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Welcome to the 2016 Third Base Projections and Profiles for the American League, a part of the “So-Called” Fantasy Experts Fantasy Baseball Draft Package.

Third base was quite thin just a few years back, but young bucks like Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, and Nolan Arenado, plus some huge bats in the American League have made the hot corner a prime source of power for your Fantasy Baseball team. Now about getting Miguel Sano that third base eligibility…

What follows are the 2016 Third Base Projections and Profiles for the American League. The players are listed alphabetically to make it easy to find the player you’re looking for. We’ve used the 20-game played threshold for position eligibility. If a player did not play 20 games at any position, we used the position they played the most games at. We also try and list players at the position Fantasy owners are most likely to utilize each player.

The initial run of projections and profiles will focus on players with clear roles. As Spring Training approaches and rosters start to solidify, we’ll add names so that we can satisfy not only the needs of mixed league owners, but the traditionalists out there that play in 12-team AL-only leagues. These 2016 Third Base Projections and Profiles will be updated all the way up to Opening Day, so remember to check in occasionally to get the latest news.

2016 Third Base Projections & Profiles: American League

Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

Adrian Beltre projections

Beltre had an up and down campaign in 2015. He struggled in the first half, but then poured it on after the All Star Game. He finished fifth in all of baseball with 61 second half RBIs, and that was despite suffering a torn ligament in his left thumb in late June. The 36-year-old may be finally showing his age in terms of his ability to hit the long ball. However, 20 home runs along with a .300 average is nothing to sneeze at. His batted ball profile last year was right in line with his career averages and he even posted a career high line drive rate. He had successful surgery on his thumb and he is expected to be ready for spring training. Another Top 10 finish at third base should be expected from Beltre as he will continue to hit in a solid lineup and play his home games at hitter friendly Arlington. – Fabian Taylor

Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers

Nick Castellanos projections

Castellanos has turned into quite the hitter many want him to be, but his power did take another small step forward. His unwillingness to take a walk means he’s a liability in OBP leagues, but at 24, Castellanos still has time to develop. Third base is deeper than it has been in the last few years, but Castellanos is not a bad fallback option with a little upside potential in the power departments. – Doug Anderson

Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

Josh Donaldson projections

What more can you say about Donaldson’s outstanding 2015 season? The AL MVP came through on the high expectations following his trade out of Oakland. He took full advantage of the lethal Blue Jays lineup and the hitter friendly Rogers Centre. There was nothing lucky about Donaldson’s season, all of his underlying stats fully supported his career year. You also can’t forget that Donaldson averaged 27 home runs, 91 runs, and 95 RBIs over his last two seasons for the Athletics, so it is not like his 2015 campaign was a complete shocker. A repeat of last year may be asking a little too much; however, you should have no issues taking Donaldson in the first round and making him the top third baseman at your draft next year. – Fabian Taylor

Yunel Escobar, Los Angeles Angels

Yunel Escobar projections

Escobar, now the starting third baseman for the Angels, is coming off a solid, yet unspectacular season with the Nationals. He filled in admirably for the injured Anthony Rendon and he remained the everyday third baseman even after Rendon returned to action. His .314 batting average was aided by an unrepeatable .347 BABIP. For 2016, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see his BABIP and batting average regress by 50 points. The fact remains that Escobar just doesn’t offer any upside. Despite recording at least 529 plate appearances each season since 2008, he only once has topped 11 home runs and 60 RBIs. When durability is your best asset, Fantasy stardom is not in your future. Escobar is merely an AL-Only option at this point in his career. – Fabian Taylor

Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox

Todd Frazier projections

Frazier proved 2014 was not a fluke by following up his breakout campaign with another great Fantasy season last year. The majority of his under-the-hood stats were fairly consistent year on year. However, something to watch is Frazier’s home run increase was a product of a higher Pull% and FB% that also resulted in a fall in batting average. I am not sure if it is a trend, but for the second consecutive season he could not maintain the pace he set in the first half. Now with the White Sox, he is still a great target if you miss out on the top tier of third baseman, especially when you consider his combination of power and speed. His consistency and high floor sets Frazier up for another Top 5 3B ranking in 2016. – Fabian Taylor

