Posts Tagged ‘Third Base’

 

May 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) throws to first base in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Check.

 

 

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.

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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.

Mar 7, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) at bat against the Boston Red Sox at a spring training baseball game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 7, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) at bat against the Boston Red Sox at a spring training baseball game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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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.

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The scene at third base around the Major Leagues has undergone an extreme amount of overhaul over the past few seasons. Many impact players such as Ryan Zimmerman, Martin Prado and Miguel Cabrera (who moonlighted for two years on the hot corner) have relocated to other spots. At the same time, multi-tooled infielders such as Matt Carpenter, Anthony Rendon and Josh Harrison have settled in on a full-time basis at the position as well. Add this in with a few mainstays that have long been considered among the premiere properties at the position and you have a melting pot of names manning the position.

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It has also been a position that has seen many emergent talents, as well as breakthrough youngsters hit the position as well. All of these things combined have made it the ranking that has seen the most shakeup from last year headed into the next. Even contention for the top spot has gotten tighter and tighter over the past 12 months.

But all players here make a diverse contribution to their team, from being dynamic leadoff hitters to being the face of the organization—and hitting at the heart of its lineup. There is something for everybody on the hot corner these days.

 

1. Adrian Beltre, Rangers (#1 in 2014): He remains largely underappreciated, while putting up the type of numbers that others get more shine for doing much less. Beltre is a year removed from hitting .324, his third consecutive year of at least a .315 average. He also crossed over the 500 double and 2,500 hit marks for his career, one that is on the way to hitting multiple Hall of Fame worthy totals. He finished in the AL top three in average, on-base percentage and Wins Above Replacement, where he put up a well-rounded split of 5+ offensive Wins and 1.5 defensive as well. He’s remains a stunningly complete, sleeper of a star.

2-year average: .319 average/.880 OPS/24 home runs/84 RBI/32 doubles/84 runs scored/.963 Fld%

2. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays (#6 in ’14): Very few players can see their average drop by nearly 50 points, but not see their value take much of hit, but then again everyone can’t do what Donaldson can. He followed up his 2013 breakout campaign by hitting 29 home runs and driving in 98 runs. In addition to his often jaw-dropping pop, he also led all MLB third basemen in defensive Runs Above Replacement, at a stunning 2.7, while still sporting the second widest range factor in the game.

2-year average: .277 average/.840 OPS/26 home runs/96 RBI/34 doubles/91 runs scored/.956 Fld%

3. Evan Longoria, Rays (#2 in ’14): After annually battling injuries for a couple of years, Longoria has become a mainstay in Tampa again and replied with a solid 2014 effort. He hit 22 home runs and drove in 91 runs, while playing in all 162 games. Over the course of these feats he became the Rays all-time leader in homers and RBI, as well as doubles.

2-year average: .261 average/.783 OPS/27 home runs/90 RBI/32 doubles/87 runs scored/.969 Fld %

4. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals (#5 in ’14): He did not duplicate the eye popping numbers he did at second base in 2013, but Carpenter remained one of the game’s better leadoff hitters during his shift back to the hot corner all the same. The ever-patient catalyst reached base at .375 clip, while leading the NL with 95 walks, to go along with 162 hit and 99 runs scored. Along the way he made his second All-Star team in as many years and at as many positions.

2-year average: .296 average/.813 OPS/10 home runs/68 RBI/44 doubles/112 runs scored/.958 Fld%

5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals (Not ranked): He did everything the Nationals needed last year, from being a fill in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman to being a plus producer as a second baseman as well. By the time it was all said and done, Rendon had led the National League in runs scored (111), while hitting 21 home runs, 39 doubles and stealing 17 bases, good enough for a Silver Slugger and a top-5 MVP finish.

2-year average: .279 average/.788 OPS/14 home runs/59 RBI/31 doubles/76 runs scored/.913 Fld%

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6. David Wright, Mets (#4 in ’14): He is at a crossroads entering 2015, as both of his last two seasons have been cut short by injury. The difference is that one was a very productive one (2013), while last year was not by any means. But it is still too early to write off Wright, who at age 32 still has a lot of baseball ahead of him. It is show and prove time for the Mets captain.

2-year average: .286 average/.791 OPS/13 home runs/60 RBI/26 doubles/58 runs scored/.963 Fld%

7. Kyle Seager (Not ranked): 2014 represented a coming into his own for Seager, as he set career highs in each of the triple crown categories (.268/25/96) and won the AL Gold Glove as well. He’s just entering his prime and is slated to play a big part in the Mariners recent aggressive rebuild project for a long time, as he was inked to a seven-year, $100 million extension coming out of his breakout campaign.

2-year average: .264 average/.776 OPS/24 home runs/82 RBI/30 doubles/75 runs scored/.972 Fld%

8. Nolan Arenado, Rockies (Not ranked): He’s a defensive wizard; winner of two Gold Gloves in his first two seasons and his bat is beginning to follow in fine suit as well. Arenado ran up a 28-game hit streak early in 2014, and also grew his home run total by 8 and his batting average by 20 points. This is what a star in the making looks like.

