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Third Basemen Set to Breakout in 2020

The purpose of this article, as the title suggests, is to identify third basemen who have shown the potential to have a breakout season heading into 2020. These will be players that were likely on waivers at some point in your league during 2019 and may or may not have been added down the stretch.

In 2020, these third basemen should be able to contribute to fantasy teams from Jump Street. The requisites for the players in this article are to be non-rookies, and to have shown the ability at some point in their career to provide meaningful fantasy value.

Now that the ground rules have been laid out, let's take a look at some third basemen that you may not have considered that could significantly help fantasy teams in 2020.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

Guerrero is the most obvious candidate of this group. This is due in large part to the overwhelming amount of hype surrounding the former top prospect entering the 2019 season. While he didn't break out in '19 as many expected, he did have a solid season by slashing .272/.339/.433 with 15 HR, 69 RBI, 52 R, and 46 BB in 464 at-bats over 123 games. It was not the breakout that many expected, but he did pick up the pace late in the season, where he hit .293 with seven home runs and 44 RBI after the All-Star break. Based on his overall pedigree and advanced metrics, we should see a strong season from Guerrero in 2020.

Guerrero put up above-average power metrics in barrel rate (7.7%), exit velocity (89.4 mph), xSLG (.437), and hard-hit rate (38.4%). These are solid metrics for a first-year player and should only improve in 2020. They translated to 15 home runs in the big leagues in 123, but in the Minors, he averaged nearly 20 home runs per 123 games played, which further translates t0 25 per 162 games played. He also had an above-average walk rate of 8.9%, which he paired with a very good strikeout rate of 17.7%. These are especially impressive for such a young player, as they typically struggle with pitch selection at the beginning of their career. We could also expect to see these numbers improve as his Minor League walk rate was 12% and above his strikeout rate of 11%.

Guerrero has a solid approach for such a young talent. He does not get pull-happy while at the plate, as noted by his batted-ball profile and spray chart. Having the patience to wait on a pitch and push it to right field will serve him very well over his career.

 

He should bat cleanup in a lineup that is much improved from 2019 where it scored 726 runs, which ranked 23rd in the league. This will give him plenty of opportunities to drive in runs, especially with guys like Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette hitting in front of him. Rogers Centre also ranked first in the league for park factors in terms of home runs and 12th in terms of overall runs scored, therefore his home park should only help in 2020. He currently has an ADP of 62 and is being taken as the ninth third baseman off the board. We could easily be talking about him in the top five at the position heading into 2021.

 

Tommy Edman, St. Louis Cardinals

Edman came on the scene in 2019 as a frequent replacement for the struggling Matt Carpenter. Edman is a player that provides fantasy owners a little bit of everything, as noted by his slash line of .304/.350/.500 with 11 HR, 36 RBI, 59 R, and 15 SB in just 326 at-bats over 92 games. While Edman does provide some pop in his bat, he derives most of his value from his ability to hit for average and get on base, as well as his ability to run.

In 2019, Edman had an OBP of .350, which is solid for a rookie. He was able to do this thanks to in large part to his batting average and low strikeout rate. He was able to put up such a solid batting average due to his patience at the plate and his ability to hit all different types of pitch mixes with great success as shown by his plate discipline chart and pitch tracking chart.

This ability translates from his performance in the Minors as well. Across four seasons in the Minor Leagues, Edman put up a .286 AVG, 353 OBP, and 13.7% strikeout rate. His walk rate in 2019 was less than his Minor League walk rate, however. In '19, he managed just a 4.6% walk rate, compared to his career Minor League rate of 9%. We could certainly expect to see this increase as he grows more accustomed to big league pitching, since a near five percent drop from his norm is significant.

A major positive to Edman's ability to get on base is his speed skillset. Edman had a sprint speed of 29.4 ft/sec, which ranked him in the 97th percentile and 29th overall in the league. This speed is right in line with players like Mallex Smith and Victor Robles. It resulted in Edman stealing 15 bags while only being caught once. When you combine his ability to hit for average and get on base with this type of speed, you have a very dangerous fantasy player that provides a rare combination. He currently has an ADP of 155 and is being taken as the 22nd third baseman off the board. He will provide tremendous value here for his speed and average combination and could be a candidate to lead the National League in steals. If he somehow taps into a power source like we saw last season, he could be top-15 at the position heading into 2021.

 

J.D. Davis, New York Mets

Davis is another third baseman with limited big league experience who put up a solid season in 2019 and could break out in 2020. Before '19, Davis had played in just 66 Major League games with the Houston Astros and had very little success. Then, in Jan. 2019, Davis was acquired by the Mets and went on to have a solid season by slashing .307/.369/.527 with 22 HR, 57 RBI, 65 R, and 38 BB in 410 at-bats over 140 games. These numbers fell right in line with his career Minor League averages of .292/.362/.521, which he produced over 507 games. Davis is a guy that is going to provide power and average, but does not offer much speed as noted by his 37th percentile sprint speed and three stolen bases in '19.

The power metrics that Davis supplied were superb in 2019. He posted an 11.4% barrel rate, 91.4 mph exit velocity, .548 xSLG, and 47.7% hard-hit rate. Each of these ranked above league average, as he was in the top 10% for exit velocity and top nine percent for both xSLG and hard-hit rate. These metrics directly translated to 22 home runs over 140 games, which is shy of his Minor League total per 140 games of 29. This should tell us that there is room to grow in home run totals as he becomes more accustomed to big league pitching. Similar to Guerrero, Davis also shows the ability to hit the ball to all parts of the park. He does not rely on pulling the ball to hit for power either, as noted by the fact that he homered to all fields multiple times in 2019.

One area where Davis has shown some struggles is with his strikeout rate. In 2019, he put up a strikeout rate of 21.4%, which falls close to his Minor League career strikeout rate of 24%. While this rate is not ideal, it does fall below league-average and he paired it with a slightly above-average walk rate of 8.4%. Plus, if Davis continues to improve on the home run totals moving forward, a strikeout rate of 21% will not be of much significance.

Davis is projected to hit cleanup in a Mets lineup that ranked 13th in total runs scored in 2019, so the opportunity to drive in runs will be there for him. Citi Field also surprisingly ranked 16th in the league for park factors in terms of home runs, which is much improved from where it ranked the previous two seasons. Three of the other parks he will frequently visit (Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, and Truist Park) all ranked within the top 15 for home runs in 2019, as well.

Davis currently has an ADP of 187 and is being drafted as the 25th third baseman off the board. He will return solid value at this spot and with improved power in 2020, we could see him creep into the top 15 at the position near the likes of players like Mike Moustakas.

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