The beginning of Spring Training is always a good opportunity to reboot the rankings at each position. Drafts are coming up next month and the rankings earlier in the offseason were based on players before they moved to new teams and on past performance. Baseball Prospectus has released their PECOTA projections and we will use that to gauge each player’s value based on future projections instead of past value.
We will include all eligible third basemen even if they primarily play another position. We will look at the six primary categories (including walks) and BP’s true average. True average distills out the effects of home ballpark and combines everything a player does into a statistic that looks like batting average. Sometimes we may disagree with PECOTA and we will definitely include that when appropriate.
- Kris Bryant—Chicago Cubs
PECOTA: .281, 30 HR, 105 Runs, 91 RBI, 8 SB, 76 BB
Bryant is one of those Cubs that seems to be able to play anywhere. He can play third, first, and in the corner outfield slots. As a star performer this makes him that much more valuable. The Cubs are loaded with talent, so that should help his numbers play up too.
- Josh Donaldson—Toronto Blue Jays
PECOTA: .275, 31 HR, 107 Runs, 95 RBI, 5 SB, 82 BB
This is a contract year for Donaldson and we have to imagine he will be one of the top five free agents next offseason. The Blue Jays are in transition, but they’ve decided to try to compete with increased depth. Still, there isn’t a player in that lineup that will scare teams as much as Donaldson. That could hurt his counting numbers.
- Manny Machado—Baltimore Orioles
PECOTA: .282, 27 HR, 97 Runs, 86 RBI, 8 SB, 46 BB
Machado is opening up the season as the Orioles shortstop. It’s almost as if it’s a going away present to him so his contract value explodes even more. Machado has similar value in fantasy terms at both third and short. The only element missing from his game is patience.
- Nolan Arenado—Colorado Rockies
PECOTA: .281, 29 HR, 81 Runs, 96 RBI, 2 SB, 43 BB
Arenado has three straight seasons where he has 120 or more RBI. In fact, he’s averaged over 130 a season in that span. BP consistently projects him here and I suppose it makes sense. Projecting someone to drive in 130 runs a season seems silly. At some point, even if something seems silly you go with it. Do I believe these numbers or more lying eyes?
- Alex Bregman—Houston Astros
PECOTA: .271, 23 HR, 95 Runs, 79 RBI, 13 SB, 58 BB
Bregman is also eligible at short and that helps his value play up over similar players. Bregman has rebounded each of the last two seasons following slow starts. Placing him here is a bet that there will not be a slow start. Unfortunately, growth is rarely ever linear.
- Joey Gallo—Texas Rangers
PECOTA: .215, 36 HR, 88 Runs, 97 RBI, 6 SB, 78 BB
Gallo has been penciled in as the Rangers first baseman, but he will be eligible at both based on his time here last season. That’s only important because first basemen tend to be more durable. That will allow Gallo to put up huge numbers across the board in every category except batting average and steals.
- Adrian Beltre—Texas Rangers
PECOTA: .290, 23 HR, 84 Runs, 92 RBI, 1 SB, 52 BB
Everyone ages differently. Some of us can’t perform as well as we used to in our prime. Others perform just as well but can’t do it as often. Beltre belongs in the second group. He produces at the same value point but nagging injuries have kept him out of the lineup more often. He is healthy now, but we can’t predict what will happen tomorrow.
- Kyle Seager—Seattle Mariners
PECOTA: .261, 24 HR, 83 Runs, 90 RBI, 4 SB, 61 BB
Consistency matters. Seager consistently produces around 25 home runs and 90 RBI every season. He has never been brilliant, but he has always been very good. There is something to be said for that kind of consistent performance. In some cases, it beats out occasional brilliance or what Roger Waters called “random precision.”
- Miguel Sano—Minnesota Twins
PECOTA: .245, 32 HR, 87 Runs, 97 RBI, 1 SB, 74 BB
Sometimes it’s impossible to win. I certainly believe the allegations against Sano and that makes him a bad guy. Bad guys can be redeemed. Sometimes we can hold our nose and put that kind of guy on our team. Sometimes we can’t. As a player, he probably rates above Seager and maybe even Beltre. We drop him because he will be serving a suspension of undetermined length.
- Matt Carpenter—St. Louis Cardinals
PECOTA: .263, 17 HR, 84 Runs, 69 RBI, 2 SB, 79 BB
Carpenter is also eligible at first base and he probably should have made the bottom of the rankings there. PECOTA is projecting some time lost to injury and the fact that the Cardinals infield is pretty crowded. There have some whispers that he could play some at second base and if that is the case then his value shoots through the roof.
- Justin Turner—Los Angeles Dodgers
PECOTA: .282, 21 HR, 80 Runs, 84 RBI, 6 SB, 53 BB
In a classic World Series, someone has to win and someone has to lose. It’s often unfair. The Dodgers were just about as good as the Astros and Turner is one of their better ones. Losing makes others forget about you and that is especially when you struggle a little like Turner. Don’t sleep on him too much on draft day.
- Anthony Rendon—Washington Nationals
PECOTA: .277, 19 HR, 79 Runs, 79 RBI, 8 SB, 64 BB
Here is betting on another healthy season out of Rendon. The Nationals offense could be one of the best in the National League. If the rumors of their interest in J.T. Realmuto are true then it could go even higher.
Top Bench Depth
- Jake Lamb—Arizona Diamondbacks
PECOTA: .250, 24 HR, 78 Runs, 84 RBI, 5 SB, 64 BB
Two straight 100 RBI seasons are hard to ignore. Sure, they lost J.D. Martinez, but they also replaced him with Steve Souza. Add in a healthy A.J. Pollock with Paul Goldschmidt and you have a really good offense again.
- Jose Ramirez—Cleveland Indians
PECOTA: .281, 14 HR, 76 Runs, 72 RBI, 20 SB, 46 BB
Ramirez was one of the top five offensive performers in the AL last year. PECOTA is projecting a drop off and his profile doesn’t fare well at a very deep position. It fares better at second base where he is also eligible. Of course, the combination makes him an intriguing fantasy prospect.
- Matt Chapman—Oakland Athletics
PECOTA: .226, 32 HR, 82 Runs, 88 RBI, 4 SB, 58 BB
The A’s will be an intriguing team next year with Olson and Chapman playing a full season across from each other. Chapman is a Gold Glove fielder in addition to the offense he brings. Couple them with Khris Davis and you have something. It isn’t enough to compete for a wild card but it’s enough to be entertaining.
- Eugenio Suarez—Cincinnati Reds
PECOTA: .250, 21 HR, 74 Runs, 77 RBI, 7 SB, 54 BB
Suarez was what we called an organizational player. When teams rebuild they often stash flawed players at certain positions until something better comes along. Suarez was that guy at third base. A funny thing happened along the way: he developed. Now, he is arguably a top half third baseman. He might survive the purge once the Reds become competitive again.
- Todd Frazier—New York Mets
PECOTA: .238, 28 HR, 75 Runs, 82 RBI, 10 SB, 54 BB
Give the Mets some credit. They are bringing in Jay Bruce, Adrian Gonzalez, and Frazier into help them compete. Is it enough? It probably isn’t, but at least they aren’t tanking. There are enough hitters around to help him produce some numbers.
- Travis Shaw—Milwaukee Brewers
PECOTA: .248, 24 HR, 75 Runs, 82 RBI, 6 SB, 51 BB
It’s easy to get giddy when you see 100 RBI of production. That intensifies when you see them add Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. This is where magical thinking happens. 100 RBI plus new players equals 110 or 120 RBI. Life rarely ever works out that way. Somewhere a sabermetrician is screaming, “that is not how this works.”