Matt Carpenter is currently the top ranked third baseman, but we all knew that he is a pure grinder and a great hitter. Miguel Cabrera is proving to be in good health after having some foot issues last year that seemed to sap his power. And there are the young studs who are rising through the ranks such as Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado. But who has been an unexpected find at third base and what can we expect out of the disappointments at the position? Time to dive into the third base position and see what has been going on there so far this season.
Surprises: Marcus Semien, Jimmy Paredes
I talked about Semien in the second basemen post, so let’s skip on to Jimmy Paredes. Paredes began the year on the DL for the Orioles, but was activated a couple weeks in and has been functioning as the team’s DH out of the 2-hole mostly and has so far put up a line of .333 AVG, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 12 R, and 1 SB in 14 games played Is this surprise performance for real? Well, I am not going to call it for real just yet, but let’s just say that I am very intrigued by Paredes, especially because of where he is being slotted in the Orioles lineup. He is a player that has seen some big league time every year since the end of 2011, but has spent the better part of those days as a AAA player where he displayed the ability to be a 10 HR/30 SB guy over the course of a full season. That is useful stuff in fantasy, so when a player with those skills comes along and starts off hot, it does not hurt to pounce on him on the waiver wire and just see what comes of it. At 26 years old, Paredes is just entering his prime and could really blossom. The one aspect of his game that scares me off is that he has an aggressive approach at the plate, so he does not walk much at all. His current mark is at a microscopic 1.6 BB%, but this kind of fits in with the Orioles team philosophy. Nonetheless, I would still look to pick him up in fantasy leagues as he can actually turn out to be this year’s Josh Harrison.
Disappointments: Josh Harrison, Adrian Beltre
Speaking of Harrison… He is really scuffling at the plate this year and I went over Harrison’s struggles in the second basemen post, so we’ll move on to Beltre. Beltre has been one of the top fantasy third basemen as he has gotten older, and I personally feel that he should find his way into Cooperstown someday, but he is off to a very underwhelming start as he is hitting just .236 with 2 HR and 5 RBI. Yikes, only 5 RBI through 27 games for a team’s primary cleanup hitter? In Beltre’s defense, the Rangers 1-2 hitters have not been getting on base a whole lot, but that is still a surprisingly low RBI total. Beltre just is not squaring up the ball well so far this year as his line drive rate is way down from 22.1% last year to 16.0% this year. So that is the simple reason why he sits with just a .236 AVG on a .245 BABIP even though he has only struck out 8.5% of the time. Beltre should be able to turn it around to start making some harder contact, but let’s not forget that he is now 36 years old and he has been playing in the Majors since he was 18. So this just could be father time finally catching up to him. We kind of saw it last year with the dip in power when he failed to reach the 20 HR mark after having hit at least 30 HR in each of the previous three seasons. Beltre’s numbers will surely improve, but he most certainly is on the downward end of his career.
Injuries: Jake Lamb
Lamb earned the third base job for the Diamondbacks out of Spring Training, and he got off to a very hot start hitting .414 with 1 HR and 9 RBI in 10 games before going down with a foot injury. He was starting every game versus righties while taking a seat versus lefties, but when he comes off the DL in a week or two, he may be relegated to a mostly reserve role or sent to AAA given that Yasmany Tomas is now with the big league club and is heating up at the plate while mostly playing third base. Tomas is the one with the big contract, so if he’s playing well then he’s going to be in the lineup more often than not.
Keep an eye on: Kris Bryant, Yasmani Tomas, Mike Moustakas
Obviously super prospect Kris Bryant is someone to keep an eye on. He was called up a couple weeks into the season and immediately began to make an impact driving in a bunch of runs. He has yet to hit his first Major League home run though, so that is what we are all waiting for since the whole world knows he has colossal power. Once he hits that first one then the home runs should start coming in bunches for the 23-year old third baseman.
Yasmany Tomas is another rookie to keep an eye on since he is beginning to heat up at the plate for the Diamondbacks after spending some time in AAA. Playing time could become a concern given the crowded situation with the Diamondbacks, but as mentioned above, Tomas is the one with the big contract so if he’s hitting then he will be starting somewhere.
We have been waiting for the Mike Moustakas breakout for a while now, and he is finally doing something in regular season games to make the baseball community think that this could be the year. Moose is currently hitting .312 with 3 HR, 10 RBI, 19 R, and 1 SB through 27 games played as he has settled in as the #2 hitter for the Royals. He has never been one to hit for a high AVG, rather it was his power that was supposed to translate over to the Majors given his high school and Minor League track record. So for him to be hitting over .300 is intriguing and something that we need to keep an eye on. He is doing so by having cut down on his strikeouts from 14.8 K% last year to 9.0 K% so far this year. Also aiding him in his high AVG is the adjustments he has made versus left-handed pitching. Last year, Moustakas hit just .172 against same handed pitching, but so far this year he is boasting a .300 mark. Moustakas knew that this was a weak part of his game and he spent the off-season working hard to improve in that area, so this could be a real turnaround. He has disappointed so much in the past though that I am not going to say that he is going to continue this pace, but he is surely someone to keep an eye on.