Giants’ Top 5 third basemen: Guardado's take

April 13th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans. With that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. We also asked fans to weigh in on Twitter:

Here is Maria Guardado’s ranking of the top five third basemen in Giants history. Next week: Shortstops.

1. Matt Williams, 1987-1996
Key fact: Hit 247 home runs with the Giants, fourth in San Francisco history behind Barry Bonds (586), Willie McCovey (469) and Willie Mays (459)

The third overall pick of the 1986 MLB Draft out of UNLV, Williams debuted with the Giants in 1987 at 21, but he struggled to establish himself over his first three years in the Majors. He finally broke through in 1990, when he hit .277 with 33 home runs and a National League-high 122 RBIs in his first full season as a big leaguer.

Williams never looked back, earning four All-Star selections and three Gold Gloves over his 10-year tenure in San Francisco. He topped the 30-home run mark four times with the Giants and placed in the top five in NL MVP voting twice. Williams crushed a career-high 43 home runs in 1994, though the season was cut short by a players strike, robbing him of the opportunity to chase Roger Maris’ single-season home run record (61). He finished second in MVP voting that year to the Astros’ Jeff Bagwell.

Williams spent two more seasons with the Giants before being traded to the Indians in exchange for Jeff Kent, Julian Tavárez and José Vizcaíno on Nov. 13, 1996. First-year general manager Brian Sabean drew immense criticism for trading the popular Williams, though the move ultimately worked out for the Giants following Kent’s emergence as one of the greatest offensive second basemen in baseball history.

2. Art Devlin, 1904-1911
Key fact: Won the 1905 World Series with the New York Giants

Devlin abandoned his studies at Georgetown to pursue a professional baseball career, joining the Giants in 1904 after catching the eye of manager John McGraw. He spent eight seasons in New York, batting .268 with an 111 OPS+ over 1,116 games. Devlin led the league with 59 stolen bases in 1905 and enjoyed his best campaign in 1906, when he hit a career-high .299 with 65 RBIs, 74 walks and 54 stolen bases. He was worth 34 Wins Above Replacement during his tenure with the Giants, the second-most among third basemen in franchise history, according to Baseball Reference.

• Giants' Top 5: C | 1B | 2B

3. Freddie Lindstrom, 1924-1932
Key fact: Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976

Lindstrom debuted with the New York Giants at 18 and made history by becoming the youngest player to appear in the World Series. He played third base in the 1924 Fall Classic against the Washington Senators and collected four hits in one game against fellow Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, though the Giants were ultimately defeated in seven games. Lindstrom delivered his best overall season in 1928, when he batted .358 with a league-high 231 hits and finished second in NL MVP voting to the Cardinals’ Jim Bottomley. He hit .318 with a 112 OPS+ over nine seasons with the Giants and was traded to the Pirates after the 1932 season.

4. Jim Ray Hart, 1963-1973
Key fact: Holds the single-season Giants rookie home run record with 31 in 1964

Hart spent 11 seasons with the Giants, batting .282 with 157 home runs and 526 RBIs over 1,001 games. He finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1964, when he crushed 31 home runs and tallied 81 RBIs. Hart placed within the top 20 in NL MVP voting three times with the Giants and was a member of the 1966 All-Star team after batting .285 with a career-high 33 home runs and 93 RBIs. The Yankees acquired Hart early in the 1973 season, allowing him to spend the final two years of his career as a designated hitter.

5. Hank Thompson, 1949-1956
Key fact: Integrated the New York Giants along with Monte Irvin in 1949

After a 27-game stint with the St. Louis Browns in 1947, Thompson signed with the New York Giants in 1949, becoming the only African-American player to integrate two different Major League clubs. A natural second baseman, Thompson shifted to third to accommodate Eddie Stanky and established himself as a productive cleanup hitter for the Giants in 1950, batting .289 with 20 home runs and a team-high 91 RBIs over 148 games.

Thompson made history again the following year, joining Willie Mays and Irvin to form the first all-African-American outfield in Major League history. He was a key member of the 1954 World Series champion Giants, batting .263 with a career-high 26 home runs, 86 RBIs and 90 walks.

Honorable mentions

Pablo Sandoval (2008-2014, 2017-present) earned two All-Star selections with the Giants and helped the club win three World Series titles in 2010, ’12 and ’14. He was named the World Series MVP in 2012, when he became only the fourth player to hit three home runs in a Fall Classic game. ... Darrell Evans (1976-1983) capped his eight-year run with the Giants with an All-Star nod in 1983, when he batted .277/.378/.516 with 30 home runs. ... Jim Davenport (1958-1970) spent his entire 13-year career in San Francisco and made 1,130 appearances at third base, the most of any player in Giants history.