Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at the best players at each position. Much like the shows airing on MLB Network, there are many different ways to rank players. Mick and I both will look at different stats as well as what we have seen to come up with our lists. The next position that we will be taking a look at is Third Base, a position that is loaded with premier talent.
10. Chase Headley, SD 3.6 fWAR, 113 wRC+, .250/.347/.400, 7 UZR
When looking at Chase Headley, the question is which player are you going to get? In 2012, he had an MVP caliber season with 31 Home Runs and 115 RBI while supporting a 7.2 fWAR. His 2013 campaign was not as impressive as his power and average numbers dropped dramatically. Headley is still worthy of being in the top 10 due to his 2012 season with the idea that he can get close to those numbers again. I expect Headley’s 2014 season to be somewhere in between his 2012 and 2013 numbers.
9. Chris Johnson, ATL 2.8 fWAR, 127 wRC+, .321/.358/.457, -6.6 UZR
Chris Johnson’s first full season in Atlanta was a success as he had a very solid season. The Braves dealt Martin Prado in the offseason to acquire Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks, because they felt Johnson could handle the everyday duties of third base. He finished second in the National League in batting average on an Atlanta Braves squad that hit under .250 as a team. Johnson is a solid hitter and one of the few hitters on the Braves that can consistently hit.
8. Martin Prado, ARI 2.4 fWAR, 103 wRC +, .282/.333/.417, 2.7 UZR
Prado had his first season not part of Atlanta since he came into the big leagues in 2006. Prado is a player that I really like because he is a solid defender and a good hitter. He is a contact hitter as he only had an 8 percent strikeout rate but can also provide some power. He is also an above average defender as he had a 2.7 ultimate zone rating. The one concern I have with Prado is his 7.1 percent walk rate is low and puts a lot of pressure on him to get on base via a hit.
7. Pedro Alvarez, PIT 3.1 fWAR, 111 wRC+, .233/.296/.473, -.3 UZR
There is no question that Alvarez is one of the best power hitters in baseball. He has produced two straight seasons of 30+ Home Runs and had his first 100 RBI season. The concern with Alvarez is his low batting average and his low OBP. He also strikes out 30 percent of his at-bats. The Pirates need Alvarez to produce runs and that is exactly what he does. Alvarez has improved his defense as his UZR has improved by almost 10 points from the 2012 season. I expect him to have another big season if the Pirates want to go back to the Postseason.
6. Ryan Zimmerman, WSH 3 fWAR, 125 wRC+, .275/.344/.465/ -14 UZR
Zimmerman is one of the most consistent offensive players in baseball. When healthy, he will hit from .280 to .290, hit 25 home runs, and drive in around 80-100 runs. What was strange about Zimmerman’s 2013 campaign was that he had a horrible defensive season. In the past, he has been known as a sure-handed third baseman, but it appeared Zimmerman had the yips when it came to making a throw across the diamond. I fully expect him to get back to his solid defense and have another solid offensive season, and lead the Nationals to a division title.
5. Manny Machado, BAL 6.2 fWAR, 101 wRC+, .283/.314/.432, 31.2 UZR
There is no doubt Machado is one of the best young talents in the game. The 21 year-old has excellent bat control and will win a batting title in the next couple of years. I expect his power to continue to increase as he fills out his frame and continues to learn how to hit. Defensively, Machado is a fielding wizard. He has the best arm of all the third basemen in the big leagues and has incredible hands for the hot corner. He won his first gold glove in 2013 and it definitely will not be his last. Machado had knee surgery in the offseason to repair a torn meniscus but could be ready for opening day. Expect Machado to keep getting better and solidify himself as one of the game’s best.
4. Josh Donaldson, OAK 7.7 fWAR, 148 wRC+, .301/.384/.499, 9.9 UZR
In his first full season in the big leagues, Donaldson had a huge year for the AL West Champion Oakland Athletics. Not only did Donaldson have the highest fWAR among third basemen, but he had the third highest fWAR in all of baseball. Donaldson is not a big guy as he is only 6’0”, but he has a big swing that produced 24 Home Runs while playing half of his games in the spacious Oakland Coliseum. He is also an elite defender at the hot corner with a 9.9 UZR, which ranks 5th among third basemen. I expect Donaldson to have another big year as he is entering his age 28 season.
3. David Wright, NYM 6 fWAR, 155 wRC+, .307/.390/.514, 3.7 UZR
There is no doubt that David Wright is one of the premier players in baseball. The face of the New York Mets has been one of the best players in the game for the last 9 years. I am a big David Wright fan and wanted to put him at # 2 on my list, but in two of the last three years he has missed at least 50 games. When Wright is on the field, he is a terrific hitter who can hit for average and has benefited from the shorter fences at Citi Field. The Mets are a team that is on the rise, and they will need a healthy David Wright if they want to continue to move in the right direction.
2. Adrian Beltre, TEX 5.2 fWAR, 135 wRC+, .315/.371/.509, -1.2 UZR
Beltre is one of the true gamers in baseball. He is a guy you can pencil in the lineup every day even if he has a small injury. Many people were skeptical when the Rangers gave him a long term deal, but Beltre has proven he has been worth every penny. In his 3 seasons in Texas, he is top 10 in cumulative fWAR as he has put together 3 straight 30 Home Run seasons. Beltre has proven to be one of the toughest hitters to strike out with his 11.3 percent strike out rate. Beltre has had an excellent career and if he continues tearing the cover of the ball for a couple more seasons, he will be on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
1. Evan Longoria, TB 6.8 fWAR, 133 wRC+, .269/.343/.498, 14.6 UZR
Evan Longoria is one of the most valuable players in Major League Baseball. When he is in the Rays lineup, they are a completely different team. In 2012, Longoria suffered a hamstring injury and only played in 74 games and the Rays hit .240 as a team. In 2013, Longoria played 160 games and the Rays hit .257 as a team. Now Longoria isn’t the only reason why the Rays team averaged jumped almost 20 points, but there is no question that teams have to pitch the Rays differently when Longoria is in the middle of their lineup. Longoria is a terrific power hitter, a great defender, and one of the game’s best leaders.
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