The MLB season is 10 days away, and ESPN’s fantasy baseball experts have gathered to break down each position to help you prepare your draft-day strategy.
How are our fantasy analysts approaching the third base position, and which players are they picking and avoiding in their drafts?
For more position previews, plus rankings, cheat sheets and mock drafts, check out our draft kit.
How are you approaching the third base position this season?
Several of my deep-league sleepers play third base, and while that is perhaps the first thing I notice about the position, it is not the only thing. Third base is solid at the top with several building block options, and even though there is a drop-off to No. 5 choice Anthony Rendon, he seems to be the one I end up acquiring. Rendon finished last season fourth at the position on the Player Rater. I am also willing to wait until the middle rounds for a certain future Hall of Famer nobody seems to want, even though he hit .312 with power last season. — Eric Karabell
Third base is the one position for which I don’t have any defined strategy. I think it’s deep but also has some of the more intriguing values of any one particular spot. This could result in it being one of the more heavily drafted spots in some leagues, or one where I might be able to get cheaper options in the later rounds depending on how the draft plays out. A weekend auction draft of mine featured a lot of quality talent at the position still available at discounts late. — Tristan H. Cockcroft
Third base is, in a word, loaded. The top 10 at the position all project to give back enough value to merit being selected in the first six rounds. The next eight names should all be off the board by the end of Round 12. In other words, I don’t see an absolute need to take Nolan Arenado in Round 1. While I’d be completely happy to end up with enough hot corner residents to use one at my CO spot and another at UT, if I’m debating between two players of generally equivalent value, I’ll probably select the non-3B player since odds are good that waiting another round or two at this position will not hurt me. — AJ Mass
With just over 21 percent of 25-homer guys residing at third base last season, there is no question that I want some pop from the hot corner. Having said that, the third base position also has a plethora of hitters who combine power with average (22 percent of the players who hit 25-plus home runs while also batting at least .270 played the position), so this is a position I will pay up for to make sure I am getting reliable production. — Kyle Soppe
My sleeper at third base is:
Adrian Beltre might be older than every other third baseman, but he is not too old to supply top-100 value — yet his ADP continues to slip. Beltre hit last season. He hit well. He also got a year older. It is an obvious bias, but Beltre makes my top 100. I also really like Miami’s Brian Anderson, a more obvious sleeper for the final round or two. — Eric Karabell
I’m probably the most pro-Matt Chapman of anyone out there, putting him on my recent “Tristan’s Twenty” list. I think his defense is so good that the typically matchups-driven Oakland Athletics will roll him out there almost every single day, fueling his counting numbers. A 30-homer season isn’t out of the question. — Tristan H. Cockcroft
How early would you draft a guy who gives you 24 homers, 74 RBIs, 8 SBs and a .294 BA? That’s in the ballpark of what Rendon gave you in 2017, earning him a sixth-place finish in NL MVP voting. However, it’s also what Travis Shaw gave you last season — entering play on Aug. 1. After a slow start to the spring, his bat is heating up again with four homers in his last 21 at-bats. Currently, his ADP barely has him in the top 10 at third base, but I think he’s got an outside shot at finishing in the top three. — AJ Mass
Evan Longoria might not scream “sleeper” to you, as everyone is well aware of the newest San Francisco Giants slugger, but ADP has him sitting as 3B16 and the 164th overall player. That leaves nice ROI potential. At the bare minimum, you can count on him being on the field (he is the only player in the bigs with 600-plus at-bats in each of the past five seasons), but I think the potential for a resurgent season goes beyond that. He figures to be batting in the middle third of the lineup, and while the Giants won’t light up the scoreboard much, the hitters slotted above him combine to have a career OBP in the .360 range. Longoria set a career high in contact percentage last season, and if that contact is coming with men regularly on base, I think he could make a run at his first 100-RBI season since 2010. — Kyle Soppe
My bust at third base is:
The price tag on Arizona’s Jake Lamb has fallen quite a bit since last season, just like his batting average did, but now I have concerns about batting average and power. Lamb just cannot compete with left-handed pitching, and the fact that his home ballpark is using a humidor to keep offense in check does not bode well for a player who has hit 35 of his 59 home runs in Phoenix over the past two seasons. — Eric Karabell
