For all that went wrong at third base in 2022, this year flipped the script completely.
Gunnar Henderson joined the ranks of the elite. Elly De La Cruz came up and made an immediate impact. Royce Lewis and Josh Jung each had a stretch where he looked like a stud. Ke'Bryan Hayes and Alec Bohm finally showed signs of living up to their potential. Junior Caminero and Noelvi Marte got a late-season look and seem poised for big roles in 2024. Ha-seong Kim, Spencer Steer and Jake Burger all became impact players out of nowhere.
- Early rankings: | | | | | | |
That's one way to flesh out a position that was already strong at the top. Sure, notables like Bobby Witt, Yandy Diaz, Jordan Walker and Justin Turner are no longer eligible, but the gains so outnumber the losses that third base now looks like the deepest position of all.
Of course, no position is so shallow that scarcity should be your motivating factor in the early rounds, but unlike last year, if you miss out on the studs at third base, there's more than enough to fall back on.
Note that the focus here is standard 5x5 scoring (such as Rotisserie leagues), but scroll a little further and you'll see my rankings for points leagues.
Jose Ramirez Cleveland Guardians 3B
|The first-round staple may slip to Round 2 in 2024, but it's not because Ramirez is on the decline per se. It's just that in a year when so many early-rounders put up stratospheric stolen base totals, his remained on par with the rest of his career, making him no longer seem quite as special as before.
Austin Riley Atlanta Braves 3B
|Riley's breakout 2021 didn't totally silence the skeptics, but after another two years of near-identical production, it's fair now to say he's as stable of a slugger as you'll find. His place in the heart of the Braves lineup gives him an extra boost in runs and RBI.
Rafael Devers Boston Red Sox 3B
|Devers and Riley are so close that they may go back to back in some drafts (late Round 2 sounds about right). I give Riley the edge because of his access to the Braves offense, but if either is going to hit .300, it's probably Devers given his lower strikeout rate.
Gunnar Henderson Baltimore Orioles 3B
|You might say Henderson's numbers, particularly the batting average, came in a little light for him to occupy the No. 4 spot here, but for a 22-year-old rookie, what he did was awfully impressive. The numbers were also dragged down by a dreadful first two months. Over the final four, he hit .276 with 23 homers, eight steals and an .856 OPS.
Manny Machado San Diego Padres 3B
|Going purely by the .782 OPS, Machado just had his worst year since 2017, but his 30 homers and 91 RBI are a triumph when you consider he played through tennis elbow. His plate discipline and exit velocity readings were as good as always, so the only question is if he's recovered from surgery in time for Opening Day.
Elly De La Cruz Cincinnati Reds SS
|De La Cruz's talent is so plainly evident that it's easy to overlook his .235 batting and 34 percent strikeout rate in his first partial big-league season. His stolen-base prowess kept him startable in all leagues even as he stumbled to the finish line, so there isn't huge downside to taking him here in the hope of a first round-caliber breakthrough.
Nolan Arenado St. Louis Cardinals 3B
|Arenado has always relied on high fly-ball and pull rates for power, and it can come at the expense of batting average, as we saw this year. It's hard to predict how such a profile will age, which is worrisome as he enters his mid-30s, but nothing on his Statcast page is so out of sorts to suggest an imminent decline.
Royce Lewis Minnesota Twins 3B
|Everyone was pretty much over Lewis when he strained his oblique only a month after making it back from a second torn ACL, but then he returned to homer 11 times, including four grand slams, in his final 32 games. He has all the helium now -- and for good reason as a former No. 1 overall pick with across-the-board potential -- but the injury risk speaks for itself.
Ha-seong Kim San Diego Padres 2B
|Seeing as he's my No. 7 second baseman, you're more likely to draft Kim there than at third base, but the multi-eligibility (shortstop as well) is a big part of the appeal. The biggest part, though, is the likelihood of 30-plus steals, which is rarer at third base than second. Just understand that his 17 homers might represent his peak.
Alex Bregman Houston Astros 3B
|Bregman's 2023 numbers were like Nolan Arenado's except that he scored far more as a high-OBP guy batting high in the Astros lineup. So why is he lower here? Because while a .260 batting average and 25 homers is likely for both, we've seen Arenado well exceed both marks as recently as 2022. In points leagues, Bregman's plate discipline boosts him way up the rankings.
