three years as they are on what they have actually done on the field.

Tier 7

*Age as of April 1, 2024

60 Jonah Bride Oak 28
59 Zack Short Det 28
58 Mike Brosseau Mil 30
57 Mark Vientos NYM 24
56 Jean Segura Mia 34
55 Nick Maton Det 27
54 Oswald Peraza NYY 23
53 Josh Donaldson Mil 38
52 Miles Mastrobuoni ChC 28
51 Oswaldo Cabrera NYY 25

Really not too much to say about the players in this tier other than they are warm bodies who may be needed at some point in the season for depth purposes.

Perhaps the only player to somewhat highlight is Mark Vientos of the Mets. In 65 games, he hit 9 homers and drove in 22. But he only slashed .211/.253/.367 and struck out 71 times in 233 plate appearances.

Tier 6

50 Evan Longoria Ari 38
49 Eduardo Escobar NYM 35
48 Ildemaro Vargas Was 32
47 Jace Peterson Oak 33
46 Jared Triolo Pit 26
45 Andruw Monasterio Mil 26
44 Emmanuel Rivera Ari 27
43 Tyler Freeman Cle 24
42 Brett Baty NYM 24
41 Jose Miranda Min 25

For this tier, there are only three players to keep an eye on – Tyler Freeman, Brett Baty and Jose Miranda.

Freeman is a former Top 100 prospect who can play third, short and second. He is seemingly blocked at all three of those positions, but he could be a solid utility player if he can find his stroke at the plate.

Baty is the front runner to be the starting third baseman for the Mets next season thanks to his power potential. Like Freeman, Baty is a former top 100 prospect, and at the age of 24 next year he will be given every chance to prove himself.

Cloudy Future

After the 2022 season, I was riding the Jose Miranda train. I traded for him in two leagues, expecting him to build on his 15 homer, 66 RBI 2022 campaign. Instead of building, things crumbled down for Miranda in 2023 as he tried to play through a shoulder injury. He appeared in nearly as minor league games as he did major league games, playing in 40 contests for the Twins, slashing .211/.263/.303 with three homers and 13 RBI.

His two main positions are third and first base, where the Twins have Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff, assuming he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. But I can’t write him off yet. Assuming he is healthy in 2024, Miranda’s power upside, especially against left-handed pitchers, could provide him some at-bats at the corner positions and designated hitter.

Tier 5

40 Brian Anderson Mil 30
39 Nick Madrigal ChC 27
38 Jordan Diaz Oak 23
37 Gio Urshela LAA 32
36 Ramón Urías Bal 29
35 Mike Moustakas Col 35
34 Owen Miller Mil 27
33 Nick Senzel Cin 28
32 Edmundo Sosa Phi 28
31 Isiah Kiner-Falefa NYY 29

Someone Has To Play Third

The Oakland A’s are a hot mess as they get ready for their pending move to Las Vegas. But the one thing we know the team will do is give their young players a chance to succeed or fail in the majors. One of those players should be Jordan Diaz. The youngster appeared in 90 games for Oakland and hit 10 homers and drove in 27 runs. He didn’t do much else, but he is a solid buy-low, sell-high possibility.

He’ll be Productive Somewhere

With so much young talent, the Cincinnati Reds decided it was time to say goodbye to Nick Senzel after the season by not tendering him a contract. But the former Red should compete for playing time at his future club as he still has talent. In 330 plate appearances, he hit 13 homers and drove in 42 runs.

Senzel’s true value is his versatility. Not only can he fill in at third base but also all three outfield positions and, while not eligible in fantasy leagues, second base as well.

Tier 4

30 Jordan Westburg Bal 25
29 Anthony Rendon LAA 33
28 DJ LeMahieu NYY 35
27 Yoan Moncada CWS 28
26 Patrick Wisdom ChC 32
25 Maikel Garcia KC 24
24 J.D. Davis SF 30
23 Matt Vierling Det 27
22 Matt Chapman Tor 30
21 Eugenio Suárez Sea 32

Washed Up, or Ready to Rebound?

Since signing with the Angels, Anthony Rendon has basically been paid millions and millions of dollars to reside on the disabled list. In the last three years, Rendon has played in a combined 148 of a possible 486 games. And when on the field, he hasn’t produced. In his 148 games, he has 13 homers and 80 RBI with a .235/.338/.364 slash line.

The Angels are on the hook for three more years at $38.5 million per year, so he will be given every chance to play. That will give him a chance to maybe produce decent enough numbers to provide depth at third base on your fantasy team.

During the COVID season of 2020, DJ LeMahieu finished third in AL MVP voting by slashing .364/.421/.590 with 10 homers and 27 RBI in 50 games. Since then, however, he has not come close to duplicating those numbers. Despite appearing in 136 games last year, LeMahieu hit 15 gomers and drove in 44 while slashing .243/.327/.390. The batting average was the lowest of his career and the third straight season it declined from the previous year.

