Fantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Early Top 10 3B For 2014

Miggy

We’re making our way around the diamond, slowly but surely, for our too early 2014 fantasy rankings. So far, we’ve taken a look at catcher, first basemen, and second basemen. Third base should be a pretty intriguing position in 2014. The following list will only include my top 10, but there are plenty of interesting names that could very well end up in the top 10 by years end (Lawrie, Headley, Bogaerts, etc.). Let’s get to it.

Miguel Cabrera at number 1 should shock exactly zero people. He’s the best hitter in the game and that’s the only thing we care about in fantasy baseball. I am a little worried about his late season bite by the injury bug considering his age, but he’s still one of the most consistent, trustworthy names in the game. Cabrera also gets a plus in my book due to the recent trade that sent Prince Fielder to Texas. That may seem a little odd, but it’s all about health. It’s no secret that Cabrera had a few injury problems down the stretch last season. The removal of Fielder allows for Cabrera to play the less physically demanding corner position across the diamond while keeping his 3B eligibility. Fantasy owners rejoice.

Adrian Beltre is defying the odds of aging. Despite the fact that he is heading into his age 35 season I still trust him more than the younger names below him. Much like Cabrera, he does not miss time – at least in 3 of the past 4 years – and he is a very consistent performer. One of the things about Beltre that has always given me pause when evaluating him is his free swinging approach. Despite his aggressive approach he still strikes out well below league average (11.3% of PA in 2013). He’s able to do this – and postpone aging quickly – due to his phenomenal ability to make contact when he does swing. The good news is that his contact skills are not declining any at the moment, in fact many of them improved on his 2011-2012 rates.

Beltre's Contact Skills
Beltre’s Contact Skills

 

There’s no doubt that Beltre is aging – at least according to his age in years. He’s doing it as gracefully possible though.

Edwin Encarnacion is on this list with an *. In some leagues, he may have played enough games to qualify at third base again. If he has third base eligibility in yours, this is where I would take him.

I struggled a little bit choosing between Evan Longoria and David Wright for the number four spot. In fact I look at them somewhat as 4A and 4B. Choosing between them all depends on how you plan the rest of your draft. If you’re looking for as much power as possible from the hot corner then I’d go with Longo. If you’re looking for a five category performer than I’d take Wright. I do not believe there is an incorrect choice here.

I believe in Josh Donaldson. There’s really no other way to put it. While Donaldson seemingly came out of nowhere, he’s always had the potential to be a very productive major leaguer. The batting average may seem a little fluky, but it does not look to be aided too much by an elevated babip. Considering Donaldson’s batted ball profile and his .333 babip in 2013 I firmly believe Donaldson can be at least a .280 hitter going forward – which is extremely above average in today’s game. Donaldson’s power splurge also seems to be completely legit. His batted ball distance ranks 74 out of 300 qualified hitters. That might seem low, but Adrian Beltre ranks 73. He’s in good company. I’m drafting Donaldson with confidence, so should you.

Ryan Zimmerman is somewhat of a tough player for me to write on. I’ve watched him flounder around for months on end it seems like only to destroy my team in a H2H set-up every time I’m matched up with his owner’s team. Needless to say, I’m a little tired of it. Nonetheless, I’m forced to rank him. Zimmerman, like many of the game’s premier players, produces very well when he is on the field. Staying on the field is Zimmerman’s inherent problem though. At least it seemed that way in my mind. I was shocked to realize that Zimmerman played in 147 game in 2013 after suiting up for 145 in 2012. It may seem like he’s always hampered, but he has done a much better job of actually staying on the field since his injury plagued 2011.

Zim’s plate discipline numbers have stayed relatively calm despite the fact that his strikeout rate has been on a steady climb. His swinging strike rate is up a little bit, but nothing is too alarming at the moment. Zimmerman’s homers have consistently been in the mid-20’s despite middle of the pack flyball rates. He’s able to do that due to his elite flyball distance.

Zimmerman's Homer Plot
Zimmerman’s Homer Plot

Zimmerman’s flyball distance ranked sixth in the majors. He has prodiguous power – evidenced above by the glut of 400+ foot shots to all fields. Zimmerman might lack the upside of a Longoria or a Wright, but he’s a consistent to bet to perform well at the hot corner in 2014.

Matt Carpenter was tough to rank for me. I had a hard time guaging his value, both on this list and on my second base list. Everything I wrote there rings true here as well, except to a greater extent. Carpenter’s lack of power is much easier to overlook when you’re slotting him in at the MI or 2B spot in your lineup than at 3B.

