2022 Positional Power Rankings: Third Base

© Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Jay Jaffe and Ben Clemens examined the state of first and second base. Today, we wrap up the infield positions, starting with a look at third base.

Another season, another bumper crop of third basemen, and not much movement at the top. For the second straight year, José Ramírez rules the roost, and the players behind him are hardly slouches. You have to go down to 27th in our rankings to find a team projection that’s below 2 WAR for the season, a testament to the wide variety of solid players at the hot corner right now. There’s a good mixture of bounce-back candidates and steady performers at the top of the list, a few exciting young players looking to make a name for themselves, and even the occasional platoon. As a bonus, most of the best defenders are solid hitters too, so fans of all-around players have plenty of options to follow.

2022 Positional Power Rankings – 3B
1. Guardians
José Ramírez 651 .271 .363 .536 .376 32.0 2.7 2.2 6.1
Yu Chang 21 .237 .292 .420 .305 -0.2 -0.0 0.1 0.1
Nolan Jones 14 .231 .328 .400 .318 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1
Owen Miller 14 .245 .297 .375 .293 -0.3 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .269 .359 .526 .371 31.5 2.6 2.3 6.3

Ramírez is the class of the third base position, and one of the best players in the game period. He does a little bit of everything — he’s perpetually one of the best baserunners in the game and plays excellent defense — but really, he’s at the top of the list because of his shocking power output. I say shocking because Ramírez is only 5-foot-9, but if you’ve watched him play over the course of his career, it’s easy to see what’s going on. He’s ferociously strong and has some of the best bat control in the game.

His easy pop forces pitchers to stay out of the strike zone, which means his sharp batting eye gets him into better counts, which means he gets to hit fastballs, which… you get the idea, it’s a virtuous cycle for Ramírez and a disaster for opponents. The biggest question around him at this point is where he’ll play in the future; the Guardians tend to trade their stars rather than allow them to leave in free agency, and Ramírez is only under contract through 2023.

That might limit how long Cleveland fans get to enjoy his excellence, but it shouldn’t impact what they’ll see on the field: one of the best and most powerful hitters around. Not pound-for-pound, and not for a little guy. Just one of the best, period.

2. Astros
Alex Bregman 630 .271 .380 .491 .372 30.9 -0.8 -0.6 5.3
Aledmys Díaz 49 .251 .310 .406 .308 -0.2 -0.1 0.0 0.2
Niko Goodrum 14 .218 .293 .367 .289 -0.3 0.0 -0.0 0.0
Alex De Goti 7 .216 .282 .330 .270 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .268 .372 .480 .365 30.2 -0.9 -0.5 5.5

Bregman has some of the widest error bars in baseball this year. He was a bona fide superstar in 2018 and ’19 before a desultory ‘20 and ‘21, when he was hampered by an injured wrist. With surgery now in the rear view mirror, we project Bregman to leap back into the ranks of the game’s elite hitters, but there’s obviously plenty of risk there. His offensive floor is quite high – he combines excellent pitch recognition with elite bat-to-ball skills – but he needs to hit for power to truly excel, and he needs to hunt inside pitches he can pull to do that.

He’s an excellent fit for Houston’s short left field porch, and I think he’ll hit 25-30 homers this year, but if he has another power outage, he’s more All-Star than MVP contender. That’s a wonderful floor – most teams would kill for a guy whose worst case is good-glove regular who walks as much as he strikes out – but Houston will be hoping for far more. It likely won’t decide the American League West, where the Astros project to have a sizable lead, but in a year where the worst division winner is disadvantaged, every drop of offense will help.

3. Red Sox
Rafael Devers 651 .282 .348 .541 .372 26.6 0.0 -4.5 4.7
Bobby Dalbec 35 .232 .306 .475 .331 0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.2
Enrique Hernández 7 .255 .333 .458 .339 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Travis Shaw 7 .221 .315 .398 .311 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .278 .345 .536 .369 26.9 -0.0 -4.5 4.9

Devers looked clearly compromised in the playoffs last year, and still produced a 172 wRC+ coming off one of his best seasons as a pro. All he does is hit, and he continues to improve his power output year by year. An upper-30s home run total feels like a fair expectation for him now, and he improved on his last major offensive shortcoming last year, reining in his expansive approach at the plate without losing his trademark power.

If he can continue to reduce his swinging strike rate and consolidate his gains on the strikeout and walk front, the sky is the limit. His power numbers last year were downright absurd – he barreled up 15% of the balls he put into play, easily the best rate of his career. He puts the ball in the air, scalds it when he does, and uses the whole field, which plays well with the Green Monster in left. There’s really not much to fault here aside from some middling defense.

If Devers can’t go, Dalbec will fill in, but that’s a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency scenario only, and the team will ride Devers as far as he can carry them at third.

4. Padres
Manny Machado 658 .275 .348 .494 .354 20.9 -0.4 1.9 4.7
Jurickson Profar 28 .241 .329 .386 .313 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Ha-Seong Kim 14 .241 .311 .403 .309 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .273 .347 .488 .352 20.7 -0.3 1.8 4.8

Machado might be the happiest player in baseball if the shift finally gets banned next year. He won’t have to trot out to right field multiple times per game, and can instead focus on what he does best: playing an excellent defensive third base while hitting for power and average. He’s even added walks to the offensive mix in recent years, which has made him above average at every aspect of hitting – I would have said offense, but his baserunning could still stand to improve somewhat if we’re picking nits.

Machado is great, and he’s been durable to boot. The Padres would prefer to give him some rest days, either as an afternoon off or just as the DH, by using multi-positional whiz Kim at third. In fact, between Kim and Profar, San Diego would be in line for average production at the hot corner even if Machado missed time. With Fernando Tatis Jr. shelved to start the season, however, Machado will likely carry a heavy load in the early going. He can handle it, but no less a team than the Padres has shown the futility of counting on your stars, and the necessity of good depth.

