Third Base Tiers: March Edition

It’s rather jarring to one’s sensibilities, regardless how delicate, to have a thought occur to you that goes something like “Kyle Seager isn’t that much different from Evan Longoria, and might even be better.” But indeed, that’s what recently ran through my brain, or what’s left of it after years of fermented grain based beverages. But I digress. Tiering the hot corner isn’t as cut-and-dried as it used to be, and there are very small degrees of separation throughout.

The first tier is deeply dependent on how your system treats eligibility — because to my knowledge Miguel Cabrera does not qualify in leagues such as CBS or ESPN, however does qualify at third base in Yahoo!, thus earning the exclamation point. And as a general disclaimer, these tiers are in a general sense more for those of you in standard 5×5 rotisserie leagues.

Tier of Yahoo Generosity

Miguel Cabrera

If you’re playing in a Yahoo league, Miggy is the obvious leader of the pack, despite whatever injury risk you might perceive him to have. Almost any reasonable projection system has him hitting .310 or better, hitting around 30 home runs, scoring around 90+ runs, and driving in over 100. You can’t absolutely take that to the bank, but if he’s on the field, he’s about the surest .300/30/90/100 you’ll find.

Tier One in Reality

Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rendon

I know there are many of you who would hold Rendon in higher regard than Donaldson for a great many valid reasons, so you just go right ahead and transpose those two names should you wish. I just have a hunch, yes, I said a hunch, based on nothing more than the general stupidity of my personal instincts and somewhat doughy gut that Donaldson is going to have a big year. This flies in the face of prognosticators saying he had a power outage in the second half last year, which I think is hogwash. He in fact saw his slugging percentage go up, hitting 18 doubles in just 66 games versus 13 over 92 first half games. Yes, he hit “just” nine home runs after his torrid April and May, but pshaw. He moves to a friendlier place for right handed power hitters, slots somewhere between or behind Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and I’m just generally jazzed about what he’s going to do in Toronto.

Rendon, just 24, is kind of the golden boy of fantasy baseball this year — frequently getting snapped up early in the second round, and managers relying on some growth over his terrific 2014 which saw him hit .287, with 21 home runs, 17 stolen bases, 111 runs, and 83 RBI. I’m pretty suspicious of the stolen bases, and most of the projections appear to dial that back to 10 or so. In general, I often treat the youngsters the way I treat a classic game of 8-ball — drop one on the break, you still need to prove it. That’s for better or for worse, because Rendon could certainly build on his success.

Tier Two

Adrian Beltre, Nolan Arenado, Evan Longoria

Beltre turns 36 in April, and after hitting 98 home runs and driving in 299 runs between 2011 and 2013, his production fell to 19 home runs and 77 RBI in 2014. He still hits for average though, most projection systems see him hitting 20+ home runs, and if he stays off the trainers table, he ought to fall into close to 90 RBI.

Arenado is kind of Beltre waiting in the wings, also known of his great defense. But for fantasy purposes, he hits for a solid average (if he cuts his IFFB rate below that unseemly 15.2%, he could easily hit over .300), he was on pace for about 25 home runs in 2014, and depending on where he’s slotted in the Rockies lineup, he ought to register 80+ in runs and RBI. Still just 23, Arenado likely has bigger years in front of him.

Longoria could find himself up or down a tier after the first couple months of 2015. In a season where he played in every game, it’s hard to believe he hit just 22 home runs. His home run per fly ball rate was a career worst 10.8% (15.4% career average), his swinging strike was at its highest since his rookie campaign, and he chased balls outside of the strike zone at a rate far above normal by his career standards (31.6% O-Swing vs. 27% career). Still, Longoria is expected to hit mid-20’s HR, bat about .260, and sit in the 80’s, even 90’s in runs/RBI. For that reason, he’s not a huge downgrade over the two in front of him here.

Tier Three

Pablo Sandoval, Kyle Seager, Todd Frazier, Carlos Santana, David Wright, Josh Harrison, Manny Machado

I honestly like Sandoval in the draft this year — his ADP sits in the 160’s, and this for a guy who ought to be good for a .290 batting average, flirt with 20 home runs, and he should drive in 80+ and score 70+ runs. That’s pretty solid. And in fact, that looks a heck of a lot like what Kyle Seager should do this season, but add a few home runs to Sandoval’s projection, toss in a handful of stolen bases, but knock the batting average down in the .260’s. Still, pretty solid production.

Frazier no doubt had a terrific breakout 2014, but most prognosticators see him coming back to Earth a bit in 2015. Yes, his production fell in the second half last year, but that doesn’t allow us to ignore the first half, does it? August Fagerstrom has written extensively on Frazier recently, and I’d suggest you go read this and this if you want a full meal deal presentation on how he did what he did. But if he hits as projected — .250 with 21 home runs, runs and RBI in the 60’s and 11 steals, that’s not particularly thrilling, but still nice.

Tier Four

Ryan ZimmermanChris Davis, Kris Bryant

Obviously, Kris Bryant is a unique talent, and he’s getting snapped up around 100th despite the fact that it still appears he might start the season in the minors. Once he arrives, sparks are likely to fly, and the only concern in fantasy circles is what the strikeout rate might do to his batting average. But he could very well shoot up to tier two pretty quickly.

Most are betting Chris Davis returns to hitting 30-plus home runs, and if you can stomach a pretty rotten batting average, he should check off three boxes quite nicely. Zimmerman has warts you already know about, but does enough in at least three categories to merit a place on a roster.

Tier Five

Pedro Alvarez, Matt Carpenter, Brett Lawrie, Aramis Ramirez, TREVOR PLOUFFE FTW Martin Prado, Chase Headley, Nick Castellanos, Marcus Semien, Yasmany Tomas

Of the group, I actually like Brett Lawrie the most as I could see him get back to possibly flirting with 20 home runs and double digit steals if he can stay healthy in Oakland. Semien might do the same all while batting .240. If you’re dying for power, Pedro Alvarez is your choice. Hard to know when we’ll see Tomas.

The Rest

Mike Moustakas, Chris Johnson, Will Middlebrooks, David Freese, Lonnie Chisenhall, Maikel Franco, Luis Valbuena, Casey McGehee, Alex Rodriguez, Brock Holt

Hopefully you don’t need to roster any of these guys. I’ve got Bogaerts as a shortstop, FYI. So it goes.

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.

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This is the year Pedro goes 40.

Worth mentioning that Santana makes an appearance in the Yahoo Generosity tier for Catchers, which means he’s probably long gone before his 3B tier comes into play.