Editor’s note: Couch Side is very pleased to bring back its annual MLB preseason position power rankings. This year, we will offer two positions every Wednesday and Friday. Each blog ranks the top 10 players at each position and is written by some of Couch Side’s best bloggers. The following is part six of what will be a 12-part series. Enjoy!
As older third basemen with aging knees trot their way over to first base or become designated hitters, a new wave of third basemen are showing us just as much power.
Like first base, a bit of pop is expected to come from third basemen as well as a quick glove and even quicker reactions. Defense is a must just left of shortstop. A solid bat also comes with the territory. While many consider shortstop the toughest defensive position in the game, third base is where screamers come down the line. And if those players don’t have the instincts to stop a smash, they won’t have a job for long.
Major League baseball still has a plethora of talent at the hot corner. In fact, last year a third baseman took home the first Triple Crown in more than 40 years. Talent will always lye closest to the away team’s dugout and with some hefty power hitters, this year is no exception. So here’s a look at Couch Side’s top 10 third baseman for 2013:
• A quick glance at five guys outside of the top 10: Brett Lawrie, Aramis Ramirez, David Feeze, Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas … Further out who still deserve recognition: Will Middlebrooks, Trevor Plouffe and Manny Machado. Alright, now, let’s start the show!
10. Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks (.301 BA, 10 HR, 70 RBI, 5.4 WAR): Prado makes my list simply because after Miguel Cabrera, this 29-year-old may be the best contact bat / on-base guy at the hot corner. His .359 OBP also isn’t anything to sneeze at. What a player!
9. Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates (.244 BA, 10 HR, 85 RBI, 2.6 WAR): For fantasy purposes, Alvarez makes my top 10. Quite honestly, I think he is going to blow up this season. Yes, he strikes out a lot, however his power numbers easily forgive that. This may sound premature, but Alvarez could very well be the next Jose Bautista.
8. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants (.283, 12 HR, 63 RBI, 2.0 WAR): In a separate blog I wrote on Couch Side, I was forced to look up Sandoval’s defensive statistics. And considering this guy is pushing 280 pounds, he is quite nimble on his feet. Add those praises to his consistent and impressive bat, and Sandoval could easily be a top five third baseman. He just lacks power.
7. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (.282 BA, 25 HR, 95 RBI, 3.8 WAR): After slumping at the beginning of the year in 2012, Zimmerman bounced back to have a very impressive second half. In 2012, Zimmerman more or less had his best year at the plate since 2009 when he set career highs in all batting categories. He has to be loving that revamped Nationals lineup and his numbers are every indication of that.
6. Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (.257 BA, 24 HR, 92 RBI, 1.2 WAR): Ramirez is slowly working his way back into the type of player he was in 2009 when he set career highs in every single hitting category. Last season, he obviously slumped for the Miami Marlins, but he really turned things around in the Dodger white and blue, batting in just four less runs than he did while in a Marlins uniform. That’s extrmely impressive, considering Ramirez played in 29 fewer games as a Dodger.
5. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (.289 BA, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 2.3 WAR)
I probably won’t make many friends ranking Longoria No. 5 on this list, but his injury does concern me. It seemed like Longoria took too long to heal from it, at least that’s what the experts said, and that just raises red flags. His numbers coming back, however, may place my own foot in my mouth as it was like Longoria didn’t miss a beat after injury. Check out the stats above and then consider that the 27-year-old was able to achieve them in just 74 games. I’m sure this youngster has many MVP years ahead of him. I’m just not buying into his big bat this season.
In part six of Couchside’s spring training previews, we take a look at baseball’s men at the hot corner. Whereas you didn’t find Miguel Cabrera in my top five first basemen, you’ll find him here, but you won’t don’t look for Jose Bautista’s name since he’s expected to play the outfield this season now that phenom Brett Lawrie is here to stay in Toronto.
Longoria suffered an oblique injury that cost him all but the first two games in the month of April last season and never really got going. As a result, he hit a career-worst .244. However, despite playing in just 133 games, he did manage to crank out 31 homers, just two shy of his career-high, and walked a career-high 80 times. Not to mention that he had his best month of the season when it counted the most in September as the Rays made their push to overtake the Red Sox for the AL Wild Card, posting a .289 average with seven dingers and 22 ribbies while reaching base at a .454 clip. The two-time Gold Glove winner is one of the cornerstones for a Rays team that is a legitimate contender for the AL pennant this year and is poised for a huge season. Is it possible for a guy to have a breakthrough season if he’s already a three-time All-Star?
The only reason Miggy isn’t first on this list is the questions surrounding whether he can be adequate defensively at third base. The last two seasons that he played third base full-time (2006, 2007) he had a combined 40 errors, so the questions don’t come without some basis. But the guy has reportedly lost a ton of weight to prepare for his move across the diamond, and there’s no denying the bat that he carries to the plate. On this side of Albert Pujols, there may not be a more pure hitter than Cabrera. He is the reigning AL batting champ after a career-best .344 last season and has hit better than .292 in each of his eight full seasons in the big leagues. In addition, he’s also failed to hit 30 or more homers just once and has driven in at least 100 runs in each of those eight seasons while totaling no less than 177 hits. The guy will never be mistaken for a defensive wizard or a speed demon, but he’s as consistent as they come in the batter’s box, and one can only think of the offensive numbers he’ll put up this season regardless whether he hits in front or behind Prince Fielder. Can you say a second coming of the Bash Brothers?