Opinions

Top 10 3rd Baseman Right Now

Some of the most fun sports fans have with each other is debating which player is better. Player A or Player B. Here at Diamond Digest, we are no different. I have asked our staff to name their top 10 players at each position on the baseball field and we will look to compare ours to The Shredder. Over the course of the next few weeks, Diamond Digest will release our composite lists for each position right now, and later on from the past 10 years.

The scoring system works like this: Each one of our writer’s top player at each position will receive 10 points, their second best 9, third best 8 and so on. The most points a player could receive was 260 points (All 26 first place votes).

My Rankings: 
Jordan Lewin-Skversky

Diamond Digest’s
Staff Rankings
MLB Network’s
“The Shredder”
1Jose RamirezNolan Arenado (247)Jose Ramirez
2Nolan ArenadoJose Ramirez (223)Justin Turner
3Alex BregmanAlex Bregman (200)Nolan Arenado
4Kris BryantKris Bryant (169)Anthony Rendon
5Matt ChapmanAnthony Rendon (151)Alex Bregman
6Justin TurnerMatt Chapman (150)Matt Carpenter
7Anthony RendonJustin Turner (101)Matt Chapman
8Josh DonaldsonEugenio Suarez (71)Kris Bryant
9Eugenio SuarezMatt Carpenter (43)Josh Donaldson
10Vladimir Guerrero Jr.Josh Donaldson (31)Eugenio Suarez

Others receiving votes: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (10), Travis Shaw (8), Mike Moustakas (5), Miguel Andujar (3), Rafael Devers (2), Jeimer Candelario/Johan Camargo (1)

10A. Vladimir Guerrero Jr- 19, Toronto Blue Jays

Here is Vlad Jr. with is famous father Vlad Sr.

Minor League Stats (R/A+/AA/AAA): .381/.437/.636, 20 HR, 203 wRC+ (AA), 175 wRC+ (AAA)

Does a player who hasn’t played a single Major League game really have a place on a Top 10 list? You bet your ass he does! Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is, by most accounts, the second coming of Trout, and the numbers are there to back it up. His 2018 minor league stats read like a Harry Potter book, compelling, satisfying, but they leave you thirsty for more. .381/.437/.636, 1.073 OPS. Struck out in only 9.3% of plate appearances. 20 homeruns, 78 RBIs. Now I know what you might be wondering, “Nick, can he hit on the road?” He surely can do that as well! .360/.416/.603, and with 21 more at-bats on the road than at home, he struck out fewer times. Now I know what you might be wondering, “Nick, is he a clutch hitter?” He surely is! In 13 at-bats with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, his slash line was .340/.426/.596. But wait, there’s more! Versus right handed pitching his OPS was 1.108. In the month of May, he hit over .430. “Nick, aren’t you hyping this kid up a little to much?” Yes, I probably am. Are there concerns with Vlad Jr. as he prepares to enter the league? Yes, there are, among which is his ability to play third base for an entire career, but I will be darned if I won’t shout from the rooftops how excited I am to watch Vladimir Guerrero Jr. play a full season in the majors in 2019, at the young age of 20. (NOTE: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. actually ranked as Diamond Digest’s 11th ranked 3B, but we wanted to give some justice to probably the only player ever to warrant consideration in a ranking of the best players in baseball, to not actually have played in the MLB) – Nick Tucker

10. Josh Donaldson- 33, Atlanta Braves

2018 Stats: .246/.352/.449, 117 wRC+, 1.3 UZR, 1.3 fWAR (52 Games)

2017 Stats: .270/.385/.559, 33 HRs, 151 wRC+, 0.2 UZR, 5.1 fWAR (113 Games)

From 2014-2016, Josh Donaldson posted a 21.9 fWAR, second only to Mike Trout (at 27.2), which defines Donaldson as the second-best player in the majors during that time span! 2015 was his most notable year, a year in which he won the American League MVP Award in 2015, his first season after being traded to Toronto, slashing .297/.371/.568 with 41 homeruns. However, after his 2014-2016 peak, his remaining tenure with Toronto was not as successful, as he made three separate trips in the disabled list in 2017 and 2018, spending a combined 160 days out of action due to a variety of injuries before being traded to Cleveland on August 31st of this year. It was another eight days before Donaldson was activated and was able to help Cleveland down the stretch. While albeit a small sample size, Donaldson hit .280/.400/.520 with 3 homeruns in 50 ABs, good for .5 fWAR in 16 games. That prorates to 5 fWAR over a full season! When healthy, Donaldson, now 33, is one of the best players in the league; his time with Cleveland combined with his non-injury ridden 2014-2016 stretch, proves that, which is why the Braves signed him on a 1 year, $23 million contract, the highest AAV awarded to a position player to date. A healthy Donaldson is a top player, let alone third baseman, and the Braves are literally banking on it. – Jared Enochs

Donaldson will have to prove he can stay healthy to keep his spot on this list in 2020