2-year average: .277 average/.764 OPS/14 home runs/56 RBI/32 doubles/54 runs scored/.966 Fld%

9. Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox (Not ranked): The Panda had a record breaking October, setting a World Series record of hits in route to his third championship and followed it up with a big check to take his talents to Boston. The steady swinging switch hitter should transition nicely to Fenway, and should see his best days ahead of him.

2-year average: .279 average/.748 OPS/15 home runs/76 RBI/26 doubles/60 runs scored/.955 Fld%

10. Todd Frazier, Reds (Not ranked): He became a first-time All-Star in 2014 as he carried the injury ravaged Reds offense. He connected for 29 home runs, drove in 80 runs and even stole 20 bases as well. Also a solid hand in the field, Frazier is more valuable than ever in Cincy.

2-year average: .254 average/.760 OPS/24 home runs/76 RBI/26 doubles/76 runs scored/.970 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Aramis Ramirez, Manny Machado, Josh Harrison, Trevor Plouffe

 

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It does not get spoken to very often, but the lay of the land in baseball right now at the hot corner is perhaps the best the position has ever been. There is a deep collection of dual threat bat/glove performers, with many in the middle of their primes right now. There are the perennial great performers that are getting pushed by the up-and-comers….who are in turn getting pushed by a prodigy or two at the spot.

The game’s silent, but deadly collection annually factors in the MVP race, and 2012 was no exception. With the exclusion of Miguel Cabrera, who has collected the last two AL MVPs, but has since moved back to first base, the current collection of third basemen has three members who finished in the top 5 of their league last season, with another who rightfully should have—but will get more than his due at the top of this list later (and no, that is not an excuse to jump ahead. Patience.)

Yet, with that let’s get into it—the top third basemen in the game today (even if a few are just coming and another could be going soon enough)

10. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates: There’s nothing wrong with being a one trick pony if you can do that trick really, really good. Alvarez’s thing is home runs, and he tied for NL-led with 36 last year, albeit while topping strikeouts by himself with 186.

9. Martin Prado, Diamondbacks: He drove in a career-best 82 runs in his first season in the desert, and 36 doubles as well. While he continued to be a slight utility man (notching 25+ starts in left field and second base, respectively), he committed only six errors in 113 games at third.

8. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers: Injuries limited him last year, but he just a season removed from a 50 double/27 homer/105 RBI campaign. He’s been one of the most quietly consistent performers in baseball over the past 10 years and his return to full health plays as big a part of the Milwaukee revival as the Ryan Braun’s comeback could.

Ryan Zimmerman

7. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: Coming off shoulder surgery, he continued to be a steady producer in DC, despite being a part of the across-the-board Nats downturn last year. He’s topped 25 homers in four of the past five years, and a three-homer game in July.

6. Josh Donaldson, Athletics: He became the backbone of Oakland’s second consecutive run to the top of the AL West. After driving in 93 runs, hitting 24 homers and a .301 average, he won the AL Player of the Month in the A’s clinching effort in September—for a fourth place finish in the AL MVP vote.

5. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals: He returns to his native third base for 2014 after slugging his way to a second base Silver Slugger a year ago. He led the NL in hits (199), runs scored (126) and doubles (55) in his first full season as a starter, while hitting .318 overall.

4. David Wright, Mets: The man the Mets have rightfully built their empire around continues to prove why he’s among the faces of the game. Despite missing over a month to injury, he hit .307, hit 18 home runs, stole 17 bases and made his seventh All-Star Game in 10 years.

Manny Machado

3. Manny Machado, Orioles: The lifetime shortstop became a phenom last year, all while playing out of position. While the 20-year-old’s 51 doubles led the AL, it was with the glove where he truly showed some jaw dropping excellence. His defensive WAR reads to a level that says he won nearly 4.5 games with his glove alone for the O’s. And all with the type of ease that has not been seen in B-More since Brooks Robinson.

2. Evan Longoria, Rays: Tampa’s franchise player played in a career-best 160 games a year ago, and knocked out 32 homers, drove in 88 runs and 39 doubles. A perennially good defender as well, he committed the least errors of any full-time AL third baseman, while having the third best range rating.

1. Adrian Beltre, Rangers: He’s been the most productive hitter at the position over the last four years, finishing in the top 10 of the AL MVP three times. Across that span he’s at least .315 three and drove in 100 runs, respectively three times as well. He has the best arm from the hot corner in the game as well, and is among the most underrated all-around talents today—as well as a growing dark horse Hall of Fame candidate.

Just A Bit Outside: Kyle Seager, Pablo Sandoval, Nolan Arenado

For more on this list and the march to Spring in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more content, head to The Sports Fan Journal and I-70 Baseball.