J-Ram atop fantasy third-base rankings

March 5th, 2021

Some of the hot corner’s top stars turned in disappointing seasons in 2020, but we’re expecting a big rebound for the position as a whole in ’21. And with some fresh faces joining the mix, third base may be as deep as it’s ever been.

Here’s a closer look at this year’s best third-base options.

After back-to-back third-place finishes in the American League MVP Award race, Ramírez struggled early in 2019, but a big finish suggested he could be trusted as one of the best fantasy third basemen entering ’20. Those who bought in were rewarded with a .292/.386/.607 slash line, 17 homers, 10 stolen bases, 46 RBIs and 45 runs in 58 games.

From 2017-20, Ramírez was first at the position in steals (85), second in runs (330) and fifth in homers (108) and RBIs (317). At ninth overall, the 28-year-old is the only third baseman ranked among the first 19 picks in MLB.com’s fantasy player rankings, so he has the first tier to himself.

Machado, Bregman, Arenado, Rendon and Devers are all grouped closely together in the overall rankings, ranging from 20th (Machado) to 35th (Devers). Suárez is a bit behind them at No. 54, but he may very well lead the position in home runs, having hit 98 of them in the past three years.

Like Ramírez, Machado delivered a strong rebound effort in 2020, increasing his OPS by 154 points from his first year with the Padres and hitting 16 homers in 60 games for one of the best offenses in the game. The durable veteran has played more games (853) than anyone else since the start of 2015 and hit at least 32 homers in every season from ’15-19.

Bregman and Arenado are aiming to bounce back from injury-plagued seasons that saw both players fall short of expectations, and Arenado will also have to adjust to new surroundings after being traded from the Rockies to the Cardinals in February. Arenado’s fantasy upside is undeniable, though, as he averaged 40 homers, 124 RBIs and 104 runs per season from 2015-19 while hitting .300 with a .937 OPS in that span. Bregman doesn’t have as long of a track record as Arenado, but he recorded 72 homers with 215 RBIs, 227 runs and a .970 OPS across 2018-19.

Despite dealing with an ankle injury for much of the season, Devers played nearly every game for the Red Sox in 2020. And while his .263/.310/.483 slash line was well below what he accomplished in 2019 (.311/.361/.555), the left-handed slugger had 11 homers with 43 RBIs.

Leading off the third tier is the 25-year-old Moncada, who tested positive for COVID-19 when he arrived at Summer Camp last July and dealt with the after-effects of the virus all season, hitting .225/.320/.385. Moncada had an 86th percentile barrel rate and a 90th-percentile hard-hit rate in 2019, when he finished with a .315/.367/.548 slash line and 25 homers in 132 games.

Chapman is best known for his spectacular glove work at the hot corner, but he has turned into a capable hitter, producing 70 homers and an .851 OPS in 338 games since the beginning of 2018. The 27-year-old went deep 10 times in 37 games before his 2020 season ended early due to hip surgery.

Bryant also missed considerable time in 2020, but unlike Chapman, he didn’t perform well when he was in the lineup, recording four homers with a .644 OPS in 34 games. He’ll try to recapture his MVP form in his final season before free agency.

Urshela is solidified as a starting-caliber fantasy option, as he validated his surprising 2019 breakout by posting a .298/.368/.490 slash line with six homers in 43 games last year. Bohm (.338/.400/.481 in 44 games) and Hayes (.376/.442/.682 in 24 games) are seeking similar validation after their excellent, albeit brief, debuts in 2020.

When healthy, Donaldson and Turner have remained productive in recent seasons. But fantasy managers who draft either one will have to expect some missed time. Donaldson is now 35 years old and made just 80 combined appearances in 2018 (52) and '20 (28), while Turner is 36 and has played more than 135 games in a season only once in his career.

Edman, meanwhile, is expected to settle in as the Cardinals’ starting second baseman this season after playing a utility role in 2019 and ’20, with the majority of his starts coming at third. The 25-year-old has recorded a .283 average with 16 homers, 17 steals and 88 runs in 147 games over his first two seasons, and he’s eligible at four positions (2B, 3B, SS, OF) in fantasy.

Locked into everyday roles, Anderson and Seager can be penciled in for 20-plus homers and 80-plus RBIs. Both are safer picks than Riley, but they lack the ceiling of the 23-year-old Braves third baseman. Riley has hit just .232 in his first two seasons, but he made strides to trim his strikeout rate last year and has slammed 26 home runs in 462 career at-bats.