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Fantasy 3rd basemen rankings: J-Ram tops list

Arenado, Bregman, Bryant follow Tribe superstar
MLB.com @DKramer_

Third base might be the most talent-rich position in the infield right now, with MVP Award candidates manning the hot corner around both leagues. 

Jose Ramirez proved in 2018 that power doesn't necessarily preclude versatility, as the Indians' star infielder continued to blossom into one of the game's best all-around players, putting together the Majors' first 30-30 season since 2012, along with Mookie Betts. But Ramirez isn't alone among the cream of the crop. The hot corner is the only position in MLB.com's 2019 fantasy rankings where at least three everyday players at the position rank among the top 11 overall fantasy players. Here's a breakdown of where those players stand, and the value that they carry. 

Third base might be the most talent-rich position in the infield right now, with MVP Award candidates manning the hot corner around both leagues. 

Jose Ramirez proved in 2018 that power doesn't necessarily preclude versatility, as the Indians' star infielder continued to blossom into one of the game's best all-around players, putting together the Majors' first 30-30 season since 2012, along with Mookie Betts. But Ramirez isn't alone among the cream of the crop. The hot corner is the only position in MLB.com's 2019 fantasy rankings where at least three everyday players at the position rank among the top 11 overall fantasy players. Here's a breakdown of where those players stand, and the value that they carry. 

• Fantasy rankings: Overall | C | 1B | 2B | SSOFRP

Video: Jose Ramirez is the No. 1 third baseman right now

Tier 1: Ramirez, Nolan Arenado
Fantasy players won't find much more top-heavy production than at third base, where Ramirez and Arenado could be the long-term difference in playoff berths and eventual championships.

Ramirez certainly presented cause for concern during the second half last year, when he hit just .218/.366/.427 with only 10 of his 39 homers, but his overall body of work made him an American League MVP Award finalist. One thing fantasy players can count on with J-Ram is durability: He's played in at least 152 games in each of the past three seasons and hit .300/.375/.533 over nearly 2,000 plate appearances in that stretch while also accumulating 19.2 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs, behind only Mike Trout, Betts and Jose Altuve -- each of the past three AL MVP Award winners. 

Check out MLB's 1-stop shop for fantasy draft prep

Video: Nolan Arenado gets third place for NL MVP Award

Arenado has been nearly as consistent health-wise -- only five players have played in more games since his breakout year in 2015. He battled a right shoulder injury for more than a month down the stretch, but Arenado insisted that it didn't affect his hitting mechanics, and he still played in all but six games while leading the National League in homers for the third time in the past four years. In fact, Steamer projects Arenado will lead the NL again in '19, with 37. It's also worth considering that Arenado is entering his final season before free agency and will have much more to play for than ever before. 

Tier 2: Alex Bregman, Kris Bryant
Bregman's plate discipline took a significant step forward in 2018, which may have helped translate to his Astros-best 31 home runs. Bregman cut his strikeout rate almost in half from his rookie year in '16, down to 12.1 percent, while nearly doubling his walk rate, from 6.9 to 13.6 percent. Both marks ranked among the 15 best among 140 qualified hitters, according to FanGraphs. If those numbers stay in the same ballpark or continue to improve, Bregman's fantasy stock as an on-base machine will be incredibly valuable. He is listed as MLB.com's No. 11 fantasy prospect. 

Bryant, on the other hand, faces an array of question marks for a Cubs club that is about to begin a season of high pressure. The star third baseman hasn't replicated his eye-popping fantasy numbers from his 2016 NL MVP Award season, and last year he battled lingering left shoulder inflammation, which limited him to just 102 games. Even when he was on the field, Bryant's effectiveness was not at the elite level fantasy players have become accustomed to expecting. He hit a career-low .272 with just 13 homers. 

Video: Bryant discusses Harper and his own health in 2019

Tier 3: Anthony Rendon, Eugenio Suarez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Justin Turner
The third tier of third basemen might be where fantasy players can get their best value -- the talent pool among this level of players is perhaps the richest in the game. 

Rendon was quietly one of the Majors' best players through the lens of analytics, putting together 6.3 fWAR, tied for eighth-highest and greater than that of Arenado and Manny Machado, and 140 wRC+, which was 10th-highest. Suarez also continued a promising trend with yet another breakout campaign, though his 23.4 percent strikeout rate could be a red flag. When he was healthy, Turner (who was limited to 103 games) remained the best hitter on the NL's best team, though Steamer projects a slight regression for the 34-year-old.

Video: Top Prospects: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays

How early should you draft Vladimir Guerrero Jr.?

But the biggest question mark at the entire position -- if not the whole game of fantasy baseball -- might be Guerrero, who comes in at No. 45 in MLB.com's overall rankings. Touted as potentially the best prospect of all time, the 19-year-old sliced up Minor League pitching last year to a gaudy slash line of .381/.437/.636 with 20 homers in just 95 games, and Steamer projects that he will pick up right where he left off, forecasting 22 homers and an .879 OPS from the superstar prospect. One downside in drafting Guerrero in the first rounds is that he likely won't break camp with the big league club. 

Tier 4: Miguel Andujar, Matt Chapman, Josh Donaldson, Travis Shaw, Mike Moustakas
Even in the later rounds, fantasy players should be able to find true value while they fill out the last holes of their rosters. All but Donaldson in Tier 4 produced at least 24 homers in 2018, and they are all projected by Steamer to reach that figure in '19, Donaldson included. 

Moustakas remains a free agent, but he's likely to land a job at some point before Opening Day. He's consistently a reliable power threat and could be had deep into drafts. Andujar was not only the runner-up for the AL Rookie of the Year Award -- he was also the life of the Yankees' lineup for much of the late summer while Aaron Judge battled his way back from a right wrist fracture. Donaldson will be looking to re-establish his value back to an MVP-caliber level on a one-year contract with the ambitious Braves after missing much of last season with a left calf injury. Shaw has blossomed into one of the position's premier power hitters, and he could add versatility if Milwaukee continues to move him around the diamond. And although Chapman is better recognized for his defensive wizardry, he still slugged .508 last year and is projected to be worth a .797 OPS in '19. 

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.