HomeTrending MLB News2024 Positional Power Rankings: Third Base

2024 Positional Power Rankings: Third Base

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Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK

Earlier today, Michael Baumann gave an accounting of the league’s shortstops. Now we turn our attention to the third basemen.

Welcome to the ultimate tweener position. Like shortstop, the hot corner was a glove-first position in the early days of baseball, but it has evolved to the point where it’s hard to be competitive if you don’t offer something with both the glove and the bat. This kind of hybridization has probably hurt third basemen in their quest for legendary status. Baseball’s classic ways of evaluating talent — Triple Crown stats and Gold Gloves/defensive reputation — tend to diminish well-rounded players without a single standout skill to point to, creating a very high bar for third basemen to get attention. Measures like WAR can remedy this problem by putting one estimate on a player’s total contribution, but even with an increased focus on WAR-type measures, eight of the top 20 third basemen by Jay Jaffe’s JAWS who are eligible for the Hall of Fame (and who are without PED whispers) aren’t enshrined in Cooperstown. Contrast that with first base, where only on player in the top 20 isn’t in the Hall (Keith Hernandez). Hitting a bit worse than first basemen and fielding a bit worse than shortstops aren’t great plaudits for your sizzle reel.

2015-2019 turned out to be a golden era for these two-way stalwarts, as third basemen combined for more WAR than any other position.

WAR by Position, 2015-19

PositionWAR
3B449.4
CF425.0
SS394.9
2B355.8
RF340.1
C299.0
1B276.8
LF267.7
DH43.4

Third base WAR peaked at 93.9 in 2016. Eight third basemen eclipsed the 4-WAR barrier that year and many of them were in their early-to-mid-20s (Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, Anthony Rendon, and José Ramírez). Eight years later, Arenado, Machado, and Ramírez still loom large, but they’re now on the downslopes of their careers and third base has been short on phenoms to replace them. Only three denizens of the hot corner totaled at least four WAR in 2023 (Ramírez, Austin Riley, and Alex Bregman) and the positional total of 62.3 WAR was the lowest since 2011, not counting the COVID-shortened 2020 season. It appears we’re now in a transitional era for third base, as the 2010s stars approach the twilights of their careers. Looking at ZiPS, four of the top 10 third baseman in five-year projected WAR are 30 or older in 2024: Ramírez, Bregman, Machado, and Matt Chapman. Who joins Austin Riley and Rafael Devers in the elite class at the end of the decade is very uncertain right now, though that uncertainty makes this exercise extra fun.

2024 Positional Power Rankings – 3B

Is José Ramírez the most underrated superstar of this generation? Despite that being the refrain for much of his career, if I were issuing declarations as the Emperor of Baseball Opinions in some dystopia, I have a strong feeling he’d still be the player I’d pick. Ramírez’s relative lack of appreciation as one of the game’s ultra-elites might be partially due to playing in Cleveland rather than a larger market, but it may simply be the result of him being the Platonic ideal of a third baseman: He’s very good at literally anything, but there’s no one single tool you can point to that defines him as a player other than his elite well-roundedness. On some level, it’s just easier to explain Nolan Arenado’s glovework or Austin Riley’s homers to a non-aficionado.

It does appear that Ramírez is a bit off his peak now, which isn’t unexpected for a player entering his age-31 season. But to use an impractical analogy, if your water slide starts at the top of Mt. Everest, it takes quite a while until you get back down to base camp for some hot chocolate. Ramírez is on top of the heap now and ought to stay there for a few more years.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Alex Bregman672.267.368.455.35723.7-2.3-0.14.6
Grae Kessinger14.211.291.325.275-0.5-0.00.00.0
Mauricio Dubón7.263.305.390.302-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
David Hensley7.222.312.339.291-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.265.365.450.35423.0-2.4-0.24.7

While it’s becoming increasingly certain that Alex Bregman’s peak was in 2018 and 2019 and won’t be replicated again, he remains one of the elite third basemen in baseball. Bregman’s 2022 may not have been up to the standard of his pre-COVID years, but it quelled any worries that 2021’s nagging leg issues would linger. Last season didn’t quite match 2022 in terms of production, but Bregman played 161 games, a career high, and was third or fourth in the league in WAR among third basemen (depending on how you classify Gunnar Henderson).

The only real question is how long Bregman will be in Houston. The current era Astros have moved on from their stars quite frequently, but not reflexively; Bregman, like Jose Altuve, will be a lot harder to replace than George Springer or Carlos Correa, simply because there’s not a Jeremy Peña in the queue. And you can see that when you go down the depth chart. Grae Kessinger is unlikely to hit enough to be anything more than a team’s fifth or sixth infielder, and Mauricio Dubón is a borderline starter and just four months younger than Bregman. Someone like Brice Matthews or Camilo Diaz might be viable options at third one day, but that day is a lot farther away than the end of 2024.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Austin Riley672.278.349.517.36724.7-1.4-4.64.4
Luis Guillorme21.256.340.342.304-0.3-0.1-0.10.0
David Fletcher7.273.314.353.293-0.2-0.00.00.0
Total700.278.348.511.36424.2-1.4-4.64.4

If you’re looking for a good example of why teams should stick by their talent and not make quick, 180-degree turns if a player initially struggles in the majors, look no further than Austin Riley. His combined stats for 2019 and 2020 come out basically to one full season and resulted in a .232/.288/.448 line and 0.1 WAR over 503 plate appearances. What discussion there was at the time that wasn’t centered around his mediocre offensive performance focused on the idea that he should be moved away from third base, this time for good.

Believing in Riley turned out to be the right call. The Braves made him their Opening Day starter at third base in 2021 and he didn’t get an off day until June, by which point he had an OPS over .900 and had successfully quieted the skeptics. All he’s done since then is rake, and in August of 2022, he signed a 10-year extension worth over $200 million.

Riley didn’t turn into the second coming of Brooks Robinson defensively, but he’s been close enough to average to solidify his status at third base. If José Ramírez shows additional signs of aging, Riley’s got a good shot to be the top ranked third baseman in 2025.