9. Matt Carpenter- 33, St. Louis Cardinals

2018 Stats: .257/.374/.523, 36 HRs, 138 wRC+, -1.1 UZR, 5.0 fWAR

Matt Carpenter found his power stroke this past season with a career high 36 home runs that highlighted a season finishing 9th in MVP voting. Carpenter’s increased power stroke came from a career high Hard Hit rate along with a career best Barrel%. His 13.4 Barrel% was good for the top 5% in the league which aided his career best offensive season despite the highest strikeout percentage of his career. What is interesting about Carpenter’s season is that he walked less and struck out more, which is usually not indicative of an improved hitter. However, the swing and miss from his game may be a result of selling out for pitches in good counts. 87% of Carpenter’s Barrels in 2018 came when he was ahead or even in the count. In contrast, the league as a whole only hit 78% of Barrels in similar counts. Furthermore, in 2017 only 58% of his Barrels came in those same hitter’s counts. By selling out more in hitter’s counts, Carpenter was able to trade some swings and misses for more power which made him a more valuable hitter. Look for Carpenter to be top 10 third baseman again this season as his improved approach allows him to hit for power at the top of the Cardinals lineup, especially with the added protection of Paul Goldschmidt and a healthy Marcell Ozuna. – Ryan McLaughlin

8. Eugenio Suarez- 27, Cincinnati Reds

2018 Stats: .283/.366/.526, 34 HRs, 135 wRC+, -4.8 UZR, 3.9 fWAR

Eugenio Suarez has become baseball’s poster child for being underrated. Overshadowed by Joey Votto in the Reds’ lineup, Suarez has steadily improved each year, culminating in a career best season in 2018. Suarez displayed more power than ever and finished with an .893 OPS and became a better overall hitter, as he layed off the same amount of pitches outside the zone as 2017 but swung at 4.3% more pitches inside the strike zone. A major adjustment was his first pitch swing percentage. Eugenio swung at 30.2% of first pitches in 2018 as opposed to just 21.2% the year before. His more aggressive approach also may have affected how pitchers approach the Reds’ third baseman. After struggling to hit off-speed and breaking balls in 2017, Suarez swung more often at secondary offerings in the zone and increased his contact rate significantly. The result of being more aggressive with swings for those secondary pitches is that it results in pitchers attacking with more fastballs. On 0-0 counts, pitchers threw 43% fastballs in 2018 whereas that number was only 38% in 2017. Eugenio continued to improve as a player by better recognizing secondary pitches and being more aggressive in his approach. Once again, he should be one of the better players in a stacked third base position in the MLB this season. – Ryan McLaughlin

7. Justin Turner- 34, Los Angeles Dodgers

Justin Turner and his amazing beard

2018 Stats: .312/.406/.518, 14 HRs, 154 wRC+, -1.8 UZR, 4.2 fWAR (103 Games)

Justin Turner has turned is career around from a journeyman who bounces around many teams to a bonafide star with the Dodgers. Turner has raised his BB% to up to 11 the past two years and has kept his ISO (power) above .200 points signifying he is elite in the two categories deemed to be most important by baseball people in the game today, getting on base and hitting for power. Turner is even elite at making contact connecting with 88.6% of all pitches thrown his way that he swings at. Continuing on, Turner has not fallen much defensively as he has gotten older keeping pace as a slightly below league average 3rd baseman. Justin Turner, and all of his other friends living in his glorious long, red beard, have proved to be a cheap steal of the Dodgers and is one of the main reasons they have had back to back World Series appearances. – Jordan Lewin- Skversky

6. Matt Chapman- 25, Oakland Athletics

2018 Stats: .278/.356/.508, 24 HRs, 137 wRC+, 29 DRS, 10.9 UZR, 6.5 fWAR

Matt Chapman burst on to the national scene in 2018 after being a relative unknown outside of the Bay Area heading in to his sophomore year. There is plenty of reason to believe his coming out season was no fluke too. Chapman’s defense at third base might already be the best in the majors, an amazing feat considering we have Nolan Arenado in his prime. Offensively, there are reasons for both optimism and some regression. Chapman’s strikeout rate (23.7%) has nowhere much to go except for down, though this hasn’t slowed other notable infielders such as Trevor Story and Javier Baez from having MVP-style campaigns. Chapman’s BABIP came in a good clip above his career minor league averages as well as his third base piers. Of course this doesn’t mean quite as much to someone with his ability to draw walks and hit homeruns. It’s worth mentioning that Chapman has under 1,000 plate appearances at the major-league level and is hitting in front of two pure power hitters in Matt Olson and Khris Davis, so there is no reason to expect anything other than a steady rise in production as Chapman enters his third season. – Mike Gunther

Matt Chapman provides countless defensive highlights each year

5. Anthony Rendon- 28, Washington Nationals

2018 Stats: .308/.374/.535, 24 HRs, 140 wRC+, 5.9 UZR, 6.3 fWAR

Alan Kohler- After another impressive year at the plate (.308/.374/.535, 24HR, 140 wRC+), Rendon has solidified himself as one of the most underrated third basemen in the league. Over the past two seasons, he was the sixth-most valuable position player in all of baseball, compiling 13.0 fWAR in that time. A free agent after 2019, the 28 year old will return for one more year to help the Nationals chase another NL East crown.