I share Eric’s concern here. No one stands out as a particularly poor pick using ADP as the measure, but Lamb is a player I don’t anticipate landing in too many leagues. Too much of his fantasy value is tied up in home runs (and resulting RBIs), as he graded below average in a mixed league context for batting average last season, and the introduction of a humidor at Arizona’s Chase Field this season threatens his ability to repeat the power output. — Tristan H. Cockcroft
Manny Machado had a great season in 2017 — from June 1 on, that is, with a .284 BA, 23 homers and 70 RBIs. That said, beyond the .205 BA he posted over the first 50 games of the season, Machado hit just .229 on the road last season, which is a bit concerning. Add in the extra wear and tear that could come from the move to shortstop and I’m simply concerned that Round 2 might be too soon, especially if Machado has another extended slump and starts to press given his “walk year” status. Machado could indeed win the AL MVP with 45 homers if all goes well, but I’m not sure I want to bank on that. — AJ Mass
My goal is to get a well-rounded third baseman, and it’s safe to say that Joey Gallo does not qualify as such. Thanks, but no thanks. In his first full season, Gallo ranked behind only Chris Davis in strikeout percentage (36.8 percent), a major concern on its own, but when you consider that he wasn’t even among the top 50 players in chase rate, you really have to wonder if his approach is anywhere refined enough to return value for a top-100 pick. If he had a high chase rate, I could hope for growth and call upon his production when swinging at strikes, but the fact that I can’t explain the high K-rate by an inability to identify strikes worries me. I believe this Texas offense as a whole is a bit overrated, as Elvis Andrus is poised to regress and Shin-Soo Choo and Beltre have seen better days. Gallo simply doesn’t fit my profile, and there is enough depth at the position to not take such a hit in the batting average department. — Kyle Soppe
If I could get any third baseman at his current draft position cost to build around in drafts, it would be:
The big four third basemen are pretty obvious, so I will go with Rendon, coming off a season in which he batted .301 with power and was one of a handful of players to earn more walks than strikeouts. The baseline for Rendon might not be as high as it is for Arenado, but you do not have to spend a top-five pick to secure him, either. Rendon also chips in stolen bases, which you will not find many of at this position. — Eric Karabell
If it’s not Chapman, the other third baseman I’m drafting everywhere is Rendon. His reputation for being injury-prone is a little unfair, as he has averaged 134 games played over the past four seasons and appeared in at least 147 in each of the past two. He’s also capable of contributing positive numbers in all five categories, averaging .280-20-84 with 10 stolen bases and 94 runs scored per 162 games played in his career. — Tristan H. Cockcroft
Nicholas Castellanos qualifies at third base, though he’ll be far less taxed by manning right field for the Detroit Tigers on the regular in 2018. In 21 games in the outfield last season, Castellanos hit .380 with five homers and 20 RBIs — all of which took place in the season’s final month — which is why we’re not at all worried about his transition to a new position. If anything, freed from the stress of worrying about potential line drives headed for his noggin, he should see his offensive production continue to surge. So far this spring, he’s slugging .763 in 38 at-bats. I’m buying it. — AJ Mass
Alex Bregman is a star, and this will be as cheap as you will be able to get him for the next decade. So yeah, take advantage. His OPS in the second half last season was greater than that of Cody Bellinger, and I don’t think it was at all a fluke, as he showed nice growth in knocking 3.2 percentage points off of his strikeout rate after the All-Star break. The Houston Astros scored 38 more runs than any other offense on the planet last season, and with no real reason to think that changes, Bregman is not only the best building block given his draft-day price at the hot corner, he also sits atop my overall targets list. The only thing standing in the way of true stardom (other than the impending breakout campaign) is a good nickname, so let’s get on that. — Kyle Soppe
The young third baseman who could break out is:
One should not assume that Castellanos emerges as a star simply because he no longer needs to play third base. That should help him concentrate more on his hitting, but the fact is Castellanos has been trending as a star hitter for a while. He hits baseballs hard with enough lift for 35 home runs and a strong batting average. I see a breakout coming. — Eric Karabell