There’s not going to be much playing time for Luis Guillorme or David Fletcher, nor should there be; I imagine if the Braves had questions about Riley’s health, they’d have a more potent third base bat available on the bench rather than focusing on players who can cover the up-the-middle positions. Call me crazy, but if Riley were to experience a significant injury and the Braves didn’t address his loss with a trade, I think they might actually turn to someone with more upside, like Luke Waddell.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Rafael Devers616.283.356.525.37023.2-0.9-4.34.1
Bobby Dalbec28.222.299.421.312-0.3-0.0-0.20.1
Pablo Reyes21.260.324.394.313-0.2-0.0-0.10.0
Romy Gonzalez21.238.288.403.297-0.50.10.10.0
Enmanuel Valdez7.249.321.430.324-0.0-0.0-0.00.0
Vaughn Grissom7.285.353.422.3380.1-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.278.350.511.36322.3-0.9-4.64.3

The Boston Red Sox have shown a willingness to let their best players walk if the price doesn’t suit them, but the one player they did manage to ink to a long-term deal was Rafael Devers, who signed a 10-year, $313 million extension to stay in town well into the 2030s. The choice made a lot of sense; since the start of his breakout 2019, Devers ranks third in baseball in WAR among third basemen. And with the exception of Austin Riley, who won’t be hitting the free agent market any time soon either, he’s younger than the rest of the top dozen or so players on this list.

Devers is one of baseball’s hardest hitters, enabling him to survive Fenway’s oddly shaped outfield. Unless they have an uncanny knack for pulling pitches almost to Pesky’s pole, mortal left-handed power hitters frequently go to Boston to die. But Devers doesn’t need the cheapies; he only has a single home run shorter than 360 feet to right field in Fenway during his career. He’ll lose some homers due to his home park, of course, but so did Ted Williams and David Ortiz, and like them, Devers has power to spare. He’s already fifth in Red Sox history in homers by a lefty, and he’s only a couple of years away from passing Mo Vaughn.

The Red Sox would need a lot of things to go their way to do more than shuffle on the edges of the Wild Card race, and a healthy Devers is probably a must. If something happens to him and they have to play Bobby Dalbec, Pablo Reyes or Romy Gonzalez at third, they’re probably winning 76 games anyway.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Royce Lewis581.268.333.478.34716.1-0.31.93.9
Kyle Farmer56.246.304.378.299-0.7-0.20.30.2
Willi Castro35.248.308.389.303-0.30.10.00.1
Brooks Lee21.245.304.379.298-0.3-0.00.00.0
Yunior Severino7.224.290.399.299-0.1-0.00.00.0
Total700.264.328.461.33914.7-0.42.24.3

After waiting a decade, the Twins finally got the Miguel Sanó they were looking for — he just happened to be in better shape and answer to a different name. Due to the pandemic and consecutive ACL tears, Royce Lewis basically lost three years of development time. But unlike most players in his situation, Lewis was still really, really good at baseball when he came back from his long hiatus, putting up a 155 wRC+ in the majors after his return in late May. He had never hit more than 14 homers in a professional season before, but it took him just 58 games to hit 15 in the majors in 2023, and that doesn’t even count his Triple-A homers.

Unfortunately, 2023 still featured its share of injuries. Lewis missed a month with an oblique strain before a late-season hamstring tweak limited him to a DH role in the playoffs. Until he stays healthy for all or most of a season, there will always be questions about his durability. It’s a tricky thing for the Twins to manage. They can’t just stuff him at DH and see what happens, as they have another phenomenally talented player who can’t stay healthy in Byron Buxton. Between Buxton, Alex Kirilloff and Carlos Santana, plus off days for other players with minor injuries, it’ll be hard to keep Lewis out of the field too often.

So, it’s Lewis at third and hope for the best. Kyle Farmer is probably the best backup here, but he’s strictly a Plan B, not a viable option as a starter if Lewis can’t stay healthy playing a position.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Manny Machado546.269.337.476.34614.9-1.02.03.6
Eguy Rosario70.238.303.385.299-0.8-0.20.30.2
Tyler Wade35.225.299.310.273-1.10.1-0.20.0
Graham Pauley28.248.311.404.311-0.0-0.0-0.10.1
Matthew Batten14.220.299.313.275-0.40.00.10.0
Ha-Seong Kim7.247.329.387.3150.00.00.00.0
Total700.262.330.452.33412.5-1.12.14.0

The status of this position for San Diego all comes down to just how long it takes Manny Machado to get back to third base full-time. Elbow pain last summer left Machado relegated to DH duty during the Padres’ stretch run, and after an October elbow surgery, he isn’t expected to start the season at third. But he should get there eventually, and he’s still one of the top five or so third basemen in baseball. While his bat slumped a bit from 2022 to 2023, the projection systems all predict a modest bounce-back campaign, and he’s successfully quieted any concerns about a declining glove with a second consecutive season that saw him be just fine in field, at least before the injury. I’m not at all confident about how Machado will perform later in the decade, and I suspect the Padres might come to regret the 11-year extension he signed last February, much like the Yankees did with A-Rod, but that’s a problem for Future A.J. Preller to worry about.

If Machado doesn’t make a quick return to the field, most of the alternatives involve the Friars getting near replacement-level production. Jake Cronenworth was disappointing at first base, but the team hasn’t really pursued any better options there, so it seems unlikely that he, Ha-Seong Kim, or Xander Bogaerts would shift to cover the left three-quarters of the infield in the event Machado suffers a setback. That means Eguy Rosario would likely get the majority of playing time by virtue of being the best defensive option outside of Machado. I can envision a scenario in which Graham Pauley gets some time at third, but the Padres aren’t likely to turn to him there unless he repeats his 2023 breakout in the high minors and Machado is still DHing come summer.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Isaac Paredes462.244.340.462.34614.2-1.3-0.23.0
Junior Caminero168.257.308.431.3171.1-0.4-0.40.7
Taylor Walls42.209.306.341.289-0.70.10.00.1
Curtis Mead21.250.321.400.3140.1-0.00.00.1
Austin Shenton7.226.316.391.3090.0-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.245.330.445.33514.7-1.6-0.63.9

The Tigers never seemed fully committed to making Isaac Paredes a part of the team’s future, a fact the Rays were all too happy to take advantage of, picking up Paredes from Detroit in return for the oft-injured Austin Meadows in April 2022. Tampa Bay is likely quite happy with how that trade worked out.

