2020 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Preview: Rumors

by Tyler Thompson
2021 Fantasy Baseball Early March Fantasy ADP movers

The hot corner has some hot commodities for the 2020 fantasy baseball season. In the last month's worth of NFBC drafts, there are sixteen third basemen taken within the top 100 picks by ADP. That's the most out of any of the infield positions. Let's dive into some more in the 2020 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Preview.

Analyzing this same sample of NFBC drafts, there are three tiers. Tier 1 includes five players in the first two rounds. Tier 2 includes six players between rounds five and six. Finally, Tier 3 has five players between rounds seven and nine. After that, there's a drop off before two more tiers in the 100 to 150 range and 150 to 200 range.

While the depth at the position is nice, the market suggests that drafters are taking multiple third basemen early to fill in their corner infield slot. The first base group doesn't provide a lot of stability in fantasy production after the top ten or so, which drafters seem to be very aware of this offseason. Third basemen are getting scooped up early and often, especially those with multipositional eligibility.

Okay, I'm done rambling. As my friends up north would say, "tick tock". Let's get after it!

2020 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Preview

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Is Nolan Arenado's time in Colorado on the rocks?

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And not the good kind of 'on the rocks' either.

This situation is like if The Bachelor was hosted by the dude's wife. The Rockies just signed Arenado to a long-term deal a year ago and all was great! Arenado looked like he might be a Colorado-lifer despite a cleverly-placed opt-out clause in the contract. However, a down 2019 season for the Rockies and a few offseason trade rumors later have led to a situation in flux. Arenado feels betrayed, as he should.

So, what happens if Arenado gets traded? Obviously, Arenado is a great player and he will succeed wherever he goes. It'll suck that his Coors Field days will be over, but the talent is way too good to deny here. Looking at it from Colorado's angle, they do have options. Barring a trade for another third baseman that I'll mention here shortly, an Arenado trade would actually open the door for some interesting fantasy options.

Ryan McMahon would be the frontrunner for an increase in at-bats, but I believe he still gets relegated to strong platoon time only. Garrett Hampson is an interesting speedster, but he hasn't logged a single inning defensively at third between AA, AAA, and the majors. Therefore, the most interesting development would be where Brendan Rodgers fits into this mess. He was dominating AAA and got a short stint in the majors before hurting his shoulder. While he doesn't have a ton of experience at 3B, his arm translates much better to the hot corner than Hampson's arm.

However you split the time, Arenado's time in Colorado has the potential to be the most impactful move in fantasy baseball circles.

Do the Cubs find a dancing partner in the Kris Bryant sweepstakes?

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Another third baseman on the trading block is Bryant. The situation here is very similar to Arenado's. You've got a franchise player that has been made unhappy by front-office executives. If you're on the side of the executives for not giving this man his deserved money, I don't know what to tell ya. That's a WHOLE different article though. I'm sure you can find it on FanGraphs written by a much smarter person than yours truly.

Let's talk about the fantasy impact this potential deal could have. I don't see Bryant's value changing drastically unless he were to fill Arenado's void in Colorado. There are plenty of NL East teams that could use a third baseman and Bryant would be productive in any of those locations. Looking internally though, where do the Cubs go?

The first option would be to call up Nico Hoerner and play him at third or second. My colleague Joe Bond wrote about him yesterday as a player to watch in the shortstop preview. There's also the option of playing Ian Happ at third and playing Steven Souza Jr. in the outfield on a regular basis. Happ is the player I would be most interested in as a buy-low option in this scenario.

After seeing the Mookie Betts deal, I'm actually shifting towards thinking Bryant will be on the move. The Cubs have to see the player return for one year of Betts and answer every phone call they get over the next few months. Wherever Bryant lands, there will be a new happy fanbase to have his services and new fantasy options for the community to explore.

Can Manny go back to being Manny?

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The draft price on Manny Machado is as low as I can remember in the last five years. It'll cost you a fifth- or sixth-round pick on average to acquire the talents of Machado, a much cheaper price than what the Padres had to pay for him around this time last year. What can we expect from the 27-year-old in 2020?

While the 2019 stats don't look horrible at first glance, there are a couple of key splits that could worry owners. The first one is the home/road split. Getting used to a new home can be tough for a player more than just the playing part. However, moving to San Diego and the pitcher-friendly Petco Park is a different ballgame. His 88 wRC+ at home was much lower than the 128 wRC+ away from home. That being said, I'm confident that this isn't a long-term stunt of production for Machado.

The real split I wanted to look at was his lefty/righty split. I didn't remember Machado being so bad against righties (86 wRC+ last year). This was his worst year by far against righties since 2015. In particular, breaking pitches from righties got him the worst with whiff rates in the mid-30's. Without overthinking it too much, something tells me this will be the focus of his 2020 offseason.

All this to say, I'm perfectly fine with Machado dropping to his current ADP. He's shown the ability to hit for an incredible average and pop close to forty homers. Realistically, if we project a bump back in the right direction as opposed to a full comeback, 35 homers and above-average ratios are in the works.

