KEEPERS: 2020 Building Blocks—3B

We continue our annual off-season series focused on helping keeper league and dynasty owners identify useful targets that may be available in the current off-season. Each week we examine a different position, looking for players (“pieces”) that have potential to be solid parts in the construction of a winning fantasy franchise. We group them under three general designations:

CORNERSTONES – Premium quality franchise difference-makers, essential to the foundation of a true dynasty juggernaut. These pieces are top priority acquisitions, either by draft or trade.

BUILDING BLOCKS – High quality players with potential to be solid elements of a winning core. Desirable pieces that should be targeted as part of the ongoing championship franchise building process.

SUPPORT PIECES – More interchangeable lower grade parts that may provide help in a specific category or offer a lower ceiling than more desirable foundation pieces.

Players are listed with 2020 season age and major league organization, along with a designation if left-handed hitter (*) or switch-hitter (#).

We will attempt to identify top building targets within the following criteria:

  • ​Will play majority of 2020 season at 25 years old or younger (25 as of July 1, 2020)
  • Earned less than $10 in standard 5x5 roto in 2019
  • Reasonably projected to be MLB-ready at some point during 2020 season (may extend time horizon for Cornerstones)

Please see the Organization Reports in our Scouting section for more detailed, team-by-team analysis on prospects discussed here. Also, from time to time there may be slight differences between evaluations offered in this series and in our Organization Reports. Use that as your reminder that evaluations can differ. For each individual roster decision, you must factor in your specific team needs and goals.

Previous articles in this series:  C  |  1B   |  2B

This week we continue to work our way around the infield as we examine third base.

 

CORNERSTONES

Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (21 years old, TOR) – The darling of fantasy drafters everywhere this time last year, nobody had a doubt that Guerrero was going to be a dynamic difference-maker. The only question was how high to draft him, since the tanking Blue Jays seemed determined to play games with manipulating the youngster’s service time. Even with a spring training oblique injury, Guerrero was promoted to the big leagues by late April, setting the stage for big fantasy profits, but a funny thing happened on the way to cashing in—Vlad Jr. was just okay. Though his .272/.339/.433 line was not dismal by any means, he did not have a “great” rookie season. So, the question is, what now? While there are concerns that he hits too many ground balls for maximum success in the launch-angle era, Guerrero is capable of hitting the ball extremely hard. After putting on a show in the Home Run Derby, he went on a 40-game run in which he posted a .331/.392/.550 line before fading a bit in September, possibly due to nagging inflammation in his knee. Bottom line, while he is not a threat on the bases, Guerrero remains an excellent keeper league growth stock, with pedigree, talent, and opportunity to become one of the premier hitters in the game with a good chance of developing his raw power as he continues to mature.

Nolan Jones* (22, CLE) – An outstanding all-fields approach with which Jones consistently distributes line drives and fly balls provides the basis for a high-upside third base Cornerstone. Combined with a patient approach at the plate, Jones is consistently among league leaders in walks, but those deep counts have also led to relatively high strikeout numbers. Though he put up a disappointing .200/.294/.433 line in 15 Arizona Fall League games before suffering a thumb injury, Jones remains on track to make an impact at the big league level by late 2020 or early 2021. In OBP leagues, especially, he is a prime core target.

Alec Bohm (23, PHI) – A 2018 first round pick who is shooting up through the minors, Bohm finished up a fine first full professional season with an excellent showing in the Arizona Fall League. With a superior approach at the plate and good knowledge of the strike zone, he profiles as a plus hitter with plus power potential. While the bat is unquestioned, Bohm’s ultimate position is still a matter of conjecture. Many feel he is destined to end up across the diamond at first base, which would put a bit more pressure on development of the power. In the near term, however, Bohm is set to begin the 2020 campaign at triple-A, likely still at third, and appears primed for a big league opportunity as early as mid-summer.

 

BUILDING BLOCKS

Ke’Bryan Hayes (23, PIT) – In another era with another baseball, Hayes might be considered a more exciting prospect, as he epitomizes much of what was once a lauded baseball player. A superior gloveman with good speed and solid plate coverage, only the lack of big power that has become mandatory in today’s environment keeps excitement about Hayes subdued. That said, he stands a reasonably good chance of turning his plethora of doubles into home runs as he continues to mature. With nothing of substance in his way following a full year at triple-A, he projects to be sent back to begin the season while Pittsburgh arbitrarily manipulates his service time, but Hayes should be ready to take over at the hot corner for the Pirates by mid-2020 at the latest.

