Positional Power Rankings: Third Base

Here’s the introduction to the series from Dave Cameron, and here are some caveats: we’re doing our best to guesstimate, the WARs are approximate, there are tiers here that we will try to identify, and the season is a souffle that might rise or might not for any particular team. And yet, the result of all this might be a decent understanding of how the teams stand in comparison to the rest of the league at each position. Surely, at the very least, it will spawn some discussion.

Perhaps we should rethink the defensive spectrum! Perhaps third base is the hardest position! Last year, third baseman had a .707 OPS — worsted only by catchers… and still shortstops. But the .252/.317/.390 collective batting line at the hot corner was just barely better than the shortstops with their .263/.317/.380 ways. That’s not usual.

Still, the decline of the third base position may just have been temporary. There’s a new infusion of youth on the way, and there’s also a fair chance that some veterans bounce back and make the position look more palatable. And don’t forget a couple key position switches coming our way this year — the inclusion of these new offensive third basemen will boost the offensive numbers, and their bad defense may hurt less than it might seem.

Could this year represent a renaissance at the position?

No. 30 — Oakland Athletics

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Josh Donaldson R 0.219 0.289 0.357 325 1
Reserve Eric Sogard L 0.254 0.321 0.347 150
Utility Adam Rosales R 0.234 0.288 0.347 125
Prospect Steve Parker L 0.225 0.294 0.329 100

When Scott Sizemore went down for the season with an ACL tear, this house of cards came tumbling down. What’s left is a converted catcher (Donaldson), two possible utility players and/or backup infielders (Sogard and Rosales), and a meh prospect (Parker). If they went through the entire year with these players, there’s a distinct possibility that they manage to put up zero wins collectively. Of course, the rumor is that the team is already looking for a trade, but since that trade might be with #28 on this list, it may not lead to a much better result from the position. Maybe one of the corner outfielders / first basemen / designated hitters can fake it at third for a year? That would fit in with some of the other teams on this list.

No. 29 — Houston Astros

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Jimmy Paredes B 0.254 0.281 0.376 -3 400 1
Reserve Brett Wallace L 0.258 0.322 0.403 200 0.5
Utility Chris Johnson R 0.255 0.294 0.403 -6 100

So it’s true that some teams are trying out first basemen at third. So the Astros have given last year’s third baseman (Johnson) a first-base glove, and last year’s first baseman (Wallace) a third-base glove. This way, they are ahead of the curve either way. Most likely, though, it will be a former middle infielder with no patience and not much power — and wheels of steal — that will lead them all. He better strike out a whole lot less or he could end up a worse version of Emilio Bonifacio.

No. 28 — Seattle Mariners

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Chone Figgins B 0.242 0.323 0.305 1 300 0.5
Reserve Kyle Seager L 0.267 0.323 0.372 -1 250 0.5
Prospect Alex Liddi R 0.228 0.292 0.387 -2 100

Can we but “TBD” in the lineup card? In what might be a last-ditch move to get some value out of their third baseman, the team is installing Figgins at the top of the lineup and putting a smiling face on the situation. But if all of the options hit their projections, it will be the low-ceiling but much younger Seager that should take the job from the veteran. Liddi might even factor in if the Mariners finally find a trade partner. What if Figgins finds his old walk rate? He might hold on to the job all year.

No. 27 — Colorado Rockies

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Casey Blake R 0.247 0.319 0.396 375 1.5
Reserve Chris Nelson R 0.261 0.303 0.408 75
Utility Jordan Pacheco B 0.262 0.317 0.363 75
Defensive Rep Jonathan Herrera B 0.252 0.319 0.317 25
Prospect Nolan Arenado R 0.266 0.302 0.436 150 0.5

No, not all of these guys can fit on the roster. But yes, all of these guys can figure in. When your starter is a 38-year-old coming off of career lows in most categories, you have contingency plans. Nelson might end up helping out if Marco Scutaro is a full-time second baseman, but Pacheco was supposed to be the utility man. Herrera seemed like a decent backup infielder, too, and has better defense than the lot. Don’t forget one of the hottest positional prospect in baseball — Arenado hasn’t had a plate appearance in Double-A but the team keeps talking about letting him break camp with the team. Most baseball players see some Double-A, though, and the team has financial incentives to take things slow.

No. 26 — Chicago Cubs

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Ian Stewart L 0.218 0.305 0.417 1 500 2.5
Reserve Jeff Baker R 0.25 0.299 0.317 75
Super Utility Adrian Cardenas L 0.272 0.323 0.36 25
Prospect Josh Vitters R 0.26 0.297 0.395 100 -0.5

It’s the Ian Stewart Reclamation Project! The idea is that the team will give Stewart all year to figure things out, with Baker filling in as the occasional caddy against lefties, and Cardenas giving the pair the odd day off against righties. Vitters is still only 22 — even if he doesn’t add patience, if he does add power (and maybe a little glove), he could be the Minor League reclamation project. When dealing in long shots, quantity is important.