In 2022, Paredes impressed as a power-hitting role player, bopping 20 homers while filling in at first, second, and third. He was even better last year, passing the 30-homer line and putting up 4.3 WAR. True to the Rays’ tendency to color outside the lines, they didn’t just stick Paredes at third and leave him there, frequently using him to spell Brandon Lowe at second against lefties. A similar role seems in store for 2024.

Third base is Paredes’ best position, but the Rays have a lot of viable options at the hot corner, enabling them to take advantage of his flexibility. The organization has aggressively promoted Junior Caminero, who put up a .976 OPS at two levels in the minors in 2023 despite mostly still being a teenager. Curtis Mead is the team’s top prospect, even after a season that was mostly ruined by injury. However the cards are shuffled in 2024, the Rays are likely to be solidly above average at third, if just below the elites.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Nolan Arenado658.266.325.460.3349.5-1.23.93.7
Brandon Crawford14.238.310.384.302-0.2-0.0-0.00.0
Nolan Gorman14.243.321.468.3380.2-0.0-0.10.1
Brendan Donovan7.274.365.397.3370.1-0.0-0.00.0
Thomas Saggese7.247.299.391.299-0.1-0.00.00.0
Total700.265.325.457.3349.6-1.33.83.8

While most players would be pretty happy to have had Nolan Arenado’s 2023 season (though perhaps not in the sense of playing for the 2023 Cardinals), it was arguably his worst year since his 2013 debut with the Rockies. Arenado’s .266/.315/.459 line didn’t look much like his MVP-caliber 2022 season, and there’s not even a BABIP goblin to point fingers at. Even more concerning is that his glove showed signs of decline as well, with OAA, DRS, and UZR all agreeing that this was his weakest defensive season yet. One mitigating factor in there is that he had some back issues, but that might not necessarily be good news; back issues have stymied a lot of players as they age. I’m hopeful, but time has a perfect record of grinding its foes into dust, and it’s sad to think that Arenado’s golden era is over.

ZiPS does project Arenado to finish somewhere around 10th all-time in JAWS, so hopefully we’ll get to see him give a speech in upstate New York sometime in the mid-2030s.

It’s unclear who will get the playing time at third should Arenado’s back problems flare up again this year. José Fermín and now ex-Card Juniel Querecuto filled in at the end of 2023, but at the time, both Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman were done for the season. Brandon Crawford’s availability at third may come down to how well Masyn Winn’s doing as the starting shortstop. Wherever they go, the Cards have real options at third, but they’d rather have Arenado, of course.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Jordan Westburg245.253.321.423.3222.0-0.11.21.2
Gunnar Henderson224.261.342.475.3507.00.11.31.7
Ramón Urías112.252.320.390.311-0.2-0.20.30.4
Coby Mayo105.235.320.408.3170.4-0.20.10.4
Jorge Mateo7.235.282.379.286-0.20.00.00.0
Nick Maton7.223.317.364.302-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.252.327.431.3289.0-0.42.93.8

For a team in the top 10, there’s sure a lot of uncertainty about who will actually get the playing time for the Orioles at third base. Right now, it looks like the configuration will be Jackson Holliday at second, Gunnar Henderson at shortstop, and Jordan Westburg at third, but any member of that trio could show up at any of these positions at any given point.

I feel for Westburg — he likely would have gotten a lot more notice if he played for a team with a worse farm system. Normally, a young former first-round draft pick who plays shortstop and hit .278/.371/.506 in the minors (and even better at Triple-A!) would have the local hype machine cranking on all gears. But Westburg has had the misfortune of being in the shadow of two even better prospects in Henderson and Holliday, and Large Adult Infielder Coby Mayo is coming up quickly behind him. But we’ve got him projected as a solidly above-average third baseman overall, with at least a few more chances to blossom into something better than that.

Whether Mayo is an eventual threat to Westburg’s playing time will depend on just how good his glove is. He hasn’t gotten rave reviews with the leather, but ZiPS, which uses a probability-based defensive metric based on coordinate data for minor leaguers, thinks he’s much better than his reputation. For what it’s worth, this same methodology was going nuts for Ke’Bryan Hayes practically the second he became a professional.

Ramon Urías, who came crashing down to terra firma after a hot April, is also in the mix. But even as the likely backup, there’s probably not a big ceiling on his playing time, as the O’s would more likely turn to Mayo to shuffle someone in from elsewhere if Westburg missed serious time.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Matt Chapman623.235.327.426.3276.3-0.94.53.3
Wilmer Flores42.262.335.444.3360.7-0.20.10.2
Casey Schmitt21.240.288.367.286-0.5-0.0-0.10.0
Tyler Fitzgerald14.220.279.371.282-0.40.0-0.10.0
Total700.236.326.424.3266.2-1.14.53.6

Matt Chapman is one of the trickier players in baseball to project, to the point that almost any result from him this year wouldn’t surprise me. On the one hand, Chapman’s exit velocity numbers were quite excellent in 2023, with a hard-hit rate of 56.4%, the second-best rate in baseball behind only Aaron Judge. But he frequently hit the ball really hard to the deepest part of the park, a tendency that may not play well in Oracle Park, which remains a brutal place for power hitters even after the renovations a few years ago that brought the walls in several feet.

Despite my usual admonition to be careful about slicing and dicing stats into small chunks, it’s hard to completely ignore the fact that Chapman’s overall numbers after April were absolutely brutal, with a triple slash of .205/.298/.361 while playing half his games in what ought to have been a friendly home park. Add in the fact that he’s now on the wrong side of 30, and it’s understandable why he didn’t get a real jackpot contract this winter.

