2015 Positional Power Rankings: Third Base

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data below is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems, with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position.

Yes, we know WAR is imperfect and there is more to player value than is wrapped up in that single projection, but for the purposes of talking about a team’s strengths and weaknesses, it is a useful tool. Also, the author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

There are a lot of words below, some on every single team in fact, but first a graph. Here is the FanGraphs Depth Charts projected WAR for every single team’s third base production in 2015. How Braves fans must long for the days of Chipper Jones.

2015-Third-Base-Positional-WAR (1)

Despite losing Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Zimmerman in recent seasons, third base is a strong group at the top with five of the top 20 position players according to the FanGraphs Depth Chart Projections. The group maintains its strength in the middle before tapering off near the end. Third base has a mix of veterans with soon to be 36 year-old Adrian Beltre along Evan Longoria in his eighth season, but also has several young players set to produce now and in the future with 24-year-old Anthony Rendon, 23-year-old Kris Bryant, and 22-year-old Manny Machado showing incredible promise for the hot corner.

#1 Blue Jays


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Josh Donaldson 630 .265 .339 .470 .355 17.9 -0.3 9.6 5.5
Danny Valencia 70 .246 .283 .402 .301 -0.9 -0.2 -0.4 0.1
Total 700 .263 .334 .463 .349 17.0 -0.5 9.2 5.6

Just like at catcher, the Blue Jays made a major jump up the positional rankings at third base by going outside the organization, in this case by trading for Josh Donaldson. The Blue Jays third baseman did not play his first season until he was 27 years old, but has produced at an incredibly high level, following up his seven-win 2013 with a six-win 2014. Our projections have him with another above average season at the plate and in the field. Only Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, and Buster Posey are projected for more wins than Donaldson in 2015. Danny Valencia isn’t particularly adept in the field or at the plate, but if he could get most of his plate appearances against lefthanders his production at the plate should be positive. In 552 career plate appearance against lefthanders, his wRC+ is 138.

#2 Orioles


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Manny Machado 595 .279 .320 .443 .335 8.5 -0.6 16.0 5.0
Ryan Flaherty   70 .228 .286 .376 .293 -1.3 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Jimmy Paredes 35 .240 .271 .361 .278 -1.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .272 .314 .432 .328 6.2 -0.5 15.8 5.1

Despite injuries that have slowed him, Manny Machado has nearly 10 wins before the age of 23. When healthy, he might be the best third baseman in all of baseball. Much of his value has derived from his defense so if injuries begin to take their toll, his value could suffer. He has never hit more than 15 home runs or gotten on base more than one-third of the time, but an above average season at the plate together with his superlative defense make him one of the best players in the game. Ryan Flaherty has a decent glove, but his .287 career wOBA in 750 plate appearance means it is very important that Manny Machado plays the whole year at third.

#3 Rangers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Adrian Beltre 630 .298 .352 .478 .359 18.2 -1.4 6.1 5.0
Adam Rosales 49 .235 .290 .351 .287 -1.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Ryan Rua 21 .240 .292 .378 .298 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .292 .345 .466 .352 16.5 -1.4 6.0 5.1

The first thing that should be brought up when it comes to Adrian Beltre is his skill, but his age sticks out the most. Nearly 36 years old, Beltre will be shooting for his sixth straight season of at least five wins after averaging about three wins per season in his five years in Seattle. Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano are the only other players who have at least five wins in each of the last five seasons. The projection systems show confidence that Beltre can keep the streak alive in 2015.

With Yu Darvish going down with an injury, Beltre could be the lone bright spot on a struggling team or a key trade chip for a team who needs help in July. Between Triple-A and Texas last season, Rosales did hit 11 home runs, but with a .116 career ISO, that burst appears to have been isolated to 2014. If Beltre gets injured or the Rangers and Beltre agree to a trade, prospect Joey Gallo is likely to receive a look. As long as Beltre is in the fold, Gallo will have to look for another position for playing time this year.