Well, They Have Power

Matt Chapman and Eugenio Suarez are locks for two things when it comes to fantasy baseball – hitting home runs and striking out. And the two players are nearly identical.

Chapman’s 162-game average is 28 home runs, 80 RBI, two steals, 182 strikeouts and a slash line of .240/.329/.461. Suarez’s 162-game average is 30 homers, 90 RBI, four steals, 178 strikeouts and a .248/.332/.456 slash line. In fantasy leagues where strikeouts are a stat, you may want to push these two players further down the rankings.

If you are not concerned with strikeouts and slash line’s that are a little ugly because you want power in your lineup, then Chapman and Suarez are the players for you.

Tier 3

20 Ryan McMahon Col 29
19 Jeimer Candelario ChC 30
18 Ke’Bryan Hayes Pit 27
17 Ha-Seong Kim SD 28
16 Jake Burger Mia 27
15 Max Muncy LAD 33
14 Nolan Arenado Stl 32
13 Elly De La Cruz Cin 22
12 Noelvi Marte Cin 22
11 Alec Bohm Phi 27

Good Timing

Jeimer Candelario picked the right time to have a career year. Playing for the Nationals and Cubs last season, Candelario hit 22 homers and drove in 70 runs while posting an .807 OPS. Those were all career highs, as were his eight steals. He also slashed a decent .251/.336/.471. Will he repeat those numbers in 2024? Probably not. But the numbers aren’t too much higher than his career average, so he should provide a decent bat at third base.

The Speedy Third Baseman

Ha-Seong Kim is really a middle infielder, but he also moonlights at the hot corner and that helps boost his worth as he brings speed to a position that doesn’t have much. Kim stole 38 bases in 2023, easily the most of any third baseman.

Since joining the Padres in 2021, Kim has progressed at the plate in each season. As a rookie he slashed .202/.270/.352. He improved to .251/.325/.383 in 2022 and last season he slashed .260/.351/.398 with career highs in home runs (17) and RBI (60). He’s not a prototypical third baseman, but he does bring solid production to the position now.

Well, He Does Hit Homers

Max Muncy is the Kyle Schwarber of the infield. He is going to deliver a lot of homers, RBI and a high OBP thanks to walks. But that is about it. The highest Muncy has ever hit during the season is .263 back in 2018. Since 2020, his batting averages have been .192, .249, .196 and .212.

But you don’t roster Muncy for his batting average. You keep him because he delivers homers. In the full MLB seasons since 2018, he has hit 35, 35, 36, 21 and 36 homers. In three of the last four full seasons, he has driven in 94 or more runs.

The Reds

I talked about Elly De La Cruz in the shortstop rankings, but he also qualifies as a third baseman. This is highlight of what I said about him last week: In 427 plate appearances he hit 13 homers, drove in 44 runs and stole 35 bases. Over the course of 162 games, that is 21 homers, 73 RBI and 58 steals. De La Cruz has elite sprint speed, ranking in the 100th percentile with an average of 30.5 mph.

Noelvi Marte has been one of the top prospects for years, and fans finally got to see what he could do on the major league level after being recalled from the minors by the Reds last season. Marte appeared in only 35 games, but he slashed .316/.366/.456 with three homers, 15 RBI and six steals during those games. The only question concerning Marte at the plate is how many homers will he hit? Marte hits the ball hard, but he has a below average launch angle.

If he is able to adjust it while maintaining the tools that have led him to the majors, he can be a 30-homer guy. If not, he will still hit for a high average and collect tons of doubles and 20 homers and still be a really nice player to have at third base.

Tier 2

10 Isaac Paredes TB 25
9 Spencer Steer Cin 26
8 Alex Bregman Hou 30
7 Manny Machado SD 31
6 Royce Lewis Min 24

Fool’s Gold?

On the surface, Issac Paredes had a breakout season for the Rays, hitting 31 homers and driving in 98 runs while slashing .250/.352/.488. The homers ranked fifth among third basemen and the RBI total ranked third while the OBP ranked eighth and the SLG ranked seventh. So, what is there not to like about Paredes?

Well, when you look behind the numbers, you have to question if they are for real or if a certain amount of luck was involved. A dead-pull hitter, Paredes ranked in the 30th percentile or lower in xBA, xSLG, AEV, Barrel %, Hard-Hit %, and Sweet-Spot %. What Paredes did do well was make contact and command the strike zone. His Whiff % ranked in the 88th percentile while his K % and BB % ranked in the 74th and 72nd percentile, respectively.

His percentile rankings would move him down this list, but you can’t overlook his power. He may not hit the ball extremely hard all the time, but he had a HR % of 5.3 in 2022 and 5.4 last year, well above the MLB average of 3.2%.

Mr. Top 10

If you have been reading each of these keeper articles every week, you should probably know by now that I love Spencer Steer. Thanks to his ability to play nearly anywhere, Steer was one of my top 10 first basemen, top 10 second basemen and now here he sits at No. 10 in these rankings. As a refresher, Steer slashed .271/.356/.464 with 23 homers, 86 RBI and 15 steals. Playing in a hitter’s park, those power numbers are likely to only increase.

