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Rockies' Top 5 third basemen: Harding's take

@harding_at_mlb
April 13, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and 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. Love this list? Hate it?

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and 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. Love this list? Hate it? If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Thomas Harding’s ranking of the top third basemen in Rockies history. Next week: shortstops.

Colorado's All-Time Team: C | 1B | 2B

1. Nolan Arenado, 2013-present
Key fact: He is the only third baseman in history with three seasons of 35 or more homers, 130 or more RBIs and 80 or more extra-base hits

Much could be said about Nolan Arenado's offensive abilities, but there's also the seven National League Gold Glove Awards to begin his career -- no other infielder in history had as many as five straight to start a career -- plus Platinum Gloves as the best defensive player in the NL the last three years. The real comparison is not to Rockies at the position, but to third basemen in history.

It seems like forever ago that the talk was Arenado’s dissatisfaction with last season. One way to look at that: This is a player whose shiny trophies haven’t dulled his desire to win.

2. Vinny Castilla, 1993-99, 2004, '06
Key fact: Castilla’s 320 career home runs are most in history for a Mexican-born player

The list of third basemen with three 40-homer seasons (minimum 75 games at the position in a season) consists of Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews, possible future Hall of Famer Arenado, and Vinny Castilla, who did it for the Rockies from 1996-98.

Castilla, one of the franchise’s first stars, departed in a December 1999 trade that cleared a spot for another player on this list, Jeff Cirillo. Castilla returned in 2004 and led the National League with 131 RBIs before finishing his career in Colorado with 15 games in '06. He has worked as a special assistant to the general manager since his retirement.

3. Garrett Atkins, 2003-09
Key fact: Atkins had 54 home runs and 231 RBIs from 2006-07

Garrett Atkins won the starting job in 2005 but sustained a hamstring strain in the final exhibition game, so his impact was delayed. But Atkins was healthy enough to play in 157 games in '06, when he posted career highs with a .329 batting average and a .556 slugging percentage.

Atkins was considered more offensive than defensive, but former manager Clint Hurdle noted that the balls Atkins could reach got converted into outs.

4. Jeff Cirillo, 2000-01
Key fact: Cirillo made the All-Star Game with the Rockies in 2000

While Jeff Cirillo is more identified with the Brewers, he had his most productive season by tying his career high in batting average (.326) and setting career marks in RBIs (115), runs (111) and doubles (53). In two seasons with the Rockies, he amassed 7.9 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference.

5. Charlie Hayes, 1993-94
Key fact: Hayes is fifth on the Rockies’ list with 35 home runs while playing third base

Charlie Hayes’ 4.1 bWAR in two years with the Rockies was greater than at any of his other seven stops -- and he spent more seasons with the Giants, Phillies (four apiece) and Yankees (three). Hayes led the NL in doubles with 45 in 1993, the Rockies’ inaugural season.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.