The positional power rankings return this afternoon. If you’re unfamiliar with this series, Jeff Sullivan provided an introduction to it on Monday morning. Basically, this is FanGraphs’ means to previewing the season.
Catcher and first-base positional rankings are already complete and accessible via the widget above. Here, I’ll be examining third base.
Third basemen may be underrepresented in the Hall of Fame, but right now, the position is among the game’s strongest. Last year, five of the top-14 players in WAR — all with at least 5.5 — hailed from the hot corner, and over the past two years, the count is six of the top 12 and nine of the top 25. Manny Machado has since moved back to his natural position of shortstop, but Jose Ramirez has settled in, and Adrian Beltre, the lone player here assured of a berth in Cooperstown, is still going quite strong.
Based on our Depth Chart projections, which are very sensitive to playing-time estimates, six teams are forecast to get at least 4.0 WAR out of their third-base starters and backups, more than any other position; shortstops are next, with five. Twenty teams are forecast to get at least 2.0 WAR from their third-base groups, and even then, another five teams are in the 1.7 to 1.9 range, where the most minor breakout could push them above what’s generally the bar for a league-average player. Of the other positions, 21 teams project to get at least 2.0 WAR out of center field, and 20 out of first base.
Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.