I try to be a positive person, the kind of guy who sees the glass as half-full or waits for the possible rainbow when it’s raining. But even with my optimistic outlook on life, I have to admit that the 2023 version of the fantasy third-base pool is as shallow as I’ve seen it in recent years. Aside from catcher, third base is the toughest position to navigate for this year’s fantasy drafters.
Don’t get me wrong — there are some great third-base options at the outset of your draft. But once we get roughly eight players deep, the hot corner options thin out to the point that managers might have some major regret about not filling the position sooner.
Every problem has a solution, and there are some strategies for handling third base that might put managers in an advantageous spot. Those in points leagues will want to prioritize getting a quality third baseman during the first half of their drafts, as they will fall behind many of their leaguemates by continuously rolling out one of the weaker options. Managers in roto leagues can take a slightly different approach.
These managers draft deeper rosters than their points-league counterparts, and they still need just one third baseman, as the terrific depth at first base will allow them to fill their corner infield spot from that player pool. For that reason, roto managers might opt to open the season with a mediocre third baseman and a plan to pay special attention to the waiver wire for potential replacements.
Jose Ramirez (Current Yahoo ADP: 4) is in a tier by himself at third base. The five-category star finished third in the majors in RBIs last year while hitting .280 and ranking among the top 25 in homers, RBIs and runs scored. Ramirez is arguably the safest first-round pick, especially when factoring in that his selection allows managers to ignore this position for the remainder of their draft.
Tier 2 features a trio of third basemen who are viable options in Round. 2. Manny Machado (Current ADP: 17) and Rafael Devers (Current ADP: 21) offer similar fantasy profiles. Both sluggers should provide at least 30 homers and approach the 200 R+RBI plateau. They will also chip in a few steals and a helpful batting mark. The wild card in this tier is Bobby Witt Jr. (Current ADP: 17), who should rank among the MLB steals leaders but is much less accomplished as a hitter. The Royals sophomore logged a lowly .294 OBP and a .722 OPS in his rookie year, and any regression on those numbers would make him a questionable fantasy contributor.
Austin Riley (Current ADP: 36) and Nolan Arenado (Current ADP: 37) make up the third tier, as they are the final two third basemen whom fantasy managers will be truly excited to draft. Some managers will slot Riley in Tier 2 after he produced 38 homers, 93 RBIs and 90 runs scored in his age-25 season. But those in roto leagues should be warned that the Braves slugger will make zero contributions to their steals total. Arenado is similarly slow and slightly less powerful compared to Riley, but he has been an RBI machine throughout his career and posted an impressive .293 average last season.
Alex Bregman (Current ADP: 80) and Gunnar Henderson (Current ADP: 93) are the final two third-base options with whom managers will feel satisfied. Bregman has yet to reclaim the power skills he showed during the juiced-ball 2019 season, and he lost his base-stealing prowess several years ago. But the career .277 hitter will rack up strong totals in runs and RBIs.
Henderson is one of the most exciting players to draft this year, as he heads into his first full major-league season at age 21. I can envision the youngster collecting 20 homers and 10-15 steals, but I also believe he will experience some bumps in the road and might be a regrettable pick this season.
Those in roto leagues who are in the unenviable position of having to find their third baseman in the later rounds should target Josh Rojas (Current ADP: 237), who needed just 125 games last year to collect 23 steals. Rojas is not a powerful player, but he has hit .267 the past two seasons and fills a need for those who didn’t collect enough swipes in the early rounds.
Managers in point formats might prefer a late-round gamble on Anthony Rendon (Current ADP: 205). The 32-year-old has been limited by injuries the past two seasons but posted an eye-popping .949 OPS across a four-year stretch from 2017 to '20. At the very least, Rendon should be a productive option at the outset of the season.
Jordan Walker (Current ADP: 252) is the perfect option for those who would like to make a small investment in a high-upside rookie. Considered one of baseball’s best prospects, the 20-year-old hit .306 with 19 homers, 22 steals and 100 runs scored in 119 games at Double-A last year. He should soon force his way into the Cardinals lineup.
Top 12 third basemen (as of Feb. 21)
1. Jose Ramirez
2. Manny Machado
3. Rafael Devers
4. Bobby Witt Jr.
5. Austin Riley
6. Nolan Arenado
7. Alex Bregman
8. Gunnar Henderson
9. Max Muncy
10. Ryan McMahon
11. Matt Chapman
12. Josh Rojas