Wilmer Flores looks like the most likely Plan B if age should rear its cruel, inevitable head in 2024. While there will be a lot of Flores at first base, LaMonte Wade Jr. will get most of the playing time there. Flores isn’t a great defender at third, but his presence was enough of a backup option that the Giants felt comfortable cutting J.D. Davis for his post-arbitration termination pay despite it not being a great look to invoke that CBA clause this late in the winter for reasons that had nothing to do with the player.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Ke’Bryan Hayes609.260.318.414.317-3.0-0.47.72.7
Jared Triolo77.247.328.353.303-1.3-0.10.30.2
Ji Hwan Bae14.248.318.353.297-0.30.0-0.10.0
Total700.259.319.406.315-4.6-0.47.92.9

The fact that Ke’Bryan Hayes has only won a single Gold Glove award so far seems like a crime (though not a literal one — please don’t call the local police on Nolan Arenado). He was a fabulous defender in the minors and is now a fabulous defender in the majors, and he ought to get a lot of glove-related hardware over the next decade or so.

While his glovework will keep him from falling too far down the rankings even in a down season, questions about his bat prevent Hayes from ranking with the truly elite third basemen. He destroyed pitchers in his initial debut in 2020, but coming off a .262/.334/.411 season in 2019, it was never really expected he’d be an elite offensive force in the majors. And he hasn’t been. His 91 wRC+ the last three seasons plays in the big leagues because of his glove, but it’s an unimpressive part of his résumé, and he’s rapidly running out of time to take that big step forward as he enters his age-27 season.

Jared Triolo filled in for Hayes when the latter was out with a back injury and is a more-than-plausible second option at third. He doesn’t have much in the way of power and better contact skills would be nice, but he’s a solid defensive player who will draw the occasional walk. None of the projection systems think he’ll come close to the 118 wRC+ he posted in his debut season, but if the Pirates actually thought that realistic, they’d have already written him in as the starting second baseman.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
DJ LeMahieu413.257.338.382.3171.5-1.53.31.9
Oswald Peraza196.245.309.394.307-1.0-0.00.80.7
Oswaldo Cabrera63.234.296.389.297-0.8-0.00.30.2
Jorbit Vivas28.240.322.351.300-0.3-0.00.10.1
Total700.250.325.385.312-0.6-1.64.52.9

How much does DJ LeMahieu have left in him? With Anthony Volpe and Gleyber Torres now firmly established at shortstop and second base, respectively, the versatile LeMahieu will likely get the bulk of the playing time at third so long as he performs. Contrary to popular opinion, he wasn’t one of the primary reasons the Yankees fell short of expectations in 2024. His 1.1 WAR was his lowest number in a decade, but a lot of that was due to being used at first base, a position he’s unsuited for offensively at this point in his career. As a third baseman, LeMahieu is somewhere around league-average both offensively and defensively, so it’s not surprising to see the Yankees’ place in the middle of the pack here.

The big risk from LeMahieu is his age, as he turns 36 around the All-Star break this year, but the Yankees are quite well equipped to handle a nasty surprise. Oswald Peraza is likely the eventual heir to either LeMahieu or Torres, and will probably serve as the primary infield backup so long as his recovery from a shoulder injury goes smoothly. Oswaldo Cabrera struggled in his sophomore season with the Yankees, but his power upside may make him viable at third, though he’s more likely to get playing time in the outfield.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Anthony Rendon497.260.357.418.3398.5-1.2-3.82.2
Luis Rengifo119.259.320.421.3210.2-0.1-0.40.4
Brandon Drury42.247.298.441.316-0.1-0.1-0.20.1
Ehire Adrianza14.232.305.337.285-0.4-0.0-0.2-0.0
Michael Stefanic14.272.355.361.3200.0-0.00.00.0
Hunter Dozier14.219.288.380.291-0.3-0.0-0.3-0.0
Total700.258.344.417.3327.9-1.6-4.92.8

The Angels, their fans, and Anthony Rendon aren’t exactly in the midst of a torrid love affair, but he represents the best chance the club has for third base to be a plus position in 2024. If he actually gets the number of plate appearances above, a lot of the controversy surrounding him will probably fade away, especially if his power comes back. The projections aren’t banking on him returning to the days when he hit 25-30 dingers a season, but he remains one of the most disciplined hitters around, and a healthy year could return his batting average to sunnier climes.

ZiPS only projects Rendon to play in 55 games, and I have a hard time disagreeing with the computer, given that he’ll be 34 and has played 148 games in total over the last three seasons. Third base is a highly competitive position, and in a scenario with only 200 PA from Rendon, the Angels would plummet in these rankings. If you distribute that playing time to the rest of the depth chart in proportion to their current projected playing time, the total WAR would drop to 2.1, which is good (or bad) for 25th out of 30 teams.

Luis Rengifo has shown more power in the majors than expected, but he’s not defensively impressive anywhere, and that includes third base. He’s a valuable utility player, but if he were the Angels’ full-time third baseman, he would not push them toward that elusive playoff appearance.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Josh Jung609.254.306.448.3231.9-2.32.52.5
Ezequiel Duran56.253.301.422.311-0.4-0.2-0.10.1
Josh Smith21.238.336.378.317-0.0-0.00.00.1
Justin Foscue14.239.324.399.317-0.0-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.253.307.443.3221.4-2.52.42.7

Josh Jung’s brief 2022 return to the majors from a torn labrum had decidedly mixed results, but a much better full season in 2023 eliminated most of those misgivings, at least until a broken thumb that ruined the second half of his season until his solid playoff run. For most of the first half of the season, Jung looked like the favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year award, as he hit .280/.331/.504 and made the All-Star team.

Given his short track record and long injury history, it’s perhaps not surprising to see a bit of a downswing in his projections, but even with some algorithmic pessimism, it’s still enough for the Rangers to be solidly average in the projections. Of the players ranked 10th or worse, I think Jung is the one with the best chance to “go Austin Riley” and finish in the top five, especially as his defense showed few cobwebs from the missed time. The biggest question is whether he can improve his plate discipline, at least incrementally, as he’s a rather free swinger with a below-average contact rate.