No. 25 — Anaheim Angels

25. Angels
Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Mark Trumbo R 0.253 0.295 0.437 2 500 1.5
Reserve Alberto Callaspo B 0.276 0.334 0.38 4 175 0.5
Super Utility Maicer Izturis R 0.248 0.314 0.35 25

Mark Trumbo is a sabermetric nightmare. He has gobs of power but no plate discipline and iffy defense. Putting him at third will only exacerbate the situation — and yet, if he can fake it with the glove at his new position, there’s a chance he could… approach the 3.6 wins Callaspo managed there last year. Maybe. With a new, more stat-friendly sheriff-GM in town, this configuration seems highly unlikely, and yet it’s the one that’s being proffered to us. If it’s Callaspo all year, maybe you can move them up a few slots. Third base is not a position of strength for this otherwise contending team.

No. 24 — Baltimore Orioles

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Mark Reynolds R 0.218 0.32 0.461 -10 525 2
Reserve Chris Davis L 0.25 0.299 0.44 -8 25
Defensive Rep Robert Andino R 0.249 0.301 0.358 3 25
Super Utility Wilson Betemit B 0.252 0.316 0.43 -7 100
Prospect Josh Bell B 0.232 0.286 0.383 50

Reynolds would have had the worst third-base glove in the league if there weren’t so many newcomers to his position to challenge him for the title. Still, his competing Oriole teammates either have the same flaws (Davis for the Ks and Betemit with the glove) or are one-dimensional in their own right (Andino). Or, in the case of Bell, they combine the worst elements of the entire group. Reynolds is likely to hold the job all year if nothing changes.

No. 23 — Los Angeles Dodgers

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Juan Uribe R 0.249 0.3 0.401 5 500 2
Reserve Adam Kennedy L 0.258 0.307 0.362 75
Super Utility Jerry Hairston R 0.259 0.319 0.373 150 0.5

Juan Uribe may be emo, and is also a flawed offensive player, but he has a glove that used to work at shortstop, so at least he should fend off Kennedy and Hairston in that regard. What a sentence!

No. 22 — Chicago White Sox

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Brent Morel R 0.261 0.3 0.384 2 575 2.5
Reserve Dayan Viciedo R 0.274 0.328 0.431 -1 75
Defensive Rep Eduardo Escobar B 0.256 0.29 0.344 50

Brent Morel may have had a September for the ages, but it was still just a month. Then again, he has the team’s best combination of offense and defense at third on the team, so he should be relatively safe. The White Sox have already moved Viciedo off the position, so unless Morel slumps or gets injured, he should stick all year. And he might even be okay — but he doesn’t really have the upside to do that September thing all year.

No. 21 — Philadelphia Phillies

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Placido Polanco R 0.278 0.324 0.364 9 500 2.5
Reserve Ty Wigginton R 0.249 0.312 0.399 -4 175
Super Utility Michael Martinez B 0.231 0.277 0.339 25

Double the sports hernia is not double the fun, especially for a 35-year-old third baseman. But Polanco actually has an under-rated combination of defense and contact-hitting ability that can work on a contending team. The danger is that the team feels they need more offense and turns to Wigginton and his minus glove in an ill-fated attempt to revive their old lineup. They probably won’t do that, right?

No. 20 — Cincinnati Reds

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Scott Rolen R 0.26 0.315 0.441 7 350 2
Reserve Juan Francisco L 0.267 0.297 0.48 -2 250 0.5
Defensive Rep Paul Janish R 0.238 0.302 0.327 3 50
Super Utility Todd Frazier R 0.242 0.307 0.423 50

The projections are kind to the 37-year-old Rolen because he was good as recently as 2010, but he’s coming off shoulder surgery and hasn’t quite looked the same since the All-Star break that year. If he breaks down, though, the team might be better prepared than they’ve been in the past. Francisco has a lot of power, and Frazier can help (provided he’s not needed in the outfield more often than not). It’s a wonky shoulder to put a lot of weight on, but they’ll give it another shot.

No. 19 — Minnesota Twins

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Danny Valencia R 0.26 0.305 0.392 1 525 2.5
Reserve Luke Hughes R 0.229 0.288 0.363 100
Super Utility Sean Burroughs L 0.277 0.305 0.362 75

Valencia may not knock your socks off — and the guys behind him are scary in a bad way — but the 27-year-old is likely to stay healthy longer than some of the veterans behind him on this list, at the very least. And even though he doesn’t walk a lot, he also doesn’t strike out a bunch and might manage league-average power even. The Twins are in a middle tier here.

No. 18 — Arizona Diamondbacks

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Ryan Roberts L 0.25 0.333 0.407 2 550 2.5
Reserve Geoff Blum B 0.262 0.316 0.369 7 100
Super Utility Willie Bloomquist R 0.258 0.305 0.348 -4 50

The tatted one might take a step back this season offensively — last year’s power was a bit of a surprise — but he has enough patience, power and speed to be a decent option at the position. If the late-blooming 31-year-old goes down, though, the backup situation is not pretty. Blum and Bloomquist are not the killer ‘B’s you are looking for. Still, there might be a tier break behind Roberts based on his skill set.

