Nats' Top 5 third basemen: Camerato's take

April 13th, 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.

Here is Jessica Camerato’s ranking of the top five third basemen in Nationals/Expos history. Next week: shortstops.

These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only -- here's what fans have to say:

1) , 2005-present (Nationals)
Key fact: Zimmerman leads the franchise’s third basemen with a 38.5 bWAR.

It’s hard to think about the Nationals without thinking of Zimmerman. Their first-ever Draft pick in 2005, Zimmerman has been a mainstay since the team relocated to Washington, D.C. He manned the hot corner for his first 10 seasons and has played 1,133 of his 1,637 games at that position.

“When he’s healthy, he’s as dangerous a hitter and as good a hitter as I’ve ever seen on a daily basis. When he’s locked in, he can carry a club for a month, two months by himself,” said F.P. Santangelo, a former Expo (1995-98) and current Nationals television analyst. “[He is] a smart hitter. He’s been around the league for so long, a lot of times he picks up things and it seems like he knows what’s coming.”

Zimmerman is the leader among all Expos/Nationals players in home runs (270), hits (1,784), RBIs (1,015) and doubles (401). He also ranks second overall in games (1,689) and runs (936).

As if his two Silver Slugger Awards (2009, '10), Gold Glove Award ('09) and two All-Star selections ('09, '17) weren’t enough, Zimmerman is tied with David Ortiz and Tony Perez for the eighth-most walk-off home runs (11) in Major League history.

Zimmerman topped the National League in putouts (2006, '07, '13), assists ('07, '09) and double plays turned ('07, '13) at third base. Overall, he has a .957 career fielding percentage at third.

“He was as good as anybody I’ve ever seen at making the play on the slow roller -- whether it was a bunt or a swinging bunt or coming on a baseball and throwing on the run,” Santangelo said. “There’s a lot of great defenders at third, but I think with the slow roller, I’ll put Ryan Zimmerman up against anybody.”

Zimmerman transitioned in 2015 to first base, where he was playing when he helped the Nationals win the World Series last season. He has hit .279/.343/.475 with an .818 OPS overall for Washington.

“Not just as a broadcaster for the Nats, but [he’s] one of my favorite people on a daily basis to be around,” Santangelo said. “He’s hilarious, sneaky funny, dry sense of humor, great teammate. It was just so cool for me to see him after all the down years and what he went through early in his career, to finally win a world championship. Hometown boy makes good.”

2) , 2013-19 (Nationals)
Key fact: Rendon’s cumulative .859 OPS is the team’s highest all-time for a third baseman.

Like Zimmerman, Rendon began his Major League career as a first-round Draft pick of the Nationals (2011). He played both second and third early on, and then took over at third full time in ‘16. In total, he played 749 of his 916 games at third for the Nats.

Over his seven years in Washington, Rendon slashed .290/.369/.490 with an .859 OPS. He ranks third among the franchise's third basemen in bWAR (29.1), runs (571), hits (994), doubles (245), homers (136), RBIs (546) and plate appearances (3,927).

In the Nats' World Series championship run last season, Rendon hit .412 in the National League Division Series, followed by .417 in the NLCS. His homer in Game 7 of the World Series helped lead Washington's comeback victory over Houston.

“He’s the guy you want up,” Santangelo said. “He’s not phased. He’s relaxed. He’s yawning in the middle of at-bats. He has the perfect demeanor, temperament, level of confidence and the right heartbeat. If you could clone a Major League player, you’d clone an Anthony Rendon. Not just with the ability, but with the makeup, the approach and the mentality.”

Rendon won two Silver Slugger Awards in 2014 and ’19 for his performance at the plate. He paced the National League in runs scored ('14), RBIs ('19) and doubles ('18, ‘19), culminating in his first All-Star selection last year. He also finished third in Most Valuable Player Award voting in ‘19.

“He’s the same guy every day,” Santangelo said. “You couldn’t tell if he’s 0-for-20 or 20-for-20, or the Nats had won 10 in a row or lost 10 in a row. There’s so much to say about that. There’s so much value in that when you’re with players on a daily basis as a teammate.”

For three consecutive seasons from 2016-18, Rendon led the NL in fielding percentage at his position. Among active players, he ranks second in that category (.971) and 10th in both career assists (1,251) and putouts (523) as a third baseman.

“Defensively, he’s as good as I’ve ever seen,” Santangelo said.

3) , Expos (1980-92)
Key fact: Wallach is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played (1,767), at-bats (6,529), plate appearances (7,174) and outs made (5,115).

Wallach donned an Expos uniform for the first 13 of his 17 Major League seasons. He earned five All-Star nods, three Gold Glove Awards and two Silver Slugger Awards while in Montreal.

With a 37.0 bWAR, Wallach is just 1.5 behind Zimmerman for second-highest among the team's third basemen. During his tenure with the Expos, Wallach hit .259/.317/.418 with a .735 OPS. He leads the franchise in triples (31) at the position, and he is second in runs (737), hits (1,694), RBIs (905), home runs (204) and doubles (360).

As an Expo, Wallach's defensive accolades at third base include leading the NL in putouts (1982-85, '87-88), assists ('84-85), double plays turned ('84-85, '88), and fielding percentage ('91).

“He was a force in the middle of a great Expos lineup,” Santangelo said. “He was very quiet, kind of an unsung hero. He was a tremendous defender at third and a dangerous bat at the plate. I think he would be a great big league manager whenever he gets the chance to do it.”

4) Bob Bailey, Expos (1969-75)
Key fact: Bailey collected 100-plus hits in five consecutive years (1970-74).

In seven seasons with Montreal, Bailey hit .264/.368/.437. He ranks in the top five for Expos/Nationals third basemen in plate appearances (3,548, fifth), runs (412, fifth), hits (791, fifth), doubles (116, fifth), triples (23, third), home runs (118, fourth), RBIs (466, fourth), walks (502, third), OPS (.805, fourth) and bWAR (18.3).

In 1963, Bailey led the National League with 38 double plays turned at third base. He also finished second that season with 332 assists and fifth with 113 putouts at the hot corner. Bailey also played first base and outfield for the Expos.

5) , Expos (1974-81)
Key fact: Parrish was named the 1979 Expos Player of the Year by the Montreal chapter of the BBWAA.

Parrish played the first half of his 15-year Major League career with the Expos, hitting .263/.315/.426 along the way. Among third basemen in franchise history, he ranks second in triples (24), fourth in games played (967), runs (421), hits (896), doubles (208) and fifth in bWAR (10.9), homers (100) and RBIs (444). Parrish finished third in voting for the 1975 NL Rookie of the Year Award, and he earned an All-Star selection in ‘79.

Honorable Mention
, Expos (1992-95)

Berry owns the second-best slugging percentage and OPS among franchise third baseman. His totals of .478 and .831, respectively, trail only Rendon (.490, .859). Additionally, his .289 average is just shy of Rendon's .290, putting him in third place at the position. Berry tallied 136 runs, 286 hits, 149 RBIs, 40 homers and 31 stolen bases (a perfect 14 uncaught in 1994) in 352 games for the Expos.