Top 10 Third Basemen

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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Top 10 Second Basemen

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 Second Base.

10. Marco Scutaro, SF 2.7 fWAR, 111 wRC+, .297/.357/.369, -7 DRS

Scutaro was a key piece to San Francisco’s World Series run in 2012. After hitting .500 in the NLCS, Scutaro had the game-winning hit in Game 4 of the World Series to give San Francisco its second title in three years. In 2013, Scutaro put together another solid season at the plate. Scutaro’s strength is his ability to make contact. Last year, he only struck out in 6.2% of his at bats, the second best rate in all of baseball. In today’s game where strikeouts are frequent, having a guy with the ability to make contact can be so important for a line-up. Entering his age 38 season, look for Scutaro to continue to be an asset in the 2-hole for the Giants.

9. Jedd Gyorko, SD 2.5 fWAR, 110 wRC+, .249/.301/.444,  -1 DRS

Jedd Gyorko had a strong rookie season for the Padres in 2013. Gyorko led all NL second basemen in home runs with 23. Finishing 6th in NL Rookie of the Year voting last year, Gyorko will look to continue to establish himself as a power threat for the Padres in 2014. If the Padres are going to have any chance to contend in a tough NL West, Gyorko’s power will be play a big role.

8. Neil Walker, PIT 2.7 fWAR, 114 wRC+, .251/.339/.418, +9 DRS

Walker has established himself as one of the more reliable second basemen in the National League. He is a player that doesn’t do anything outstanding, but does everything really well. Walker’s .251 batting average can be attributed to a .274 BABIP, well below his career .312 BABIP. Look for Walker to be a consistent presence in the Pirates lineup in 2014.

7. Ian Kinsler, DET 2.5 fWAR, 105 wRC+, .277/.344/.413,  +11 DRS

Ian Kinsler enters an important year in his career. Entering his age 32 season, Kinsler has had two consecutive years where his OPS hasn’t been above .757, in comparison to his first six seasons where his average OPS was .822. On top of the slight decline in production, Kinsler will enter 2014 with a new organization, as Texas traded him to Detroit in a November blockbuster that saw the Rangers acquire left-handed slugger Prince Fielder. Will the change of scenery help? Will the bigger ballpark lead to a bigger decrease in production? There is no question about it, this is a big year for the thee-time all-star.

6. Aaron Hill, ARI 2.0 fWAR, 124 wRC+, .291/.356/.462,  -9 DRS

Hill had a solid season in 2013, but was a bit unfortunate as well. Hill suffered a broken hand a couple of weeks into the season, costing him more than two months of his 2013 season.  Despite only playing in 87 games, Hill had a strong season at the plate. If he can stay healthy in 2014, look for Hill to have a strong offensive season for the Diamondbacks.

5. Chase Utley, PHI 3.9 fWAR, 126 wRC+, .284/.348/.475, -4 DRS

Over the last four seasons, Utley has not played in more than 131 games in a season due to various knee injuries. It really is a shame, because Utley is one of the best left-handed hitters in the game when he is on the field. Entering his age 35 season, it will be interesting to see if Utley can play in 125 games. If he can stay on the field, he will give the Phillies a dynamic bat in a lineup full of question marks.

4. Ben Zobrist, TB 5.4 fWAR, 115 wRC+, .275/.354/.402, +7 DRS

I wasn’t sure if I was going to include Zobrist on this list because he plays all over the diamond. But considering he played 125 games at second, I think I had to include him. Zobrist is the ultimate weapon for Manager Joe Maddon, giving him the roster flexibility that he needs to get the best lineup on the field for that given day and matchup. Not only is Zobrist extremely versatile in the number of positions he can play, but he is also extremely productive. Since 2011, Zobrist ranks sixth among all hitters in baseball with a 17.5 fWAR, just behind the likes of Votto, Cano, McCutchen, Cabrera, and Trout. Though he may not get mentioned among those names, Zobrist is truly one of the most valuable players in all of baseball.

3. Jason Kipnis, CLE 4.5 fWAR, 130 wRC+, .284/.366/.452, -1 DRS

Kipnis put together a strong 2013 season for the surprise 92-win Cleveland Indians. Batting third for the majority of the season, Kipnis lead the Indians in hits, runs, runs batted in, and stolen bases. Though only average with the glove, Kipnis is one of the most productive second basemen offensively, ranking fourth among all second basemen with a 130 wRC+. Look for Kipnis to build off his strong 2013 and have the Indians in the hunt for another wild card berth.

