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Hello friends, we’re slowly but surely getting through the long winter and happily inching closer to actual baseball! It’s time to take a look at a position that may not include a ton of ultra-sexy picks but does offer many solid options at all stages of a draft or auction. Well, maybe not at the very end of a draft or auction, as I recently learned in a 15-team mixed NFBC draft and hold league where I kind of accidentally punted 3B. But overall, I haven’t found there to be as many cliffs to drop off when it comes to the third base tiers this year as compared to some positions; they do seem to be scattered throughout the landscape value-wise. Looking at recent NFBC ADP, there are six players that qualify at third in the overall top 50, five more in the top 51-100, and seven in the top 100-200. Going a little deeper, there are nine 3B options from 200-300. After that things get a bit sketchy… but before we look for some late-round dart throws, let’s check in on some of those upper-tier options that are looking like good values.

I haven’t been in the right spot to draft Jose Ramirez yet, but I still think he’s worth spending an early pick on as one of the foundations of a team, even after he was surprisingly streaky and often frustrating to own last year. It’s hard for me to believe he hit .282 and went 24/28 last year since it seemed like every single at bat of his I watched was a weak grounder, but I’ll be buying into that speed combined with a plus average turning Ramirez into the rare 5-category third base stud until he gives me reason not to. I already have Austin Riley on a couple teams; normally I don’t like to draft a four-category hitter in the second round of a draft when there are still 5-category guys out there, but if Riley can do something approaching what he’s done the last couple of years (I’m expecting another .275+ average, 30+ homers, and 100-ish runs and RBI, which doesn’t seem too demanding) I’m happy to have him on board. Anyway, let’s move on since you don’t need me to tell you that Ramirez, Riley, and Rafael Devers are good at baseball — the point is just that if you want to grab a top third baseman early, I think it’s likely that you’ll get a comfortable return on your investment. As always, scout out the lay of the land ahead of time, and know which options you like at every stage or price point, so you never have to reach just to fill a position. And now, some quick hits about specific players:

Manny Machado: I drafted him in my very first league and am pretty darn fond of him at his current NFBC ADP, which is around 60. I suspect his price is rising with vague but positive reports about his health coming off of elbow surgery, and he’s a polarizer: he’s been drafted as high as 34th and as low as 94th over the last month. Yes, he hit a disappointing .258 last year and isn’t going to run much if at all, but don’t lose sight of the fact that he still managed to hit 30 homers in what at the time felt like an incredibly disappointing season last year.

Royce Lewis: I’m torn on Lewis… I faded him through my first few drafts for many of the reasons Grey mentioned in his Lewis Schmohawk post but grabbed him in my latest draft. I don’t think I would have rostered him at his probably-too-high-to-be-sensible ADP of 50 if I only played in one or two leagues. Also, it’s not a coincidence that the league I did take him in is my shallowest league where there will be an active waiver wire. Again, this price seems way too high, but the upside is so scrumptious that I didn’t want to be on the outside of the candy store looking in if Lewis can manage to stay on the field and continue building on the fantasy goodness we saw late in 2023.

I really, really thought this might be the year I drafted Alex Bregman, but since it hasn’t happened yet, I’m thinking it’s not destined to. I do think it’s possible he’s gone from getting seriously overdrafted to slightly underdrafted, though, and is finally deserving of consideration at the right place and time. He’s being taken around pick 90, and I’ve seen him go quite a bit later than that… feels like a nice value for someone who is likely to hit another 25 homers (as he did last year) and flirt with the 100 mark in runs and RBI.

Dropping down outside the top 150…

Alec Bohm (ADP 160). Bohm was supposed to be my fallback option in the above-mentioned league where I didn’t get any of my top 3B choices, but by the time it came to draft him, it felt like such a horrifically boring pick that I couldn’t pull the trigger. Now I wish I had… even if he can’t top last year’s 20 homers (and he very well could, I think) he should once again pile up runs and RBI (he had 97 last year!) and give you a solid boost in average.

Noelvi Marte (ADP 163). Marte’s NFBC ADP is weird because someone accidentally picked him #1 overall in a draft, which went semi-viral on social media. He’s gone as late as pick 218, and I love the value anywhere near that spot. If he gets lost in the shuffle during a draft because folks are worried about the crowded Reds infield (which obviously is a legitimate concern) or his sore hamstring heading into spring, I think there could be some value to be had here. This is one that really depends on your league depth and setup/risk tolerance, but if he can earn enough playing time he’s got some pop and speed and could ultimately provide 5-category value.

Ke’Bryan Hayes (ADP 174). I am beyond into Hayes at this price; especially if, say, you’re looking to fill your corner infield spot with a guy who will pick up some steals because you, say, took a shortstop or second baseman who doesn’t run much early in your draft. Hayes was super streaky last year and I think it’s very hard to predict what we’ll see this year, but I think there is a decent enough chance that we’ll see something that helps a fantasy team. I’m not counting on him to man the hot corner for me in any leagues where I don’t or won’t have other options, but I’ve already grabbed several shares as a CI. I also like him in deeper leagues compared to other similarly-priced 3B options depending on your roster construction. In 124 games last year he managed to hit .271 with 15 homers and 10 steals, so it’s hard not to think about what could be in 2024 if his health cooperates and he can take a general step forward in his age-27 year.

