If shortstop is where the highest concentration of superstars can be found in 2021 Fantasy baseball drafts, third base is No. 2 on the list. However, while shortstop falls off pretty hard after the first 11 players -- all of whom are in the top 75 in ADP -- third base has depth no other position besides outfield can touch. Which gives you a lot of options on Draft Day.
You can obviously go star-heavy, beginning with the top player at the position, Jose Ramirez -- who is undervalued even with an ADP as high as 10.3 in NFC drafts. He's a top-five player in Roto for me. You'll also likely see Manny Machado go off the board in the second round and DJ LeMahieu shortly thereafter. Any of those players should be a solid part of your core, but there are more questions about the next tier: Nolan Arenado, Alex Bregman, Anthony Rendon, and Rafael Devers, all of whom have an ADP in the fourth round range. There are questions for each of them, but you probably won't have too much regret about taking any of them, and a 100-run, 100-RBI season is possibly for any of them.
Third base is already starting to fall behind shortstop when you reach this point of the rankings, but it's the options available after 100th overall that really help the position stand out. Alec Bohm, Matt Chapman, Kris Bryant -- who is 16th(!!!) at the position in ADP in the 11th round -- Ke'Bryan Hayes, Gio Urshela in the 100-160 range and Josh Donaldson, Austin Riley, J.D. Davis, and Justin Turner all going past the 190th pick on average mean you'll have intriguing, high-upside bats available basically until the end of the draft.
You'll probably end up with multiple starters from the third base pool, in other words. The only question is whether you'll snag them early or wait for values. You can't really go wrong.
Third Base Base Preview
Jose Ramirez 3B
CLE Cleveland • #11 • Age: 28
Ramirez has at least a .939 OPS in three of the last four seasons, and he's hitting .284 with 36 homers, 108 runs, 104 RBI and 28 steals per-162 games in that span. He's been as high as a top-three consensus pick during that time, and he belongs pretty close to that range. The only blemish on Ramirez's resume is a stretch from the 2018 All-Star break to the 2019 break where he hit .218/.333/.378. However, he admitted his swing was messed up because he was trying to beat the shift, and he got back to his natural swing and has hit .307/.377/.664 with a 52 HR, 118 R, 149 RBI, 25 SB per-162 games pace since.
SD San Diego • #13 • Age: 28
Chalk one up for the stat nerds. Machado had elite batted-ball numbers in 2019 despite his so-so results, and he rebounded back to being an MVP candidate in 2020. A .950 OPS is probably too much to ask for again -- it was the highest of his career -- but Machado should be an easy bet for 30-plus homers and a ton of RBI and runs in that fearsome Padres lineup.
Arenado is coming off his worst season since he was a rookie and lost the backing of the best hitter's park in the game with his move from Colorado to St. Louis. You should adjust expectations down from his days of being an elite Fantasy option in Colorado, but he should still be good for 30-ish homers and plenty of runs and RBI. Don't write him off as a product of Coors Field entirely.
LAA L.A. Angels • #6 • Age: 30
Rendon's 2020 was disappointing, but it's not like he really did anything wrong. Rendon returned to pre-2019 power numbers and still had some of the best plate discipline in the game, but the combination of a career-low BABIP and what ended up being a much-worse-than-expected Angels offense dragged his numbers down. The Angels should be better, and Rendon remains one of the best bets in the game for average and is a borderline-elite option for points or OBP leagues.
Alex Bregman 3B
HOU Houston • #2 • Age: 26
If you were inclined to downgrade the Astros following the revelation of their sign-stealing scheme, Bregman certainly made you feel vindicated. He struggled through his worst season since he was a rookie, with his batting average cratering to .242, by far the lowest of his career. Of course, he also had his lowest BABIP ever, and still had his typically elite plate discipline, so let's not overstate the case. Most of Bregman's underlying numbers looked very similar to years past, and he should rebound nicely, even if he never touches 2019 levels again.
DJ LeMahieu 2B
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #26 • Age: 32
LeMahieu heard everyone saying he was a regression candidate after 2019, so he went out and hit .364 with a 1.011 OPS in 2020, following up his fourth-place MVP finish with a third-place finish. He re-signed with the Yankees, so he'll still have that excellent home park and lineup to boost his numbers, so expect another strong season, with an elite average and run production.
BOS Boston • #11 • Age: 24
The problem with the shortened season is it's hard to tell what was real and what wasn't. Devers was definitely disappointing coming off his massive breakout performance in 2019, but it was mostly just a slow start -- his low point came on Aug. 17, when he had a .556 OPS with just two home runs in 23 games. From that point on, he hit .307/.350/.573 with some pretty bonkers counting stats: His 150-game pace in that stretch was 41 homers and 267 runs and RBI combined. Devers deserves the benefit of the doubt for the slow start, given how well he finished the season.
