BBE 2019 Positional Rankings: MLB’s Top 15 Third Basemen

Over the offseason, the team of contributors at Baseball Essential voted upon every position on the diamond, compiling our comprehensive Top 15 countdowns for the 2019 season.

Major League Baseball is overflowing with youth and skill, but don’t forget about the rugged veterans we all know and love. These Top 15 rundowns will feature a splendid mix of young, exuberant athletes, and the aged, mature individuals who mentor them.

As for the positions, we will unveil the top 15 starting pitchers, relievers, catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, left fielders, center fielders, and right fielders, as well as the foremost designated hitters, utilitymen, and managers over the next few weeks.

Our voting format is simple. The team of writers and analysts at BBE were given ballots a few weeks back for their top 10 individuals at each spot. A first-place vote is worth 10 points, second-place is good for nine, and so on.

As the spring training season comes to a close, you will see these countdowns published prior to the beginning of another exciting MLB season. To keep track of the Top 15 lists you might have missed, stay posted to the Top 15 tag on the site.

In the rundown, we list the pitcher, their position among the list, and how many points they have received in the voting. Now, you’re ready. Here are MLB’s Top 15 third basemen for the 2019 season.

15. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (Last year: not ranked)

Guerrero Jr. has not yet played a major-league game and is just 20 years old, but this list would be incomplete without the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero. The 20-year-old is one of the most hyped-up prospects in recent memory and set fire to the minor leagues last year, hitting .402 with 14 home runs in 266 plate appearances in Double-A and .336 with six long balls in 128 plate appearances in Triple-A.

Though the rebuilding Blue Jays might wait to recall the heavy-hitting right-hander (which is a stain on our game, but a subject for another day), Vlad Jr. will be a guy to watch in 2019 as an American League Rookie of the Year frontrunner.

14. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners (Last year: 10th)

Seager has put together a great career thus far, compiling a 28 Baseball-Reference WAR as a wizard on defense at the hot corner and offense at the plate. However, the former All-Star had a miserable 2018 season with the Mariners.

The 2014 Gold Glove winner slashed .221/.273/.400 with an 86 OPS+ (his lowest single-season mark ever), but still chipped in with 22 home runs, 78 RBIs, and 36 doubles in 155 games. This season is hopefully a bounce-back year for one of the game’s most unheralded stars.

13. Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies (Last year: not ranked)

For years, fans in Philadelphia have been waiting for Franco to finally put it all together. Last season was not the year that the energetic third baseman performed up to his pre-MLB hype, but 2019 might be, as there will certainly be less pressure on him with the additions of guys like Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Jean Segura to the City of Brotherly Love.

The righty hit .270/.314/.467 with 22 home runs, 68 RBIs, and a 106 OPS+ last season, which is by no means elite, but serviceable nonetheless. Going forward, that’s all the Phillies will need out of Franco.

A position as talented as any in @MLB, the @BB_Essential crew counted down the top 15 third basemen in the sport. Here is @bytomdorsa with the rundown.Click To Tweet

12. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox (Last year: not ranked)

Devers did what many 21-year-olds could never do last season, not only in winning a World Series crown, but just by playing in the major leagues. With that in mind, any criticism of his play must come with an asterisk because he is that young and has shown the potential to be so much more as his game matures.

The lefty batter hit .240 while also hitting 21 bombs, driving in 66 runs, and walking 38 times for a 94 OPS+. Out of his 108 hits, 45 were good for extra bases, and though he struggled at the defensive side of the game, the Dominican made up for it in the postseason, hitting .385 in Boston’s American League Championship Series win over Houston.

11. Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees (Last year: not ranked)

Andujar’s rookie season, from an offensive standpoint, bordered on elite. The 24-year-old set the building blocks for his future success as a lineup staple with the Yankees, slashing .297/.328/.527 with 27 home runs, 92 RBIs, and a 126 OPS+ in the middle of a heavy-hitting Yankees lineup.

