Welcome to the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Year in Review: Third Base article. I am blessed to cover and share my thoughts on the awesome third basemen in baseball. Three third basemen exceeded expectations, two failed to meet expectations, and two prospects to watch are all listed and discussed.
Before conducting my research, I had three names in mind for this article, and two made it. When I started the research, I looked for average draft position (ADP), stats from prior years, where they ended up ranking in statistical categories, and my biased, genuine feel for the players.
Lastly, a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to everybody who won a Fantasy Baseball Championship this season. Great job to you; enjoy it and have a great time celebrating, but do not settle. Bring that same energy into your offseason research and start prepping for Draft Day 2024 because it's right around the corner.
2023 Fantasy Baseball Year in Review: Third Base
Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
Alex Bregman now has 16 postseason home runs, 3 more than any other third baseman in postseason history https://t.co/tzf0yI3jpU
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 10, 2023
By all means, Alex Bregman exceeded expectations in 2023 and put together his best season since 2019. Coming into the year, Fantasy managers drafted Bregman at an average draft position of 60, and was the seventh third baseman off the board. His numbers, however, indicate that he was one of the highest-producing third basemen and the most consistent third baseman in 2023.
Bregman ranked first in plate appearances, first in on-base percentage, second in runs, second in walk rate, third in RBI, and third in wRC+ among qualified third basemen. This is astounding because of where he was being drafted, and if I could go back and move Bregman higher up my rankings, I would.
Jake Burger, Miami Marlins
Here is a player that was undrafted in even the deepest leagues. FantasyPros lists Jake Burger's average draft position as 614 in 2023, and he proved to be one of the best waiver wire pickups, regardless of position.
Burger finished first in slugging percentage, third in home runs, seventh in wRC+, 12th in RBI, and 14th in runs among qualified third basemen. This was done in just 540 plate appearances, ranking 17th for the position.
Burger did miss 11 days with an oblique injury in May and also played five games in the minor leagues while still with the White Sox. If he had spent more time with the Marlins this season, where he was a full-time player and not stuck in a platoon for parts of the first half, he could've finished with even better numbers.
I'm currently unsure of where exactly Burger should be ranked for next season but as of right now, I'm placing him between 11-14.
Josh Jung, Texas Rangers
Another rookie comes through for the @Rangers.
This time it's Josh Jung! pic.twitter.com/rsW1vb2RRc
— MLB (@MLB) October 7, 2023
After suffering an injury late in 2021 and missing most of the 2022 season, the Texas Rangers were finally able to promote Josh Jung in September 2022 for his MLB debut. He played 26 games and slashed a measly .204/.235/.418 with a 79 wRC+.
This led the Fantasy community to shy away from Jung in 2023 drafts. His average draft position ended at 223, ranking 23rd among eligible third basemen. Fantasy managers drafted Anthony Rendon, DJ LeMahieu, and Josh Rojas, among others, over the Rangers' top prospect.
That turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes of the year, as Jung exceeded all expectations. In 515 plate appearances, he slashed .266/.315/.467 with 25 doubles, 23 home runs, 75 runs, 70 RBI, and a 110 wRC+.
Unfortunately, he missed 43 days (August 7-September 18) with a broken left thumb. Before the injury, he was a starter in the 2023 MLB All-Star Game and the favorite to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Jung has returned and is looking better than ever in the playoffs. He has eight hits in 20 at-bats while scoring six runs and three RBI. Jung is going to be drafted as a top-six third baseman in 2024.
Manny Machado, San Diego Padres
The Padres announced that Manny Machado has undergone right elbow extension tendon repair surgery
His estimated recovery timeline is four to six months pic.twitter.com/XDmoq2q3C9
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 4, 2023
Star third baseman Manny Machado did not have a terrible season. However, he did fail to meet the expectations of being a perennial top-five third baseman. Among qualified third basemen, he ranked outside the top five in home runs, runs batted in, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and wRC+.
The biggest knock on Machado's season was where Fantasy managers drafted him. According to FantasyPros, Machado's average draft position was 13th. This was second for third basemen, behind only Jose Ramirez. Fantasy managers and analysts alike expected another MVP-caliber season from the runner-up for the 2022 National League MVP.
Where does Machado's Fantasy Baseball value stand currently? As of now, it is possibly the lowest it's ever been for two reasons. Firstly, the season he just had was one of his worst ones yet, and he has fallen behind players such as Austin Riley, Gunnar Henderson, and Jung.
Secondly, the Padres announced on October 4 that Machado underwent right elbow extension tendon repair surgery. The estimated recovery timeline is four to six months. If it's four months, Machado should be ready for the 2024 regular season, but don't be surprised if he misses April.
Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals
Similarly to Machado, Nolan Arenado did not have a terrible season but failed to meet the expectations of being a top-five third baseman. He ranked outside the top five in home runs, RBI, and batting average among third basemen. He also ranked outside the top ten in runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and wRC+.
Arenado was another player that Fantasy managers drafted to carry and lead their teams to victory, but he let them down. The Cardinals' star had an average draft position of 27, ranking fourth among third basemen. However, I pushed for Arenado to be the second third basemen to get drafted. This backfired immensely in the leagues that I drafted him.
Now Arenado did deal with a back injury that lasted the entire season. Despite this, he missed just ten days after being placed on the injured list in late September. Arenado deserves major props for this, and his resilience helped Fantasy teams because some Arenado is better than no Arenado.
2023 was arguably his worst season because it's the first time he failed to get 100 runs OR 100 RBI since 2014. After this disappointing season, there is zero chance Arenado will be ranked as a top-five third baseman in Fantasy Baseball for 2024. But he could be an attractive buy-low candidate if he returns healthy.
Prospects to Watch
Junior Caminero, Tampa Bay Rays
Junior Caminero stands poised as the next @RaysBaseball impact young hitter.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) October 5, 2023
The top prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays is 20-year-old Junior Caminero. The youngster was a surprise call-up in September, and he played in five games, recording a .235/.278/.353 slash line and a 77 wRC+ across 36 plate appearances. Caminero scored four runs and seven RBI off his eight hits (one home run, one double).
Caminero is the top third-base prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. This is comes after Caminero slashed .324/.384/.591 with 31 home runs, 85 runs, and 94 RBI across 510 minor league plate appearances in 2023. He also added 18 doubles and six triples.
Caminero may miss the big-league roster at the start of 2024 (the Rays lineup is loaded), but he will be up at one point or another. I see him making an impact similarly to rookies such as Edouard Julien, Jordan Walker, Spencer Steer, and Triston Casas. I'm thinking 20+ home runs, 60+ runs and RBI.
Colt Keith, Detroit Tigers
Last but not least for the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Year in Review: Third Basemen is Colt Keith. The second-ranked prospect in the Detroit Tigers' system (25th overall) will likely see MLB action in 2024. The fifth-round pick from 2020 has risen up the ranks after constantly improving his game.
In 2023, he split time between Double-A and Triple-A for 577 plate appearances across 126 games. Keith slashed .325/.391/.585 with a 163 wRC+ in 59 Double-A games. In 67 Triple-A games he slashed .287/.369/.521 with a 119 wRC+.
It's clear that Keith had a hard time after the Tigers promoted him and I expect him to start 2024 at Triple-A. Nonetheless, he needs to be on your mind this offseason as he prepares to make his MLB debut.
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