Third base has been a position that has been fairly set for the past few years. The elite have been elite and have kept their head firmly in the clouds of the position. However, it is now a spot that is under siege from a new generation of stars. It could be argued that no position has seen more top end impact from the new blood of the league than third base, which has led to a redefining of the Top 10 list this season.
However, those mainstays are not going down without a fight. While injuries have taken the starch out of some formerly great players such as David Wright, while others like Aramis Ramirez have retired and even more have peaked and declined such as Ryan Zimmerman, Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval, there is a strong veteran core that is mixed in among the upstart prodigies in the group.
So how does it all sort out? One thing for sure, there has been a hostile takeover within the top 5 of players far south of seeing their 25th birthday.
To see where the full list stacked up last season, click here.
10. Evan Longoria, Rays
2015: .270/.328/.435, 21 HR, 73 RBI, 35 doubles, 74 runs scored, .764 OPS
Last 3 Years: .264/.331/.446, 25 HR, 84 RBI, 33 doubles, 83 runs, .776 OPS
Longoria’s production is not once what it was, this is blatantly true. He has not hit 30 home runs since 2013, nor has he driven in 100 runs nor has he been an All-Star since 2010. It also seems like he has been around a lot longer than it would seem for a guy that is just preparing to enter his age 30 season.
But with all of those things considered, what Longoria still does is show up every day (he has played in 476 of a possible 480 games since 2013) and produce at a more than respectable level both at the plate and in the field. 2015 marked seventh time he has topped 20 home runs in season, having hit a total 205 in his 20’s. He may not be the megastar he was on course to be, but Longoria is still a force to be approached cautiously amid the Rays lineup.
9. Todd Frazier, White Sox
2015: .255/.309/.498, 35 HR, 89 RBI, 43 doubles, 82 runs scored, .806 OPS
Last 3 Years: .255/.320/.457, 28 HR, 81 RBI, 31 doubles, 78 runs scored, .777 OPS
Even five years into his career, every season The Toddfather has done something better than the year before. Last year it came in the form of 35 home runs, 89 RBI and 43 doubles, all of which represented new career highs. The 35 long balls marked the second straight year that he finished in the top 5 in the National League in homers, a fitting place for a guy that won the All-Star Home Run Derby in front of his (then) hometown crowd.
Now he will call the Southside of Chicago his new home after being at the core of a three-team trade this offseason between the Reds, Dodgers and White Sox. And his new lineup home should be quite hospitable as well, as he’ll be paired with another elite power threat in Jose Abreu.
8. Kyle Seager, Mariners
2015: .266/.328/.451, 26 HR, 74 RBI, 37 doubles, 85 runs scored, .779 OPS
Last 3 Years: .265/.333/.444, 24 HR, 80 RBI, 32 doubles, 78 runs scored, .777 OPS
If one word could be used to describe Seager, it should be consistency. Over the past four years, the Mariners have been able to call on the now 28-year-old for:
20 Home Runs? Check. 150 hits? Check. Staying within a rock’s toss of a .260 average, 75 RBI and a .450 slugging percentage? Check, check and check. Toss in the fact that he plays Gold Glove caliber defense, makes it into the lineup nearly every day and carries the versatility to hit anywhere throughout the heart of the ever-changing Mariner lineup, and you have one of the most quietly valuable players in the American League.
7. Mike Moustakas, Royals
2015: .284/.348/.817, 22 HR, 82 RBI, 34 doubles, 73 runs scored, .817 OPS
Last 3 Years: .246/.305/.403, 16 HR, 59 RBI, 27 doubles, 53 runs, .707 OPS
There was a collective sense of “finally” around the coming of age of the Moose last year. After years of falling well short of the type of hefty expectations that he carried on his shoulders since arriving in Kansas City in 2011, he broke through the glass ceiling over his career with an All-Star campaign in his age 26 season.
Moustakas set career highs in over 10 offensive categories during his breakout year, and continued the pace into the offseason, as he hit .300 (7-for-24) in route to helping to guide the Royals to taking the World Series crown. The Moose chats that ring out of the confines of “The K” throughout the summer stand as proof of the fact that Moustakas’ impact is felt on a nightly basis.
6. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
2015: .272/.365/.505, 28 HR, 84 RBI, 44 doubles, 101 runs scored, .871 OPS
Last 3 Years: .288/.378/.453, 16 HR, 74 RBI, 44 doubles, 109 runs scored, .831 OPS
Nobody in the game works an at-bat harder than Carpenter does at the top of the Cardinal lineup. The MLB leader in most pitches per at-bat again last season, Carpenter added a new trick his offensive arsenal, as he launched a career-best 28 home runs, 19 of which came after the All-Star break. His evolution as a power hitter went to an extent that his 2015 total was three more than he had hit in his entire career entering the season.