#4 Nationals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Anthony Rendon   630 .278 .347 .459 .354 18.1 1.5 3.8 4.9
Kevin Frandsen 35 .266 .305 .344 .290 -0.7 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 665 .277 .345 .453 .351 17.4 1.4 3.6 4.9

After enduring some growing pains and making a tough transition to second base in 2013, Rendon broke out in 2014 playing most of the year at third base after Ryan Zimmerman went down with an injury. He hit .287/.351/.473 in 2014 along with good defense, leading to a 6.5 WAR. Adam Laroche’s departure paved the way for Ryan Zimmerman to move to a position requiring considerably less throwing.

Still just 24, expectations are very high going into 2015. Among National League players with at least 20 home runs in 2014, only Buster Posey and Matt Holliday struck out at a lower rate than Rendon’s 15.2%. In 2012, Kevin Frandsen hit .338/.383/.451 for the Phillies in 210 plate appearance. He has not given commentators much to talk about since then, proving himself to be a replacement level utility player.

#5 Rays


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Evan Longoria 630 .255 .331 .443 .337 14.8 -0.4 6.4 4.8
Logan Forsythe 70 .228 .300 .343 .289 -0.9 0.0 -0.6 0.1
Total 700 .252 .328 .433 .332 13.9 -0.4 5.8 4.9

Evan Longoria was good but not great in 2014 as he saw his walk rate decline for the fourth straight season down to 8.3%. His BABIP at .285 was about 15 points below his career average, but it was not the major factor in his hitting decline last season. Longoria’s slugging dropped from .494 to .404 and his ISO dropped from .230 to .151. Longoria is in his eighth year in the majors, but he still enters the season at 29 years old.

Longoria’s 107 wRC+ and 3.5 WAR in 2014 were slightly disappointing, but his projections see a rebound closer to career averages. He still has seven years left on his contract, but he is making just $11 million in 2015 and would likely be a bargain at twice the price. Logan Forsythe is a rough approximation of Ben Zobrist in that he plays roughly the same positions as Zobrist. The comparisons end there, unfortunately.

#6 Yankees


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Chase Headley 595 .255 .341 .417 .336 8.7 -0.4 7.0 4.0
Alex Rodriguez 56 .231 .311 .386 .310 -0.3 -0.2 -0.1 0.2
Brendan Ryan 49 .208 .270 .279 .250 -2.5 0.0 0.7 0.0
Total 700 .250 .333 .404 .328 5.9 -0.6 7.5 4.2

Chase Headley’s career looked to be on the decline halfway through last season. His wRC+ had gone from 145 in 2012 to 114 in 2013 down to 90 at the time of his trade from the Padres to the Yankees. His solid defense made him a valuable player, but his offense picked up in a small sample for the Yankees. After hitting .262/.371/.398 in 224 plate appearances, the Yankees rewarded him with a four-year contract worth $52 million.

It might be tempting to wish on a big offensive year after finally leaving Petco as home park, but his road line over the past two years of .237/.324/.374 and wRC+ of 97 is actually worse than his home line of .255/.350/.399 and wRC+ of 119. Headley is an above average offensive player providing good defense at third base and that should continue in 2015. If you are not familiar with the Yankees backup third baseman, I am happy to welcome you in your quest to learn about the game of baseball. I hope you enjoy the game as much as I do. It is truly a great sport.

#7 Mariners


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Kyle Seager 616 .262 .328 .431 .335 12.2 -0.5 2.1 3.9
Willie Bloomquist 49 .268 .302 .341 .285 -0.9 -0.1 -0.6 0.0
Brad Miller 35 .249 .308 .387 .308 0.0 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .261 .325 .422 .330 11.3 -0.6 1.4 4.1

In 2001, major league hitters hit .264/.332/.427. In 2015, Kyle Seager is projected to hit .262/.328/.431 and have a well above average wRC+ of 118. That line combined with slightly above average defense at third base and Seager will be a four-win player. He has been worth 13 wins over the past three seasons, and the Mariners rewarded him with a $100 million contract extension. He is the only third baseman with at least 20 home runs in each of the last three seasons. Whether it is more troublesome that Willie Bloomquist keeps showing up year after year or that one day he will stop doing whatever it is he does to show up is difficult to determine.