5. Cardinals
Nolan Arenado 658 .263 .328 .479 .339 12.7 0.0 6.0 4.3
Edmundo Sosa 28 .254 .310 .389 .303 -0.3 -0.0 0.1 0.1
Paul DeJong 7 .229 .309 .420 .315 -0.0 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Juan Yepez 7 .246 .318 .460 .332 0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .262 .327 .475 .337 12.5 -0.0 6.2 4.4

Arenado’s transition out of Coors Field went about as well as expected. He hit 34 homers, played his normal excellent defense, and produced a batting line 13% above average despite a career-low BABIP. It was enough to catapult St. Louis into the playoffs, but you don’t have to look too hard to find warning signs: his batted ball distribution is ticking into dangerously fly ball-heavy territory, his hard-hit rate was a career low, and he’s not walking like he did at his peak.

Even as that general trajectory continues, Arenado’s incredible contact rate and strong defense give him room to underachieve in basically every other facet of the game and still be a star. He’s so great at those two things that all he has to do is spike one category – walk a bit more frequently, run into a few homers, or run a high BABIP – to be one of the most valuable hitters in the National League. It’s not your usual star offensive player skill set, but it works wonderfully nonetheless. Sosa gets a sprinkling of playing time here, but that’s just a guess – whoever loses the shortstop battle will likely get traded or end up as an overqualified utility infielder.

6. Angels
Anthony Rendon 574 .273 .366 .471 .358 19.2 0.2 0.4 4.1
Jack Mayfield 63 .231 .282 .405 .294 -1.2 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Matt Duffy 28 .270 .341 .370 .314 -0.1 -0.0 -0.2 0.1
Luis Rengifo 21 .244 .310 .390 .304 -0.2 -0.0 0.1 0.1
Michael Stefanic 14 .265 .328 .384 .312 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .268 .355 .456 .348 17.7 0.1 0.1 4.4

Rendon has had a forgettable time in Anaheim so far; he was lights out in the abbreviated 2020 season before missing more than 100 games with injury and looking like a shell of himself last year. He dealt with injury issues early in his career, which makes last season’s hip impingement feel vaguely menacing, even more so than the phrase “hip impingement” normally would.

His projections essentially split the difference between peak Rendon and league average, which makes sense to me. If he’s back to full health, his reclined batting stance is going to give AL West pitchers nightmares. The top of the Angels lineup is scary, and a healthy Rendon adds both on-base and power pressure to the equation. One non-injury-related risk: Rendon has the perfect swing to take advantage of increased carry on the baseball, which means he also stands to suffer quite a bit if the ball is even deader this year.

Regardless of how Rendon’s return plays out, he has a stranglehold on the position. The rest of the playing time projection here is an assortment of guys the Angels like but can’t find a starting role for, and they’re hoping to keep it that way. It’s a tough enough road to the playoffs even with Rendon healthy; if he misses another 100 games, it almost doesn’t matter who steps in to take his place.

7. Yankees
Josh Donaldson 483 .246 .355 .468 .353 15.2 -1.3 -1.1 3.1
DJ LeMahieu 175 .284 .349 .413 .332 2.4 -0.1 0.9 1.0
Marwin Gonzalez 21 .233 .300 .365 .291 -0.4 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Isiah Kiner-Falefa 14 .273 .320 .378 .304 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Miguel Andújar 7 .268 .307 .461 .326 0.1 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .256 .351 .448 .345 17.1 -1.4 -0.3 4.2

Fatalistic fans might be surprised, but I think Donaldson will be just fine in pinstripes. The guy just hit .247/.352/.475 (124 wRC+) in a down year; it’s not outrageous to think he might still have value. Will his defense ever recover to its pre-injury levels? Probably not. But the Yankees didn’t bring him in for his glove, and while it might have been more satisfying to use the money they allocated to him to sign Carlos Correa, Donaldson will do a good job of lengthening their lineup nonetheless. He should hit for power and get on base frequently.

He’ll also presumably get plenty of DH days, which means LeMahieu will spend some time at third as well. He’s another player whose decline has been greatly overstated; did you know he was worth 2.4 WAR last year and produced an average batting line? His power fell off a cliff, and he didn’t look like the borderline MVP candidate from early in his Yankees tenure, but he gets such a boost from never striking out and taking piles of walks that even a slight rebound in power production will make his overall line sing. Sure, it’s not ideal to give a time share to two righties whose combined age is pushing 70, but when they’re both this good at hitting, it will probably work anyway.

8. White Sox
Yoán Moncada 609 .259 .349 .440 .342 13.5 0.0 0.6 3.7
Leury García 35 .259 .311 .371 .298 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Josh Harrison 35 .259 .317 .377 .304 -0.3 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Jake Burger 21 .251 .313 .438 .322 0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.1
Total 700 .259 .345 .433 .337 12.8 0.0 0.4 4.0

Moncada’s minor league numbers always suggested that he was capable of walking a ton, but they also came with an unstated question: can he do it without striking out a third of the time? Well, for the first time in the majors, he managed to limit his strikeouts without sacrificing walks, and the result was a 122 wRC+ despite modest power numbers – only 14 homers in 616 PA’s.

Key to those strikeouts was one change: swinging more at pitches over the heart of the plate. He took 7.4% of pitches down the middle with two strikes, which sounds high but is half (!) the rate at which he took them in 2018 and ’20, two seasons where he struck out far too much. Combining that situational awareness – swing when it’s important to – with his normal selective nature augurs better days ahead, and I’m excited to see what Moncada does for an encore. If he just keeps swinging at pitches he can drive, he’ll likely put together another solid year.