Should Jung get bitten by the injury bug again, the Rangers are surprisingly well-equipped to handle a loss. Ezequiel Duran isn’t much with the glove but he has some good pop to go with his versatility. The projection systems have both Josh Smith and Justin Foscue with a wRC+ around 100, which is well above what one usually sees for the backup talent at third.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Max Muncy511.220.342.443.3399.5-0.9-6.22.2
Chris Taylor91.228.316.390.308-0.70.10.10.3
Enrique Hernández70.235.300.384.298-1.1-0.1-0.30.1
Miguel Rojas14.252.304.362.292-0.3-0.00.10.0
Miguel Vargas14.248.331.412.3240.1-0.0-0.10.1
Total700.224.333.427.3307.6-1.0-6.42.6

Max Muncy is a known commodity at this point. He does two things very well: drawing walks and hitting balls far. If you can only do two things, those are pretty good things to pick! Muncy’s return to 36 homers in 2023 was a bit of good news after his homer tally dropped to 21 in 2022, and his 85 walks were enough to get his OBP into an acceptable range despite him barely winning his fight with the Mendoza Line. While he didn’t match Kyle Schwarber, a similar type of hitter, in round-trippers, Muncy’s glove at his position is (relatively) better at merely below average, rather than resembling a Jonathan Swift satire.

Muncy turns 34 before the season ends, so the organization has some long-term questions to answer at third. The Dodgers appear to have soured on the possibility of Miguel Vargas as a future answer, but at least in the short-term, Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernández are around to fill in for Muncy when needed. Muncy may be a limited player on the backside of his career, but Los Angeles should be somewhere around average here in 2024. Unless that is, they somehow figure out how to have Mookie Betts play every infield position simultaneously.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Jeimer Candelario350.255.332.455.3383.0-0.6-1.01.5
Noelvi Marte224.267.331.416.324-0.7-0.2-1.10.6
Spencer Steer84.258.340.443.3400.8-0.10.10.4
Elly De La Cruz35.244.308.439.319-0.30.1-0.10.1
Jonathan India7.254.348.419.3360.0-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.259.331.440.3332.9-0.7-2.22.6

I can’t remember another instance where the top four players at a position on our depth charts all had starting spots in the lineup, though sadly, there’s also no real way to check. Noelvi Marte was slated with to get the majority of the playing time at third, with Spencer Steer becoming the thirftfielder, Jeimer Candelario playing thirdst base and thresignated hitter, and Elly De La Cruz the starting thirdtstop, but then a PED suspension made him unavailable for 80 games.

Candelario had a marvelous 2023 season and will now get the majority of the playing time at his natural position. ZiPS is more optimistic about him than Steamer or THE BAT, but all the projection systems see some regression toward the mean. And I think it’s understandable, given that Candelario’s had a rather up-and-down career; 2021 and 2023 are a big positive mark on his record, but he also has two other full seasons where he was replacement level.

The silver lining on the Marte suspension is that I’ve never found any evidence that projections shoot high on players coming off PED suspensions (make of that what you will). He probably has as much upside as he looked to have at the end of 2023. The big question for him now that he’s off shortstop is when some of his potential power will become actual power.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Patrick Wisdom245.210.296.445.317-0.4-0.4-1.50.7
Nick Madrigal196.282.334.376.313-1.0-0.32.00.8
Christopher Morel189.243.311.466.3322.0-0.0-0.70.8
Michael Busch49.243.325.428.3270.3-0.1-0.00.2
Miles Mastrobuoni21.257.334.364.310-0.20.0-0.00.1
Total700.243.314.427.3200.8-0.7-0.22.6

Chicago’s depth chart at third base is complex. Four players on the roster could grab the lion’s share of the playing time without anyone batting an eye at the result.

Patrick Wisdom grabbed the majority of the reps at third in 2022, but he’s a well below-average defensive player. Already on the wrong side of 30, he may have the shortest future remaining of any of the team’s plausible options and is currently managing a few injuries.

Nick Madrigal doesn’t profile as the typical third baseman, having less power than a 1989 Yugo. But he’s a good example of counter-programming, with by far the best contact skills of the quartet, and he’s the only one who you actually want to see playing defense at third. Madrigal may not hit 20 homers over the rest of the decade, but he brings enough to the table overall that he’ll get a lot of playing time no matter how the Cubs sort out Wisdom, Christopher Morel, and Michael Busch.

Morel is perhaps the most interesting option, with some overlap with Wisdom’s skill set. Only needing 107 games to hit 26 homers in 2023, Morel may have the most power upside of anyone on the team. Don’t be fooled by his listed weight of 145 pounds; I’d be surprised if he were under 180 pounds these days. Like Wisdom, Morel’s glove at third is a weak point, and the team just hasn’t been confident enough about him there to commit to him as the starter.

Questions about position also simmer around Busch, who was picked up from the Dodgers in a January trade. Busch has the advantage of being the only left-handed hitter of the four, but it looks like he’ll play more DH and first base than third.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Jake Burger511.251.309.471.3324.6-1.0-2.22.1
Jon Berti168.255.327.368.306-2.10.6-0.30.4
Vidal Bruján14.244.311.368.299-0.3-0.0-0.00.0
Jonah Bride7.239.339.365.314-0.0-0.00.00.0
Total700.252.313.444.3252.2-0.4-2.52.6

The Marlins managed to just squeeze into the playoffs in 2023 and Jake Burger is one of the players most responsible for getting them over the top. After hitting for power and little else for the White Sox, the Marlins picked him up on the cheap and he responded by hitting .303/.355/.505 the rest of the way.

But can he do that again? The Magic 8-Ball is a bit cloudy on this one, as his .303 average with the Marlins was less the result of some new found approach at the plate and more a product of a .354 BABIP that will be hard for him to replicate in 2024. Burger should still hit the homers, but he’s a free-swinger who won’t draw a lot of walks, and his glove is middling at best.