#8 Mets


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
David Wright 560 .275 .346 .425 .338 12.5 -0.2 2.4 3.7
Daniel Murphy   70 .282 .321 .398 .317 0.4 0.1 -1.0 0.2
Eric Campbell 70 .243 .319 .349 .302 -0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.2
Total 700 .272 .341 .415 .332 12.5 -0.2 1.4 4.1

Last season was the first time in David Wright’s 11-year career that he failed to reach double digit home runs. His 1.7 WAR was the first time he had ever qualified for the batting title and failed to produce three wins. David Wright has had a fantastic career with his 51.9 WAR eighth among active players and second to Miguel Cabrera for players under the age of 35. The 32-year-old lifetime Met has had to endure questions about his decline before and bounced back. A 1.8-win season in 2011 culminated a three-year run where he averaged under three wins per season. Wright rebounded with a wRC+ of 142 and 156 in 2012 and 2013 on the way to 6+-win seasons.

The projections split the difference between Wright’s subpar 2014 and the great seasons that preceded it. It becomes more difficult to recapture lost skills as he moves through his 30s. Daniel Murphy figures to get a few games worth of plate appearances from third base, where he should provide Wright’s 2014 statistics while Wright tries to get 2013 back.

#9 Athletics


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Brett Lawrie 560 .258 .317 .409 .322 5.6 0.7 4.9 3.4
Marcus Semien 35 .238 .314 .394 .315 0.1 0.0 -0.4 0.1
Ben Zobrist 35 .264 .350 .408 .336 0.7 0.0 0.2 0.2
Eric Sogard 35 .245 .307 .327 .286 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.1
Mark Canha 35 .239 .307 .376 .305 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .256 .318 .403 .320 5.7 0.7 4.7 4.0

The Oakland Athletics had perhaps the best third baseman in the game, but chose to move him along as Billy Beane reworked the roster. In the Donaldson trade, the A’s received Brett Lawrie. The former Blue Jay failed to reach a three-win season playing in parts of four years in Toronto, but he is still just 25 years old and the projections are optimistic he will improve. After two down seasons in the power department in 2012 and 2013, Lawrie did hit 12 home runs with a .174 ISO in half a season derailed by injuries last year. Even if the power is not sustainable over the course of the season, the expected increase over his .260 BABIP could see Lawrie as a solid above average regular in 2014.

A breakout is not as likely as it was heading into 2014, but there is still talent there and two of the players in the top ten similar hitters through Age 24 at Baseball-Reference had late breakouts in Edwin Encarnacion and Alex Gordon. Ben Zobrist and Ben Zobrist understudy Marcus Semian could see time at third-base this season, but if he’s healthy, Lawrie will get almost all the playing time.

#10 Red Sox


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Pablo Sandoval 595 .285 .337 .458 .346 12.3 -2.4 -0.1 3.4
Brock Holt 42 .268 .319 .358 .302 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.1
Hanley Ramirez 35 .281 .354 .462 .359 1.1 0.0 0.1 0.3
Garin Cecchini 28 .257 .324 .366 .309 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .283 .336 .449 .342 12.6 -2.3 0.0 3.9

Last season, Red Sox third basemen hit .211/.271/.308 for a wRC+ of 60, worst among all teams and nearly two wins below replacement level. The Red Sox spent $180 million on two third basemen, but with Hanley Ramirez moving to the outfield, Pablo Sandoval figures to get the bulk of the playing time at third base this season. His free-swinging, switch-hitting approach could make good use of the dimensions in Fenway Park after hitting in San Francisco for seven seasons.

The 28-year old Sandoval should be a major upgrade over Will Middlebrooks and company as the Red Sox addressed multiple holes on offense this winter. Brock Holt was average last season with the bat, but the projections do not see him holding those numbers in 2015.

#11 Rockies


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Nolan Arenado 630 .286 .326 .466 .345 2.6 -1.0 12.0 3.8
Daniel Descalso 49 .259 .327 .366 .307 -1.2 0.0 -0.4 0.0
Rafael Ynoa 21 .260 .306 .355 .295 -0.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .283 .326 .456 .341 0.6 -1.0 11.6 3.8

Nolen Arenado is excellent at third base defensively, finishing second in the Fielding Bible voting to Josh Donaldson last year. Offensively, he has had one terrible season and one above average season, with the solid season coming last year as he hit .287/.328/.500. Arenado’s slugging percentage and .213 ISO led all third baseman in those categories with a minimum of 450 plate appearances. Playing in Coors Field dampens his wRC+ as it only registered a 113 in 2014.

