Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could take a major step forward in his first full season in the majors
Yes, I like Vladmir Guerrero Jr. this year. But I could have told you that I like him more than most even before I put together my fantasy baseball third base (3B) rankings for 2020.
Because yes, I liked him last year, but not as much as most. In fact, I suspected he was going to disappoint and in truth, he did. Some were predicting him to hit .300 and 25 or more home runs! There was just no way he was going to live up to that hype. And not even getting 500 ABs didn't do much to help his counting stats either. So I was not all surprised when the 20-year-old hit only 15 homers while batting .272 in his first go-round against major league pitching.
But I'm going out on a limb and say he doubles his home run production. Maybe he doesn't double his other counting stats, but I think he scores at least 100 runs and easily exceeds 125 RBIs. He probably won't hit .300, but his average does improve. So hopefully that explains my ranking and irrational love for Vlad Jr. this year.
Meanwhile, I'm not buying the hype on Brian Anderson. The somewhat amusing part is that I wrote the sentence before he got hit on the hand in a Grapefruit League game on Monday. All reports are that he should be fine. But last season while his slugging percentage rose, both his batting average and OBP dropped. The outfield walls have been moved in a little at Marlins Park so I do think Anderson tops 20 home runs again. But give me the upside of Yandy Diaz over Anderson.
Diaz had a ton of buzz coming into last season and for the first month of the season it appeared well warranted. His .990 OPS and 158 wRC was fifth amongst qualified third basemen, making him look like an absolute draft day steal. However, things went south quickly in the month of May. He rebounded as the summer hit but his season was then cut short on July 22 with a hairline fracture to his left foot. He finished with very meh stats of 14 HRs and .267 batting average. Diaz went 3-for-4, including two home runs in the American League Wild Card Game, which was a reminder of the promise he showed in April.
- The fact that both Diaz and Anderson can be had after the 20th round in a 12-team draft shows you how stacked the hot corner remains. Nolan Arenado or Alex Bregman might go in the first round of your draft. Expect at least five 3B to be drafted in the first two rounds and that number to double before you get out of the 6th round. Of course, even if you wait 12 rounds to select a third baseman, you are still looking at least four or five options who hit at least 25 home runs last year.
- Even deeper than Diaz and Anderson, we can find Austin Riley, the Braves' 2015 first-round pick who showed signs of power last season (18 HR in 274 AB) but overall struggled at the plate. He doesn't even crack my top 30 here. That is not a knock on Riley, who could be the starter and get to hit every day in a pretty potent lineup. It just goes to show you how deep the position is this season.
2020 Sleeper at 3B Not Included Here I Like As Of This Last Week of February: Evan Longoria
I know Longoria is getting a little long in the tooth, but even I was surprised to learn he's entering his age-34 season. Man do I feel old! But don't let his driver's license information scare you away. He's still the Giants' starting third baseman. And he still swatted 20 HRs as recently as last year. Maybe Longoria is not a sleeper so much as "likely to be overlooked and passed by." Don't.
Check out my top 3B below for yourself. Let me know your thoughts!
ADP - Average Draft Position
— Rankings by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.