MARKET PULSE: Third basemen of 2018

NOTE: Our preseason Market Pulse column is an exercise in identifying the gaps between the valuation of the "popular" market (as reflected in Average Draft Position, or "ADP") and that of BaseballHQ.com. If a player is not listed here, it's likely that he qualifies at a scarcer position, or he's not in the ADP top 500-600 (it's a bit fluid). Remember that this is an exercise in relative valuation, not absolute.

Each hitter is being considered at his scarcest qualified position (in order: C/DH, SS, 2B, 3B, 1B, OF), as it is the scarcest eligible position that typically drives fantasy value. The rankings are a risk- and position-adjusted estimate using current BaseballHQ.com projections. It is a purely quantitative ranking, with no specific consideration of "upside" (aside from reliability scores). The dollar values are position adjusted, but do not incorporate risk. Average auction values are approximate. These are not the "official" BaseballHQ.com straight-draft rankings, but they should be close.

Note that this article assumes a standard 15-team, mixed, 5x5 league, though the recommendations here will generally apply in most formats. Note also that a positive number in the "Diff" column indicates a player that BaseballHQ.com ranks lower than the "market," and a negative number indicates we have the player ranked higher, based on ADP. The list is split into tiers, based on the ADP.

(NFBC ADP Report) | Unofficial Rankings

Previous Columns: C/DH | SS | 2B

In doing this annual exercise, we often find a position where BaseballHQ.com is consistently above or below the market. Third base is not an extreme example, but we are consistently rating third basemen higher than the market. This appears to be a good place to find some value (and there are values to be had). Overall, the group is one where you'll find good choices at most points in the draft, and you'll get what you would typically expect from third base: good batting average with power and not much speed.

Oh, the "don't draft" guy from the teaser? There isn't one. It's all about value, remember?

(Players in bold are profiled in more detail below.)

                                     HQ                      --  HQ Projections --
Player               TM POS REL ADP Rank Diff HQ$ AAV Diff |  AB AVG HR RBI  R  SB
==================  === === === === ==== ==== === === ==== | === === == === === ==
Arenado, Nolan      COL   5 AAB   5    4   -1  37  43   -6 | 590 301 38 123  98  2
Bryant, Kris        CHC   5 AAB  16    9   -7  31  31    0 | 563 295 30  87 110  9
Machado, Manny      BAL   5 BAB  19   30   11  26  30   -4 | 599 282 31  89  93  8
Donaldson, Josh     TOR   5 BAA  28   42   14  23  26   -3 | 496 278 34  89  86  4
Rendon, Anthony     WAS   5 BBD  58   39  -19  25  19    6 | 569 284 27  96  88  8
Turner, Justin       LA   5 BBC  86   49  -37  22  15    7 | 522 296 26  87  76  6

Shaw, Travis        MIL   5 ABC  95   88   -7  14  14    0 | 525 256 26  82  73  7
Sano, Miguel        MIN   5 CCC  98   85  -13  17  14    3 | 546 249 34  88  86  1
Castellanos, Nick   DET 5o9 BAC 104   61  -43  19  13    6 | 605 276 28  95  69  3
Moustakas, Mike      FA   5 DCB 111  114    3  16  12    4 | 571 268 34  79  71  0
Gallo, Joey         TEX  53 ACB 116   97  -19  13  12    1 | 470 221 38  78  77  6
Lamb, Jacob         ARI   5 ABB 118  107  -11  12  12    0 | 479 265 22  79  71  4
Devers, Rafael      BOS   5 AFF 128  102  -26  13  11    2 | 500 276 21  73  74  3
Seager, Kyle        SEA   5 AAC 134   71  -63  16  11    5 | 587 259 28  87  80  3

Beltre, Adrian      TEX  50 BBC 159   68  -91  18   9    9 | 495 297 22  92  70  1
Suarez, Eugenio     CIN   5 AAB 190   87 -103  14   7    7 | 576 254 24  78  83  7
Healy, Ryon         SEA  35 ABD 193  111  -82  12   7    5 | 583 271 26  74  69  0
Longoria, Evan       SF   5 AAB 198  151  -47   9   7    2 | 537 272 18  72  62  4
Franco, Maikel      PHI   5 ABC 236  198  -38   7   5    2 | 541 251 24  76  64  1

