The ten best 3B in baseball.

If you followed me last season, then you recall that I ranked the
ten best players at each position, in all of baseball.  It seemed like
a fairly popular exercise, and one that I enjoyed taking part of as
well.  As exciting as my blog about Chad Gaudin was, this is
exponentially better, and more appealing/motivating.

I first debated if the rankings have changed enough for me to even
delve back into it, and it seems like they have.  For example:  Derek
Jeter was fifth among SS’s last season, well now, after a great MVP
caliber year, he will of course move up.  Players don’t typically
improve at age 35, but Jeter did (or maybe 2008 was fluky, after all he
was known to be playing injured).  But regardless, his defense somehow
improved.  Marco Scutaro fans take note, and hope for the same, as
Scutaro has taken a similar path (The playing well in the mid-30’s
path).

I also feel that ten players is better than five players, although
much more difficult, and a little more tedious.  And let’s be frank,
the bottom five aren’t quite as interesting as the top five, according
to the writer anyway (me).

Fangraphs ‘WAR’ leaders over the past three seasons will be the
reference point for me.  I am a believer in ‘WAR,’  and much more of a
believer in three-year samples of the metric.  But it will not be
everything, as players may be ahead in ‘WAR’ but may be declining, or
aging, seemingly (See:  Chipper Jones).

And why do I need a reference point as I claim to know a little
something about the game of baseball?  Well, I don’t care if you are
Keith Law, Jerry Crasnick, or Paul Lebowitz, your memory is subject to
lapses, and that would of course include mine.

So here we go!!!!

The ten best third baseman in baseball, according to THIS guy are:

1)  Evan Longoria: I know that we
statisticians/sabermetricians don’t typically use such phrases as “most
feared.”  But subjectively, Longoria places the most fear in my mind of
any player at this position.  It isn’t just the “clutch” home runs against the Red Sox, or just
the career line of .277/.355/.528 line mixed in with a very good
defensive third base.  Well, it is those things put together  :)  Over
the past two seasons, Longoria is your ‘WAR’ leader at the hot corner. 
And since those are his only two seasons, (and scary thought:  he could
actually get better!), then that is why I consider him to be the best
3B in baseball.

2)  Alex Rodriguez: The postseason has been kind to him.  At
least it was kind to him in 2009, very kind.  He erased any doubts of
“clutchness” and allowed us to question whether or not “clutch” is even
a form of reality.  The thing that he lacks, although is okay at, is
defense.  And that is what separates the top two on this list. 
Longoria is a great defender, while Rodriguez is average at best.  A
.302/.407/.588 batting line, in the AL East I must add, is easily the
best hitting third baseman in baseball.  That line is of course from
the past three years.  Rodriguez, with all of his controversy, is one
of the best players to ever put a uniform on.  Pains me to say it…

3)  David Wright: Wright had a “down” year.  But does anyone
expect him to have another?  His power seemed to have gotten caught up
in the Mets cavernous new ballpark, but he still reached base a ton. 
Anyway, his three year sampling is much more telling of his actual
skill-set.  He hits for power, gets on base, and is roughly average
with the glove.  He also endures most of the criticism for Minaya’s
failures (not surrounding his stars with enough talent).  Over the
three year period, Wright has batted over .300, sported a .400 OBP, and
swatted the ball far enough to slug .512.  Not too shabby.  And to
think that he only turned 26 this past season…

4)  Ryan Zimmerman: A breakout year you say?  Seems so.  And
if he doesn’t duplicate his offensive numbers, he should continue to be
the best defensive 3B in the game for the next few seasons.  Aside from
his hitting streak, as Keith Law mentioned several times, his offensive
numbers weren’t all that impressive.  Which could lead some to believe
that he simply got hot (lucky?)  at the plate enough to build his
new-found greatness.  But regardless, as I mentioned, his defense is
awesome.  And whether he slugs over .500 or not, really won’t define
him as a player if he tracks down everything hit within his reach, and
beyond…

5)  Chipper Jones: I guess it wouldn’t be fair to have Jones
any lower than this.  After all, he is a future Hall of Famer, who
reaches base a ton, still.  But he IS aging.  His power seemed to take
a serious hit last season, for whatever reason.  And his defense has
become sub-par in recent years.  But again, he was a great player just
two seasons ago.  And none of the other 3B “wow” me enough to surpass
him.

6)  Pablo Sandoval: Sandoval burst onto the scene in 2009. 
A team that had no offense whatsoever, got a little from this fun
loving guy.  Pablo hit .330/.387/.556, and according to the fickle UZR,
wasn’t truly atrocious defensively.  Although, still below-average.  I
would say that he benefited from a small ballpark…but he didn’t.  Or
that he may have been helped from a nice BABIP…Ok, maybe, I really
don’t know.  But if protection exists, then well, this guy had less
than anyone in baseball.  Give him props for being the only offense the
offensively challenged Giants had.

7)  Chone Figgins: Should Figgins be a little higher after a
really great season?  I don’t really know.  I have never been a huge
Figgins fan, but I understand he is a valuable player, both
statistically, and from the standpoint that a manager can put him
almost wherever they want.

I was actually thinking about this earlier:

Player A has a 3.5 ‘WAR’ for a single season.  Player B has the
same.  Player A stays at one position, let us say left, but player B
moves all over the diamond.  Who had the better season?  They were
worth the same amount of wins, but wouldn’t you prefer player B?

Anyway, Figgins put up a ‘WAR’ north of 6.0.  So don’t think that
either of those hypothetical players are Chone.  The one serious flaw
in Figgins’ game is his inability to hit for any power at all.  When he
bats .300, he is an extremely useful player, but when he bats .270, he
just isn’t the same.  Solid either way, but an example of him batting
.300 was this season, and he had a great season.

8)  Aramis Ramirez: Ramirez seems to be overlooked since the
Cubs seem to fail with an expensive product each and every season.  But
Aramis has been worth every penny.  Aside from last seasons, injury
plagued year, Ramirez has been worth over 4 wins a season every year in
Cubbie blue.  And even last season, in limited time, he played very
well.  The Cubs hand out some bizarre contracts, but this is far from
one of them.  And he should be a solid player in 2010 as well, barring
another setback.

9)  Adrian Beltre: The thing about Beltre is that he has been
looked at as a failure ever since he set foot in Seattle.  After all,
he hit 48 home runs in a torrid contract year, and has never hit more
than 26 since.  This being because Safeco is not friendly to RH
hitters, and of course the difference in leagues.  But not to forget
that Beltre is simply not a guy that is good enough to hit roughly 50
home runs.   It is what we would call a fluke year.  But the glove-work
has never slowed down.  He is, and has been among the best defensive 3B
in the game.  And he does still have power, although not as much as he
displayed in that MVP quality 2004.

10)  Mark Reynolds: Reynolds showed everyone that he can kill
the ball, even if it was for one season.  How good he will be moving
forward?  I cannot say.  But he should be able to slug up around .500
and get on base more than the league average, although I am sure that
park has something to do with it.  His fielding is suspect, but even if
he moved off the position, to say first, his bat may not project.  And
by “project” I mean it may not be worth doing it because they could
just grab someone else to do so.

Any disagreements?  It’s Figgins isn’t it?  He should be higher in
your mind.  But this list is not set in stone.  And in no way is it to
predict who will be the best in 2010.  Don’t take it like this.

So look for the rest of my lists, best at each position, being posted sporadically over the next few months.

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