Cavan Biggio 2B
TOR Toronto • #8 • Age: 25
Biggio is eligible at second and third base plus the outfield, and that flexibility along with his strong on-base skills and power-speed combo make him a valuable piece in Roto leagues assuming you can stomach the average.
CIN Cincinnati • #7 • Age: 29
Regression from his near-50-homer season in 2019 was to be expected, and Suarez managed it pretty well, for the most part. His 150-game pace was 38 homers, 73 runs and 98 RBI. Sure, he hit just .202, but that was with a .214 BABIP, nearly 100 points lower than his career mark. That was a team-wide issue, and one we aren't likely to see again, so Suarez should continue to be a great power hitter who doesn't hurt you in batting average.
Here's Moncada's OPS by year since he became a regular: .750, .714, .915, .705. One of these things is not like the other … However, Moncada had COVID-19 before the season and admitted afterward he basically never felt like himself, referring to, "A daily battle to try to find that strength, that energy to go through the day." This seems like a pretty good explanation for a down year.
Max Muncy 1B
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #13 • Age: 30
Muncy is coming off a down year, but there wasn't much in his underlying numbers to be alarmed by. In a 60-game season, weird things can happen, and a bounceback seems like an easy bet. Muncy is a good hitter who gains extra value thanks to his triple eligibility.
Matt Chapman 3B
OAK Oakland • #26 • Age: 27
Chapman is a perfectly serviceable starting third baseman, but it's fair to wonder if he's ever going to find another gear. If not, that's fine, as he had over 100 runs in each of 2018 and 2019, including 91 RBI in the latter season. But his batted-ball data suggests upside Chapman has only rarely touched in games. Josh Donaldson made a leap in his age-29 season after producing very similar numbers to Chapman, but that didn't happen until he left Oakland's pitcher-friendly home park. Odds are he'll be the same guy he's been, and there's nothing wrong with that. But we can dream.
Don't forget about ...
Alec Bohm 3B
PHI Philadelphia • #28 • Age: 24
The hit tool has never really been in doubt, and Bohm hit .338 with a below-average strikeout rate in his first 44 MLB games. The question, however, as it was when he was a prospect, is whether there will ever be more than just decent in-game power. It's not a question of whether Bohm hits the ball hard enough -- his average exit velocity was 90.5 mph, plenty hard -- but where he hits it. He had a 53.2% groundball rate, and it's hard to hit homers on grounders. Bohm seems to have a pretty high floor for a player without much of a track record, but the ultimate upside remains a question. With a pick around 100 overall, there's definitely some risk in taking him, but it's not a bad price.
PIT Pittsburgh • #13 • Age: 24
Hayes has always had the tools to be a star, but the minor-league production often lagged. That wasn't the case in his MLB debut, as he hit five homers in 23 games with an OPS north of 1.100. Obviously, 24 games is a tiny sample size, but when a young guy with Hayes' pedigree and skills flashes like that, it's worth taking notice. There's significant upside here, and though there's hype around him, a 139.2 ADP isn't a bad price to have to pay.
Austin Riley 3B
ATL Atlanta • #27 • Age: 23
Riley struggled yet again in 2020, but he did so in very different ways than as a rookie, and he's a more interesting prospect as a result. While Riley hit for great power in 2019, he struggled with contact, striking out 36.4% of the time, with just a 63.2% contact rate, one of the worst in baseball. In 2020, however, he was much closer to average in both regards, and he did it without sacrificing his power swing -- his average exit velocity was 91.0 mph, actually up nearly two mph from 2019, while he still had strong hard-hit and barrel rates. The results weren't there, but 2021 may be where he puts it all together. If he does, he could be a Matt Chapman-esque option.
TEX Texas • #9 • Age: 25
Kiner-Falefa is a fringe-y Fantasy option as a third baseman, but I can't let these position previews pass without acknowledging that Kiner-Falefa has catcher eligibility in Yahoo leagues, as they are keeping eligibility from 2019's games. A profile that barely plays at third base is one that might just be a top-10 option at catcher, especially in Roto leagues given Kiner-Falefa's stolen base production. He'll have a massive playing time edge on nearly all catchers -- he started 57 of 60 games. You won't find him in our ranks and you won't be able to use him at catcher in CBS Fantasy leagues, but if you play at Yahoo, make sure he's on your draft board.
Third Base Sleeper, Breakout, & Bust
Kris Bryant 3B
CHC Chi. Cubs • #17 • Age: 29
Bryant is one of the most famous baseball players in the world, how could he be a sleeper? Well, he's the 16th third baseman off the board in NFC drafts since the start of February, with an overall ADP of 133.1. This is the same Kris Bryant who hit .282/.382/.521 with 31 HR, 108 R, 77 RBI and finished as a top-50 player in Roto leagues in 2019. There are reasons to believe his 2020 decline was more than just bad luck, because his batted-ball data was pretty ugly, but Bryant has never been a guy who stood out based on batted-ball data, even at his best. 2020 was such an outlier -- his .264 BABIP was 67 points lower than his previous career-low, his 5.5% barrel rate was nearly three percentage points lower than his previous low -- that it seems fair to give him a pass for it. He's one of the prime candidates in the league for positive regression, and one of the best values available in drafts right now.