As for the rest of the position, the Sox have a bunch of so-so options to give Moncada a breather. Burger doesn’t have an obvious spot on the roster, but if they call him up, he’ll likely shift to primary Moncada backup while García and Harrison handle second. Until then, they’re around to help out, but this is Moncada’s show.

9. Blue Jays
Matt Chapman 651 .226 .321 .451 .331 5.2 -0.0 8.0 3.8
Santiago Espinal 28 .258 .316 .367 .299 -0.5 -0.0 0.1 0.1
Cavan Biggio 21 .226 .338 .401 .323 0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.1
Total 700 .228 .321 .446 .330 4.7 -0.0 8.1 3.9

Chapman’s bat is far more of a question mark than it was two years ago, as he’s produced a 104 wRC+ over the past two seasons while dealing with a hip injury he suffered in 2020. But the problem, at least offensively, comes down to a different culprit: strikeout rate. You can strike out a third of the time and still produce an average offensive line – Chapman just spent two years proving that – but it’s hard to truly excel when you give so many at-bats away. He’s making far less contact than he did at his peak, a problem he’ll have to remedy before re-ascending the ranks of the best third basemen in the game.

Our projection thinks he’ll be closer to his recent form than his best years, but there’s a silver lining: he’s so good defensively that we think he’ll produce a boatload of value anyway. Since arriving in the majors in 2017, Chapman and Nolan Arenado are clearly the best two third base defenders in the game, and no one else even comes close – Chapman is 27 outs ahead of third-place José Ramírez. So are the Jays worried about his hitting? Certainly – but only his hitting, because he’ll be a valuable player even if he never gets the strikeouts under control.

10. Braves
Austin Riley 665 .273 .339 .504 .356 17.3 -1.5 -4.6 3.6
Brock Holt 21 .242 .315 .340 .291 -0.6 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Orlando Arcia 14 .252 .309 .407 .308 -0.2 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .271 .337 .497 .354 16.5 -1.5 -4.5 3.6

Riley drew some down-ballot MVP support in 2021, only a year after posting a below-replacement season. Yes, baseball is volatile, but it’s not supposed to be this volatile. Really, though, last year was partially a pleasant surprise and partially Riley finding an offensive level that always looked likely in his prospect days. His batted ball data tells you what the eye test would have anyway: he has top-of-the-charts power and a knack for elevating the ball.

We’re expecting more of the same from him this year, along with more walks as pitchers avoid him and he adapts to the way he’s pitched. The main weakness in his game at this point is on the defensive end, but he’s looked sharper there as well, and there’s a chance that this is the year Riley puts it all together – plate discipline, power, and defense – and leaves the consistency questions behind him. For Atlanta’s sake, he’ll need to add durability to that list, because Holt and Arcia represent a giant step down. That makes this one of the highest-variance positions on the defending champions’ roster.

11. Dodgers
Justin Turner 476 .269 .350 .444 .344 10.5 -0.9 -2.8 2.4
Chris Taylor 119 .247 .330 .430 .327 1.0 0.2 -0.9 0.5
Max Muncy 42 .249 .371 .509 .374 2.0 -0.0 0.0 0.3
Hanser Alberto 42 .283 .307 .397 .303 -0.5 -0.0 -0.0 0.1
Jake Lamb 21 .208 .302 .373 .297 -0.4 -0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .263 .344 .440 .339 12.6 -0.7 -3.9 3.4

At 37, it’s reasonable to wonder how much longer Turner can keep getting away with this. Third base is hard on your legs, and he’s been injury prone throughout his career. But he tied a career high in games played last season, and put up a batting line 27% better than average, though his playoff performance was poor and injury-marred. It’s strange to think of Turner as the weakest link on the Dodgers – he’s been such an important part of the team over the years – but time wounds all heels, and Turner is playing on borrowed time.

Of course, it’s the Dodgers, so they have All-Stars, plural, backing him up. Taylor will get time all across the diamond when he’s not holding down second base. Muncy is going to enter that second base picture as well, and he’ll DH, and apparently play third – it feels like the Dodgers are just making up positions to find a way to fit everyone in at this point. One ancillary benefit of this overlapping expertise: it’s hard to imagine a situation where they field a below-average third base, even if Turner is severely hampered by injury. It turns out that adding Freddie Freeman to your already-complete lineup creates some enviable depth.

12. Royals
Bobby Witt Jr. 539 .263 .319 .460 .332 5.7 0.6 2.0 2.9
Hunter Dozier 84 .236 .308 .425 .315 -0.3 -0.1 -0.5 0.2
Emmanuel Rivera 49 .251 .297 .403 .301 -0.7 -0.0 -0.0 0.1
Adalberto Mondesi 28 .247 .287 .430 .305 -0.3 0.3 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .258 .315 .451 .327 4.3 0.8 1.6 3.3

Ooh, shiny! Witt is our No. 2 prospect in all of baseball, and ran amok in the minors last year, with 33 homers and a .360 OBP across two levels. At only 21, he’s still an unfinished product, but he already looks like the best hitter on the Royals to me, and we think he’s an average shortstop defender to boot, which makes him a great third base defender. That’s the kind of production that you can build your roster around – or, you know, shoehorn in at third base so that Adalberto Mondesi can get another chance at shortstop. Potato, potahto.

Speaking of Mondesi, we think he’ll see some time at third as well, because Witt will need rest days and Mondesi would surely appreciate saving some wear and tear on his body with occasional easier defensive assignments. When Mondesi is playing short and Witt is resting, Rivera and Dozier stand ready to chip in as well. But even with sprinkles of backup playing time in our projections, this is Witt’s show. If he can take the job and run with it, he might be the anchor of a new Kansas City core. It’s not a given that he’ll click right away – even great prospects sometimes struggle in their initial call-ups – but this projection shows that we think a star-making debut is likely.

