Fantasy Baseball Position Preview - Undervalued Third Baseman
Colby Conway takes a look at a few third baseman who are great fantasy values based on their current ADPs.
The third base position is rather deep this year, and there’s a lot of enticing options, headlined by Nolan Arenado and Alex Bregman . The guys that come after these two are enticing as well, notably Cleveland’s José Ramírez , Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and San Diego’s Manny Machado . Each week, we will take a dive into this position in particular and figure out what to do with the position, whether it’s examining producers at different categories, overvalued players, undervalued players, etc.
For the initial piece, let’s dive into the four most undervalued players at the position, based on NFBC average draft position (ADP) data available at time of writing. Each of the guys below is being drafted outside of the top 15 (!!!) at the position, but should provide fantasy owners with a solid return on investment in 2020.
Without further ado…
NFBC ADP: 103.18
While he's leaving a great park for left-handed hitters, he's going to a just as talented lineup with a home park that plays as a launching pad. Moustakas got screwed a bit in recent years in terms of salary, but the Reds gave him some money, rewarding him for 28 or more homers in each of the past three seasons. His strikeout rate has remained stable, and his walk rate is increasing by the year! Since leaving Kansas City, Moustakas has focused on trading ground balls for fly balls, and he's posted a fly ball rate north of 45 percent and a ground ball rate south of 20 percent in each of the last three seasons. That will certainly play well in Great American Small Park, as Moustakas pushes for another 30+ home run campaign in 2020. Per Steamer projections, he's one of just four third baseman (Nolan Arenado , Manny Machado , Josh Donaldson , Moustakas) projected to hit at least 36 home runs, with 98 RBI and a batting average higher than .250. He has multi-positional eligibility, in most leagues, and is currently the 16th third baseman off the board. Undervalued, yet again.
NFBC ADP: 122.56
This guy could be a fantasy monster, if only injuries didn't get in the way. He's been limited to 114 games, 71 games and 105 games respectively in each of the past three years, but in limited spurts, we've seen the what could be with Sano. He makes hard contact and that will parlay into monster home run seasons. Hell, the guy hit 34 home runs in 380 at-bats last season, which is a home run every 11.2 at-bats. Insane! Sano is making the move to first base, which hopefully will help with some durability issues, and if it does, it also adds another position to his ledger, so that's a benefit to fantasy owners as well. At the end of the day, here is what it boils down to with Sano:
- Average exit velocity ranking in the 96th percentile or better in three of the last four seasons
- Barrel Rate ranking in the 95th percentile or better in three of the last four seasons
- Hard Hit rate ranking in the 96th percentile or better in three of the last four seasons
- He's going to strikeout a lot. Deal with it.
He may open the year hitting lower in the order, which hurts the at-bat totals, but when a guy makes loud contact like he does, it's only a matter of time until he moves up in the order. Luckily, he's a part of a potent lineup, so there should still be chances to drive in runs in the lower-third, but that will increase when he eventually moves up. Currently, he's the 18th third baseman off the board, and there's plenty of value to be had, health willing.
NFBC ADP: 374.41
In the later rounds of your drafts, you can get Matt Carpenter for nothing. Sure, he isn't what he once was, but injuries derailed his 2019 season, and it was just two years ago that he was getting some MVP love! In 2018, he hit 36 homers, scored 111 runs and drove in 81 ribbies. Last year, he was limited to just 129 games, and sure, walks went down and strikeouts went up, which is never good, but as you're approaching pick 400 in your draft, you could do worse than a guy who could be an everyday player!
The guy hit .226 last year, which is the lowest in his career, and he still posted a .334 OBP, which isn't too bad all things considered. Some of the peripherals are concerning with Carpenter, notably his decreased contact rate and the aforementioned walk and strikeout rates, but near the end of the season, he was hitting more fly balls, so that's good. At the time in the draft where you get to pick Carpenter, you could do far, far worse. It’s incredibly risky to fade third base until drafting Carpenter, but I will actively be seeking him out as a bench bat for the majority of my fantasy teams.
NFBC ADP: 456.84
Call me crazy, but I'm in on Franco this year. Is it because of the super reduced price? Yes, but I believe he'll end up being a quality producer as the Royals' primary third baseman in 2020. Again, similar to Carpenter above, Franco is a guy who was going nearly 200 to 300 picks earlier a year or two ago, but now, he can be had for fractions of a penny on the dollar.
Sure, it's not a great lineup, and he may open the year hitting in the lower third, but it won't be long before he ascends up the order, and gets in a spot that is more lucrative to driving in runs, especially with Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield terrorizing the base paths.
Additionally, his batting average plummeted last year, but it wasn't because he was making weak contact. It also wasn't because he was striking out more. It remained rather similar, and he even walked more, so that's encouraging. He still hit 17 home runs in 123 games last season, but I'm more intrigued by some of his batted ball and contact metrics.
- In 2019, Franco set a career high in hard hit rate. Love that.
- In 2019, his 1.08 GB/FB ratio was the best of his career. Love that.
- For the third straight year, he whiffed less. Love that.
- In 2019, he posted a contact rate of at least 80 percent for the first time in his career. Love that.
Again, look at the price. He's a starting third baseman and is currently the 39th third baseman off the board. Will he be a weekly starting option, probably not, but even if he just repeats what he did last year, that's a massive return on investment, especially considering you can get him after about 450 other players have been drafted.