Last week we talked about catchers; let’s go clockwise around the diamond and move to third base. If you’ve done any drafting yet, or if you’ve just been checking in here at Razzball regularly, you already know that the position involves a comically steep cliff after the top guys are off the board. Since Grey’s third base rankings just dropped Monday, I can’t think of a better way to put things than he already did: it’s like a “choose your own adventure” story/game/nightmare out there. What I said last week about catchers is perhaps even more true about the hot corner: you’ll want to be very familiar with the landscape ahead of time even in shallow leagues and you’ll really, really want to be familiar with it in deeper leagues. You’ll need a plan going in, and/or about a dozen contingency plans depending on how your individual draft or auction goes.
Because I’m finding third base to be the weakest position in fantasy this year, I’ve had trouble deciding what to do in any size league, since, A) there’s such a tiny pool of 3B studs, B) I don’t like taking a hitter with no speed that early in a draft even when I have the option to, C) I feel like the few mid-range options I’d considering drafting are way too expensive but once they’re gone the position is a veritable wasteland, and D) I haven’t had a pick high enough to get Jose Ramirez (whom I said I’d consider taking first overall last year and feel the same way this year) yet. Let’s just say I’ve already experienced many of those 3B choose your own adventure endings Grey mentioned as I’ve zigged and zagged through my drafts, trying to determine my team’s needs… and those endings weren’t all fun and enjoyable. The deeper the league, the dicier the options get, of course, so let’s take a deep dive in and take a look outside the top 300 (based on NFBC ADP from December and January) at who might be available to fill the position once we’re getting uncomfortably late in a deep-league draft.
I’d already drafted Luis Rengifo (NFBC ADP # 300) a couple of times before we even flipped the calendar to 2023, and on Wednesday Coolwhip did the heavy lifting telling you why he might not be a bad option this late in a draft. Rengifo’s ADP has fallen a smidge after the Brandon Drury trade, and he’s now going after Justin Turner and Yandy Diaz and just a tick ahead of Yoan Moncada. Rengifo qualifies at second and third in most leagues and even though he feels more like a MI guy, I have a feeling he’ll wind up at 3B for me on a couple of deep-ish teams where I have daily or mid-week moves and am cutting and pasting the position together based on matchups and such.
After Rengifo/Moncada, there’s a huge ADP dropoff to the next two 3B-eligible players being drafted: Wilmer Flores (#385) and Brendan Donovan (#390). While no one is going to be excited to nab Wilmer this year, he does have triple eligibility (1B/2B/3B) and if your draft adventure involves being really desperate for power this late in a draft I can see going with him here. He hit 19 homers last year and played more than I’d realized – 151 games and 525 at bats. He had surprisingly solid run/RBI totals (72/71), and I can see the playing time/counting stats being similar this year given the lack of offseason upgrades made to the Correa-less Giants’ infield. He’s probably also likely to improve on last year’s ugly .229 batting average (.261 for his career, and Steamer predicts .250 in 2023).
As for Donovan, so far he’s shaped up to be a classic ‘more valuable in real life than fantasy’ player for my money (exemplified by the fact that he won last year’s utility player gold glove), given his lack of both power and speed. I’m also worried about him repeating his .281 average (Steamer predicts .269, and I’ve seen other models dip into the .250’s). So why have I already drafted him on a couple deep-league teams? Well, now I’m kind of starting to wonder that myself to be honest, but I guess it’s because I’m hoping he plays a lot, and hits in a decent spot in what should be a great lineup, and because it’s hard for my head not to be turned by a guy who qualifies at second, third, and the outfield in a really deep and/or draft and hold league.
Eduardo Escobar‘s December/January overall ADP is currently #462 — I really don’t get him being THIS low, especially since a ton of the drafts included in these numbers were done after the Mets deal for Correa fell through. I have to think his ADP will rise with Correa out of the picture and rumblings that Brett Baty will likely begin the season in the minors, but he clearly is still being looked at as a fringe option. Escobar is another guy who heads into the season seemingly likely to produce something close to last year’s numbers, which included a .240 average and 20 homers, and enough runs and RBI to keep him on my 3B radar. No, it’s not a great option, but he could be a sensible deep league fallback plan outside the top 400 at a position this weak.
Dropping down even further to some quick hits outside the top 500… a Rodolfo Castro (#507, and he qualifies at 2B/3B) pick doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, but I kind of like him as a late flyer here. He’s a switch hitter who may end up playing a decent amount of second base for the Pirates; he wasn’t bad after he was promoted the second week of August last year and ended up with 11 homers and 5 steals in 253 ABs on the season. His draft price could rise somewhat with a solid spring, as I feel he could optimistically project as a 20/10 guy if it looks like he’ll be the everyday second baseman in 2023.
Ramon Urias (#515, also qualifies at 2B/3B) has become an AL-only, very late target for me, as I once again find myself rostering more Orioles hitters than is probably advisable (deep leagues = limited options; you know the drill!) I think he’ll get regular playing time at third, and Steamer projects him for 15 homers versus the 16 he hit last year. He hits the ball hard, he doesn’t chase a lot, and it just wouldn’t shock me to see him eclipse both his playing time and his power projections this year.
If you’re just looking for cheap, very late NL power, or hopeful power at least, we stumble upon Patrick Wisdom (#537) and J.D. Davis (#540) at this point. I don’t think it’s a secret who either of these guys are at this point in their careers, and I’d prefer not to roster either of them regardless of league size, but once again I’ll mention that one needs back-up plans to the back-up plans in the very deep league world. Steamer has Wisdom playing in 81 games with 16 homers for the Cubs, and Davis hitting 11 bombs in 83 games for the Giants, so do with that information what you will.
Now, outside the top 550 — let’s look at one more name for each league. For the NL, I’ll go with Spencer Steer. I suspect the Reds’ opening day lineup will look atrocious on paper, but I also suspect that it will provoke some deep-league dumpster diving from those of us searching for at bats. At the moment Steer (who arrived to Cincinnati in the Tyler Mahle trade) looks to have a pretty clear path to playing time at third, and if he manages to settle in at the big league level I don’t see 20 homers (albeit with a sketchy batting average, most likely) being a particularly bold prediction.
We’ll close all the way down at #612 Jace Peterson, who should be in line for regular at bats in another ugly lineup that we deep-leaguers may find ourselves picking through, looking for something to salvage. He may sit against lefties, though in his mere 32 ABs against southpaws last year he hit .281 with a .343 OBP, so who knows… no matter what, there should be more quantity, if not quality, for him this year. With the rule changes and as a veteran who may have a green light to run on a team with nothing to lose, maybe he’ll improve upon his SB numbers (he had 10 in 2021 and 12 in 2022) and end up being a relatively solid source of speed if nothing else.