13. Tigers
Jeimer Candelario 630 .253 .337 .432 .333 8.3 -0.7 -0.6 3.1
Harold Castro 35 .269 .299 .358 .285 -0.9 -0.0 -0.2 0.0
Isaac Paredes 28 .256 .343 .419 .331 0.3 -0.0 0.0 0.1
Zack Short 7 .206 .309 .377 .301 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .254 .335 .427 .330 7.7 -0.8 -0.8 3.2

Candelario is five years removed from being a prized prospect acquisition, and he’s finally starting to show the offensive prowess that made him so enticing in the minors. It’s hard to point out an area where he hasn’t improved, which makes me think that several improvements complement each other. The biggest change? He’s scrapped a passive approach at the plate in favor of hunting pitches he can drive. That’s not without drawbacks – he chases more now – but he was far too willing to take pitches early in his career, letting hittable pitches, that rarest baseball commodity, fly by unharmed.

Want it in numbers? Candelario was 18 runs below average on pitches over the heart of the plate in 2018, and 8 runs to the positive in ’21. That’s 26 runs of improvement, which you can see in his other stats: more barrels, more line drives, a higher hard-hit rate… you get the idea. The next great Tigers team could feature Candelario at third, a sentence that would have seemed outlandish two years ago. That will be the case unless he can’t handle the position defensively – with Spencer Torkelson locking first base down, credible third base defense is a necessity, and one that he’s sometimes struggled with.

14. Pirates
Ke’Bryan Hayes 602 .259 .325 .414 .320 -0.2 0.7 7.3 3.0
Michael Chavis 42 .242 .295 .437 .313 -0.3 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Diego Castillo 28 .248 .309 .385 .302 -0.4 -0.0 -0.1 0.1
Rodolfo Castro 21 .230 .278 .421 .298 -0.4 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Hoy Park 7 .239 .340 .379 .316 -0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .321 .414 .318 -1.2 0.6 7.2 3.2

The future is now… well, the future is almost now. Hayes laid waste to NL pitching in 2020, but his propensity to hit balls straight into the ground caught up to him last year. His bat-to-ball skills are certifiably elite, and he generates plus power despite a small frame, but none of that matters when you hit 60% grounders. It’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. syndrome in small scale; if he can elevate, Pittsburgh will celebrate.

Hayes has something Guerrero can’t hope to match, though, which is defense so sterling he belongs in the conversation with Chapman and Arenado for best glove in the league. Even if Hayes doesn’t have lightning in his bat – we’re projecting him for a league-average batting line – his defense should make up for it. In what promises to be another tough season for Pirates fans, Hayes stands out as an exception: he’ll certainly be one of the best players on the team, and if he can start putting the ball in the air, he’ll be one of the best third basemen in the game, period. Of course, that might not happen right away, as an ankle injury has slowed him this spring. But even if the team needs a few weeks from Chavis, Castillo, or Castro in the early going, Hayes will be the headliner.

15. Mariners
Eugenio Suárez 581 .226 .315 .452 .328 9.0 -1.6 -2.1 2.7
Abraham Toro 63 .250 .328 .412 .322 0.7 -0.1 -0.0 0.3
Dylan Moore 35 .209 .297 .373 .294 -0.5 0.1 -0.0 0.1
Ty France 14 .277 .351 .456 .348 0.4 -0.0 0.0 0.1
Kevin Padlo 7 .204 .282 .383 .288 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .228 .316 .443 .326 9.5 -1.7 -2.1 3.2

Suárez was abysmal last year, but I won’t fault you (or him) for blaming it on an ill-advised move to shortstop. Surprise! So-so third base defenders can’t suddenly turn into shortstops, and the experiment didn’t last long. It seemed to sap his bat as well, so the Mariners are hoping that a full season at his normal defensive home will lead to an offensive rebound.

Suárez’s skills boil down to one thing: he pummels the ball and does a good job elevating. He strikes out too much, doesn’t hit for average, and doesn’t walk enough to make up for the strikeouts – but the dingers! So many of them! He hit 31 last year on the way to an 85 wRC+, a combination that’s hard to believe. Maybe this season won’t be quite as extreme, but that’s a caricature of what Seattle will hope for: a blah batting line buoyed by prodigious home run power.

Pity Toro, who appeared to have the everyday job here after a solid 2021 season. He’s the odd man out on the current roster, but if Suárez gets hurt or doesn’t rebound offensively, the Mariners will have the luxury of plugging in an average hitter with acceptable third base defense. Depth has been hard to come by in the Pacific Northwest in recent years; Toro’s poor fortune is the team’s gain as they attempt to end the longest playoff drought in the league.

16. Mets
Eduardo Escobar 455 .244 .304 .449 .320 2.9 -0.7 -0.1 1.9
J.D. Davis 168 .254 .339 .429 .332 2.8 -0.2 -1.7 0.7
Jeff McNeil 35 .281 .346 .430 .336 0.7 -0.0 -0.1 0.2
Luis Guillorme 28 .254 .347 .349 .310 -0.0 -0.0 -0.1 0.1
Mark Vientos 14 .232 .287 .439 .308 -0.0 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .248 .316 .439 .323 6.4 -1.0 -1.9 2.9

Third base was a black hole for New York last year, and they signed Escobar early in the offseason to address that problem. He’s compiled a quietly competent 103 wRC+ over the past five years while providing flexible and valuable infield defense. It’s more slug than OBP, which carries some risk in cavernous Citi Field, but defense plus a little power beats no defense and a little power, which is what the Mets had before bringing Escobar into the fold.