This is more of a "re-breakout" call, because Moncada already broke out in 2019, and I fully bought into that. You might be skeptical after how he regressed to his pre-2019 production in 2020, but I'm more than willing to give him a pass after an early COVID case that he told reporters left him feeling at less than full strength until well into the offseason. His gains in 2019 were mostly the result of an increased aggressiveness at the plate that allowed his prodigious physical tools to play up, and that's exactly the kind of thing you might expect an illness that lists fatigue and shortness of breath as one of its primary symptoms. If Moncada is fully healthy in 2020, I expect him to bounce back to an average in the .290 range, with 25-plus homers and a ton of counting stats at the top of the White Sox lineup. And who knows, maybe Tony La Russa's old-school mindset will result in Moncada having more of a green light on the bases.
It's possible some may overreact to Arenado's move away from Coors Field, in which case he could end up being a value. However, with his ADP holding steady at 33.7 in NFC drafts since the trade, it doesn't look like there's much of a downgrade being priced in. The closest analogy we have for a player of Arenado's caliber leaving the Rockies in his peak was when Matt Holliday was traded to the Athletics before his age-29 season. In three seasons prior to the trade, he hit .329/.400/.579; he hit .308/.391/.524. A downgrade, for sure, but it certainly didn't torpedo his value. Arenado is coming off a down season in 2020, but had hit .307/.375/.577 in his previous three seasons. Give him a mulligan for 2020, and your expectation should still be that he's a very strong Fantasy option. However, taking an average of projection systems including THE BAT, ATC, Steamer, ZiPS and PECOTA, Arenado is projected to his .273 with 33 HR, 88 R, 98 RBI, and two SB. Those aren't bad numbers by any means, but it's more like what we expect from someone like Nicholas Castellanos (85.1 ADP) or Josh Bell (166.9). Arenado is more of a sure thing than those guys, but he's probably still being overdrafted here.
Third Base Top Prospects
1. Spencer Torkelson, Tigers
Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: not under contract
The top pick in the 2020 draft feels like the sort of inevitability Kris Bryant was as a prospect, delivering the optimal combination of floor and ceiling. He'll take his walks and drive the ball to all fields, boasting the sort of power bat that was good enough to break Barry Bonds' freshman home run record at Arizona State.
Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: midseason hopeful
2. Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pirates
Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, Triple-A
2019 minors: .261 BA (436 AB), 10 HR, 31 2B, 13 SB, .745 OPS, 45 BB, 92 K
2020 majors: .376 BA (85 AB), 5 HR, 2 3B, 7 2B, 1 SB, 1.124 OPS, 9 BB, 20 K
Known for being a defensive standout with above-average contact skills, Hayes long projected to be a better player in real life than in Fantasy. But it turns out he may be one of those prospects who finds another gear at the highest level, absolutely crushing the ball in his debut with hard contact to all fields and surprising over-the-fence power.
Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: pencil him in
3. Nolan Jones, Indians
Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
2019 minors: .272 BA (430 AB), 15 HR, 22 2B, .851 OPS, 96 BB, 148 K
Cleveland is going to need offense however it can get it in 2020, which would suggest Jones is on the verge of a promotion. His 96 walks in 2019 were enough to lead the minors and are part of what makes him good, but an overly patient approach might keep him from maximizing his hit tool and artificially suppress his batting average.
Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: midseason hopeful
Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, low Class A
2019 minors: .316 BA (174 AB), 2 HR, 14 2B, .831 OPS, 18 BB, 32 K
Jung is like Alec Bohm in that you don't see a lot of players his size stand out for their contact skills and pitch discernment, and as with Bohm, there's enough momentum for him developing into a power hitter that it's difficult to put a limit on his upside. He reportedly made big strides in his ability to drive the ball at the alternate training site.
Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: midseason hopeful
Age (on opening day): 20
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A
2019 minors: .248 BA (456 AB), 15 HR, 30 2B, .765 OPS, 45 BB, 152 K
Gorman's power is supposed to be what propels him to the big leagues, and he reportedly rediscovered it at the alternate training site after hitting just five home runs in 215 at-bats upon reaching high Class A two years ago. There's no reason to think he'll ever be of much help in batting average, but if you're looking for a prospect in the Joey Gallo and Miguel Sano mold, here he is.
Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: cup of coffee
So which 2021 Fantasy baseball sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy baseball rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Will Smith's huge breakout last season, and find out.