2015 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2015 Fantasy Baseball: Real Offensive Value — Third Basemen

Moving to third base from second, we see a return to normalcy in terms of offensive production. Mind you, the days are gone when every team seemingly had a superstar at every position. Fantasy players have to be more discriminating than they used to be, but at least every fantasy owner in a 12-team league can find a solid third baseman to call their own.

Real offensive value (ROV) is designed to look like batting average, but the results vary considerably. It is calculated by taking the difference between batting average (.252 league average) and isolated power plus isolated patience (ISO2). The league average for that statistic is .202. That means the league average ROV is .227. We saw that a number of second basemen did not meet that mark, but third base should be a different story. Like most other stats (real or imagined) no fantasy owner should base his or her entire fortunes on it. Every stat is a tool that can be used to find value where it is hidden.

For instance, ROV does not include any component for stolen bases. So, we will include those separately in case you want to cross-reference it. Furthermore, some players may do very well in ROV but not have the runs or RBI because their teams struggle to score runs. Obviously, the reverse may also be true. When add in those caveats, we find ourselves looking for specific overrated or underrated players. For our purposes, we have divided the qualifying third basemen (plus Alex Rodriguez) in three categories: elite starters, fringe starters, and look away.

Elite Starters

AVG ISO2 ROV HR Runs RBI SB
Todd Frazier .293 .381 .337 17 41 37 6
Josh Donaldson .317 .329 .323 17 50 44 3
Alex Rodriguez .270 .338 .304 11 34 29 0
Nolan Arenado .279 .318 .299 15 31 47 0
Matt Carpenter .297 .299 .298 8 39 31 1
Kris Bryant .278 .297 .288 7 32 34 5
Statistics as of June 12th, 2015

If we were looking at the above numbers through the eyes of the average fantasy baseball fan, we would have to say that Donaldson was superior to Todd Frazier. He is either tied or ahead in four of the five major fantasy categories. Three steals isn’t enough to sway that opinion. What we do see is that the sixth category (walks or OBP) favors Frazier slightly, and he is better in the isolated power department. But most fantasy leagues don’t care about slugging unless it involves home runs.

Furthermore, Nolan Arenado is certainly making his own bid to be tossed into the consideration. Forget that he plays in the best hitter’s park in baseball. We aren’t talking about value here. We are talking raw numbers and that’s one of the advantages of a metric like ROV. It isn’t neutralized for home ballparks which means it gives you the straight skinny. The straight skinny says that ARod is the third best hitting third baseman in baseball. Go figure.

ARod’s place in baseball history is probably worth several books. I can’t begin to go there in one paragraph, but he is a guy on pace to hit 30 home runs and drive in around 90 runs if he continues hitting like he is. If any of these guys weren’t owned by less than 99 percent of owners I’d be shocked. If you are searching for value here you’d have to be doing it on the trade market.

Fringe Starters

AVG ISO2 ROV HR Runs RBI SB
Kyle Seager .280 .258 .269 10 24 34 1
Trevor Plouffe .250 .264 .257 9 24 32 0
Manny Machado .270 .239 .255 9 31 25 8
Evan Longoria .272 .233 .253 6 29 26 1
Mike Moustakas .318 .185 .252 5 31 20 1
David Freese .238 .248 .243 9 25 32 1
Luis Valbuena .180 .279 .230 12 30 21 1
Yunel Escobar .325 .130 .228 2 28 15 1

My boss is fond of telling us that readers apparently are fond of rankings. I suppose that makes sense, and I’ve tried to oblige as best I can, but I’ve always preferred tiers. The distance between Kris Bryant and Kyle Seager is a lot more significant than simply listing one sixth and the other seventh. Yet, those same 19 points take you practically down to Luis Valbuena. This doesn’t even mention the fact that Valubena’s hit another dinger as I’m typing this.

Five points separate the second guy on this list from the fifth guy. This brings up something I’ve always called replacement value (not to be confused with replacement level). In plain English, how much better is one guy than the next available guy? In this case the answer is not much. If any of them are available you might want to take a look. This is particularly true if you see anyone from the next list on your fantasy team. All of them have warts at this stage of the game. Some of them (Valbuena for instance) may have warts that are too significant to overlook. Yet, some have hidden value as well. Yunel Escobar is eligible at shortstop in addition to third, so his numbers will likely play up in your league.

Look Away

AVG ISO2 ROV HR Runs RBI SB
Adrian Beltre .257 .187 .222 6 27 18 1
Will Middlebrooks .233 .202 .218 8 20 26 2
Josh Harrison .259 .166 .213 4 30 18 4
Brett Lawrie .274 .152 .213 5 18 24 2
Chase Headley .245 .175 .210 6 24 24 0
Pablo Sandoval .241 .170 .206 5 18 17 0
Martin Prado .277 .123 .200 3 22 23 0
Nick Castellanos .230 .167 .199 4 13 26 0

Adrian Beltre was the first third baseman off the board in most draft rooms. Anthony Rendon was between two and four off the board. He isn’t even on the list and David Wright (another top ten third baseman on draft day) isn’t on the list either. These things seem to happen every year. The key is a magical cocktail that mixes thinking quickly on your feet and showing patience in players that are just in a slump. The secret is knowing when to act quickly and when to be patient. If you figure it out, let me know.

Of course, Beltre is not the only disappointment on the list. The Red Sox gave big money to Pablo Sandoval for him to solidify the middle of their lineup. That obviously hasn’t happened. Chase Headley and Martin Prado have been disappointments as well. Josh Harrison put up big numbers last season. You obviously get the idea. The bottom of the list is full of guys that some fantasy owners may still have on their teams. The big question is whether those owners should give up the ghost or not.

It always depends on who you are talking about. Since you come here for advice I would surmise that Beltre and Sandoval should bounce back eventually. Their track records suggest as much. Of course, Beltre is getting on in years and Sandoval has certainly had down seasons before. I guess that’s part of the fun of fantasy sports.

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