5 Third Base Busts for 2024 Fantasy Baseball

Five third basemen to potentially avoid in drafts this spring.

With a number of promotions in recent years, the third base position has become considerably deeper for fantasy managers looking to find a solution at the hot corner. Of course, that’ll happen when Gunnar Henderson, Elly De La Cruz, Junior Caminero, and Noelvi Marte all make their Major League debuts. But breakout seasons from Royce Lewis and Jake Burger haven’t hurt, and neither have continued strong displays from the likes of Rafael Devers, Austin Riley, José Ramírez, and Max Muncy.

Whichever way you slice, there are plenty of viable routes and options for fantasy managers to consider this spring.

Want to go early with a proven, elite option? Take Riley or Devers. Want to wait and look for an undervalued player in the middle rounds of drafts? Alex Bregman or Muncy could be the third baseman for you.

Still, though, there are a number of third basemen to stay away from in said drafts. Whether that be at their current ADP or simply in general due to recent performances or the way their playing time could be impacted by real-life roster construction.

These are a few of those third basemen.


*All ADP data via NFBC.


Spencer Steer – 103.43 ADP*


Spencer Steer enjoyed a quality rookie season for the Cincinnati Reds last season. In a breakout year, the rookie hit .271 with a .356 on-base percentage, 23 home runs, and 15 stolen bases for the National League Central club.

However, he also did so while sitting anywhere from below average to decidedly below average in many quality of contact metrics.

And while Steer showed solid plate discipline in terms of offering at the rate pitches and not chasing, one of the key reasons for such a strong season from a counting numbers standpoint may have been a heavy diet of plate appearances. Steer logged 665 plate appearances for the National League Central club last season, easily the most on the club. Over 100 more than the next Reds hitter and behind only 30 other batters league-wide.

Spencer Steer’s Plate Discipline Metrics In 2023

However, expecting Steer to log nearly so many plate appearances this coming season might be an unreasonable ask, thus calling into question his ability to replicate counting stats if his quality of contact metrics persist near their 2023 rates.

The Reds added Jeimer Candelario to their already crowded infield mix in the winter and will get full seasons (or close to) worth of plate appearances from Elly De La Cruz (more on him in a bit), Noelvi Marte, and Matt McLain.

Steer’s ability to play all four corner positions on the diamond certainly helps him in terms of staying in the lineup – as well as from a fantasy versatility standpoint – but the Reds are reasonably crowded in the outfield as well with TJ Friedl, Will Benson, Jake Fraley, and Stuart Fairchild on hand. If Jonathan India sees time in the outfield it’d only make things more congested.

The versatility certainly isn’t a negative, certainly when fantasy managers are filling out their benches. But with an ADP on the verge of dipping below 100, there are likely better options in the middle rounds of the draft. Seiya Suzuki, Andrés Muñoz, and Joe Musgrove are among the players going after Steer from an ADP standpoint who might provide to be more impactful selections come September and October.


Elly De La Cruz – 23.71 ADP*


Quickly paying off the Elly De La Cruz mention from earlier, we move to the second (and last) Reds infielder on this list. One who likely singlehandedly shaped or decided fantasy playoff races and titles last year.

The 22-year-old only played in 98 games and logged 427 plate appearances, but collected 13 home runs and 35 (!) stolen bases. He also hit .235 with a .300 on-base percentage and an 84 wRC+.

The upside, quite simply, is close to unrivaled in the league. Few have the type of fantasy upside that De La Cruz does. That and the strong counting stats in 2023 have him in contention as an early-round draft pick. A potential second-rounder in 12-team leagues as it stands right now.

However, when looking at players being selected so high in fantasy drafts, there’s much less risk with others where floor is concerned.

Rafael Devers, Francisco Lindor, Marcus Semien, Pete Alonso, and Gunnar Henderson are among the infielders being selected after De La Cruz in drafts, per NFBC’s ADP data. All have elite fantasy upside in their own right but with less concern for statistical performance.