Kyle Seager is an extremely interesting player to me entering 2014. His lackluster finish to the 2013 campaign could prove to be extremely beneficial to his draft day value. I, for one, am not scared off by his poor finish in 2013. Seager improved upon nearly every peripheral stat in 2013. He chased less pitches out of the zone, swung and missed less, and upped his walk rate. Seager’s issue, one that many lefties face, is his ability to hit left handed pitching.

Seager's Splits
Seager’s Splits

Obviously, Seager still has work to do versus same handed pitching. It is encouraging to see that he is improving – even if it is a slow process. Seager’s chances of reaching his fantasy ceiling depends on if he continues to improve on this aspect of his game. At the moment he’s a very solid fantasy option, improvement versus lefties would push him into top 5 consideration. Many will have the man next on my list, Pedro Alvarez, in front of Seager. I can understand why. I tend to lean towards 5 category contributors. I realize that Seager only swiped 9 bags last season, I believe he’s capable of swiping a few more than that if given the chance.

I recently wrote about Pedro Alvarez. In order to give you a cliff notes version I’ll sum it up this way: I love the power, but hate the strikeouts and lack of flyballs. He is undoubtedly a phenomenal power source, but is that source tapped out? I’m not sure there’s much room for growth here.

Last, but not least, in my top 10/11* is Mr. Pablo Sandoval. He is one of the many players that I would love to see call another ballpark home. He’s also a player that baffles me every year with his draft position. Despite only hitting 20+ homers once 2010, Sandoval is seemingly always drafted as a top 7 or 8 third baseman. There’s no doubt the potential is there. The production – specifically power production – and health, however, have not been there. Sandoval’s ISO (isolated power) declined once again in 2013.

Sandoval's ISO
Sandoval’s ISO

League average power or a little below is not what we expect from Sandoval. It’s what we’ve gotten from him the past two seasons though. The good news, is that his power came back a little in the second half of the season. The bad news is where it had to be pulled up from. Sandoval essentially makes my top 10 by default. Despite attempting to talk myself into placing someone else here, I couldn’t. Draft at your own risk; I doubt he’ll find his way onto any of my teams. So, maybe he was last and least after all?

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13 Comments

  1. Jeff
    November 23, 2013 at 8:15 am — Reply

    Longoria?

  2. Jeff
    November 23, 2013 at 8:20 am — Reply

    Nevermind, it helps to actually read, rather than glance 🙂

    • Landon Jones
      November 23, 2013 at 8:25 am — Reply

      Ha, all good. I didn’t go too much in depth about him because I wanted to save some words for the lesser known guys. Big Longo fan though. I was really glad to see him stay healthy for the year.

  3. Mark
    November 23, 2013 at 11:06 am — Reply

    Beltre’s a great player, but I think that the risk has finally overcome the reward of spending a top 15 pick on a 35 year old, when most players experience a decline in their age 32-34 seasons. Father Time catches up to everybody eventually. I’d certainly rather take Encarnacion over Beltre, whether he qualifies at 3B or not. He’s four years younger and here’s his average line over the past two seasons: 92/39/107/10/.276, with more walks than strikeouts over that span (166 BBs to 156 Ks).

    Longoria and Wright are solid options, but are seemingly overvalued year after year. Longoria has stopped running (possibly due to his past hamstring issues) and is likely to put up a neutral BA with his K-rate. I think that Zimmerman and Donaldson are better values 2-3 rounds later – they’ll hit 5-6 less homers than Longo, but with a better BA, similar counting stats, and a few more SBs to boot. Wright is a realistic threat to put up a .300/20/15 line, but durability has become an issue for him.

    Seager does look like a decent fallback option, but with limited upside. .265/20/10 isn’t sexy, but solid value for where he’s likely to be drafted.

    Great breakdown, Landon. I look forward to seeing the rest of the positional rankings.

    • Landon Jones
      November 23, 2013 at 11:56 am — Reply

      Appreciate it, Mark.

      I somewhat agree on Beltre. I originally planned on having him a little lower, but I couldn’t find a reason to actually put him down below Longo or Wright because he’s been so consistent the past few seasons.

      As far as Wright and Longoria are concerned. I agree that they can be a little overvalued. I’ve seen them go as early as the second round in some mocks. That’s a little too early for me, I think.

