Which position ranks as the best in MLB?

September 9th, 2018

Welcome to the year of the third baseman, and we're not just saying that because has turned his Dugout Stare into the coolest new thing in celebrations and, at times, something approaching an art form. What do you have for us, ?
While that's plenty good enough, here's something even better: three of the top six players in the Majors in 2018 are third basemen, according to Fangraph's Wins Above Replacement.
Those three are of the Indians (ranked third overall at 7.9, behind only and ), Bregman one spot down at 7.4 and Chapman sixth at 6.5.

Further down the list are a pair of established stars: of the Rockies (4.6) and of the Nationals (4.4), along with All-Star of the Reds (4.3).
And probably the only reason of the Cubs and of the Dodgers aren't high on this list is that they've spent a chunk of the season on the disabled list.
We acknowledge that WAR isn't a perfect measurement tool. First basemen have more home runs and a higher OPS. Left fielders also have more home runs.
But in terms of depth and star power -- young and old -- third baseman is baseball's deepest position in 2018.

While we're on the topic, let's rank the positions (pitchers excluded) based on depth:

Top Three
1. Ramirez, Indians
2. Bregman, Astros
3. Chapman, Athletics

Seven third basemen have a WAR of 4.0 or better, starting with Ramirez, who has a healthy lead. Chapman and Bregman have emerged as franchise-type players. No player has had a more dramatic emergence into elite status than Chapman, who has been in the middle of Oakland's renaissance and leads all MLB players in WAR (3.6) since the All-Star break by a wide margin. He may be baseball's single best defensive player regardless of position.

Top Three
1. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
2. , D-backs
3. Freddie Freeman, Braves

Carpenter is the first tough call since he has started more games at third (70) than first (49). But he has played first almost exclusively since shortly before the All-Star break, and that's about the time the Cardinals got hot. Carpenter, Goldschmidt and Freeman will figure prominently in National League Most Valuable Player Award balloting.

Top Three
1. Betts, Red Sox
2. , Brewers
3. , Yankees

This position could deliver both the NL and AL MVP. (In fairness, Yelich has split his time almost evenly between right field and left.) Betts is the clear frontrunner in the AL while Yelich is in the middle of a close NL race. As for Judge, who hasn't played since July 26th, let's just say that when he did play, he was really good. He's tied for 12th in the AL with 26 home runs (in 99 games) and is sixth in OBP (.398) and OPS (.947).

Top Three
1. , Braves
2. Juan Soto, Nationals
3. , Red Sox

Acuna and Soto debuted within a month of each other (April 25 and May 15, respectively) and almost immediately established themselves as special talents. Both seem certain of finishing in the top three of NL Rookie of the Year Award voting. Acuna has 17 home runs and a 1.094 OPS in 48 games since being moved into the leadoff spot after the All-Star break.

Top Three
1. , Indians
2. Manny Machado, Dodgers
3. , Rockies

What about of the Angels? That he did not crack the top three says plenty about the depth and quality at shortstop. Lindor isn't getting as much MVP buzz as he should, probably because his teammate, Ramirez, is such a strong candidate. Story has begun September with video game numbers: .393 batting average and five home runs in seven games.

Top Three
1. Trout, Angels
2. , Nationals
3. , Brewers

First, a reminder that Trout may be the best baseball player you will ever see and among the best to ever play. Is he better than Mays or Aaron or Williams? No, not yet. But if he has five more seasons as good as his last five, he's going to be in the conversation. Honorable mention to Cardinals rookie , who is symbolic of the youth and energy his team is bringing to this playoff push.

Top Three
1. , Astros
2. , Cubs
3. , Athletics

Another ridiculously deep position. Baez is an electrifying talent and a frontrunner for NL MVP. Altuve seemed to be headed for his fourth batting title until a knee injury sidelined him for a month. Lowrie is having his best season. And there's Scooter Gennett, , , Whit Merrifield and Joey Wendle.

Top Three

  1. J.T. Realmuto, Marlins
  2. , Giants
  3. , Cardinals
    Toughest position to evaluate because the defensive metrics are imperfect, and the often intangible ability to guide a pitcher through a game is so vital. Still, Realmuto's offensive numbers are off the charts, putting him in front of two veterans who could both be headed for the Hall of Fame.