Abraham Toro# (23, HOU) – Broke out in a big way in 2019, with a .306/.393/.513 line in double-A followed by a blistering .424/.506/.606 in 16 games at triple-A before finishing the year in the big leagues. Toro’s emergence traces back to a mechanical adjustment as he simplified his swing during the Arizona Fall League in 2018. Curiously, the vast improvement for the switch-hitting Toro came exclusively with his left-handed swing. After putting up a .229/.331/.431 LH line in 2018, Toro improved to .320/.408/.530 in 2019. Meanwhile his RH line actually regressed, going from .298/.386/.446 to .250/.333/.391. Though a natural third baseman, Toro also appeared at second and first in 2019. His versatility and newfound offensive prowess should serve to keep him in the majors, though finding a place to play in Houston is another issue.

Oneil Cruz* (21, PIT) – An interesting prospect to track, Cruz has played shortstop exclusively for the past two seasons, but we list him here because the consensus is that he will eventually need to move out of the middle infield due to his massive size. Listed at 6-foot-6 by many sources, Cruz is more likely even taller than that, closer to 6-7, and it is difficult to project he will retain sufficient range as he fills out. Prodigious raw power is his calling card and is, of course, what plays in today’s game, so his outlook is strong regardless of where he is ultimately stationed in the field. Making contact will be an issue, as his long limbs also leave him prone to the whiff. Cruz can run well enough to be an asset on the bases, as well. He will have a chance to really take off as he gets to triple-A this summer and begins hitting the MRB (Manfred Rabbit Ball). With a new braintrust at the controls in Pittsburgh, how they handle the final stages of the talented youngster’s development will bear watching, especially with fellow phenom Ke'Bryan Hayes ahead of him at the hot corner. One factor in his favor is that Cruz was added to the 40-man roster this off-season, so that is one significant hurdle out of his way.

 

SUPPORT PIECES

Isaac Paredes (21, DET) – With excellent control of the strike zone and the ability to barrel the ball to all fields, Paredes profiles as a solid if rather unexciting prospect, with average power and below-average speed. With the still-tanking Tigers, however, opportunity may be aplenty to show what he can do. Just added to the 40-man roster this offseason and slated to begin the year in triple-A, Paredes could be ready for his big league debut by mid-season.

Jonathan India (23, CIN) – Decent hitter who draws some walks, but Ks a fair amount, as well. Has a little pop and can run a bit. Nothing really jumps out about India aside from the fact that he was the fifth player taken in the 2018 draft. As he reaches double-A, he is looking more and more like just another guy. Perhaps he will have periods where he can contribute, but keeper leaguers should not be jumping the gun to tie up a roster spot.

Colton Welker (22, COL) – Solid bat and emerging power, but blocked by Arenado at the big league level and offensive game may be a bit short for a move to first base. Potential Coors Field home makes him a lottery ticket worth buying, but far from a reliable investment he was considered after lighting up the high-octane California League in 2018.

Bobby Dalbec (25, BOS) – A two true outcomes profile with walks being a question, Dalbec offers something of a true all-or-nothing approach. Though Rafael Devers stands in his way in Boston, Dalbec should get a chance at some point, and he might well run into a few long balls. The risk of him not doing much else, however, is very real.

Kevin Padlo (23, TAM) – In other organizations, Padlo would likely be more ballyhooed, coming off a season that culminated with a .290/.400/.595 40-game stretch in triple-A. In the loaded Rays farm system, however, that news is buried under more high-profile prospects. A rather nondescript former fifth round pick coming into last season, Padlo came on strong in 2019 and has quickly wedged himself into Tampa Bay’s short-term picture. They added him to the 40-man roster this offseason at the same time they released Matt Duffy, who played 46 games at third in 2019. While Padlo remains well down the depth chart at this point, he projects to get a good look in spring training and will be on the short list of considerations as in-season needs arise.

 

DON'T FORGET ABOUT...

Brian Anderson (27, MIA) – For the second straight year, Anderson opened the 2019 season as the starting third baseman only to end up as the primary right fielder. Unfortunately his year was cut short due to a broken finger suffered when he was hit by a pitch in late August. Despite a slow start at the plate, he remained a fixture in the middle of the Marlins pop-gun offense, and was gradually bringing his numbers up at the time of the injury. In the midst of his hottest stretch of the season, Anderson had posted a .377/.442/.681 line over his prior 18 games before seeing his season come to an early end. Entering his third full major league season, he may be coming into his own, as an upward-trending fly ball rate could benefit from the fences being moved in at his home ballpark. With multi-position eligibility and emerging power, Anderson may be an underappreciated keeper league asset.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.