Spencer Steer Cincinnati Reds 1B
|It's going to take more than one year of Steer maxing out his modest tool set for me to buy in completely, but like Nolan Arenado and Alex Bregman, his capacity for pulling the ball in the air might be his saving grace. Still, this marks the point in the rankings where we can't be totally sure what we're getting.
Junior Caminero Tampa Bay Rays 3B
|That even the Rays, the most risk-averse and brutally cost-efficient of organizations, were willing to bring up Caminero at the end of his age-19 season is all the evidence you need of his prodigy. Having him on their Opening Day roster could score them extra draft picks in the future, and having him on yours could score you early-round production at a mid-round cost.
Noelvi Marte Cincinnati Reds 3B
|Marte may have been overshadowed by Junior Caminero among late-season call-ups set to take the league by storm, but he made the stronger impression of the two, overcoming some early launch-angle issues with three late homers. Standing out in particular were his exit velocities and willingness to run.
Max Muncy Los Angeles Dodgers 3B
|Muncy has increasingly been a player of extremes, making it difficult to ascertain at what point the home runs are worth the drain on batting average. It's easier in points leagues, where the walks make up for the lack of hits, but those walks also serve to boost his run total, which helps in all formats.
Jake Burger Miami Marlins 3B
|The breakout slugger was all-or-nothing as a part-timer for the White Sox early on but became a more well-rounded hitter as a full-timer for the Marlins, batting .303 compared to .214 while striking out 21.7 percent of the time compared to 31.6 percent. How repeatable any of it is will go a long way toward determing if he'll live up to, or even exceed, this price tag.
Josh Jung Texas Rangers 3B
|Jung looked like the big breakout third baseman for the first two months of 2023, and while a second-half thumb surgery (and perhaps-too-hasty return) contributed to his tumble, the cooldown began before then. A high strikeout rate is partly to blame, but another step forward wouldn't be unexpected in his age-26 season.
Ke'Bryan Hayes Pittsburgh Pirates 3B
|Hayes has long delivered the sort of exit velocities that normally translate to big power, but he put the ball on the ground too much to make good on it. That all changed in the final two months of 2023, when he put the ball in the air 41.5 percent of the time and delivered 10 of his career-high 15 home runs. More of that would make a 20/20 season possible.
Alec Bohm Philadelphia Phillies 3B
|Bohm managed to reach the 20-homer theshold for the first time but remains hit-over-power at age 27. He was better than both Josh Jung and Ke'Bryan Hayes in 2023 and is a stable choice batting in a prime RBI spot in the Phillies lineup, but he doesn't have as much room to improve as those two.
Isaac Paredes Tampa Bay Rays 3B
|My No. 20 first baseman is ranked similarly here, and I'm obliged to point out, as I did there, that his actual production justifies more. It was on par with Manny Machado's, to be clear, but while Machado performed near the bottom of his range of outcomes, Peredes performed at the tippy top, selling out hard for home runs in a way that leaves him vulnerable to statistical collapse.
Brett Baty New York Mets 3B
|The 23-year-old Baty had ample opportunities to seize the third base job in a lost year for the Mets, and while he couldn't make good on them, it doesn't negate all the damage he's done in the minors the past two years. Now seems like an appropriate point to gamble on pedigree and hope for a Spencer Torkelson-sized breakthrough.
What changes in points leagues?
1. Jose Ramirez, CLE
2. Austin Riley, ATL
3. Rafael Devers, BOS
4. Alex Bregman, HOU
5. Gunnar Henderson, BAL
6. Manny Machado, SD
7. Elly De La Cruz, CIN
8. Nolan Arenado, STL
9. Royce Lewis, MIN
10. Max Muncy, LAD
11. Ha-seong Kim, SD
12. Spencer Steer, CIN
13. Junior Caminero, TB
14. Noelvi Marte, CIN
15. Jake Burger, MIA
16. Josh Jung, TEX
17. Ke'Bryan Hayes, PIT
18. Alec Bohm, PHI
19. Isaac Paredes, TB
20. Brett Baty, NYM