Arenado will turn 24 during the first month of the season and should have another productive season with the bat to go along with a great season with the glove. With Troy Tulowitzki, he may help form the most potent left side of the infield combination in all of baseball. Daniel Descalso was signed by the Rockies in the offseason because of his leadership abilities and his history of winning. This is evident in his projections.

#12 Cubs


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Kris Bryant 420 .258 .336 .499 .364 14.4 0.1 0.0 3.1
Tommy La Stella 175 .269 .337 .366 .315 -0.5 -0.3 -1.0 0.4
Mike Olt 105 .206 .284 .384 .297 -1.8 0.0 0.1 0.2
Total 700 .253 .329 .448 .341 12.1 -0.3 -0.9 3.8

That Kris Bryant will not likely make the Opening Day roster has been much discussed over the past few weeks and will likely continue to be a topic of conversation for a few more. He has had difficulty making it through Spring Training games without hitting a home run. After a brief stay in the minors, Bryant is expected to be called up and should make the majority of starts at third base for Chicago.

Dan Szymborksi has said the ZiPS projection for Bryant is the largest he has ever given for a rookie. The Depth Chart projections are not quite as optimistic, but the .499 slugging percentage projection is 14th in all of baseball. Somebody has to warm up the hot corner while Bryant stews in Iowa, and Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella will receive pats on the back for a job done once Bryant arrives.

#13 Cardinals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Matt Carpenter 560 .276 .363 .404 .342 12.3 0.4 -2.2 3.2
Mark Reynolds 105 .216 .309 .399 .315 0.1 -0.1 -0.7 0.3
Pete Kozma 35 .223 .282 .319 .268 -1.2 0.0 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .264 .351 .399 .335 11.3 0.2 -2.6 3.5

Matt Carpenter, like Josh Donaldson, had an incredible MVP-level year in 2013 playing in his first season. Unlike Donaldson, Carpenter could not quite repeat the act in 2014. After hitting 55 doubles and 73 extra-base hits in 2013, the numbers dropped to 33 doubles and 43 extra-base hits in 2014. A patient hitter in 2013, Carpenter upped the ante in 2014, going from a 10% walk rate to over 13% during the regular season before getting impatient with Clayton Kershaw and bouncing him from the playoffs.

Carpenter is above average with the bat without power. A carryover from the four-homer, four-double playoff performance would cause a return to the MVP candidate he was in 2013. Mark Reynolds has hit more than 20 home runs in seven consecutive seasons, and if he fails to reach that mark in 2015, it will not be for lack of effort as he has struck out in nearly 32% of plate appearances in his career.

#14 Pirates


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Josh Harrison 525 .281 .317 .434 .330 7.2 0.9 1.5 3.0
Sean Rodriguez 77 .238 .298 .387 .304 -0.5 0.0 -0.4 0.2
Justin Sellers 63 .231 .280 .320 .269 -2.1 0.0 0.1 0.0
Pedro Alvarez 35 .236 .309 .442 .327 0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.2
Total 700 .270 .311 .419 .321 5.0 0.9 1.2 3.3

Josh Harrison was a big surprise in 2014, hitting .315/.347/.490 on his way to a five-win season. Given his .353 BABIP and a .175 ISO that were previously unseen in his career, there is some skepticism that Harrison can repeat in 2015. He is still projected to be an above-average hitter, but with just a 4% walk rate, Harrison needs the hits to fall to be a valuable player. The Pirates moved a one-time potential fixture at third base in Pedro Alvarez over to first base after Harrison’s big season. Harrison logged time last year at every defensive position except for catcher, first base, and center field, but increased production has given him a fixed spot for the most part in 2015.

Alvarez is still around and might get a few starts from time to time. Sean Rodriguez is an all or nothing hitter in his eighth year in the league who has managed to get between 200 and 500 plate appearances in each of the past five seasons without ever qualifying for the batting title, even if said title was not a reasonable goal.