There’s not a lot of organizational pressure on Burger, either. Jon Berti is fast — I loved using him in MLB the Show 23 for this reason — but the Marlins aren’t going to be quick to hand Burger’s job over to a 34-year-old utility guy. They have far bigger problems in the lineup to worry about.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Yoán Moncada602.251.325.409.3191.0-0.91.02.4
Nicky Lopez49.244.316.316.284-1.30.00.40.1
Danny Mendick28.245.310.359.296-0.5-0.00.20.1
Mike Moustakas21.227.288.381.290-0.5-0.1-0.10.0
Total700.250.322.399.315-1.3-1.01.42.5

Watching the White Sox play baseball in 2024 might feel a lot like being a character in a baseball-themed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but Yoán Moncada represents one of the few sources of hope on the roster. Moncada had a huge 2019 breakout and then a nice second helping of success in 2021, but he has been bedeviled by injuries since then and has struggled to hit even when healthy. But he’s still in his 20s, so the idea that his performance could come back around if he could just stay healthy is more than mere wishcasting.

That being said, Moncada comes with a lot of risks that the projection systems are taking into account, even as they forecast he’ll put up a wRC+ around 100, better than either of the last two seasons. Think of it this way: If Moncada’s bounce back were a high-probability event, the team probably would have traded him this winter rather than pay him $24.8 million.

If Moncada doesn’t work out, then, well, third base won’t work out. Nicky Lopez is only a major leaguer because of his ability to play shortstop well, and Danny Mendick was last seen with a .509 OPS for the Mets. As for Mike Moustakas, let’s just say it’s not an auspicious sign when you see a player on the depth chart and experience mild surprise that he didn’t retire over the winter.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
J.D. Davis511.244.330.405.3225.3-1.6-1.52.1
Abraham Toro91.243.315.388.308-0.1-0.2-0.20.3
Aledmys Díaz56.240.292.369.287-1.0-0.2-0.60.0
Jordan Diaz21.248.290.391.294-0.3-0.0-0.30.0
Darell Hernaiz14.247.301.356.289-0.2-0.00.00.0
Brett Harris7.230.304.348.289-0.1-0.00.00.0
Total700.244.323.398.3153.5-2.1-2.52.5

J.D. Davis was a surprise late entrant into free agency this spring thanks to the Giants cutting him after signing Matt Chapman. Davis quickly signed a 1-year, $2.5 million contract with the Oakland A’s and has a clear path to getting the vast majority of the playing time at third.

Davis is a tricky player to use for a few reasons. First, he doesn’t have much in the way of platoon splits, limiting his utility in a situational role. Second, there’s a good bit of uncertainty surrounding how acceptable his defense is. Davis had the best OAA of his career in 2023 at +4 runs, the first positive number in his big league tenure, but his DRS was typically bleak. This would be less of a big deal if he were a powerhouse offensive player, but he’s a career .738 OPS hitter who is likely entering his decline phase.

Davis has moderate power that was hindered by Oracle Park, but the Whatever-It’s-Called-This-Year Coliseum won’t do him any favors either. He’s in Oakland to be a stopgap third base option who will be more acceptable than a replacement-level player, and he’ll fill that role well in 2024. So well, in fact, that I would be surprised if Davis is still wearing green and gold on August 1.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Sal Frelick273.269.338.390.319-0.4-0.11.51.1
Andruw Monasterio154.247.329.356.305-2.0-0.30.60.4
Joey Ortiz147.254.308.393.305-2.0-0.11.20.5
Tyler Black63.239.341.389.3230.10.0-0.10.2
Owen Miller28.248.302.374.294-0.6-0.0-0.10.0
Oliver Dunn21.210.307.359.295-0.5-0.00.10.0
Vinny Capra7.245.327.360.305-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
Christian Arroyo7.242.288.382.289-0.2-0.00.00.0
Total700.256.327.381.311-5.6-0.63.32.3

If you haven’t paid much attention to the Brewers this spring, you might do a double-take upon seeing Sal Frelick’s name on this depth chart and assume that a FanGraphs employee is guilty of a typographical error somewhere. But it’s accurate; with an outfield of Christian Yelich, Jackson Chourio, and Garrett Mitchell, the Brewers got creative in trying to find playing time for Frelick. The erstwhile outfielder has played third base before, though not since summer ball back in college.

From a developmental standpoint, this is a key year for Frelick. A first-round draft pick in 2021, he impressed with solid contact skills in his first two professional seasons but lost a lot of momentum in 2023 after a slow start for Nashville and then a thumb injury that cost him nearly two months of the season. Jackson Chourio now has first dibs on center field, so Frelick, if he remains a Brewer, will either need to provide enough offense to play in a corner, find additional usefulness at third (and second), or end up being a fourth outfielder.

He may not have much time to impress the Brewers, either. With Willy Adames still on the roster, third base is the natural place to play Joey Ortiz (he’ll also see time at second), recently acquired in the Corbin Burnes trade. Tyler Black is also projected to be the best third base option offensively, and the Brewers will justifiably try to find playing time for him if he mashes at Nashville again.

Andruw Monasterio is in the mix as well, but his place in the depth charts is mostly due to the Brewers likely playing Ortiz and Black in the minors if they’re not starting for the parent club. While he was a solid utility player in 2023, he’s up against three solid prospects for playing time, and success for him will probably be defined by holding off Owen Miller and Christian Arroyo.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Josh Rojas308.233.307.352.291-4.80.9-0.20.7
Luis Urías287.234.327.387.3151.3-0.60.41.2
Dylan Moore70.213.313.383.306-0.20.00.30.3
Brian Anderson28.220.302.363.293-0.4-0.10.00.1
Ty France7.267.341.413.3300.1-0.00.00.0
Total700.231.316.371.303-4.00.30.62.3

The Mariners can’t complain too much about how Eugenio Suárez played in his two years in Seattle, but with the organization facing the prospect of having to pay him $11 million in 2024, he was involved in a salary dump for the second time in three seasons and headed to the Diamondbacks.

