Today I'll be covering what are, in my opinion, the top-5 3rd base keepers for the 2014 season. To be honest, I agonized over this article, because there are really 7 players for whom you could make an argument. The way I whittled down my list is actually a good way for me to explain my thought process when it comes to keepers in general. A good keeper at a position isn't necessarily the best possible player at that position. Rather, the best keeper is the player who offers you the 'greatest' value at that position.
For example, if for some reason a miracle happened and Adrian Beltre went undrafted until the 18th round of a draft, the value Beltre would present at the 18th round would make him a much, much better keeper than Miguel Cabrera in the 1st round, even though, all else equal, Miguel Cabrera is the better fantasy player. This is because maximizing the value of your keepers frees you up to select other players in the early rounds to fill out the rest of your team, players who would be unavailable to you if you chose differently. In other words, the opportunity cost of selecting a keeper is key to determining if he should be kept, just as much as is his expected production. Keeping this idea in mind is a must if you want to dominate your league.
Note: As in my previous articles, I'll be assuming a standard 10-team league for this discussion, in which the cost of keeping a player is surrendering your pick in the round he was drafted in the previous year.
Third Base (3B) Keepers – Dynasty Leagues
2013 ESPN ADP: 2 (1st round)
2013 Stat-line: .348/.442/.636, 44 HR, 103 Runs, 137 RBIs, 3 SB
2014 (Predicted) ADP: 2 (1st round)
Unless you live in some crazy alternate dimension where the above scenario really did happen, there's no way Miguel Cabrera doesn't head a list of top 3rd base keepers for 2014. He'll have 1st base eligibility as well (which as I mentioned in my article on 1st base keepers, “2014 Dynasty Leagues: 5 Best First Base Keepers” will hopefully preserve his health a bit down the stretch), and is the most dominating hitter in the major leagues. He's a must-keep player and one of the greatest assets a fantasy owner could hope for.
2013 ESPN ADP: 19 (2nd round)
2013 Stat-line: .315/.371/.509, 30 HR, 88 Runs, 92 RBI, 1SB
2014 (Predicted) ADP: 9-12 (late 1st to early 2nd round)
Beltre is another one of those studs who you just have to keep. He's given you at least 30 home runs in each of the last 3 seasons, is always a plus contributor in batting average, and hits in a lineup that you can count on to produce runs and RBIs (which I think should bounce back to over 100 this year with the addition of Prince Fielder to the Rangers lineup). That he's moved up a bit from last year to a borderline first rounder, just sweetens the deal. He's a no-brainer must-keep player.
2013 ESPN ADP: 250 (undrafted)
2013 Stat-line: .318/.392/.481, 11 HR, 126 Runs, 78R BI, 3 SB
2014 (Predicted) ADP: 63-68 (7th round)
I discussed Matt Carpenter at greater length in my last article on 2nd base keepers, “2014 Dynasty Leagues: 5 Best First Base Keepers”, so I won't go into too much detail here. The gist is though that he'll cost you a 25th round pick, gives you 2nd base flexibility due to position eligibility, and has batting title upside. That's the kind of player you invent a song and dance for. Consider yourself blessed if you've got him.
2013 ESPN ADP: 250 (undrafted)
2013 Stat-line: .301/.384/.499, 24 HR, 89 Runs, 93 RBI, 5 SB
2014 (Predicted) ADP: 60-65 (7th round)
There is some risk to having Josh Donaldson. A bit like Matt Carpenter, he's the kind of player that came out of nowhere to do things scouts had never expected him to do. I'm not terribly concerned about him going forward however. The biggest target for regression with Donaldson would be batting average, which a lot of projection systems see coming back down to earth next season (for example Steamer projects him for a 0.271, though I think the Oliver projection comes closer to the truth with 0.284). The great thing about him as a keeper however is that his risk is balanced out by the sheer value of his pick. At the 25th round, risk is fine and expected. Furthermore, there's no disputing that his power is legit and at 28 he doesn't have his decline years coming for a little while still. He's a top 10 3rd baseman with top 5 upside and when you get a player like that for a 25th round cost you jump on it.
2013 ESPN ADP: 163 (17th round)
2013 Stat-line: .233/.296 /.473, 36 HR, 70 Runs, 100 RBI, 2 SB
2014 (Predicted) ADP: 71-74 (8th round)
Leaving David Wright and Evan Longoria off this list was a hard decision, but Alvarez just provides too much value and upside as a keeper to leave him off. The batting average is a concern as always, but it's more than offset by his sheer power potential. He's already led the NL in home runs and that's not even his ceiling. Pedro Alvarez is one of the few guys in the majors who's a legitimate 40-45 home run threat in any given year and at age 26 his best years are still ahead of him. Alvarez's biggest problem has always been that he's an incredibly streaky player and the length of some of his slumps has held his overall numbers back. If he's ever able to put everything together for a full season however, he could be an absolute fantasy force. At the cost of a 17th round pick, that’s a gamble I'm always willing to take.