#15 Dodgers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Juan Uribe 420 .257 .297 .388 .301 -3.0 -1.1 10.0 2.2
Justin Turner 175 .277 .335 .394 .324 1.8 -0.2 -1.2 0.7
Alex Guerrero 70 .248 .297 .396 .307 -0.2 -0.1 -0.1 0.2
Enrique Hernandez 35 .245 .293 .371 .295 -0.4 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .260 .306 .390 .307 -1.8 -1.4 8.7 3.2

As far as we know, Juan Uribe is still the starter at third base for the Dodgers and could well be for most of the season. The Dodgers just signed Hector Olivera, who still has a lot of work to do to get in game action, but with Howie Kendrick at second base, Olivera could slide into third base if he proves he is ready. If not, the 36-year-old Juan Uribe will continue to do roughly an average job in Los Angeles.

While his shortstop days are behind him, the defensive metrics agree that Uribe is a very good third baseman with a career 19.3 UZR/150 and 32 DRS over the past two years. His wRC+ over the past two seasons has been 116 and 120, helping to achieve nearly nine wins over those two years. The projections are not expecting that to continue, but his fielding should still keep him average. Justin Turner could see a lot of time at third, supplementing Uribe’s averageness with some averageness of his own, but the Olivera signing complicates the situation for him.

#16 Reds


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Todd Frazier 490 .253 .320 .443 .335 6.5 0.6 1.8 2.8
Kristopher Negron 91 .214 .265 .336 .269 -3.5 0.2 -0.1 0.0
Brayan Pena 70 .253 .288 .354 .284 -1.8 -0.4 -0.2 0.0
Eugenio Suarez 49 .238 .299 .368 .298 -0.8 -0.1 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .247 .308 .414 .319 0.4 0.3 1.7 2.8

Todd Frazier has surrounded one average season in 2013 with two good offensive seasons in 2012 and 2014. He has averaged about 3 wins per season over those three years and that is right where the projections come in. He has proven to be a very savvy basestealer, moving when nobody seems to be paying attention to him. The strategy netted him 20 steals in 2014, but we will see if the league has caught on this year.

Frazier tied Josh Donaldson for the lead among third basemen with 29 home runs last season and was the only player in the majors last season with at least 25 home runs and 20 steals. The Reds need a lot of things to go right for them to contend in 2015, and Frazier playing a lot and playing well is a huge part of that. Kristofer Negron has 187 minor league stolen bases.

#17 Marlins


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Martin Prado 630 .277 .326 .396 .320 1.2 -1.1 1.8 2.5
Jeff Baker 70 .251 .299 .386 .301 -0.9 -0.2 -0.5 0.1
Total 700 .274 .323 .395 .318 0.3 -1.3 1.3 2.6

Martin Prado is a perfectly acceptable third basemen that the Yankees and Marlins are paying to play in Miami. Over the last two years, Prado’s wRC+ has been 104 and 103, respectively. Perhaps some by chance and some due to the inevitable slow decline of baseball players as they enter their 30s, Prado’s projected wRC+ for 2015 is 102. He has hit between 10 and 15 home runs in each of the past five years. His walk rate was a career low in 2014 at 4.5% while his strikeout rate was a career high at a still fairly low 14.0%.

Prado’s only below-average year offensively was in 2011 when he hit .260/.302/.385, but another could be on the way for the 31-year-old. In ten major league seasons, Jeff Baker has had five season below replacement level and five seasons above replacement level. In 2015, the tie will be broken.

#18 Royals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Mike Moustakas 560 .245 .299 .407 .311 -1.5 -0.6 3.4 2.3
Christian Colon 70 .258 .304 .349 .292 -1.2 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Ryan Roberts 56 .234 .293 .353 .288 -1.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Cheslor Cuthbert 14 .237 .283 .352 .282 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .245 .299 .396 .307 -4.2 -0.7 3.1 2.6

Mike Moustakas has now played in four major league seasons, the last three receiving at least 500 plate appearances. His career high in wRC+ is 90 and that came in 2012. There is scant evidence to believe that a breakout is on its way for the 26-year-old, but providing solid defense makes him roughly average at his position. He is projected to hit 17 home runs, but with a sub-.300 on-base percentage he is likely to be a burden on Kansas City’s offense.

Moustakas’ offensive projections are actually better than he has produced before, and if he continues to hit like he has, he should be a good candidate for replacement. Christian Colon has some speed, but he does not yet project to do much better than Moustakas with the bat.

