2015 Outlook: An early-season quad strain cost Beltre time in April, but he recovered to log 148 games and eclipse 600 plate appearances for the third time in four seasons with Texas. The spike in his walk rate (9.3 percent) was likely the result of seeing fewer pitches in the strike zone than ever due to the rash of injuries that depleted the lineup around him throughout the year. Beltre continues to put a lot of balls in play (12.1 percent strikeout rate), and while his isolated power slipped for the third year in a row (.168), he's still a very good hitter capable of being an asset in four categories. If the Rangers can keep Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder healthy in 2015, Beltre stands to benefit in a big way. Although he will turn 36 in April, Beltre is aging gracefully, so he remains among the elite options at the hot corner even as he approaches the twilight of his career.
2015 Outlook: Donaldson followed up his 2013 breakout with improvements in four of the five standard roto categories, setting new career highs in home runs (29), runs (93), RBIs (98), and stolen bases (eight). His plate discipline remained in line with his 2013 numbers, as he had an 18.7 percent strikeout rate and 10.9 percent walk rate to go with his .255/.342/.456 line. A premium defender at third base, Donaldson has missed only eight games over the past two seasons. The A's traded him to Toronto as part of their latest roster reshaping during the offseason, and the move into a more hitter-friendly home park should pay immediate dividends after Donaldson hit .276/.361/.513 and 18 of his 29 home runs away from O.Co Coliseum last season. Of some concern is that Donaldson's splits against righties (.248/.329/.398) were much worse than his numbers against lefties (.275/.380/.627), but he handled right-handed pitching more capably in 2013 (.285/.371/.442). If nothing else, it's an indicator that Donaldson is more likely to carry an average close to his career .268 mark than the .301 from 2013, but his power numbers could improve with the move to Toronto.
2015 Outlook: Longoria played in all 162 games for the Rays last season, helping to ease concerns about his durability after he played in just 207 games between 2011 and 2012. After he eclipsed 30 home runs for the third time in his career in 2013, Longoria hit just 22 last season while his slugging percentage bottomed out at a career-worst .404. A big part of the regression seemed to come from a diminished ability to handle the outside part of the strike zone, which effectively reduced his ability to spray the ball with any authority to the opposite field. In fact, just one of his 22 home runs was hit to right field in 2014; seven of his 32 long balls were hit to the opposite field in 2013. Longo's eye at the plate eroded over the course of the season, too, as he walked at a mere 6.5 percent clip during the second half, well below his career average of 10.4 percent. Without a physical malady to explain the downturn in production, it might be prudent to lower the ceiling even if a rebound is imminent, but the 2014 line appears to be a healthy floor for Longoria at this stage of his career.
2015 Outlook: Even the savvy owners who targeted Rendon as a source of late-round value in 2014 had to be surprised by the return on their investment last season, as he became a five-category monster in his breakout campaign. The most unexpected part of his coming-out party may have been his work on the basepaths, as Rendon finished 17-for-20 on stolen-base attempts after swiping just eight on 10 attempts in his previous two seasons as a professional across all levels. After opening the season as the Nationals' primary second baseman, Rendon shifted over to third base when Ryan Zimmerman hit the disabled list, and he'll remain at the hot corner in 2015 as Zimmerman transitions to first base following the departure of Adam LaRoche. In addition to carrying similar lines against lefties and righties, Rendon showed no signs of slowing down over the course of the second half. He'll reprise his role as the Nationals' No. 2 hitter this season in what figures to be an excellent lineup.
2015 Outlook: The Mariners rewarded Seager's third straight 20-homer season with a seven-year, $100 million contract extension in November, securing an increasingly scarce resource for the long haul, as power-hitting third basemen have become something of a rare breed. Seager has proven to be durable, having played in at least 155 games in each of the last three seasons, and he improved his defense at the hot corner to earn his first career Gold Glove last season. Seager's home-road splits flipped in 2014, as he had much better numbers at Safeco Field (.300/.370/.523) than on the road (.240/.301/.393) after his OPS was 147 points better on the road in 2013. If Seager can find a way to combine the better of those home/road splits in the same year, there may be a 30-homer season in his bat. Even if he stays in the 20-25 range, Seager should sustain the benefits he received from the arrival of Robinson Cano, as Cano's upgrade to the Mariners' No. 3 hole in the lineup paved the way for Seager's career-high 96 RBI last season.