However, his defense was abysmal and the primary reason for his runner-up mark for AL Rookie of the Year, which went to Shohei Ohtani. Andujar was worth -2.2 defensive WAR and posted -25 defensive runs saved last season. If he can be just an average defender, he can be an elite player for years to come.

10. Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers (Last year: 14th)

It’s really difficult to fault a team that just won the World Series, but why the heck did the Red Sox trade Travis Shaw, it doesn’t make any sense. Shaw, since his arrival in Milwaukee, has transformed himself into a high-tier third baseman in all aspects of the game.

The left-hander slashed .241/.345/.480 with 32 home runs, 86 RBIs, 23 doubles, 78 walks, and a 119 OPS+ while playing lights-out defense as well, with a 1.0 dWAR and nine DRS. He isn’t the best third baseman, or the best player on the Brewers, but he has been a four-WAR player in each of the past two seasons.

9. Josh Donaldson, Atlanta Braves (Last year: 4th)

CLEVELAND, OH – OCTOBER 08: Josh Donaldson #27 of the Cleveland Indians reacts after striking out in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field on October 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Donaldson is damaged goods, but we all knew that someone would take a chance on him entering the 2019 season. That team is the Braves, who decided to sign the 2014 AL MVP to a one-year contract worth $23 million, hoping to reignite one of the sport’s best hitters and receive positive value out of an oft-injured infielder.

Donaldson showed what he could be when the Cleveland Indians acquired him from Toronto at the trade deadline, as the right-hander slashed .280/.400/.520 with three home runs, three doubles, seven RBIs, a 146 OPS+, and 10 walks in 16 games near the end of the season. His presence at the five spot of the Indians lineup in the postseason showed promise that the three-time All-Star could still be an elite player.

8. Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds (Last year: 13th)

When I interviewed Reds prospect Blake Trahan for this article, he said something about Cincy’s starting third baseman that stood out to me: “Suarez just makes everything look so easy. He’s natural, gifted, and never looks like he’s trying hard but he’s still intense.” It’s difficult to disagree with Trahan.

Suarez is as cool as the other side of the pillow and extremely talented at that. He earned an appearance in the All-Star Game last year with a slash line of .283/.366/.526 while totaling 34 home runs, 104 RBIs, a 135 OPS+, 58 extra-base hits, and 64 walks. The Reds made several big-name acquisitions and still have future Hall of Famer Joey Votto, but you can argue that Suarez is the best player on the team.

7. Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics (Last year: not ranked)

Chapman’s defensive skill is beyond belief. His 3.5 defensive WAR and 29 DRS led all MLB position players in just his first full year as a major-leaguer because the right-hander is less of a real player and more so a cruel cheat code that the A’s used because baseball is hard. It helps that he’s also a five-WAR hitter.

Chapman slashed .278/.356/.508 with 24 home runs, 68 RBIs, a 136 OPS+, and 42 doubles last year, helping his overall WAR reach 8.2 (Baseball-Reference defines an eight-WAR season at MVP-caliber). The 25-year-old was the main reason why the A’s won 97 games in 2018 and made a surprising playoff appearance.

6. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals (Last year: 5th)

DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 30: Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals fields a ground ball during a game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 30, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

If there is a way to make the departure of Harper a little easier for Nationals fans, it’s the presence of Rendon, a flashy and exciting third baseman with excellence on both sides of the action. The former Silver Slugger at third base received NL MVP votes for the third time after a stellar 2018 season, hitting .308/.374/.535 with 24 bombs, 92 RBIs, 55 walks, and a 137 OPS+.

The fact that the right-hander is still in the prime of his talent window is one of a few reasons why the Nationals and their front office are still trying to contend, even after losing Harper. It also goes to show how skilled the third base position is that a guy like Rendon, who hits over .300 and can drive in runs at will, is only sixth on the rundown.

5. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (Last year: 2nd)

After his 2016 NL MVP campaign, many pointed to Bryant as the top third baseman in MLB, but after a disappointing 2018 season riddled with inconsistencies and injuries, the right-hander is not quite there anymore. If the Cubs superstar plays like he can, however, we might be having a different conversation entering the 2020 season.

Bryant hit .272/.374/.460 with 13 home runs, 52 RBIs, 28 doubles, and 48 walks in 2018, playing in just 102 games due to nagging injuries. If his health abides, the guy that hit .292 with 39 long balls in Chicago’s historic 2016 campaign could make a comeback in 2019, and he will certainly shoot back up this rundown.

4. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros (Last year: 9th)

HOUSTON, TX – JULY 10: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros celebrates with Jose Altuve #27 after hitting a home run in the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park on July 10, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

With Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa out with injuries for an extended period of time in 2018, one young infielder had to pick up the slack, and burgeoning “face of baseball” Alex Bregman is an awesome second option. At just 24, his 2018 season featured stuff that no third baseman had ever done and was a splendid follow-up on his coming-out party in the 2017 postseason.

Bregman slashed .286/.394/.532 with 31 home runs, 103 RBIs, an MLB-best 51 doubles, 10 steals, a 156 OPS+, 6.9 bWAR, and the righty was one of just four players in the sport with more walks (96) than strikeouts (85) in 2018. The Astro became the first third-bagger to hit 30 long balls and 50 doubles in the same season in MLB history. Though other third basemen have a better overall career-wide body of work, you can argue that Bregman — the 2018 All-Star Game MVP — had the best 2018 season out of anyone at the position.

3. Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers (Last year: 6th)

The insane turnaround of Turner’s career will never be anything less than incredible to me. At one point as a New York Mets utility infielder, the All-Star was just waived and nobody thought anything of it. Now, the Dodgers — who do a better job at finding production out of nobodies than anybody in baseball — wouldn’t be the same team without the bearded behemoth.

The righty was an MVP-vote recipient for the third straight year after a 2018 season that saw him slash .312/.406/.518 with 14 home runs, 52 RBIs, 31 doubles, and 47 walks in just 103 games of play after a spring training injury. What he did in a season shortened by ailment rivals what many third basemen did in a full season, as the Dodger posted a 4.5 bWAR.

2. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians (Last year: 3rd)

There are so many things Ramirez does at a high level, and all of it in one package makes him an elite player and top-tier third baseman. A switch-hitting phenom at the plate and above-average defender, Ramirez hits for power, contact, and possesses platoon advantages while also fielding beautifully with his stellar instincts and rapid foot quickness.

The 26-year-old finished third in the MVP voting for the second straight year in 2018, slashing .270/.387/.552 with 39 home runs, 105 RBIs, 38 doubles, 34 steals, 106 walks compared to only 80 strikeouts, a 150 OPS+, and 15 intentional walks. He is as versatile and dangerous as any player in baseball, with hitting, baserunning, and defense all grading out as high-ceiling tools. Over the last two years the Indians third baseman has posted a combined 14.8 bWAR.

1. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (Last year: 1st)

Scream “COORS” at us all you want, no third baseman has nearly as much raw skill as Arenado, and nobody is as electric on both sides of the ball. One of the finest defensive third basemen we have ever seen, the Rockies right-hander is also a powerhouse at the plate and has been both fielding and slugging at a high level since jumping into the major leagues.

The 2018 season was the fourth year in a row during which Arenado was an All-Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, and the recipient of NL MVP votes, with last season being arguably his best ever. He slashed .297/.374/.561 with 38 home runs (which led the NL), 110 RBIs, 73 bases on balls, and a career-best 133 OPS+, while winning his sixth career Gold Glove Award at just 27 years old thanks to his always-elite defensive output. Colorado locked up their superstar with a hefty eight-year extension, and Arenado is worth every bit of it and more.

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