#19 Indians


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Lonnie Chisenhall 490 .267 .321 .429 .330 7.7 -0.2 -5.1 2.2
Mike Aviles 140 .246 .276 .357 .280 -3.1 0.0 -0.5 0.1
Giovanny Urshela 42 .245 .277 .371 .285 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.1
Jose Ramirez 28 .258 .300 .354 .290 -0.4 0.0 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .261 .309 .408 .316 3.4 -0.2 -5.3 2.5

Cleveland has a young, talented team, but it is difficult to tell where Chisenhall fits in. He is young, at 26 years of age, and he is talented, given the .280/.343/.427 line he put up last season. However, he does not appear to possess a good glove. In almost 2400 innings at third base, he has been 14 runs below average per DRS and 17.6 runs below average per UZR.

Chisenhall’s bat can carry his glove, but his 163 wRC+ in the first half combined with a 68 wRC+ raises questions about him moving forward. Our projections give Chisenhall a solid 114 wRC+ with below average defensive. Combine the two, and he is just about average. Veteran Mike Aviles does not provide a lot and while Giovanny Urshela has a great name, not much is expected.

#20 Twins


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Trevor Plouffe 455 .251 .317 .418 .324 3.6 -0.8 -3.6 1.7
Miguel Sano 133 .230 .297 .456 .329 1.5 -0.1 -0.6 0.6
Eduardo Escobar 70 .255 .298 .367 .295 -1.0 0.0 -0.2 0.2
Eduardo Nunez 42 .255 .292 .366 .290 -0.8 0.1 -0.7 0.0
Total 700 .248 .309 .416 .320 3.3 -0.8 -5.1 2.5

Trevor Plouffe had made 1351 plate appearances before 2014 and hit .240/.300/.411 with a wRC+ of 94. His WAR stood below replacement level, and then he turned things around in 2014, hitting .258/.328/.423 with a wRC+ of 112 which gave him a very good season. Despite the solid season in 2014, the clocking is ticking for Plouffe.

Miguel Sano is just 21 years old and lost the entire 2014 to Tommy John surgery. However, his power is off the charts. Even missing the 2014 season does not dampen the power expectations in the projections with a .456 slugging and .226 ISO. It is possible that Kris Bryant is not the best third baseman to make his debut in 2015.

#21 Astros


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Luis Valbuena 490 .237 .323 .395 .319 2.2 -0.7 0.7 2.2
Matt Dominguez 196 .235 .280 .377 .290 -3.4 -0.6 -0.4 0.3
Marwin Gonzalez 14 .245 .288 .348 .283 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .237 .311 .389 .310 -1.5 -1.4 0.3 2.5

The Astros traded Dexter Fowler to get Luis Valbuena, a patient, low average, decent power third baseman. Valbuena’s career walk numbers (10.4%) are Matt Carpenter-like. His strikeout numbers (19.3%) are not on the Cardinals’ third baseman’s level leading to lower expectations in 2015.

Like Plouffe above, Valbuena did not break out until 2014. His career wRC+ is still a poor 88, but the 29-year-old had a very good 2014 season, hitting .249/.341/.435. Unlike Plouffe, Valbuena does not have a great prospect below him if he falters. Matt Dominguez hit .215/.256/.330 in 607 plate appearances last year. In part, it was that performance that caused the trade for Valbuena.

#22 Brewers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Aramis Ramirez 525 .272 .327 .433 .335 6.1 -3.1 -4.2 1.8
Luis Jimenez 140 .247 .278 .394 .294 -2.7 0.0 0.3 0.2
Jason Rogers 35 .244 .302 .392 .307 -0.3 0.0 -0.5 0.0
Total 700 .265 .316 .423 .326 3.1 -3.1 -4.4 2.1

As Aramis Ramirez comes to the end of his four years with the Brewers, the 36-year old will apparently also call it a career as he plans to retire at the end of the year. Ramirez provided the Brewers with one great year in 2012 as he hit .300/.360/.540 on the way to a 5.6 WAR season. He could not quite duplicate that performance as his prime was behind him, accumulating about 3 wins total in 2013 and 2014. More of the same is expected in 2015.

Ramirez should be good with the bat, and lacking with the glove to end a very good career. Currently at 369, with another ten home runs he will move into the top ten all time among third basemen. Luis Jimenez hit .286/.321/.505 in Triple-A for the Angels last season, but the 27-year-old’s projections do not provide much hope for the Brewers in 2015.

