- Associated Press - Friday, March 10, 2017

The hot corner is a hot topic inside fantasy baseball circles as we approach the 2017 season. Some argue it is a very deep position, others think it is extremely top heavy. Both arguments may be right.

Four third base-eligible players are likely to come off the board in the first round of most fantasy baseball drafts this year. And while there’s some debate about the best of the bunch, a clear hierarchy exists at the position overall.

STUDS

Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant are the first two players being taken in drafts. Arenado has 40-plus home runs, 130-plus RBIs, and about 100 runs scored in each of the past two seasons to go along with a .291 average over that span. He is the best option based on the raw numbers. The argument for Bryant to be taken ahead of him requires a leap of faith. The batting average (.284) and runs scored (104 average per season) are about the same, but Arenado had a slight edge in home runs to go along with a massive edge in RBI.

Bryant offers more stolen base upside, but not enough to justify taking him over Arenado unless you expect him to take a big step forward in home runs and RBI this year, which isn’t out of the question.

SECOND HALF OF THE TOP TIER

Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson round out the list of the third basemen being taken in the first round. They are both coming off 37 home run seasons with more than 100 runs scored, just under 100 RBIs and batting averages in the .290 range. They are clearly a step behind the top two and more than a step ahead of everyone else at the position, but all four are legitimate first-round talents (hence the “top heavy” arguments).

VALUE IN THE LATER ROUNDS

If you are unable to secure one of the top four - or unwilling to invest the first round capital needed - there are still other options three rounds later, although most are very similar to one another. Kyle Seager, Adrian Beltre, Matt Carpenter and Todd Frazier fall into this second tier group.

TODD FRAZIER: SLEEPER?

Frazier in particular is being undervalued this draft season. In the last three years, he has averaged 35 home runs, 85 runs scored, 90 RBIs, and 16 steals. The downside with Frazier is the batting average. He has just north of a .250 average over that span, with a three-year low of .225 last season. While the batting average is below the benchmark number you need to win your league, the other counting stat categories are well above average. It’s not easy to find a player who has swiped 13 or more bases in each of the last three seasons who also has 30-plus home run upside. Frazier has shown that to be his floor since 2015.

LATER ROUNDS STILL FULL OF TALENT

The next tier of players is where personal preference and team needs begin to inform your strategy. Evan Longoria is the next best option, followed by a group of players that can be ranked a number of different ways. This group includes players like Anthony Rendon, Alex Bregman, Jung Ho Kang, Miguel Sano, Maikel Franco, Justin Turner, Jake Lamb, Ryon Healy, Mike Moustakas, and Nick Castellanos.

DEEP SLEEPER

The deep sleeper of this third base group is Alex Bregman. The young third baseman fit in nicely last season in a stacked Astros lineup after a rough 2-for-38 start to his big league career. He settled into the second spot in that order behind George Springer and in front of both Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. He hit over .310 the rest of the season, which was more in line with what he showed in the minors.

BUST ALERT

Jung-Ho Kang has power upside and is slipping in a lot of early drafts. He was hurt for much of last season, but the injury history is only a partial reason to be fearful of drafting him. Kang is currently on trial for DUI and a possible suspension is still hanging over his head. The upside is certainly there for a guy who put up ridiculous numbers in Korea before coming over to the Pirates, but the risk is too much to burden your team with.

Additionally, Kang is going to lose shortstop eligibility this year, an element that made him an exciting prospect in the past. He has not played more than 126 games or put up above average stats in any category since coming to the big leagues. The talent is evident but he has yet to put it all together.

BENNY’S TOP 12 THIRD BASEMEN

1. Nolan Arenado - Rockies

2. Kris Bryant - Cubs

3. Manny Machado - Orioles

4. Josh Donaldson- Blue Jays

5. Kyle Seager - Mariners

6. Adrian Beltre - Rangers

7. Todd Frazier - White Sox

8. Matt Carpenter - Cardinals

9. Evan Longoria - Rays

10. Anthony Rendon - Nationals

11. Alex Bregman - Astros

12. Miguel Sano - Twins

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This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com .

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