I know I said second base is bad. Third base may be worse.
Or maybe just a different kind of bad. You can assure yourself a stud third baseman pretty easily. You just have to be willing to draft him in Round 2.
I'm not saying every single team in your league can do that, of course, but Nolan Arenado tends to make it through the entire round, with Bobby Witt, Manny Machado, Rafael Devers and Austin Riley all going a few picks earlier. So if you want it badly enough, you'll go for it right then, even if it means reaching slightly for Arenado. And if not, oh well. I guess you won't have a third baseman.
It's pretty much that simple.
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I say "pretty much" because there are three others who I think wouldn't crush you with their production, perhaps even coming close to early-round numbers themselves. But you'll almost certainly have to reach for one of Alex Bregman, Gunnar Henderson and Max Muncy, and when they're gone, OK, you really don't have a third baseman. Might as well just hold out until the end, gamble on someone with some semblance of upside, and hope for the best.
Those who downplay the urgency obviously didn't have to contend with the shortage last year. Yes, third base looked weak then, too, but it was easier to shrug off because we were still accustomed to the juiced ball era, when quality bats would emerge from underneath some rock or inside some tree hollow. But the cavalry never came. I experienced it first hand. If you didn't have a quality third baseman from the start, you just didn't have a quality third baseman.
So while I've saidis to draft one of my top three second basemen in Round 3, Goal 1A is to draft one of my top six third basemen in Round 2. It doesn't allow for many variations, being so rigid with my earliest picks, but I think it's vitally important as we re-familiarize ourselves with the concept of position scarcity coming out of the juiced ball era. Quite simply, the positions to target earliest are the ones that run out earliest.
The stud third baseman who I haven't mentioned by name yet is the best of all, Jose Ramirez. That's because my focus has been on Round 2, and well, he won't be available by then. But certainly if you take him in Round 1, it's solution enough to your problems. In fact, there's a compelling case to take him No. 1 overall. The kind of upside Aaron Judge showed last year steers me in his direction instead, especially since outfield is also a position that's critical to fill early (I know, I know -- can't fill them all), but Ramirez is right behind him in the pecking order. Being one of the standout base stealers at a position with so few only helps his case.
Though I include him among the studs, I'm still obliged to point out that Bobby Witt's ADP is fairly ridiculous. Sure, he had 20 homers and 30 steals as a rookie, but the rest of his numbers were ... pretty bad. I can't remember a time when a first-round bat had as low as a .294 on-base percentage and .722 OPS. I think the appeal is mostly the stolen bases, but there's no need for such desperation in a year when steals are expected to rise across the league. Again, it's critical to fill third base early, but Witt should be targeted more in the same range as Nolan Arenado. And because of his poor plate discipline, I might not even classify him as a stud in Head-to-Head points leagues.
I say that Round 2 is the time to take a third baseman not named Jose Ramirez, and the ADP supports it, but so as not to take any chances, I'd probably take Rafael Devers or Manny Machado late in Round 1, even -- ahead of, for instance, Freddie Freeman and Vladimir Guerrero.
Notice how Alex Bregman's point-per-game average rates right up there with some of the studs? That's coming off one of his worst seasons. Granted, I don't think he'll ever get back to being the 30-homer guy he was during those years when the ball carried so well, but his superlative plate discipline makes him a points-league standout regardless. So if you play in such a format rather than one that uses traditional 5x5 scoring, you should probably swap in Bregman as a stud and swap out Bobby Witt.
I've said that Bregman, Gunnar Henderson and Max Muncy are the only real fallback options at third base, so then, what are Eugenio Suarez and Matt Chapman doing here? They at least generated big power numbers last year, and while I don't think it makes up for their shortfalls elsewhere (and I don't think I can overstate the depths of their downside), the fact is they'll be drafted as starters in your league by some poor sap who didn't get in early enough. Even including them, we're only up to 11 names at the position.
What makes Muncy any better? Well, last year, he was still recovering from that grisly elbow injury suffered late in 2021, and it dragged down his numbers early. By the final two months, though, he was back to form, batting .247 with an .858 OPS and his typically excellent plate discipline.
Jose Miranda MIN 1B
Alec Bohm PHI 3B
Anthony Rendon LAA 3B
Josh Jung TEX 3B
Justin Turner BOS 3B
Eduardo Escobar NYM 3B
Brett Baty NYM 3B
Spencer Steer CIN 3B
It's a fairly long list -- and would have to be given how few locks there are at the position -- but it's largely comprised of the same players who didn't work out last year. Alec Bohm and Ke'Bryan Hayes still don't elevate well enough to provide the requisite power. Jose Miranda performed decently as a rookie, but without a lot of evidence he'll get much better. The Dodgers were willing to let Justin Turner walk, which is a pretty good indication he's reached the end of his rope at age 38.
If I dropped the ball at third base and wound up having to draft from this group, I'd do one of three things:
- Hope for a bounce-back from Anthony Rendon, who has mainly been beset by injuries the past two years and has probably slipped further than he should be given the state of the position.
- Hope for a breakthrough for Josh Jung, who struck out at an exorbitant rate in his first taste of the majors but still has a top-prospect pedigree and may have been rusty after missing most of the year with a shoulder injury.
- Hope for an early promotion for Jordan Walker, who's ultimately destined for the outfield but retains third base eligibility for now. The best-case scenario has him being this year's Julio Rodriguez.
Though I'm hoping prospect Brett Baty eventually overtakes Eduardo Escobar for the Mets, the latter isn't a bad option in the interim. He played through much of last year with an oblique injury, but after taking a couple of weeks off in August, he returned to hit .317 (38 for 120) with eight homers and a .951 OPS over his final 34 games.
Josh Rojas ARI 3B
Jon Berti MIA 2B
Ha-seong Kim SD SS
As with second base, the most appealing choices are the ones you'll be targeting in the first couple rounds anyway, but it's worth noting that the reason so many continue to hold out hope for Ke'Bryan Hayes is that he's a relevant contributor in this most coveted category. Meanwhile, Gunnar Henderson's and Jordan Walker's potential stolen base contributions are yet another reason to get excited about them.