#23 Phillies


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Cody Asche 420 .255 .309 .410 .316 0.0 -0.1 -2.6 1.2
Maikel Franco 245 .252 .283 .429 .311 -0.9 -0.1 -0.2 0.8
Cesar Hernandez 35 .257 .303 .339 .287 -0.8 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .254 .300 .413 .313 -1.6 -0.2 -3.0 2.0

The Phillies have a lot of problems competitively in 2015. Third base is not expected to be a great help or hindrance this year. Cody Asche is slightly below average as a hitter. He is not a particularly good fielder, but he serves a purpose for the Phillies in 2015. He will not embarrass the team, but could lose playing time to prospect Maikel Franco. If the team decides to keep playing Ryan Howard at first, Franko could force Asche out of a starting role. Franko has promise and is probably already better than Asche and Howard at only 22 years of age. He figures to be a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season.

#24 Angels


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
David Freese 560 .255 .323 .381 .315 3.8 -2.4 -6.0 1.7
Josh Rutledge 70 .236 .284 .354 .284 -1.2 0.1 -0.6 0.1
Grant Green 70 .256 .293 .373 .295 -0.6 -0.1 -0.3 0.2
Total 700 .253 .317 .377 .310 2.0 -2.4 -6.8 2.0

World Series hero David Freese has never been able to recapture the magic he had in St. Louis, getting worse with the bat and in the field between his last year in St. Louis and his first year in Los Angeles last season. Freese emerged late after attending multiple colleges and getting a late start on his professional career. He will turn 32 in April and be a free agent at the end of the season.

Freese will need a big year at the plate to get a multi-year contract, but the projections do not see much improvement over his last two seasons. A repeat of his 106 wRC+ is reasonable. Josh Rutledge figures to see most of his time at second base, but he could move over to third base for handful of games.

#25 Diamondbacks


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jacob Lamb 385 .247 .304 .410 .314 -2.4 0.1 0.3 1.2
Yasmany Tomas 175 .261 .300 .452 .329 0.9 -0.2 -0.6 0.7
Jordan Pacheco 70 .250 .291 .338 .280 -2.2 -0.1 -0.8 -0.1
Brandon Drury 35 .235 .277 .373 .287 -0.9 0.0 0.1 0.0
Cliff Pennington 35 .247 .313 .345 .295 -0.7 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .250 .300 .408 .312 -5.3 -0.1 -0.9 1.9

The original plan was to have Yasmany Tomas play third base. He has not yet passed that test. Jacob Lamb could be the starter, but if rumors of Nick Ahmed taking over shortstop are true, then Chris Owings could get moved to second and Aaron Hill could be moved to third. The Diamondbacks plans might be in flux, and we certainly do not know them at this point.

Jacob Lamb looks like he will get a shot. He has decent power, hitting 19 home runs between the majors and minors last season. He struggled in his callup last season, but he only got 133 plate appearances so not much can be read into those statistics. He is projected as a slightly below average offensive player this year, and as Kiley McDaniel noted, he has “too much swing-and-miss to his game” to let all of his power out in games.

#26 Tigers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Nick Castellanos 553 .272 .320 .428 .328 5.1 -0.7 -11.4 1.4
Andrew Romine 119 .236 .288 .299 .265 -4.6 0.1 0.0 0.0
Miguel Cabrera 28 .312 .386 .544 .399 1.8 -0.1 0.0 0.3
Total 700 .268 .317 .411 .320 2.3 -0.7 -11.4 1.7

When the Tigers had Prince Fielder, they had one of the best offensive players in the game playing third base in Miguel Cabrera. After moving Fielder to the Rangers, Cabrera could play his more natural position at first base and designated hitter. That caused a major dropoff in production at third base from 2013 to 2014. That production figures to remain down in 2015. The Depth Charts projections have Castellanos improving from his difficult 2014 when he hit .259/.306/.394.

As a 21-year-old two years ago in Triple-A, he hit .276/.343/.450. Castellanos is younger than Kris Bryant and still has a lot of potential. Not much is expected of Castellanos this season, but if he can lower his 25% strikeout rate and show more of the power he showed in the minor leagues, he could surprise this year or next.