2015 Outlook: It's hard to drop 27 homers and 90 points of batting average off the previous season's line and still log 525 plate appearances. Davis saw his average fall apart despite a batted-ball profile that should have yielded better results. A career-worst .242 BABIP is a worthy culprit, though he's not an automatic regression candidate, as the shift played a big role here. Davis had a .144 BABIP on groundballs, beating only Brian McCann (.128) among lefties with at least 100 groundballs. Left-handed hitters as a whole had a .241 BABIP on groundballs last year, so he was well off the pace. The .278 average from 2012-13 isn't coming back, but he may develop into our next Adam Dunn, albeit without the seven-year track record of averaging 40 homers and 100 RBI. Even flawed power is still very valuable.
2015 Outlook: Falling one home run shy of a 30-20 season, Frazier finished as a top-three third basemen in rotisserie leagues in 2014, behind Miguel Cabrera and Anthony Rendon. Surprisingly, just four of Frazier's 29 long balls came against left-handed pitching (145 PA) after he hit nine against southpaws in 2013, so while his 17.0 percent HR/FB figures to regress this season, he should have no trouble exceeding 20 homers again if he hits right-handers anywhere near as well as he did last year (.278/.334/.473). Frazier's contact and swinging-strike rates both went in the wrong direction in 2014, but he's been able to maintain consistent strikeout and walk rates across his first three full major league seasons, and his BABIP was not abnormally high last year (.309). The 20 stolen bases, twice as many as he had for his career entering the season, were indeed an anomaly, but improved totals in RBI and runs scored in a healthy Reds lineup would offset the expected dip in steals to a large extent. Keep in mind, Frazier is also eligible at first base, a position at which he was a top-five option a year ago.
2015 Outlook: Arenado mashed left-handed pitching (.313/.375/.598) and took advantage of playing half of his games at Coors Field (where he hit .303/.344/.584 with 16 his 18 homers) to assert himself as one of the premier bats at his position during his age-23 season. In terms of isolated power, only Juan Francisco (.237 ISO) eclipsed Arenado's .213 mark among third basemen. As an excellent defender, Arenado will have plenty of leash to continue playing regularly even if he falls into a prolonged slump, though his second-half numbers (.284/.347/.550, 7.2 percent BB percent) point toward another big step forward as he moves into his third year in Colorado. Further, he lost time to pneumonia and a broken finger last season, which limited him to just 111 games. With a healthy season's worth of at-bats and the potential for more steady contributions from Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, Arenado has the skills and supporting cast necessary to join the ranks of the elite at the hot corner in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Santana once again tested the patience of the large swath of fantasy owners who don't benefit from his OBP ability in 2014. In leagues where there was no tangible gain from an elite walk rate that eventually led to an MLB-high 113 bases on balls, owners struggled with his sub-.200 average for the first two-and-a-half months of the season. It went from .151 to .159 in May, making it difficult to bet on much improvement. However, after a concussion DL stint to start June, Santana took off and posted a .266/.384/.488 line with 21 homers and 68 RBI in his final 102 games. He no longer has catcher eligibility, but gaining third-base eligibility softens the blow and lowers the burden on his power, though his best home-run-hitting campaigns should still be ahead of him.
2015 Outlook: Carpenter capably made the move from second base to third base last season, but his production in four of the five standard roto categories slipped, as he (perhaps predictably) failed to maintain the .359 BABIP that supported his 2013 breakout. Even with the decline, he was a valuable asset, but the Cardinals are believed to be considering alternatives in the leadoff spot, which would make it difficult for Carpenter to score 100 runs -- he had 99 last year. Thanks to an increase in his walk rate (13.4 percent walk percentage), Carpenter held a .375 OBP last season and was still a viable table setter, but his overall regression can largely be attributed to reduced success against left-handed pitching. After hitting .294/.353/.467 against southpaws in 2013, Carpenter hit .262/.361/.361 against them last season. While 2013 might go down as Carpenter's career year, his floor is high enough that he could reasonably finish 2015 as a top-10 third baseman, even without skills growth.
