Part three of my series on the best players in the American League West takes us to the hot corner.
In years past the Oakland Athletics had Josh Donaldson who could compete for the top spot with no problem. Now, not so much.
Where will their current third basemen rank? Will we see another future hall of famer occupy the seat of best third basemen in the AL West? Perhaps.
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- Oakland A’s bring Deolis Guerra back on minor league deal
And that leads us to the best third basemen in the AL West:
1. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers – He hit the his lowest home run total and drive in the least amount of runs since 2009, but Beltre was still one of baseball’s best players in 2014. he is a four-time all-star, four-time gold glove recipient, and has finished in the top-10 of MVP voting four times as well. He’s just five homers shy of reaching 400 for his career and is a great bet to reach that milestone with Texas. Defensively he is one of the all-time greats. With 174 defensive runs saved above average, including 9 in 2014, Beltre is not just a power threat, but a defensive wiz at third base. Projected Wins Above Replacement: 4.7
Sep 4, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager (15) throws to first base in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
2. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners – Out of nowhere Seager burst onto the AL West landscape with 20 home runs in 2012 and hasn’t slowed down. In fact he’s gotten better. In 2014 he set career highs in home runs, RBI, and batting average with 25, 96, and .268, respectively. Similar to Beltre, Seager doesn’t just bring his bat to the ballpark. His defensive efforts earned him the AL gold glove at third base last season. He overcame negative DRS marks in 2012 and 2013 to post a positive 10 in 2014, plus a 10.6 ultimate zone rating. He became an all-star for the first time in 2014, won his first gold glove, and finished 20th in the AL MVP voting. Projected WAR: 4
3. Brett Lawrie, Oakland Athletics – A change of scenery will need to do Lawrie some good, or his career will likely never live up to expectations. In a 43 game stint in 2011 Lawrie hit 9 home runs, drove in 25 runs, stole 7 bases and had a triple-slash line of .293/ .373/ .580. He has never come close to that slash line again, and his counting numbers have only exceeded those numbers because of his increased playing time. Injuries have slowed his development, something the Oakland Athletics are hoping they can reverse. Defensively last season he was just average, but his career DRS of 38 and UZR of 13.4 suggest he has the ability to become an elite defender in Oakland. Additionally, Lawrie is a slightly above-average second basemen as well, and we may see him play there sat some point this season. He is as energetic and lively as they come, the A’s only hope to harness that energy and turn him into the player he was supposed to become a few years ago. Projected WAR: 3.1
4. David Freese, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Similar to the next third baseman on our list, Freese has some power, but not much defensive capability. He became a world series her with the Cardinals and even has a 20-homer season under his belt, but after his power surge in 2012 Freese has gone downhill. He hit just 9 home runs 2013 and 10 last season, with batting averages around .260. Offensively he is a slightly above average third baseman. Defensively, however, is a different story. He has notched just one positive DRS mark and his career total is -28. The only thing keeping him this high on the list is because of his slightly longer track record with the bat. Still, anybody who shares a dugout with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols has a fair chance to rebound. Projected WAR: 1.6
5. Luis Valbuena, Houston Astros – A trade this winter brought Valbuena to Houston to help prevent them from playing Matt Dominguez at third base. Valbuena, despite being nearly 30-years-old has just one full major league season under his belt, but it was a quality showing. In 2014 he batted .249 with 16 home runs, 68 runs, and 51 RBI with a .341 OBP, all career highs. However, similar to Freese Valbuena isn’t much of a defensive standout. He has played multiple positions in his career, but found a home at third base for the Chicago Cubs last season. His DRS was -10 and his UZR was -3.7, so it is safe to say he won’t be winning any awards for his fielding anytime soon. But that doesn’t make Valbuena a useless player if he can repeat – or even build upon – his 2014 season for Houston. Projected WAR: 1.7