It's true the right side of the infield isn't looking so hot for 2021, but the left side offers plenty of reason for optimism. That goes mostly for shortstop but also third base, despite it having its share of underachievers in 2020.
Jose Ramirez and Manny Machado came roaring back, and we know the track record for players like Alex Bregman, Nolan Arenado and even Eugenio Suarez. Factor in newcomers like Ke'Bryan Hayes and Alec Bohm, and the position again looks like one with more than enough to go around in a 12-team league.
A few notable names will be without eligibility there at the start of next season, though, including Vladimir Guerrero, Jeff McNeil, Mike Moustakas, Miguel Sano, Tommy La Stella, David Fletcher and Yuli Gurriel.
Note that these rankings are intended for 5x5 scoring (such as Rotisserie leagues), but I note distinctions for points leagues where applicable.
We discuss the top players at third base on the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast. Follow all of our podcasts and subscribe here.
Jose Ramirez Cleveland Indians 3B
|If we're going by Fantasy points per game, the only hitter to rank higher than Jose Ramirez was Freddie Freeman, and of course, in a 5x5 context, his steals potential puts him in the first-round discussion. Ending the year on a hot note may have brought his batting average closer to .300 than it deserved to be, but clearly, he's a stud.
Manny Machado San Diego Padres 3B
|Manny Machado made a compelling enough case that he isn't just a product of Camden Yards, but his career-best line-drive rate did begin to normalize in the second month, suggesting he's still at the mercy of the long ball. Where he should rank among the studs at the position remains a matter of debate.
Alex Bregman Houston Astros 3B
|Alex Bregman's struggles were in line with other Astros hitters, who seemed overeager to validate their success on the heels of a sign-stealing scandal. There were no pronounced changes to his batted-ball profile, though, and his exceptional plate discipline continues to give him a leg up.
Nolan Arenado Colorado Rockies 3B
|Nolan Arenado actually made contact at a higher rate than ever this year, but it was weaker contact resulting in lesser production. The disappointment was particularly acute in September, when he was attempting to play through a bone bruise in his left shoulder. It's explanation enough for a player with his pristine track record.
Anthony Rendon Los Angeles Angels 3B
|You could make the case for Anthony Rendon over Arenado in a points league at least, given Rendon's superior walk rate, but his first season with the Angels was a small letdown after his career-best 2019. The outlier hard-hit and barrel rates returned to career norms, which puts him a little behind in terms of power production.
DJ LeMahieu New York Yankees 2B
|You're more likely to draft DJ LeMahieu at second or even first base rather than third, and he's such a distant No. 1 at the keystone that it's possible he goes ahead of all but Ramirez at this position. Re-signing with the Yankees would justify that pick even more, but few are doubting his hitting prowess after a big folllow-up season.
Rafael Devers Boston Red Sox 3B
|A miserable start put Rafael Devers' numbers behind the eight ball, but he was gaining steam when the season came to an abrupt end. The strikeout rate never did normalize, which is a bit worrisome, but considering he also started slowly in 2019, you get the sense he was again in line for big things if 2020 kept going.
Eugenio Suarez Cincinnati Reds 3B
|The .202 batting average makes Eugenio Suarez's 2020 an obvious disappointment, but his home run pace was similar to the one that brought him to 49 last year. Bad luck on balls in play seems largely to blame, his BABIP dropping from .312 to .214, and he has the added excuse of having had shoulder surgery in January.
Matt Chapman Oakland Athletics 3B
|A big drop in ground-ball rate (which was never a problem for him in the first place) coincided with a big jump in strikeout rate, making it hard to figure whether Matt Chapman's 2020 was a step in the right or wrong direction. It's probably a wash considering he played only 37 games before having a torn labrum repaired in his hip.
Cavan Biggio Toronto Blue Jays 2B
|Another third base-eligible player who will almost certainly be drafted to play second base, Cavan Biggio has more or less proven he's of some value in home runs and stolen bases. He sells out so hard for power, though, that it's likely he'll burn you in batting average. Bonus points if your league uses OBP instead.
Gio Urshela New York Yankees 3B
|Though he may have gotten cheated a little in the home run category, Gio Urshela mostly validated his breakthrough 2019, sustaining the big spikes in hard-hit rate and average exit velocity. Combined with a low strikeout rate, he's among the safest sources for batting average and has a prime RBI spot in a loaded lineup.
Max Muncy Los Angeles Dodgers 1B
|Max Muncy is yet another second base-eligible third baseman, and yes, that's more likely what you're drafting him to play. His batting average was lagging for all of the 60-game season, possibly because he suffered a fractured finger in the weeks leading into it, but he impacted the ball as hard as usual with the same plus plate discipline.
Kris Bryant Chicago Cubs 3B
|It's starting to get a little scary for Kris Bryant, who we should be careful not to write off after a miserable two-month stretch in which he contended with elbow, finger, wrist, oblique and stomach issues. Given that his batted-ball profile was already trending the wrong way, though, is it possible he's washed at age 28?
Yoan Moncada Chicago White Sox 3B
|Basically, Yoan Moncada did nothing right in 2020, returning to an untenable strikeout rate while failing to make his usual hard contact, but he also admitted he never felt right after his battle with COVID-19. The upside is worth the price of admission here, but understand it's a pretty risky profile to begin with.
Josh Donaldson Minnesota Twins 3B
|Turns out Josh Donaldson's health woes -- specifically involving his calf -- came back right after he was locked into a long-term deal again, with 2020 representing basically his second lost season in three. And given that he'll be 35 next year, you can't just presume he'll bounce back as good as new.
Ke'Bryan Hayes Pittsburgh Pirates 3B
|Ke'Bryan Hayes wouldn't be the first highly-regarded-but-underperforming prospect to find another gear upon reaching the majors, but with only a 24-game sample, it's difficult to conclude anything for sure. The 14 extra-base hits in those 24 games sure look nice, though, and it's not like he was struggling to put the bat on the ball.
Alec Bohm Philadelphia Phillies 3B
|Compared to Hayes, Alec Bohm seemed like the more surefire contributor in Fantasy, but even in the plate discipline department, the rookies at best broke even. That's not to knock a guy who hit .338 in his first taste of the majors, but he'll need to do a better job elevating the ball in his second season.
Justin Turner Los Angeles Dodgers 3B
|Justin Turner is back on the market this offseason, and seeing as he's now into his late 30s, it's unclear what kind of role he's best suited for. He came up short in the home run department this year, but then again, his xSLG was his second-highest on record. He's at a stage where you'll have to presume missed time for injuries.
J.D. Davis New York Mets 3B
|Those high hopes for J.D. Davis coming into the season were thwarted by his sudden inability to elevate the ball, his ground-ball rate stifling his power and eventually even costing him full-time at-bats. His hard-hit rate and average exit velocity remained high, suggesting all is not lost, but he'll have to regain everyone's trust all over again next year.
Jeimer Candelario Detroit Tigers 1B
|Jeimer Candelario began the year 0 for 17, ended it 1 for 23, and hit .372 with a 1.059 OPS over 40 games in between. Seeing as he's only 26, it's possible he figured something out, but that is impossible determine over such a limited sample. His first base eligibility buys him some benefit of the doubt, though.