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MLB Salary Cap Strategy: Hot Plays at the Hot Corner

The hot corner offers an embarrassment of riches for the 2017 season. There are potentially cost-effective choices across the salary spectrum at this position, and Fantasy managers can find big boppers as well as salary cap savers that will enhance their Opening Day roster.

Implications for Roster Construction

[the_ad id=”567″]If one assumes 5 starting pitchers on the bench that – together with the 10 pitching slots (starters and relievers) in your starting line-up – that leaves space for 26 hitters (or 25 should you choose to use a fifth closer) on your roster. If you allow 3 slots for each infield position plus catcher as well as 9 slots for outfielders, that leaves a maximum of 2 spots for additional hitters.

Third base will be the place that many Salary Cap managers look to roster four players. There are so many intriguing possibilities at the hot corner, it’s hard for me to limit myself to four choices – which is really the maximum number you should take at any infield position.
Not only does third base have a plethora of top-tier options, but the position is also filled with cost-effective Fantasy plays up and down the salary spectrum. Take a look at my earlier article on Roster Construction to see how to identify cost-effectiveness.

Because there are so many options at this position, it is important for Fantasy managers to not just compare cost-effectiveness of players within the position. It is critical to compare the efficacy of third basemen to other position players within the same price range. How does Kris Bryant (2800) stack up against the likes of Edwin Encarnacion (2760), Nelson Cruz (2770), Bryan Dozier (2820) or Bryce Harper (2850)? Is Anthony Rendon (2080) a superior option to Kyle Schwarber (2120), Brandon Belt (2090), or Stephen Piscotty (2110)?


Josh Donaldson (3010)

The Blue Jays slugger followed up his 2015 AL MVP season (688 points, 4.4 PPG, .939 OPS) with an equally impressive 2016 season (670 points, 4.3 PPG, .953 OPS). The amazing thing is he’s still improving his approach – witness the fact that his BB/K ratio improved from 73/133 to 109/119 over that period. He’s expected to return to game action this week and be ready for Opening Day.

Nolen Arenado (2940)

Only Jimmy Foxx has EVER had more seasons (3) with both 40 homers and 130 RBIs than the Rockies third baseman – who has reached that dual milestone in each of the past 2 seasons. His number of walks doubled in 2016, he plays in what is widely recognized as the most hitter-friendly ballpark in MLB, bats in the heart of a stud line-up, and will never miss late inning ABs for a defensive replacement. Nuff said.

Kris Bryant (2800)

Bryant followed up his 2015 Rookie of the Year award by adding the NL MVP trophy to his resume. Bryant reduced his K rate from 30.6% to 22% while increasing his contact rate 7 points to 73%. The Cubs third sacker scored 121 runs while hitting mostly in the #2 slot in front of Rizzo while mashing 39 big flies and 102 RBI.

Manny Machado (2590)

The Orioles franchise player has put up 620 and 593 points the past two seasons, respectively, while averaging 3.8 PPG. Another season like that for the 24-year-old will make him a very cost-effective play.


Kyle Seager (2350)

Seager posted career bests in walks, doubles, homers, runs, RBI, batting average, OPS and Fantasy points (569) in 2016 and hits in the heart of a stacked Mariner batting order.

Evan Longoria (2130)

There are just too many younger players with more upside at the position for me to even consider Longo.

Anthony Rendon (2080)

[the_ad id=”693″]Rendon had 581 points and 3.8 PPG in 2014 and would be a sweet play if he could return to that form. Entering his age-27 season in a stacked Nationals line-up, Rendon has the upside to slot in right behind the top-tier third basemen.

Justin Turner (1990)

Turner had a slow start to 2016 as he recovered from offseason micro-fracture knee surgery. From June onwards, he caught fire and finished with 509 points and a .832 OPS. His knee seems to be flaring up again this spring, but a healthy Turner would surely be a cost-effective play.

Miguel Sano (1770)

Sano has been re-positioned at third base after a disastrous outfield experiment during his rookie campaign. Sano has 40-homer upside but has to improve on his 36% strikeout rate from a season ago.


Alex Bregman (1620)

After his July Call-up in 2016, Bregman stumbled to a 1-for-32 (.031) start before he turned things around and finished his rookie season 52-for-169 (.308). The Astro youngster has a relatively strong floor and plenty of upside – especially if he winds up in the #2 hole for the Astros.

Jose Ramirez (1610)

Ramirez scored 513 Fantasy points in 2016 while hitting .312 with 11 homers and 22 stolen bases. His underlying peripherals – especially an increase in hard hit rate – indicate that his 2016 season stats are eminently repeatable.

Nick Castellanos (1530)

Castellanos is a post-hype sleeper who posted a .285 batting average and a .827 OPS with 18 dingers in 447 PAs last season. His step forward was masked in part by the fact that he lost two months of the season to a broken bone in his hand. He’s going to put up some counting stats should he wind up in the fifth spot in Detroit’s line-up.

Mike Moustakas (1490)

[the_ad id=”384″]Moustakas exhibited a new approach at the plate in the second half of 2015 – going more to the opposite field to beat the shift and flashing improved power numbers. He lost most of the 2016 season to a torn ACL following a collision with Alex Gordon. He’s gotten off to a slow start this spring (.216 average with 3 homers) but assuming he’s healthy, Moose could be a breakout candidate.

Jung Ho Kang (1460)

Kang can flat out rake, and his 2016 OPS of .867 would usually indicate an extremely cost-effective play for the 2017 season. However, his off-the-field problems (DUI and alleged sexual assault) have led to problems obtaining a visa, and he will likely start the season on the restricted list.

Ryon Healy (1420)

Healy hit .305 (.861 OPS ) with 13 homers in 72 games after his July call-up in 2016. He’s expected to platoon with Yonder Alonso at 1B, backup Trevor Plouffe at 3B, and get ABs at DH. It’s worth staying updated on whether he can expect to get regular ABs once the season starts.

Jose Reyes (1390)

With the continuing inability of David Wright to get on the field, Reyes looks to get the nod at third for the Mets. He’s a long way away from his 45-50 steals days and doesn’t have the ceiling that some of his younger counterparts do, but he could be a cost-effective play.

Pablo Sandoval (1330)

The panda at the National Zoo scored more often than Sandoval did in 2016. However, the Sox third baseman looks like the after photo for a Nutrisystem ad this spring. Kung-fu Panda slugged a pair of big flies in Saturday’s spring training action and is now 13-for-39 (.333) this spring. The 30-year-old has the potential to substantially outperform his meager salary if he doesn’t eat his way out of a job.


Three of the top six scoring hitters in 2016 were third basemen – Arenado, Donaldson, and Bryant. While you will need to get top-notch production at the position to keep your team perched near the top of the leaderboard, there is little doubt that the position also offers some of the most cost-effective cheapies in the game. While the overall salary structure of your team will dictate the players you choose, you should certainly consider having both big boppers and at least one cost-efficient cheapie on your roster.

Previous Salary Cap Articles

  1. Pelican...........Ancientcity says

    I look foward to Walters articles every year….. can not make my team without his insightful thoughts…………the best fantasy advice online in my opinion easy to read and straight foward

  2. Barry Rainbowtroutman says

    great articles written–as a newbie,this and the other articles by Walter helped me a lot

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