Otherwise, he led the National League in doubles for the second time in three years, which saw him finish seventh in the NL in extra base hits with 75. In each of his three seasons as a starter, three times he has finished in the top 10 for most times on base, reaching base 280, 265 and 243 times, respectively.
5. Kris Bryant, Cubs (Not ranked in ’15)
2015: .275/.369/.488, 26 HR, 99 RBI, 31 doubles, 87 runs scored, .858 OPS
In the year of the rookie, none made a more potent debut than Bryant did. It seemed unlikely that he could possibly match the buzz around him not being immediately a member of the Cubs out of spring training, but he still somehow managed to exceed the buzz.
Bryant smashed his way towards the All-Star Game and the National League Championship Series and ended up as a runaway selection for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Of course it came with the pitfalls of also leading the NL in strikeouts with 199, but that is a pardonable offense for a player that forecasts as being at forefront of power hitters in baseball for the next decade.
4. Adrian Beltre, Rangers (#1 in ’15)
2015: .287/.334/.453, 18 HR, 83 RBI, 32 doubles, 83 run scored, .788 OPS
Last 3 Years: .309/.365/.485, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 32 doubles, 83 runs scored, .850 OPS
Beltre is essentially the fine wine of elite producers in the game today. He is under 300 hits away from 3,000 and 600 doubles are within his sights as well. He’s a young 36; still capable of reaching into his considerable stockpile of offensive skills even at the age of 36. Take into evidence his 2015 campaign, where it appeared that he may be over the hill, he turned it on netted his third top 10 finish in the AL MVP race within the last five years.
Beltre’s bat came alive in the second half, hitting .318, driving in 61 runs, reaching base at a .376 clip and slugging an impressive .509%. Those numbers are in line with the rate he swung at in 2013, when he led the AL in hits. It should come as no surprise that this mid-season renaissance also sparked the Rangers’ rise back into competitive prominence in the AL West, as they came from behind to take the AL West crown.
3. Manny Machado, Orioles
2015: .286/.359/.502, 35 HR, 86 RBI, 30 doubles, 102 runs scored, .861 OPS
Last 3 Years: .283/.334/.459, 20 HR, 63 RBI, 32 doubles, 76 runs scored, .793 OPS
Another year and another new trick for the precociously talented (yet still miscast) Orioles shortstop that is still amid his matinee performance as an elite defensive third baseman. Yet between being the most athletic 3B in the game and a multiple time All-Star by the age of 22, Machado is steadily expanding his offensive rapport as well.
He began the time tested developing power hitter process of converting doubles to home runs season, dropping his doubles total to 30 (down from 51 two years ago) to home runs, of which his 2015 total were two more than his career total to date (33 from 2012-2014, 35 from April to October of 2015). Toss in the 20 stolen bases that came as well, and there could be a 30-30 season in the works from Manny soon as well. Never count out anything from this prodigy come true.
2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies
2015: .287/.323/.575, 42 HR, 130 RBI, 43 doubles, 97 runs scored, .898 OPS
Last 3 Years: .281/.318/.500, 23 HR, 81 RBI, 35 doubles, 68 runs scored, .818 OPS
Firmly entrenched as the best defensive third baseman in the National League (and it is a rather fun debate about whether him or Machado’s glove reigns supreme in all of baseball), Arenado went about the business of putting to bed any doubts about who is the best overall NL third baseman as well a year ago too.
Arenado launched 42 home runs a year ago, tying with MVP Bryce Harper for the league lead. He also drove in 130 runs, which was far and away the best total in the NL (by 20 over Paul Goldschmidt) and was good for the top total in all of the game as well. Of his 177 hits, 89 went for extra base hits and he totaled 354 bases overall. As a three-time Gold Glover, Silver Slugger and All-Star, Arenado stands to be among the elite overall talents in the game for years to come.
1. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays (#2 in ’15)
2015: .297/.371/.568, 41 HR, 123 RBI, 41 doubles, 122 runs scored, .939 OPS
Last 3 Years: .284/.366/.508, 31 HR, 105 RBI, 36 doubles, 101 runs scored, .874 OPS
Donaldson has gone from a part-time catcher in his mid-20’s in Oakland five years ago, to bringing home the American League MVP as a Blue Jay last season. Donaldson’s coming of age has been quiet noticeable over the past three years, as over that time period he has been good for a mind-numbing impact of 24.2 Wins Above Replacement level over that time period. However, he took that buffet of talents to a new level in his first year as a Blue Jay, and it played the primary role in breaking their two decade postseason deficit.
Donaldson hit 20 home runs and bested 60 RBI in each half of the season. While the Jays were making their push down the stretch to win the East, he picked his batting average up to north of .300. Has has been his calling card in recent years, Donaldson was a terror with runners in scoring position, hitting .353 when the stakes were highest. He scored one less run himself than he drove in, accounting for a part of 245 runs on the year.
The MVP can be variously defined, but nobody created a more diverse high-level impact last season. As well, there is no one playing a better third base than Donaldson is today.