As part of a continuing series, we are ranking the top players starting for each team by position. We move to the Hot Corner today, possibly the most talent-laden position in today’s game. Please feel free to see past rankings for catcher, first base and second base.
30. Ryan Flaherty, Atlanta Braves
29. Jeimer Candelerio, Detroit Tigers
28. Matt Duffy, Tampa Bay Rays
27. Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins
26. Brandon Drury, New York Yankees
25. Colin Moran, Pittsburgh Pirates
Anderson and Moran will be two heavy favorites for NL Rookie of the Year in 2018. Anderson showed ability to get on base in very limited time last season. With Miami, he is in a situation where he can get a lot of at bats and grow without the pressure to win early. Moran, on the other hand, had four hits in his 11 at bats last season. The former sixth overall pick out of the University of North Carolina has bounced around through a few organizations, but now has a great opportunity as an everyday player for another rebuilding team in Pittsburgh.
24. Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
23. Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies
22. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
21. Logan Forsythe, Los Angeles Dodgers
20. Yormel Sanchez, Chicago White Sox
Franco has an abysmal 2017, with a horrid on-base percentage of .281. While his home run total stayed decent at 24, his batting average dipped 25 points and he was worth 20 runs less than the average player. This is a far cry from his 2015 season where he was above the league average in most statistical categories. Sanchez is an underappreciated player for the White Sox. In his first full season, Sanchez put together a slash line of .267/.319/.413, basically around the league average. He was versatile for the southsiders, also playing some second base, shortstop and outfield.
19. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners
18. Tim Beckham, Baltimore Orioles
17. Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks
Beckham was above the league average with a .782 OPS to go along with 22 home runs. He was 13 runs better than league average and couples it with slightly above average defense. An argument could certainly be made for him to rank higher and if Beckham takes the next step, he could become a top 10 third baseman (or shortstop if he moves there post-Manny Machado). Lamb hit 30 home runs and ranked second in RBIs among third basemen with 105, but his power numbers closeted the fact that he plays sub-par defense and advanced metrics show he actually costs his team more games than he wins.
16. Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals
15. Todd Frazier, New York Mets
14. Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics
13. Jedd Gyorko, St. Louis Cardinals
Most people would quickly name Nolan Arenado or Adrian Beltre as the top defensive third baseman in the game, but it may in fact be Chapman. He had the second highest UZR, which calculates a player’s arm, range and ability to make a double play against his counterparts at the position despite only getting limited playing time last season. Chapman has the potential to be a Scott Rolen-esque player on a budding A’s team. Gyorko was snubbed from the All-Star team in 2017 after a hot start and finished the season with a .272/.341/.472 slash line.
12. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
11. Zack Cozart, Los Angeles Angels
10. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
9. Evan Longoria, San Francisco Giants
Cozart really had a great contract year and was rewarded with a three-year contract worth more than $12 million per year. He will be switching positions from shortstop to third base. Cozart played as one of the top defensive shortstops of this era, and while some transition time will be required to adjust to a new position, Cozart should be a nice addition to the Angels. Longoria had been an above average player for his entire career, and will give the Giants a consistent bat to hit behind Buster Posey, something that has been missing from the Giants lineup for years. While his numbers aren’t as strong as they were a few years ago, Longoria still add about 25 runs a year above replacement level.
8. Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers
7. Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds
6. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
5. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
Bregman was quietly a stud last season. Often, he is overshadowed by the superstars on the team around him, but he is a major contributor to the Astros success. He played to a 4.1 WAR and an OPS+ of 128, showing his stats are not a product of playing in Houston. He is tied with Jose Ramirez for most steals among third basemen and is only just turning 24. Donaldson grinded through injuries in 2017, but still managed to mash 33 home runs with a .944 OPS.
4. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
3. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
Ramirez finished third in MVP voting in 2017 and it isn’t hard to see why. His 6.9 WAR was factored, not only by above average defense, but also took into consideration his .318 batting average and OPS of .957.
2. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
It is splitting hairs, but I chose Bryant because he does not have the luxury of playing in Denver. Bryant’s RBI totals were down last year, mainly due to a major lack of production from the Cubs leadoff spot. Despite that, he hit 29 home runs to a .946 OPS. The former MVP and Rookie of the Year saw his walk totals rise by 20, while striking out 30 fewer times in 2017. His OPS+ sat at 143, 10 points higher than Arenado.