Still without an obvious successor to Corey’s Brother, the M’s acquired Jorge Polanco to play second base, practically guaranteeing a timeshare between Josh Rojas and Luis Urías at third. They can likely replace Suárez’s glove, but neither has his power upside.

If the projections are to be believed, team president Jerry Dipoto may come out on the positive end of this swap. After all, the computers all have some mathematical anxiety about Suárez’s future, enough that the Diamondbacks slot in below the Mariners in these rankings. If anything, the complaints aren’t about the trade and reshuffling itself, but the fact that self-imposed payroll constraints kept the M’s from pursuing Matt Chapman or Jeimer Candelario.

Whatever you think of Matt Chapman, the Blue Jays face a pretty serious positional downgrade at third base in 2024, a dangerous development for a contender. While I’ve long been a fan of Justin Turner (and am still in disbelief he was never in Game of Thrones), he’s nearing the end of his career. He still provided decent offensive output in 2023, with a 114 wRC+ for the Red Sox, but he’s aging out of the position and, due to the presence of Rafael Devers, played very little at third. I wouldn’t want to put too much money on him being in the black in terms of defensive runs this year.

But I’d also prefer to see him starting at third over Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Last season, the Yankees found creative ways to deploy IKF all over the field in order to get him playing time, and he responded by finding creative ways to make outs. While a decent enough stopgap shortstop at his best, Kiner-Falefa simply doesn’t have the bat or glove to be more than a bottom-tier third baseman.

None of the other options are very compelling. Santiago Espinal had a moment a few years ago, but his bat has slipped since and he spent much of 2023 fighting hamstring injuries. Cavan Biggio is purely a role player and Eduardo Escobar looks about done. If Turner doesn’t work out, I’d prefer the Blue Jays try to shoot the moon and go with one of the more out there options, like seeing if Ernie Clement can handle the position and hit in the majors, or if a healthier Addison Barger can recapture his 2022 mojo.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Brett Baty448.246.318.407.3171.1-1.2-0.81.6
Mark Vientos126.241.306.440.3190.6-0.3-0.00.5
Joey Wendle112.240.286.357.280-3.1-0.0-0.60.0
Zack Short7.193.300.322.280-0.2-0.00.00.0
Ronny Mauricio7.246.289.402.296-0.1-0.00.00.0
Total700.244.310.404.311-1.7-1.6-1.42.2

If you want to get into a fight on social media, say something nice about Brett Baty or Mark Vientos with a Mets fan listening. The Mets stunk in 2023 for myriad reasons, but both prospects contributed their share of the sadness with abysmal offensive seasons in Queens.

Baty was arguably the team’s biggest disappointment, showing little of the power expected from him in the majors and looking pretty bad in terms of plate discipline. The Mets were still starting him in September, but that was mainly because their season was effectively over, and Vientos didn’t give the team any real reason to want to start him there instead.

Like Baty, Vientos raked in the minors last year, but a .211/.253/.367 line with the Mets was enough to raise a lot of questions about his future. Steamer is the only one of our projection systems to forecast him with a wRC+ of 100 and he may not have enough glove to stick at third base with that projection, let alone carry the offensive requirements to play first base or designated hitter.

While we project the Mets to have some chance of making the playoffs, the team wasn’t able to cobble together a passable rotation in the offseason, and 2024 is more likely a retooling season than a competitive one. Understood in those terms, it makes sense to roll with Baty and Vientos and see if one of them works out. If both of them end up in the minors — which is very possible — Joey Wendle’s around to slot into the lineup.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Alec Bohm525.274.330.423.3251.8-1.5-2.71.7
Edmundo Sosa140.247.298.391.299-2.5-0.11.10.4
Whit Merrifield21.255.303.371.293-0.50.0-0.00.0
Rodolfo Castro14.220.289.389.294-0.3-0.0-0.10.0
Total700.267.322.414.319-1.5-1.5-1.72.2

As a prospect, Alec Bohm was expected to have decent power upside, but that has not come to pass; he only hit 22 homers in 766 minor league plate appearances and is only at 16 per 162 games in the majors so far. Bohm did manage to hit 20 homers in 2023 and drive in plenty of runs, but it was still only enough to net him a run-of-the-mill .437 slugging percentage. While he’s made great strides as a contact hitter, to the point that he’s probably better at hitting for contact than power, it hasn’t been enough to get his wRC+ comfortably over the century mark. And without a standout glove at third or even at first base, where he frequently fills in, that’s not enough to get the position out of the bottom third.

Sosa’s likely the better defensive player and showed a bit of an uptick in power in 2023, but he’s not a serious threat to Bohm’s playing time. Whit Merrifield at third would have been an interesting option three or four years ago, but he’s 35 and nearing the end of the string, and he has little experience playing the hot corner besides. Aidan Miller is probably the closest realistic challenge to Bohm at third base, but he’s years away. Put it all together and Bohm likely has a firmer grip on the third base job than any other starter playing for a team in the bottom third of these rankings.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Maikel Garcia518.264.325.371.306-7.0-0.45.11.7
Garrett Hampson112.244.309.351.292-2.80.2-0.40.1
Nick Loftin63.258.318.388.309-0.7-0.1-0.00.2
Mike Brosseau7.235.305.392.305-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.260.321.370.304-10.6-0.34.72.0

With Bobby Witt Jr. proving that he can play shortstop, Maikel Garcia shifted over to third base in 2023 and quickly seized the vast majority of the playing time there. A more-than-capable shortstop, the expectation was that Garcia’s defense would be a big plus at third and that’s precisely what happened. With an RAA of +10, he ranked second in baseball and managed that feat in fewer innings than anyone else in the top five.

The problem is that while Garcia keeps runs off the scoreboard, he doesn’t add many of his own to the tally. If Garcia can’t take a big step forward with the bat, his upside is extremely limited; with an 84 wRC+ in 2023, he had to be one of the best defensive players around just to get to 1.9 WAR. Now, he’s young enough that he might take that step forward, but the middle class of the league-wide third base depth chart is deep, and he has too many maybe-if-coulds to join them at this time.