2. Dustin Pedroia, BOS 5.4 fWAR, 115 wRC+, .301/.372/.415, 15 DRS

To me, Pedroia is the ultimate gamer. The guy just loves to play the game of baseball. In last year’s World Series, I will never forget the play Pedroia made before the controversial obstruction call that ended game three. The dive, the abiity to pick the short hop, the ability to get up and make the strong throw to home. It’s a shame that his effort on the play gets overlooked because of the chaos that ensued shortly after. The heart and soul of the Red Sox, Pedrioa had a very solid season last year despite the torn ligament in his thumb that occurred on opening day. Look for Pedrioa to continue to be Pedrioa in 2014, grinding out at bats, taking major hacks, and playing the best defensive second base in all of baseball.

1. Robinson Cano, SEA 6.0 fWAR, 142 wRC+, .314/.383/.516, 6 DRS

There are not many smoother things in all of baseball than Cano’s left-handed swing.  Since 2010, Cano’s wRC+  has been 143, 134, 149, and 142 in each of those four seasons. In addition to the offensive production, Cano is also one of the best defenders in the game, making some of the toughest plays look so easy and effortless. It will be interesting to see how the change of scenery affects Cano. Will he have enough around him to continue to get pitches to hit? Will he be able to resurrect a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 2009 and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2001? Will Cano be able to maintain a place in baseball’s spotlight outside of New York, or will he be a forgotten man playing on the West Coast? Only time will tell, but it will be interesting to see what happens this summer in Seattle.



Top 10 First Basemen

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 First Base.

10. Eric Hosmer, KC  3.1 fWAR, 119 wRC+, .302/.353/.448, 118 OPS+

Hosmer finally had the breakout season the Kansas City Royals thought he was capable of. In 2012, he struggled as he hit .232. Hosmer seems to have benefited from George Brett’s brief stint as the Royals hitting coach, because he raised his average 70 points in 2013. He also had a fantastic defensive season as he won his first Gold Glove. If the Royals want to go to their first postseason since 85’, Hosmer will have to have another big year.

9. Mike Napoli, BOS 3.9 fWAR, 129 wRC+, .259/.360/.482, 129 OPS+

Napoli signed with the Red Sox in 2012, and helped lead them to a World Series title in his first full season as a first baseman. There was speculation that Napoli couldn’t handle first base, but had a fantastic season defensively as he lead all first baseman with a 9.7 UZR. He did have a 32 % strikeout rate, but Boston signed him to drive in runs and that is what he did with 92 RBI. Napoli resigned with the Sox and should have another big year in the middle of their order.

8. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR 4.1 fWAR, 145 wRC+, .272/.370/.534, 145 OPS+

I thought Encarnacion’s 2012 season may have been a career year, but he put up incredible numbers in 2013. He ranked 3rd in the big leagues in home runs with 36 and 9th in RBI with 104. After two straight big years, I determined that this guy can flat out mash. It’s a little surprising that he only has a 10 % strike out rate for being a power hitter. Expect him and Jose Bautista to put up big numbers in the middle of the Blue Jays lineup.

7. Joe Mauer, MIN 5.2 fWAR, 144 wRC+, .324/.404/.476, 144 OPS+

There is no question that Mauer is one of the best overall hitters in the big leagues. He has a picture perfect swing and never seems to be off balance. The 3-time batting champion is moving to first base to protect him from possible injuries. It will be interesting to see if he has better stamina later in the season because he isn’t squatting behind the plate 300 times a game.

6. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD 2.8 fWAR, 124 wRC+, .293/.342/.461, 126 OPS+

In his first full season in LA, Gonzalez looked like his old self. He was back to hitting with power and driving in runs. Yasiel Puig looked like he had an impact on Gonzalez as he seemed like he was having fun, unlike his years in Boston. I think it is safe to say that Gonzalez is at his best when he is playing on the West Coast. Expect Gonzalez to be right in the middle of the Dodgers run for an NL pennant.