Nick Senzel is going to make his major league debut sometime this season, and the fact that he’s still in Cincinnati Reds‘ big league camp 10 days before spring training concludes is a very good sign that he’s firmly in the Reds’ near-future plans. The team has been getting creative with him in the infield, which could help in terms of position flexibility, and he has a good combination of batting average and power potential to make him a worthwhile late-round stash, even in re-draft formats. — Tristan H. Cockcroft
Gallo’s 2017 was quite the campaign, as he became one of only seven players since 1980 to strike out more than 175 times while also compiling less than 100 hits. Add to the mix that 43.6 percent of those hits were home runs and we’re looking at the very definition of an all-or-nothing bat. That said, the Rangers are talking about hitting Gallo No. 2 in the order to allow him to see more first-pitch fastballs, thanks to the speed of leadoff hitter Delino DeShields. Given that Gallo hit .310 last year when putting the first pitch of his at-bats into play, I’m looking for the 24-year-old to take a huge step forward. — AJ Mass
A proud member of the elite first-name, last-initial club, Kyle Seager changed his approach last season to produce more fly balls, and it was a bit of a bumpy ride. He set a career low with a .249 batting average, but what do you expect when making a midseason adjustment? Seager’s batting eye was as strong as ever (career-low chase rate), and the addition of Dee Gordon should result in more traffic on the bases. I’m expecting both his quality and quantity of hits to increase. I’m labeling “breakout” as someone who will improve on 2017 and provide strong value, which I think Seager does in spades this season. — Kyle Soppe
New York Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu on verge of winning AL batting title
NEW YORK — DJ LeMahieu is on the verge of a first in more than a century of Major League Baseball: the first player to win undisputed batting titles in both the American and National Leagues.
Luke Voit is about to become a more common name atop the leaderboards but part of an illustrious list, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Alex Rodriguez as New York Yankees to top the majors in home runs.
“I’ve always admired the Babe,” Voit said after the Yankees woke up from their latest slump to beat the Miami Marlins 11-4 on Saturday and kept their hold on the AL’s No. 5 postseason seed going into the final day. “It’s just awesome company. That guy hit 700 home runs (714 to be exact). That means I got to start hitting like 150 a year to catch up to him. So that’s never going to happen.”
LeMahieu had his fourth four-hit game and three RBIs while raising his average to .359. He passed Washington’s Juan Soto (.346) for the big league lead and opened a large margin over defending AL batting champion Tim Anderson of the White Sox, second in the AL at .337.
“This game’s been around for a long time, and I think anyone who’s watched knows just how special a player DJ LeMahieu’s been for us in these two years,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
LeMahieu won the 2016 NL batting title with a .348 average for Colorado. Ed Delahanty hit .410 for the Philadelphia Phillies to win the NL championship in 1899; he is credited by some researchers with the 1902 AL championship at .376, while others accept Nap Lajoie as winning that title at .378 despite lacking the plate appearances required in more modern times.
“Guys don’t win batting titles in both leagues, because you win it in one league, they probably keep you,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly, the 1984 AL batting champion with the Yankees. “It’s a different game nowadays.”
A 32-year-old infielder in his second season with the Yankees, LeMahieu will become New York’s first batting champion since Bernie Williams in 1998.
Voit hit a three-run drive against Nick Vincent in a seven-run sixth for a 10-3 lead. He has made 38 consecutive starts, including 19 straight at first base, despite an injured foot.
“I’ve been trying to transform myself into a better power hitter and this year was another steppingstone for me,” Voit said. “I’ve always been a guy, high school, college, minors. I play through stuff. I’m a grinder. I want to be out there. I want to help a team, especially when we were hurting earlier in the year and I had to do whatever it took to be out there. So I was making sure I was getting plenty of treatment from all of our trainers and trying to stay on top of it so I could play through it and not be like killing me.”
Yankees rookie Deivi Garcia (3-2) allowed four runs and seven hits in 6⅔ innings with seven strikeouts and a walk. Boone has not announced whether Garcia or left-hander J.A. Happ will follow Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka as his playoff starters.