Players on the Rise

Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics

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The super-smooth third baseman seemingly doesn't get as much credit for his bat as he should. Two straight seasons in the top 4% of the league in average exit velocity. His breakout 2019 season included 36 homers and a statcast-backed 0.250/0.342/0.506 slash line. People forget about the injuries he suffered during a 2018 season that was still respectable for fantasy purposes.

I'm expecting 2020 to be the same or better relative to 2019 for Chapman. There's nothing in his 2019 data between his splits, batted ball profile, or plate discipline numbers that suggest otherwise. In fact, I'm curious about his BABIP dropping almost 70 points from 2018 (0.338) to 2019 (0.270). If we split the difference there, which if friendly considering his exit velocity, that's a slash line bump to add to 35 homers and great run production atop a strong Oakland lineup.

While you're paying an eighth-round price, he's the 14th third baseman off the board in NFBC drafts. By Steamer projections, Chapman and the aforementioned Machado have almost identical statistics. That's a thirty-pick difference just because of name-value! If there's a draft scenario where I wait on 3B and end up going Chapman plus, say, Josh Donaldson or Mike Moustakas in back-to-back rounds, I'm going to be very pleased.

Players on the Decline

Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers

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Over the last three years, Turner has a 0.307/0.397/0.519 slash line, good for a 0.388 wOBA and 145 wRC+. Also over that stretch, he's missed 100 games. Which one of these sentences do you think has influenced his decline to a 173 ADP in NFBC drafts?

(Well, after I asked that question, I decided to Google search "Justin Turner injury" just to make sure I wasn't getting duped. All I got was an amazing quote of his saying "I don't want a fake banner in the stadium". Never change, Justin.)

The 22nd third baseman off the draft board, Turner provides a beautiful value as a corner infield option. I know I'm supposed to be "negative" in this section, but I wanted to point out Turner because of his decline in ADP with no other reason than his injury-prone nature. The way I see it, he's not hurt right now and he's a monster when he's on the field. RosterResource has the 33-year-old batting third in an absolutely stacked lineup.

What you do is take your 90 R & 90 RBI in 130 games and match that with a timely free-agent pickup midseason.

Players on the Horizon

Bobby Dalbec, Boston Red Sox

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The first base job in Boston is wide open. Boston's resigned Mitch Moreland and expect Michael Chavis to get some run between first and second. However, the most interesting option internally is ascending prospect, Bobby Dalbec.

The 24-year-old rocked every minor league level until AAA at the end of 2019. Because of this, it is expected that Dalbec will return to that level before getting a summer call-up. However, he's on the 40-man roster and is going to have a chance to fight for a job in Spring Training. Besides, his 30-game sample in AAA wasn't that bad and he's ready to produce for a Boston squad that wants to prove everyone wrong after that crazy Betts trade.

His profile reads like that of your typical three-true outcome player. He ran strikeout rates of over 30% across three levels between 2017 and 2018. Last year though, he dropped that K-rate to 24% between AA and AAA. You gotta love the double-digit walk rates and the ability to hit for power. Many sites speak highly of his raw power and athleticism as well. He actually reminds me a lot of the stock of Michael Chavis at this time last year.

Keep an eye on Dalbec during Spring Training and throw him on your watch list after your redraft league ends. He'll be a popular free-agent addition should he get an opportunity in that lineup.

Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

I wanted to throw Hayes out here as a name to keep on your watch list as well. The exceptional defensive third baseman should get a chance to shine in a depleted Pirates lineup at some point in 2020 and it deserves attention in fantasy circles.

The profile is extremely interesting for fantasy purposes. While he doesn't hit for power, his on-base ability coupled with a surprisingly high sprint speed for a third baseman makes him a stolen base target in deeper leagues. Add in a juiced ball and his ability to make solid contact and you're talking about a guy who could steal 20 bags.

We're probably a year off from solid production (remember how crazy everyone went when Cole Tucker was called up on the same team last year?), but he's certainly on the horizon. Yet another player to monitor in Spring Training.

Players to Avoid

Eduardo Escobar, Arizona Diamondbacks

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This is a weird player to avoid considering his 2019 season and reasonable ADP of 119. However, that just means the NFBC sharks know what they're doing and also avoiding him. Otherwise, you'd laugh if you could draft 35 homers and 118 RBI in the 10th round.

Checking out the expected statistics for Escobar, it's all curious. There's a 40-point drop-off between his 2019 SLG and xSLG. The xwOBA is 15 points lower than his actual wOBA as well. Match that with his lack of hard-hit balls and exit velocity and you have me skeptical. It doesn't help to mention that his second-half wRC+ of 86 was much lower than his first-half wRC+ of 127. He saw way more changeups over that span too - a pitch he hasn't fared well against his entire career.

Again, the price isn't bad considering his 2019 performance. I'm just going to be passing in favor of guys like Justin Turner or Yandy Diaz much later.

Check out the rest of the 2020 Fantasy Baseball coverage to help win your leagues.

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