5. Freddie Freeman, ATL  4.8 fWAR, 150 wRC+, .319/.396/.501, 144 OPS+

Freeman is emerging as one of the best young players in the big leagues. The 24 year old had another big season as he finished 5th in the NL MVP voting. He hit 23 Home Runs and drove in 109 RBI. I believe Freeman is turning into the leader of the Atlanta Braves and a piece they desperately have to have healthy in the middle of the order. Freeman has improved his defense and I expect him to be right in the mix for NL MVP again.

4. Chris Davis, BAL 6.8 fWAR, 167 wRC+, .286/.370/.634, 165 OPS+

Davis had a big 2nd half to the 2012 season, and he was able to put together a full season in 2013. He found his Home Run stroke from day 1 when he hit a Home Run in the first 4 games of the season. He finished the season with 53 Home Runs, which was tops in the majors, and had 138 RBI. Davis had a breakout year, but I feel he can continue to put up similar numbers because Camden Yards is a perfect place for him to hit. The ball carries to left field in Baltimore, and Davis has excellent opposite field power. Davis showed in 2013 that he can be an above average defender making him a complete player.

3. Joey Votto, CIN 6.2 fWAR, 156 wRC+, .305/.435/.491, 154 OPS+

There is no other way to put it, but Votto is an incredible hitter. He may have the best plate vision in the game. His 135 walks was tops in the majors and that enabled him to score 101 runs. Votto has great bat control that allows him to hit to all parts of the field. He is a power hitting first baseman who hits for average, and his .435 on base percentage was second in the game behind Miguel Cabrera. Votto only drove in 73 runs because he hit second in the Red’s order for part of the season but do not let that fool you, because he is still one of the best run producers in baseball.

2. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI 6.4 fWAR, 156 wRC+, .302/.401/.491, 160 OPS+

Paul Goldschmidt should have won the NL MVP. I do not want to take away what Andrew McCutchen did for the Pirates but Goldschmidt had an incredible 2013 season. He hit for average (.302), hit for power (36 HR), scored runs (103), and won a Gold Glove. I don’t know what more Goldschmidt could have done other than demand a trade, because the only reason he did not win was because his team did not make the postseason. JOKE! The 26 year-old has emerged as one of the game’s best talents and expect him to have another solid season.

1. Miguel Cabrera, DET 7.6 fWAR, 192 wRC+, .348/.442/.636, 187 OPS+

Back to back MVP titles pretty much tells the story for Miguel Cabrera. He is one of the best right handed hitters of all time and he continues to impress. Cabrera has the ability to hit for a very high average and still have great power numbers. He has power to all fields and can hit any pitch in the zone. Cabrera dealt with a groin and abdominal injury for the second half and into the postseason that slowed down his hunt for another triple crown. He has had surgery on his abdomen and is expected to be ready for opening day. If he is healthy, he is the best hitter in the game and expect him to have another big season.

— MS



Top 10 Catchers

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 first position that we will be taking a look at is Catcher.

 10. Yan Gomes, CLE     3.7 fWAR, 131 wRC+, .294/.345/.481, 40.8% CS

Though only playing in 88 games last year, Gomes was extremely productive, ranking seventh among catchers with a 3.7 fWAR. Serving as the back up to Carlos Santana during the first half of last season, Gomes took over the primary catching duty during the second half of the season. Cleveland has decided to go into 2014 with Gomes as their number one guy behind the plate, and I expect another strong year from the 26 year old.

9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, MIA     3.6 fWAR, 117 wRC+, .273/.338/.466, 21.2% CS

Saltalamacchia had a strong year for the world champion Red Sox last year. Though he struggled a bit during the ’13 playoff (with the exception being the walk-off hit in the dramatic game two versus Detroit in the ALCS), Saltalamacchia was a key part to the Red Sox offense last year, especially during the middle of the season when David Ross was sidelined with a concussion. Saltalamacchia led the American League with 40 doubles, but struggled in the running game, only throwing out 21% of base stealers. Saltalamacchia has taken his talents to South Beach, where he will be asked to take on a bigger role with the Marlins.

8. Jonathan Lucroy, MIL     3.6 fWAR, 118 wRC+, .280/.340/.455, , 21.6% CS

I think Lucroy is one of the more underrated offensive players in the National League.  In the last two years, Lucroy has hit 30 HRs and is fourth among catchers in slugging. One downside is that Lucroy has a problem controlling the running game, where in 2013 he threw out 21.6% of attempted base stealers, allowing the second most stolen bases in the national league (80).

