I’m usually not big on worrying too much about positional scarcity, but anyone who has competed in a variety of different fantasy baseball league formats knows that depth at a given position is one thing that can make a big difference in approaching a draft for a shallow league versus a deep one. The last couple of years, I’ve been making a concerted effort to draft with less concern about a player’s position, and more towards getting the best value possible with every draft pick or auction purchase, regardless of league size. But when approaching a draft this way, it’s even more important to know what your options are going to be at each position, which positions you can wait to fill later, and which players are actually worth reaching for if you do realize you’re running out of decent options at a given position. Getting to the point of today’s post, let’s take a look at some third basemen for 2020, with an emphasis on how I’ll be approaching the position in deeper leagues.
When we took an early look at first base a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see just how NL-heavy the upper tiers of the position were. As we move across the diamond to third, the opposite is true, at least at the top of the third base rankings. According to NFBC ADP, of the five third basemen that are currently making up the top tier at the position (Alex Bregman, Nolan Arenado, Anthony Rendon, Jose Ramirez, Rafael Devers), four are American Leaguers. The ADPs of these five players range from #10 to #22, and we don’t see another third baseman until we drop all the way down to #57. Looking deeper at the position, I’m guessing I won’t have many shares of any of these guys, regardless of league size. While the thought of not having Rendon on a team this year saddens me, I realize my years of drafting him at what I’ve considered a bargain are clearly over. And while I’d also be happy to have Ramirez on my rosters, I just don’t think I trust him enough at this point to splurge at such a high price point. As for Devers, I was hoping he’d slip a bit further down the radar than pick #22, but I do love him this year and think that overall that’s more than fair– depending on how my individual drafts go, he may well end up successfully tempting me with enough value as the fifth third baseman of the board (or the fourth in an AL-only league) in 2020.
Let’s take a quick look at the next tier, which is currently very closely grouped (6 players between #57 and #66) in terms of NFBC ADP: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Kris Bryant, Eugenio Suarez, Manny Machado, DJ LeMahieu, and Yoan Moncada. I can’t imagine I’ll be drafting heavily from this group regardless of league size. Granted, I am a big Suarez fan and basically went all in on him two years ago, and again last year. In fact, I even drafted him in my first 15-teamer this year, but regretted it almost immediately (and this was long before his shoulder injury). I realized there were just too many guys I liked later on with very similar profiles, and I don’t see me grabbing him again unless he comes with a significant injury discount. I’d like to have Vlad Jr. on a team, but I’m probably not invested enough to pull the trigger this early, and when it comes to Bryant, Machado, and LeMahieu, there are players that I’d rather have straight up who are being drafted 20 to 50 picks later. The one player in this group I can see myself grabbing in both deeper and standard leagues is Moncada — I’m not sure enough that he’ll repeat/build on 2019 to reach for him, but I’m buying at the right price — and the eleventh third baseman off the board feels like it could be a nice value.
It’s the next group of players that I imagine I’ll pull from multiple times this season, especially in deeper leagues: Max Muncy (#77), Matt Chapman (#89), Jeff McNeil (#86), Josh Donaldson (#103), and Mike Moustakas (#107). Of this group, only McNeil feels like he’s being drafted too early for me. I suppose they all have question marks attached to them, but who doesn’t — I certainly wasn’t building a potential random swimming injury into Suarez’s value when I drafted him in December. I think overall this group has more guys who could provide significantly more bang for the buck than some of their similarly profiled, earlier-drafted counterparts. And the later you get them, the less risk they possess. The way I guess I’m looking at it, is that if the baseballs fly out of the yard anywhere close to the way they did last year, these guys should be relatively easy to replace in most leagues if they disappoint… and if the juiced balls seem to have disappeared, this group contains some true power hitters that will be hitting plenty of homers even with ‘regular’ baseballs, making them even more valuable at their current draft prices. I’ve already drafted Muncy twice — loving his 1B, 2B, and 3B eligibility — and probably won’t stop there. I also think Chapman, and particularly Donaldson and Moustakas are currently being underdrafted so far, and can see owning them in multiple leagues this year. Donaldson and Moustakas are being drafted as the 15th and 16th third basemen off the board, which sounds like a great deal for guys that I’d be comfortable playing as a corner infielder in even the shallowest of leagues.
Moving on, we get to a large group of players who I may not be loading up on in standard leagues, but most of whom I can imagine happily waiting on in deeper formats. I drafted Eduardo Escobar all over the place last year, and while I think it’s likely 2019 was a career year for him, I can see giving him another try this year (especially since he also qualifies at second) at pick #118. I’m not basing my draft around any of the following players , but there are some relatively high floors and even some upside in this group, and I don’t dislike any of them at their current price points: Yuli Gurriel (#121), Miguel Sano (#126), Tommy Edman (#135) Justin Turner (#171), and J.D. Davis (#175). And when it comes to guys I’m actively targeting this late, I’m particularly interested in Hunter Dozier (#183), Scott Kingery (#186), and Ryan McMahon (#187). Not too much risk at this point in a draft, and I feel like if the right circumstances present themselves, any of these three could provide a ton of value here (and all three have multi-position eligibility to boot).
When it comes to third basemen in very deep leagues, there are still a handful of players that I’ll have my eye on all the way outside the top 240 and beyond. There’s clearly plenty of doubt as to whether Gio Urshela’s breakout was real, as reflected in his current #242 ADP — but that’s late enough to make me at least consider him. I’ll also mention Jon Berti here (#244), since I know Grey and I were both extremely high on him coming into the offseason before the Marlins added Jonathan Villar (still have to check every so often to make sure I didn’t just dream that, sigh.) I think we’re both still hoping that Berti finds a way to somehow come into a plethora of at bats at the top of the lineup and manages to surprise everyone by being a legit fantasy source of speed at age 30. Okay, now that I’m writing it out that’s starting to sound less realistic, but I’m not giving up hope for him yet. When it comes to guys buried all the way deep into the 300’s, I might grab Kyle Seager (#331) and hope for a rebound, or Travis Shaw (#375) and hope for an even more unlikely-seeming rebound. Before he signed with the Blue Jays, Shaw was quoted saying how motivated he was and what an amazing bargain some team would be getting in him this year. Even though it’s likely just your standard offseason “best shape of my life” fare, I’m having trouble getting it out of my head, just in the off chance that the whole ‘amazing bargain’ part ends up proving true both for real life baseball and fantasy teams.
Since this is a column about deep leagues, why not end with two guys outside the top 400, since at this point there’s no reason not to throw darts at anything remotely resembling a target. I might throw one or two of those darts at Hanser Alberto (#401), who if nothing else looked impressive against left-handed pitching after bouncing all over the place and landing in Baltimore, or Maikel Franco (#463), on the off-chance that a change of scenery and a new coaching staff can help him salvage his career.
Hope everyone is enjoying their offseason prep, and good luck to anyone else out there crazy enough to be drafting already as we all anxiously await for pitchers and catchers to report in a week or so — only 51 days until opening day!