Third base is a relatively shallow position, giving the best hot corner options even more relative value. Leaving aside now-first-baseman Miguel Cabrera, the best of the bunch has been Texas’ Adrian Beltre who, over the past five seasons, sits just behind Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria in runs, home runs and RBI, but has a batting average nearly 30 points higher, enough to get the nod, particularly since Beltre has stayed relatively healthy throughout his career. That’s not to say that Longoria isn’t great; he’s hit 30-plus homers three times and he played 160 games last season, but missed 117 in the previous two years, so that hangs over any decision to take him. The injury bug has caught the Mets’ David Wright in two of the past three seasons, causing him to miss 50 or more games in 2011 and 2013, but he’s also a career .301 hitter who has power and has added at least 15 stolen bases per season in eight of the past nine years. Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman has belted at least 25 homers in four of the past five seasons, and that consistency makes him better than most at the position. While those have the longer track record, there are some that are newer to the hot corner that also have put up big numbers.
Oakland’s Josh Donaldson had a breakout season in 2013 and Seattle’s Kyle Seager has back-to-back 20 home run seasons. St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter, who might have more value at his previous position of second base, but he led the National League with 126 runs scored last year, while hitting .318, and that works at any position. Beyond that, there are more challenges involved.
San Diego’s Chase Headley followed up a breakthrough 2012 season with a dramatic drop-off in 2013, so take your chances. Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez led the National League with 36 home runs last season, but also whiffed a league-high 186 times on his way to a .233 batting average, so you pay a price to get that power; probably enough to avoid Alvarez unless he’s filling a corner infield spot. In his mid-30s and coming an injury-shortened season, Milwaukee’s Aramis Ramirez can still mash when healthy — more than 25 home runs in eight of the past 10 seasons.
A couple of rising stars may still be a year or two away from being huge fantasy contributors, but it’s worth keeping Baltimore’s Manny Machado, coming back from knee injury, and Colorado’s Nolan Arenado have potential that’s worth investing in at some point.
Others with upside include Toronto’s Brett Lawrie, who is still untapped potential, and San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval has dropped some weight, so might be a bit of a sleeper. Really, beyond the top handful of choices at third base, a lot of the appeal is in the eye of the beholder.