Despite the record cold temperatures that a good portion of the country have recently been experiencing, I can feel the warmth coming with the phrase, “pitchers and catchers reporting.” Baseball doesn’t appear to be as sexy as the football and basketball are to young people today, but “America’s Pastime” is my first love (well, regarding sports anyways) and training camp marks the true beginning of Spring in my book.
2018 was full of surprises, disappointments, injuries and the advent of the “opener.” Before we jump into our pre-season rankings, we at Major League Fantasy Sports, like to take a week to look back at last year and speculate how some of the highs and lows would translate in 2019. I have been tasked with breaking down the booms and bust of 3B from 2018. Most of my articles come from the slant of dynasty style leagues, but this one really can apply to all league sizes, styles, and formats. So without further adieu…
Who Went Boom in 2018
This list is not designed to give you the top three 3B from last year. Look at the stats, that is pretty easy to determine and kinda of pointless conversation. What I want to look at is those 3B that greatly outperformed expectations and/or draft position that created incredible value for your fantasy teams. After identifying these values, the most important conversation is what do these breakouts performances mean for their value in 2019.
Miguel Andujar, NYY
The Yankees spent most of the 2018 off-season looking for an upgrade at 3B and they went into the season “stuck” with an unproven, rookie, Miguel Andujar. After a cup of coffee at the end of 2017, there was hope not as much hype as other top specs The scouting report was down on his hit tool and despite little evidence of in Game Power, his Raw Power was noticed. He is a below average fielder and only his cannon arm gave him any chance of staying on the field and not project as a DH.
Thanks to the archives on the Legend, Lenny Melnick’s website, I found that Andujar was the 33rd drafted 3B prior to the 2018 season on Fantrax (#429 overall). As an aside, I like using Fantrax ADP because it is the deepest pool of players and diverse leagues can be represented. Despite barely reaching double-digit HRs in the minors in any one season, Andujar blasted 27 in just over 600 plate appearance in New York in 2018. His hit tool was questioned, but he responded with a .297 average, .361 wOBA, a 16.0% K rate, and 2.7 WAR.
So is he primed for the dreaded sophomore slump? Natural regression seems likely but I don’t believe he will see a prolonged slump. Despite a lack of walks, he has maintained a low K rate and good average throughout the minors and he proved his hit tool translate to the Major Leagues. I do believe we will see a little less in the power department, but he had an incredible 47 doubles last year which shows that he can be productive even if the balls don’t leave the yard.
In 2019, Andujar is going as the 9th best 3B (#69 overall) according to Fangraphs favorite NFBC ADP. I agree that his upside is top 10 3B which is a huge jump since last year this time. Depending on your league scoring and format, you may not want to reach to get him and settle for vets Josh Donaldson or Justin Turner in great lineups that you can get cheaper and a couple rounds later.
Eugenio Suarez, CIN
Suarez emerged on the scene in 2016 with a respectable full-season debut of 21 HR and 70 RBI in 565 AB. His propensity to strike out and not take a walk made me question his ability for progression in 2017. He proved me wrong in ‘17 betting .12 higher, walking 33 times more and striking out five fewer times. The production numbers increased by 5 HR and 12 RBI. This earned him a respectable ADP of 210 overall in 2018 as the 21st 2B taken last year (Fantrax via lennymelnickfantasysports.com). I still had my reservations he could maintain this and top prospect Nick Senzel was waiting in the wings. Then in a shocking develop, Suarez signs a 6 year, $66 Million deal last March which cemented the value the organization has on him. It was too late to get any shares of him at that point but I was interested to see how he would respond.
In 2018, he did not let the money go to his head. He raised his average again and now up to .280 while getting on base 37% of the time. He broke out with 34 HR and 104 RBI. I am a believer now and so are the Reds as Senzel got moved to 2B and even spent time in the OF to find the best spot for him now that Suarez has claimed 3B for the long haul.
In 2019, Suarez is being drafted at #53 overall (NFBC) and slotting in just ahead of Andujar as the 8th 3B being taken. I do really like him to again be productive this year, but I don’t see much more room for growth except to cut back on the strikeouts. I don’t value him enough to grab at #53 with 3B being a deep position. I’d rather grab a top 2B in this area if available as there is a much greater drop off at that position.