Beyond Garcia, these Royals don’t have an heir or a spare. Garrett Hampson is next up for playing time, and until they settle regulation ties in the majors by footrace, he doesn’t have much to contribute at third; he was unable to put up even superficially good offensive numbers playing at Coors. You might be optimistic about Nick Loftin given his .270/.344/.444 line at Triple-A and solid cup of coffee, but offense is way up in the minors right now and that triple slash only came to a wRC+ of 96 for Omaha (ZiPS translate it as an 80 wRC+ in the majors).

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Gio Urshela294.277.322.410.316-0.0-1.0-0.41.0
Zach McKinstry168.242.313.385.305-1.5-0.1-1.10.4
Matt Vierling154.257.322.389.311-0.7-0.4-0.30.4
Andy Ibáñez56.260.318.408.316-0.0-0.1-0.40.2
Jace Jung21.226.308.382.301-0.3-0.00.10.1
Colt Keith7.257.320.431.3230.0-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.261.319.399.312-2.5-1.6-2.22.0

The Tigers got very little production out of third base last year, with the team’s third basemen combining to hit .214/.294/.329, good for -1.0 WAR, which was better than only the Mets. Adding insult to injury is the fact that this is a position where the Tigers have basically given away production over the last decade. They got very little in return for Eugenio Suárez or Isaac Paredes, and non-tendered Jeimer Candelario right before his comeback season.

Detroit will likely be happier with their third basemen this season, but 2024 will probably still serve as a transitional season while they search for a solution. One of Jace Jung or Colt Keith will probably be the starter in 2025 or 2026, but for now, the team is content to cobble together some lesser options. Gio Urshela, signed to a one-year contract, will likely get the majority of the playing time, with Zach McKinstry or Matt Vierling filling in. The team’s dream scenario is that Jung dominates Triple-A and clears the field in July, but that’s still a bit uncertain.

Third base has been a long-term issue for the Diamondbacks. Indeed, the last time they finished somewhere better than the bottom third in team WAR at the position was 2019, the year Eduardo Escobar hit 35 homers and led the league in triples. Since Escobar’s falloff, the position has been manned by a motley crew of fringe prospects and veterans on their way out: Asdrúbal Cabrera, Josh VanMeter, Josh Rojas, Evan Longoria, and Emmanuel Rivera, among others. Without a long-term solution, the Snakes picked up Eugenio Suárez from the Mariners in exchange for Carlos Vargas and Seby Zavala.

How you feel about Suárez may come down to where you stand on his defense. He put up solid WAR for the Mariners last year, but some of that comes down to some surprisingly good OAA numbers, far better than he had ever put up before. And there was disagreement between the different metrics, with UZR and DRS placing him in the usual “meh” category. The projection systems are on the skeptical side.

Suárez is no longer the offensive force he was in his prime and as he enters his age-32 season (he turns 33 in July), he’s firmly on the downside of his career. If he can crank out one last 130 wRC+ campaign — he did manage that mark in 2022 — the Diamondbacks will be happy, but the projections factor in a lot of risks. There’s certainly a chance Arizona acquired Suárez a year too late.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Ryan McMahon588.242.324.427.325-8.5-1.25.51.8
Alan Trejo56.248.295.408.303-1.8-0.10.10.0
Elehuris Montero35.254.310.452.326-0.5-0.10.10.1
Aaron Schunk14.242.288.369.285-0.7-0.00.1-0.0
Coco Montes7.243.307.400.308-0.2-0.00.00.0
Total700.243.321.425.323-11.7-1.45.81.9

It’s kind of funny how Ryan McMahon ended up being a very different type of player than he appeared to be as a prospect. Back in those days, few questioned McMahon’s offensive credentials but evaluators worried about where his glove would play in the majors. But he turned out to be more than acceptable at third, to the point that he might have already snagged a Gold Glove or two if not for the fact he plays in the same league as Arenado and Hayes.

The problem instead has generally been his bat, which doesn’t match the standards at the position for someone who plays half his games at Coors Field. McMahon is a career .216/.303/.358 hitter outside of Denver, and that’s just not going to cut it at a weak position. He might already have seen his playing time start to disappear on a better team, but there’s little threat to him on the Rockies. Adael Amador’s a top prospect, but he’s more likely to replace Brendan Rodgers eventually, not McMahon. Truth be told, I doubt the Rockies even consider McMahon or third base a problem. He’s under contract through 2027 if he doesn’t opt out.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Nick Senzel392.231.296.346.284-12.0-0.6-3.7-0.2
Ildemaro Vargas147.256.303.374.294-3.3-0.31.10.3
Trey Lipscomb77.241.272.355.272-3.1-0.10.2-0.0
Brady House49.238.284.372.285-1.5-0.1-0.10.0
Jake Alu35.257.312.387.304-0.5-0.00.20.1
Total700.239.295.357.286-20.4-1.1-2.30.3

If you have any doubts that Carter Kieboom is Kabooming — in the bad Wile E. Coyote sense rather than the good Parks and Recreation type — the former top prospect was outrighted off the 40-man roster last week, indicating that he’s not in the team’s plans, at least in the near future. Nor do the Nats appear to have much interest in Jake Alu, who struggled in his debut last season and is rather old to be considered a prospect.

To replace one former top prospect who didn’t quite pan out, the Nats appear to be turning to another in the form of Nick Senzel, who was non-tendered by the Reds this winter. Whereas Senzel was probably about 10th on the Cincy depth chart at third, he’s the most likely player to man the position for the Nationals. He’s no longer young enough to have much in the way of upside, and he’ll likely only be at the position until Washington finds someone more interesting.

That more interesting player-to-be-named-later may be Brady House, the no. 11 pick in the 2021 draft. House might have seized the job if he had absolutely raked in the spring, but he has very little experience in the high minors and is still very much a “see ball, hit ball” player at this stage of his career. If House does take a step forward offensively, especially from a plate discipline standpoint, he could very quickly push Senzel back into a utility role.

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