No. 17 — Pittsburgh Pirates

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Pedro Alvarez L 0.245 0.323 0.447 -3 500 2.5
Reserve Casey McGehee R 0.262 0.311 0.398 -1 150 0.5
Super Utility Yamaico Navarro R 0.249 0.306 0.371 50

There’s upside and downside in gobs by the three rivers. Alvarez could break out and show all that power with decent enough glove to make it work — or he could whiff his way back to the Minor Leagues. McGehee could then step in with a little more BABIP love and maybe a few more fly balls instead of ground balls and be a decent backup — or he could continue his career trends and be nigh unusable. Even Navarro could be a strong super-utility guy if things break right. This could be the boom-or-bust tier.

No. 16 — Atlanta Braves

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Chipper Jones B 0.26 0.343 0.438 -5 425 2
Reserve Martin Prado R 0.281 0.325 0.417 3 250 1
Defensive Rep Jack Wilson L 0.223 0.303 0.347 7 25

Speaking of booming or busting, the Braves have to be a little nervous that their plan A at the position is now 40 years old. The list of competent third basemen that played into their 40s is a short one. On the other hand, if Prado is only an okay outfielder, he’s probably the best backup third baseman on this list. That counts for a lot, and might even make for an argument that the team should factor in higher… if only their primary option wasn’t so old.

No. 15 — Milwaukee Brewers

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Aramis Ramirez R 0.278 0.34 0.476 -7 550 3
Reserve Brooks Conrad B 0.224 0.297 0.392 75
Defensive Rep Cesar Izturis B 0.248 0.291 0.306 75

Ramirez might seem like he’s been around forever, but he’s ‘only’ turning 34 this year. Even with a little natural aging, he should be above-average this year. His backup has problems on defense, but decent power, and then there’s the prospect, Green. The team got better at an important defensive position when they lost Prince Fielder.

No. 14 — Cleveland Indians

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Lonnie Chisenhall L 0.255 0.312 0.404 2 525 2.5
Reserve Jack Hannahan L 0.223 0.303 0.347 7 150 0.5
Super Utility Jason Donald R 0.248 0.314 0.35 25

The 23-year-old Chisenhall did just enough in his debut to justify this ranking, most likely, and he has upside beyond. He could strike out less and walk more if his Minor League track record is to be believed. With the above-average power and defense that he did show, and the sure-handed Hannahan behind him to help caddy, this team is in a surprisingly good position… at this position. The boom-or-bust tier continues, but when you’ve got good glove behind you, the bust just won’t hurt as much.

No. 13 — St. Louis Cardinals

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter David Freese R 0.269 0.323 0.406 1 450 3
Reserve Daniel Descalso L 0.263 0.328 0.378 100
Prospect Matt Carpenter L 0.248 0.342 0.366 200 0.5

The World Series hero might have projections that feel a little light, but it’s better to focus on the bigger sample that says that he has power, patience and defense that’s closer to average than it seems. He also doesn’t rate highly on the injury tool. A full, healthy year would make this ranking seem light, and another two-month injury would have the team reaching for prospect Carpenter to keep from running out backup infielder Descalso every day. On the other than, that was a heckuva game last October.

No. 12 — Kansas City Royals

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Mike Moustakas L 0.274 0.316 0.436 600 3.5
Super Utility Yuniesky Betancourt R 0.262 0.283 0.385 -8 100

Moustakas found his strength later in the 2011 season — which is good because his debut was right in line with most of his Minor League peripherals other than power. There aren’t a ton of sluggers with as little patience and as much ability to make contact as Moose Tacos, so it’s hard to know exactly how he’ll develop. The worst case looks scenario, set by last year’s baseline, seems decent enough. And there’s Betancourt as a caddy!

No. 11 — San Diego Padres

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Chase Headley B 0.27 0.351 0.392 2 600 3.5
Reserve Logan Forsythe R 0.224 0.326 0.322 100

You might consider these last two entries in the list as evidence that the position is hurting, but it’s actually also a testament to teams finding unique answers at the position. The 27-year-old Headley doesn’t have the power of a traditional third baseman, but he does have patience, speed, and at least the upside to provide good defense as part of the package. The (next) future isn’t quite here yet, but Forsythe is a decent fall-back plan in the meantime.

No. 10 — New York Yankees

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Alex Rodriguez R 0.264 0.35 0.474 1 500 4
Reserve Eric Chavez L 0.238 0.288 0.336 50
Super Utility Eduardo Nunez B 0.273 0.312 0.379 -7 100
Prospect Brandon Laird R 0.247 0.286 0.399 50

There’s a tier here. Gone are the days when A-Rod was at the top of his position, but he’s still plenty good enough to represent the difference between a top-tier third-sacker and a middling option. The guys behind him are old (Chavez), bad at defense (Nunez), or not really prospects (Laird), though, so another injury could hurt the team. Then again, A-Rod is trying a Kobe-Bryant-recommended “less is more” strategy this year in Spring Training. Maybe he can stay healthy all year and leapfrog some of the guys ahead of him on this list.

No. 9 — New York Mets

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter David Wright R 0.269 0.351 0.447 -8 575 4
Reserve Justin Turner R 0.265 0.327 0.372 -5 150

Mr. Wright is still not 30, so banking on a comeback can’t be wrong. Unfortunately, his defense has slipped to the point that he could come back with his career strikeout rate and power, combined with his always-excellent patience, and still lose a good amount of his value with the glove. With the state of the team’s finances, there’s even a chance that if he plays to this level, he finds himself on another team — there are contenders on the bottom half of this list that could use his help, bad glove or no.