Davis and McNeil, charter members of the “no defense and a little power” club, will spell Escobar at third, particularly when Davis can face a lefty pitcher. Both of them will likely out-hit Escobar, so you might think the playing time should be flipped, but Escobar’s fielding, McNeil’s ability to play second base, and the universal DH mean that all three can get playing time while providing defense the team has sorely lacked in recent seasons. They might not be in the top half of our rankings, but compared to what the team has tried at the hot corner in recent seasons, this is a huge upgrade.

17. Twins
Gio Urshela 511 .269 .313 .440 .322 2.5 -1.2 -0.9 2.0
Luis Arraez 112 .301 .364 .399 .333 1.6 -0.1 -0.0 0.6
Jose Miranda 70 .276 .324 .451 .331 0.8 -0.1 0.2 0.4
Miguel Sanó 7 .228 .319 .487 .342 0.1 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .275 .322 .435 .325 5.1 -1.4 -0.9 2.9

For two years, Urshela looked like a star in the making, combining plus contact, average power, and divisive defense (the eye test likes him more than the numbers) for a Yankees team that sorely needed production at third. 2021 was a step backward in every facet; he struck out far more frequently, rarely walked, and ran into a pile of outs on the basepaths on his way to a below-average season.

You can see why the Twins want to take a chance on getting Good Gio; if we knew he would bounce back to his 2019 form, we’d have Minnesota comfortably in the top 10 on this list. The downside, well, that’s why the Yankees were willing to get rid of him. For a Minnesota team that’s planning on squeezing maximum value out of every dollar they spend, getting rid of a pricey veteran to ride the variance train with Urshela is defensible, but there’s no question it’s a gamble.

The other names here mute the risk considerably. Arraez doesn’t have an obvious defensive home, but he can really hit. Miranda hasn’t reached the majors yet, but his minor league numbers leap off the page, and he may force himself into the Twins’ plans sooner rather than later. Urshela might start the season with the job, but he’ll have to play well to hold off these two talented understudies.

18. Rays
Taylor Walls 385 .222 .311 .350 .292 -5.3 -0.5 5.1 1.4
Yandy Díaz 210 .268 .361 .408 .336 4.8 -0.4 -0.4 1.2
Vidal Bruján 70 .237 .300 .365 .291 -1.0 0.4 0.2 0.2
Esteban Quiroz 35 .220 .314 .379 .305 -0.1 -0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .237 .325 .370 .306 -1.7 -0.5 4.6 2.9

Third base is a weird place to see Walls pop up; he’s an excellent defensive shortstop, after all. There’s just one problem: Wander Franco has shortstop locked down, which leaves Walls to shuttle around the diamond in addition to playing understudy at short. He scuffled offensively in his major league debut last year, but his minor league track record suggests that there’s room for improvement. His defense is, of course, unquestionably excellent.

Against lefties, even that defense probably won’t be enough to keep Walls on the field, though, as Tampa Bay will turn to Díaz for offensive production. You know what you’re getting with Díaz at this point: muscles that will blot out the sun, superlative patience, and a heaping helping of grounders. It works out for him, but also limits his upside, which is why Tampa Bay loves to cast him in part-time roles that take advantage of his strengths. Finally, it wouldn’t be a Rays depth chart without contributions from their burgeoning stable of exciting prospects, who stand ready to take over infield roles as needed.

19. Brewers
Luis Urías 455 .253 .346 .433 .337 5.2 -0.4 0.7 2.2
Jace Peterson 133 .237 .330 .378 .312 -1.3 0.2 -0.8 0.3
Mike Brosseau 91 .231 .304 .401 .305 -1.4 -0.1 0.1 0.2
Pablo Reyes 21 .237 .300 .387 .298 -0.4 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .246 .336 .417 .327 2.2 -0.2 0.1 2.8

Everything clicked for Urías when the Brewers shifted him to third base last year. He’s long been a statistical favorite, but he simply hadn’t put it together in the majors, and didn’t have the defensive chops to handle shortstop. After parking himself at third, though, the power he showed in 2019 came roaring back, to the tune of 25 doubles and 23 homers. What happened? Basically, he started elevating the ball; he has surprising power for someone his size, but that didn’t matter much when he was hitting everything into the ground.

This year, he’ll answer that question that plagues all breakout performers: can you do it again? Pitchers will try to force him to put the ball on the ground, and an inability to get airborne has plagued him in the past, so all eyes will be on his groundball rates as the season opens. There’s also the matter of defense; the Brewers liked his glove enough to try him at shortstop, but he wasn’t effective there last season. With a position now locked in, improved defensive consistency could push Urías from solid contributor to borderline star. Brosseau and Peterson are mostly just utility infielders here, but they’ll serve two roles: filling in for a week or two while Urías starts the season on the IL, and manning third when the team moves Urías to higher-value defensive positions when their middle infield starters get a day off.

20. Rangers
Andy Ibáñez 385 .265 .320 .428 .322 2.2 -0.9 1.7 1.7
Brad Miller 147 .233 .323 .444 .329 1.7 -0.3 -0.5 0.6
Matt Carpenter 63 .204 .319 .353 .298 -0.9 -0.1 -0.4 0.1
Charlie Culberson 63 .242 .292 .385 .292 -1.2 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Yonny Hernandez 28 .239 .346 .309 .300 -0.3 0.0 0.1 0.1
Josh Jung 14 .262 .322 .448 .330 0.2 -0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .250 .319 .417 .318 1.6 -1.1 0.7 2.8

Ibáñez performed admirably as a 27-year-old rookie last year, and earned the starting job by doing so. His bat-to-ball skills carry him offensively despite below-average raw power, though he’s shown signs of adding home runs to his game of late. That’s a welcome sign, because he’s always put the ball in the air, and fly ball hitters who don’t hit home runs have a tough time surviving in the modern game.