Jurickson Profar, TEX (2019 OAK)
Profar wasn’t even eligible for 3B going into the 2018 draft season. He was 2B only which ironically was his least played position in the infield last year. Due to need in Arlington, he had over 20 appearances at 1B and over 50 appearances at SS and 3B. After years of injuries in the minors and Major League level, Profar had his first full season as the Rangers super utilityman. He rewarded the organization with 22 HR, 77 RBI and an impressive 10 for 10 in SB. He was drafted #577 overall in 2018 which would fall between #43 Derek Deitrich and #44 Martin Prado in terms of 3B. He didn’t walk much and his average was, well average, but he doesn’t strike out and his perfect SB attempts are a premium “net steals” leagues. He is eligible for at least three positions in most leagues going into 2019 (1B, SS, 3B).
In 2019, he will be the primary 2B for the Oakland A’s, but should retain his 3B eligibility due to 51 games played there last year. He is coming in as the 17th 3B off the board, #118 overall. Although he is no longer a “5-tool” prospect at age 25, he is very productive for someone you can slot in so many different lineup spots. Flexibility is gold in fantasy baseball as he can cover your stud starters that go down temporarily with injury and not leave too much a drop-off. After a huge boom in 2018, Profar still represents a good value in 2019.
Who Was a Bust in 2018
My main focus in this article is to break down the guys that far exceeded expectations. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on a few guys that may have let your fantasy teams down in 2018 and what to expect for them in 2019.
Kris Bryant, CHC
After three seasons of MVP caliber play, a shoulder injury curtailed Bryant’s 2018 season. He did manage just over 100 games and just under 400 at-bats, but he clearly wasn’t right all season. Unfortunately, his production reflected that with career lows in pretty much every category. Going into 2018, Bryant was a 1st round pick in nearly every size league and the #2 drafted 3B behind only Nolan Arenado. This year he is going #5 at 3B and #35 overall. He claims he is 100% healthy and if so, getting him in the 3rd round should set your team up for a great season. I expect him back to 30 HRs, near 100 RBI, 38% on-base and back to the high single digits in steals. A bum shoulder can affect your production that much.
Rafael Devers, BOS
After an exciting start to his career at the end of 2017, Devers was being drafted #89 overall and the 10th 3B off the board. He was young, in a potent lineup with a strong hit and power tool. Unfortunately, he came into camp in 2018 as an overweight slob and never put it together. The 21 HRs were nice but all fantasy owners expected better than a slash line of .240/.298/.433. Things got so bad that he sat for Eduardo Nunez down the stretch and into the playoffs. His real time couldn’t trust him. As a result, he comes in 2019 as the 18th best 3B and #150 overall. He hired a dietician and is apparently slimmed up entering camp this year. This whole thing was a sign of immaturity but he seems to be taking it seriously this time around. I personally will not be buying until I see some plate discipline. There is plenty of guys that can hit 25 HRs and drive in runs. I have other needs at #150 more pressing than this project. I’m not saying he won’t eventually develop into a great hitter, but I’m not buying this year. Let’s see what he does with this second chance.
Josh Donaldson, TOR, CLE (2019, ATL)
Donaldson was a perennial MVP candidate and a 1st round pick up until very recently. Despite some nagging injuries while a member of the Blue Jays, we all thought enough of his ability that he was being taken around #26 overall going into 2018 (Top 5 at 3B). He had four consecutive seasons over 30 HRs from 2013 thru 2016 during the years he played full seasons. He started missing time in 2017 and he barely saw the field in 2018. He did seem to have a new lease on life when he went to Cleveland and showed the plate discipline we all know and love. I don’t think he forgot how to hit, but his season-long calf injury robbed him of his power. If healthy, Josh is a huge bounce-back candidate who could really thrive hitting in the middle of Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna. As I mentioned early, he is going around #102 and I would pounce on him around this pick as a potential steal. If he doesn’t put it together, it’s not high enough pick to be upset.
Next week, we begin our position rankings and I’ll be breaking down minor league pitchers. Good luck to all this season!!!
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, EJ Garr, and Kyle Amore on Thursday February 7th, 2019 from 9pm – 10:45pm EST for the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. Call in number is 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the 2019 fantasy baseball season. For the next three weeks we will be breaking down the American League divisions. Our Sunday night show which runs from 8pm – 9:30pm EST will handle the National League starting Sunday February 10th. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Our topic for tonight will be the American League East.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday February 10th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #136 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Join us for our first Sunday night show of 2019. We will be breaking down the National League divisions over the next 3 Sundays. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will break down the N.L. East.