I said there are lots of third baseman to choose from throughout any draft, but perhaps I lied if we’re talking about deep leagues, because looking at ADP, there are just not a lot of guys I’d be comfortable with outside the top 200. Jeimer Candelario might be a more than fine value at #207 and I’d draft him in a pinch to see if he can make the Reds bizarre signing of him look sensible, but I wouldn’t want to count on him. And I guess I’d take Ryan McMahon at #225 if I was a little desperate for a third baseman at that point (okay, I’ve already done that once this year) because he’s one of those guys that I just can’t quit. And Maikel Garcia at #229 isn’t the worst idea in the world if you have a specifically constructed roster where you’re looking for speed here and don’t need to worry about power. I loved Colt Keith as a flier around pick 300 going into the winter, but his price will probably continue to rise with his long-term Tigers deal, so I’m still interested but want to be careful not to overpay before we see what we’re getting.

There are even fewer super-deep options I’m excited about… there is a time and place to take Wilmer Flores and D.J. LeMahieu, I suppose, and it’s probably somewhere around their current ADPs of 371 and 416. I have already drafted Wilmer for my bench in a draft and hold, though I don’t know how drafting a guy this late who put up a .283 average and 23 homers last year can feel so unsexy. Michael Busch might be worth a look at ADP 388 as we see how he fits into the Cubs’ plans (and his value will certainly get a boost if the Cubs defy what seem to be current expectations as I write this and don’t sign Bellinger).

Outside the top 400 we have at least one sexy flier (in my opinion) in Tyler Black, who could be worthless in 2024 fantasy or could have a killer spring and become a daily player for the Brewers. Most projection models I’ve seen aren’t impressed, but I’m on board at this cost while we see how things play out. I’ve also grabbed Nick Senzel (ADP 494) in one league just in case he stays semi-healthy and can somehow put things together with his current opportunity for regular playing time as a National. And all the way outside the top 700, I have one share of rule 5 pick Deyvison De Los Santos (ADP 739) and a couple of fellow Guardian Tyler Freeman (748). I don’t think an analyst on the planet is optimistic that De Los Santos is going to overcome his high strikeout/low walk tendencies against the toughest competition he’s ever faced if he does get a shot and makes the team, but if you’re going to buy an almost-free lottery ticket you may as well buy one with solid exit velocity. Freeman meanwhile played at five (5!) positions in just 64 games last year and held his own throughout (including 4 homers and 5 steals), so if he makes the club or is up at some point as a utility guy he’s definitely on my deep-league radar.

Two quick thoughts to add just as I’m turning this in… forgot to remind everyone that if the Cubs do what they say they are going to, Christopher Morel should have 3B-eligibility sooner rather than later. I’m not a big fan and still feel like it’s a matter of time before he gets exposed at the big league level, but after the ridiculous HR barrage he went on last year I’m not completely out at his current ADP (around 200), especially if he’s got OF/3B eligibility. Also, Gio Urshela (ADP all the way down at 660) becomes a slightly more tempting deep-league option in Detroit if he’s healthy… sure, he’s never going to be a fantasy monster, but he could well get regular playing time even on a team crowded with utility-ish infielders.

Thanks for reading and happy drafting!

 

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The Marc
The Marc
1 month ago

Ryan McMahon . . . the kind of player you draft every year because even after burning you for years, the fear that he has that career year for someone else compels you to say one more dollar . . . I hate myself for this.

BBBOSTON
BBBOSTON
1 month ago

Sorry… should have read your and Scar’s comments….

BBBOSTON
BBBOSTON
1 month ago

Laura,

Look at the EV stats and the championship winning tater for torobournws….. then stop drooling at the potential. Maikel Garcia has enormous next step potential.

scar
Scar
1 month ago

Happy Friday Laura, good stuff. You hit the nail on the head with Maikel Garcia, he seems like he’s a small launch angle tweak away from some big power. He hit the ball pretty hard last year and had a nice showing in the Venezuelan league. KC is giving him the first look at 3B and could rocket up in ADP with a strong Spring, I think.

OaktownSteve
OaktownSteve
Reply to  Laura Holt
1 month ago

I sat down the 3rd base line at a game in KC last year and when I saw Garcia, I was like, damn that’s an athlete. Lanky fella with room to grow on that frame. I bought him for $4 on my dream team auction earlier and I’m excited about it.

And you nailed it as far as the steals go. I paired him with Gorman and because of the lack of speed in the OF, if you don’t get speed with all your MIs it can get tricky so 20 bags with upside felt great over there.

And speaking of steals from 3rd base, Willi Castro seems like a great deep league or only league guy. 33 steals last year and he’s so far off the radar. Playing time is not guaranteed and he’s one of the poster kids for swing at everything approach. But he’s a decent defender with multipositionabilty (TM), and he got those 33 bags in 358 ABs. Got a little bit of pop too.