When he was a prospect coming out of Cuba, teams worried about Ibáñez’s defense, but we project him to impress with the glove. If he can do that — hardly out of the question given a solid performance at second base in 2021 — that makes for an intriguing player to supplement the team’s stars at second and short. If he can’t, the Rangers can turn to Miller, who they signed to crush righties and play below-average defense almost everywhere on the diamond. That’s a valuable skill set today, and we think he’ll be used all over the field, but he could also park himself at third if Ibáñez doesn’t work out.

Carpenter is an interesting lottery ticket; he was one of the best hitters in baseball five years ago, but fell on hard times by the end of his tenure in St. Louis. An offseason dedicated to reworking his swing might not change his trajectory, but if it does, he could be a boon as a source of walks and power for a Texas club that could use some offense.

21. Marlins
Brian Anderson 413 .247 .332 .412 .323 2.7 0.1 -0.1 1.8
Joey Wendle 245 .261 .315 .401 .308 -1.4 -0.1 0.6 0.8
Jon Berti 42 .239 .330 .351 .303 -0.4 0.1 -0.0 0.1
Total 700 .252 .326 .405 .317 0.8 0.1 0.5 2.7

Anderson is an excellent player, so my apologies to him for using this blurb to talk about how deep third base is, but 2.7 WAR for our 21st-ranked team is outrageous. The talent pool is deep; Anderson might be a top 10 left fielder, but the ranks of quality third basemen are seemingly endless. That’s an accident of ranking rather than an indictment of the players, though. Anderson is awesome! He has a career 111 wRC+, flashes plus power, and has the arm, reflexes, and speed to defend effectively at third or either outfield corner.

His 2021 was shortened by injury, so the Marlins prudently acquired another option at third. Wendle is a premium defender who gets by offensively on an excellent contact rate, and while he’ll have his work cut out for him backing up second and short, Miami’s best defensive alignment will likely send Anderson to an outfield corner to highlight Wendle’s glove. That means he’ll get his fair share of work here, as will Anderson – and even if they rank low on our list of team third base situations, they’ll rank highly on the list of position players who contribute to Marlins wins.

22. Giants
Evan Longoria 364 .246 .313 .419 .313 -1.0 -0.5 -0.0 1.2
Wilmer Flores 210 .271 .332 .450 .336 3.4 -0.5 -1.3 0.9
Thairo Estrada 56 .261 .314 .420 .316 -0.0 -0.0 -0.3 0.2
Tommy La Stella 42 .270 .335 .409 .323 0.2 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Jason Vosler 28 .236 .311 .415 .313 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .256 .320 .427 .321 2.5 -1.1 -2.0 2.5

Longoria missed half the season last year, but he turned back the clock when he was healthy, hitting .261/.351/.482 for a 123 wRC+, his best numbers since his Tampa Bay peak. He looked better in every facet of his game, one of the faces of the rejuvenation machine that catapulted the Giants to a 106-win season. We don’t expect Longoria to duplicate that success this year, but there’s space to be worse than he was in 2021 and still help out, which is exactly what we’re projecting him for this season. A bigger worry: he’ll be on the IL to start the year, and well, he missed half the season last year. The backups might be important here.

This is San Francisco, so the depth chart behind Longoria is predictably fascinating. Flores is at his best against lefties, as is Longoria. But Flores is in the lineup for his bat, not his glove, and he’ll spend time everywhere you can imagine: first, second, third, DH – he hasn’t played the outfield in the major leagues, but there’s a first time for everything. Estrada will figure into the equation as well, at least when he isn’t serving as a backup shortstop or second baseman. When the three righties aren’t playing third, La Stella can bring his high-contact bat to bear – if he isn’t at second that day. It’s a complex rotation, but the Giants have proven adept at getting the most out of time shares that don’t look compelling at first glance.

23. Rockies
Ryan McMahon 490 .255 .332 .461 .339 -1.0 -0.2 1.9 1.9
Colton Welker 112 .255 .312 .425 .316 -2.4 -0.1 0.3 0.2
Kris Bryant 84 .267 .356 .476 .356 1.0 0.1 -0.7 0.4
Alan Trejo 14 .243 .285 .408 .296 -0.5 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .256 .331 .456 .337 -2.9 -0.2 1.5 2.4

McMahon was a revelation at third in the first post-Arenado season in Denver; he played sterling defense and had a career year at the plate. The only problem: that career year worked out to a 95 wRC+, and it’s hard to imagine his bat breaking out after four seasons in the majors. He doesn’t excel at any offensive facet of the game, which means intermittent trouble making contact drags his batting line down. It’s not an unfixable problem, but Coors Field is wildly generous to players who can put the ball in play, so every extra whiff hurts.

Oh yeah… the Rockies signed Bryant, and he’ll figure into the third base picture too. Though his positional versatility is one of the best parts of his game, Colorado plans to mainly play him in left field. “Mainly” isn’t the same as “always,” though, and we think he’ll get his fair share of time on the infield dirt, which will look quite different from McMahon’s time there. Bryant is an average defender and has contact issues of his own, but when he makes contact, it’s party time. His swing generates ideal loft, the outfield in Denver is the size of Yellowstone National Park, and the combination of those two things is going to lead to a heaping helping of extra-base hits.

With those two the headliners, Welker will have to settle for scraps of playing time. His path to an expanded role is vanishingly thin; I think the Rockies will likely shift Bryant to third full-time if McMahon goes down, and McMahon would stop moonlighting at second and shortstop if Bryant gets hurt. Sure, he’s projected for more time at third than Bryant — but I think that in practice, he’s likely to get squeezed out.