#27 White Sox


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Conor Gillaspie 385 .256 .316 .395 .313 -1.4 -0.4 -3.3 1.0
Gordon Beckham 231 .243 .296 .365 .294 -4.3 0.0 -0.7 0.4
Matt Davidson 49 .212 .281 .377 .292 -1.0 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Emilio Bonifacio 35 .248 .303 .329 .284 -0.9 0.2 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .248 .306 .380 .304 -7.6 -0.2 -4.2 1.4

The White Sox made a lot of improvements in the offseason, but the projected standings do not look good in the American League Central. Third base is one of the reasons for that pessimism. Conor Gillaspie put up a slightly above-average line of .282/.336/.416 in 2015. That was good enough to return to the job in 2015, although he is currently battling foot problems that could drag his line back below average. Our depth charts project essentially average offense and below average defense.

Third base is an area the White Sox could improve if they want to make a run in 2015. Gordon Beckham has returned to the team after a brief tour with the Angels at the end of 2014. Beckham’s record does not indicate he could handle a starting role. Matt Davidson will start the year in the minors after a lost 2014 season where he hit just .199/.283/.362. If he hits again in the minors, he could get another shot in the majors given the lack of obstacles in front of him.

#28 Giants


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Casey McGehee 560 .255 .321 .355 .303 -1.7 -2.6 -3.4 1.2
Joaquin Arias 105 .254 .282 .333 .270 -2.9 0.0 0.2 0.1
Adam Duvall 35 .224 .276 .384 .292 -0.4 0.0 -0.3 0.1
Total 700 .253 .313 .353 .297 -5.1 -2.5 -3.5 1.3

The Giants won the World Series, let Pablo Sandoval go, and brought in Casey McGehee to replace him. McGehee was surprisingly average in 2014 for the Marlins, hitting .287/.355/.357. Miami’s ballpark suppresses power, but he is not likley to fare any better in San Francisco. Out of 146 qualified hitters in 2014, McGehee’s ISO of .070 ranked 143rd. Joaquin Arias is a glove-first utility infielder who cannot hit. The Giants paid $4.8 million for McGehee. As free agent prices continue to climb, the Giants should still consider themselves lucky with McGehee if they get good value from him in 2015.

#29 Padres


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Will Middlebrooks 385 .227 .275 .372 .286 -6.6 -0.3 -0.3 0.6
Yangervis Solarte 280 .254 .312 .359 .299 -2.0 -0.3 -0.5 0.7
Cory Spangenberg 35 .243 .281 .343 .277 -0.9 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .239 .290 .365 .291 -9.4 -0.6 -1.1 1.3

Like the White Sox, the Padres made a lot of moves in the offseason, but they have left themselves bare at third base. Will Middlebrooks was very bad in 2014 while Yangervis Solarte made the most of his first opportunity for playing time after seven years in the minors. Middlebrooks will get a chance to revive his career after hitting .191/.256/.265 in 234 plate appearances last year. His strikeout rate is above 26% for his career without the power numbers to make it worthwhile.

Solarte avoids strikeouts like Middlebrooks attracts them. With a 9.9% walk rate and a 10.8% strikeout rate, if Solarte could get a few more balls to drop after a .275 BABIP in 2014, he could surprise again in 2015. The projections see Solarte as slightly below average, but for the Padres, that could be their best option by a decent margin.

#30 Braves


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Chris Johnson 420 .268 .305 .391 .306 -2.9 -0.8 -6.8 0.4
Alberto Callaspo 280 .251 .325 .345 .301 -3.0 -1.0 -1.5 0.4
Total 700 .261 .313 .374 .304 -5.9 -1.8 -8.4 0.8

Sorry #Barves fans, it does not look like Chris Johnson will ever recapture the magic that made him seem briefly worthy of an extension after the 2013 season. Johnson’s .321/.358/.457 line and 127 wRC+ was fueled by a .394 BABIP, the seventh highest of the last 15 years. When the BABIP came down in 2014, so did his production and he put together a replacement-level season. Alberto Callaspo was one of the few hitters worse than Chris Johnson last season. Their combination provides the Braves with the worst projection at third base for 2015.





Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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holymoly
7 years ago

surprisingly the median war projection here is 3.0 – that’s higher than the median catcher projection.