Chapman, Matt       OAK   5 ADB 280  227  -53   6   3    3 | 521 235 21  76  74  5
Torres, Gleyber     NYY   5 AFF 281  532  251  -4   3   -7 | 301 250 10  44  39 10
Frazier, Todd       NYM   5 AAA 287  192  -95   7   3    4 | 480 228 27  76  73  4
Flores, Wilmer      NYM  53 ACB 322  509  187  -3   2   -5 | 322 264 16  50  38  1
Candelario, Jeimer  DET   5 ADB 338  289  -49   3   1    2 | 550 252 14  76  65  1
Gyorko, Jedd        STL   5 BCB 356  149 -207  10   1    9 | 527 251 28  78  63  4
Perez, Hernan       MILo759 ACC 360  707  347  -7   1   -8 | 294 262  7  33  30 12
Crawford, J.P.      PHI   5 ABB 378  415   37  -1   0   -1 | 507 240 12  50  65  8
Senzel, Nick        CIN   5 AFF 383  363  -20   0   0    0 | 307 278 11  45  53  6
Spangenberg, Cory    SD 5o7 FFB 384  293  -91   4   0    4 | 475 267 12  41  58 16
Headley, Chase       SD  53 AAB 408  364  -44   0   0    0 | 459 266  9  47  59  6
Escobar, Eduardo    MIN  50 ACD 431  229 -202   6  -1    7 | 510 252 22  69  61  4
Davidson, Matthew   CHW   5 DCB 452  355  -97   1  -1    2 | 572 220 28  80  55  0
Andujar, Miguel     NYY   5 AFF 468  362 -106   0  -2    2 | 322 285 12  52  41  3
Diaz, Yandy         CLE   5 ABA 488 1052  564 -15  -2  -13 | 178 278  2  17  24  2

Two years sans injury have pushed Anthony Rendon (3B, WAS) into the third round, according to BaseballHQ.com rankings. Fantasy GMs are seeing him as more of a late fourth-rounder. However, his projection compares favorably with Manny Machado (3B, BAL), who's going three rounds sooner (though perhaps Machado's expected move to SS is part of that). Rendon's .301 BA in 2017 was a touch high when compared to his .284 xBA, but his projection rectifies that. He's an elite hitter, with a 116 HctX and a 1.02 Eye in 2017. Plus (and here's the thing), there's some HR upside still there, as his hr/f was low when compared to his PX and xP. Hitting 30 HR in 2018 is not out of the question.

Justin Turner (3B, LA) is admittedly a tough call. Of the top 3B, his 2017 was among the weakest, aside from his .322 BA. Given his mediocre power numbers in a HR-heavy environment and the typical variability of BA, GMs can be forgiven for looking past him. However, take a look at his underlying skills: 1.05 Eye, 138 HctX, 48% FB%, and 154 xPX. These are the skills of an elite hitter. The problem is that he's 33 and most 33-year olds are entering their decline, not having breakout seasons. So there's some risk here. But we think his high floor and 30-HR upside are worth taking him a round or so ahead of his ADP.

It's curious that fantasy GMs are down on Nick Castellanos (3B/OF, DET). Here's yet another 3B who makes elite contact (135 HctX in 2017) with power that is well above average. There's even some power upside here, as his 14% hr/f was a touch low for a guy with a 142 xPX. Cocnerns about playing time, perhaps? Sure, it seems as if Jeimer Candelario (3B, DET) has pushed him off the hot corner, but Castellanos has a starting gig now in right field (plus, Candelario is not a sure bet). Since when does positional flexibility hurt a player's value? Concerns that 2017 was a career year? It was fully supported by the skills, and Castellanos is at a great age (26) for further growth (and as noted, there's room in his skills for more growth). A 30 HR, 100 RBI season is far from a lock, but past the third round, he's the best bet on this list to have one.

[Warning: extended, stream-of-consciousness analysis ahead] Well, someone was trying to hit more home runs in 2017, that's for sure. That someone is Kyle Seager (3B, SEA), whose FB% jumped from 42% in 2016 to 52% in 2017. Unfortunately, the primary effect was to drive down his BA, rather than increase home runs. This led us to a quick thought experiment:

A hitter's hr/f should be correlated with hard-hit fly balls (HHFB%). In 2017, that correlation (for hitters with >200 AB) was 0.66, which is a pretty decent number. The beta of HHFB% with relation to hr/f (without adjusting for park effects) is 1 and is significant at a level greater than 99.99%. That means that a hitter's HHFB% should approximate his hr/f. Kyle Seager had a 19% HHFB% in 2017, which would suggest a 19% hr/f in a neutral park (and he plays in a neutral park).

Don't take the above as hard-core research. It's only one season and doesn't incorporate several other factors that could influence hr/f (in technical terms, there's potential omitted variable bias). However, it's an interesting starting point and suggests that Seager has home run upside. The issue in 2017, however. was his BA; the surge in FB% cost him 30 points in both BA and xBA. We have four likely paths that Seager's 2018 can follow: 1) He keeps his uppercut swing, his hr/f doesn't adjust, and we get a repeat of 2017; 2) He keeps his swing, hr/f goes up, and we get something like Jay Bruce (OF, NYM): .250-35-90 or so; 3) He dials back the uppercut and hr/f doesn't adjust, so we get his 2016 with 23-25 HR; 4) He dials back, hr/f adjusts, and we get 30-35 HR with .270+ BA. That gives us a downside comparable to maybe Ryon Healy (1B/3B, SEA) and an upside of, say Manny Machado (3B, BAL). His current projection is Anthony Rendon (3B, WAS) without the BA. We'd surely take him ahead of Travis Shaw (3B, MIL), who's going in the early seventh round. He's a good bargain in that spot.

