2014 Rankings: Top 15 Third Basemen (Updated)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Generally viewed as one of the shallowest positions in the game, third base doesn’t look as bad as it once did.  While 2014 is likely the final season you’ll get to utilize Miguel Cabrera here, there is ample talent behind him and more on the way (Miguel Sano, for instance).  Let’s take a look at how things currently look:

  1. Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers
  2. Adrian Beltre – Texas Rangers
  3. Evan Longoria – Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Josh Donaldson – Oakland A’s
  5. David Wright – New York Mets
  6. Matt Carpenter – St. Louis Cardinals
  7. Ryan Zimmerman – Washington Nationals
  8. Aramis Ramirez – Milwaukee Brewers
  9. Kyle Seager – Seattle Mariners
  10. Pedro Alvarez – Pittsburgh Pirates
  11. Manny Machado – Baltimore Orioles
  12. Brett Lawrie – Toronto Blue Jays
  13. Nolan Arenado – Colorado Rockies
  14. Xander Bogaerts – Boston Red Sox
  15. Chase Headley – San Diego Padres

Thoughts:

  • We continue to wait and see what the health status of Manny Machado is.  According to Bob Nightengale (via Twitter), “Manny Machado scheduled to see his doctor around March 15 to be cleared to play games and hopes to be ready by early to mid April”.  Depending on when he’s cleared to play, he would likely jump into the 8th spot, with the potential to rise all the way to 6th should he somehow be ready for Opening Day.  There’s going to be some risk due to his health, but as we saw in 2013 (.283, 14 HR, 71 RBI, 88 R, 6 SB) there also is a lot of reward.
  • I wrote an article on Matt Carpenter, talking about why I probably won’t be owning him in 2014 and that he’s simply not a Top 5 second baseman (though some people want to believe that he will be).  While the reasoning may be slightly different, the same thing applies at third base.  He simply is going to be overvalued based on his runs scored from 2013, a number he is not going to replicate.  To read the article on Carpenter, click here.
  • Chase Headley was always going to be a risky option, and now he’s sidelined with a strained calf.  While it appears like he isn’t going to miss any time during the regular season it’s an injury we need to continue to monitor.
  • Who will be this year’s breakout 3B?  There are plenty of options who can follow in the footsteps of Josh Donaldson, whether it be post-hype sleepers like Brett Lawrie or Nolan Arenado or a rookie superstar like Xander Bogaerts.  Third base suddenly doesn’t look as shallow as it once did.
  • Pablo Sandoval just missed making the list, though there have been reports that he’s entering camp in shape this season (the amount of weight he’s lost is different depending on the report you read).  One of the more inconsistent options, if he is ready to play he could revert back to his 2011 numbers (.315, 23 HR).  That makes him worth grabbing, though he’s tough to trust as your starter.

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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings:

4 comments

  1. Sean says:

    Could Pedro Alvarez put up a 40 home run season this year?

  2. bigwang says:

    Donaldson and Wright are projected to hit about the same number of homers by Zips and steamer (around 20), however Wright is expected to notch around 10 more steals with an equal if not better triple slash. Why do you have Donaldson ranked ahead of Wright?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I’m projecting Donaldson to outperform Wright virtually across the board (though RBI/R/AVG are all close) outside of SB. While I agree with Wright around 20 HR, I don’t see why Donaldson won’t exceed that. He was equally good at home and on the road, and also had a believable 14.2% HR/FB.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if Donaldson significantly out homered Wright, as well as bettering him in RBI and R as well.

      • bigwang says:

        I’ll have a quick look at the traditional 5×5 format and try to project both players (assuming both to play 162 games in 2014):

        HR:
        * Donaldson: Like you said his HR/FB last season seemed realistic, so let’s just say he repeats last season’s performance and goes for 25 HR in 2014.
        * Wright: Last season his HR/FB was 13% which was right around his career average. If he maintains this level this season that would translate to about 26 homers over 162 games based on his batted ball mix last season.
        –> Advantage: Draw. Power looks about equal.

        AVG:
        * Donaldson: Last season he hit .301 with a BABIP of .333. Using the xBABIP calculator on fangraphs (http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/xbabip-spreadsheet/), his expected BABIP last season was around .318 (the fangraphs formula may be a bit outdated since it’s from 2011 but I am not expecting it to make a huge difference). So Donaldson did beat his xBABIP by a pretty significant margin. Furthermore, his xK% (source: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/wilin-rosario-estimating-bb-and-k-using-plate-discipline/) was 20% meaning he somehow managed to beat his expected K-rate by 4% in addition to outperforming his xBABIP. Factoring in all these, going into 2014 it would appear that his true talent is more of a .270 to .290 hitter.
        * Wright: He is a career .301 hitter over 1374 games and last season his batted ball mix and BABIP were more or less in line with his career averages. Going into 2014 there is every reason to expect another .300 season.
        –> Advantage: Wright. All the data suggests that Donaldson enjoyed some luck on balls in play last season.

        SB:
        * Donaldson: Last season he stole 5. Let’s just say he will steal another 5 in 2014.
        * Wright: Last season he was on pace for 25 steals over 162 games. Let’s be conservative and give him 15 steals in 2014.
        –> Advantage: Wright. No contest here.

        RBI:
        * Donaldson: Last season he was on pace to drive in 95 over 162 games. But with the expected decline in average, chances are those RBI totals will go down even if he hits all the time in the middle of the order.
        * Wright: Last season he was on pace to drive in 84 over 162 games. Probably will expect more of the same this season with no major upgrades in the Mets lineup.
        –> Advantage: Donaldson by a hair, and depending on how far his average falls, could well be a draw or even go the other way.

        R:
        * Donaldson: Last season he was on pace to score 91 runs over 162 games. But with the expected decline in average and therefore OBP, unless his walk rate climbs enough to offset the average decline, his run total will likely drop in 2014.
        * Wright: Last season he was on pace to also score 91 runs over 162 games. Should be reasonable to expect him to repeat this rate in 2014.
        –> Advantage: Wright.

        Summary:
        – Other than RBI, Wright enjoys an advantage in every category, including a large lead in steals.
        – Obviously this analysis does not factor injury risk into account, but injuries are simply too hard to predict. Yes Wright did miss quite a bit of time in 2013 and 2011, but he also played in 156 games in 2012 and averaged 156 games from 2005-10. So I’d rather project both guys on an even playing field.
        – Donaldson could of course easily outperform Wright and have a monster season in 2014. This is baseball after all and anything can happen. I love Donaldson as a player and I would have no problems drafting him as my 3B. It’s just that the data I see suggests Wright will be the better fantasy player.

        In order for your projections for Donaldson to outperform Wright “across the board” to come true, it would require some combination of either (1) Donaldson to take another leap forward in power and plate discipline (if this is your argument I’d like to see the evidence behind it), or (2) Donaldson to continue to defy the odds and outperform his expected BABIP and K%, or (3) Donaldson to stay healthier than Wright, or (4) Wright’s skills to sudden decline by a fair amount. At this point the way I see it, as long as Wright is healthy in 2014, Donaldson will have very little chance to outrank him at the end of the year.

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