No. 8 — Blue Jays

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Brett Lawrie R 0.275 0.333 0.498 4 600 5
Reserve Edwin Encarnacion R 0.261 0.331 0.457 -4 100

From the old David Wright to the new David Wright. If the 22-year-old Lawrie were older and had a longer, less park-influenced track record of success, he could easily find himself even higher on this list. That said, even with a conservative ZiPs projection, he’s a very exciting youngster with skills across the board. Then, let your eyes start drifting up to the more upbeat projections. Amazingly, he’s even got a decent (if bad-gloved) backup, so the team is pretty set at third.

No. 7 — Miami Marlins

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Hanley Ramirez R 0.283 0.365 0.459 -4 550 5
Reserve Greg Dobbs L 0.25 0.293 0.364 -2 50
Super Utility Emilio Bonifacio B 0.263 0.326 0.347 -2 100

Maybe you could put Lawrie ahead of Ramirez, but that’d be ignoring a long track record of success from the once 30/30 shortstop with tools scouts drool about. Give the 28-year-old veteran some love, a better team, and a little better defensive rating at third base, and he could remind us what we once knew — he’s a star.

No. 6 — Boston Red Sox

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Kevin Youkilis R 0.268 0.374 0.477 -1 500 5
Reserve Mike Aviles R 0.273 0.301 0.417 -4 100
Prospect Will Middlebrooks R 0.247 0.283 0.405 100

The 33-year-old God of Walks is post-peak for sure. His power and health are down from his best season in 2008. But he’s still very good, and there is an argument to be made here that his caddies are better than some of the veterans near him in the rankings. Middlebrooks even provides some long-term upside at the position.

No. 5 — San Francisco Giants

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Pablo Sandoval B 0.299 0.347 0.497 6 600 5
Reserve Mark Fontenot L 0.245 0.308 0.367 100

The Panda played like a gazelle at third base last year, and now suddenly 2010 looks like the outlier in his past. Take that year away, and he’s shown power, contact ability and good glove in a fairly consistent manner. Maybe the girth will lead to a shorter peak — maybe — but the 26-year-old is pre-peak by even the more conservative measures. Watch out if he gets injured, though.

No. 4 — Washington Nationals

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Ryan Zimmerman R 0.283 0.354 0.476 7 550 5
Reserve Mark DeRosa R 0.244 0.3 0.277 50
Super Utility Steve Lombardozzi B 0.265 0.316 0.379 100

He’s still only 27. Yes, he had an injury-riddled year filled with whispers that his oblique issues would plague him as long as he stayed at the position — but Zimmerman only 27. And when he’s healthy, he has patience, power and glove to drool about. DeRosa is no backup plan, but Lombardozzi could provide in a pinch. The two teams ahead of the Nationals in the queue, however, are better set in case of injury.

No. 3 — Texas Rangers

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Adrian Beltre R 0.289 0.329 0.488 12 550 5.5
Reserve Michael Young R 0.291 0.336 0.431 -6 175 0.5

The 33-year-old Beltre is another year older, but he’s taken to Texas and still has power and an excellent glove. When he misses time, as has been his wont in the past three years, the team actually has a decent fall-back plan in Young. The Rangers will get their value out of third base in a different fashion than number two…

No. 2 — Detroit Tigers

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Miguel Cabrera R 0.31 0.406 0.56 -7 575 5.5
Defensive Rep Brandon Inge R 0.222 0.296 0.357 4 150 0.5

Turn his minus seven fan projection at first base into the minus-16.5 he showed the last time he played third base. Take away plate appearances and give them to defensive replacements like Inge. Dock him a little time for injury from running around at third. Miguel Cabrera is so good that he’ll still be the second-best player at his position. Of course, he’ll give away a ton of runs with his glove, but his bat is so good that the move will only dent his value. And a judicious use of Inge might actually make this whole idea work, from the team perspective.

No. 1 — Tampa Bay Rays

Role Player Bats ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field PA WAR
Starter Evan Longoria R 0.274 0.367 0.514 12 625 7
Super Utility Sean Rodriguez R 0.23 0.315 0.391 5 100

If you’re not a Rays fan, do not look at Longoria’s contract. It will just make it hurt worse that the Rays not only have a 26-year-old plus defender with power and patience at third base, but they have him locked up at under-market value. If Cabrera could play a strong third base defensively, or if Beltre could take more walks, they could compete for the title. As is, the Rays are in a tier of their own thanks to their third baseman.

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78 Responses to “Positional Power Rankings: Third Base”

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  1. Ian says:

    That’s EDWIN Encarnacion, thank you.

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    • bluejaysstatsgeek says:

      The my over/under of the number of innings Encarnacion plays at third has a single digit. Every reserve infielder (Vizquel, McCoy, Valbuena) ar ahead of EE on the 3B depth chart.

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  2. Tyler says:

    Your angels chart is a little mesed up fyi. Looks good besides that though, thanks for this series.

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  3. some guy says:

    The “old lineup” that needs reviving scored the most runs in the league last season after Utley rejoined the team.

