If we want a third baseman with power, we can invest in one in the first round. NFBC owners are drafting four third basemen in the top ten overall. If we cannot find one later in the first round, we can wait a few rounds to draft a third baseman. Depending on where we draft, we may want to take OF's and SP's.
Josh Donaldson's power plays well in most stadiums, but he enjoyed smashing 24 of his 41 homers in Toronto last season. With the fifth pick overall, Donaldson provides 30-40 HR power, and he earned a 10.3% BB% in 2015, which is consistent with his last three years. His .314 BABIP may fall a bit this year, but will he maintain his 26% hr/f that he earned in the second-half? H2H owners watched him dominate 74% of the weeks. If he can hold his OPS gains vR, .919 in 2015 versus .727 in 2014, then Donaldson will continue to mash in 2016. Donaldson's offers 25.57% more value than an average third baseman in a 15-team league, and his value jumps to 32.77% more valuable in an 18-team league.
Nolan Arenado, taken at #6 by NFBC owners, offers youth and 40 HR power. Fantasy owners should see a slight increase in BA with Arenado's .284 BABIP last year. Even though critics will mention the thin air in Colorado, Arenado hit 22 homers on the road last year, and 20 homers at Coors. Arenado dominated 70% of his weeks for H2H owners, but he struggled with power against LHP. Arenado hit 5 HR in 135 AB against LHP versus his 37 bombs in 481 AB's against RHP. If he can raise his .778 OPS vL, then Arenado will continue to grow as a young star. OBP leagues will want to note his .323 OBP and his 5% BB%. In a 15-team points league, Arenado offers 25% more value than the average 3B, and 31% more value in an 18-team league.
Manny Machado overcame knee injuries last year, and NFBC owners are taking him at #8 overall. Machado's ability to take walks, 10% BB% last season, helps his cause, and his ability to make consistent contact, 82%, will help him in 2016. Machado's raised his hr/f from 15% in 2014 to 18% in 2015. Providing power and speed helps Machado dominate 67% of weeks for H2H owners, and he succeeded on 71% of his SB attempts last year, which could cause his SB total to drop below 20 this year. Machado provides 15% more value than the average starting 3B in 15-team leagues, and his value increases to 19.1 % in 18-team leagues.
Kris Bryant's arrival at Wrigley caused a stir in the fantasy world in 2015. Keeper league owners and dynasty owners cannot wait to watch the next five years of Bryant's career. At #9 overall, owners are ignoring his low 64% contact rate, and they are focusing on his 35-40 HR potential. Bryant's 12% BB% will help owners this year, but he only dominated half of his weeks for H2H owners last year. (54%) Bryant smashed 21 homers at Wrigley, but he only hit .243 and 5 HR in 292 road AB's. In keeper leagues, Bryant is already kept, but we could pass up Bryant to draft Todd Frazier in one-year leagues because Bryant only offers 4% more value in 15-team leagues and 5.1% more value in 18-team leagues.
If we miss out on the first rounders, we have several 3B options between picks 45-100. Todd Frazier leads the pack at the end of the third round and pick #44. Frazier's .271 BABIP should increase to help his BA, and Frazier still offers 30 HR power. Frazier helped H2H owners by dominating 63% of his weeks last year, and he offers 8% more value in a 15-team league, which increases to 12% in a 18-team league. We should not draft Frazier for 20 SB potential, especially when he only succeeded on 56% of his second-half SB attempts. His 2015 second-half struggles mirrored his 75% second-half contact rate and 9% second-half hr/f. Luckily, Frazier's change from Great American Park to US Cellular Field won't hurt his HR power too much. Right-handed batters have a 13% advantage for homers in Chicago versus a 17% HR advantage in Cincinnati.
