Fantasy Forward: 3B In Transition

No Nolan, you are the man with 7 HR's and 20 RBI over the last 30 days. Do not sleep on him in 2015
No Nolan, you are the man! With 7 HR and 20 RBI over the last 30 days, do not sleep on him in 2015

“Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.”
Kristin Armstrong

After tracking the improvements of Nolan Arenado and Nick Castellanos recently, I decided to take a look at fantasy’s position in transition. While closers cause owners to chase saves, the dearth of solid third baseman left for fantasy purposes forced many tough decisions on draft and auction days in 2014. It pushed players like Evan Longoria and David Wright up in the rankings due to the “positional scarcity” that was projected at the position. While the scarcity argument may have had some basis for discussion, some players like Aramis Ramirez were overlooked. He did make a trip to the DL in 2014 but his production has not slipped. In fact, when I looked at the last 365 days, he is in the top two using advanced stats like wOBA (weighted on base average) and wRC+ (weighted runs created). Before delving into those stats, here are the top 12 third baseman according to Fantasy Pros aggregate ADP tracker:

Average ADP for 3B in 2014 Drafts:
1. Adrian Beltre (12)
2. Evan Longoria (19)
3. David Wright (21)
4. Matt Carpenter (56)
5. Josh Donaldson (65)
6. Ryan Zimmerman (67)
7. Carlos Santana (71)
8. Pedro Alvarez (76)
9. Kyle Seager (99)
10. Martin Prado (115)
11. Manny Machado (128)
12. Pablo Sandoval (131)

There are pretty standard decisions above and most of the picks will not cost in the pursuit of a fantasy title. However, the injury concerns that caused gamers to avoid Aramis Ramirez were ignored by the Ryan Zimmerman sympathizers. This will also call into question how to value Manny Machado going forward now that he has injured both of his knees. Due to the drop in power around the league, many reached for Pedro Alvarez regardless of his drain on batting average. Matt Carpenter was a great story and value in 2013, but that also swung his returns to pretty much nil in this year’s drafts. So as not to create a recent bias, I will look at the last 365 days (statistical year) for the third baseman next.

3B Ranks for the last 365 Days:
1. Aramis Ramirez: 132 G, 61 R, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 3 SB, 309/359/490, wOBA .374, wRC+ 135
2. Adrian Beltre: 50 G, 80 R, 22 HR, 81 RBI, 2 SB, 310/370/482, wOBA .368, wRC+ 129
3. Josh Donaldson: 159 G, 105 R, 32 HR, 109 RBI, 10 SB, 263/352/484, wOBA .365, wRC+ 137
4. Matt Carpenter: 163 G, 115 R, 9 HR, 65 RBI, 7 SB, 295/388/422, wOBA .361, wRC+ 132
5. Todd Frazier: 157 G, 84 R, 28 HR, 84 RBI, 18 SB, 272/329/462, wOBA .347, wRC+ 120
6. Pablo Sandoval: 157 G, 69 R, 19 HR, 75 RBI, 286/340/447, wOBA .343, wRC+ 125
7. Anthony Rendon: 150 G, 98 R, 17 HR, 78 RBI, 12 SB, 276/334/447, wOBA .341, wRC+ 117
8. Kyle Seager: 161 G, 63 R, 22 HR, 88 RBI, 8 SB, 253/330/427, wOBA .334, wRC+ 114
9. Chase Headley: 133 G, 49 R, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 8 SB, 248/353/391, wOBA .323, wRC+ 108
10. Evan Longoria: 166 G, 86 R, 23 HR, 90 RBI, 4 SB, 255/327/412, wOBA .322, wRC+ 108
11. Trevor Plouffe: 143 G, 63 R, 11 HR, 69 RBI, SB, 258/319/399, wOBA .317, wRC+ 100
12. David Wright: 126 G, 50 R, 10 HR, 60 RBI, 6 SB, 270/330/383, wOBA .315, wRC+ 104

Due to positional scarcity, David Wright and Evan Longoria were taken in very early in drafts earlier this year. Part name brand and part scarcity, but neither is justifying their draft price. The chart below, which highlights how qualified third basemen have performed over the last 30 days may be a great parameter on how to value players at the position entering 2015. A premium will be placed on third base prospects Kris Bryant (Cubs) and Joey Gallo (Rangers) as we await their debuts. Miguel Sano was drafted late this year with the hopes his power would be promoted by June but an injury took him out for the year. If the Phillies decide to rebuild next year, Maikel Franco should also benefit from a chance to play in the majors. All hope for the position has not been lost as young players like Nolan Arenado and Nick Castellanos are starting to show signs in the second half of breakout potential for next year. Todd Frazier is another player to watch moving ahead, he’s had an MVP-caliber season to date and it will be interesting to see if he can continue that into next season. Frazier, Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rendon are the only third baseman to have double-digit home runs and steals over the last statistical year, which bodes well for their production moving forward. Here are the rankings for the last thirty days:

3B Last 30 Days
1. Nolan Arenado: 20 R, 7 HR, 20 RBI, 333/410/618
2. Josh Harrison: 22 R, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 6 SB, 328/361/578
3. Josh Donaldson: 13 R, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 4 SB, 284/410/484
4. Matt Carpenter: 18 R, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 2 SB, 310/402/500
5. Aramis Ramirez: 9 R, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 337/356/480
6. Yangervis Solarte: 17 R, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 283/370/413
7. Adrian Beltre: 11 R, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 287/368/406
8. Nick Castellanos: 7 R, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 247/301/481
9. Kyle Seager: 12 R, 3 HR, 14 RBI, SB, 273/339/414
10. David Freese: 9 R, HR, 7 RBI, 286/340/417
11. Anthony Rendon: 19 R, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 4 SB, 269/326/420
12. Pablo Sandoval: 12 R, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 288/321/394

For next season, I’ll be avoiding Longoria and Wright while enjoying the safety of Adrian Beltre. I see myself heavily targeting Nolan Arenado, Anthony Rendon, Nick Castellanos and Kyle Seager in 2015. Getting an early look at how these players are trending is always interesting. I definitely predict seeing gamers continue to reach for third baseman next year thanks to the scarcity trend, but there are players to be had and help on the way in the minor leagues. Third base is in a down cycle, but that should be changing soon.

Statistical credits: Fangraphs.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/wDFYnx

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

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