Fantasy Baseball 2014 Positional Preview: Third Base
So, you need power.
The hot corner has served as one of the premiere sources of power for fantasy owners for years. I mean, in 2013, the top-10 players at the position combined to smash a total of 255 home runs. And when you consider that only 11 players in baseball hit 30 home runs last year, and four of them were third basemen, you begin to understand why they call it the hot corner.
Perhaps the purest hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera is the clear-cut top fantasy third basemen, and arguably the best overall player. If it hadn’t been for a major power surge from Chris Davis, Miggy would have taken home his second consecutive Triple Crown, something that has never, ever been done before. A career .321 hitter, Cabrera seemingly does whatever he wants at the plate, leading all of baseball in that category in two of the last three seasons. In fact, according to ESPN, Cabrera has hit 17 more home runs, batted seven points higher and drove in 52 more runs than anyone in baseball over the last five years. Last season was his lowest game total of his career, and was still a very respectable 148, so you know he’s as safe as it comes, which warrants attention for the top overall pick. And with Prince Fielder off to Texas, Miggy will slide back to first base, providing dual position eligibility.
There’s no contest.
While Miggy has been out of this world, Adrian Beltre has been perhaps the most reliable player in baseball recently. The guy is money in the bank for .300/30/100, as he’s seemingly done it in four straight seasons. Over the last three years, he is the only third baseman in the league to bat at least .275 with 25 homers and 75 RBI each year. It seems like owners keep expecting Beltre, who turns 35 in April, to regress, but they continue to wait. Playing in one of the more hitter friendly ballparks in the league is very appealing, too. He should easily reach 100 RBI after adding leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo, who boasts a career on-base percentage of .389. Another year, another dominant, but often overlooked, Beltre.
The Very Good
After years of the injury prone tag, Evan Longoria posted a very good 2013 campaign. Longoria posted a career high in games (160) and plate appearances (693), resulting in 32 home runs (2nd-most in career), 88 RBI and 91 runs. He’s one of the premiere power hitters at his position, heck, in the entire league. He does strike out quite a bit (162 in 2013), but with that, he gets on base, sporting an on-base percentage of .357 for his career. The runs will come, and if you are in a roto league, he’ll walk anywhere between 70-80 times.
Speaking of Rotisserie leagues, David Wright is very, very strong in such formats. The guy is a career .301 batter, averaging close to 70 walks per season, and on a per 162 games played basis, he is averaging a strong 26 homers, 103 RBI, 22 stolen bases and 101 runs scored. There is some major injury risk here, however, as Wright has made three trips to the DL over the last five seasons. ESPN states that he’s missed an uncomforting 17 percent of the Mets games during that span, which may cause hesitation on draft day. I’m not sure if he’s a 20-25 home run guy anymore, as he’s aging and there is plenty of space in the Mets ballpark, but his all around game makes him remain a top-five third baseman in fantasy.
If you want to wait…
We’ve been saying it for years. “If Brett Lawrie can stay healthy, he’ll be a star.”
We’re waiting, Brett.
Lawrie’s often reckless play resulted in more injuries in 2013, as he dealt with ribs, oblique and an ankle injury, limiting his fantasy prospects. However, there were some positives. He improved on both his walk and strikeout rate, perhaps proving that he is progressing as a hitter. However, even with 25-home run power, Lawrie needs to improve on his fly-ball rate (35 percent) if he wants to be in that range. He’s still just 24-years old and has plenty of time to put it together, so for the second straight year, consider Lawrie a post-hype sleeper. He’ll play everyday (you know, unless he’s hurt) in a hitter friendly park with a strong supporting cast.
A legitimate candidate to lead the NL in home runs again, Pedro Alvarez was an incredible source of power last year, smashing an impressive 36 homers. It’s pretty simple with Alvarez. He is going to murder your batting average, but will make up for it by hitting 35-40 homers. His 66 home runs over the last two seasons are more than Wright has over his last three seasons. However, this guy could flirt with a still bad .250 average, but it won’t kill you. He improved his plate discipline last season, as well as dropping his groundball rate. If you aren’t targeting the elite guys, Alvarez is one of the guys you want to go after.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.