The 2023 fantasy baseball season is coming full speed ahead and now is the time to prepare for your fantasy baseball drafts. You are at the right place as the Fantasy Alarm Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide has you covered for all your draft needs. Tuesday will be third base day and we begin our 2023 fantasy season preview series with the fantasy top-five at third base. As you prepare for your drafts, the depth at each position deserves serious consideration when forming your draft strategy. You may not want to overrate position shortage, but third base is once again top-heavy and the lack of depth at the position should have you focusing early on filling that spot on your roster. So here we go with the 2023 Top-5 Fantasy Baseball Third Basemen.
1) José Ramírez, Cleveland Guardians
The Cleveland Guardians were picked by many to finish near the bottom of the AL Central in 2022 but José Ramírez led this young, mostly unproven lineup to a division title. Ramirez has had to prove wrong many critics who have doubted his potential because of his size. He was originally projected as a utility player, not a perennial All-Star, but is now the owner of a $141 million guaranteed contract, the most lucrative deal in the history of the Cleveland franchise.
The four-time All-Star and three-time MVP finalist anchored the middle of the Guardians lineup in 2023, hitting .280 with 29 home runs, 126 RBI (third in MLB), 20 stolen bases, 44 doubles (second in MLB), and leading all of MLB in intentional walks with 20. His 114.2 maximum exit velocity was in the top-5% of the league while a .363wOBA was top-10%.
Ramirez cut down on his pull percentage in 2022 and started to hit the ball straight up the middle 50% of the time when batting from the left side. With the 2022 rules, the shift allowed teams to position their fielders behind second base (which they did in 94% of Ramirez’s left-handed at bats) but with MLB implementing the ban of the shift in 2023, Ramirez could be in for a monster season and is the top fantasy third baseman in baseball.
2) Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
Rafael Devers and the Red Sox recently agreed to a 10-year, $313.5 million contract extension guaranteeing that the power hitter is not going anywhere and will continue to tear the cover off the ball in Fenway Park. Devers is one of the best hitters in baseball, let alone at third base, and continued perform at an elite level at the plate last season as he ranked in the 90th percentile or higher among MLB hitters in average exit velocity (93.1), maximum exit velocity (113.7), XSLG (.497), wOBA (.373), XwOBA (.361) and hard-hit rate (50.9%). Even after a horrible slump in August, he still led the team in home runs (27) and isolated power (.225) while slashing .295/.358/.521 with an .879 OPS and career-high 141 wRC+. Devers also has a 132 wRC+ or higher in three of his last four seasons and in 2022, set a career high with a 93.1 mph exit velocity — good for top 2% of sluggers. Devers continues to rake and even with a tendency to chase pitches, he is a star and the number-two ranked third baseman in fantasy baseball.
This offensive overview courtesy of RSN Sports shows how good of a season that Devers had last year at the plate, even after his mini slump in August:
3) Manny Machado, San Diego Padres
Manny Machado hit .298 with 32 home runs and 102 RBIs in 2022 while finished second in NL MVP voting — losing out to Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. As the only third baseman in baseball to finish with 100 runs and 100 RBI, Machado put up a slash line of .298/.366/.531 with an .897 OPS and a 49% hard hit rate that was in the top-10% of baseball. With Fernando Tatis Jr. sidelined, Machado put the Padres on his back and carried the offense as the 30-year-old drove in at least 11 runs each month of the season and hit .310 or better in April/March (.386), May (.312), and August (.342). Despite months of inadequate lineup protection, Machado is coming off arguably the best season of his career and besides the exceptional offensive statistics noted above, the sublime defender at the hot corner put up a Weighted Runs Created Plus of 151 and Win Probability Added of 4.3, which measures the percent change in a team’s chances of winning from one plate appearance to the next.
Since 2013, Machado has a 50.4 WAR (fifth-highest in the major leagues) with a 124 wRC+ and 127 OPS+ (18th-highest in that span) and he seems to get better every year. Now, he comes into the 2023 season with a legitimate chance of being a 30/100/100 player and can very easily match last season’s slash line. With the addition of Xander Bogaerts, the return of Fernando Tatis Jr, and a more comfortable Juan Soto, Machado is surrounded by fantasy star power. If this offense stays healthy and Machado continues to see pitches to hit, he is once again a Top-three fantasy third baseman in all draft formats.
National League WAR Shares 2022 (per The Athletic)
4) Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves
Austin Riley was a monster during the 2022 season. After hitting .303 with 33 home runs and 107 RBIs in 2021, he returned last season to smash 38 home runs and was one of only 16 players to score at least 90 runs and produce 90 RBI. In 2021, Riley had a slash line of .303/.367/.531 with a 136 wRC+ while in 2022, his slash was.273/.349/.528 a 142 wRC+.
At first, it looks like he had a better year in 2021 but offense was down across the league last year and in 2022 Riley’s wRC+ was 15th among all qualified hitters and a 2021 his wRC+ was 21st.
Who can forget his July last seaspm when he put together one of the most amazing months in Braves history as he slashed a .423/.459/.885 line with a .270 wRC+! When it was all said and done, the Braves' third baseman was in the top-5% of all of baseball with a 92.5 mph exit velocity, a 115.9 max exit velocity, a .531 xSLG, .377 wOBA, .378 XwOBA and 50.8% hard contact rate.
Austin Riley took his game to the next level in 2022 and offensively is already one of the best players in the game. He is just scratching the surface and if Riley continues to smash, he could end up with an NL MVP trophy just like the last Braves slugging third baseman to win the award — Chipper Jones. Not too shabby.
5) Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals
It seems like ever since Nolan Arenado joined St. Louis in 2021, he continues to get a bad rap with fantasy managers. But after two straight 30 home run/100 RBI seasons, the addition of Willson Contreras and a full year of a healthy Tyler O’Neill knocking him in, this could be Arenado’s best season yet. After a career best 7.6 WAR, Arenado had his best batting average since 2019 en route to a .293/.358/.533 slash with .891 OPS in 2022. His .381 wOBA and low 11.6% strikeout rate were in the top-3% of the league and he posted his third straight season with a contact rate greater than 80 percent. On top of that, Arenado had the third-highest wRC+ (151) and the fourth-best slugging percentage (.535) in the league and is on pace for his seventh straight 30-homer and 100-RBI season (setting the COVID season of 2020). He struck out just 11.6% of the time last year, the second-lowest mark of his career, and produced an 80%+ contact rate for the third straight season. A future Hall of Famer at this rate, Arenado is one of the best players to wear a Cardinals uniform in the last decade and one of the main sticks that led the team to its first division title since 2019. Nolan Arenado is once again going to be a force at the plate this season (in a pitcher friendly park like Busch Stadium nonetheless) and a top-five fantasy third baseman.