Owners are drafting Matt Carpenter at #67, and he provides similar value to Frazier in a 15-team league because Carpenter is 7% more valuable than the average 3B. Carpenter started slowly in 2015, and his 20 second-half homers were aided by a 22% hr/f when compared to his 9% hr/f in the first-half, which could lead to some 2016 regression. His contact slipped from 78% in the first-half last season to 70% in the second-half. Carpenter dominated 59% of his weeks for H2H owners, and his 12% BB% should give us hope in points/OBP leagues. The splits give us a different story. Carpenter struggled versus LHP last year, hitting .228 versus LHP overall and only .191 against LHP on the road. Daily games will want to monitor Carpenter's LHP/RHP splits again this year because Carpenter consistently hits RHP to the tune of .285 at home and .300 on the road.
Kyle Seager is leaving the board a few spots after Carpenter at #69. Seager's .278 BABIP last year should lead to a few more hits this season. Seager's consistency in H2H leagues, in which he dominated 70% of the weeks, help push him up H2H draft rankings. Seager's 84% contact rate and 8% BB% hint to further upside, but Seager struggled at home last year, hitting 7 HR's with a .237 BA at Safeco Field echoes his .246 career BA at home. As a fifth round pick, we should start Seager, but we should also be aware of his Home/Road splits because he hit .295 with 19 HR's on the road last year. In points leagues, Seager provides close to average 3B value at 2% above average.
In the third tier, we start to dip below average value in a 15-team league. Adrian Beltre, at pick #98, still smashes LHP with a .939 OPS vL, and he makes contact 89% of the time. Beltre dominated 60% of his weeks for H2H owners. Beltre needs to hit fewer GB, 42% GB the last two years, and he needs a little more power to increase his 10% hr/f. We should notice the disparity between Beltre's .332 home BA with 13 homers compared to .240 road BA with 5 homers. Beltre will not cost us value in 15-team leagues because he is the league average 3B, but owners searching for 30 HR power should look for another 3B.
Evan Longoria's name still carries some weight in some leagues, but some keeper league owners are still holding onto 30 HR potential at pick #116. Longoria's .695 OPS vR and .245 BA vR does not bode well for a BA boost, but he did hit .342 against LHP in 2015. Longoria struggles against RHP's sliders, which he sees 15-16% of the time. He disappointed H2H owners by only dominating 44% of his weeks, and in a 15-team league, he is -3% when compared to the average 3B. Those owners looking for a positive side will turn to his multiple seasons of 20 homers or more, but we need Longoria to raise his 11% hr/f the last two seasons to hit for more power. We should remind ourselves that Tropicana Field hurts RHB power at a -17% rate.
In keeper leagues, Maikel Franco is the target in the third tier at pick #108. Franco dominated 69% of his weeks for H2H owners last year, and his 82% contact rate should help provide more consistency. We love that Citizens Bank Park provides a 40% advantage for Right-handed HR's, and Franco should hit for more power if he can raise his 35% Fly-ball rate. Franco's power played well at home and on the road in 2015. Even though Franco will cost us -10.8% in value at third base in a 15-team league, he's a strong keeper target. Some owners will ask themselves the following question: how will he respond to his wrist injury last year?
There is a 50-point drop from the third tier to the last tier at 3B. We will look at Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos in the last tier, but Matt Duffy and Josh Harrison are also included in the group.
Mike Moustakas' statistics back up his 20 HR power from last season. Moustakas' 86% contact rate, 41% FB, and 11% hr/f helped him dominate 63% of weeks in H2H leagues. While he costs owners -15% of value in 15-team leagues, Moustakas hit .285 at home and .283 on the road. His consistency against LHP and RHP, .282 and .286 respectively, provides stability for daily owners. He gave up BA points for power in the second-half of last year. Roto owners would take another 15-homer half with a .265 BA, especially when its supported by a 48% FB rate.
The Tigers are hoping for Nick Castellanos' power to come around, but his 72% contact rate and a low 33% weekly-dominance in H2H leagues concerns us. Detroit's park suppresses homers at a -5% rate, but daily owners will note that Castellanos hit .351 against LHP in 114 AB last year with a .970 OPS vLHP. Castellanos could provide value at pick #253 if he can create more consistent contact and keep his 14% second-half hr/f rate.
We can invest early for third base power, or we can wait until the serviceable middle tier at this position. Keeper league owners will want to invest in one of the elite options, but one-year owners should review the Fangraphs article from today that suggests that OF and SP provide more reliable production.