Third base presents an interesting dilemma for fantasy owners in 2018.With notable depth at the hot corner, drafters can spend early-round picks on other positions and still snag a quality third baseman later. But passing on the top options certainly won't be easy.• MLB.com's player rankingsTier 1: Nolan Arenado, Kristopher
Third base presents an interesting dilemma for fantasy owners in 2018.
With notable depth at the hot corner, drafters can spend early-round picks on other positions and still snag a quality third baseman later. But passing on the top options certainly won't be easy.
• MLB.com's player rankings
Tier 1: Nolan Arenado, Kristopher Bryant, Jose Ramirez, Manny Machado
The only third baseman who should be a first-round pick in 12-team leagues, Arenado has produced 48 more RBIs (393) than any other player with the second-most homers (120) in the Majors across the past three seasons -- a span in which he's hit .297. With the benefit of playing home games at Coors Field, the 26-year-old is poised for another spectacular showing in '18.
After delivering 39 long balls and 102 RBIs during a National League MVP Award-winning campaign in '16, Bryant disappointed some when he recorded 29 homers with 73 RBIs last year. But the slugger was still an exceptional offensive force, tying for 10th in the Majors with a 146 wRC+ and improving his year-over-year OPS to .946 (.939 in '16). Still just 26 years old, Bryant is easily a top-15 hitter entering '18.
The same goes for Ramirez, who hit .318 with 29 homers, 83 RBIs, 107 runs and 17 steals in '17. Even if the 25-year-old takes a step back in the home run department after making a sizable leap last season (11 homers in '16), he should continue to provide stellar production across the board.
Rounding out this tier is Machado, who is set to take over as the Orioles' starting shortstop and should gain eligibility there in early April. The slugger led all players with 250 hard-hit balls (95-plus mph exit velocity), per Statcast™, and hit 33 home runs last year. Likely to experience better batted-ball fortune in '18 (.265 BABIP in '17), the 25-year-old could vault back into the American League MVP Award conversation.
Tier 2: Josh Donaldson, Alex Bregman, Anthony Rendon
The players in this tier all have the potential to provide production commensurate with the elite hot-corner options in '18.
A first-round pick in most leagues last year, Donaldson missed substantial time with a strained right calf but did not relinquish his status as a premier offensive force. In fact, the veteran topped the 30-homer mark (33) for the third straight season while recording a better OPS (.944) than he had in his '15 American League MVP Award-winning campaign (.939). The biggest concern with the Blue Jays slugger is that he's now 32 years old and will be more prone to a decline than the younger options in this group.
Those who are worried about Donaldson's age and recent health problems could pursue Bregman or Rendon instead. Bregman showed well-rounded skill set in '17, hitting .284 with 19 homers, 71 RBIs, 88 runs and 17 steals. The 23-year-old will enter '18 as one of the game's top breakout candidates. Rendon broke out last year, producing career-high marks in homers (25), doubles (41), RBIs (100) and all three slash-stat departments (.301/.403/.533) while registering an elite BB/K ratio (1.02).
Bregman is the more valuable option because he's nearly four years younger and has greater stolen-base potential, but those who draft Rendon aren't likely to be disappointed.
Tier 3: Justin Turner, Jake Lamb, Miguel Sano, Kyle Seager, Rafael Devers, Adrian Beltre, Joey Gallo, Nicholas Castellanos
The depth of this position becomes evident in Tier 3, with all eight members capable of providing significant mixed-league value.
The headliner here is Turner, who has recorded a .303/.378/.502 slash line during his four years with the Dodgers. The veteran may not match the homer and RBI totals of Lamb and Sano, but he could best both men by 50-plus points in the batting-average department.
Seager is arguably the most dependable option in this tier, having reached the 20-homer and 150-game marks in each of the past six years. However, those looking for a player with greater upside may prefer the 21-year-old Devers, who is about to embark on his first full season after hitting .284 with 24 extra-base hits (10 homers) over 240 plate appearances last year.
Tier 3 continues with a pair of Rangers in Beltre and Gallo. Beltre still has the ability to be a major asset if he can stay healthy in '18, but he'll turn 39 in April and is coming off a season in which he played just 94 games due to multiple injuries. Drafters who select the veteran will need to have a backup plan in case he deals with further health woes. Gallo benefited from Beltre's absence last year, drawing the most extensive action of his big league career. The slugger will likely continue to be a major drain in the batting-average category because of his penchant for striking out, but he belongs on mixed-league rosters for his impressive power potential after belting 41 roundtrippers over 449 at-bats in '17.
Finally, Castellanos will move to the outfield full time this year but is still eligible at third base for fantasy purposes. The slugger set career highs in homers (26), doubles (36), runs (73) and RBIs (101) last season and has shown a penchant for generating quality contact -- tying for 12th with 199 hard-hit balls (95-plus mph exit velocity) and 10th with 51 barrels in '17, per Statcast™. Still just 25 years old, he could take another step forward in '18.
While owners in 12-team leagues should try to draft one of the 15 players mentioned above, those who don't may still be able to find a viable late-round option in Eugenio Suarez, Mike Moustakas or Travis Shaw.
Thomas Harrigan is a fantasy editor for MLB.com.