In part four of my positional rankings, I look at arguably the most talented position in the division: third base. Third basemen in the American League East have combined for 11 All-Star appearances, nine 30-homer seasons, five Gold Gloves, four Silver Slugger awards, two league leaders in RBI, a league leader in doubles, a Platinum Glove, an AL MVP, and a World Series MVP.
In a word, third base in the AL East is stacked.
The top two on this list should be pretty obvious, the only mystery being who will be first and who will be second. So, without further ado, ladies and gentleman, your third base rankings for the 2017 season.
1. Josh Donaldson – Toronto Blue Jays
2016: .284/.404/.549, 37 HR, 99 RBI
The 2015 American League MVP, Donaldson has become one of the top players in all of baseball in a relatively short amount of time. Though Donaldson was what many would consider a late bloomer–he didn’t really make a name for himself until 2013, his age 27 season–he certainly has burst onto the scene in a big way, making three All-Star teams while winning two Silver Sluggers and finishing in the top 10 in MVP voting in four consecutive seasons, culminating in his 2015 MVP campaign.
Defensively sound, Donaldson lacks any hardware simply because he plays in the same league as Manny Machado, Adrian Beltre, and Evan Longoria. Though Manny Machado might ultimately have the best career when it’s all said and done, Donaldson is at the top of the division in 2017.
2. Manny Machado – Baltimore Orioles
2016: .294/.343/.533, 37 HR, 96 RBI
The third overall pick in the 2010 Draft, Machado made his debut in 2012 at the age of 19 and helped propel the Orioles to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Machado led the American League with 51 doubles in his age 20 season, and despite two gruesome knee injuries, has managed to play in 156+ games in three of the last four seasons, making three All-Star appearances while winning two Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove in the process.
The 24-year-old has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three times, including back-to-back top five finishes. The youngest third baseman in the division by six years, Manny should be atop of this list for years to come (and hopefully as an Oriole).
3. Evan Longoria – Tampa Bay Rays
2016: .273/.318/.521, 36 HR, 98 RBI
Before Donaldson and Machado, there was Evan Longoria. The third overall pick in the 2006 Draft, Longoria won the 2008 AL Rookie of the Year by hitting 27 HR with 85 RBI in just 122 games. With two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger on his mantle, Longoria is a three-time All-Star who also has three top-10 MVP finishes in his career.
Though his career is unassuming, thanks in large part to the fact that he plays in Tampa Bay, make no mistake about it: Longoria is a star in this league.
4. Chase Headley – New York Yankees
2016: .253/.331/.385, 14 HR, 51 RBI
After a monstrous 2012 season, it looked like Headley had arrived. Then a member of the San Diego Padres, Headley had a power surge over the season’s final 75 games, finishing the season with 31 HR and a league-leading 115 RBI. Unfortunately for Headley, he has never come even remotely close to duplicating those numbers since.
In 2016, Headley hit a low point in his career, failing to record his first extra-base hit until May 12th. An elder-statesman on the Yankees, Headley has two years remaining on his contract and may find himself a bench player when it’s all said and done.
5. Pablo Sandoval – Boston Red Sox
2016: Three games played before season-ending shoulder surgery
Known by fans as Kung Fu Panda, Sandoval at one time was one of the better players in baseball. The three-time World Champion once hit three home runs in a World Series game on his way to winning the series MVP and is a two-time All-Star. Signed by the Red Sox to a five-year, $95m deal prior to the 2015 season, Sandoval has yet to live up the massive contract as he has struggled to keep his weight down and has been largely ineffective in his limited playing time with the BoSox.
Fully recovered from should surgery, Sandoval showed up to spring training this year noticeably thinner, a development that could pay huge dividends for the defending AL East Champions. If Sandoval returns to form, it could go a long way in helping fill the void left in the lineup following David Ortiz‘s retirement.
1. Brock Holt-Boston Red Sox
2016: .255/.322/.383, 7 HR, 34 RBI
2. Nick Franklin-Tampa Bay Rays
2016: .270/.328/.443, 6 HR, 26 RBI
3. Darwin Barney-Toronto Blue Jays
2016: .269/.322/.373, 4 HR, 19 RBI
4. Ronald Torreyes-New York Yankees
2016: .258/.305/.374, 1 HR, 12 RBI
5. Ryan Flaherty-Baltimore Orioles
2016: .217/.291/.318, 3 HR, 15 RBI
That does it for the third basemen in the AL East. As always, this list is up for debate, and is just one man’s opinion, nothing more. Up next, we take a look at the shortstops within the division.