MLB Network ranks top 10 third basemen

January 29th, 2016

The flurry of young stars emerging at third base has made it one of the deepest positions in baseball and one that is subject to the most debate.

Among the list of the top third basemen are the reigning American League Most Valuable Player and National League Rookie of the Year, some of the best young players in the game and an intriguing Hall of Fame candidate.

MLB Network revealed its top 10 third basemen Thursday night, based on results from "The Shredder" -- an algorithm based on player performance that accounts for both offense and defense, which was put together by MLB Network's research department "without emotion or bias."

Host Brian Kenny and guest host Mike Lowell also provided their top 10s.

"This is as excited as I've ever been for this top 10," Lowell said. "I think it's so deep. … For me it's the infusion of youth."

"The Shredder" uses an objective methodology to rank players at each position, based on their past track records as well as their future projections. It weighs the offensive and defensive statistics for a player in both one- and two-year increments and places more emphasis on defense at positions that are on the right of the defensive spectrum, i.e. catcher, shortstop, second base and center field. It also takes into account a player's durability as well as the offensive environment of his home park (in other words, it gives more credit to home runs hit in San Diego as opposed to Colorado).

MLB Network's list of Top 10 third baseman

  1. Josh Donaldson

  2. Kris Bryant

  3. Adrian Beltre

  4. Manny Machado

  5. Justin Turner

  6. Nolan Arenado

  7. Jung Ho Kang

  8. Matt Carpenter

  9. Kyle Seager

  10. Todd Frazier

    With a career year in 2015, Donaldson cemented himself as not only the best player at this position, but as one of the best in all of baseball. In his first season in Toronto, he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 123 RBIs, earning the AL MVP Award and Silver Slugger Award.

    "This is the total package," Kenny said. "Donaldson answered all questions, as he was a wire-to-wire sensation after being traded by the A's to the Blue Jays."

    He was the No. 1 player across all three lists after finishing second last year to Beltre, who held the top spot during the previous two seasons.

    MLB Network's Top 10 3B lists

Biggest disagreements

Where exactly Turner ranks after a solid season with the Dodgers was a huge topic of debate among the analysts. The computer placed Turner fifth on its list, although neither Kenny nor Lowell named Turner on his list. He hit .294/.370/.491 in 126 games with the Dodgers last season with 16 homers. His .861 OPS led the club.

Although he is not an everyday player yet with the Dodgers, Turner does rank first in average (.314), on-base percentage (.384) and WRC+ (148) among all third baseman with at least 700 plate appearances during the past two seasons.

"The bat is there, but volume counts," Kenny said. "Give me one 153-game season at third base. You do that, sold."

Turner even ranked ahead of Arenado, who is coming off a monster 2015 campaign where he hit .287/.323/.575 with 42 homers (tied for the NL lead) 130 RBIs (best in NL) with an OPS+ of 124. He did rise to sixth this season after ranking 10th last year, but some analysts thought that was still low.

"The Shredder would be laughed out of the press box -- if it were not a robot -- for putting Turner ahead of Arenado," said Bill James, a senior advisor for baseball operations for the Red Sox and a sabermetrics pioneer.

Biggest risers

Not only is Bryant making his debut on this list after a spectacular rookie season with the Cubs, but he comes in ranked second.

"Yeah, it didn't take long," Kenny said. "He did not disappoint once the Cubs brought him to Wrigley Field."

Kenny agreed with the computers and also listed Bryant second after he posted an .858 OPS with 26 homers to help lead the Cubs to the NL Championship Series.

Machado also did not appear on this list last season, but placed fourth after a season where, as Kenny said, he "put the prospect of superstardom back on track." He was No.10 on this list after the 2013 season.

"In the crop of those young guys [Bryant, Machado, Arenado], they've still got prime years left before we even debate putting them lower on the list," Lowell said.