I can’t say definitively that third base has been more volatile than any other position this season, but it certainly feels like third base has generated more of a roller coaster ride than normal. We’ve seen All-Stars reduced to fringe fantasy players and we’ve seen no-names and retreads act like budding stars. To the objective fantasy baseball observer, this should provide you with opportunity. And sometimes, that requires you to kill your darlings.
Frazier represents the William Faulkner reference above because he’s been a true fantasy stud in 2014. He currently stands at .284/.350/.525 with 17 home runs, 48 runs scored, 45 RBI, and 8 steals. And he’s only gotten better as the season wears on. Over the last 30 days, there’s no third baseman that can match his bat, hitting .304/.352/.571 with eight home runs, four steals, 24 runs, and 18 RBI. Even conservative projections put him on pace for 30 home runs and 14 steals.
If you’re sitting pretty in first place and you don’t have any glaring needs, go ahead and ride out his career year. But chances are you’re not in first and you have one, if not multiple needs, and Frazier represents a pretty good candidate to come down to earth. His home run per fly ball rate sits at 20.5% where his career rate is 14.7%. His BABIP is .315 whereas his career rate is just over .290. His plate discipline figures for 2014 are almost an exact match for his career rates:
I’m not saying this is neither good nor bad, but if he’s getting a little lucky on batted balls and there’s no real difference in his swing and contact rates, it would probably be more reasonable to expect the pre-season projected 2014 Todd Frazier than the one we’re seeing right now. Again, I like Frazier and I wouldn’t just give him away — but he could command a pretty nice return right now, and might represent the best sell high in fantasy baseball.
Almost on name recognition alone, Zimmerman might return you a useful piece. Where Frazier is a sell high, Zimmerman is a sell low. He’s having just an awful injury-plagued year and over the last 20 games, it’s only been worse, as he’s hit .184/.250/.263 with zero home runs and a .079 ISO. His overall stat line is being buoyed by a BABIP-inflated April/May where he raked. His line drive rate is a paltry 16.9% and in June he’s hit more than half his batted balls into the turf. His new positional eligibility might make him a little more attractive now, and he comes with the pedigree of a better than average offensive third baseman based on his career. Someone’s going to bite on a buy-low for Zimmerman, and if the return helps you, I say go for it.
Prado has had a pretty ho-hum year so far, slashing .274/.318/.375 with three home runs and not much in the way of counting stats. But over the last month, he’s started to resemble the kind of hitter most reasonable projection systems had him pegged as. In his last 28 games, Prado has hit .302/.342/.481 with all three of his home runs coming in that span. He’s been striking out far less at 10.5%, down from the uncharacteristic 17% from the first month of the season. A few weeks ago, I suggested that Prado was “lurking” and it looks like he’s continued that trend heading into July. His overall stats are still so underwhelming that an opposing manager might be interested in dumping him. With positional eligibility at 2B, 3B, and OF in most formats, he’s a pretty handy bat to have around and he should be good for a solid average, another 40 runs and 40 RBI with a fistful of home runs from here on out. Not a world beater by any stretch, but a useful piece for sure.
Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.