24. Athletics
Kevin Smith 364 .227 .287 .428 .305 -1.8 0.2 -0.6 1.1
Sheldon Neuse 210 .243 .294 .396 .298 -2.2 -0.1 0.1 0.6
Chad Pinder 105 .246 .306 .424 .314 0.3 -0.2 -0.1 0.4
Vimael Machín 21 .230 .314 .343 .289 -0.4 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .235 .293 .415 .304 -4.1 -0.1 -0.7 2.1

Starting with Clerks and continuing through and Dogma, Smith’s irreverent slacker vibe endeared… oh, not that Kevin Smith, totally my bad. The baseballing Smith is an interesting prospect who will receive a trial by fire in Oakland this year. The strikeout rate might be gnarly – we’re projecting it at 28% – but he has enough power to make up for it, and his batted ball metrics were the best in the Toronto system last year before he scuffled in a brief major league call-up.

Oakland has a history with power-first third basemen, and Smith has one of the key tools to make that work: good defense. He primarily played shortstop in the minors, and while he was only okay there, acceptable shortstops make good third basemen. If he can keep his strikeout rate down, he should be a solid contributor, though still a meaningful step down from Matt Chapman.

The rest of the third base situation feels very Oakland-y. Neuse left the A’s for the Dodgers in 2021, but he’s back in the fold and provides a nice backup dose of what Smith should bring; power and strikeouts in equal measure. Pinder has a similar skill set, though he’ll also be busy playing the outfield. Yes, Oakland has a type – and they all play third base. Having so many bites at the finding-a-third-baseman apple should work out, even if it will come with a pile of empty at-bats.

25. Phillies
Alec Bohm 392 .263 .325 .417 .321 -0.8 -0.4 -0.6 1.3
Bryson Stott 154 .247 .321 .393 .311 -1.5 -0.2 0.6 0.4
Johan Camargo 70 .256 .320 .438 .325 0.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.2
Didi Gregorius 63 .247 .303 .428 .312 -0.6 -0.0 -0.3 0.1
Ronald Torreyes 14 .248 .291 .362 .283 -0.5 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Nick Maton 7 .217 .295 .348 .283 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .321 .413 .317 -3.6 -0.8 -0.4 2.1

Just what you’d expect atop a third base depth chart: a first baseman and a shortstop. The natural move for the Phillies this offseason was to take advantage of the universal DH by shifting Rhys Hoskins there and moving Bohm to first, but circumstances conspired against them; their two big free agent acquisitions are both DH types. That means Bohm will have to fake third base again, and while he wasn’t a complete disaster in the field last year, his hitting fell apart. A .305 OBP doesn’t cut it unless you’re Matt Chapman with the glove, and… yeah.

While we don’t think Bohm will get to his prodigious raw power, we do think he’ll hit much better than he did last year. That stems largely from average power; he had plenty of hard-hit outs last year, so even repeating last year’s contact quality would go a long way here. That offense should be enough to keep him starting at the position over Stott, the team’s top prospect. Or maybe he’ll need to hold the position over Gregorius, who will be without an obvious home if Stott stays at his natural shortstop position. Gregorius was capital-A abysmal at short last year, and we actually project his defense to be worse than Bohm’s, which limits his appeal. This should mostly be Bohm’s job — if he can right the ship offensively and keep it from sinking defensively.

26. Cubs
Patrick Wisdom 364 .218 .294 .464 .322 -0.4 -0.2 0.3 1.3
Jonathan Villar 245 .249 .318 .395 .310 -2.7 0.7 -1.7 0.5
David Bote 70 .234 .316 .401 .311 -0.7 -0.1 -0.3 0.2
Nico Hoerner 21 .277 .342 .382 .316 -0.1 -0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .232 .306 .431 .316 -3.9 0.4 -1.6 2.1

Wisdom – Patty Smarts to his adoring fans – struck out 40% of the time last year and still put up a 115 wRC+. That’s truly impressive, but also hard to repeat. We expect the strikeouts to persist more so than the power, but even with a projected 36% K rate, his offensive numbers look shockingly passable. If you hit the ball hard enough, you don’t have to make contact very often to pile up the value. That doesn’t mean that Wisdom is a lock to have a good season, but thanks to Statcast, we can say with great confidence that his power isn’t fake. There are no two ways about it; he absolutely demolished the ball last year.

Wisdom probably won’t suddenly improve his contact skills at age 30, but even if he doesn’t, he’s neck and neck with Villar for the best option the Cubs have. Villar will be needed elsewhere on the diamond; he’s the primary backup at shortstop and second base, so Wisdom will mostly have the run of third while Villar is playing luxury utilityman. Bote appears to be the odd man out here; he’s struggled mightily for the last two years and the infield is getting crowded. He might be the Cubs’ best option to get OBP out of third base, but if he doesn’t rebound quickly, his playing time will soon evaporate.

27. Diamondbacks
Josh Rojas 518 .248 .328 .395 .315 -3.9 0.5 -0.1 1.5
Wilmer Difo 70 .241 .306 .341 .285 -2.3 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Drew Ellis 63 .213 .304 .375 .298 -1.4 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Sergio Alcántara 35 .225 .314 .331 .287 -1.1 -0.0 0.2 0.0
Josh VanMeter 14 .229 .321 .406 .316 -0.1 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .242 .322 .385 .309 -8.8 0.3 -0.0 1.7

Rojas was a trendy hitter as an Astros prospect, and his model-darling game propelled him to a full-time role in the majors last year. He promptly struck out a lot, which was unexpected given his minor league pedigree, but he walked and doubled enough to end up with an average batting line. One reason he was a model darling rather than a scouts-and-stats-in-harmony stud is that he doesn’t have premium power on contact, a shortcoming that showed up last year. Excellent plate discipline only goes so far when pitchers aren’t afraid to come after you.

This year, the Snakes hope that a steady defensive home will help buoy Rojas’ offense. He started 10 games at five different positions last year, with third base the least frequent of the group, but that was more accident than design. We think he’ll have a steady job this year, but it would be a waste of his skill set not to move him around intermittently.