Really, the major concern, with De La Cruz is the potential for swing and miss. Of course, that’s not a new concept for rookies or young players in the league, but the Reds infielder logged a 33.7% strikeout in his debut campaign in the Majors.

Elsewhere, he finished with a 29.7% chase rate and a 32.8% chase rate. All three metrics ranked in the 24th percentile or lower league-wide and likely played a notable role in keeping some of De La Cruz’s expected metrics like xwOBA (.303), xBA (.240), and xSLG (.391) on the lower side of things.

And while the strikeouts on their own aren’t ideal, there are a few other things to keep in mind when considering the shortstop’s high ADP.

One is that he doesn’t really put the ball in the air all that much.

So, for context there, the line drive rate in the middle is great. It would’ve tied for eighth-best among qualified hitters with Texas’ Josh Jung. The two numbers flanking it, well, they aren’t so great.

If De La Cruz had the requisite number of plate appearances, his ground ball rate would’ve been the seventh-highest in the league while his fly ball rate would’ve been the second-lowest. It’s an unideal grouping of metrics, even with the strong line drive rate.

This all may be a moot point and something that isn’t as apparent over time with adjustments, but if the metrics persist as are, it makes for a tricky situation for fantasy managers.

The second key bit of info here is that the infielder didn’t tear the cover off the ball against four-seamers, something to track as 2024 goes along. Last year, the rookie hit just .241 with a .302 xwOBA and a .233 xBA against four-seamers. For context, of the 402 batters with at least 50 plate appearances against four-seamers last year, 330 of them had a higher xwOBA than De La Cruz against the pitch.

The 22-year-old is certainly capable of annihilating baseballs in general. His max exit velocity last year was 119.2 MPH and he clocked xwOBAcon and hard-hit rate numbers of .428 and 45.9 respectively. But the combination of high strikeout totals, plenty of ground balls, and fewer fly balls make for a less-than-stellar fantasy situation, despite all the power and speed upside, and especially with so many other elite options available early in drafts.

That’s not all to say don’t draft Elly De La Cruz, but maybe only consider selecting him if he slips a few rounds in the draft and you have the right roster constructed around him to help offset the risk.


Nolan Arenado – 97.50 ADP*


Is it time to start worrying about Nolan Arenado’s production?

That’s the main question here and one that makes Arenado someone to potentially avoid in drafts, even with an ADP approaching 100.

A lock to hit somewhere in the neighborhood of .280 to .300 earlier in his career – Arenado did so for six straight years from 2014 through 2019 – the veteran infielder has hit above .267 once in the last three full seasons.

He’s still managed to remain productive from a counting stat standpoint, having logged home run tallies of 34, 30, and 26 respectively in the past three campaigns while continuing to keep his strikeout rates on the low side of things, with strikeout rates of 14.7%, 11.6% and 16.5% in the last three years.

But, some of that production is likely tied to the fact that Arenado routinely gets a ton of plate appearances annually. He’s topped the 610 mark in each of his seasons with St. Louis since 2021 and has the 24th-most plate appearances in the league during that span.

For a player with routinely strong quality of contact metrics, like he was early in his career, that was nothing but a good thing for fantasy managers. For a player who’s been below average in terms of xwOBA more often than not in the last four years, it has shifted to more of a situation where the plate appearances are propping up counting stats for fantasy purposes.

Nolan Arenado Since 2015

The consistent stream of plate appearances seems unlikely to change, but if the xwOBA keeps trending downward, it might behoove fantasy managers to look elsewhere at third base, with fellow mid-round selections Josh Jung (107.81 ADP) and Max Muncy (167.90 ADP) providing similar, if not better options at the hot corner.


Jake Burger – 154.32 ADP*


Traded from the Chicago White Sox to the Miami Marlins mid-season in a deal for pitching prospect Jake Eder, Jake Burger at least finds himself in a much more fantasy-friendly lineup – at least comparatively.