Chase Headley, New York Yankees

Chase Headley projections

If it hasn’t happened already, it is finally time to given up on Headley repeating or even coming close to his massive 2012 campaign. The narrative going into last year was an everyday job, a full year to take advantage of being out of Petco, and hitting in a decent lineup. Despite all of this, he underwhelmed across the board. He appears to be little more than a .250 hitter with limited power and marginal speed. His batted ball profile has been fairly consistent over the past few years and it is hard to see a positive turnaround coming for Headley as he ages. He is off the mixed league radar, but he could be a low end starter in AL-Only leagues. – Fabian Taylor

Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

Evan Longoria projections

Longoria had a mildly disappointing campaign last year as he posted career low full season home run and RBI totals. Nothing alarming jumps out at you when looking at Longoria’s peripherals; however, you would like to see an improvement in his hard hit rate which was the second lowest of his career in 2015. He may not be the elite power hitter that he was in the past, but I think he still has more in the tank, despite just recently turning 30. Longoria should regain his standing as a Top 10 third baseman in 2016. – Fabian Taylor

Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics

Jed Lowrie projections

After a hot start, Lowrie suffered a thumb injury in late April that kept him out of the lineup for three months. Once he returned, he struggled mightily and never settled into the groove that he found himself in at the beginning of the year. For the season as a whole, Lowrie’s batted ball profile was very comparable to his career figures, which makes his .233 BABIP ripe for regression back closer to his career mark of .287. Also, if you extrapolate his counting stats over a full season, the end result would be numbers similar to his career best campaign of 2013. For next year, Lowrie can only be considered an AL-Only option even with his starting 2B gig now that Brett Lawrie has been traded. The position flexibility is nice, but not enough to put him on most mixed league teams. – Fabian Taylor

Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

Manny Machado Projections

Machado had a tremendous year in 2015, far exceeding even the most optimistic expectations. He seems fully recovered from his knee surgery, given the fact that he swiped 20 bags last year. The 23-year-old’s ability to turn 51 doubles and 14 home runs in 2013 into 30 doubles and 35 home runs in 2015 is a great sign for his power numbers going forward. Machado’s patience at the plate should help him add another notch to his belt; a .300 average, as he has doubled his walk rate and cut down on his strikeout rate. The combination of power, speed, and a solid average should place Machado in the first round of your drafts for the foreseeable future. – Fabian Taylor

Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

Mike Moustakas projections

Moose enjoyed a mini breakout in 2015. His improved approach at the plate resulted in a career best strikeout rate and batting average. By finally deciding to not pull everything, Moustakas actually had a near league average BABIP. The excitement over his new career bests in home runs, RBIs, and runs, should be tempered by his second half where Moustakas seemed to fall back to his old ways. To me, Moustakas falls into the “Fool me once…” category. Until he can prove he is fully adapting a new strategy over an entire year, I can’t completely trust the breakout. Moustakas will border on the mixed league starter threshold next year, and I struggle to see any material upside from his 2015 campaign. I think his year-end production will fall short of his draft position as many Fantasy owners will be too optimistic heading into 2016. – Fabian Taylor

Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins

trevor plouffe projections

Plouffe continues to be a boring, yet relatively stable choice at third base and 2015 was no different. He put together the best season of his career, registering career highs in runs and RBIs, and falling just two homers short of his career best total of 24 set in 2012. Never one to challenge for a batting title, Plouffe should continue to plod along with a league average mark in terms of batting average. Plouffe should be helped by a Minnesota lineup that looks to be improved heading into 2016 with expected full campaigns out of the likes of Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and the newly acquired Byung Ho Park. Nearing the age of 30, Plouffe does not provide a great deal of upside; however, another Top 15 finish at third base sounds fair. – Fabian Taylor

Pablo Sandoval, Boston Red Sox

Pablo Sandoval projections

Kung Fu Panda’s first season with the Red Sox was a disappointment. In 2015, Sandoval posted career lows in home runs, batting average, runs, and RBIs. The poor numbers were a result of a career low hard hit rate and an overall weak batted ball profile. That being said, a bounce back campaign in 2016 would not be a huge surprise for the 29-year-old. Before last year, Sandoval had been a model of consistency as he was a safe bet to hit around .280 along with 15 homers and drive in 70 runs. Sandoval will not win you many leagues on his own given his relatively high floor and low ceiling. However, he should provide you with a stable placeholder that allows you to bolster your roster elsewhere. A Top 20 ranking at his position for 2016 should have Sandoval being relevant once again on mixed league rosters. – Fabian Taylor

Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins

Miguel Sano projections

Sano’s 2015 debut was as advertised and he showed no ill effects from his Tommy John surgery that he underwent in March of 2014. He struck out a ton, but when he did make contact, he crushed the ball with authority. Among players with 300 plate appearances, Sano’s strikeout percentage of 35.5-percent ranked tops in the majors, while his hard hit rate of 43.2-percent ranked second to only some dude named Stanton. Sano will be learning a new position next year, as the Twins will try him in the outfield in order to make room for Korean free agent Byung Ho Park. Given his minor league numbers and as he matures, Sano should be able to maintain his power while reducing his strikeout rate closer to 25-percent. Sano’s value may be partially tied to his position eligibility, as he may only qualify at DH in many formats. Even so, as one of the few players with a realistic shot at 40 home runs, Sano’s upside should have him flying off draft boards before the fifth round is over. – Fabian Taylor

Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners

Kyle Seager projections

Seager is as consistent as they come. He may not contain the flash and upside of his younger brother Corey, but with the elder Seager, at least 20 home runs and a .260 average are money in the bank. Not surprisingly, there is also minimal deviation in Seager’s batted ball profile and other underlying statistics. Despite setting a career high in both runs and home runs, Seager had a somewhat disappointing RBI total last year. A rebound next year seems likely as he managed to hit only .179 with runners in scoring position versus a career mark close to .250. The expectation for Seager in 2016 should be another Top 10 finish at third base, with the potential to crack into the Top 5 if everything goes right. – Fabian Taylor

Giovanny Urshela, Cleveland Indians

Giovanny Urshela Projections

Urshela finally got his shot in the Show last year with the Indians as they moved on from the Lonnie Chisenhall experiment. Defensively he is major league ready, but he has some work to do with the bat. His minor league numbers suggest 15-plus HR potential coupled with a .270 batting average. He projects as a bottom of the order type of hitter who should make plenty of contact. There is some optimism for 2016 as it was revealed that Urshela played the second half with a sore right shoulder. The Indians have a deal with Juan Uribe that will likely relegate Urshela to the bench to start the season. Assuming a return to full health and some regression on his .266 BABIP (despite a 24.4-percent line drive rate), Urshela makes a decent late round flier in an AL-Only leagues. – Fabian Taylor

Luis Valbuena, Houston Astros

Luis Valbuena projections

In his first season with the Astros, Valbuena produced as expected. He provided power, but was a major anchor when it came to his batting average. His explosion up to 25 home runs is not likely to be repeated given that his 2015 batted profile looked very much like his career numbers, except for his HR/FB rate of 16.7% which was nearly double his previous career high. The trade of Jed Lowrie is a positive for Valbuena as it strengthens his grip on the starting role at third base. Valbuena had an interesting second half split as his batted ball profile improved resulting in a greatly increased batting average while not sacrificing too much power. Heading into 2016, the lack of substantial upside and likely power regression seems to have Valbuena destined for AL-Only status. – Fabian Taylor

Danny Valencia, Oakland Athletics

Danny Valencia projections

Despite registering under 400 plate appearances last year, Valencia took full advantage, putting together a career season and finishing amongst the Top 20 at third base. He started the year off with Toronto, but was then put on waivers and claimed by Oakland in early August. He posted a career best home run total of 18 on the back of a seemingly lucky HR/FB rate of 22.2-percent against a career mark of 10.8-percent. Once again, Valencia had a great deal of success against southpaws; however, for the first time in his career he hit righties as well. He may see an increase in playing time in 2016 as he looks to be the A’s starter at the hot corner. Despite this, I fail to see a material improvement in his counting stats over last year given the track record of this journeyman. Consider Valencia for AL-Only leagues, but my advice for mixed leaguers is to stay away. – Fabian Taylor

We’ll be updating the 2016 Third Base Projections and Profiles for the American League right up until Opening Day. There will undoubtedly be some names we add to the list and some we need to get rid of. Check back regularly and let the “So-Called” Fantasy Experts get you ready for the 2016 Fantasy Baseball season.

Also please check out the rest of our 2016 Projections and Profiles:

NL Catcher | AL Catcher | NL First Base | AL First Base | NL Second Base | AL Second Base | NL Third Base |  AL Third Base | NL Shortstop | AL Shortstop | NL Oufield | AL Outfield | AL DH | NL Starting Pitcher | AL Starting Pitcher | NL Relievers | AL Relievers |

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