7. Matt Wieters, BAL     2.4 fWAR, 86 wRC+, .235/.287/.417,  35.3% CS

Wieters struggled in 2013, posting a sub .300 OBP for the first time in his career. Though he was below league average at the plate for his position, Wieters is very strong defensively. With below average offense, he still ranked 13th among catchers with a 2.4 fWAR. I think the two-time all-star rebounds from his rough 2013 from an offensive standpoint and gets back into the discussion for top catchers in the game.

6. Salvador Perez, KC     3.7 fWAR, 105 wRC+, .292/.323/.433, 35.5% CS

When I first saw Perez play, I thought he was too big to play catcher. But as I began to watch him more, you could easily see that the 6’3”, 245-pound Perez could handle the position. The kid had a nice 2013, earning his first all-star appearance and winning the Gold Glove award in the American League. I expect Perez, who doesn’t turn 24 until May, to continue to improve, though his walk rate (4%) is alarming.

5. Brian McCann, NYY 2.7 fWAR, 122 wRC+, .256/.336/.461, 24.2% CS

McCann is a premier bat at the catching position. Since 2011, McCann has hit 64 HRs with a .441 slugging percentage. Those numbers should only increase this year with half of his games coming in the hitter friendly Yankee Stadium. The short porch and the DH position might allow McCann to hit 30-35 HRs.  I expect McCann to have an outstanding season in the Bronx.

4. Jason Castro, HOU 4.3 fWAR, 130 wRC+, .276/.350/.484, 24.7% CS

Castro had a breakout year in 2013 for the Astros, earning his first all-star appearance. The 26 year old was able to play over 100 games for the first time in his career, and put his name in the discussion for top catcher in the American League. The one thing that Castro has had a hard time doing is staying healthy. Castro missed all of 2011 with an ACL tear, and only played in 87 games in 2012. In 2013, Castro missed the final month with surgery on his right knee to remove a cyst. If Castro can stay on the field, I expect him to have a good year, putting himself right in the middle of the Astros core going forward.

3. Russell Martin, PIT     4.1 fWAR, 101 wRC+, .226/.327/.377, 40.4% CS

Last year, the Pirates got a steal when they were able to sign Russell Martin to a 2 year, $17 million dollar deal. Martin was vital to the turnaround in Pittsburgh. Watching him in the playoffs, you could really appreciate just how good Martin is behind the plate. He handled the pitching staff, was tremendous blocking balls in the dirt, and was able to control the running game. Though the low batting average, Martin still was able to get on base at a .327 clip because of his 11.5% walk rate. Martin’s place on this list does not necessarily come from his statistics, but instead by what you can see by watching him on an everyday basis.

2. Buster Posey, SF 4.8 fWAR, 133 wRC+, .294/.371/.450, 30.0 % CS

Even though I have him number two on my list, I would take Posey over any catcher if I had my pick. I think Posey has the chance to be the Jeter of this era. When you look at what Posey has done in his career already, it makes you wonder what his resume will look like at the end of his career. Two-time World Series champion, NL Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, two time all-star. Most players would love to have a resume like this at the end of their career, and Posey has done this before his age 27 season. I expect Posey to lead the Giants offense and guide the pitching staff in 2014.

1. Yadier Molina, STL 5.6 fWAR, 134 wRC+, .319/.359/.477, 43.5% CS

Like Posey, Molina has quite the resume and may be on his way to the Hall of Fame when his career is complete. Two-time World Series champion, six-time Gold Glove award winner, 5-time all star, and one-time silver slugger. The guy is the ultimate competitor and is one of the best defensive catchers that I have ever seen. The way he handled last years pitching staff, with how young that staff was, was remarkable. On top of his defense, he has turned himself into an above average hitter over the past couple of years, making him on of the most valuable players in all of baseball. I expect Molina to continue to play at a very high level in 2014, leading one of the best teams in the National League.



Added by Mick:

Personally, I would have had Perez higher on my list. I think he is a terrific young talent, and I believe he has the strongest arm of all the catchers in the big leagues. He showed last year that he can hit for average and provide some power.

I would have added Miguel Montero to the list. He had a down year in 2013 as he dealt with an injury, but I fully expect him to get back to being a run producing catcher. In 2012, he hit .286 and drove in 88 runs and produced a 4.6 fWar. When he is healthy, he is definitely a top 10 catcher.