4. Kris Bryant- 27, Chicago Cubs

2018 Stats: .272/.374/.460, 13 HRs, 125 wRC+, -3.2 UZR, 2.3 fWAR (102 Games)

2017 Stats: .295/.409/.537, 29 HRs, 146 wRC+, -0.7 UZR, 6.7 fWAR

When Mike Petriello’s list came out with Bryant at 6, I had my pitchfork ready (for more context, “The Shredder” ranked him 8th). I understood that he was hurt, but to drop him so much just seemed unreasonable. Then came the explanation, and for him, it was all about health. I lowered my pitchfork. As far as KB’s track record, he was the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year and 2016 MVP. He posted excellent numbers in 2017. Last year, was very much of the same for awhile. In the months March/April and May, KB put up his usual MVP like numbers. Posting an OPS of over .900 each month and a wRC+ of 156 and 140 respectively. Then the injury, which hurt him tremendously at the plate. He was never the same, posting a wRC+ no higher than 118 over any month. Heading into 2019, Bryant feels good, and looks healthy. That was enough for me to put him as high as 2 in my rankings. A lot can change in a year, but even outside of his health, people are forgetting just how good Kris Bryant is. Prior to last season, many pegged him as a Top 5-10 player in the game. Now you have many people, including the Shredder, who have him as a Top 5-10 3B. It’ll be interesting to watch Bryant in 2019, but I think we’ll see very much of the old dominant KB. – Jeremy May

Can Kris Bryant stay healthy and get back to an MVP level

3. Alex Bregman- 24, Houston Astros

2018 Stats: .286/.394/.532, 31 HRs, 157 wRC+, -3.1 UZR, 7.6 fWAR

Alex Bregman is one of the best players in all of baseball, regardless of position. The Astros drafted Bregman 2nd overall in the 2015 draft hoping to get a superstar, and boy, did they get a superstar. It’s easy to look at his gaudy 2018 slash line (.286/.394/.532) and wRC+ (157) to instantly see that Bregman can hit, but my eyes are drawn to another metric- Bregman’s insane walk to strikeout rate ratio. In 2018, there were only four qualified hitters in all of baseball whose walk rate was higher than their strikeout rate. Those players (in order) are: Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana, Alex Bregman, and Joey Votto. Rounding out the top 10 for walk to strikeout rate ratio includes players like Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Anthony Rizzo. So… yeah, Alex Bregman’s plate discipline is absolutely ridiculous- oh, and did I mention he’s 24 and has limitless amounts of room to grow too? When you combine all of that with his high quality power, upper echelon athleticism, and the fact that Houston is one of the best organizations for scouting and mechanical adjustments, it’s easy to see that Bregman is poised to take over Major League Baseball for years to come. – Evan Alvarez

2. Jose Ramirez- 26, Cleveland Indians

Ramirez is a true 5 tool talent

2018 Stats: .270/.387/.552, 39 HRs, 34 SB, 146 wRC+, 3.3 UZR, 8.0 fWAR

Coming off of a career year in 2017, José Ramírez further cemented himself as one of the best third basemen in the MLB. His original position is second base, which he did play at season’s end following the acquisition of Josh Donaldson, but for the purposes of this list he is a third basemen. Ramírez finished with a bWAR of 7.9, which was a 2018 best among third basemen. For a second straight year, he was named an MVP finalist. No other third baseman has done that in each of the last two years. His play relatively fell off in the waning months of the season, but even with that he still finished the season with an OPS+ of 150. Setting career highs in many categories even while coming off of a great season the year prior, Ramírez has become one of the game’s best hitters. To pair with that he is a plus defender at the hot corner, and has the versatility to play well at multiple positions. Only Nolan Arenado has put together a body of work over the last two seasons that compares to Ramírez’. José Ramírez is becoming a household name, and also possibly becoming the best third baseman in baseball. – Peter Khayat

1. Nolan Arenado- 27, Colorado Rockies

2018 Stats: .297/.374/.561, 38 HRs, wRC+, 5.8 UZR, 5.7 fWAR

Arenado might play half his games in Coors, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the otherworldly offensive production he puts up every year. A yearly threat for 40 home runs, he’s also seen his plate discipline steadily increase ever since he came into the league. If his 40 homer, .900+ OPS isn’t enough for you, you could spend hours on hours watching only his defensive highlights. No other third baseman in baseball has the ability to make the extraordinary look routine more often than Nolan does, and he’s solidified his spot as a perennial member of the top 10 players in baseball – Brian Schlosser

Diamond Digest’s #1 Third Baseman!!!

Watch out for The Top 10 Catchers Right Now next this week!

Feel free to debate any of our rankings on twitter @diamond_digest or my personal account @JordanSkversky

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