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    • jcxy says:

      The author clearly doesn’t follow the Phillies. The Wiggington claim is not founded in any sort of fact. Even as a gut instinct, it’s pretty misguided. Manuel played zombie Ibanez (probably less bad than the -1.3 WAR indicates…but still) last year and left Mayberry (2.5 WAR) and Brown (defense concerns) on the bench.

      Sitting Polanco would be grossly out of character for a team that has (quietly) valued defense for the past 5 years more than the majority of teams.

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      • jcxy says:

        PS I sound like a real jeff nye in this post. Not my intent. The author forgets more about baseball than I hope to ever know.

        Having said that, he’s wrong on Polanco losing time to Wigginton to get more “offense” in the lineup.

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      • Richard says:

        How closely do you follow the Phillies? By the end of the year, Ibanez was platooning with Mayberry, who also saw time at first. Mayberry played a LOT in the second half. Meanwhile, Brown was in the lineup when he was in the bigs, but he was sent down when Pence was acquired.

        You’re right about Polanco/Wigginton, though.

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      • jcxy says:

        I’ll put it this way. 500 ABs of .300 wOBA + (-)1.3 WAR goes past what a normal manager would tolerate.

        As for your claim that Ibanez played less in September…that’s wrong. He got 93 ABs then, more than any other month besides May. Perhaps you’re referring to august when he missed a week with injury?

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        No worries, but I do watch a lot of the Phillies since I write about the Mets — and since I agree with you in general sort of, but you brought specifics I would ask you to explain why a defense-minded team signed Ibanez in the first place, and also why Michael Martinez is a thing.

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      • jcxy says:

        Over the past decade, they’ve shown a willingness to sacrifice offense at positions where they value defense (ie 3rd with Feliz and Polanco). Team UZR generally rates them very well, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Anyway…LF does not seem to be a position where they require + defense and I don’t think that negates my overall premise that they generally (quietly) value defense. Of all the positions where you can cheat for offense, wouldn’t LF be the place to do it?

        Having said that, when Ibanez was originally brought in to Philly, he replaced Pat Burrell, who was routinely rated -10 to -20 by UZR. IMO, one of the reasons they didn’t want (the fan favorite/popular) Burrell back was the defense. Ibanez actually was +/- 0ish defender for 09 and 10. Now, last year, probably owing to his age and decresed mobility, his range eroded and he became the -19 UZR guy.

        So I reject the notion that Ibanez was nearly as poor of a defender as is held in popular consciousness. Ibanez represented a defensive upgrade to Burrell.

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      • jcxy says:

        Martinez was a rule v guy. Given their luck (or skill) identifying rule v guys in the past…I’m willing to give Martinez (and his 200+ ABs of .247 wOBA) a pass…because he played terrific MI defense. SSS alert…he was +30 at SS and 2B last year (-100 in the OF).

        He is exactly the type of Util infielder that a defensively minded team keeps on their roster.

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      • jerbear1985 says:

        Ibanez is horrific defensively, and saying he’s an upgrade over Burrell is only marginally true. And if they decided against sanity and gave Wiggington time at 3rd (likely because of injury), they wouldn’t be the first team to do it.

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    • cpebbles says:

      That lineup hit .256/.327/.406 after Utley rejoined the team, bringing the park-adjusted OPS all the way up to league average, and they have one starter now who’s not into his decline phase.

      While that little canard is true, it’s the product almost entirely of run-scoring luck (The Cardinals’ OPS after that date: .757, Rockies’: .750) and a little bit the Phillies having more games left than some other teams.

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      • some guy says:

        If you think that anything after 30 is a ‘decline’, than we still got Mayberry and Pence as starters who haven’t peaked.

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      • Jason B says:

        “If you think that anything after 30 is a ‘decline’…”

        Yeah…yeah, it kinda is, generally speaking.

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  4. Preston says:

    Alex Rodriguez only played in 99 games a year ago and finished 4th among 3rd basemen in WAR. I understand that Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez and Brett Lawrie or being added to the pool, but tenth just seems too low. I know he’s 36 and has struggled with injuries. But there will definitely be healthy months this season where he’s the best 3b, maybe the best player in the game.

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    • Frank says:

      Yeah but the brilliant thing about ARod is that you can guarantee that none of those weeks in question will be in the post-season.

      I’ll be here all week.

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    • EarlSweatshirt says:

      Even with good health, A-Rod is not the type of player who cna compete for the best player in the game title. Over a month sample sure, but even mediocre players can get red hot for a month. I completely disagree with this notion that he’d “definitely” be the best third baseman in the game with health…he might be the 4th best in his own division.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      He could finish higher and that’s why I put the tier comment. But, at his age, and coming off of two straight four-win seasons, it’s not surprising that he was projected for another four-win season. It’s not about talent with A-Rod, it’s about health/playing time/age and the paucity of good options behind him.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Enough, I’m noticing that projected Mark Reynolds is projected for 745 PA’s between 1B and 3B (and you haven’t even gottent to the DH ranking yet). Likewise, Danny Espinosa has 750 PA’s between SS and 2B. Not only is that pretty impossible, its about 100 more PA’s than projected for anyone else. You’ve also got crappy utility guys like Robert Andino projected for a combined 625 plate appearances across different positions.

        Was this series a group effort, or is each position one writer’s effort?