With Marti coming in fulltime in 2024 and De La Cruz also able to slide over and play third, it is likely Steer won’t be third base eligible beyond 2024. But that is a concern for later. Right now, take advantage of the fact he can play third.

The Veterans

Alex Bregman is likely to never to match his production in 2018 and 2019, when he averaged 36 homers and 108 RBI with a .971 OPS. But after an injury-riddled 2021 campaign, Bregman has come back to hit 23 and 25 homers the past two seasons while driving in 93 and 98. He is basically a .260/.365/.450 hitter now, but he hits homers and drives in runs, and at only 30-years-old next season, he should produce for several more years.

Manny Machado has been playing in the majors since 2012, so it is hard to imagine that he will only be 31 on Opening Day next season. Machado was simply born to hit. Since 2015 the fewest homers he has hit in a full season is 28 (2021) and the fewest RBI total is 86 (2015). This past season he hit 30 homers and drove in 91 in 138 games for the Padres. The only worry is a slash line that fell to .258/.319/.462, well below his career line of .279/.339/.490. Is it a one-year blip or a glimpse of what is to come? I think it is more of a blip, and even if that becomes his new normal slash line, I don’t see the power numbers suddenly diminishing.

The Youngster

The more I looked at Royce Lewis, the more I kept moving him up my rankings until I finally had him land at No. 6. Is this ranking too aggressive? I don’t think so. In less than half a season last year Lewis hit 15 homers, drove in 52 runs and slashed .309/.372/.548 and had a 150 OPS+. His 162-game average is 95 runs scored, 39 homers, 132 RBI, 14 steals and a .307/.364/.549 slash line.

Will he keep that kind of production up? Maybe not at that level, but he has hit on every level in the minors. The only thing that has slowed him down is one injury after the other. If you are worried that he is injury prone, then move him down this list. Otherwise take him and be happy he is on your team.

Tier 1

5 Josh Jung Tex 26
4 Gunnar Henderson Bal 22
3 Rafael Devers Bos 27
2 José Ramírez Cle 31
1 Austin Riley Atl 26

The Up-and-Comers

Josh Jung is one of four third baseman under the age of 27 in this tier. An All-Star this past season, Jung finished fourth in the ROY voting after slugging 23 homers and driving in 70 runs while slashing .266/.315/.467. He showed he was a rookie at times with a Chase % ranked in the 24th percentile and K % ranking in the 14th percentile. But he was above average to elite in many of the key hitting stats, including ranking in the 98th percentile in Sweet-Spot %.

I ranked Gunnar Henderson seventh in the 2024 Top Keepers – Shortstop post. To recap, this is what I said about the AL ROY: “He pretty much helped fantasy teams across the board. He scored 100 runs, hit 28 homers, drove in 82, stole 10 bases and had a slashed .255/.325/.489. His Hard Hit% ranked in the 95th percentile and average EV ranked in the 91st percentile. Meanwhile, he ranked in the 75th percentile in Barrel%.”

Henderson appeared in 83 games for the Orioles at short and 84 at third. With Jackson Holliday in the Baltimore pipeline, the future for Henderson appears to be at third base.

Mr. Steady

Rafael Devers just produces, year after year after year. His career 162-game average is 102 runs scored, 33 homers and 107 RBI with a .280/.343/.510 slash line. While he has yet to break into the top 10 in the MVP voting, over the last four full MLB seasons he has finished 12th, 11th, 14th and 18th in the voting.

The only thing Devers doesn’t do is steal bases. But I don’t look to my third basemen to add steals to my fantasy team. I want them to hit homers and drive in runs. That is what Devers does very well.

Ramirez vs. Riley

When it comes down to ranking Ramirez second and Riley first, I went with the overall power numbers by Riley outweighing the speed Ramirez provides at third base. And age also played a factor as Ramirez will be 31 while Riley will be 26 next season.

Let’s look at the power numbers. Ramirez had 24 homers and 80 RBI and slugged .475. Among the 60 third basemen in these rankings, those numbers ranked 10th, 13th and ninth. Riley hit 37 homers, drove in 97 runs and slugged .516 to rank first, fifth and third. So advantage Riley.

Looking at the average, OBP and OPS for the two. Ramirez came in at .282, .356 and.831 while Riley hit .281 with a .345 OBP and .861 OPS. Basically a tie. Average is the same, Ramirez slight edge in OBP and Riley the edge in OPS. And thanks to the offense that surrounds Riley, he scored 117 runs while Ramirez scored 87. Huge win for Riley.

The only decisive area where Ramirez is better is stolen bases. Ramirez had 28 compared to Riley’s 3. If stolen bases are a huge factor for you, then take Ramirez over Riley. But for me, the steal advantage doesn’t outweigh everything else Riley brings to the table.

Thanks, and Come Back Next Week

Well, our journey around the infield is now complete. Come back next week for the 2024 Top Keepers – Left Fielders edition.