Fantasy Baseball Third Base Preview: Maybe let someone else take Nolan Arenado this year

Fred Zinkie
Yahoo Fantasy Contributor

The hot corner is hotter than ever before. In fact, managers who view first base or outfield as the deepest positions need to get their heads around third base being the new king of the fantasy landscape. With too many power hitters to count and a variety of steals sources, managers can go in any direction. But there is also pressure packed into this loaded spot, as coming away with an unproductive third baseman will leave managers lagging behind the rest of their league.

Likely to be Undervalued 

Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians (ADP 23)

Ramirez emerged from an ugly first half to re-establish himself as a fantasy stud by hitting .327 with 16 homers and 48 RBI across just 44 games after the All-Star break. Changes to his approach late in 2018 and at the start of 2019 have been well-documented, but the overall takeaway for fantasy managers is that the 27-year-old can be trusted once again as a five-category asset. Ramirez is one of the few players in this era who can consistently threaten the 30-30 plateau, which makes him a great option early in the second round.

Jeff McNeil, New York Mets (ADP 101)

McNeil and his elite contact skills are a bit of an outlier in this power-laden environment. The 27-year-old is extremely proficient at limiting whiffs (career 12.1 percent strikeout rate), which has led to a lofty .321 average across his initial two seasons. And his power skills are coming along nicely, as he logged 23 homers across 510 at-bats last year without the benefit of an obscene HR/FB rate. Expected to hit leadoff at the outset of the season, McNeil could be the high-volume, high-average hitter that teams need to offset a multitude of all-or-nothing sluggers.

Scott Kingery, Philadelphia Phillies (ADP 201)

After a disappointing rookie season in 2018, Kingery started to find his stride when he produced 19 homers, 15 steals and a .788 OPS across 500 plate appearances last season. The four-position asset could easily jump to 25 homers and 20 steals if given 600 plate appearances, and he could have even more development in store for his age-26 campaign. The combination of Kingery’s substantial floor and high ceiling (care to dream of 30-30?) makes him a fine option inside the top-150 picks.

Tommy La Stella, Los Angeles Angels (ADP 245)

La Stella was doing some la-stellar things last season (haha … I’ll be here all season) before missing all but two games of the second half due to a right tibia fracture. His first-half numbers were outstanding (.300 average, 16 homers, 44 RBI, 49 runs scored), as he finally added substantial power skills to his elite contact abilities. In fact, the 31-year-old’s ability to get on base makes him arguably the best candidate on the roster to bat leadoff in front of the dynamic duo of Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. There is enough upside here to make La Stella worth a flyer in the second half of 2020 drafts.

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Likely to be Overvalued 

Are Nolan Arenado's days as a perennial first-rounder numbered? (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (ADP 9)

For two reasons, managers should make 2020 the year they let someone else take Arenado in the first round. First, the slugger will be less productive if a long-rumored trade out of Colorado takes place before or during the season. And second, his ability to produce 40 homers and triple-digit totals in RBI and runs scored is less impactful in a fantasy landscape where 58 players reached 30 homers, 44 sluggers tallied 90 RBI and 49 players accumulated 90 runs scored last season.

Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (ADP 47)

Cover up Bryant’s name and focus on his uninspiring numbers. The Cubs new leadoff man has never hit .300, he’s fallen short of 80 RBI in each of the past three seasons and has averaged five steals per year across the past four campaigns. There is no reason to use a top-50 pick on a 30-homer player who is not special in any other area, especially now that 30-homer players grow on trees. 

Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros (ADP 143)

Gurriel entered 2019 as a high-average, low-power option at the back end of drafts, and for the initial three months he stayed in character (8 HR, 37 RBI). But something clicked for the 35-year-old, and he tallied 19 homers and 60 RBI across 50 games during July and August. Gurriel quietly returned to form in September (4 HR, 7 RBI), leaving managers to decide if they want to base his 2020 draft price on two great months or the roughly three unimpressive years surrounding them.

I shouldn’t have to bang the drum too loudly (sorry, I couldn’t resist) to keep you from drafting Gurriel at his current ADP.

The Wild Cards

The following players can make or break a fantasy season. The upside is enticing, but consider yourself warned.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (ADP 55)

We all love Guerrero with his exuberant smile, his famous last name, and his sky-high long-term potential, but we have to admit that this potential superstar largely flopped during his rookie campaign (15 HR, 69 RBI, 52 R, .272 BA in 123 games).

The soon-to-be 21-year-old shed plenty of weight over the winter, and he has the potential to hit .300 with more than 30 round-trippers. However, his 2019 batted-ball data (34.9% hard-contact rate, 33.1% fly-ball rate, 17.3% line-drive rate) suggests that his path to stardom could follow a gentle slope.

Everyone is waiting for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to reach his potential. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds (ADP 73)

Suarez demolished baseballs to the tune of 49 home runs last season, but his year-over-year power jump was massive (15 homers), and he will be hard-pressed to repeat his 29.5% HR/FB rate from 2019. The slugger is also coming off January shoulder surgery, and his status for Opening Day is unknown. Managers will have to think twice about predicting another impressive power season for someone who will miss his normal spring preparation and could play at less than 100% in April.

Danny Santana, Texas Rangers (ADP 152)

Power-speed threats are rare these days, which makes Santana hard to resist after he produced 28 long balls and 21 swipes in 2019. But his performance was as surprising as that of any player, as he entered last season having hit .219 with six homers and 28 steals across the previous four campaigns. Santana makes sense at his current ADP, as he could be anything from a top-50 player to waver-wire fodder by June.

Jon Berti, Miami Marlins (ADP 251)

Our search for steals takes a turn to South Florida, where Berti tallied 17 swipes, six homers and a .273 average across 287 plate appearances in his rookie year. The 30-year-old could be a late bloomer who provides 30 steals at the cost of a late-round pick, but he doesn’t have a set spot on an unsettled Marlins squad. With Miami fielding subpar regulars at most positions, there are plenty of ways for manager Don Mattingly to squeeze the versatile Berti into his lineup.

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