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Pretend that “Enough” says “Eno” and that that first sentence is in English.

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        I thought you were crying uncle. Yeah we split this up, so, yeah, Andino won’t manage 625 PAs. That would mean a pretty bad season for the O’s.

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    • jerbear1985 says:

      He’ll spend some time at DH. The WAR projection is for his time at 3B only.

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  5. Jon says:

    Not sure if i see why Arod is rated so low

    over the past 2 injury filled years hes still produced the 4th more WAR only being beaten out by longo, beltre, and zimmerman

    hes also played more games than youkilis over those years

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    • JeffMathisCera says:

      He’s older (some decline) and he’ll probably see some time at DH this year. Not to mention the fact that projections should and do take injury history in to account.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Tom B says:

        Actually, all reports out of ST say exactly the opposite. If the surgery he had works like it did for Kobe, he’ll be right back in the top5.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • JeffMathisCera says:

        Cool, but that’s still not how projections, nor most people’s predictive intuitions work. That’s optimism. Projections balance the optimistic with the pessimistic, and based on previous performance make their assertions.

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  6. Dan in Philly says:

    Florida, Miami, we know the fish you mean.

    strange how the corner defensive positions have suffered so much in the past few years. Maybe “The new moneyball is defense” meme was just a few years too early? I’m very curious to see if last year’s low offense was a fluke or the beginning of a new deadball era.

    It really seems to me that new technology which is helping pitchers chart their opponents better than ever combined with innovations in defensive alignments (also helped by technology) might be ushering in a new low BABIP time in baseball.

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  7. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    Toronto should be higher just because of Joey Bats! I think if Lawrie flops, he’d be next in line at 3B because he’s better defensively than E5. List the OF that would take over RF for Bautista in that situation, if you prefer.

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    • Stephen says:

      You beat me to it. Toronto’s true backup at third is Jose Bautista. In the event Lawrie is injured, Jose moves to third, rather than EE. They’re having a struggle trying to find room for all their outfielders — EE won’t see any time at third.

      p.s. Stop using E5

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      • sc2gg says:

        Pretty certain that at some place or some point (In a land far, far away…), the Jays said that Jose was going to stay in RF all year, regardless of what’s going on at 3B.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Stephen says:

    Toronto’s true backup at third is Jose Bautista. In the event Lawrie is injured, Jose moves to third, rather than EE. They’re having a struggle trying to find room for all their outfielders — EE won’t see any time at third.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Youppi! says:

    i could see Rendon at 3B for the Nats for PA of 50ish in lieu of Lombardozzi if Zim goes down.

    very, very minor comment – why the format change for 3B? PA is now splitting fielding/WAR.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. d_i says:

    I was under the impression that P Alvarez was going to first and McGehee is taking over 3rd with G. Jones filling in in RF/1B. Is that not a possibility anymore?

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    • gonfalon says:

      I follow the Pirates closely, and that is the first I’ve heard of any such plan for 2012. and it’s pointless to plan beyond 2012… if Pedro can’t demonstrate an ability to hit MLB pitching this year, he’ll be going to AAA.

      Jones and McGehee will likely share 1B this year, with Jones probably getting more starts. Jones will hopefully never play in RF this year. McGehee will get some starts at 3B, but won’t be the regular starter unless Alvarez tanks.

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  11. Snowblind says:

    #28 – #30 on this list definitely seem to “clump”. They’re pretty interchangably terrible.

    Also, today I learned that Youk is only 33. For some reason he’s seemed perpetually mid-30s to me.

    Do you think that the flurry of power at non-power positions over the last couple decades, led to this current crop of non-traditional / low-offense 3b? I.e. teams weren’t seeking power at 3b so much because they were getting it elsewhere, and so a generation of 3b is being worked through now that is more glove-first?

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      flanked by a generation of first basemen with third base gloves. I think this position is fascinating.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jason B says:

      “Also, today I learned that Youk is only 33. For some reason he’s seemed perpetually mid-30s to me.”

      It’s easy to see why; he’s had that “old-guy” skill set since he was about six, I think.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Tom B says:

    How can you put Hanley Ramirez on this list where he is?

    He’s not a 3B yet, we don’t have any idea if he will be successful there, and he’s better than 23 professional 3B?

    I don’t think so.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • NS says:

      I mean, you can see how he did it. So what are you disagreeing with? Do you think he’ll be worse than -4 defensively? Worse offensively? Both? Why?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Tom B says:

        Would that be so much of a reach considering he has to field bunts now? He could be -15 or -20 bad…

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Tom B says:

        It just seems a bit premature to put him above someone like… A-Rod… who is by all accounts still a top flight defensive 3B regardless of his injuries has actually outperformed Hanley every step of the way even while dealing with his injuries…

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • NS says:

        I can see arguing for A-Rod being ranked higher, but I think Hanley’s projection is reasonable. It would take a lot of blown plays on bunts to take him from -4 to -14, or even -10. If he’s -10 at SS, it’s pretty unlikely he’ll be worse than that at a less demanding position.

        A return to form for his bat is less of a sure thing to me. But even then, he’s well above average for the position. And if he comes all the way back to the .400 wOBA hitter he was a couple years ago, he could be Miguel Cabrera at third and still be top 5.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • EarlSweatshirt says:

      Are you familiar with the concept of projection? Or anything fangraphs has ever done?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Tom B says:

        No, what is the future?

