When doing such comparisons there are some that you know are going to cause a heated debate. The first few were more or less what others thought but third base is going to be one of those that people will lose their brains over. We have established stars and sure-fire stars and some fill-ins. The top 3 in a few years could be a toss up that uses the most random of stats to determine who is number one. Let the subjective choosing begin! It’s on to the hot corner…
Probable Starting Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles: Manny Machado
Few prospects live up to the hype surrounding them but Manny Machado definitely lived up to his. He got Gold Glove, was named to the all-star game and even finished in the top 10 of MVP voting. The kid has power to spare. He only hit 14 homers but he also laced 51 doubles! As he matures I am sure about a dozen of those doubles will be turned into home runs. He is still developing a keen batters eye but he is only going to get better as evidenced by his WAR of 6.1. Not bad for a kid born during the grunge phase.
His glovework is already stellar. Most of the guys in this column are deft with the glove but he steps in and snatches up a GG. A .979 Fielding Percentage is well above league average for a third basemen as his range factor of 3.05. Every year he will have some stiff competition as the best 3b not only in the East but in the majors and each year expect him to be at or right near the top for the next decade
Boston Red Sox: Will Middlebrooks
Here is the enigma of the AL East Third Basemen. Are we going to see the hot-shot rookie Middlebrooks who hit 15 homers in 75 games in 2012 or the Middlebrooks who was sent down to AAA because he couldn’t get on base enough? It seems he would be somewhere in the…ummm…middle. He has the ability to be a 30 homer guy but he isn’t there yet.
His durability is questionable and his defense is sub par having Rdrs/yr of -12! He is slow footed and his range isn’t great. He projects better as a first baseman and he may be someday when Mike Napoli retires. Unti lthen the Red Sox can cringe when the ball gets close to him. He is a truly average baseball player.
New York Yankees: Kelly Johnson
That’s right friends. When the Yankees looked around for the replacement for Alex Rodriguez and his steroid-laden butt they came up with…Kelly Johnson. As a third baseman he makes a great second baseman…and even that is suspect. I guess they signed him for his mediocre offense. He still hasn’t adjusted to the American League after 6 in the National League. His batting average in the AL is .234 with an average of 16 homers in 2012 and 2013. He doesn’t have a great eye at the plate and is slow footed.
Defensively expect a bit of an adventure this year. Considering he has played all of 16 games at third in the majors there isn’t much to tell. Sure he played there last year but that small sample size says nothing. He was an average 2nd baseman which should turn into a below average 3rd baseman. With the resources the Yankees have this was their final decision? Yikes!
Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria
Aaaand at the other end of the spectrum is Evan Longoria. Rookie of the Year. 2 Gold Gloves. 3 time all-star. 5 times in top 10 of MVP voting. All for good reason. He knows how to get on base or get the key hit where it counts. Though he will never be a .300 hitter he excels in most facets of hitting. He has decent power and can steal the odd base though he is a step slower these days. With a WAR of 6.3 last year he still knows how to make his team so much better.
Defensively he is one of the gold standards. Great range with a strong arm he shovels up most of what gets to him. A decent 3rd baseman will get about 13-15 errors a year and Longoria has the ability to consistently be better than that. The league average Fielding Percentage over Longoria’s career is .956. His is .965. A truly great all-around talent.
Toronto Blue Jays: Brett Lawrie
Now here is the ultimate wild card of the bunch. We all know the potential of Brett Lawrie as evidenced by his fantastic 43 game appearance in 2011. He showed power, speed and a decent eye. He took a step backwards in 2012 and then in 2013 he sort of settled into an average to good 3rd baseman with the bat. Lawrie was better once he got back from injury and so far in Spring Training he has done what fans have been wanting him to do for years. Calm down. He seems focused and is primed for a breakout offensive year.
With all due respect to Machado and Longoria, Brett Lawrie looked like a beast playing 3rd. His defensive numbers were nothing to scream about but if you watched him play every day, and settle into what is still a pretty short time playing the hot corner, he was fantastic. His range could be better than both the previously mentioned gold glovers and he has a rifle of an arm. Expect a big 2014.
And the medalists are:
There is a clear divide here. For obvious reasons I am putting Longoria on top with Machado 2nd and Lawrie 3rd. Evan has the hardware and reputation and Machado has the hardware so far. At the end of the coming season I could see Machado and Lawrie flip-flopped. Kelly Johnson gets 4th purely on track record. It isn’t a great one but it is better than Middlebrooks. There may not be another position where the Yankees and Red Sox finish in the bottom two in this series but we will see. Shortstops tomorrow kids! Remember to voice your opinion down below. Give it to me!