2015 Outlook: The start of Machado's 2014 campaign was delayed as he progressed through the final stages of his rehab from left knee surgery in April, returning to the field May 1. After a sluggish start in the first month (.220/.271/.284), Machado showed all the signs of a full breakout from June 1 on, as he hit .307/.350/.505 with 10 homers over his final 55 games before a right knee injury in August ended his season prematurely. After having surgery in late August, Machado was given a four- to six-month timetable to return, making it possible that he'll be cleared to join his teammates for full workouts at the start of spring training. Just 22 years old, Machado already has the benefit of more than 1,200 big league plate appearances under his belt. Further, he'll play half of his games in a hitter-friendly home park at Camden Yards, where he hit .299/.357/.522 in 2014. Of the middle-tier third basemen on the board this spring, Machado offers an unmatched combination of upside and an everyday lineup spot.
2015 Outlook: Sandoval avoided injuries last season, playing in a career-high 157 games and offering double-digit home runs for the sixth consecutive season. It should be noted, however, that his 6.1 percent walk rate was his lowest since becoming a full-season regular for the Giants in 2009. Even with the loss of a few free passes, Sandoval is still a good bad-ball hitter. During his time in San Francisco, Sandoval contributed to three World Series-winning clubs, and his postseason heroics are well documented, thanks to a career .344/.389/.545 line in the playoffs. A first-time free agent during the offseason, Sandoval landed in Boston, where he's expected to stabilize the Red Sox's third-base situation and provide run production in the heart of the order. Even if the move out of AT&T Park and into Fenway doesn't lead to a significant increase in home runs, the Boston lineup in 2015 should be stronger than any supporting cast Sandoval has played with in San Francisco, making him a threat to push 90 RBI for just the second time in his career.
2015 Outlook: Now that Adam LaRoche has departed via free agency to the White Sox, the Nats have opened up first base for Zimmerman to move across the diamond -- a move that was desperately needed, given his shoulder woes. Zimmerman has welcomed the move, saying it allows him to focus on his hitting. But it wasn't Zimmerman's shoulder that limited him to just 61 games in 2014 -- rather, he suffered a broken thumb and then a hamstring injury that limited him even once he returned in September. He appears to be fully healed now and will enjoy eligibility at third base and outfield for one more season. The risks with Zimmerman are obvious, but they're also going to be priced in on draft day. Your reward for taking a chance on him could be a 25-homer season.
2015 Outlook: Wright started the season in a slump, finishing April with just one home run along with a 7:27 BB:K and .631 OPS, but he showed signs of putting the pieces back together in May and June before a left shoulder injury surfaced near the end of the first half. Although he attempted to play through the injury during the second half, his OPS fell by 200 points (.565) and he failed to homer over his final 46 games. Rather than undergoing surgery, Wright opted to proceed with rehab through the offseason, and he was cleared to resume swinging a bat in early December. Durability has become an increasing concern over the last four seasons, as he's averaged 126 games played annually during that span. Still, at age 32, it's reasonable to think that Wright still has plenty left in the tank; he may be a strong bounce-back candidate after posting 2012 and 2013 slash lines that were in line with his career marks (.298/.377/.494). If he proves to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury during spring training, Wright should be well worth the risk at what figures to be a discounted price on draft day.
2015 Outlook: Bryant enters 2015 atop many prospect rankings, and should be considered an early favorite for Rookie of the Year honors in the National League. The Cubs kept Bryant in the minors for all of last season, splitting his time nearly evenly between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. His plate-discipline numbers were nearly identical at the two levels, as he walked in 14.5 percent of his plate appearances while striking out in just over a quarter of them. With raw power at the top of the 20-80 scale, Bryant makes an overwhelming amount of hard contact and possesses the ability to drive the ball to all fields, a tool that he used to swat 43 home runs over 594 plate appearances in 2014. There are still some questions regarding his ability to stick at third base in the long run, but the Cubs have been adamant about giving him a chance to handle the hot corner before moving him to the outfield. While he'll start his year at Triple-A Iowa, Bryant will likely be called up to serve as the everyday third baseman shortly after April 17, at which point the Cubs gain an extra year of team control over their prized rookie.