        What a dumb response.

        Are you familiar with “questioning a projection because it may be totally wrong”?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Yirmiyahu says:

        But a SS->3B change isn’t really a huge deal. It’s a change and it involves some uncertainty, but that’s the nature of projections. New season, new league, new ballpark, new batting stance, etc.

        Hanley is playing for the same team in the same city as before, on the same half of the infield. The SS->3B transition (along with SS->2B) may be the most predictable position change in baseball. Hanley will probably be better at 3B, he could be about the same, but there’s pretty much no chance he’s worse there.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Eno Sarris says:

      Using the defensive spectrum, you can gauge pretty easily how a -5 defender at short will play at third. That said, Hanley is as difficult to project as Trumbo, Cabrera and the like — it’s just that where Trumbo is coming from first base, Hanley’s coming from short. He’s fielded a bunt before!

      Also, the options behind him are decent. I’d take them over the Yankees backups, for instance.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Re: Miguel Cabrera…”Turn his minus seven fan projection at first base into the minus-16.5 he showed the last time he played third base.”

    I think I am missing where this -16.5 number comes from. Could someone direct me there. (Note: not being sarcastic at all. Just wanna verify this number before I make any other comments).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • KG says:

      Looks like that # is from 2004 when he played the OF. He played at 3B in 2006 and 2007, which showed a -4.5 or something similar. Much better. So it seems that -16.5 number is misleading.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • NS says:

        Worth noting that UZR was the outlier in 2007, with DRS and TZL rating him in the -15 range. That was also the last year he was used at third, so -4 seem generous.

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      • I agree -4 is generous. And I think -16.5 is around a reasonable range, just didn’t like the way the author got there.

        I think this offers us a bit of evidence, though, that the -25 freefall that many seem to be expecting might not be a reasonable expectation.

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      • Facts to consider about Cabrera at 3B:

        -From 2006-8, Cabrera had a UZR/150 around -5.7 at 3B. This even includes his small sample size -36.8 in 2008 (note also that chooisng these three years eliminate 2005 where he actually posted a positive UZR).

        -As a first basemen he posted UZR/150′s of -4.1, +3.4, -6.1, and -4.1 from 2008-11, respectively. Below average, but not atrocious.

        -3B is a more natural position for him than 1B is.

        -He is definitely older, bigger, and slower than the last time he played 3B.

        -He has been away from the position for ~4 years.

        Taking all of this into consideration, projecting him to be at -4 is probably to0 generous. But, projecting a freefall to -25 or -30 (as those saying that this experiment will fail usually do) seems much too pessimistic. Somewhere in the mid-teens seems most likely.

        And if Cabrera ends up around -15, then he will be on the best third basemen in baseball. (i.e. the experiment will likely work).

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • NS says:

        I agree with your conclusion, but a couple of things:

        Cabrera has only really logged around 2 full seasons worth of time at 3B (06-07, 2650 innings). The three other years he spent time there only add up to about 600 innings (less than half of one season).

        And again, UZR is also a lot friendlier to Cabrera than the other metrics. Accounting for all of them:

        2006 (~1300 innings): -9 DRS -9.4 TZL -3.4 UZR
        2007 (~1300 innings): -16 DRS -17.7 TZL -4.2
        Extra Time (~650 innings): -5 DRS -6.4 TZL -3.3 UZR

        Splitting the difference between all of them gives us a picture of a -9 fielder at third (-11.6 DRS -13.3 TZL -2.5 UZR).

        As you said, that was 4 years ago as a lighter and quicker 23 & 24 y/o. He is now 29. Hardly an old man, but given the weight fluctuation and relative ease of playing 1B for years now, maintaining -10 at 3B would be very impressive; -15 seems realistic if his conditioning and extra time pays off; and -20 seems plausible if it doesn’t.

        I still expect the experiment will “work” in the sense that it will make the Tigers a better team overall. The one serious concern I would have is durability. Kevin Youkilis jumps to mind as an example of a guy whose overall production was jeopardized by the wear & tear of a 3B from 1B switch past his physical prime.

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      • Ronin says:

        In response to NS – one thing to consider about Cabrera from a scouting perspective is that he has made overall improvements defensively while at first base. He has improved his throwing accruacy and hands a bit in the last few years. Range has never been his strong suit but he does have a strong arm, just early in his career he had very poor accuracy. So in essence he has lost some range which was already close to neglible but improved his old man skills (accuracy/hands) so I am optimistic that he will be able to register somewhere between -8 to -10 fielding.

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      • Good points NS and thanks for bringing in the other defensive metrics.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      One thing I want to clear up: the fielding number is not my prediction. That field is the fan’s projection.

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  14. Daniel says:

    …Michael Young should get more than .5 WAR at third base. rangers are the only team with a top 3 third baseman along with another one who can get you several more wins. Sure, the total WAR makes sense probably, but in reality the rangers have the best situation at third because they have a good player backing up a really good player. Inge and rodriguez arent michael youngs

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  15. TK says:

    Is there any chance the Brewers, Braves, Reds, or Phillies would rather have Lonnie Chisenhall than their current options at third base for 2012 only?