Preparing for a first-round playoff series on the road, likely at Cleveland or Tampa Bay, the Yankees (33-26) are trying to hold off third-place Toronto (32-27) and keep the No. 5 seed. New York’s season has flowed and drifted like the tide: a 16-6 start, following by a 5-15 slide, a 10-game winning streak and five losses in a six-game span coming in.
Wade’s homer off the second deck in right ended the Yankees’ first five-game homerless streak since April 1-5, 2014. They have scored nearly half their runs via the long ball, 156 of 315, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“Any spark to get us going, especially with the last game coming up tomorrow and going to the playoffs,” Wade said after his third homer this season.
“I feel like we’re always one swing away,” Voit said. “We just need to get that one to get us going.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Los Angeles’ Angels Mike Trout — ‘We gotta get to the playoffs’
The Los Angeles Angels were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention at Dodger Stadium on Friday night, which means that in nine full seasons in the major leagues, Mike Trout — considered by many the game’s greatest player for most, if not all, of those seasons — has made the playoffs only once.
“The biggest thing is getting to the playoffs,” Trout said Saturday, moments before the second of a three-game series against the cross-town Los Angeles Dodgers. “You guys all see it. I see it. It sucks being out of it. It’s time. We gotta get to the playoffs.”
Trout made the playoffs in 2014, when the Angels suffered a first-round sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals. The 2020 season will now mark the fifth consecutive time his Angels have finished with a losing record, even though the offseason additions of manager Joe Maddon and third baseman Anthony Rendon had many believing the team might contend for a championship.
The Angels lost 25 of their first 37 games but have since won 14 of 21. The 60-game season didn’t provide enough time to make up ground.
“It could be a different story if we played a full season,” Trout said. “We got hot just a little late and fell short.”
The end result, a postseason absence even though Major League Baseball expanded the field to 16 teams, could lead to the firing of general manager Billy Eppler, who’s winding down his fifth season with the team and hasn’t been extended beyond 2020.
Eppler played a lead role in recruiting Shohei Ohtani, was a big reason Trout basically decided to spend his entire career with the Angels and took steps to rebuild the farm system, adding high-ceiling talent such as Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh. But Eppler consistently came up short addressing the pitching staff; the manager he appointed in 2019, Brad Ausmus, lasted only one season. Decorated executive Dave Dombrowski has been rumored inside and outside of baseball to be his successor.
“Billy was a big reason why I signed back here,” Trout said. “We’ve built a friendship over the years. He’s put a lot of great teams together, and it just didn’t work out these last few years. The relationship and the friendship I’ve built with Billy — it obviously goes beyond baseball now. I’ve had a couple GMs come in here; I’ve never had the GM relationship I’ve had with him with anybody else.”
Trout, who became a father eight weeks ago, was batting .281/.390/.603 with 17 home runs in 241 plate appearances heading into Saturday’s game. He ranked seventh among major league position players in FanGraphs wins above replacement, and though he continually called this season “a grind,” Trout will undoubtedly finish within the top five in American League Most Valuable Player voting for the ninth consecutive year. But he’ll be 30 next year — and is still chasing October.
“I don’t like losing,” Trout said. “I wanna get to the playoffs. Every time we get into spring, our main goal is to get to the playoffs and bring a championship back to Anaheim. That’s just the mindset. When you’re that close and you come up short, it sucks.”
Chicago White Sox’s Jimmy Cordero suspended 3 games for hitting Willson Contreras
Chicago White Sox pitcher Jimmy Cordero was suspended three games for intentionally hitting Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, while manager Rick Renteria got a one-game ban, Major League Baseball announced Saturday.
Cordero hit Contreras during Friday’s blowout loss to the Cubs, several innings after Contreras threw his bat high into the air to celebrate a three-run homer.
“I knew it was coming,” Contreras said after the game. “I have no regrets, zero regrets. Once they hit me, I don’t think that’s the smartest thing to do. He got thrown out. And who knows if he’s going to get suspended?”
Renteria will serve his suspension during Saturday’s game against the Cubs. He and pitching coach Don Cooper also were fined an undisclosed amount.
It is unknown at this time if Cordero will appeal the suspension.
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