White Sox Top 5 third basemen: Merkin's take

April 13th, 2020

CHICAGO -- 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. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Scott Merkin’s ranking of the top 5 third basemen in White Sox history. Next week: Shortstop.

1. , 1989-98
Key fact: Five-time Gold Glove Award winner

Ventura arguably is one of the more popular players in White Sox history. He also was extraordinarily productive over a decade on the South Side of Chicago, posting a 39.2 fWAR ranked highest all-time among the organization’s third basemen. His 39.4 bWAR also was No. 1 at the position.

The team’s top pick and 10th overall in the 1988 Draft had six seasons with at least 90 RBIs and another five seasons with at least 20 home runs, setting White Sox career-highs with 34 and 105, respectively, in 1996. One of his more memorable blasts came on July 21, 1991 in a 10-8 victory over the Rangers when Ventura connected for a walk-off grand slam against future Hall of Famer Rich “Goose” Gossage. Ventura had 18 career grand slams overall.

Ventura’s 171 home runs fall seventh in franchise history and his 741 RBIs check in at No. 8. He also managed the White Sox for five seasons, falling just short of reaching the postseason in his 2012 debut where the White Sox finished 85-77 but were in first place for 117 days.

2. , 2000-08
Key fact: Arguably the Most Valuable Player throughout the 2005 playoffs

There’s not a White Sox fan around who will forget Crede’s two-out, walk-off double on a 0-2 count in Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series against the Angels, a line drive down the left-field line evening the series at one win apiece following A.J. Pierzynski’s famous dropped third strike race to first and pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna’s stolen base. Crede also delivered a Sept. 20 walk-off home run against Cleveland’s David Riske in keeping the Indians from moving within 1 1/2 game of the AL Central lead and instead falling to 3 1/2 back of the White Sox, who were ahead by 15 on Aug. 1.

Crede’s defense was consistently Gold Glove caliber, although he was never honored with such an award. His best season came in 2006 with a .283 average, 30 home runs, 94 RBIs, 31 doubles and an .828 OPS. Chronic back issues limited his career to 10 seasons, with nine coming as part of the White Sox.

3. , 1968-1975
Key fact: Won the 1971 AL home run crown

Melton is guaranteed to be the only third baseman on this list who also was friends with members of the famous Rat Pack. But the man who became an entertaining and always outspoken studio analyst also could hit. Melton produced back-to-back seasons of 33 home runs in 1970-71, being selected as an AL All-Star in 1971, and his 154 career home runs with the White Sox rank ninth overall and second behind Ventura among White Sox third basemen. None of these top three third basemen were exceptionally fleet-footed, with Melton finishing 23-of-47 in career stolen bases, Ventura at 24-of-62 and Crede at 4-of-16.

4. Pete Ward, 1963-69
Key fact: Known for consistent extra-base power

Ward knocked out 97 home runs as a member of the White Sox, finishing in double digits during five of his seven seasons. He had 22 homers in 1963 and a career-high 23 in ’64. He also produced 132 doubles during his time with the White Sox, knocking out 87 from 1963-65 with 34 in ’63, 28 in ’64 and 25 in ’65. His .482 slugging percentage ranked him eighth overall in the AL in 1963, and his best two seasons came in ’63 and ’64 when he also picked up a combined 178 RBIs. Ward’s 20.7 career fWAR ranked him third in that category among White Sox third basemen.

5. Willie Kamm, 1923-31
Key fact: Known for having an exceptional batting eye

Kamm’s .370 on-base percentage ranks him second behind Floyd Baker among all White Sox third basemen. He was not a power hitter, with 25 of his 29 career home runs coming during his nine seasons with the White Sox. But he did finish with 243 doubles as part of the White Sox and 94 stolen bases. Kamm’s 23.7 career fWAR places him second among third basemen behind Ventura.

Yoán Moncada
It’s a tad premature to put Moncada on this list after one strong season at the position. But his 2019 campaign was borderline Most Valuable Player caliber after switching to the position from second base, and in these tough times brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s always good to have some positive vibes for the future. Moncada certainly has a chance to be No. 1 when all is said and done with his career.

Eric Soderholm
Here’s a shoutout to the 1977 South Side Hitmen, as Soderholm finished with 25 home runs as the team’s third baseman. He hit 51 homers over three seasons with the White Sox.