Miami and Chicago both finished in the bottom five in the league in runs scored, but at least in Miami moving forward Burger will get to hit alongside the likes of Luis Arraez, a resurgent Josh Bell, and Jazz Chisholm Jr. with the Marlins.

So that bit is, at the very least, reasonably good.

What’s not so good, or great rather, is the tale of two seasons type of splits the infielder had.

Jake Burger In 2023

The sudden decrease in strikeouts is certainly a welcome sign, as was the uptick in batting average though Burger’s BABIP evening out may have had something to do with that. However, the sudden drop off in power wasn’t the most welcome development.

One of the league’s best power threats prior to the trade, Burger topped all hitters (minimum 300 plate appearances) with the aforementioned 19.6% barrel rate at the time of his last game with the White Sox on July 30. That it dropped so much may have something to do with making more contact in general, but it dropped all the same.

Furthermore, it could be a harbinger of things to come, at least where his new home stadium is concerned.

The White Sox’ Guarantee Rate Field ranks just outside the top 10 in park factor for home runs in the last three years, per Statcast. The Marlins’ loanDepot Park ranks just outside the bottom five, also per Statcast.

Burger’s expected home run tally for the entire year for Guarantee Rate Field was 37 last year. It was 31 for loanDepot Park.

So you get it, it’s a move to a much more pitcher-friendly park, one that could put a serious dent in Burger’s fantasy upside considering how much of said upside is based on his ability to produce home runs at a regular rate.

Make no mistake, the Marlins infielder will still contribute home runs. His 13.1% barrel rate in Miami certainly isn’t anything to sneeze at, but it’s possible with a full season in Miami, his home run total might be more in the 20 to 30 range than say in the 30 to 40 range.


Willi Castro – 303.70 ADP*


Willi Castro enjoyed a breakout season for the Minnesota Twins in 2023. In his first year with Minnesota, the 27-year-old hit .257 with a .339 on-base percentage, nine home runs, 33 stolen bases, and a 2.5 fWAR in 409 plate appearances.

Seeing significant time at nearly every position except first base, pitcher, and catcher, Castro established or tied career highs in a full season in all of the metrics listed above save plate appearances, as well as establishing new personal bests in walk rate (8.3%) and xwOBA (.304).

The xwOBA and other quality of contact metrics, like barrel rate (6.8%) and hard-hit rate (31.8%) were all below league average, but the real draw from a fantasy standpoint with Castro in 2023 was the stolen bases and the positional versatility that came with them.

Willi Castro’s Appearances By Position In 2023

However, moving forward in 2024, it’s hard to see a pathway to similarly consistent playing time (and thus rack up more stolen bases), even with Castro’s ability to play across the diamond.

Minnesota looks set to start Royce Lewis full-time at third base, with Edouard Julien now entrenched at second base following the trade of Jorge Polanco. Meanwhile, the outfield picture in Minnesota has become decidedly more crowded with Byron Buxton returning to center field, Matt Wallner looking set for a more regular role and Manuel Margot joining in a recent trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Suffice it to say, it’s difficult to see Castro once again reaching the 400 plate appearance mark with Minnesota’s roster constructed as is, and his less-than-ideal quality of contact metrics make it harder to trust him for fantasy purposes in a part-time role than someone like LaMonte Wade Jr. or Luke Raley last season.


Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Ben Rosener

Ben Rosener is baseball and fantasy baseball writer whose work has previously appeared on the digital pages of Motor City Bengals, Bleacher Report, USA Today, FanSided.com and World Soccer Talk among others. He also writes about fantasy baseball for RotoBaller and the Detroit Tigers for his own Patreon page, Getting You Through the Tigers Rebuild (@Tigers_Rebuild on Twitter). He only refers to himself in the third person for bios.

One response to “5 Third Base Busts for 2024 Fantasy Baseball”

  1. Jim W says:

    They should call this section the Jose Miranada honorary section.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login