Three things are likely depressing Adrian Beltre's (3B, TEX) ADP: his age (39), his 2017 injury, which kept him below 500 AB for the first time since his age-32 season, and his inflated BA, which is due for a correction (and his BA is a big part of his value). The first two make for a scary combination: player who has defied the aging curve misses significant time with an injury. The risk is significant and isn't fully reflected in his BBC reliability—we need to seriously consider the possibility that he falls of a cliff in 2018. We'll side with the fantasy GMs here, though dropping him six rounds is a bit harsh. We'd consider him in the 8th or 9th if there was a need for his skillset and position and if we had some room to take on some risk.

There are reasons to view Eugenio Suarez's (3B, CIN) 2017 as a bit over his head, especially when comparing his 18% hr/f to his 116 xPX. But given his ballpark, it's not that big of a gap. Given that, his floor (say, his 10th-percentile projection with regular playing time) still yields 20-22 home runs and a .240+ BA, and his current projection (.254 BA, 24 HR) is quite achievable. Instinct says that GMs are worried about prospect Nick Senzel (3B, CIN) pushing Suarez aside at some point in 2018, and it's correct to assume that if Senzel is lighting up Triple-A, something will have to give. Suarez isn't going to push Joey Votto off of first base and he doesn't have the defense to be a regular shortstop. Second base is occupied by Scooter Gennett and Suarez hasn't played in the outfield since he was an 18-year old in rookie ball (plus, the Reds OF is already jammed). The production shouldn't worry you, but the PT squeeze is a concern, albeit a minor one. There's reason to drop him down a round or two, but the six-round gap is way too much. Grab him in the 10th if you can.

We have Gleyber Torres (SS/3B, NYY) classified as a 3B. Perhaps 2B or SS would be more appropriate, but nonetheless, we will deal with him here. Consider this our annual rookie warning: Torres is a tip-top prospect, but his odds of sticking in the major leagues on his first try are still around 50%. He has skills to burn, though elite contact is not among them. Given that and his age, his expected value in redraft leagues isn't all that high. Having said all that, his 18th-round price tag isn't all that terrible. If you're looking to speculate in the later rounds, he's a good pick, but realize that his 2018 downside is bigger than his 2018 upside. If you're in a typical keeper league, he should already be owned. If not, grab him much earlier.

With the signing of Todd Frazier (3B, NYM), any clear path to playing time dried up for Wilmer Flores (1B/3B, NYM). As Ron Shandler has pointed out, in today's environment, there's always a path to playing time, and there's a good chance that both the untested Dominic Smith (1B, NYM), and the venerable Adrian Gonzalez (1B, NYM) fail to stick at 1B. In that case, Flores's value gets a big boost, as his skills (84% ct%, above-average PX, and .270 xBA) are enough to produce 25 HR and a good quantity of Runs and RBI over 575 AB. There's definite upside here: the quiet, unassuming kind that won't cost you much in terms of draft resources. His 20th-round ADP looks like a very good value despite the mediocre projection.

Jedd Gyorko (3B, STL) has some warts and his second half of 2017 was pretty ugly. But his 23rd-round ADP is a serious overreaction. He lost AB to Greg Garcia (2B/3B, STL) and his .290 BA (73% ct% and 28 xPX) in the second half; that won't repeat. Is there a risk that he hits .240 and falls short of 20 HR? Sure. But even a little regression puts him above .250 BA and in the mid-20's in homers. His ADP is literally four picks from the end of a typical draft. For goodness sake, at least take him as your first reserve pick if nothing else. Upside with little downside here.

It's too soon to call Hernan Perez's 2016 (.272 BA, 34 SB in 404 AB) an outlier, but his 2017 (.259 BA, 13 SB in 432 AB) looks more reasonable. He'll be challenged to repeat his 2017 playing time, though, with the acquisitions of Christian Yelich (OF, MIL) and Lorenzo Cain (OF, MIL) and the emergence of Travis Shaw (3B, MIL). Sure, paths could open up, but if your playing time upside yields no better than an endgamer, it doesn't really matter much. If you're a big fan of Perez, the Brewers, or guys whose name is pretty close to "Herman," he's worth a reserve pick. That's as far as we'll go.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.