March 22, 2021
Arguably the most interesting position in fantasy drafts this season, is the “hot corner”. There is one undisputed top tier player who needs to be considered in the first round. Then, a ton of players in the mid-tier (11 players from an ADP of 21-95). What makes this position the most interesting, is the magnitude of multi-position eligible players.
Position eligibility is site dependant. For example; on Yahoo, Alex Bregman and Manny Machado can be rostered at both third and shortstop – but not at ESPN or NFBC. This creates implications which need to be considered during drafts this year.
Similar to the Draft Targets – First Base article, let’s try to breakdown the tiers by ADP and see which players should be targeted this season. The ADP being used in these articles are from the NFBC. Check out our rankings here, to bring to your draft for an edge.
Jose Ramirez (CLE) – ADP 10
While the Cleveland Indians are a far cry from the dominant team they were in 2017, Jose Ramirez remains a cornerstone piece to the success of the franchise. Next to Shane Bieber, the most important player on the team is the third base, fantasy stud, who will contribute in all categories. Just two years ago, Ramirez was a threat to enter the exclusive 40-40 club, but fell one HR short and missed the stolen base mark by seven. Still, 39 homeruns and 34 swipes is a ridiculous season. He followed up in 2019 with another solid performance, though saw a reduction in batting average as he dealt with injuries and missed some time. Finally, last year, Ramirez finished the season with a .292/.386/.607 slash line. A few numbers jump out as outliers like the HR/FB ratio – which jumped 8% from 2019. Likely due to avoiding the cooler months of the year where the ball travels far less. He saw a career high wRC+, wOBA, and SLG.
Looking ahead to 2021, most projections indicate a few things. First, a dip in batting average. Losing Francisco Lindor in the offseason hurts this lineup dramatically. Even though the Indians added Rosario, pitchers will surely opt to pitch around Ramirez more often. Next, wRC+. An advanced stat that measures runs per plate appearance scaled where 100 is average; both league and park adjusted based on wOBA. Projected for around 130 this season, compared to an incredible 164 in 2020 (tied for 6th highest in the MLB). Again, given the watered down lineup to even just one year ago, stats are going to see a decrease. That being said, there is no player at the position who offers the same upside in all five fantasy categories as Ramirez. He is a first-round draft pick who will help your team immensely.
Manny Machado – ADP 21
Nolan Arenado – ADP 39
Anthony Rendon – ADP 40
Rafael Devers – ADP 41
Alex Bregman – ADP 43
Eugenio Suarez – ADP 72
Yoan Moncada – ADP 85
Jeff McNeil – ADP 88
Max Muncy – ADP 95
This is a massive tier. Instead of pin-pointing a few guys, I have decided to include them all. In my opinion, I don’t think there are really any players here who should be necessarily “avoided”. They all have a healthy history of great fantasy performances. The biggest question mark among this group is Nolan Arenado. His transition to St. Louis from Colorado is somewhat built into his ADP (formerly a first rounder and now a third). That being said, breaking down his career home/road splits suggest maybe bumping him down even further:
The one player who consistently goes overlooked is Eugenio Suarez and he is primed for a massive bounce back season. You don’t have to look too deep into his numbers either. Last season, Suarez batted an ugly .202 average. However, his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was a career low, .214. This suggests the Cincinnati third base slugger was one of the most unlucky batters in all of baseball. Considering he has routinely recorded a .304-.340 BABIP through the six previous seasons, last year was an anomaly. THE BAT X projects a jump to .292 BABIP. This will increase the average significantly in 2021 and we all know about the 40+ homerun, 100 RBI upside he brings. Lastly, it sounds like the Reds are going to try Suarez at short. Starting a player who has hit 49 homeruns at the shortstop position creates a massive advantage at the position.
If manager David Bell likes what he sees from Suárez, he could have him open the regular season at shortstop with Mike Moustakas at third base and second base becoming a position battle for several candidates — including No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Jonathan India.Mark Sheldon – MLB.com
Alec Bohm – ADP 106
Matt Chapman – ADP 114
Kris Bryant – ADP 126
Ke’Bryan Hayes – ADP 138
Josh Donaldson – ADP 191
Austin Riely – ADP 212
If you do not have the opportunity to secure a third baseman within the first 100 picks in the draft, there are still very viable players later on. Although carrying much more risk, players like Bohm and Chapman are entering the season with high hopes. Kris Bryant will try to delete last season from his memory and rebound like so many others. Given the current ADP though, give me some Josh Donaldson all day.
I will caution everyone with a statement; this pick has plenty of risk and a second third base eligible player should also be drafted. The injury history with Josh Donaldson is tough to stomach. Considering he is now 36 years of age, does not help the matter. However, when healthy, there is no doubt this is still one of the top hitters in the game. In 2019, Donaldson smashed 37 homeruns and 96 RBI’s. Projected to hit third in the Twins lineup, Donaldson will see protection hitting in-front of Nelson Cruz. The Twins should be battling for the top spot in the AL Central (preview here) as a result of their offense. This take might be more of a “gut call” than anything, but the risk is low with a late round selection.
While the top tier only includes one player, your draft position will dictate whether or not Ramirez will land on your team. An ADP of 10 is fair. He shouldn’t be selected much ahead of that, nor fall much further.
The next eight or so rounds will be where most of the players will be selected at the position. While there is nothing wrong with taking an early shot on guys like Machado or Rendon, I much prefer waiting on Eugenio Suarez. There is great value in a guy who hit 49 homeruns just two years ago. As discussed, the BABIP will adjust accordingly, along with the average. Throw in a second infield option to start him at and you will make out like gang busters.
The low tier drops off significantly, in my opinion. Sure, there are players who will come out of this tier and be considered in the top 100 next season. Determining who those players are is a challenge in and of itself though. Kris Bryant has the name value that will prevent any real value, so why not take a shot at the very end? Being paired with a much safer option, Donaldson is a player who can win a year for you IF he gets the plate appearances.