    I’d say no.

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    • TK says:

      In the same vein, every third sacker on those 4 teams has a lot of upside for 2012. We’re talking about a single year. Yes, maybe Chisenhall breaks through and has a 4 WAR season. But any of these guys could have a dead-cat-bounce and get the same results. I don’t think upside is all that relevant when you’re talking about one season. The range for expectations for one season is likely the same for a 23 year old as a 35 year old.

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    • Jason B says:

      Agreed–I thought the power rankings were surprisingly bullish on the Indians 3B situation also…

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  16. Ender says:

    Tyler Greene would be the backup for the Brewers and he is a positive WAR player which should move them up the rankings some.

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  17. KMiB says:

    It’s funny to say this because it should sound counter-intuitive, but in a Dusty Baker world, Miguel Cairo is Scott Rolen’s backup at 3B…and he actually wasn’t terrible at all over the last two seasons. Couple that with Francisco’s calf injury and I can’t believe he’s not part of this equation.

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  18. Randy says:

    St. Louis: Are they still considering Zach Cox a 3B?

    San Diego: James Darnell, Jedd Gyorko

    Miami: Is Matt Dominguez still in the picture?

    Washington: It might be too early, but they drafted Rendon. For now we should assume he’s a 3B so I could justify including him on the list.

    Texas: Profar wasn’t included on the SS list. I thought it might be possible he wasn’t considered a SS (esp with Andrus), but he isn’t here either. It’s a realistic possibility, even if it is not ideal.

    Detroit: I think Castellanos has to be included. It’s pretty clear they are grooming him to take over at 3B in a few years, thus moving Cabrera back to 1B/DH. The Tigs have a few other players (Kelly, Santiago) that have played some 3B as well.

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  19. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    Take it to Vegas, Zimmermann will out hit Longoria this season.

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  20. CheeseWhiz says:

    Look I get that Brett Lawrie is a great looking prospect and he was very impressive in his debut last year, but any projection that has him at 5 WAR is completely ridiculous. Could he potentially hit 5 wins next year? I suppose it’s possible, but that has to be his 85-95 percentile result. Rookies putting up 5 win seasons are historically rare, and using that as your baseline projection can’t be taken seriously.

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  21. Tom says:

    In 528 PA’s last year Youkilis put up 3.7 WAR with a .373 OBP, .459 SLG, -1.3 UZR

    If his projection this year is 500 PA’s, .377 OBP, .477 SLG, -1… how does that work out to 5 WAR? Does an additional 18points on SLG translate to pretty much 1.3 wins?

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  22. Marver says:

    Forsythe is currently hurt, and the recovery timetable could leak into the regular season. Additionally, I’d bet Parrino sees more time there in 2012 with Forsythe pushing more at 2B.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Curtis says:

    Are you adding Ball Park to the equation? If Panda played in Texas he’d hit 35 jacks and bat his standard .315 at the very least. Dude put up a .997 OPS on the road last year including 16 of his 23 homers on the road in only 216 at bats. While Beltre had a .737 OPS on the road.

    Panda is finally in good shape and the only injury he’s had was a broken hamate bone which isn’t related to anything but a fluke that could happen to anybody. It’s definitely not a trend. If somebody is factoring in Ball Park and still would rather have Beltre over Panda for next year, I want what they are smoking. I would LOVE to hear their rationale behind this. And you could be Brooks Robinson on roids, the defense ain’t gonna make up for the 260 point difference in road OPS. Plus, add in age, switch hitter, Panda runs circles around Beltre.

    If 2010 is a factor, that’s a shame and I guess the old timer’s argument of the eye is more riable than the numbers holds true in this case. Cause the Panda in 2010 was not the same Panda as now or the one in ’11, 08 & 09. Dude had a Doritos diet and ballooned up to 60 pounds over weight. Incorporating 2010 into his evaluation is like including a year that somebody played with a broken thumb or something. All it does is mask reality.

    Now, if he goes back to the John Goodman diet, then that’s a different story.

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  24. pft says:

    I don’t get A-Rod being ranked below Youk. Youk is much worse defensively, and plays in a great park for RHB’ers (667 OPS on the road last year).

    Is WAR park adjustment based on handedness of batter? I don’t think so, so this might be the reason.

    For example, YS3 is a good hitters park due to RF, which LHB’ers take advantage of more often. Fenway is also considered a good hitters park, primarily because of it’s LF which is more favorable to RHB.ers. For a RHB’er in YS3, the park adjustment may work against a RHB’er due to the RF inflationary effect, while at Fenway, the park adjustment may work in a RHB’ers favor because of the RF deflationary effect.

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  25. Newfy says:

    Seems a bit off re: Cabrera at 5.5 WAR. I understand that Zips expects him to decline, offensively, for some ridiculous reason, but at that level of defence, he’d still end up above 5.5 WAR, no? I had calculated that his breakeven was around -19 runs, given the positional adjustment, and his efforts at 1B last season…granted, that was assuming his offensive numbers would be around the same as last season.
    Agreed that Longoria should be 1st on the list though, if he can stay healthy.

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  26. BlackOps says:

    Gotta imagine if Wright gets hurt, Murphy moves to third and Valdespin come up to play second.

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