      I’m a little more inclined, like you, to wait and take someone in the Donaldson, Zimmerman, Seager type mold I think. I haven’t really started working on my strategy for 2014 yet, but I’m thinking I’ll be more likely to reach for a SS or maybe a 2B than a 3B.

      My other rankings: C, 1B, and 2B can be found by clicking on my name. Thanks for reading!

      • Mark
        November 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm — Reply

        Re: Beltre – I have him at #3 at 3B above Longo and Wright as well (below Cabrera and Encarnacion). I was just referring to the top 15 overall draft pick that it’ll likely require to draft him, which is a bit high for him at this point. I’ll probably be looking at the Zimmerman and Donaldson types, as you mentioned, in the 5th round area depending on who’s still on the board at that time.

        Regarding strategy, I’ve already begun to develop mine for ’14, due to the number of highly competitive leagues that I usually join (6 pay, 9 total last year). I’m looking to have a breakdown of something like this through the first 6 rounds – 2 OFs, 1 1B, 1 MI, 1 3B, 1 SP. I’m targeting either Zim or Donaldson in the 5th if I miss out on Cabrera and there are still several decent #1 SP options that I might be able to grab coming back in the 6th (Bumgarner, Fernandez, Verlander, Price, Hamels, etc.). If the #1 SP types are just about gone, I’ll probably grab one of those aces in the 5th and target someone like Seager later on for my 3B though.

        I checked out your other positional rankings, and outside of a few things (excluding Trumbo from the 1B rankings, thinking that 2B is deeper than SS), we’re pretty much on the same page. I look forward to seeing your take on the remaining positions.

        • Landon Jones
          November 23, 2013 at 7:14 pm

          Ah, gotcha on Beltre.

          As far as strategy goes, mine is usually similar. Last year once the rankings for the major sites came out I was able to find some guys pretty quickly I thought were undervalued by a lot. Ended up with Latos and Anibal on a lot of teams, so I’m looking forward to seeing the 2014 ranks.

          On Trumbo, I think he’s pretty much peaked, unless some changes are made. The plate discipline bothers me. The power is extremely legit, I’m just not a huge believer in him. He could offer good value though in standard leagues depending on his rank. My SS rankings should come out next week. Check back and let me know what you think.

        • Mark
          November 23, 2013 at 9:30 pm

          I’m not sure what your thoughts are on players like Jay Bruce and Giancarlo Stanton, but fantasy-wise, Trumbo is more or less the same player as those guys. Here are their average season totals over the past three years:

          Bruce: 87 / 32 / 102 / 8 / .257
          Stanton: 72 / 32 / 78 / 4 / .267
          Trumbo: 72 / 32 / 94 / 6 / .251

          Bruce and Stanton are looking like late 2nd / early 3rd round picks, while Trumbo is likely to be in the 6th/7th round range. He has dual eligibilty (1B/OF) as well, which is always a plus. I see him as a much better value than those guys, and someone who always seems to fly under the radar.

          I’m curious to see where you have those guys ranked, and if you agree or disagree with the fantasy community on their respective values. I’ll be sure to check out your SS rankings as well. Thanks for the responses.

        • Landon Jones
          November 24, 2013 at 5:09 pm

          That’s a solid point. I have Stanton as an early 3rd rounder, mainly due to the potential and my man crush. Bruce is a 4th or 5th round guy for me. Trumbo is a little less valuable in most leagues I play in because most of mine use OBP instead of average.

          Brandon Moss is a guy I really like for a solid value in 2014. He’s very similar to the guys listed above and comes extremely cheap.

  4. Brent
    November 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm — Reply

    Not even a mention of Machado?

    • Landon Jones
      November 23, 2013 at 7:17 pm — Reply

      Even though he was top 10 this past year, the knee surgery worries me. I probably should have mentioned him up top with the other guys, but him missing a month (last I heard) pretty much ruins his chance to finish top 10 I think.

      I’m a little concerned about the batting average. He still hits a ton of infield flies (8th most in 2013), so I’m not sure he’s a legit .300 hitter at the moment. It just feels like until the power fully develops (I’m sure it will) he’s destined to be a better in real life player than fantasy player.

      • Brent
        November 23, 2013 at 7:53 pm — Reply

        Last I’ve seen the front office said the expectation is that he starts opening day

        • Landon Jones
          November 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

          Thanks for the heads up. I must have missed that somehow. I’d have him near ten. In my eyes the tier that’s made up of: Sandoval, Bogaerts, Lawrie, Headley, and Machado is somewhat all personal preference. Of course on draft day it’ll all depend on their rankings and ADP.

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