When the team does that, a wide array of maybe’s will step in. All four of the other options have obvious shortcomings, either defensively or with a bat in their hands. Realistically, the Diamondbacks are hoping that one of these five players seizes a starting job – or two of them, given that Rojas can line up all over the place defensively.

28. Reds
Mike Moustakas 469 .243 .316 .459 .330 0.2 -1.0 -4.4 1.2
Donovan Solano 147 .276 .325 .395 .312 -2.1 -0.2 -0.7 0.2
Colin Moran 63 .251 .319 .418 .318 -0.6 -0.2 -0.4 0.1
Kyle Farmer 21 .254 .306 .402 .306 -0.4 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .251 .318 .440 .324 -2.9 -1.5 -5.5 1.6

2021 was a lost season for Moustakas. He missed most of the year with injury and hit poorly when he did play. If he can stay on the field this year, he’ll likely provide Cincinnati with the patented Moustakas output: plenty of fly balls, a bit of power, and fewer strikeouts than you’d expect from a hitter so reliant on home runs for his value. Solano will give Moustakas a breather from time to time; his utility infielder stylings will fill holes across the diamond for a Cincinnati team otherwise light on competent backups, though he’ll start the season on the IL.

That’s what the Reds have now, but given their offseason teardown, neither is unlikely to contribute to their next playoff squad. That honor falls to Moran and Farmer. Moran lost his third base spot to Ke’Bryan Hayes in Pittsburgh, but he was a butcher defensively there when he played; he’ll need to either hit more or field better, though the Reds should definitely see whether he can achieve one or the other. Farmer is the everyday starter at shortstop; he might end up holding down third if displaced from that job, though.

29. Nationals
Carter Kieboom 308 .240 .333 .393 .318 -1.6 -0.5 -1.0 0.8
Maikel Franco 224 .240 .290 .408 .297 -5.0 -0.3 -1.2 0.2
Ehire Adrianza 98 .245 .316 .381 .304 -1.6 -0.1 -0.7 0.1
César Hernández 49 .254 .328 .392 .314 -0.4 -0.0 -0.1 0.1
Alcides Escobar 21 .245 .293 .352 .282 -0.7 0.0 -0.2 -0.0
Total 700 .242 .315 .395 .308 -9.3 -0.9 -3.2 1.2

The most onomatopoetic name of this writeup, Kieboom’s star has fallen mightily since he was Washington’s top prospect several years ago. His 400 PA in the majors have been awful, and while he’s been productive in the minors, eventually you have to do it in the big leagues. The tools are absolutely there, though: he boasts plus power, contact skills, and a decent approach at the plate. He’s also a good defender; I never bought him as a shortstop, but he has the arm and range to play a solid third. The start of Kieboom’s season won’t come soon, though: an elbow injury landed him on the 60-day IL, and he likely won’t return before May.

Franco will hold down the fort until Kieboom returns, but if I were the Nationals, I’d use Kieboom as often as possible when healthy, more or less regardless of results. The team isn’t going to be a good this year; finding out what you have in your touted prospect takes precedence over getting a .290 OBP from a minor league free agent. Perhaps that’s overly harsh to Franco, who combines hellacious bat speed with a swing-first approach that results in a multitude of poor contact on tough pitches. When Kieboom misses time, sure, use Franco – but given Kieboom’s bona fides, giving time to middling veterans over him would be a travesty for a rebuilding team.

30. Orioles
Kelvin Gutierrez 336 .240 .296 .367 .289 -8.3 -0.3 0.6 0.5
Ramón Urías 147 .248 .322 .400 .315 -0.5 -0.2 -0.7 0.4
Tyler Nevin 91 .236 .304 .402 .306 -1.0 -0.1 -0.4 0.2
Chris Owings 63 .216 .281 .365 .280 -2.1 -0.0 0.2 0.1
Rylan Bannon 35 .215 .298 .398 .302 -0.5 -0.0 0.0 0.1
Jorge Mateo 28 .236 .277 .387 .285 -0.8 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .238 .300 .380 .296 -13.1 -0.7 -0.3 1.2

You know what they say: if you have six third basemen, that probably means you don’t have any good third basemen. The depth chart here is fragmented because the Orioles don’t have an obvious incumbent, which means they’ll throw a lot of players at the wall and see what sticks. Gutierrez has the inside track on the job, having finished last season with it, but his bat is a question mark. He’ll need to grow into his power potential to become a solid regular; he has top-shelf exit velocities when he squares the ball up, but that simply hasn’t happened enough in his career so far.

If he can’t handle it, maybe someone else can. Mateo and Urías will each get a chance to play third when the other is playing shortstop, Bannon will likely get an extended look if he stays afloat in Triple-A, and Owings and Nevin might soak up playing time if none of the others seize the job. I’m most interested in Nevin; he was an intriguing prospect before a down 2021, and while he might not have the defensive chops to handle the position long-term, I could see his combination of solid contact skills and acceptable power producing a starter-caliber bat. That, of course, is also true of Gutierrez, but don’t worry, Orioles fans: there are plenty of at-bats to be had for anyone who produces at a high level this year.

Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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2 years ago

I’m surprised at how down the projections are on R. Urias. He had a really strong year, which backed up surprisingly aggressive projections, and now he’s projected barely above replacement?

Left of Centerfield
2 years ago
Reply to  markakis21

They’ve probably split his projected playing time between various positions. This is just his projection for when he plays 3B.

Last edited 2 years ago by Left of Centerfield
2 years ago
Reply to  markakis21

It’s because he’s going to be split on these power rankings b/w 2B, SS, and 3B. He also shows up on the 2B list posted yesterday. If you look at his player page FGDC projects him for 1.5 WAR.

2 years ago
Reply to  markakis21

The BABIP is coming down